Déjà vu

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“There are only two possibilities: yes or no,” he said with a tone of resolution. It was clear he let his pressed suit do most of the talking.

The bar was buzzing as usual, but my training as a physicist allowed me to hone in on the details. In this case it was a conversation next to me. At the end of the bar was the suit. Executive-type. That was my seat he was sitting in. I liked to be near the door. I often get lost in my own thoughts and lose the conversation. Easier to duck out that way. Nearly everything was perfect about him—save his attitude. That, and the right side of his shirt was slightly untucked. Must be a lefty. No one ever taught him to start on the right, I thought, as I instinctively double-checked my shirt.

The other guy was harder to pin down. A drifter, maybe, a graduate student? It was a university bar after all. Either would certainly account for the apparent lack of concern for his appearance. I guess opposites attract. Opposites. That’s funny, like these guys were two sides of the same coin. You ever get the feeling that everyone kind of blends together this late at night?

“Binary decisions are the basis of everything. All this complexity you are touting can be built up from it.”

I had been there before. I may have even said the exact same thing. The comfort of dichotomy is a powerful drug. Yet, here I was replacing one vice with another. I took the last swig of my drink and set my glass down. I was feeling oddly courageous.

“You’re wrong,” I said. Here we go.

They both looked at me, confused. Then at each other. “Who is?” they replied at the same time.

I looked at the slicker of the two. “It’s not as simple as that.”

Was I really going to offload my revelations on these two? I mean, you couldn’t meet an odder couple—what were they even doing together? Still, I felt a strange connection to both of them and, anyway, you can’t grow without making yourself at least a little bit vulnerable.

“The quantum world splits at every instant,” I started as the suit immediately cut me off. Well, there goes that theory.

“Look, today is not your lucky day. I happen to be a professor of quantum physics. If you are going to start with the many worlds interpretation, I’m going to stop you right there.” He snapped, looking ever more annoyed. “It’s not a testable theory.”

“This is exactly what I’m telling you,” the other guy quickly jumped in, repeating himself.

“This is what I’m telling you,” I repeated it again in my own head. They always like telling you what they're telling you—without ever telling you anything. But this time, he did go further, “it’s real and we are interacting with them all. It doesn’t even make sense to say this is our world and that is theirs. The possibilities are endless...”

Either he trailed off or I stopped listening. Is this where I was heading? I guess I could accept branching wavefunctions. But, interacting? And whose world was he talking about? This guy was further out there than I thought. Maybe they were both wrong.

“That’s a bit extreme. Surely we would notice that.”

He leaned in quickly. “You don’t understand. The worlds come back at different relative points in spacetime. Time is no more absolute across worlds as it is in one.”

Our physics prof companion was clearly at his wits end. “On come on! What are saying? We could be interacting with another world, not only branched from the past but containing people from the past and future?” I could see him posturing for the door.

“Exactly! It’s possible. You’re stuck in a logic constrained by this black and white thinking. It’s possible! It’s more than possible! The universe assumes all possibilities!”

At that point it looked like he was just going to go on like this. Maybe I should follow the suit and save my sanity, I thought. I turned to hint at my intention, but nearly bumped into a guy passing by giving a snicker. Must of heard the nutjob as well. Funny. He had a strange look of familiarity about him. Did I know him? Maybe. I figured I better apologize first. But he beat me to it.

“Possibilities,” he grumbled. “There are only two possibilities: yes or no.”

What? Déjà vu. The other two were looking at him with the same peculiarity.

“I already said that.”

And we said it. In unison.

About the Author: 
Chris Ferrie is a Senior Lecturer at the UTS Centre for Quantum Software and Information. He writes academic papers and children's books. This is his first short story.