Science Fiction Science Fact WebJournal Quantum Mechanical Creative Short Stories

Science Fiction Science Fact WebJournal
Winter’s End by Stefan Cafaro

Chapter 1

The clamor of his phone striking the hardwood floor startled Jason from his sleep. Picking his face up off of his cluttered desk, he reached down for his phone. His thumbs moved mindlessly over the touchpad, 1 2 6 5. To most people this string of numbers would appear to have no significant meaning but to Jason they were everything. They were his life’s work. 126.5 to be precise; the ATLAS detector’s calculated weight for the newly discovered Higgs Boson particle; or rather about to be discovered. The press release announcing its candidacy was tomorrow morning and Jason had promised his friends that he would meet them at the bar to celebrate.

Three missed calls and it’s 9 pm already. Ricci is going to kill me Jason thought. Ricci had always pestered Jason that he worked too hard, took life too seriously, spent too much time entranced by his equations and not enough time having fun. Dr. Antonio Ricci had been Jason’s teaching assistant during his freshman year quantum physics class. Though two years ahead of him, Ricci and Jason had been inseparable since they met, coasting through their physics curriculums both in undergrad and graduate school. When he graduated, Ricci had landed himself a shot in the particle physics major leagues; a job at CERN. He was even kind enough to put in a good word for Jason, not that he needed it.

Jason had always known that he was intelligent, even before receiving his doctorate at age 24 in particle physics granting him the title Dr. Jason Winters. He had been top of his class since preschool, excelling in everything he came across. Concepts that took people years to master, Jason grasped in minutes. He always had a gift for making connections. He could memorize words, pictures, equations, and books at a first glance. He could have done anything he wanted to. The elegance and fluidity of particle physics provided the necessary outlet for Jason to maximize his intellectual potential. It had become his life’s work to try and unravel the driving mechanisms of reality.

Jason sluggishly rose from his chair knowing that he shouldn’t be wasting any more time reminiscing. Quantum equations and particle decay patterns covered his bed, hiding the solid blue blanket haphazardly thrown in a desperate attempt to provide a smidgen of order to an overwhelmingly chaotic room. Trudging through the countless papers that covered his floor, Jason made his way to the closet. He speedily threw on a black button down and a pair of dark blue jeans to match. Grabbing the keys off his night stand, Jason briefly stopped in front of the mirror before heading toward the door. Just like his room, Jason’s hair was in need of some order. He quickly rubbed some mousse through his long black curls and splashed some water on his face. Slipping his contacts in over his dark hazel eyes, Jason walked into the living room. I really need to find a new place Jason thought to himself as he grabbed his wallet off of a nearby couch. Jason lived in a fully furnished 3rd floor apartment in Meyrin that he had rented out through CERN. Though it was supposed merely serve as a temporary living situation, its proximity to work combined with Jason’s lack of ambition to find a new place prevented him from leaving, even after 5 years of work. Picking up his coat off a nearby chair, Jason headed outside.

Chapter 2

Jason walked hastily through the brisk night air, hoping his friends might not notice his late arrival. The Quantum Pub was only a few blocks down the road but he had promised Ricci that he would be there by 8:45. Jason looked at his watch. 9:15, could be worse he mused. Jason’s senses were overwhelmed as he stepped through the doorway. The roar of the applause almost drowned out the constant flow of congratulatory remarks and pats on the back received from his colleagues. I knew I was a major asset to this project, but I wasn’t expecting this. Despite having worked for CERN for only 5 years, Jason had quickly become one of the most vital physicists associated with the ATLAS detector. His new particle decay software algorithm alone more than tripled the capacity for data storage and analysis. Jason felt a tap on his left shoulder. He turned to find an older looking man with receding white hair grinning back at him.

“Congratulations my boy! Can you believe it?” said the man giving Jason a firm handshake.

Jason turned. “Thanks Dr. Arnell, it’s been a hell of a journey.”

