Malorie Redwood

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Malorie Redwood can imagine thousands of scenarios for her impending journey through the forest. As she leaves the relative animosity of home, bony arms weighed down by a heavy basket brimming with delicious food, her mind can finally play through all of the possibilities in peace.
She has not visited her Grandmother’s house since her Father last walked with her. He died almost ten years ago – by the jaws of a wolf according to her Mother. But now that Malorie has reached twelve years old, she is finally deemed mature enough to travel through the forest alone. Rather careless of her Mother; but she has always resented Malorie and would lose little sleep worrying over her.
Advised to follow the shaded path, Malorie soon rejects the warnings. One turn, and she veers away from the dark and ominous trail. Dappled sunlight will guide her way. A ghost of herself continues down the path in her imagination, into a new reality created from the discarded decision. An unfathomable number of worlds formed from each combination of the fragments which make up the Universe. With each quantum change, the world as it is known to Malorie becomes fractionally different; accumulated variations to make some alternative realities unrecognisable. In at least one Universe, Malorie’s Grandmother lives nearby. In another, the entire forest has been transformed to become a city; skyscrapers to replace ancient trees. In this reality, Malorie knows that her Mother wishes ill for her journey through the dangerous forest. She hopes that some of her parallel selves on the same journey are there as a result of naïve trust in her ability to survive.
The choice to stray from the man-made guidance opens up hundreds of opportunities to complicate her route through the forest. Safety in numbers; the odds of at least one Malorie reuniting with her kindly Grandmother shifts in her favour with every winding turn. The Universe seems to hold perfectly still in anticipation; building blocks ready to make each combination of possibilities solid.
A string of ants cross her path as they march towards their growing fortress. Some children like to separate lone soldiers, using a magnifying glass to intensify the sun’s radiation. Malorie prefers to observe their perfect formation; colonies working as one organism to build their nest and find food. She has always been fascinated by how these tiny creatures with no apparent thought process can possibly know what to do. The same wonder for birds who migrate thousands of miles, yet somehow find their way home to the same tree each year. Guided by quantum prompts, they follow the tiniest nuances in the fabric of the Universe.
Malorie wishes that she could have a quantum compass to guide her through the forest. Or perhaps she does, and it leads her towards the family she barely remembers. Would this reduce the number of alternative Malories, if all decisions to complicate her route through the trees are guided by instinct rather than her own free will?
If this is the case, it has been inevitable that she would meet the wolf since the moment she left the path – in this Universe at least. Guided by his own quantum compass, he appears around a tree to block her way ahead. Stealthy padding paws approach. A flash of teeth as he licks his hungry lips. He has not eaten recently, another factor to swing the odds away from Malorie’s favour.
“Are you going to eat me, Mister Wolf?” She meets his gaze.
He appears taken aback by the brash question, and her apparent lack of fear.
“There are only two possibilities: yes or no,” she prompts him, eager to know her fate so that either she, or the parallel Malorie created from the moment of her demise, will be able to continue through the forest.
***
Approximately two miles away, Ms Redwood – distraught with worry, or celebrating her loss of burden behind faked tears – meets with two serious detectives.
“While no one has found her, she is neither alive nor dead. She must therefore be both at the same time. Only the act of finding her will decide the outcome. Only at this point will our fates be sealed and we will know which reality we live in.”
A third investigator emerges from the kitchen; holding in his latex coated hands an interesting find.
“Ma’am, can you explain this empty bottle of rat poison?” Suspicious minds formulate growing concern for the well-being of the woman before them, and her daughter.
“That is neither here nor there, Detective. Even if I did lace the food that she took with her with the deadly substance, the intended recipient could just as easily have been a hungry wolf. Meat pies a means of escape for my defenceless daughter. Until you discover her fate, I am simultaneously guilty and innocent.”
The detectives exchange a look. She can only be insane, innocent, or both at the same time. A sane and guilty suspect would never admit to even the possibility of a crime.
***
And in the same moment – in the thick of the forest – the Universe splitting conclusion in question finally materialises.
The wolf’s hungry teeth bare down on Malorie. The basket of food which may or may not have been poisoned – in this Universe it is of no consequence to her – tumbles to the floor. In a branching reality, Malorie bids the friendly wolf good day and skips onward. In another still, she leaves the wolf to consume the contents of the basket and continues on her journey unburdened.

About the Author: 
I am a scientist and engineer, who also enjoys reading and writing.