By Ray Wood (born 1990).
First appearance: Tor.com, February 15, 2015.
Novelette (28 pages).
(Parental caution: Strong language.)
"Of all the crime scenes in all the timelines in all the multiverse, Detective O’Harren walks into the basement on West 21st. In every possible universe, Johnny Rivers is dead. But the questions that need answering—who killed him and why—are still a matter of uncertainty."You'd think that a device that lets you examine and evaluate an event from millions of dif-ferent angles would help you perfectly determine what's been happening, with practically no possibility of error; but using that device in her quest to determine who murdered a two-bit mobster, Detective O'Harren of the Chicago PD will discover the killer from the one perspec-tive, out of a near infinity of them, that according to both theory and practice shouldn't be possible.
~ Detective O'Harren, the narrator, a female detective with a heisen implant and the determi-nation to see this case closed:
"I folded my arms across my chest and looked up at the light bulb. Why did I never get the universes where things were cut and dry?"
~ Johnny Rivers, an unmourned low-life bootlegger:
No matter where or when you find him, he's still decorating the scenery with his bullet-riddled body.
~ Detective Moore, O'Harren's partner:
"Nice little set-up he had here. You know half the joints in this neighborhood carry his booze and no one else’s? Not that he gave them much choice in the matter."
~ Kitty Rivers, the newly-minted widow:
"'It was my fault,' she said, and looked at me with wet, red eyes, like a child."
~ Vincent Quine, a no-good hood:
"His slick black hair was lovingly oiled. Chicago legend had it that he had a messy scar on his leg from a badly-healed bullet wound: he’d plugged it with a finger during a gunfight and had refused to go to a hospital."
"It was one of those drab Chicago winters, the kind where every sunrise brings fresh bodies on the sidewalks. At least this one was indoors."
"Snow scrunched beneath my boots as I made my way home that night. It was cold, and quiet: only the occasional hum of a car or smatter of distant voices on the wind disturbed the silence."
"It helps if your life’s already in pieces when you get the heisen implant. Less to adapt to, that way."
"For an awful moment I thought I was going to end up splattered across the wall, then someone laughed and the tension broke. Heads turned away; conversations resumed."
". . . he was a judge so crooked you could use him to uncork wine."
"'Why bother?' he had asked me once. 'Even if you bring this guy down now there’s gonna be about a million other universes where he gets away scot free, right?'"
"I’d become a ghost in my own family. I should have done something, but I couldn’t—somehow I couldn’t turn my back on all those possibilities."
- Ray Wood is a relatively new author; see his bibliography at the ISFDb HERE.
- As far as we know, Schrödinger’s cat never owned a gun, but, dead and/or alive, he has still managed to permeate popular culture; go HERE for more.
- The idea of parallel universes (the "multiverse") has proven irresistibly attractive to science fiction writers the world over; go HERE (TV Tropes), HERE (Wikipedia), and HERE (also Wikipedia) to see why.
- Similarly, the notion of a multiverse has been equally seductive to scientists, and this despite the lack of any empirical evidence for its existence; according to Wikipedia (HERE):
The physics community continues to debate the multiverse hypothesis. Prominent physicists disagree about whether the multiverse exists. Some physicists say the multiverse is not a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry. Concerns have been raised about whether attempts to exempt the multiverse from experimental verification could erode public confidence in science and ultimately damage the study of fundamental physics. Some have argued that the multiverse is a philosophical rather than a scientific hypothesis because it cannot be falsified. The ability to disprove a theory by means of scientific experiment has always been part of the accepted scientific method. Paul Steinhardt has famously argued that no experiment can rule out a theory if the theory provides for all possible outcomes.
The bottom line: "If I get a parking ticket, there is always a parallel universe where I didn't. On the other hand, there is yet another universe where my car was stolen."
— Max Tegmark