Steve followed Feena from the parking lot and across the lawn to the edge of Lost Lagoon. Between his shock at the events at the Motel 6 and Feena focusing on her driving they had not spoken during the drive to Stanley Park. In fact Steve only just realized now that she had unerringly navigated here with singular purpose. And now he watched her stare off across the surface of the small lake with a wistful look in her eyes, like the weight of some great loss had worn her down so only the husk of sadness remained. He zipped up his jacket against the damp early morning April chill and waited silently by her side under the dull grey sky.
She suddenly broke the silence, “ You know this is sort of how it all started. A smooth almost glassy… nothingness.” Then Feena leaned down and scanned the water’s edge until she reached out and picked up a large roundish rock.
“And then a naked singularity popped into existence out of the quantum foam.” And with that she tossed the stone in a high arc to land with a loud SPLOOSH in the middle of the pond. The Canada geese nestled nearby looked up and honked abrasively in annoyance at being disturbed from their ignorant slumber.
“Then all of space-time came into existence. Most scientists I have run into get the beginning right but they invariably get everything after that wrong. Every ripple you see is a different outcome to the movement of all the particles in the Universe. And unlike most explosions the Big Bang is always at the beginning of Time. So different arrangements of particles, different outcomes, different ‘serial universes’ if you will, keep forming and rushing towards the end of Time. Most scientists I meet think that all events exist within space-time when in fact the only events that exist are these different versions of a constantly advancing present moment.”
“So you are saying the past and future don’t exist?” he questioned her with confusion forming behind his eyes.
As she replied she pointed at the first ripple travelling across the surface,
“Well there are futures and pasts that exist but they aren’t yours. They are the different present moments that rippled out from the Big Bang before and after your own ripple. See that first ripple? It’s the first Now that flashed out across the Universe when the Big Bang happened. It kept travelling down through the eons, through the formation of our galaxy, the birth of the Sol system, and the evolution of Man. Until one day it reached the point where Vilayne and I were researching a theory we had about the marriage of Temporal Physics and Quantum Mechanics,” the ripple hit the shore as she spoke the last sentence.
“But something went wrong. Vilayne was supposed to go through the Heisenberg Gate we had built and travel to the next ripple, the next Now. You have to understand that to keep a Quantum Uncertainty portal like that open for any meaningful length of time you need an enormous amount of energy. An unstable form of energy that can fluctuate along with the gate as it tunes to a different Pwik. We had calculated the probabilities over and over again-”
“Wait, what’s a Pwik? That just sounds odd.”
“Oh sorry, it’s what I and Vilayne nicknamed a PWC or Probability Wave Collapsar. That’s the technical term for each ripple of Now.”
“Ah gotcha, well not really, but please continue. Hopefully it makes more sense soon,” he sighed and shook his head as he looked at her as if she had just tried to speak in Cantonese to him.
“Anyway we had calculated the probabilities and were certain that everything was perfectly safe. But the problem with probabilities is that anything that can happen, no matter how crazy unlikely it may seem, will actually happen… possibly. As Vilayne stepped through the portal it surged powerfully along with the Fusion Capacitor System we had set up. The surge just so happened to be at a wavelength in perfect opposition to our Pwik. It was a resonant counter-wave. And then the portal exploded,” she cast her eyes down at these words and sighed deeply.
“Ok, so how come Vilayne didn’t just die then?”
“No, Steve, you are missing the significance. The portal exploded outwards from our lab and never stopped. I have done the calculations and even though I can never trust Vilayne I do believe him when he confirmed my suspicions…” she trailed off as her voice broke. Steve stepped closer and put a hand on her shoulder as she shivered slightly.
“What is it Feena? What happened?”, he whispered. Something in how weak and small she suddenly seemed filling him with dread at her answer.
“The explosion erased my world, my time, my… universe. And the cruellest part of it is that we both survived with the knowledge of what we had done. Truly suitable punishment for us. And yet it was even worse for Vilayne.”
