Bees, Red Admirals, Ants and Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Quantum Physics

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 8

It was gone midnight when my phone rang, but instead of recognising the sound, it sort of morphed into a weird dream about me standing naked on a filling station forecourt, busy filling the tank of a three year-old Audi A4, while most other people knelt in the gutter as they took Holy Communion from a giant ant.

It came as something of a relief when I finally got my head together, I can tell you!

"Wha…… I mean, who's calling?"

"It's me, Gabriel. I need to talk to you."

"Like, right now? At twenty past midnight, - in the morning?"


"Alright," I said; resigned to the fact that sleep was a long way off, "what's happened."

"I came out tonight, like I came out to my mum and dad."

"Oh…… I take it that they had sort of, words with you then?"

"No, not as such. He started to say something on our way home, but then he got lost in the one-way system. The rest of the trip was all about cursing the town planners, and if they really needed to build a maze, why not do it someplace else rather than Sonning. So, no, it happened once we got back."

"What did! Come on, Gabriel?"

"Yeah, you see, I was all for having an early night, but dad called me through to the living room for a chat. Well…… you know what those words, we need to have a chat mean? Either you've done something really bad and he needs you to know he knows you've done it, like something really bad, but can't decide what punishment to dish out that might fit the bill, but then tells you that he has options, none of them good, but he'll make his decision overnight and tell you what it is over breakfast, thus ensuring that you're going to be awake all night, worrying about what's going to happen……, or……"

"Right. Been there on rather too many occasions for comfort."

"It started off alright, and most of it was about you. How nice they thought you were, and how good it was that you turned up given, number one; your lack of faith, number two; not even raised as a Catholic, and number three; how boring you must've found it. Dad said that he thought your decision to attend wasn't as a result of, you know, like your bog-standard type of friendship, but that something much deeper was going down.

Then he asked me if you'd told me that you were gay, so I told him, yes, you had."

Gabriel fell silent for a minute so he could gather his thoughts.

"It was right then I realised what was coming. He would ask me if I thought I was gay, so rather than letting him putting me in a situation where my only options were either to lie to him, or come clean, I did what Mr Gordon said we should do, like, take the bull by its horns, like assume control of the situation."

"That wasn't very fair of him? You found yourself backed into a corner, and as you're not the lying kind, you had to tell him."

"Yeah, but there's a difference between lying and being economical with the truth , right? I could've said something like, how should I know? I'm only thirteen? But I didn't. Like you told me, there's never a good time, and as this seemed to me to be the closest I would get to a right time, ever, I just said that you came to church because of our special friendship, what with both of us being gay."


"Is that it? Just, oh?"

"Um…… no, sorry. It's just like, I get the feeling that, we've had this conversation before."

"Look. Trust me on this, will you? Coming out once was enough of a trauma, let alone twice? How could we possibly have talked about this before?"

"We have, and we haven't, not during this spin of the wheel, anyhow."

"You mean like, Déjà Vu?"

"Yeah. Like Déjà Vu. I'm going to have to ask Mr Gordon if there is such a thing. Maybe there's a fault kicking around in the memory erasure system during decommissioning that ought to be looked at."

"Could be, I suppose. Yeah, you better ask him about that."

"Anyway, what happened then?"

"What, after I told them? Not much really. Something of an anti-climax, truth be told? Dad told me that he suspected I might be ever since last summer when we were on holiday in Italy. Like we'd be walking along, and a girl would go past in the other direction. Dad said her skirt reached higher than her belly-button, but my head was buried in my phone, and never took a blind bit of notice, but then, if a cute boy came within ten metres of us, it was like, Head Up! Maximum Alert! And like he said, - one time, okay. Twice? Well…… Three times, then every time? I never even realised I was doing it!"

"Yeah! I'm doing big-time empathy here! Dad said the same about me!"

Gabriel laughed. "The other thing is this. I'm not expected to go to church anymore. By all accounts it was my Grandma's deathbed wish that I should be raised as a good Catholic boy and be confirmed, and as her request made no mention of how best to proceed next, - probably because she snuffed it before she had the chance to say, - so long as I find something to occupy my time, away from the house, and between the hours of nine Sunday morning until gone midday the same day, it was cool."

"Oh. And I was just so looking forward to going with you, as well!"

"Yeah, right!"