Dr. Arnell had been Jason’s mentor since he had first arrived at CERN. At 67 years of age, Dr. Michael Arnell had provided Jason with the one thing he needed to have become so successful; freedom. Dr. Arnell had provided Jason with his own lab and unrestricted access to any of the facilities that he could ever need. Dr. Arnell placed great faith in Jason and always believed that he was destined for great things.

Turning away from Dr. Arnell, Jason barely had a moment to catch his breath before being stopped by another one of his colleagues.

“Hey Jason, how about sharing some credit with the rest of us?” a voice mocked.

It was Dr. David Stone, one of Jason’s less preferred colleagues. David was known for his cutthroat attitude when it came to his research and on more than one occasion Jason had caught him trying to steal his work. In Jason’s eyes, David was an untrustworthy man, undeserving of the honorable title particle physicist.

“Hey David” Jason said, trying his best not to sound too resentful.

“I hear you’re thinking about working on a new project. If you want to run some of your ideas by me, I’d be happy to offer my advice” David said, almost sounding sincere.

“Uh thanks, maybe another time” Jason said, swiftly ending the conversation. Typical David, trying to weasel his way into my research.

Seeking shelter from the onslaught of praise from his peers, Jason sought refuge at a nearby table where his friend Ricci sat with a beer in his hand waving him over.

“Here ya go buddy. I’ve got a nice cold one ready for you. Or at least it would have been cold had you gotten here on time” Ricci jabbed.

“I know Ricci, I’m sorry. I must have lost track of the time. I was just going over my …”

“I know I know. You were going over your equations. You are obsessed! Here we are, a day before we announce that we found the damned particle and you’re still trying to derive its significance on paper.” Ricci interrupted.

“Not its significance, its applications. We’ve dedicated so much time to finding this particle, verifying our theories, but to what end? Doesn’t it bother you that there’s nothing we can do with this knowledge other than create more questions for ourselves?” Jason exclaimed.

“Nahh, you think too much. Sometimes you need to just learn how to pat yourself on the back and say job well done.” Ricci said, leaning back in his chair.

Jason sighed. No one seemed to understand what he was trying to do and he couldn’t blame them. They had made a major breakthrough, for the whole particle physics community. The discovery of the Higgs Boson! This monumental finding validated the work of famed physicist Peter Higgs, solidified a major sector of the Standard Model, and confirmed the existence of the Higgs field. It explained the very mechanism by which quarks, hadrons, and leptons gained their mass. A boson with no spin, no electric charge, and no color charge which once created almost immediately decays into a debris of other particles. Two photons. Two W bosons into two leptons and two neutrinos. Two Z bosons into four leptons. Jason had memorized all of the tell-tale Higgs decay patterns years ago. He could visualize the production mechanisms in his head, Feynman diagrams dancing around his mind in bright colors, depicting complex mathematical expressions governing the behavior of subatomic particles. Electrons and positrons annihilated into blue photon waves; the resulting quark-antiquark pair emitting a green helical gluon to the outskirts of his imagination.

Ricci snapped his fingers in front of his eyes. “Hey Jason, care to join me back in the real world for a sec?”

“Ha sorry Ricci. Guess I got a bit preoccupied” Jason replied.

“Yeah, what else is new” Ricci snorted. “You need to learn how to relax once in a while buddy. Sit back, and just enjoy yourself. There’s more to life than particle physics ya know.”

Jason grinned at the irony in that statement.

“Oh stop. You know what I meant. We gotta get you a girlfriend.” Ricci taunted.

Just then the door to the bar opened, and in stepped the most beautiful woman Jason had ever seen. She was tall and slender, long brown hair hanging down past her shoulders, dark green eyes and a devilish grin that could get the best of men into trouble.

“Speak of the devil” Ricci joked. “You’re dream girl has arrived. Let’s ask her to join us!”

“Cut it out Ricci. Dr. Green and I are just friends.” Jason said as his cheeks started to glow bright red. Dr. Melanie Green had worked with Jason for the past five years at CERN and ever since they first met, Jason had developed an extreme emotional attachment to the woman. A particle physicist, both smart and beautiful. Jason only wished he could muster up a shred of courage to ask her out.

