The Mating of Mesons

Johnathon Strange awoke to find that Flufferkins had tunneled again. “Damn it,” he muttered. He had finally blown half of his college savings on the most expensive Schrödinger box money could buy. Still the cat escaped.

John hitched a ride on his friend Harry’s accelerator. It was an ancient thing, barely capable of 99.8% light speed. Harry had named it Barry. Chris rode with them, looking rather blue. The three had been friends for years. Friends until collision. By the time they got to school, Chris looked a more healthy red, but now John felt blue.

School did little to improve his mood. Mr. Up announced a pop quiz. John couldn’t get the vibration right in his Strings class.

His friend Harry had some good news by gym class.

“High probability of party at Harriet’s,” Harry said. He, John and Chris were practicing their particle/wave dueling.

“Will there be booze?” asked John.

“Extremely high probability. And the probability that Josie’s curves are going to be in the area are high.”

John turned bright red (anti-blue). He’d been trying to bond with Josie for weeks, but he just couldn’t get his glue on.

“I’ll go,” said John. “I’ll need some acceleration. Can you help me out?”

“Sure,” said Harry. “I’ll exist there between 6:45 and 7:00.”

That evening, John paced about his room. He had enough nervous energy to tunnel briefly into his neighbor’s house. She was in her underwear. Flufferkins was there, too. It did nothing to bring John out of his high energy state.

Harry appeared at 6:48, the quantum foam spray announcing his arrival. Chris was already in the accelerator. John hopped in and they were off.

John held the “we’re going to die” handle tight. Harry tended to ride the oncoming traffic. Friends until collision got them, sure, but John seemed in a hurry to get there.

By the time they got to Christie’s, John needed a drink. He worked his way through the dance floor, Chris and  Harry tagging along with him. Couples danced, fast, spinning around on opposite sides of the room, working each other into higher energy states.

John grabbed a shot of something that he believed, with a high degree of certainty, was vodka. It might have been rum. He downed it, and some of the energy left him. He felt more completely in the room, and looked around.

And there she was. Josie, talking to Christie and Harriet.

From across the room, John felt her pull. He couldn’t resist her. It overpowered everything.

She was eyeing him, too. She felt the same. John knew it.

He found himself crossing the dance floor again, his friends at his side. The dancers were moving faster, now, one, four, sixteen pairs spinning around the room at breakneck speeds. Bosons flew, from the speakers, from the dancers, crashing into each other as they spun faster and faster.

John found himself standing next to Josie. The interest from across the room had faded. They looked at each other, awkwardly, waiting for someone to make a move. She seemed so normal, so different from him. What were his chances of ever getting with someone so much his opposite?

“Um, hi,” said John.

“Hi,” said Josie. John’s heart fluttered nervously. Josie looked calm, cool, all there. John felt himself briefly appear on the fringe of known space.

“Loud in here, isn’t it,” said John. It was true. The vibrations from the sound seemed to only amplify his nervousness.

“Not too loud,” said Josie.

John silently berated himself. Loud in here. What the hell kind of a line was that?

The dancers had started to collide. Bosons from their union sprayed across the wall, painting John’s shadow in luminescence.

John saw Harry give him a thumbs up, laughing. One of his arms was around Harriet, and John knew why Harry had wanted to come. John turned to Chris, hoping for some support there. He was already on his way out with Christie.

They were laughing at him. And John was damn sure his ride home wasn’t leaving tonight.

John wanted to be deep in the blackest hole he could find. He could never tunnel when he wanted to.

The room seemed too crowded. John’s breath came in gasps. There were too many people. The music was deafening, vibrating him into—

He was outside, walking away from the party as fast as his dignity would allow. All around him, the foam roiled, producing mockeries of his shame.

“Hey,” said a voice. John stopped. “Are you okay?”

John wiped his eyes against his sleeve. He looked behind him. Josie was there, looking worried.

“I need to go home,” said John. “I think my ride bailed on me.”

“Do you want some company?” asked Josie.

“Um, sure,” said John. “You’ll miss the party.”

Josie jogged to catch up with him. “It’s okay,” she said. She wrapped her arm around his, bonding them. “I’m not really attracted to any of those people, anyway.”

In an infinite number of universes, John knew, he wasn’t getting so lucky. In an infinite number of alternatives he was being mocked, laughed at, going home alone.

In this universe, he straightened up, looked down at Josie, her magenta skin against his blue. He grinned like a dumbass, not caring where his friends were. He had something better.

And that, children, is where Mesons come from.


Timothy West  Timothy West's website lives in Denver with his wife and many cats.