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A Solution Searching for a Problem · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Kick the Bullet
‘Do you know,’ Mike began, ‘why there is no antimatter in the world?’ He reclined in his chair, tilting it backwards and drew a puff from his smoke, which rose in flitting curlicues against the ghostly light.

Stan rolled his eyes and shrugged. ‘Mmm…’ he finally said, shaking his head. It was hard to articulate an answer while gagged.

Mike let his chair fall forward, flicked his cigarette in the ashtray and stood up. ‘Actually this is quite fascinating. The long and short of it is: no one knows. Even Stephen Hawking couldn’t figure it out.’ He paced round the table, hands latched behind his back. ‘Except maybe for this crazy castaway French guy and his Janus universe model. Ever heard of it?’

At this point, Stan didn’t even bother to answer.

‘According to this theory, we live in a coin-like universe. There is a head “foil”, as he calls it, and that’s where we live, a universe of “standard” matter. And there’s a tail “foil”, made of antimatter. We can’t see it, but we can feel it because matter and antimatter repel one another. Like, you know, dimples on one side of a sheet make bumps on the other. And that would explain about all the conundrums of modern astronomy…’ He stopped, eyes unfocused, as if actually contemplating global space topology through the thick walls of the pokey room.

Eventually, he shook off his vision. ‘But’, he continued, ‘the zaniest part is the claim that time would run backward in that antimatter universe. Reversed causality. Effect preceding causes. Do you realise what that means? Dying before you live. Beginning your life as a dotard, and ending as a baby in your nappies.’ He guffawed. ‘Jolly barmy, isn’t it?’

He glanced at Stan. Trussed tightly to the chair, Stan’s only perceptible reaction was another stunted shrug.

‘You, for example, you know why you’re here. In that other world, you wouldn’t. But then, things would take a turn for the best, since in the future you’d be free and I’d eventually forget about your existence.’ He smiled, sighed and waved a dismissal gesture. ‘Bollocks. Ravings, like most Frenchmen ideas,’ he concluded.

He rounded the table back to his chair, and sat again, picking up his cigarette from the ashtray. ‘Which brings us back here,’ he said, dipping the butt in the flame of a lighter. ‘Did it ever occur to you that we may sometimes act as if pushed by yet unknown motives?’

Stan eyes widened. Beads of sweat were breaking out on his forehead.

‘For example,’ Mike carried on, ‘take this gun here.’ He stretched his arm and stroked the Smith & Wesson which was resting on the table. He brought it closer and spun it several times, mesmerised by the light bouncing off the grey metal. ‘Powerful object, isn’t it? Able to terminate anyone’s life with only the lightest pull on a tiny trigger. Yet, when I bought it, I had no idea what I could use it for. It was a mere compulsive act. Gratuitous to the full.’

He grabbed the gun, stood up, shuffled to Stan, and pressed the muzzle against his temple.

‘That is,’ he added, ‘until I met you.’
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#1 · 3
· · >>Monokeras
The language here is very nice. I'm guessing the philosophy it refers to is true, but I don't know. In our universe, antimatter and matter don't repel; quite the opposite. But maybe the barrier is supposed to reverse the effect?

I'm someone who especially appreciates atmosphere in a story, how that comes through the narrative tone, how it develops by the description of the setting and the characters' actions. That's something this story does well.

I also feel like the story has no meaning absent the prompt, and that could be problematic if you decide to publish it elsewhere. And in both cases, I still wish it had a little more context. I don't know whether Mike wants to kill Stan just because he feels an urge to kill someone in general, or if he has something against Stan specifically. If the former, that isn't expressed to where I could figure it out, and if the latter, then I guess I'm supposed to find Stan sympathetic, but without knowing what the grudge is, I don't have a reason to favor one character or the other, meaning I'm not invested in the outcome. That would be easy to remedy. It wouldn't even have to be specific: just generically saying there was an issue at all would solve it, whereas right now it sounds equally plausible that Stan's a random guy Mike pulled off the street.
#2 ·
· · >>Monokeras
Off the bat, I have a nitpick. You need to think of different names for these characters, or a different way of talking about them. 'Stan' and 'Mike' are too generic for a piece which is so conceptually interesting, and which depends on that kind of interest. They make me think of Double Dragon.

'Repel' isn't the right word for what you're trying to describe, I don't think. Maybe 'cognate action'? I'd look it up. I mention it because I think how your reader winds up guessing about this idea will affect their interpretation of your story. My impression when "Mike" held the gun up was that he was ready to prove a point about complimentary action--"I kill you, and thereby bring life into this world," like a kind of Raskalnikov.
#3 · 2

Thanks a bunch for your comments and appreciation ! ♡

I had several ideas for this prompt, amongst which the chemical solution I already mentioned somewhere, but none of those would gel except the ‘reverse causality’ aspect. Besides, I had much to do at the weekend so I had to cobble those few words together quite quickly.

I thought the idea of a potential murderer talking theoretical physics with their victim before killing them would potentially elicit a sort of comical effect, but, unless you overlooked it in your respective reviews, that turned out to be a dud.

In any case, the Janus model exposed here is derived from the works of the French astrophysicist Jean-Pierre Petit, which has over the years become a Pariah first because of his unorthodox theory, and second for his (wild) belief in the Ummo conspiracy, info about which you can find here

Turning back to Janus model, the idea is that the Big-Bang created two universes instead of one, both of which are — as exposed in the text – sort of glued one to the other like two sides of a sheet are. Our universe is composed of matter only, while all the antimatter created in the original blast has been collected on the other side.

Both sides are submitted to the same gravitational law, i.e. the Einstein equation, resulting in the exact metaphor I used: if you suppose that matter (or antimatter) creates wells in the space-time fabric, then these wells will appear as knolls on the other side, and will ‘repel’ matter rather than attract it. So to be more precise, gravitation is always attractive between particles located on the same side (be they matter or antimatter) and negative between particles located on the opposite sides. This model claims to explain the shape of spiral galaxies, the distribution of matter at cosmic scale, and the acceleration of the expansion as recently observed. Whereas the current accepted ‘dogma’ has to recourse to highly speculative notions such as ‘dark energy’ or ‘dark matter’ to explain these phenomena, none of which has been observed or confirmed so far.

I don’t pretend Jean-Pierre Petit speaks the truth, just that the idea is interesting enough to warrant further study (much like the Alcubierre metric for faster-than-light™ travel), a position which the current scientific community is apparently not willing to share. That same community, however, has devoted the recent decades to the exploration of a crazy theory (Strings) which, in the end, is current abandoned because of its inability to produce any meaningful answer (as well as being unscientific according to Popper's accepted criteria).

For the rest of the story, I was sort of inspired by my childhood watching of the now iconic series ‘The Wild Wild West’, that you may have heard about.

I’ll be back to comment on Heavy's story. Thanks again so much for your love and dedication! ♡