Entangled Hearts 4 - Elevator
Butterflies smashed into Walter’s intestines, when the Elevator departed. ‘Where is Sara?’, he wondered, while fastening a four-point safety belt in front of his chest. When he had boarded the tube wrapped around the galaxy tether, he had yelled her name dramatically. It seemed impossible that she didn’t hear him. From his right, a faint weeping sound pulled his attention back to the moment. A Chinese girl buried her face in her hands. Trying to console her he said: “Don’t be scared. It’s just like flying, the safest way of transportation.”
“How do you know?”
Walter didn’t know. After all, the elevator was brand new and existed primarily to build a massive rocket in orbit, which could be shot at the meteor heading for earth. Safety might have been an afterthought when Albert constructed the thing.
Looking through the glass roof of the elevator, he saw the massive tether reaching into the sky. The glass tiles of the roof seemed to shift around when they started to accelerate, while the tether itself had a gooey looking vibe. Kind of wet and disgusting. But not as disgusting as the macro molecules that were snailing their way up into space.
“What’s up with the cable? Why does it look like that?” he wanted to know.
“I don’t know, but it doesn’t help.” She was scared.
Walter noticed that the girl had a transparent lunch box with a banana inside, so he had an idea to distract her: “Oh, you have a banana? What note on the banana scale would you rate it? Where 1 is a piece of shit and 10 is…”, Walter retreated for a moment to his thoughts: ‘Oh no, you cannot tell this child that 10 on the banana scale is a dick. Abort mission, abort mission’. Then he continued: “and 10 is a cucumber.”
While a woman a few seats further was frowning heavily, he noticed that the girl was giggling.
“Both ends of the spectrum are terrible bananas!” she exclaimed.
“Well yes, a good banana is probably somewhere between 6 and 7,” stated Walter and then looked up at the cable reaching towards the sky. “The cable, it looks so wet!”
The girl looked up too and asked Walter: “So what grade on the banana scale would you give the cable?”
“Uff, good question. Because of its wetness I’d give it a wet number like 77, but because it’s also kind of ugly, I will subtract a few points. How do you feel about negative 8?”
The girl was having a blast: “So bad?”
“Why do you think negative 8 is a bad thing? Could be the best number.”
“I don’t, but you said it’s ugly!”
“It is kind of disgusting, don’t you think? And look at these snailing molecules! We are literally sucking our way into space, you can almost hear it.”
The girl peeked over her shoulder between the seats, “I wonder what they smell like? I am hoping for vanilla.”
Now Walter was giggling, “What’s your name by the way? Do you know this feeling when you meet someone, and you immediately feel like you have known them for your entire life?”
The dark haired, brown eyed girl looked at him, “I am Yin, I am not sure.”
“Right, ahm, I am Walter. Nice to meet you, Yin! Are you travelling by yourself?”
“Yes I am. I won a free ride at a science convention. Here look!”. Her eyes gleamed with anticipation as she extracted a worn notebook from her bag and showed Walter a few pages of equations he didn’t understand.
“Wow! Looks beautiful! Congrats!” he couldn’t quite focus on the fact that a young teenager was showing him equations he didn’t understand. He was too distracted, “I am trying to meet a woman,…”
“Yes indeed, do you know her?”
“No, but you were yelling her name before.”
“Is she cute?”
Walter was blushing, “I don’t know. I hope so,” and smiled, “I met her via a quantum phone, can you believe it? It transmits information faster than the speed of light.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
“What do you mean, no it doesn’t? Of course it does, I met my soulmate via this thing. Our conversations are always instantaneous.”
“If you could transmit information faster than the speed of light, you could communicate with the past. It is impossible.”
Suddenly it occurred to Walter: “Oh my god, is this why Sara isn’t on this elevator? Because she took the elevator 3 days after yesterday?” He raised an eyebrow at Yin, who would commence giggling again.
