July 21, 2021 1204 PM
Somewhere else. Had to be. Didn’t there?
Through a complicated series of events, a quantum physicist found himself at the edge of the universe. He was quite taken aback to find that the universe had an edge at all. He was more taken aback to find another man already there.
The other man wasn’t doing anything in particular. Just standing there, his back to the physicist, staring into space (literally).
The quantum physicist cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”
The man jumped and turned around.
The physicist started to say, “Sorry to bother you,” but he only got as far as “Sor—” before he changed, mid-sentence, to, “Oh my god you’re me.”
“Am I?” The man smiled, and considered the physicist. “Oh yes. We do appear to be the same person, don’t we?”
“But you can’t be me,” said the physicist. “I’m me.”
“True,” said the other him. “And yet, here we both are.”
The physicist said, “This is very strange.”
“Truer still,” said the other him, who altogether seemed quite calm about the whole thing.
The physicist looked around. “Where are we?” he asked.
The other him replied, “Seems to be the edge of the universe.”
“But,” said the physicist, “the universe doesn’t have an edge. The universe is infinite. This is established.”
The other him shrugged. “Evidently not.”
“But,” protested the physicist, “if the universe isn’t infinite, then we’ve based our entire understanding of the cosmos on an erroneous supposition.”
“Looks that way, doesn’t it?”
“But—” The physicist tried to find the right words, but the right words, sensing that they were looked for, flipped him the bird and hightailed it out of there, leaving him only with another “But” followed by, “then, what other faulty assumptions have we been making? What countless years of accumulated knowledge are now worthless by virtue of being founded on a false initial premise?”
The other him shrugged. “Can’t know what we don’t know, can we?”
The physicist sighed.
The other him smiled, and it was a sad, kindly, pitying sort of smile. “We used to be so confident, didn’t we?”
The physicist nodded. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”
“Then don’t,” said the other him. “Just accept.”
“Don’t rush me,” said the physicist. Then, “So. Any thoughts on how we get back?”
“Yes,” said the other him. “I don’t think we do. In fact, I suspect I’ll be moving along now any minute.”
“Moving along? To where?” asked the physicist. “This is the edge of the universe. Where else is there to go?”
The other him shrugged. “When I find out, I’ll tell you.” Then he looked down at his hand and said, “That’s odd.”
“What is?” Then the physicist saw for himself. The other him’s right hand was swelling, inflating like a balloon. Then his left hand began to do the same. Then his feet, and then his legs. The swelling traveled all the way up to the other him’s pelvis, then to his midriff, where it met the swelling that had traveled down from his head. The other him was inflating like a balloon, but soundlessly.
“My god,” said the physicist. “What’s happening to you?”
“I’m sure I do not know,” said the other him. “But I suspect that whatever is happening is happening because I am not meant to be here.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“That’s very kind,” said the other him. “But I doubt it.” And just after he said it, he popped. He did not make a sound. Nothing red or gooey came exploding out. It was a purely visual pop, and he was gone.
To where? The physicist reflected on that. Somewhere else. So there was a somewhere else. There had to be. Didn’t there?
A voice behind him said, “Excuse me.”
The physicist jumped.
Sam Feldstein is a speculative fiction writer hailing from the distant land of Iowa, or was it Idaho? He can most often be found behind the counter at the Sentinel, or inside his own head.