Entangled Souls

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Surely it had been a mistake. I squinted up at the eighth floor window and wondered if he had been trying to test gravity or terminal velocity or... A warm breeze sent a flurry of cherry blossoms across the path and suddenly I understood what he had been trying to do to me.

I imagined the equation written on each blossom, his equation. Merlin Pagels had scrawled it across his blackboard before he had asked, "Do you know what this means?" Someone in the back of the lecture hall shouted a tentative, "Fate?"

Pagels scrubbed furiously over the quantum wave equation. Symbols for frequency, time and infinity were obliterated into clouds of dust. He sat down heavily and said, "It means…" He dabbed a handkerchief against his thinning scalp. "A child once asked a philosopher if the sea could flow up a mountain. The philosopher said, there are only two possibilities: yes or no." Pagels covered his face and waved towards the door. "Class dismissed!"

I visited his lab later that afternoon, wondering what had darkened the mood of a man reveled in quantum mysticism. Pagels was the sort of man who believed the movement of leaves might be causing the wind. Often he would parry my flirtations with mathematical koans.

"Remember." He smiled, "Your body is almost entirely empty space." He had said this the first time he made love to me. But today he turned away so that I could only see his grey sideburns reflected in a tarnished cylinder of a machine I hadn't seen before.

"I need you to step into these."

Leather slippers which had been mounted beneath copper coils of a machine of brass, oak and stained glass. Grandpa once told me about shoe store X-Ray machines and I imagined something like this.

"This isn't going to ruin my chance of having babies, is it?"

Pagels said nothing as he adjusted the dials. A bank of incandescent digits rose, stuttered and fell before rising higher. Six billion nine hundred thousand fifty one, fifty three, forty nine, fifty four... At his request, I pressed my bare feet into the slippers. At first I felt only a slight tingle between my toes as the three biggest vacuum tubes glowed a pale blue. My eyes began to dilate and suddenly I couldn’t keep them open against the brightness.

I first saw Kurusawa, through a crack in his salted cedar cottage. Strands of kelp glowed an impossible emerald-gold in the morning light. The low-tide breathed bromine into my Sukura-perfumed hair. Kurosawa scanned the horizon of this mysterious life-giving sea, and kissed me.

Some years passed in this life. I felt myself grow older. A silver rain beaded on Kurosawa's night-colored hair as I watched him prepare the "Kurai nami." He never understood the trawler's given name, but he honored the ancient sailor's superstition and carefully painted over the rust-stained Kanji without changing the name to the one he loved, "Yayoi." Eight years now. He could still see the silver strands of hair blowing across her eyes as she turned from him and disappeared beyond the tsunami barrier. What had held him to this, the sea side of that wall? He remembered staring down at his raw hands gripping the frigid strands of kelp while another part of him longed to run after her. No.

"Turn it off!" I begged him, sweat and tears blurred my vision of those sorrowful numbers. "Please, turn it off!" I felt my breathing slow and once again I became aware of the lab’s quiet hum.

"Who was I?"

"You've heard of quantum entanglement?"


"Subatomic particles can become twins of one another, each somehow knowing the other's state even when they are light-years apart."

"What does this have to do with the old fisherman and-- the girl?" I asked.

Pagels turned away from me, "Souls can become entangled."

"This machine tangles my soul with theirs?"

"No." He lifted his eyes, "You are already entangled, the machine only reveals what is."

Of course! I knew that this was true. I saw truth in the fisherman's fading gold smile and in the sorrow of Yayoi's dark eyes. Their lives had been more vivid than any dream, more real than my own. "Why?"

Pagels held my hand and said, "Countless human lives pass from this earth. Some pass away peacefully, others die in violence. So many pass us, unnoticed."

"So you found a way to let us to see our connection with other humans?"

"Yes! Can't you see that this world needs empathy? The Internet connects our minds but it doesn’t bring our souls together. We can detect a single radioactive atom arriving from a distant shore but we know nothing of many thousands of souls which touch our lives."

"Did they die?"

"There are only two possibilities..." His voice trailed off.

"I'm sorry..."

"He was far out to sea where the tsunami passed beneath his boat, almost unnoticed. Perhaps..." Pagels watched the world through the rippled window glass. "Perhaps the sea can flow up a mountain."

"How do you know so much about their lives?"

"I am-- also entangled with them. I spent the past eight days taking in as much as I could bear." He leaned against the machine and closed his eyes. “I love you.” The bell rang and I ran to my next class. That was the last I saw of him.

I walked to the place where he had landed. April rains had washed the darkened grass, but parts of his machine still lay scattered among the dandelions. Perhaps one human mind cannot absorb all of the joys and sorrows and- possibilities in this world. Doctor Pagels had not merely empathized with Kurasawa, he had stepped into the other’s life and he needed me to become Yayoi. I couldn’t let that happen. But to this day I long to visit the sea.

About the Author: 
Brian lives in Ireland where he enjoys science, travel, sailing, the outdoors, reading and writing with his wife and 2 children.