“I think the quantum entanglement is just a banana scale number 1 and Sara is probably on the toilet, or she smelled you when you were walking by,” and then added, “what is this smell?”
Walter moved his nose towards his armpit, but that wasn’t necessary to realise the orangutan-rhinoceros odour he was dispersing, “the smell of adventure”. Sara knew about his circumstances though and he didn’t see anyone entering or exiting the bathroom. “There is something strange going on. She isn’t here. Maybe she is not in a different time, but a different universe entirely? A parallel universe?”
“I don’t believe in parallel universes”.
Walter realised that Sara being in a parallel universe wouldn’t help him much either. He was desperate to find a reason, which was just a substitute emotion for how desperate he was to meet Sara. Not able to control his frustration he snapped at Yin: “So what else do you not believe in? The roundness of the Earth, the meteorite headed for our extinction?”
Yin was now intimidated by Walter and hid her face behind her hands again.
“Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. It’s just, I really want to meet this woman. I shouldn’t have yelled at you.”
She raised her head in return and also consoled Walter: “For sure Sara is somewhere.”
Walter realised that that must be true, so he relaxed a bit.
“And no, I don’t believe in the meteorite bound for Earth.”
Walter knew what scepticism of science could lead to, so he felt it was his time to educate someone about humanities past. “Have you heard about the climate massacre?”
Yin had big eyes “No”.
“A few hundred years ago, most of the human process was driven by burning fossil fuels, producing immense quantities of C O two, in the atmosphere. Imagine riding around in a sky-blue autocraft on a hot sunny day, then you paint the outside carbon-black. It’s going to get a lot hotter inside than before. But back then, the ones in charge agreed that all effort should be directed towards the creation of money and making it more valuable - even though money is made up and its value agreed upon. Hiding behind scepticism of science and what not, they drove the human process until it was too late. The oceans rose, the climate changed, and large swaths of the continents became uninhabitable. People tried to move, but all the states with survivable conditions closed their borders. Then food ran out. Clearly things weren’t going well, so the remaining governments asked themselves ‘what now?’ and decided: Nuclear War. Wow, what a great idea, really. After a few decades of nuclear winter and billions of deaths later, humanity was pushed back into the dark age. It took a few hundred years to come back to the state we were before the climate massacre. We must learn from history: if you close your eyes in front of the truth, it will bite you. Therefore, we now have mandatory education until 40.”
Yin was gaping at Walter.
“Besides, why build all of this?” he pointed at what he considered a disgusting machine, “surely not for no reason. Albert’s survival depends on Earth as much as ours, we are all in the same boat.”
Without knowing, they had passed the stratosphere and were now overlooking a huge round ball below and vast empty space above. The faint blue hue of the atmosphere was soothing to the eyes, while the clarity of space seemed to suck one into oblivion. Awe stricken by the sight, Yin had other thoughts now. “Do you think we are alone?”
“Like, in the universe?”
“Yes! Like, where are all the aliens?”
“I don’t know. But I like to think that all we can do, is find aliens and be completely sure that they do exist. We can never be certain that there are none.”
Yin smiled at Walter in approval and then continued to gaze outside the torus snailing its way up the gooey cable. Suddenly a voice from the PA announced: “Attention, initiating ring-inversion. You will now experience a short period of zero gravity until we have completely inverted the elevator. Once the inversion is complete, the breaking and centrifugal forces of our motion will restore the sensation of gravity. Thank you for your attention and enjoy the remaining ascent.”
Smoothly, up and down lost their direction. Walter felt his weight lifting off of him. His arms and feet started to drift up, whereas the four-point safety belt kept him fast in his seat. He felt like falling freely, when the woman a few seats further screamed: “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shiiit!”.
“Hey, calm down, no need to use swear words here! Just say banana scale one,” said Walter.
“What is wrong with you, sir?”
Yin was floating into her seatbelts and expelled a quick succession of screams of panic and hysteric laughter.
Then the floor started to rotate forward. They were already experiencing freefall and now the floor was pulled away from underneath.
