Saturday, August 29, 2009

Daily Story 136: Sufficiently Advanced

This is another that was first published at 365 Tomorrows.

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Jacob looked down at his hands, at the skin that had grown wrinkled and translucent over time, veins rising as the liver spots bloomed around them. His wedding ring rattled around loosely on his twiglike finger, secured only by the gnarled joint of his knuckle. He had done so much with these hands. They glowed red intermittently as the light on the control panel flashed beneath them, begging him to reach forward and press the button that would abort the experiment. Already the others that could have done it had fled to what they prayed was a safe distance. He had told them to, sent them away without telling them that the experiment was actually going as planned.

There were voices, speaking to him from the console. Telling him to abort, telling him that whatever was happening was beyond the understanding of physics and had to be stopped before it tore the world apart. Jacob ignored them and turned the speaker off. He gazed once more at the ring of gold on his withered finger, scratched and worn. Remembered the feel of his wife’s cheek against his, the dry warmth of her skin. He thought, too, about the way the ring reminded him of the brass linking rings he had used in his performances. Making some extra money on the weekends, his hands not yet shaking and curled from arthritis, hiding and revealing cards and coins as his spectators stared in awe and confusion. His wife was among them, always, watching his eyes rather than looking for the trick.

Once more the safeguards tried to kick in, and Jacob calmly disabled them. He had told his teachers, his students, his coworkers. Physics is about magic tricks – and the deeper you go the more magic is revealed. The motion of the tiniest building blocks of reality seemed mysterious only to those unfamiliar with the tricks of the craft; his hands could disassemble the most complex puzzle-boxes as easily as they wrote equations on a blackboard, as easily as they made a dove seem to vanish into the air, as easily as they traced the secret lines down his wife’s form that only he knew – and so he had known the trick to the universe would unfold before him eventually. There was always an equation up God’s sleeve, a palmed quark, a hidden force. But he had searched for the trap doors and secret compartments, never stopping even when his wife took her final bow and did a vanishing act right in his arms, leaving only her cold body behind – a particularly cruel trick.

The room went dark for a moment, but his hands knew every inch of the control panel and he coaxed the device back to life. The emergency lights now showed the walls seeming to buckle and warp, but this was an illusion; misdirection. Communication with the world outside the lab would be impossible, and Jacob wondered briefly if the lab was even visible from the outside anymore, or if the scientists were panicking at it’s apparent departure. Watch, closely, ladies and gentleman – now you see it…

Jacob the Magnificent’s hands made a flourish as he reached for the button. “Abracadabra,” he whispered, and pressed. The world was still. He reached down and plucked the wedding ring off of his finger seemingly through the bone, and it unfolded into a chain of interlinked rings longer than the universe itself. With another flourish, he produced a new galaxy from his other hand – and behind him, his wife clapped.