“Hey Melanie, over here!” Ricci shouted, waving her over to the table. Melanie walked over and sat down right next to Jason.

“Hey guys! Can you believe it? All of our hard work has finally paid off! The next round is on me.” Melanie excitingly exclaimed.

“And we owe it all to our man Jason over here” Ricci boasted.

“Very funny” Jason said, still trying to mask his crimson face from Melanie’s gaze.

“No, he’s right Jason!” Melanie said as she placed her hand on his wrist, sending jolts of electricity up his arm. “Without you, it could have taken another couple of years before we had enough confidence to make this announcement! Moments like these only come around so often gentlemen, so tonight, I suggest we drink!”

The three friends drank, laughed, and talked throughout the night, exchanging witty remarks and praising each other’s contributions to the project. The occasional graze of Melanie’s hand against his combined with alcohol consumption filled Jason with a mix of conflicting messages. He wanted to grab her and finally express how he truly felt. But as the night wore on and he started to sober up, Jason withdrew back into his shell. Who am I kidding? She would never go for a guy like me.

Jason stood up from the table and started to slip on his coat. “Sorry guys, I’m gonna head back home. Big day tomorrow and I’m pretty tired” Jason lied.

“Aww come on Jason, the night is still young!” Melanie flirted.

Or at least he thought she might be flirting. He couldn’t tell and his mind scrambled trying to make sense of the situation. Despite his mastery of particle physics, romance remained an illusory concept, lying just beyond his mental reach.  Zipping up his coat, Jason headed out the door.

Chapter 3

The next day was a blur. On July 4th 2012, both of the CERN experiments announced that they had independently made the same discovery. CMS confirmed the presence of an unknown boson with mass 125.3 GeV/c2 and ATLAS of a boson with mass 126.5 GeV/c2. Both experiments reached a local significance of 5-sigma. A one in one million chance of error. They had done it, they had found the Higgs. Jason knew that he should be happier but for him the announcement had been bitter sweet. The discovery marked an abrupt interruption to the years of constant research leading up to this moment. The Large Hadron Collider would be shut down to undergo a period of upgrades and repair and though there was still plenty of room for further data analysis to be carried out, Jason couldn’t help but feeling trapped. His mind fought desperately to conjure some sort of validation for all of his hard work but the more he thought about it the more he realized how many peoples’ lives remained unaffected by this discovery.

It was then Jason decided that he would no longer sit idly by feeling sorry for himself. He would find a way to utilize the Higgs particle in some sort of practical manner and give a more universal meaning to the discovery.

The Higgs Field controls the mass of the very constituents of nature. There is so much potential in this quantum mechanism. If I could only figure out a way to manipulate the field, I could change the world.

With a renewed sense of vigor, Jason hurried to his lab.

Chapter 4

Jason turned the keys to his lab room and stepped inside. He was greeted with the familiar smell of the left over Chinese food that had been sitting on his desk for way too long combined with the overwhelming scent of chalk. The first thing that Jason did when he acquired this lab was covering the walls in green chalkboard paint. From top to bottom, the encompassing surfaces were filled with complex mathematical formulas and particle decay signatures associated with the Higgs mechanism. Writing out his work in this visual way allowed Jason to optimize his eidetic intelligence. The symbols and diagrams seemed to come to life within Jason’s mind, forming connections in a manner similar to putting together a puzzle; each numerical and pictorial expression fitting together in an elegant symphony of particle physics. Time to get to work Jason thought as he picked up the eraser and proceeded to clear the walls in preparation for his new project.

Hours flew by and soon the walls were once again covered in an undecipherable language. Satisfied with outlining the theoretical framework behind the Higgs mechanism, Jason sat back in his chair.

