What I'm doing is putting each chapter (with a taster of the next chapter) on my blog. So here goes.
Chapter 1: Dave in Dead World, quantum mechanics and meeting a fellow tube traveller in Limbo.
The first time I died was quite a shock.
I was travelling to work on the underground at about 8:40 am, crammed in a tube carriage with hundreds of other reluctants. The next thing I knew I was “floating”, that’s the only way I can describe it, in space. It was infused by a cool white light which emanated from a huge diffused globe at an unimaginable distance from me. It reminded me of those pictures of galaxies. I was at the edge of one of its spiral arms and at the centre a huge mass of new stars.
All around were others like me - floating. And then I was back in the tube carriage.
I died again a week later. I was in bed reading Seutonius’s “Lives of the Caesars”. I had just read the account of the death of Claudius’s son who choked on a pear when I was back “floating”.
This time I was prepared, well as prepared as you can be finding yourself dead again. I noticed an old man next to me. “A familiarisation visit?” I thought to myself.
He smiled at me and said “You’ll get used to it – first time?” He explained that he could tell by the look of terror on my face that I was a new “Near Dead”.
“That’s what we’re called here – the “Near Dead”.”
“My second time actually. My first was rather brief, didn’t have time to get my bearings.”
“Oh it happens like that – the first visit’s invariably extremely short – just to give you a feel for the place.”
Just then a young girl floated by. I called out to her, but she didn’t acknowledge me in any way. She simply stared ahead.
“You won’t get anything out of her.” said the old man.
“Why not?” I queried.
”But you and I are dead and we talk. Why doesn’t she?”
“Oh, she’s deader than us – she’s Real Dead.” He said that with a knowing wink.
“Excuse me, Real Dead as opposed to …what?”
Something very disturbing then happened. The old man was about to reply when his eyes glazed over and his mouth became fixed half forming the words. He slowly moved towards me and silently went past me.
“Hey!” I shouted, “What do you mean by Real Dead”. But he just drifted on. I watched as he got further and further away from me, until he was a tiny dot, amongst a cloud of other tiny dots.
“Real Dead – is the end; then you fall, slowly spiralling down towards the core way over there.” I turned around and saw a huge Afro- American towering over me.
“Hi”, I said, “You a regular visitor here?”
“Yeah you could say that, I’ve been near dead fifty times not counting this visit.” He made it sound like a summer vacation.
“Well, can you explain what’s just happened here?”
“Not sure I rightly know myself. All I do know is that you’re Near Dead and then you’re Real Dead. When you’re Real Dead there’s no coming back to Dead World or Live World. That’s it.”
“Live World?” I quizzed.
“That’s the everyday world; you know the one you were in before you found yourself here. The world of bills, work and beer.”
“You see the core at the centre,” he continued, “that’s made up of billions of Real Dead. It’s like a black hole. We, the Near Dead, can resist its gravitational force, but the Real Dead can’t - so they slowly spiral into its centre.”
I wanted to ask more about the Real Dead and the central core, but I was back in my bed reading about the death of Claudius’s son.
Regularly dying does take some getting used to. Although it’s not as disconcerting as you might imagine and it doesn’t seem to have any adverse impact of your life in the Live World.
After a few deaths I managed to work out a few things or get answers from other Near Deads.
When you’re Near Dead you can remember what happened to you in the Live and Dead Worlds, but in Live World you know nothing of Dead World. It’s like a one way mirror or semi permeable membrane with memories flowing in only one direction.
One of the things I didn’t understand was what governed my and, for that matter, other people’s Near Deaths. Apparently it’s all determined by quantum fluctuations.
As we all know the way quantum mechanics works – because of the uncertainty principle – means that out of a piece of nothingness something can be created.
So two particles, one positively charged, with up spin and one negatively charged with down spin can appear out of nothingness and fly off in the opposite direction. It’s as if nature’s book keeping momentarily falls down and for a split second she loses count allowing the creation of the two particles, with exactly opposite qualities.
Well, that’s what happens with Near Death. A minor fluctuation in the quantum field means that the books don’t have to balance for a nano second and you experience a Near Death. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Although the quantum fluctuation lasts no time at all, because you’re Near Dead, you’re out of time so to speak, you can experience Near Dead for minutes, hours or days and even longer. I don’t understand how that works but it may have something to do with your state of mind.
