The bartender cocked his face and his jowls shook slightly. "Sure thing, what were you drinking?"
The beefy barman smiled and shook his head. "Sorry, friend. I'm all out of Macallan's. Won't get any more in till the end of the week."
"But you served me from a full bottle!"
The bartender leaned in close and menacing. "Listen, I haven't had Macallan's since Tuesday. Now, as I remember it, you were drinking Dewar's and water. Do you want another or not?" Carl looked at him for several moments and finally nodded assent. The bartender poured a heavy shot of scotch in his glass and topped it with a smidgen of water. Carl took the drink and tossed half of it back in one swallow. The bartender leaned in close after returning the bottle to the mirrored counter behind him. "You know, you've been sitting there, all night, just tossing back premium liquor, one after the other. And the whole time, you've had this hangdog expression like you just found out that there wasn't a Santa Claus."
Carl grinned a bit. He looked at the heavy panelling of the pub he was in. Amid the dark wood, potted plants, and ancient photos were shining pieces of brass. He saw his warped reflection in one and nodded. He looked like Hell. "I guess that I found out that a lot of things aren't like I thought they were."
The bartender smiled and rested his bulky forearms on the bar in front of Carl. "Well, bartenders are stereotypically good listeners. I happen to fit the stereotype. Why don't you tell me what's wrong?"
"You'd never believe it."
"Try me." Carl nodded and then finished his drink with another gulp. The bartender rose and gestured to the glass. "Want another beer?"
"Beer?" Carl looked at the frosty mug in his hand and sighed. "Sure. Hit me with another and I'll tell you all about Schrodinger's nasty little kitty." The bartender slid a fresh mug of amber lager in front of his patron and then leaned against the counter behind him. Carl faced him and said, "My friend, I'm what the public would widely think of as a mad scientist. I'm not really, but the things that I've done would definitely rank me right up there with Frankenstein."
Carl smiled. "Isn't though? My particular specialty was in time travel. I wanted to prove that it either could or could not be done, to end the debate and free up a little room in all those physics journals. Well, I dove right in, armed with tensor calculus and matrix mechanics. I did battle with Closed Timelike Curves, Causality, Self-Consistency, Cosmic Strings, Rotating Cylinders, and a couple of other things that start with the letter C. I trampled over Wormhole theory and Negative Matter. I ripped apart the works of such big brains as Thorne, Kerr, Forward, and Tipler. I leveled the field and when the dust settled, I discovered that it can't be done."
"Yep. It requires infinite energies or energies less than the vacuum state. Plus, quantum fluctuations screw up any sort of time machine that you fashioned using general relativity. Makes it totally impossible."
"So you did what you set out to do. You should be celebrating. Another Bloody Mary?"
"Sure. The thing is though, that I discovered something while proving that it was impossible. I discovered that while you couldn't travel in time, you could control it."
"Time Control?" The bartender set a glass of vodka and spicy tomato juice in front of Carl, who stirred it with the celery stalk.
Carl pulled the celery stalk out, licked it, and set it next to the other eight. "Sure. You can't control the past because it's already happened, but the future is fair game. You can directly control what will happen to you."
The bartender folded his arms over his barrel-like chest and stared at Carl skeptically. "Don't I do that every time that I make a decision?"
"Precisely! But I figured out how to control the Universe's decisions, the random stuff that effects you every day. All the stuff that we chalk up to dumb luck is now directly controllable by yours truly."
The bartender smoothed back his long brown hair. "How? How do you make a luck machine?"
"It was a lot easier than anyone ever would have thought. Do you know anything about Schrodinger's Cat?"
"Nah, I'm allergic to cats."
Carl burst out laughing. It took several minutes for him to calm down. The bartender looked to see if anyone was staring and self conciously pushed his rolled up shirt cuffs higher on his slender arms. Finally, Carl stopped and sighed. "I'm sorry, that was just terribly funny. Sort of an inside-physicist joke. Anyway, Schrodinger's Cat is a theory that sort of explains the strange results that you get out of quantum mechanics. You take this cat and put him in a box. There's a gun in the box aimed at the cat and if a certain atom of a radioactive sample decays, then the gun will go off and kill the cat. The whole point of it is that until you open the box, then you don't know if the cat is alive or dead. The cat exists in both quantum states until you make an observation and the probability wave collapses into one state or the other."
"You just lost me."
"The cat has to be considered both alive and dead until you look at it. When you make an observation, you determine what happens. Well, the important thing is that another theory fell out of this. It's called the Many Worlds Hypothesis. It says that every time there is a choice between two alternatives, the universe doubles. So with Schrodinger's Cat, there is one universe where the cat lives and there is one universe where it gets splattered all over the interior of the box."
"You physicists are a gruesome lot. Fill your cup?"