Hmm, there has to be some way of harnessing this mechanism. Think Jason Think. The Higgs field permeates all of space and is responsible for assigning masses to quarks, electrons, and other elementary particles. The Higgs boson serves as the carrier of this field, propagating as a ripple, much like a sound moving through air. Okay, so what? Jason stood up and started pacing around the room, occasionally tracing over some of his equations with a pen in his hand.

What if there was no Higgs field? In a Higgs-less universe, the known particles would be massless. According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, this means everything could travel at the speed of light, just like the photons that make up light itself. Okay so what if we could turn off the Higgs field in a localized region, or maybe manipulate it somehow? But that’s impossible. It would take a matter anti-matter collision of almost lunar sized objects just to create the amount of energy required to cancel out the field in a region of space the size of a small marble. Jason started to pace faster. The clicking of his pen increased rhythmically with his growing frustration.

Okay, maybe I just need a catalyst, something to allow for the Higgs field to weaken under more achievable energies, like muons used to facilitate nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes. The more Jason thought about it the farther he seemed to be getting from any sort of tangible solution. He could feel himself starting to get dizzy with frustration, the equations on the wall seeming to lift up off the surface, spinning around him in circles as if to taunt him into submission. Jason, refusing to accept defeat, settled for some much needed rest. Picking up his coat, he headed back home. Lying in bed, Jason finally forced himself to shut his eyes against the current of mathematical expressions flooding his mind.

Chapter 5

Months started to fly by, and Jason grew colder in sync with the passing of the seasons. It was a brisk December evening, as Jason walked along the sidewalk heading back to his apartment. It had been another day of intensive research that continued to yield no significant results. I know I am getting closer. I’m just missing something, maybe…

A cold substance grazed Jason’s hand. Another landed on his nose. He stopped, looking up at the sky with childish awe. The first snow of winter.

Jason always thought that it was no mere coincidence that his last name matched his continuous infatuation with the season. He stuck out his hand into the gentle flurry and watched as the snow settled on his palm, each flake briefly displaying its own elegant aggregated crystallized structure before melting away. Nature is remarkably beautiful if left to its own vices Jason thought, briefly forgetting his battering attempts to bend it to his will. For the first time in a long time, Jason cleared his mind. He turned his head to the sky, opened his mouth, and let the snow crystals settle onto his awaiting tongue.

“Having a late dinner Jason?” a nearby feminine voice mocked.

Jason spun around, cheeks immediately blushing at the sight of her.

“Hey Melanie” Jason finally managed to get out. “I was just enjoying the snow. Did you know that despite being made of clear ice, snow appears white due to the diffuse reflection of the entire light spectrum? It’s beautiful”.

“Ha Jason you really are a nerd. And that means a lot coming from me. But listen Jason, we are starting to get worried about you. You keep yourself cooped up in that lab of yours all day and it looks live you haven’t been getting any sleep. I’m headed to the bar with a couple of guys from the department and I am taking you with me.”

Before Jason even had a chance to object, Melanie grabbed his arm and led him down the street through the falling snow.

Chapter 6

Ricci and David were waiting for them at one of the booths near the window. Great, David’s here. Just what I need to help me relax Jason thought sarcastically to himself.

“Look what the cat dragged in” Ricci said as he leaned back in his chair smirking. “No offense Melanie.”

“Very funny Ricci. I ran into Jason down the block getting pretty intimate with some snowflakes.” Melanie said as she playfully bumped Jason’s shoulder.

After a few drinks, and just as Jason started to feel some of the tension leaving him, David decided to chime in.

“So Jason, we haven’t seen you in weeks. Word around the department is that you are working on some top secret project. Tell us about it” David pressed.

As Jason was about to object, Melanie reinforced David’s efforts.

“Yeah, come on Jason. Tell us what that smart brain of yours is cooking up this time”.

Melanie was truly his Achilles heel. A bit intoxicated and wanting nothing more than to impress her, he decided to share a few details.

“Teleportation” Jason said boldly.

“Teleportation?” Ricci asked. “You’re doing research on quantum teleportation? I don’t understand”.

“Not exactly” Jason responded. “Imagine what it would be like if you could move at the speed of light.”