Walter’s heart missed a beat, when he felt like being slid off the back of a pick-up truck with a tiltable loading area, towards the dark abyss of space. The glass tiles of the roof were shifting around wildly, to accommodate the change in geometry due to the torus warping in on itself. But that didn’t concern Walter, in fact, when he took a close look at Earth something magical happened to his consciousness. It completely dissolved for an instant and he felt the huge vastness of space. Earth was just an impossibly tiny speck of nothing in an ocean of black; and everyone who had ever lived was just a speck of even smaller nothingness on that majestic planet. He felt how his atoms came from the great whole and would go back to the great whole, because even Earth was just part of something much greater. “It’s beautiful” he whispered before his field of view slowly turned towards the massive and wet elevator cable.
When the floor had restored a perpendicular orientation to the cable, gravity set back in. The macro molecules were now snail breaking along the cable and Walter could clearly see the ooze coming out from under them. “It’s like a dog rubbing his butt over a carpet.”
Then, their chairs rotated on their own axes so that everyone could look outside towards the stars again. Curiously, Earth was now above.
Yin looked at Walter: “If we don’t look at ourselves as alive and Earth as a dead rock, but as Earth being alive and us just being part of it; we can be sure that there are no aliens, because there is only one beautiful alive universe.”
Walter raised an eyebrow, “Did you just have the same moment that I just had?”
“I don’t know what kind of moment you had, but can you see that?” she didn’t bother to point at anything, she just looked outside at nothing in particular, “it’s beautiful!”
“It really is.”
After a few moments of stillness Walter remembered something: “Where is the negative something?”
“The negative something? Like anti-matter?”
“Well, yeah I guess negative something would be anti-matter. Where is it?”
“Hopefully very far away!”
“Why would you say that?”
“If anti-matter and matter touch, they annihilate each other in an explosion of pure energy. You know e=mc^2, but all the mass gets converted. In nuclear bombs less then 0.1 percent gets converted.”
“Huh. That is… cool!”
“On the banana scale?”
“Puh, I guess a negative banana would be a bana-not?” he said and dramatically raised an eyebrow at Yin. Then he asked: “How far away from Earth do you think we are?”
“They said that we’ll feel 1 tenth of a G at the station. According to my calculations that puts us at 185 000 km above sea level,” Yin showed him a page of her notebook.
“That’s halfway to the moon. Seems a bit unrealistic, don’t you think?”
“Physics is a banana scale 1 sometimes.”
The elevator was now closing in on the city sized station. The structure was of epic proportions. Very difficult to describe on a scale. When the elevator finally arrived 191 000 km away from the centre of the Earth, Walter commented: “Seemed like a short trip”.
Upon arrival, Yin followed Walter like a duckling, and they were greeted by a robotic female voice: “Welcome to orbital station. I am Betta, an automated message to help you find your way. On your right you can retrieve your personal items, while on the left you have a few shops and restaurants. If you need anything else, just ask!”
Walter headed right and picked up his phone. When he turned it on, he saw an unread message on the screen saying: “Too bad you didn’t make it! :/”
Walter jolted his head up and immediately scouted around for anyone else wielding such an unwieldy phone. But there were a lot of people getting their stuff, blocking his line of sight. ‘How is it possible? This means she is here!’. Suddenly, the phone started to ring. ‘Oh my GOAD! I hope it is Sara!’ But when the name on the screen appeared, he read ‘Marcus Carter’ his friend working on the moon-base. Hastily, he picked up: “Hey Marcus, listen, I am sort of in a thing right now. Can we talk tomorrow?”
“It’s important, Walter.”
The dark tone of his voice convinced Walter to take the time for his friend. “Ok, shoot.”
“This is sort of top secret, so I’d be much obliged if you didn’t share too wildly, but then again, it may not matter anyway.”
“What is it?”
“New predictions came in, and there was a miscalculation in the size of the meteor. It’s so massive, it can’t be deflected.”
