Quantum Child

Your rating: None
Average: 2.7 (6 votes)

Deb held the thin white stick gingerly between her fingers, as if she might inadvertently alter the outcome by a simple tilt of her wrist, a slight pressure on the plastic casing. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. ‘Get a grip Deborah, this isn’t quantum physics, it’s a pregnancy test. There are only two possibilities: yes or no.’ How little she suspected at that moment how far this was from true.
Strangely, it was the puppy who seemed to possess the first inkling that something was… not as it should be. She whined, she paced, she cocked her head and even growled, whenever Deb was in the room. At first Deb was concerned. Could it be that Eve could sense something wrong with the baby? She knew of service dogs that could sense an oncoming seizure, and she couldn’t ignore the possibility, after all her field of research was Quantum Biology. Had she spent too much time around the quantum particle generator? They still didn’t know for sure just how that stuff might affect development. What did Eve know that she didn’t?
Brows furrowed and lips set in a grimace was not usually a good look to see on your consultant’s face, all things considered. Deb gripped the sides of the hospital bench, as Doctor Nicholls moved the scanner carefully around her abdomen.
‘Is it… okay?’ Deb croaked, feeling choked by the heavy silence. Deb seemed to startle the Doctor out of her reverie and she raised her eyes to Deb’s, blinking rapidly.
‘There are only two possibilities: yes or no.’ Deb smiled weakly as she said it, a little joke to herself. Until Doctor Nicholls could give her news one way or another, Deb’s baby was in a state of quantum flux, both healthy, and unhealthy. Her heart fluttered wildly.
Doctor Nicholls cleared her throat and snatched her eyes back to the viewer.
‘I apologise, Doctor Khan,’ she muttered. ‘I think there must be some loose connection in the scanner, it’s just, well, look.’ Nicholls gestured to the viewer with one hand, turning it to face Deb with the other. Deb looked. She looked, and then she saw. And she didn’t. For on the viewing screen she could make out two faint shapes. And they were entangled.
When Alice was born, Bob wasn’t. It’s not that he didn’t survive, it’s that he wasn’t born, not in this universe. Deb knew as soon as she held Alice that she was not holding Bob. Conspicuous by his absence, wasn’t that the saying? Deb also knew that as Alice grew, Bob’s un-being grew too. His existence became almost that of Alice’s imaginary friend, intangible to Deb. Alice drew pictures of Bob, she laughed with him, she comforted him, she argued with him. Deb had the strong feeling that Eve could sense Bob too, bounding round the house and joining in with Alice’s seemingly solo adventures.
Deb’s nights at her desk grew longer, the bags under her eyes darker. She poured over papers on quantum cryptography, determined to uncover a method by which she might also communicate with her quantum child, bring him safely back into this universe.
It was almost midnight, around a month before Alice’s 13th birthday. As normal Deb was hunched over her desk, the first tendrils of tension headache creeping up to prod at her temples. She had been working on the latest experiment for over a week now, but still no results, positive or negative. ‘Will it work?’ She sighed and removed her glasses. ‘There are only two possibilities: yes or no.’ Her hand reached down to stroke at the fur of old Eve by her side, but her hand met with nothing. ‘Eve,’ she began to call, replacing her glasses on her nose, and then she noticed Eve. The old dog was standing at the door and whining urgently. She started scratching and barking and Deb felt the pit of her stomach plummet. She leapt up and ran down the hall. Flinging open the door to Alice’s room, whip-like flashes of pain and light cracked across her forehead and eyes.
‘Alice!’ Deb jabbered, running to the bed where Alice lay and grabbing her roughly by the shoulders only too feel her fingers slide through them as though they were jelly. ‘You’re decohering!’ She jerked her hands back and watched on with horror as Alice flickered in and out of existence. Her mind was thrown back to the day of the scan, the ‘loose connection’, and every nerve in her body was on fire with fear and confusion. She saw Alice, she saw Bob, and then, darkness. The last thing she remembered was the sound of Eve’s bark as the world seemed to fade into black and she slid to the ground in a dead faint.
‘Mother!’ A voice. She had never heard that voice, and yet it resonated with her very being, it was so familiar. Deb opened her eyes. She was lying on her back, a hand clutching hers. A concerned face looked down at her.
‘Alice?’ Deb squinted, trying to catch her breath and focus on the features of the face. ‘Bob!’ she cried, snapping her eyes open. The face smiled, then laughed, worry melting from its features. Deb saw it clearly for one brief moment, whole and happy, before it dived towards her, the accompanying body wrapping its arms tightly around her.
‘Are you okay?’ Deb sobbed. It was a closed question, but she knew better than to expect a yes or no answer by this point.
‘We’re… I’m… me.’ The soft voice replied. And it was the impossibility that Deb had dreamed of. Her quantum child was here.

About the Author: 
Lover of science and science fiction. Fascinated by fantasies of the future.