“Stop messing with us Jason. You know damned well that’s not possible. Accelerating an object to light speed would take an infinite amount of energy and time, let alone creating an infinite mass problem” Melanie interjected.

“Not if one could flip the off switch on the Higgs field” Jason said with a cocky grin.

David’s eyes opened wide with jealousy and desire. “Are you serious? That’s not possible. Is it? Even if you could, the subatomic binding energies would disappear, ripping apart all atomic structure. Have you figured out a way around that?”

“As of yet, no” Jason answered being careful not to leak any more details to his overeager colleague. “But I’m getting closer.” Jason smirked, trying to show off a little in front of Melanie. And with that, Jason finished his beer and headed out the door.

Chapter 7

That night Jason dreamt of equations. Particle decay signatures darted back and forth, his mind unconsciously drawing connections within the Higgs mechanism. Idea harboring neurons collided together at the speed thought, coalescing into patterns and clues, slowly piecing together as if trying to complete some larger puzzle. Just as this ideation bubble was about to reach critical mass, Jason woke up.

            I know how to do it. I know how to manipulate the Higgs field.

Chapter 8

Short of breath, Jason entered his lab just as the sun started to rise. Grabbing a nearby piece of chalk, Jason began scribbling furiously across the board. I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.

The key is in the Higgs coupling mechanism. The vacuum of space is filled with a condensate of Higgs particles. Quarks, leptons, W bosons, and Z bosons continuously collide with these Higgs particles as they travel through space. The Higgs condensate acts like molasses, slowing down any particle that interacts with it. The stronger the interactions, the more massive the particles become and therefore the coupling to the Higgs boson is proportional to the mass. Jason could barely contain his excitement as he continued to fill the board with complex mathematical equations and diagrams for his prototyped device.

The Higgs field has a certain potential energy related to the way it interacts with itself so it must possess various minimum and maximum values. If we are correct in assuming that the field is currently at a potential minimum, it would be theoretically possible for this value to shift to another potential minimum via quantum tunneling. If I could take advantage of this Higgs instability and locally manipulate these energy levels, I could alter the mass of fundamental particles. 

Jason attacked the chalkboard walls with a renewed intensity. He was getting closer and he could feel it. Finally Jason paused, oblivious to the sun setting in his window, and gravitated towards the middle of the room to get a better look at his work. A complex circular device was displayed on the center of the front wall. This is it. This will work. Finally satisfied with his design, Jason started to build.

Chapter 9

Weeks flew by, and Jason barely stopped to notice the light of each passing day. After countless hours of hard work, Jason had finally finished his first prototype. Once cased in its enclosure, the device very much resembled an ordinary wrist watch. It had a smooth steel finish and perfectly round edges. The inside of the device contained 3 concentric metallic rings, sandwiched between two figure eights. Each of these loops served as a mini particle accelerator that, once turned on, would generate the enormous amount of energy required for the altercation of the Higgs field potential to a different minimum in a localized region of space time. On the left hand side, sat a tiny knob used to adjust the strength of the Higgs negation mechanism. At full throttle, the device would generate a localized quantum tunneling effect that would negate the influence of the Higgs field, thus in a sense generating an “anti” Higgs field in which nearby particles would be rendered massless. Jason knew that even slightly altering fundamental particle masses could have catastrophic and fatal consequences. He spent weeks crunching the numbers, making sure that the proper proportionalities utilized to adjust the masses of the particles were precise enough to prevent atomic structure instability on a macroscopic level. Any deviation significant enough from these values could cause electrons to be freed from their atomic chains. Isolated atoms and simple molecules would survive this, but any multi-atom bimolecular protein or nucleic acid would be destroyed. Anything or anyone in the vicinity would cease to exist.

On the top plate was a delicately etched snowflake with the words, Property of Dr. Winter, written below it. Fighting the growing anticipation to put his hard work to the test, Jason was first careful to engage the failsafe that he had built into the device. Uncertain as to exactly what would happen the instant he flicked the on switch, Jason had meticulously programmed a failsafe mechanism, that when enabled, would automatically disarm the device after 10 seconds. Teeming with ambition, Jason clasped the device around his wrist, turned the adjustment knob to full throttle, and flipped the switch.