It took Walter a moment to realize what his friend just told him, “Are you serious? Wait, let me guess, it’s also made of antimatter?”
“No, it is not made of anti-matter. Where are you now? Do you have a moment?”
“I took the space elevator up to orbital station; I met a little girl named Yin on the way. We’re friends now.”
When Yin heard Walter call her a friend, she smiled from ear to ear.
Marcus responded, “That sounds, lovely. Look, Walt. I love you man. I just needed to talk to you, because I am really not sure how many more times, I’ll have the opportunity to.”
“I love you too Marcus!” The end of the world felt a lot more real than it had before. So far, there was always a light positivity saying: ‘Albert is going to solve it anyways’. There is a space elevator building a rocket with a ridiculous amount of nuclear bombs on it to blow the damn thing up. But of course, there is always something bigger that you cannot blow up. An option that had never occurred to humanity. Walter felt the despair that his friend must have been dealing with, so he tried to console him, “look Marcus, if this is what the universe is going to do, it’s what the universe is going to do. It’s not up to us to decide that. But I promise you, before this banana scale 1 hits Earth, we’ll have a huge blast ourselves, OK?”
“Wait, Walt, did you tell this little girl about the banana scale?”
“Yes, that is how we met actually.”
“You told a little child that banana scale 10 is a dick?”
Walter almost felt offended, “No, I did not tell her that banana scale 10 is a dick.”
Yin was surprised for an instant and then started laughing so hard she lifted off the ground.
“Ok, maybe now she knows.”
“Oh Walt, good to have you man!”
“What grade on the banana scale would you give me?” he smirked.
“one hundred, a massive huge…”
Then his phone rang again, it was Sara, “Hold on to that! I have another call, it’s Sara.”
“Go get her!”
Walter said his goodbyes and hurried to answer the phone, the end of the world almost forgotten. “Hey, hello there!”
“Hey, Walt! Too bad you didn’t make it on the elevator in time! I am at the station now and I must tell you, space is something else.”
“I am…, also at the station, actually. I thought you didn’t make it on the elevator?”
“But I told you that I was boarding.”
“Yeah, but then I got on the elevator, and you weren’t there. As far as I know, there is only one.”
“Ok so, you’re telling me that you were on the elevator that just arrived at the station? Are you sure?”
Walter looked out the massive windows stretching from the rim of the observation platform up to the tether. He saw vast space and then Earth at the end of a line. “I am pretty sure I am at the station, yes. But I am also pretty sure, you weren’t on that elevator.”
“Let me tell you that, I am actually sure, you weren’t on the elevator. I made a bit of a fool of myself, you should know.”
“Me too. I yelled your name like a mad man. What did you do?”
“Oh yeah, yelling, right. That’s what I did too,”
“What did you do?”
“I was doing cartwheels.”
“That was the only way you could think of to make me notice you?”
A moment passed, “You know what, let’s just meet here on the station somewhere,” and added: “I’ll just cartwheel over to you.”
“I am in front of a sushi place called The Smiling Sea Otter.”
Walter’s stomach was growling, „That is a great place to meet!” He looked at the floor in front of him and considered a cartwheel. Seemed impossible on Earth, but here he experienced only 1 tenth of a g. “Follow me, Yin,” he said, threw himself forward on his hands and pushed off. Within an instant, he was flying through the air, spinning around 4 meters above the ground. Tumbling across the station, he saw a small little shop with a sea otter painted over it. The otter was squinting his eyes into two upwards pointing triangles without a bottom side, while its mouth was showing huge white teeth shining through its smile.
When he landed, he saw Yin tumbling through the air above him. He grabbed onto one of her legs and put her down next to him. Then, he looked around, a few bystanders had picked up on his idea and started doing flips. In this madness, it was a bit difficult to identify anyone, so he turned back to his phone: “I am standing right in front of an otter smiling like he don’t care, where are you?”
“I am here too! I can’t see you.”
