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The Blue Cube

Lee Frazier Davis is a fiction writer, artist, and English teacher living in Lawrence, KS. When she's not designing stunning slide presentations about grammar, she enjoys writing fiction, drawing comics, making puppets, and playing games. She's an amateur in the Latin-root sense of the word, and this her first publication. Her website is leefrazierdavis.com.

How is it legal to serve these things in bars? They should be served in hospitals, or at least laboratories; somewhere where close observation is possible, where quantum phenomena happen. But of course, quantum phenomena happen everywhere--that's the whole point. And no fatalities, or even accidents, have ever been reported. So I skipped the scotch and soda this time. Ordered the Cube.
It quivers on its little plate, lights shimmying in its blue, translucent facets. I've read the science--and the poetry, for that matter--but I don't understand any of it. Some infinitesimal particle retrieved from a black hole; some probability-fairy rolling a very specific set of dice; an infinitely branching multiverse; a crystal structure with too many sides and the wrong number of dimensions. The proof, so they say, that God has a sense of humor--now available at your local watering hole for less than the top-shelf vodka.
My phone pings. Steve from work. Steve "my boss" from work. Steve "Get your ass back here" from work. Steve "I know you're getting these texts," from work. Steve, "You want to keep your job? I don't think you want to keep your job," from work. I turn off the phone and stare at the cube. The bartender was excited when I ordered it. Eyes lit up like green traffic lights: Go! Go! Go! I'm surprised she didn't bring it out with little sparklers stuck in it, singing and wearing a sombrero, like it's your birthday at a certain type of Mexican restaurant. Things used to be so simple. But now I'm staring at an edible shard of infinity, feeling like Schrodinger's cat right before the big hands open the box and let me know whether I'm alive or dead.
No more stalling. Down the hatch. It tastes blue, whatever that means. The texture is more solid than I expected, more gummy bear than Jello shot. It hits my stomach with a sparkly sizzle. The process is already underway, has always been completed, has actually never happened, according to various schools of thought.
I check my reflection in the bar's bathroom mirror. No changes there. The contents of my pockets are still the same. But, BUT. I have to remind myself, if they were different, I would never know. Whatever quantum switch the Blue Cube flipped, it flipped it in the past as well as in the present, in my memories as well as in the outside world. Now (they say) one distinct aspect of my life is different, and has always been that way. How does the cube even know what "one" thing is? My fingers--do they count as "one" thing?--might be a bit longer than they used to be. But I seem to remember my hands always looking weird if I stare at them long enough.
Multiply-branching parallel universes and nonlinear-time theories aside, I'm certain if I try hard enough, I'll be able to tell what changed. The bar seems unaltered, the bartender giving me a knowing wink. Is she blonder than she used to be? It is possible for the Cube to change things only peripherally related to you, though even trivial changes generally turn out to matter in some arcane, cosmic way. On the street, the holiday lights don't look as tacky as they usually do, but maybe I'm just in a good mood.
I could spend the rest of my life like this, I realize. I turn on my phone to check some basic facts. My hometown is still called "Newton," just like I remember. My mother still doesn't seem to notice when autocomplete butchers her texts. My social security number still ends in four prime numbers.
I get to the corner where I parked my scooter and it hits me: this tiny, butter-yellow Vespa knock-off, with a matching helmet chained to the steering column. This embarrassing affectation, not only silly but dangerous, at least in the traffic this city is known for. I would never have chosen to ride around town on this dippy little toy. Well, you roll the dice. Can't win 'em all.
The phone rings. Steve. Jesus, that guy.
"Get back to fucking work, Steve."
He apologizes and clicks off. I wonder how much I could get for this scooter on Craigslist.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Author Comments

I wrote this story based on a prompt from my husband: "Someone is served a cube of gel at a bar. It has no nutritional or gastronomical value." I still haven't made up my mind about the gender of the protagonist.

- Lee Frazier Davis
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