Chapter 10

In the fraction of a second after Jason flipped the switch he was consumed with fear. He was so focused on initial success that he neglected to take into account what would happen to the very bonds that held together these fundamental particles when rendered massless. There would be nothing left to hold his atoms together. What have I done?

Expecting that to be his last thought Jason was surprised to be alive after the distinct audible click of the engaged switch. The relief was short lived however; as Jason quickly realized that he couldn’t move. In fact, it looked as though nothing around him could move either. Nearby floating dust particles were frozen and the clock on the wall had halted its motion as if time itself had stopped. His panic continued to grow when he realized that his arms, legs, and his entire body had vanished. Just as he was about lose all hope of returning to normality, the failsafe engaged and Jason flashed back into existence, collapsing to the floor. Thankful to be alive, Jason sat back at this desk to try and explain what had happened.

I should have died Jason thought to himself, trying to make sense of things. Okay, by altering the fundamental masses of particles, their relative size must have also changed to compensate. Invisibility would make sense given that I would be changing nature’s inherent optical properties, allowing photons to simply pass through bodies unperturbed. And if the mass contained within this localized field were reduced to zero, everything would be moving at light speed, thus it would only appear that time had been frozen. But that still doesn’t explain how I survived. It was as if I became pure energy, bound by some external prevailing force. The very bonds holding me together were destroyed and yet it was as if my consciousness was fighting to maintain control over my essence.

The more Jason thought, the more curious he became. Jason stepped outside, immediately greeted by the brisk night air and the touch of snowflakes gently settling upon his clothes. I have to test it again. I have to know. Disabling the failsafe, Jason flipped the switch once again and disappeared.

The falling snowflakes were frozen in place, surrounding Jason in a breathtaking mist of symmetric ice crystals, each exhibiting a crystalline pattern more beautiful than the next. After getting over the initial shock of being transformed into energy, Jason decided to test the limits of his device. Though I have somehow managed to retain my “body”, I have no means to provide myself with an inertial force. If my thoughts can keep me together, then perhaps they can also propel me through space. Concentrating his efforts, Jason focused his thoughts on going home and in that instant everything vanished.

Chapter 11

A bright light overwhelmed Jason’s vision, as the world around him seemed to burst forth with energy. Almost instantaneously, Jason materialized in front of his apartment. Amazing Jason thought. It’s as if I teleported here. I really am moving at the speed of light.

Enthralled with his success, Jason once again turned on his device. Rome, Paris, New York. Jason visited them all in fractions of a second. Overwhelmed with joy, Jason almost didn’t notice the sudden feeling of instability. It felt as if his mind was losing its ability to hold himself together. The proportionalities must be wrong Jason thought, fighting the urge to panic. Traveling at light speed back to his lab, Jason went to work on creating a new stable device.

What should have taken months, Jason accomplished in a matter of moments, working at inhuman speeds to complete his project. Satisfied with his design, Jason strapped on his updated tech and vanished.

Chapter 12

An instant later, Jason materialized in front of the Quantum Pub. A light flurry greeted him as snowflakes began to settle on his clothes. Bursting with newly found confidence, Jason stepped inside, heading straight for the table where his dream girl was sitting.

“Hey Jason, how are you–” Melanie said, being cut off mid sentence.

“Melanie, go out with me tomorrow night. I’ve had feelings for you ever since I started working here and I can’t keep pretending that they will fade.”

Stunned with Jason’s forwardness, Melanie finally managed to flash a smile.

“Sure. How about Nirvana, that fancy restaurant down the block? Pick me up at 7.”

Chapter 13

The following night Jason picked up Melanie for their date and walked her to the restaurant. The light flurry from the night before had grown into a more steady snowfall.