“Sweet merciful crap. That’s, that’s monstrous. How could you chance that?”
“Steve, please try to understand the chances of that happening are less likely than you suddenly turning to solid gold in front of me. It should never ever have happened. I’m still trying to figure out how an event with that likelihood could suddenly turn out to be 100% probable,” and she sniffled as she pinched the bridge of her nose and valiantly held back the tears that this remembrance always brought on. She knew if she started crying now she wouldn’t be able to stop for hours or days.
“Hmm ok, let me finish while I still can, ok Steve?” she looked almost fearful as she gazed into his grey eyes.
“Ok, Feena. I owe you at least that since you’ve already saved my life once… possibly twice if we ever get a look in that satchel. But I don‘t understand how both of you survived something like that”, he gave her a wan but comforting smile as he spoke softly to her.
Feena smiled wanly in return knowing that even though he didn’t realize it he had saved her life so many times in so many ways that she actually owed him… everything.
“I was just about to get to that. You see the portal was still coherent for an instant as the explosion began. It affected the two of us in different ways, I suspect because he was partially across the event horizon as the process started. In any case, Vilayne became quantum entangled with the Portal. He instantly appeared in every Pwik as they crossed through the same moment as the explosion, which just like the Big Bang continues even now. The only difference is that it doesn’t destroy all those other Pwiks-”
“Um, why not?”
“Why not what?”
“Why doesn’t it destroy all those other… Pwiks? No I refuse to call them something that silly, they‘re Ripples ok?” as Steve looked skyward fearfully.
“Alright Ripples it is then. Remember I mentioned that each Ripple is a different arrangement of all the particles in the Universe travelling through Time. That means that each Ripple is never like any other thus our explosion isn’t a perfect counter-wave to any of them.”
“Oh, well that’s a relief then,” he breathed in relief.
“Well it would be if it wasn’t for Vilayne. You see if he can manipulate the explosion site here in your Ripple he can retune it to your wavelength and thus – POOF!” as she spoke she brought her hands together and then quickly apart in an apocalyptic motion.
“Oh shit indeed. But luckily the explosion affected me differently. It knocked me into only a single Pwik, sorry Ripple. Which means I haven’t been driven into omnicidal insanity. I also happen to know where he is going and how to stop him,” with that she grinned with barely concealed murderous glee.
“But I don’t get it. How can he affect the explosion now if it happened the moment he arrived here? Wouldn’t that mean he already missed his opportunity when he arrived here?” Steve asked as his fear subsided a bit and the confusion reasserted its grip on his psyche.
“Very astute of you Steve and I wish it was that simple of a solution but nothing in Life is ever simple. You see the explosion weakly entangles each ripple that passes through it, weakening space-time at that location in the process. All he has to do is set up the correct conditions and he can tune that weakness to the exact frequency to erase your Ripple.” Feena shook her head sadly at the grim reality facing them both.
As she stalked away towards the car Steve held up a hand and stuttered, “Um, I still have a couple questions.”
She came to a halt and smirked slightly as she thought to herself, “That’s an improvement. He usually has dozens of questions.”
“That’s fine Steve I can answer them on the way.” As she got back in his car and turned the key in the ignition.
“On the way to where, in my car, exactly?” Steve arched an eyebrow in mock astonishment as he settled into the seat next to her.
“The University of Cascadia, my old alma mater”, driving along Pacific Boulevard she pointed across English Bay to Point Grey.
“The what? Oh, I get it that’s what they call it in your Ripple. We call it UBC here.”
“And that stands for…?”
“The University of British Columbia, the best damn school west of the Rockies. And it would have been my alma mater if I hadn’t run out of student loan money.” Steve laughed at his own joke as she looked on, amused.
“See that’s why we were a republic. Titles and names sound way less pompous that way.” Feena winked at him to let him know she was just teasing and then focussed on the task of driving once more as Steve turned on the radio to yet another Led Zeppelin tune on Rock 101.
“Well at least it ain’t Nickelback.” Steve grumbled under his breathe before lapsing into silence.