“So, I just landed a quadruple cartwheel, and you’re telling me you didn’t see that?”
“What? Look, there are footsteps painted on the floor directly in front of the place, indicating the queue. The second pair from the cashier has a broken right foot, where the heel is missing. I am standing right on top of them.”
Walter looked at the floor finding the footsteps leading up to the cashier. There was one pair right in front of him, but that was already the last one before the cashier. He looked straight down at a pair of feet where the left foot was missing a heel. The only problem was, he was standing on it. Ignoring the left right confusion, he said: “I am standing on this pair. It’s impossible that you are standing on it.”
“But how is it possible?”
“Wait a moment, what date do we have?”
“It’s the 14th of March, 13 820 000 298, counting from the big bang. Why?”
Walter checked the date on his phone, which was by default set to be written out in words. After way too many seconds of figuring out the exact number he was reading, he replied: “I was just wondering if maybe we are in two different moments in time and are only able to communicate because of the quantum phone.”
“No, communication faster than the speed of light is impossible. Most likely the entangled particles in our phones are only there for encryption,” with a hint of enjoyment she added, “because of the true randomness of quantum events, the encryption is unbreakable you should know.”
Less enthusiastic Walter responded, “Great! Love the encryption. But I am here, and you are not. So that leaves me with only one possible explanation: You are lying to me.”
“No, I am not! I swear by the positive charge of the electron.”
Now Walter was stumped completely, “The positive charge of an electron? I am no physicist, but the electron is charged negatively, one hundred percent for sure.”
“No, Walter trust me, I am a physicist. The electron is charged positively.”
Walter frowned into his headache, “Ok wait, I think I know a reliable source,” he looked over at Yin and asked her.
“A positively charged electron would be a positron. It’s the antimatter equivalent of an electron.”
Then it dawned on him. Where is the negative something? Sara was the negative something. She was made of antimatter. “Hey, ahm, I don’t want to sound negative, but is it possible that you are made out of antimatter?”
“No, you are made of anti-matter. And you are travelling back in time.”
“Yes, antimatter behaves like ordinary matter that travels back in time. Strange, I always felt like you were such a straightforward guy.”
“And I never thought you were a material-girl, yet here we are.”
The jokes didn’t land on either side of the universe. The fact that they weren’t able to meet was crushing. “So what happened exactly? There was a big bang and then matter went one way and anti-matter took the opposite direction?”
“I guess that is pretty much what happened. If it consoles you at all, we just solved one of the greatest mysteries in science and philosophy.” She wasn’t excited and neither was he.
“Great, I’ll tell the next orangutan I meet.”
“I just can’t believe it, Walter. We are standing in the same spot yet are at the two opposite ends of the universe. In time!” she said and added in despair: “I just wanted to meet you.”
“Yeah me too!” Frustration overwhelmed Walter. Finally, he had met someone with whom he felt like himself, with whom he just needed to talk and already felt good, but the universe had other plans. The sensation of loss was stabbing him from the inside.
He looked at skinny little Yin, who was holding her stomach and decided that he could solve at least one problem in the now. “Give me a moment to grab a bite to eat and we’ll figure something out,” he said to Sara and put her on hold.
He ordered a bucket of Gyoza from the Sushi place and passed what he guessed to be about 50 dumplings to Yin, who happily reached in with both hands.
“Those are my favourite! In my orphanage they call them Dim Sum.”
Walter looked at the little angel of a girl, he couldn’t believe to be an orphan. ‘How much more bad news does a day need?’ he wondered. Not knowing what to say to her, he simply took one of the dumplings and tried to lighten his own mood: “Hey, do you know how to catch them out of the air?” and tossed the Gyoza up. He expected it to fly up and smoothly come back down into his mouth as he was used to from Earth. But gravity was weak, while his throw wasn’t. The dumpling drifted smoothly up towards the ceiling, where it splashed against one of the biggest glass surfaces in the solar system.
“Please do not throw food!” said Betta the automated station message.