The calmer you are the longer you’re Near Dead. Which explains why people’s first Near Dead is so short – they’re scared witless.
It was during my twenty fourth Near Death that I bumped into someone who travelled on the same tube as me in Live World. We’d see each other almost every day and after a while, as you do, smiled in recognition when we met on the train.
“Fancy seeing you here”. He said. I smiled weakly and replied “I got tired of waiting for the train”.
He‘d been married a number of years but things had not been going too well recently. He’d discovered that his wife was getting rather too close to her boss – an estate agent in Chingford.
As we were discussing his worries about his wife’s possible infidelity, a certain Fritz Herzog floated by. Fritz was a theoretical physicist and it was he who explained Dead World as a quantum perturbation. Fritz was frankly a smart arse.
As he drifted by he muttered. “Now if we did something here that caused something to change there ...well, cherche la femme. I couldn’t help but overhear your discussion. And I think I might be able to help”, he said in his usual insufferable manner.
“Now remember the quantum perturbation – that’s the reason Dead World exists. If we create a flutter here, a compensating flutter must take place in Live World. You see what that means? “
We immediately understood. What could we change here which would affect the assignation of my fellow commuter’s wife and her estate agent friend in Live World? Our thoughts were rushing way ahead. Massive genetic changes, massive changes in genitalia; a housing crash, the possibilities were endless.
“But how do you know what change to make here to have the desired effect there?” my friend asked the obvious question.
“You guys are so obvious. It’s not a simple one to one relationship – nothing’s that straight forward in quantum mechanics.”
“Let’s image you need more money – too many bills, too few birds, whatever. This can be achieved in an infinite number of ways. You could get promoted; you could win the lottery, marry a star of stage and screen or inherit a fortune. The list is endless. However, some options are more likely than others.
In your case most are highly unlikely but let’s pretend. Using a Boltzmann probability generator we work out the optimum quantum perturbation to achieve your goal.”
“I’ll give you an example, the other day I was asked if I could help someone to reel in a really tasty bird at a Christmas party.”
Are all your projects totty related?” I complained. “Don’t you think it’s a rather trivial use of a fundamental property of the physical world?”
“What would you give to get your leg over the fittest bird in the office?”
“Well…but…it does seem a great waste…Yeah, I see what you mean. OK, so what did you do?”
Fritz was well into his stride by now.
“Remember the Boltzmann probability generator. It turned out from that analysis the most effective and least turbulent approach was to induce a microscopic voltage change in the electricity supply of an office photocopier.”
“An office photocopier!” we both exclaimed, “How does that work?”
“We’re concerned about the effect – not the cause.”The flutter of a single butterfly’s wing can create a monsoon.” So, a minute change in the electrical current in the photocopier causes the photocopier light source to hugely overheat when next used.”
“When some office dork photocopies his arse at the Christmas party – it gets seared. Now the fittest bird in the office happened to have had a similar experience on a previous occasion. She photocopied her pert booty and in doing so pressed the send button – e-mailing a perfect facsimile of her bum to hundreds of clients and to her head office.”
“Caused quite a stir I can tell you. Anyway, on this occasion she was in the photocopier room with my “client” when the dork seared his bum. The trauma was such that she completely fainted away. My “client”, being the gentleman he is, picked her up, carried her to the lift and in a thrice had her in a cab and back to her flat (her husband was visiting his sick mother at the time) where he put her to bed. No more need be said.”
We simply didn’t buy it. “You’re making it up.” We said “A whole number of situations, histories have to have happened for this to come about, all of which would have had to have depended on other factors. How could you control or predict all that?”
At that instant, Fritz conveniently (or inconveniently) for him joined the Real Dead, and swung into a shallow curve towards the bright central core.
“Hi, I’m Dave”, I said “Sorry not to have introduced myself earlier. What do you make of this Boltzmann probability thingy bob?”
“I’m Adrian and it’s a probability generator. “It sounds a bit suspect, but in theory, I suppose it could work. The trouble is, if any change here has an effect in Live World how would you know that the change you make will have the desired effect.”