“I’m so glad you finally decided to ask me out” Melanie said, seated across the table from Jason. “You have so much confidence now; it’s almost as if you you’re a new man. Does this mean you completed your project?” Melanie asked in a flirtatious manner.

Enjoying their dinner, Jason proceeded to tell Melanie about the “anti” Higgs device that he created. Rolling up the sleeve on his right arm, Jason showed her his invention.

“Jason this is amazing! Your work is going to completely revolutionize the particle physics community and change the world. Melanie paused. “But there’s one problem.”

Jason looked confused.

“Aren’t you a righty?” Melanie asked, trying to conceal a smirk.

“Umm yes? What does that have to do with anything” Jason asked quizzically.

“Well I believe that all watches and Anti-Higgs devices are meant to be worn on your left wrist” Melanie replied, bursting out into laughter.

Jason sat back in his chair and gazed deeply into her emerald eyes, watching her laugh. Only Melanie could crack a joke at a time like this. She really is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Lost in his thoughts, Jason didn’t notice the bright red color flooding into his cheeks.

“Jason, are you blushing?” Melanie asked in a teasing manner.

Before he could respond, Melanie started to lean in. Time seemed to slow down all at once as she slowly closed the gap between their anticipating lips. They kissed.

In that instant the world around them seemed to explode, sending jolts of electricity throughout their bodies. It was as if the ground itself shook from the sheer magnitude of their emotional intensity. Reluctantly their lips parted. Cries of fear and panic filled the room as people sprinted towards the restaurant’s exit.

Chapter 14

Recovering from their kiss, Jason and Melanie followed the frenzied crowd outside where they were greeted by a building engulfed in a blazing fire. Snow began to hammer down as if to match the tempo of the rampaging flames.

Melanie screamed in horror. “The department! Jason that’s our department building! Our labs!”

Melanie and Jason sprinted towards the building, weaving in and out of awe struck civilians.   Jason had a sinking feeling that he knew exactly what had caused the explosion. He prayed he was wrong. Shrieks could be heard, emanating from the inferno.

There are still people in there. Locking eyes with Melanie, he knew what he had to do. Before she could raise her voice to stop him, Jason flicked on his device and disappeared into the flames.

At light speed, Jason rushed in and out of the building, stopping only briefly to establish anti Higgs fields around the victims in an effort to rescue them. After the last civilian had been saved, Jason turned his attention to a dark hooded figure that suddenly appeared in a nearby alleyway. Squinting his eyes to get a better look, Jason watched as the mysterious figure faded in and out of existence, half teleporting half stumbling down the alley.

It’s David Jason said to himself. He must have broken into my lab and found my first iteration of the anti Higgs device. If I don’t stop him, he might set off a coupling instability that could destroy the whole city. Jason sprinted down the alley in pursuit of David, hoping to confront him before it was too late.

“David you must stop!” Jason screamed. “The device is unstable. If you continue this, you could cause the whole city to evaporate!”

Acknowledging the futility of his vocalized efforts, Jason engaged his anti Higgs device rapidly accelerating down the backstreet and knocking the cloaked figure to the snow covered ground. Jason knelt to remove his hood. He stumbled backwards in terror and disbelief. It’s Ricci. Before he had a chance to confront his friend, Ricci vanished.

Chapter 15

Coming back to his senses, Jason engaged his anti Higgs device and pursued Ricci throughout the city at light speed. Like bolts of lightning, they flashed in and out of existence across the streets, locked in a potentially catastrophic game of cat and mouse.

Finally Ricci stopped, right in front of their department building, still covered in flames. A large crowd started to gather around the two anomalies. Melanie, heart racing, quickly pushed her way to the front to get a better look.

Jason started walking towards his friend.

“Ricci. I don’t understand. You were the one who broke into my lab? You caused this explosion? Why?” Jason asked still in disbelief.

“Ah Jason my friend. Are you familiar with the expression, curiosity killed the cat?”

Ricci chuckled to himself as he regained his composure.

