Third Joker: Back in Time


This work is dedicated to a general report of ideas relating to books and documents, and to the considered use of the elements which make up documentation. One should always read the documentation, especially when operating a time machine…

*

Between March 21 and 27, 1984, theorists, experimentalists, accelerator physicists, and experts in superconducting magnets gathered for a workshop in Lausanne and Geneva. This isn’t TRIUMF, the polite Canadian physics lab where all the best pictures have canoes in them. This is CERN, planning the most powerful particle collider ever built: The Juratron. Leptons and sleptons and quarks and gluinos, positrons, Higgs bosons, muon neutrinos. You might think that we’re just doing science with a hadron collider so large, but it’s more than that. If you pine for the mystery before Noah’s ark, we’ve remade prehistory at Juratron Park. 

Did you miss the CERN Open Day? She who did miss day complains she never knows why her boyfriend… 

At the CERN Open Day

A lad at a fair who was lacking directions, found a booth which was offering temporal projections. 

“I need to relax,” said Bob to the boy behind the counter.

“Come right in.”

And there was Alice, the girl he had had a crush on back in school. The girl who had mocked him and broken his heart.

I gave a note to Isaac meant for you, but Marvin changed my message to a curse.

What?” 

“I didn’t mean to be mean to you. Here’s what I actually said.” She pulled out an ancient cellphone and read aloud:

I’m really glad to meet ya, you seem just right to me. You’re not like all those other tools, fond only of their wieners. A mental syntonicity one day, a gentle hint of what we two could be lit just enough my life so I could see that trust in love just might bring rhapsody. Come have a char with me, my dear, let’s turn the night to day. Join the few, couple, two.

“Well, it’s too late now. You broke me. I moved away. I finally built up my life again. I have a new girlfriend…” he stopped talking so he wouldn’t cry.

“Did you read the sign in front of this booth? It’s practically a time machine. We can go back. Go back to before Marvin messed up the message, and start again.”

And so they did.

*

Once upon a time a queen was blessed with twin sons, which she named Nosch and Amiaivel. She skipped from stone to stone across the stream, each stepping stone subsiding with her stride. A few things went wrong in the beginning, when Nosch fell through a time vortex opened up by the time projection chamber of the a detector named ATLAS nearly a century into the future, when the particle collider known as the Juratron suffered a cooling leak (as usual, when Titans weren’t successful in a coup, ‘Twas ATLAS who was made to hold up Heaven.) Not much happened in the middle. This is the story of the happy ending. 

As autumn comes I breathe your sanguine red, and tremble at the falling of each leaf. I lean against the wall of the corridor and close my eyes for a few moments; trying to take it all in, trying not to let the tears out. Just over twelve hours to write something. I am the master of my environment. I find the words…

It was not until my twelfth birthday that I realised the face I saw in the mirror was not mine. Not until my ninety-eighth birthday, when I was given one of those newfangled cellphones and recognised it from my youth, that I realised It was yours. Nosch, my brother, a pseudo-time-travel incarnation of Bob, my lover, trapped in the mirror world. When it’s hard to cope, don’t leave me. I am old. I’m ninety eight years old, and I am dying. You feel my quickening heart. It’s getting far too close to the end. 

Don’t stop breathing; it’s necessary to go on living.

I hear your voice from the mirror, like mine, but not.

Y’a nickel, bismuth, tantale, gallium, osmium, carbone, aluminium, azote, terbium, platine et hafnium, et les états d’américium.

What?

The mirror cracks a little as you strain to tame your mirror speech.

Nitrogen, we breathe and we ignore.

In English? I can breathe, like, air.

“Je respire l’anglais, l’air de rien, mais quand je respire le français, c’est l’eau qui semble m’étouffer.”

The mirror breaks and the air and water on either side of it switch places. Don’t stop breathing…

A cellphone vibrates ineffectually against unfeeling skin.

*

A flutter of butterflies flies, aflutter in sumptuous skies, dancing between rise and fall forming a quivering rainbow. I look up to the sky in search of you, to sunlight that you hide your soul above.

Here we are. Let’s sing together in our own harmonic; let’s cry out all the words we need to say. When you’re filled with song but you just can’t sing, sing up, you’ve gotta be happy!

*

Gareth lies still for a minute listening to the music before reluctantly opening his eyes. A fair-haired man enters and plays a flashlight over the room.

“Urrghh,” says Gareth.

“Urrghh? You wake to a choir of angels and all you have to say is ‘Urrghh’?” says the fair-haired man.

“Look, I’m not in the mood for this. One ev’ning I went to the pub for a beer. Two vodka oranges ’cause now I’ve got the blues,’ I said. The first, I landed right-side up. The nextEyeballs are red, water is blue. Why are there poodles? Why can’t I just once, upon a perchloric acid trip of a hangover, wake up in the same Higgsdamn universe I went to bed in? Why is my lazy mucker of a roommate colliding soulmates for a morning concert when there’s a metabetaphysics exam to study for?”

I said I’d do it, so I did. Writing Cards and Letters is back, in time (if you’re a couple of time zones earlier than me) for Joker Day, also known as February 29. Inspired by Jostein Gaarder’s book The Solitaire Mystery (as I explained the last time I did it), this story is made mainly from the first sentences (or as near as I could manage to full sentences) of each of the 52 things I wrote inspired by playing cards during the year following the last Joker Day.

I had the sentences printed on contact cards so I could discretely shuffle them around while on JoCo Cruise Crazy II, and also participate in the contact card swap which other sea monkeys suggested. Making them and giving them out to people convinced me I need to get better at writing opening lines.

Also on JoCo Cruise Crazy, I read Chemistry at the open mic night, and people seemed to like it. I’m going to watch my video of that, and if it’s not too embarrassing, I’ll post it here.

This story is, of course, pure fiction; it’s the ALICE detector which has a time projection chamber, not ATLAS.

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