October 23, 2015 § Leave a comment
I sat with my feet up, munching on a muffin and casually flipping through the pages of US Weekly. Tabloids, my guilty pleasure, were how I filled my head with bullshit during my time off. Fall Break was the breath of fresh air that I needed to keep myself afloat this semester, and it couldn’t have come any sooner.
My phone was sitting on the table next to my feet when I felt it buzz. I lazily rocked into an upright position and checked my messages. A single message sat in my Inbox, with the subject line “Assignment” and the sender, as expected, “The Professor.”
I guess I don’t get a break from everything.
The message was short and to the point, instructing me to go to Room 0048 at 12 pm. I smiled, that gave me at least another twenty minutes to read about Paris Hilton’s latest scandal, or jump ahead to find out the latest conspiracy about Bradley Cooper being gay.
After I ceased my indulgence, I walked over to Stevenson and descended into the basement. Room 0048 was easy enough to find, and I only knocked once before the door slid open and an electronic voice told me to enter. As I obeyed, the door slid closed behind me.
I stood in a small, empty room with a number of different objects. A metal table sat alone, with a sole chair in front of it. On the table was a pad of paper and a pen. On the right wall was a large bookcase, with picture frames occupied by their original stock photos. The left wall had an identical shelf, but with a small collection of random books. Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Rings, The Prince, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I was tempted to go over and check out the other titles that I couldn’t read, but there was a desk against the back wall that caught my attention first.
It was an old school wooden desk with space under the cover to put school supplies and a lunch box. I walked over to the desk and checked under the hood. It creaked as the hood settled into its vertical position; inside was an assortment of instruments that looked like they were pulled from the past: pencils, off-white paper, fountains pens, chalk. In the middle of it all was an abacus.
I picked up the abacus and slid the beads back and forth, chuckling at the simplicity of math’s greatest learning tool. A few seconds later, I heard a throat being cleared from my right. A man stood in a doorway that was once hidden by one of the bookshelves, grinning. “I see you’ve found an old pal of mine.”
I gave him a confused look, and he entered the room and reached out his hand for me to shake.
“Dr. Ned,” he introduced himself, “This is my lab, if you haven’t figured it out.”
I could have guessed, although its nature was unclear. He led me out of the front room into a control room, which had several large computer screens for walls and a number of panels filled with buttons to direct them.
He sat me down in front of the screens and began to explain, “This is a parallel worlds simulator. I’m sure you’re familiar with the many worlds hypothesis.”
“Well, the room you were just in simulates the possible actions that a subject can make upon entering, and produces a set of causal relationships depending on the subject’s interaction with the various objects we’ve presented,” before I could ask for him to explain more, he pressed the “Enter” bar on the keyboard closest to me.
I watched as an overheard shot of me appeared on the screen. From my feet sprung a dozen dotted paths leading to different areas of the room. Suddenly, my body split and 12 different versions of me moved across the room to their various destinations. Some of them went to the book shelves, others to the table, and others to the desk. Some split off before they reached their destination, and then there would be one going to the original destination and another going somewhere else. I watched as one of the ‘Me’s’ finished looking at the picture frames and exploded into 5 different versions of myself, scattering around to different parts of the room. The multiplication continued, crowding the screen, until Dr. Ned clicked pause.
“Neat, huh?” he chuckled, “Of course, this is only a prototype of a bigger computer engine we plan to create. Eventually, we’d like to be able to simulate the other worlds for when we gain the capability to travel to them.”
When? I had my doubts, but he didn’t seem to share them. He moved forward, “One day, we might even be able to predict the effects of various large decisions, helping us skirt disaster.”
That idea made me feel uneasy. It would give whoever controlled that ability too much power. I didn’t voice my concerns, simply electing to nod.
He showed me a few more features of the simulator, highlighting my original path and letting me watch all of the different decisions I could have(might have?) made, had he not interrupted me. On my way out, I thought of all the various ‘Me’s” that might existed. I imagined some of the superstitious ones skipped the thirteenth stair while climbing to the ground level, or the lazy ones chose to press a button to automatically open the exit door.
These versions of me were the ones in the closest alternate realities. There were far more that existed in realities that had landed me somewhere besides Vanderbilt, some in which I wasn’t in college at all. There were probably even more realities where I didn’t even exist.
I looked down at my feet as I walked across the quad. For a moment, I felt small, insignificant…replaceable. But then I looked around me. Here I was, in the one reality that I could attempt to control, wondering about the all others that I couldn’t. I smiled, deciding to go back to my break and affect the only world I could.