The Bell-Box

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When the time came for us to make our own way in life, we decided to get the Bell-Box.

It was a funny little thing, a brand new curio in this technologically-driven world. Something I’m sure the tech giants released more as a PR move to encourage people to become more engaged with the softer side of work being done in their almost-zero-Kelvin dungeons. Like a dog being thrown a bone, we lapped it up; thirsty for the feeling of control over the mysteries of the universe.

We had grown up sharing almost everything, Robert and I. Alice and Bob, brother and sister, friends and confidantes throughout all our adventures in life. I loved him more than I’d ever cared for any boyfriends and he was my anchor when life got tough. That’s why, when the time came for us to grow up and move out, when he’d gotten a job in Chicago and I in Edinburgh, we decided to get the Bell-Box.

It was made of two parts, both essentially identical and it contained fifty pairs of qubits. I wasn’t too sure what they were exactly, though I’d read quite a lot about it in the news. What I did know was that we could separate the two parts of the box and take them with us wherever we went. I also knew that all of these pairs of qubits were ‘entangled’, like I was sure our lives would be. We were meant to use them like a technological 8-ball to help us make decisions in life, where each yes-or-no answer it gave us would come from measuring one of the qubits in our half of the box.

The part that cemented its magic though, was the entanglement. Once one half of each pair of qubits in each box was measured, the other would only ever give the exact same answer, instantly, no matter how far apart the two halves were. It was a connection that transcended the speed of light and it was something that my brother and I could get behind, in order to fill the emptiness that would surely come about once we were on different continents. It was well-worth the money.

Life moved on. I knew I only had fifty questions to ask the Box, but the temptation was often too great. Within our first year apart, we’d used up over ten of them each, for frivolous things like picking the right suit to wear on a night out or replying to an invitation for a coffee date. I paused to wonder sometimes, how strange it was to hold someone else’s life choices in the palm of my hand, how odd that the difference between me deciding for him and him deciding for me was merely who pressed the button first. We’d phone each other sometimes and laugh about whose fault it truly was that the thing we’d picked from the menu turned out to be disgusting or that the place we’d decided to go on holiday ended up treating with absolutely awful weather.

As the years passed we became thriftier with our questions. I became older, more tired, less lonely- three little children and a husband trotting around the house could easily do that to a person. Then came the grandchildren and the nephews and suddenly there was no time for anything but being Granny Alice. The Bell-Box had become a relic by the time I’d hit seventy and made its home in a wardrobe older than time itself. It lay hidden behind boxes of letters and presents from my family, rarely seeing the light of day (yet never forgotten). Whether or not the qubits were still active, I did not know or care. Whenever I saw Robert’s aged face, I was just happy to know that after all these years we still had some part of our youth tangled up in some insurmountable small marvel, hidden amongst my belongings.

When Robert died, I wasn’t quite ready. I suppose no one ever is.

For two whole days, a melancholy settled over me that nobody could lift. I clung to my dusty old box, wishing for answers to questions that I didn’t really know how to ask. Had he left me anything to guide me, or would I be sending my little quantum gasps into a void from which no one would ever retrieve them?

On the third day, my daughter handed me a letter.

‘My dearest Alice, I hope you’re doing well. I’m sorry for the sudden departure, I suppose since it was me, there was little warning.’
‘I wonder if you can remember the little qubit box we bought when we were young and spry and didn’t need to nap two hours for every one we spent awake- I still have mine with me. It’s a funny little thing, isn’t it?’
‘I always did treasure it- after all, it reminded me of you (even though I was sure you’d rigged it half the time to have me make a fool of myself for a laugh). It was a tad silly though. Neither of us ever really told each other what to do, did we. We always thought we did, but it was just a silly box, just some random number that the universe would throw at us on a whim.’
‘I want you to remember, Alice, that you don’t need me to press a button or to be yourself. There are only two possibilities: yes or no. And I trust you more than some quantum probabilities to make the better choice.’
‘With all the love in the world, Robert.’

About the Author: 
A Computational Physics student with a particular love for Quantum Computation.