Glitch

I am running. Where? I don’t know. From what? I don’t know.

Think.

I am wearing a suit. Not a jogging suit. One of those suit with a tie. There is a card bouncing on my breast. A University logo. And a name. “Prof. John Williamson – Physics department”.
My hands are covered in wrinkles. I must be 60, or more. Alzheimer? Seems plausible. I turn back: no one is following. The streets are empty, and I don’t recognise them. Once again one of those glitches.

I am in an auditorium, I feel happy like I have achieved something. Around me, there are a lot of young people dressed in a cape. I am one of them, and I am holding a book: “The collapse of the wave function and the problem of conscience. PhD dissertation ”

The only conscious memories I have is me running and these glitches. But it feels like I have always been running.
I notice now that I have a bag. While I am compelled to keep running, I try to open it and look inside. There are papers. I drop a few, but I finally manage to grab one to look at. It is an academic paper, again something about quantum physics and my name is among the authors.

I am in a kitchen now, I smell bacon and eggs. An old lady kisses me and goes to the door ‘See you tonight, hon’. She must have been beautiful when she was younger.

The wind wakes me up. I am tired and yet I cannot stop running. It is getting more difficult to breathe. I have to think fast if I don’t want to die. Quantum physics feels familiar, something I should know everything about.

I am in a conference room, wearing the suit – the one I am wearing while I am running. The face of Alfred Nobel on a medallion on the wall. I am walking toward the microphone for my speech.

I know the absurdity of the quantum realm. I know the implications of the math, and at the same time, I know that there is no possibility to confirm any of these theories. We only know the measurements, we know that the equations allow us to built lasers and transistors, but we cannot observe what happens before the wave function collapses. Our conscience can only perceive its own reality and can stop the insanity of the superposition of infinite states by recognising our existence. I proved that. But in my reality, I am running.

The seats in front of me are all occupied. In the front row, there is a girl. She is sitting next to the old lady that calls me ‘hon’. She looks like her younger version, but even more beautiful. I feel this warmth filling my chest. She smiles. Everything I have done, I have done it for her.
– “Prof. Williamson” – someone next to me, maybe a journalist, starts asking – “If I understood your theory, there are infinite realities of you right now, but only one is the most likely for the wave function to collapse, and for your conscience to recognise it as your only reality…”

I am crying. I feel the tears wetting my cheeks while I cannot stop this damned run. I want to feel the love of a daughter I have and never met at the same time. I want to live your stupid life, Prof. Williamson! Mine. I cry because I know that I will never stop running and that I always have been. If only you would answer differently, fool! If only I would have said no.

– “..Therefore, is there a chance, despite how small, of a universe in which you are always… Well, I don’t know.. Let’s say, running?”
– “Absolutely.”
– “And you will never know because your conscience only exists where the wave function has collapsed..”
– “Yes, that’s correct!”
– “Aren’t you afraid I just made you conscient about your other self?”
I laugh. Everyone in the auditorium is laughing.

I am running. Where? From what? Think.


I don’t usually write stories. But this one is about quantum mechanics, and if I wouldn’t have, no one would. Actually, full disclosure: some else told a story like this, and I was deeply inspired.. but it wasn’t about me and I have shaped a new version of it.. in my own physics language.

I started this short story in November, with the aim to participate in the awesome Quantum Stories contest. Then I forgot and didn’t finish it, and honestly, I would have not been able to compete with the stories uploaded there.

So, if you want to read a great short story, I strongly recommend Run by Scott Hamill. And if you look for good stories about quantum mechanics, make sure to go check the ones shortlisted for the Quantum Stories contest and vote for your favourite. You can thank me later 😉