It was kissing Magda that made Sam destroy the universe.
She wasn’t to blame. Neither was he, really. They were both just collections of subatomic particles, sufficiently complex to propagate something they perceived internally as consciousness. Still, he did blame himself. Just not enough, when it came to it, to stop himself.
Going to the Christmas party had been a mistake. He should have stayed in the lab and worked on his sculpted magnetic fields. But Dr. Gupta, stern-faced supervisor, had persuaded him with an uncharacteristic largesse. The man had actually grinned. Have one night off at least, Sam. You’ve earned it.
Sam knew Magda was going and so he went.
He and Magda talked off and on throughout the evening, shouting over the rowdy hubbub inside the Geneva nightclub. They laughed about their more eccentric colleagues at the Large Hadron Collider. They even danced a wobbly waltz at the end of the evening. But she only had eyes for Dr. Grimaldi in Astrophysics, in Dallas for a conference. Magda admitted as much and Sam really couldn’t blame her. Grimaldi was handsome, brilliant, a rising star who worked, suitably enough, on stellar formation clouds. But, at the end of the evening, too much schnapps depressing their central nervous systems, he and Magda kissed.
They’d worked together for two years, she on the theoretical side, he on his containment fields and antiatoms. She was brilliant, effortlessly scaling heights he struggled to ascend. She was also fantastically beautiful, her expressive face lit up by her intellect.
Their kiss lasted maybe five seconds. On such tiny moments does life pivot. He wondered if, in a near-infinite number of bifurcating universes, Magda had indeed fallen for him there and then. If those other Magdas had felt the flood of light in their arteries, experienced the thrill of all the new possibilities. Perhaps. The trouble was in this universe, the one this him perceived, she simply smiled and, leaning on him as they made their way out to the coach, mumbled a goodnight
The following day, back at work, they said nothing about it. She resumed her calculations and he his experiments. It hadn’t meant much to her, if she even remembered. The problem was, it meant very much indeed to him. She meant very much indeed. He tried to bury himself in his work, which was what one did, but it was futile. She would explain some subtlety of the time-reversed nature of antimatter and he would hear only music.
He waited six months before acting. Love was a biochemical reaction and he understood that levels in his brain could change. Six months would give his body time to adjust. But by then he longed for her more. The memory of those five seconds haunted him. Five seconds was vanishingly small compared to the span of a human lifetime, the life of the universe. It was also infinitely more than nothing. He relived them a thousand times before his plan came to him.
It was all highly theoretical. Obviously, no-one had tried it before. But, quietly, with no-one noticing, he went past the point of caring.
One bright, breezy summer’s day, he put his plans into action. He tried not to think about what he was denying everyone else. Told himself it didn’t matter anyway: actual, physical needs outweighed potential, theoretical ones. Didn’t they?
He worked late in the lab. Nothing unusual about that. He fidgeted about for two hours, trying to look busy. Finally, with only ten minutes left on their LHC session, Dr. Gupta, stood, stretched and, with a curt nod, left.
Sam moved quickly, powering up the sculpted containment field. It was his great contribution to physics to make the fields expand exponentially as the antimatter within expanded. In effect, the antimatter shaped its own containment. The simple beauty of it still delighted him.
In a few moments he had everything ready. His consciousness wouldn’t know what was happening, of course. Still, it didn’t matter. He would experience the kiss again. In some sense. And although it would again last only five seconds, that would be worth it.
‘What are you doing, Sam? What the hell are you doing?’
Dr. Gupta, standing in the doorway, fury on his face. Of course, his supervisor understood immediately. Sam stood frozen while Dr. Gupta lunged across the lab towards him.
‘For God’s sake abort it! The time flow: we’ll be thrown backwards!’
Sam hesitated for only a moment. Then, before Dr. Gupta could reach him, he pressed the red button that initiated the antiatom cascade.
The vast explosion engulfed him.
.mih deflugne noisolpxe tsav ehT
.edacsac motaitna eht detaitini taht nottub der eht desserp eh ,mih hcaer dluoc atpuG .rD erofeb ,nehT .tnemom a ylno rof detatiseh maS
‘!sdrawkcab nworht eb ll’ew :wolf emit ehT !ti troba ekas s’doG roF’
.dessik adgaM dna eh …
Simon Kewin writes fiction, poetry and computer software, although usually not at the same time. His fiction and poetry has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies. He lives in the UK with Alison and their two daughters Eleanor and Rose.