Carl nodded and she filled his coffee cup with a strong java. "Now both universes go on separately from there, but your conciousness somehow determines which one you go into. That way you remember only one result from every choice in the Universe, whether it be random or a personal decision. Well, this means that everything happens, but we only remember one sequence of events. But those other universes keep on going, you just don't remember them. So enters the Many Worlds Hypothesis. Every fraction of a picosecond, every interaction in the universe causes the universe to split. So there is an infinite number of universes to choose from every moment. Anything that can occur, does occur and your consciousness moves unknowingly through this maze of universes. Now, a lot of these universes are nearly identical, except for the spin of some electron in a distant galaxy somewhere. There is an infinite number of universes in which I keep on talking, and an infinite number in which I shut up and die from a massive stroke."
He paused and the bartender leaned forward, her blonde hair falling to the bar. Carl smiled. "Looks like our minds chose to go into the universes where I keep talking. Lucky me. Well I figured out that you can't change where your consciousness went in the past, because that determines what universes are available to you now, but you have an infinite number of universes to choose from for the future. Anything that has the merest chance of happening, will happen, but may not happen in the universe that you snake into. This creates our random world."
"Okay, so everything can and will happen, but we only remember what did happen. Sounds like a lot of crap to go through to tell me what I already know. Do you want another Coke?"
Carl looked around at the other patrons in the metal and chrome club. They were all drinking Cokes. "Yeah. But if you could make some of those decisions that are left up to random chance, then you would have another infinity of universes to consciously choose from. You could choose to stumble across a rare coin set, or a free Picasso, or you could choose to pick the winning horse. It doesn't matter. All I had to do was create some way of making those random infinities available to me. And that's what I did." He sipped the Screwdriver that she had just poured for him. "I built a machine that tapped into the infinite probability of all the possible universes and biased my consciousness to go into the ones where things went the way that I wanted them to."
"How?" The bartender smoothed his short beard.
"Scan the probability density of all events in the universe and write up a set of initial boundary conditions for the universes that you want and then control the polarization and quantum spin of a random energy field to match the boundary conditions for your chosen infinities. Decrease the chaos term enough and the infinities collapse into a set of easily chosen parallel worldlines."
"Tons of math. And that's only an approximation. None of that's important anyway. Just think of it as a little box of pure magic. You tell it what you want, and it makes sure that you get it."
"Did it work?"
"Like a charm. I chose the horse that I wanted to win, and it won. I bought a lotto ticket and won the jackpot."
"The one last week? That was a 10 million payoff!"
"Yep. I was doing everything. Meeting women, discovering things, going places, and solving problems. The world was my oyster. Any random event that was going to happen, was controlled by my decision. It was like I was some sort of genie, granting myself a Hell of lot more than three wishes."
The bartender, a kid of about 12, pushed his beret higher up on his head. "So why are you sitting here moping? You're a god! You should be out spending some of that big money."
"Well, I got so wrapped up in all this upper level physics that I forgot one of the most basic things. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I was destroying the randomness of the universe. I was upsetting the balance of time. Well, whatever I was pushing, it decided to push back."
The old man put another glass of steaming liquid in front of him. Things were moving in it. "Have another, on the house."
"Remember I said that there were an infinite number of universes for every moment. Well, I had been controlling the infinite possibilities of the future. The balance began to make itself up today by changing the past. Now, the universes that I had been in before have become random, so that changes the present, so that changes the possible futures."
The bartender scratched beneath a piece of carapace and chittered, "You mean since you began to control the future, you lost control of the past and it became random instead of set."
"Exactly! Today, my parents called me. They've been dead for twenty years! My ex-wive hit me with a bill for 10 million in unpaid alimony. I'm a widower! I went home to visit my sweet 16 daughter, Michele. Now she's a boy named Michael and he tells me he's gay!"
"At least he won't have to get a new boyfriend."
"So I came into this bar to wait things out and get a little drunk, but instead of slowing down, the past is changing faster and faster. I started out with a rum and coke, and now it turns that I've been drinking this all night! Hey, what is this anyway?"
"Melted bat guano with a twist of lemon. It's a house specialty."
Carl pushed it away with a pincer. "I've got to stop drinking. And then there's you! You were originally a short black guy and now you look like a convention of snakes with wings."
"We are. We're just bartending to pay for the hotel room." The mass of writhing snakes waved their wings at Carl and said hello. One was wearing a banner: Miss SnakeCon '95.
Carl shook his eyes. "Reality just keeps getting weirder and weirder, but its only my consciousness whose past is changing, so no one else notices. It's just moving through all the different possible pasts to make up for the loss of randomness in the future. Therefore, my present keeps on shifting crazily." Carl picked up the gourd of sparks and absorbed a few. It didn't taste half bad.
The bartender was now a pile of half molten rubble. "Why is it doing it, though? Maybe your past is changing to keep you from taking randomness from the future. What do you think will happen if your past shifts to a universe where you don't exist, so your machine is never built?"
"I guess that I would cease to exist and the universes would become balanced again." Carl smiled. "It's a scary thought, but there is an infinite number of universes where I exist, so I really doubt that will happ-"
About the Author: "I am an Ensign in the U. S. Navy posted to the USS STETHEM. I am from Texas and have B.S. in Physics from UTA. I am currently stationed in Newport, RI but I will soon be moving to San Diego. I am 25 years old. I am also a student pilot and an amateur fencer."
You can E-mail Tom Mays by clicking here. email@example.com
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