"Okay. I wasn't actually looking forward to it as such, but I had promised myself that if you carried on with it, I'd get my round out of the way and come with you?"

"Why? No-one, unless they're about to die, goes to church, and only then if they harbour a guilty conscience about something so unspeakably bad that they won't even take it to confessional? I reckon our church is getting mobbed by a bunch of wannabe Ian Bradys and Myra Hindleys, or maybe even Barry Manilows every Sunday! That's no place for a kid to be, well, is it? Getting bumped off, or sung to like that? Hardly a recipe for a fruitful and productive life? I mean, at least let me stick around long enough to know what it's like to have sex?"

"You make a very strong argument for maybe going to the cinema instead. It was just that we'll be back at school in three weeks' time, and what with Saturday being the only chance we'd have to be together, church seemed like a good idea at the time. But…… Barry Manilow? Oh, God!

Who were the other two blokes you mentioned?"

Friday: Not the worst round of the week, even if we had to deal with the TV and Radio program guides as well as newspapers. No, Sunday was the killer round. I could just about carry papers enough to get half way before retracing my steps back to the shop to pick up the second half, and it was at this point this morning that I decided that O come, O come Emmanuel, to thee will come all Isssssra – el, sung by the Manilow Mixed Voice Choir, had been something best avoided, even if they sung it in Latin.

My dad used to call him Mandy Bendy-boy.

I must try and remember to ask him why.

Saturday, and our final meeting with Mr Gordon.

Gabriel had called earlier to ask me what the weather was doing, and having explained in some considerable detail about how it appeared to me that The Weather was still asleep given its singular lack of activity, and if he, Gabriel, cared to get out of bed he might be able to see that for himself by looking out of his bedroom window, his only comment was a yawn followed by, not swimming weather then, which, all things considered, seemed a rational enough comment to make on a misty morning at seven o'clock.

"If you want, why not meet me in town later? I get paid this morning, so I'll buy us some lunch before we head over to Mr Gordon's place."

"Okay, cool. I just hope that my folks haven't dreamed up any hideously embarrassing questions overnight."

"Like what? It's not as if you've ever, like, done anything? The worst bit's over now you're out, so what else is there to say?"

"Hit me with the Safe Sex talk? Hand me a jumbo-size packet of condoms and a bottle of lube maybe?"

"Tell them you've been through all that in Sex-Ed classes. And anyway, I'm struggling to think of anywhere that might be open overnight that sells condoms and lube."

"Mail order? Please rush me my "Guaranteed to Raise a Smile" gay sex starter pack for thirteen year-olds?"

"Again, not overnight. Now, if you see a courier delivering a suspicious package in a couple of days' time, that's a completely different matter."

"Do you think I'm worrying too much?"

"What do I know? I can only go back to what dad said to me when I came out. I think he rightly assumed that I was like, totally inexperienced, and just told me not to try running before I could walk, and how the most exciting part of growing up was the experimental stage."

"He told you that?"

"Yeah. He like, first met my mum when he was fourteen. They were sort of like childhood sweethearts, even got married when they were nineteen. I've seen their wedding photos. Mum was beautiful."

No. Gabriel hadn't been hit by the Safe Sex thing. Not so much by it not being part of the plan, but more because the late night phone call had him oversleeping until ten o'clock the following morning, by which time his folks had gone shopping.

A late lunch at a Greasy Spoon on the outskirts of town, and we were ready for our last get-together with Mr Gordon, - a meeting which we both agreed, would be tinged with both joy, and sorrow. Joy because of the sense of relief at the knowledge that this would be the last time our brains would be fed through a food blender, and sorrow because…… we had become very fond of the dozy old git.

"Do you recognise this photo, boys? My intention was to take one of the pair of you standing beneath that tree I climbed to study the ants, but then, on seeing the picture of you, Gabriel, - the one I took the first time our path's crossed, and then subsequently, the one I took of you, Rhys, the day I tried to photograph a bee, I thought to myself, that's silly, Mr Gordon. Why don't you use that super little application known to all as Photoshop, and merge these two delightful photographs into one!"

"I remember the day you took it," I said, "I was feeling a bit anxious, maybe even confused by you."

"I know you were, Rhys. But what am I to say to you other than I had a job to do; a job which, I hasten to add, is almost done, at which point this photograph will join the others on my wall."

