art by Seth Alan Bareiss
by Rajan Khanna
***Editor's Alert: This is an adult story, featuring sexual situations and actions***
The shutter opens and closes, the analog camera a sequence of moving parts. Lucas finds it comforting--things coming together, things coming apart. On the opposite side of the lens, her mischievous smile flashes, captured on the film inside the camera. Not an invitation, that smile, no, but more of a dare. Are you ready? it seems to say.
He feels ready. The moment is captured but not realized. Inscribed but not experienced. He lowers the camera and moves forward.
The light switches off, allowing the glow from the street to wash down over her body, to paint lines along her curves. One long leg stretches out from behind the sheet. Even in the dark he can see the scrawl of his name where he had written it on her. Not to mark as property, but to inscribe. To conquer distance.
A matching mark adorns his shoulder, a bruise from Tina's bite when they were pressed together, bodies crushing with almost violent force as they clawed for more than the boundaries of their skin would allow.
Their legs slide against one another, the friction causing heat and electricity that courses beneath the skin. He pulls her close again. The smell of her skin fills his head. His mouth finds hers, tastes the blood where he bit her lip. He has written on her, but she is written all over him.
He snaps on the light as they lay between sheets damp with sex. Tina exhales a long ribbon of smoke into the air. Lucas usually doesn't like smokers, but in her it seems less distasteful.
"We call it Observer One," she says.
"Not the most inspiring name."
"It's a riff on quantum theory. And really, it explains what it is we're doing."
"Explain it to me again," Lucas says. "You know how all this quantum theory messes with my brain."
She smiles and runs her fingers through his hair. "You at least know the basics. Other dimensions exist as infinite potentials. But the moment you observe one it collapses the waveform and is fixed."
"That's what we're doing. Observer One will observe other realities, collapsing the waveforms. We'll have a window into another reality, but only that one. Essentially, it's like a big television remote--we're switching channels, seeing what's on each station."
"Or a slide projector," he says, flashing back to school and images projected onto a white screen. Photos. A press of a button, a whir, a click, each image thrown up in front of them, different worlds contained within every one.
Tina nods, then stamps out the cigarette in the ashtray. "Only we can never go back. The moment we switch to another reality, the previous one is lost."
"That seems like a lot of pressure," he says.
She smiles, then pulls him toward her. In that moment, he tries to grasp hold of the sight of her, the feel of her, her smell. He tries to store it away in his mind. Like taking a picture. With all his being, he wills it to stay.
Lucas switches the stereo on then joins her on the sofa. She cradles a half-full glass of wine in her hand. His stands on the floor. The night has been good so far. Dinner. Drinks. A lingering taste in their mouths.
Her gift to him sits on the table--an antique camera for his collection. His predilections still amuse her, but she supports them. It doesn't stop her from gently ribbing him, calling him a Newtonian.
He smiles at that, pokes a finger at her. "So you think that quantum physics can explain everything?"
"Almost," she says. "It even aligns with far eastern spirituality."
"Aha," he says, scooping up his wine glass. "You said 'almost'."
She nods. "And I meant it." She slides one finger around the rim of her glass. "Love. It doesn't explain, or govern, love."