“You’ve been locked up in that lab for weeks working on some top secret project. I had to see what you were up to. When I read all of your notes and found that gadget lying on your desk, I thought I might take it for a little test drive.” Ricci said, flashing a crooked grin.

“This anti Higgs device or whatever you call it. It’s going to change the world! We could be gods Jason. We can directly shape the progression of the next decade together!”

Jason was stunned. How could his best friend betray him like this? How could he become so power crazy that he failed to see the danger that he was putting everyone in.

“Ricci, the world isn’t ready for this tech yet. It’s too dangerous, too unstable, and too unpredictable. You need to take off the device now! It’s generating an exponentially growing instability in the Higgs coupling mechanism. If you don’t stop now an unstable minimum energy state will appear in the localized region around you. Atomic structures as we know it will be ripped apart across the city!” Jason screamed, trying to reason his friend.

“Ah Jason, you worry too much. Sometimes you need to have a little fun.”

The air around Ricci started to ripple, surrounding him with a violent glowing energy.

“What’s happening to me? Ricci cried. It feels as if I’m being torn apart from the inside. Help me! Help–” Before Jason could answer his cries for help, Ricci vanished.

“Ricci!!!!!!” Jason screamed in terror.

The on looking crowd gasped in terror as Ricci’s body exploded outward in a flash of light. In his place, a violent sphere of pulsating energy radiated outward, slowly growing in size. The falling snow transformed into a roaring blizzard, meshing with the energy to create a swirling dervish of ice and fire.

Fighting back tears, Jason tried to calm his mind. If I don’t do something quick, this vacuum instability will consume the entire city, disintegrating everything and everyone in its path.

Jason realized what he had to do. Turning towards the crowd, he ran towards Melanie.

“Jason!” Melanie screamed in fear. “What’s happening?”

“Melanie, I don’t have time to explain. The entire city’s in jeopardy if I don’t act quickly. I just want you to know that I fell in love with you the first day that we met.”

“Jason, why are you saying these things? You are scaring me” Melanie said trembling, a tear starting to fall down her cheek.

“Melanie, you are my dream girl. You have given me more than you will ever know and I couldn’t live with myself if any harm came to you because of my invention. I will always watch over you.”

Before Melanie had a chance to protest, Jason switched on his anti Higgs device and disappeared, heading straight towards the spherical instability vortex.

The localized field generated from my own device should keep me stable long enough to reach the center. If I engage the fail safe mechanism from the core, I should be able to quantum tunnel the unstable potential minimum back to its original state. 

Fighting the unbearable pain of his body being ripped apart, Jason reached the center. Turning back to take one last look at Melanie, he activated the fail safe, and vanished.

The radiating energy collapsed inward, drawing the icy vortex to a singularity. And then it exploded. Shockwaves rippled out from the center, knocking the on looking crowd off their feet. Silence.

Slowly returning to her feet Melanie scanned the area in a panic, trying to find any glimmer of hope that Jason might have survived.

“JASON!” she screamed, tears pouring down her cheeks. She ran to the center of the crowd where he had been just moments ago. “JASON!” she screamed again. Falling to her knees, she turned her head to the sky as the last snowflake of winter gracefully landed on her nose.


Almost a year had gone by since the incident. All of Jason’s work had been destroyed in the explosion, preventing the world from truly understanding what had occurred that day. The particle physics community had written it off as a tragic accident resulting from a lab experiment gone wrong. Only Melanie knew what really transpired on that day.

Melanie quietly returned to her work, making the conscious decision to keep Jason’s legacy a secret as he would have wanted. One night, as she was walking home from her lab she was greeted by a light flurry of snow. Pausing, Melanie turned her head to the sky and opened her mouth, letting the snowflakes settle onto her awaiting tongue.

In the distance, a whirlwind of snow took shape. Squinting her eyes, Melanie almost thought that for a second the vortex of snow crystals had coalesced into the form of a familiar figure before collapsing back to the ground. I must be tired Melanie thought, resuming her walk home.

Taking shape once again, the snowy figure followed.






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