Gabriel picked it up to look at it. "Yeah. Really nice, but that bring us back to the question of, why us?"

"Because, Gabriel, you two, together with all the boys and girls who's pictures adorn these walls, share a common, and dare I say, huge responsibility.

We have talked about a catastrophe, a catastrophe of such magnitude, it would bring about the destruction of the entire universe. Planets, suns…… even time itself would cease to exist. There would be nothing, an absolute nothingness, a void, a perpetual and never-ending emptiness, and all brought about by one careless and seemingly innocent remark. And that, my brave boys, is something I'm sure you couldn't countenance."

"What have we done to deserve this? This is craziness that's way off the scale of even the craziest of craziness!"

Mr Gordon pushed cups of tea in front of us before continuing. "Back at the beginning of time, this blue planet you call The Earth, was divided up to accommodate the number of countries for which it was designed for. These amounted to one hundred and ninety-five, and so you see on my walls, three hundred and ninety individual photographs, or two for each country, with each country represented by one pair of children, - the first photograph is of that couple aged about thirteen years of age, the second when they were, perhaps, seventeen or eighteen."

"Yeah, okay, but……"

"Please bear with me, Rhys. You cannot begin to understand how important this is.

Going back to the beginning of time, all precautions were taken to ensure that one's future self could never, ever come face-to-face with one's past self, - I refer back to the lesson regarding the wheels of life, - thus preventing any form of dialogue to pass between them.

It is generally accepted that seeing one's self, or to that extent, even recognising one's self, is something that could be managed, but, however, if an exchange of words were to take place…… The End."

"They were pretty thorough in their efforts, but, I'm afraid, not thorough enough. They discovered that one pair of children from each of the one hundred and ninety-five countries had slipped through the net. That's one hundred and ninety-five chances in each generation to bring about the destruction of time, but what could they do? The timelines were already written, the wheels of life were turning, so there was no turning back.

The only solution was to send an emissary in order to teach these children a little of how the universe functions, and their place within that universe.

Boys? I am that emissary, and I'm here to inform you that you will meet, and you will recognise, your predecessors. That circumstance is written in time as a non-negotiable certainty. So…… when you meet yourselves, it's perfectly fine to wave to them, smile at them, but…… under no circumstances are you to talk to them. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Shit. Sorry, I meant yeah, you have…… made it perfectly clear."

"Good. How about you, Gabriel?"

"I'm good, thanks. My only worry is like, will they recognise us? And if they do, have they been told to keep their traps shut?"

"Yes, of course, they have! They're you, remember? I told them when they were thirteen!"

"Oh yeah. Silly me!

I guess that's it then."

"Unless you have further questions, I'm afraid it is. My last word on the subject though, is this. Many people exist who wield enormous power and influence, A flick of a switch, the turn of a key, might well change forever, the way in which society behaves, yet all that power is nothing compared with that which you, and one hundred and ninety-four other couples, just like you, are held responsible for. Yes, some people are able move mountains, but you have the power to annihilate entire universes, - not at a flick of a switch, nor the turn of a key, but just by the utterance of any single word that you might direct to your earlier selves."

"Déjà Vu."

"Another anomaly, but not that important, Rhys. Sometimes it is brought about by the sheer quantity of memory scrubs required that leads to bad practice, or sometimes if a particular memory is so important that no amount of scrubbing will erase it, it simply remains in place. No harm done, my boy. No harm done, at all!"

"No, not that! This conversation. I remember having one like it before!"

"A deeply entrenched memory, Rhys. You now have an understanding of how timelines and life wheels operate, and how you will, one day, return to live out your life once more, then again, and again, and again. Like running on rails to a fixed timetable, it's impossible to deviate away, but due to this miscalculation, at the point where you are confronted by yourselves, the laws of Quantum Physics do not apply to you, and so, at that moment, you are given free rein to change the course of…… everything. I can only beseech you to wield that power with all due diligence, boys."


…… ain't that just typical! I pay to get in when it's raining, then leave as the sun comes out, and not only that, there's a boy walking towards me…..

…… he is cute too…… and damn if he isn't checking me out……

…… but then my attention is drawn towards an odd shape, like someone kneeling on the grass with his head on one side……

…… Odd shape is wearing an old but intact brown leather coat and a trilby hat……

The End.

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