Одна моя знакомая организовала в Джакарте так называемый "писательский клуб" - на самом деле, просто благородный повод для жутко общительных и жутко стеснительных индонезийцев встретиться и пообщаться, хотя авторы, и впрямь неплохо владеющие виртуальной клавиатурой, тоже иногда заглядывают. Суть еженедельных встреч такова: оглашается тема, и в течение получаса все участвующие пишут на неё короткий рассказ, очерк или стих. Впрочем, стихов, кажется, ни разу не было, разве что "стихи в прозе". Так или иначе, я с удовольствием подключаюсь к игре, когда оказываюсь в столице, и пару таких быстро приготовленнык экспромтов рискну опубликовать здесь.
Рассказ второй. Тема:
The choices we make
Impassively, like a removed spectator, i observe my feet climb the six wooden steps to the podium, bringing me ever closer to the end of the world. Bullshit, of course - my legs belong to me and nobody else, there's nothing removed and definitely nothing impassive about it, but the bookish cliche was the first to leap to my mind and now i have no more freedom to choose another way to express this than to turn around and run, run, overtaking the soundwave of my own scream.
The head physicist keeps droning on. Funnily, it appears i never felt inclined to learn the names of those i worked with, keeping the separation between the professional and the personal at maximum level, and now that we have no choices it means i can't even recall how to address him. I guess, if one tries hard to find any advantage in this new, choiceless world, this would be it - we all got to know ourselves.
Now that i paid attention to the lecturer, i have no options but to listen to his monologue, banal and repetitive that it is:
- ...Have all undoubtedly heard about the so-called "Trousers of Time" principle. It claims that whenever we made a choice, the universe split. The timeline springing from our decision would travel down one trouser leg, so to speak, while the potential alternative would exist as another world, unrelated to ours from then on, making the other proverbial leg. Of course, most choices weren't binary, so the universe must have been a centipede. We thought this process was infinite in nature - that is, whenever we thought about it at all; we were wrong. We ran out of space for new universes, so to speak, and, as you all know, choices have become a thing of the past. So much for the good old "determination vs free will" disputes. Fortunately for us, it turns out, we overestimated the role of choice in our lives - people have always been driven by instincts, reflexes, habits, mental inertia, so to speak. The disaster that would've eliminated mankind if it were as creative, original and liberated as we believed ourselves to be hadn't changed much. The values of global market, the results of recent elections, the gradient of anthropogenic climate change - all statistical variables, so to speak - show no more deviation than the acceptable margins; feel free, sorry for the bad joke, to refer to your leaflets for numbers. Individual lives have been affected more notably, but still, in most people the effect was surprisingly mild. Without the possibility to execute free choice, the first inclination becomes action. In the dominant majority of cases it will be instinctive or habitual, those two forces, as we can conclude now, were driving most of our decisions anyway. It is seldom that a selection can not be made without conceptualizing, and in such cases the first idea that occurs to us will be executed - but we generate ideas based on our previous experiences, in a dynastic succession, so to speak, so even this hasn't influenced everyday reality overmuch. Farmers still grow crops, companies still produce and promote new brands, and scientists - yes, that would be us - still ponder, so to speak, the mechanisms of the absolute, occasionally coming up with useful breakthroughs. Such as our esteemed colleague, Dr. Jason Hendriks! Please...
He motions me to take his place. I'm not surprised he know my name - sociopathy isn't a necessary trait in a quantum physicist, it's merely my personal affliction. But my sense of duty must be stronger, because instead of spitting and walking away, or throwing the mike at the wall and dancing a wild jig i humbly pick it up and start humming:
- Long story short, i intend to reverse the current state of affairs. Now that we know the number of probable universes is finite, and the experiments with quantum superimposition have brought us nowhere, as there's still only one way any uncertainty can be collapsed, this end can only be achieved by reducing the number of universes already in existence. Those of you who followed my research should be in no need of an explanation as to how i plan to do it; those who didn't were obviously not interested enough - let's be frank, choicelessness leaves no room for excuses and politeness - so i see no reason to describe it. It is sufficient to say that once i push the red button - it seems my colleague here has a thing for theatrical effects - a chain reaction of inverse collapse will commence, reducing one probable universe after another to the primary state, pure chaos of superimposed possibilities. I admit my calculations are far from being complete, i have no way to know how far this avalanche will spread, how many universes will be destroyed and whether any of them will survive at all. It does appear, however, that the starting point has no importance, and our world does not have to be the first to disappear just because it contains my device. Nevertheless, the danger is great; i would urge you to avoid making plans for tomorrow if you had the freedom to do so in the first place. Alas, it is evidently in my nature to be a risk-taker, so, as you understand, i have no choice.
Again i watch, not impassively at all, my hand stretching and pushing the button on the console. And here's the thought that resounds in my mind, quite likely the last thought i will ever have:
- If some universe, somewhere, somewhen, or however one refers to the latitude of time, survives long enough to solve the riddle of parallel probabilities, to cut, stitch and alter the trousers of time, and if it somehow learns about our fate - try to forgive me, people of free will. Because i'm not a murderer, and not naive enough to save humanity from a catastrophe it hasn't even noticed at the cost of its very existence; i know what i'm doing, i don't want to do it, but deep inside i'm addicted to freedom and this addiction allows me no freedom at all. I'm too dependent on choices to have any choice.