“You’re right. Any change we make individually is no different from the billions of changes that must take place all the time.”
“It gets more complicated than that. Since anything we do here effects Live World, in a very real sense we determine what happens there. That is quite terrifying don’t you think?”
I had to agree. “It means that Live World is a creation of Dead World. As the Near Dead we’re more real than when we’re alive!”
We hung in silence. Two Near Deads, surrounded by billions of other Near Deads dodging the constant stream of newly Real Dead heading for the central core.
I looked around. It was the first time I had really taken in this Dead World. It was beautiful.
I was floating in space. As far as I could see there were other Near Deads, in groups and in ones and twos glowing with a soft light that was neither cold nor warm. Looking towards the centre of my “galaxy”, I could see the slow inward movement of the spiralling Real Dead. Millions upon millions of them – in places clumps of them – which I put down to massive disasters, wars, famines and the like.
And as I looked at the central core, I noticed faint changes as the Real Dead fell into it. Mostly nothing significant would happen, but once in a while a huge plume would rise up from the core sending a shower of light across the spiral of the Real Dead, causing them to shimmer and dance excitedly.
While I was watching a pulse of light moved out from the centre along the spiral. It must have been travelling at a huge speed because in no time I could see it approaching my region of the spiral. In an instant it was upon me, the Real Dead shimmering in the wake of the pulse.
And then I noticed something most strange. As the pulse of light swept over a Real Dead close to me it evaporated into millions of specks of “dust” expanding as a bright cloud, which faded into the blackness of the Dead World. It was quite beautiful, celestial cremation I thought; but why it should happen was completely beyond me.
Adrian was talking to me. “Look, let’s say I want to scupper my wife’s fling with her estate agent boss. What would I do?”
“In theory we could use the Boltzmann probability generator to work out what would be the most effective quantum shift. The trouble is we don’t have a generator or even know what one looks like. And even if we did we wouldn’t know how to create the necessary shift in the quantum field. This gets us nowhere”
Adrian drifted away from me to avoid being hit by a cluster of Read Deal.
“Dave, I’ve had a genius moment.” He said. “I know what the Boltzmann probability generator is.” I was listening very intently. “It’s the core – it’s constantly churning – that’s the measurement of the various probabilities”.
“But how does it know – where does it get the information on which it can act and calculate the various probabilities?” I was hanging on to his mental coat tails but I was beginning to understand.
“From the Real Dead!!” I shouted. “Of course, it is they who bring the information from Live World and that allows the core to work out the probabilities.”
“OK” said Adrian “But the big question is, if we want to use the Boltzmann generator we have to get to the core. How do we do that?”
I didn’t like the answer forming in my mouth. “We can’t unless we become the Real Dead. Oh shit!”
Adrian jumped in, “But hold on, didn’t Fritz say he’d manipulated the probabilities to help his client score with that girl at the office party.”
“I’m not sure he was telling the truth”, I said.”He knew how it worked in theory but the practical details were very sketchy.
” Or…” Adrian paused as the next revelation formed in his mind, “…He was telling us what he was going to do!”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Fritz became a Real Dead and spiralled off to the orb – that way he would be able to access the Boltzmann generator and affect a change in the Live World”.
This was getting nowhere and I was becoming impatient with the endless speculation.
“But how could we know?” I asked.
“I don’t know”, admitted Adrian.
“Isn’t it more likely that Fritz made the whole story up?”
“Yeah, I suppose you’re right” Adrian sighed.
Chapter 2: A disrupted journey to work, Adrian and his wife’s unfortunate mishap.
The tube had just pulled out of the station and I started to read the local rag. My eyes alighted on an inside page headline “Christmas joker gets the sack”.
The article described how an attractive mortgage adviser at a local estate agent had, as a joke, photocopied her backside. The fetching photograph (of her face) accompanying the article attested to her attractiveness.
Unfortunately for her the sophisticated machine e-mailed the facsimile of her bum to about two hundred prospective house buyers. It also e-mailed her bum to the firm’s head office in Leeds. About half of the prospective house buyers put in “realistic offers” for the owner of the bum but that didn’t stop her boss, with some pressure from head office, having to let her go……………