In the meantime, Yin had both hands full of dumplings and tried to stuff seven of them into her mouth simultaneously. When she saw Walter looking at the big fat splat, he had caused on the ceiling, she laughed so hard she squealed like a penguin.
“I’ll keep it there for later,” Walter commented.
From all the giggling and stuffing down dumplings, Yin accidentally inhaled a bit of Gyoza and had to cough furiously. Walter patted her on the back a few times to ease out the stray food and said: “No need to rush. I’ll get you as many Gyoza as you want.” When she found her composure again, she looked at Walter with gratitude pouring from her eyes. Walter didn’t know, but nobody had ever shown this much compassion towards Yin. She hugged him around his waist with her dumpling dirty hands and said: “Thank you!”
A warm feeling rose from Walter’s stomach to his heart and an involuntary smile appeared on his face, “You are welcome!” For a brief moment, all his worries were gone.
The moment lingered on a little before he turned back to his phone and reengaged in his conversation with Sara: “Hey, I’m back.”
“I would really like to meet you!”
“Is there any way of punching a wormhole through our phones and somehow space-time travel to each other? I mean like at all possible?” he wanted to know.
“I don’t know. Maybe. But that wouldn’t help.”
“Why is that?”
“We are made of matter and anti-matter, if we meet we annihilate each other…”
“In an explosion of pure energy. Sure, that.” Walter was hopeless, yet calm. After Yin’s hug, he had found firm ground under his feet. “But you know what? If we just keep being phone friends, I would be fine with that. Sure, it would be nice to meet, but honestly our conversations are already enough for my heart.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet! And I totally agree with you! I have never felt so relieved while speaking. It’s like I don’t have to say anything, yet I feel heard.”
“I feel the same! It’s like you are listening without evaluating what I say. You just listen.”
There was a moment of positivity in the air. ‘Maybe we can just make it work like that?’ Walter was wondering ‘there are many ways to have a relationship, maybe this will be ours.’ But after a few moments, reality hit him with a slap to the face ‘Until the world ends, that is.’
“Hey, um, I have to tell you a secret you may not like very much.”
“What is it?”
“The meteor bound for Earth, it’s too big to be deflected. There is no way to stop it.”
“What? So, the world is ending?” she was shaken.
“It’s a real banana scale 1 situation,” he felt guilt for delivering the bad news.
“A what now?”
He forgot that Sara didn’t know yet, so he explained the scale to her. The previous desperation was slightly lifted with absurdity and Sara simply commented: “That is a terrible scale to rate bananas on.”
“The bad news don’t stop, do they?”
“I have to admit, I was not ready for this. This is a tough diagnosis, Mr. time-travelling guy. So not only, we cannot meet, but also death is imminent? I don’t even have the capacity to be upset about it right now. Thank you for being ridiculous in the face of the inevitable, by the way.” She was sincere. It was like being diagnosed with cancer at a dentist’s appointment. Unable to process the situation she asked: “So, what are you going to do with the rest of your life then?”
“I’ll spend it talking to you, I’d say.”
“That sounds good. If we start now we can still rate all the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket,” she joked half-heartedly.
Then something dawned on Walter, “explosion of pure energy,” he whispered, when his imagination played a movie of a meteorite exploding in the sky. “Sara, what if we punch a wormhole through our phones and shoot it at the meteorite? The meteors annihilate each other, and problem solved?”
“Oh my god, yes! If that works, we’d save the world.”
“We’d save the world, but we’d never be able to speak again,” Walter had to point out the obvious.
“Hallelujah, you and your bad news. So, we have to make a decision: Either we hand over our phones and potentially save the world, or we keep chatting until a massive meteorite extinguishes us all. Which plan should we adopt?”
It was a rhetoric question, of course. There was no real decision to make. They had to save the world at any cost. Walter looked down at Yin who was drawing her interpretation of the banana scale in her notebook. Walter knew what to say: “I am going to adopt someone.”