The Science of Magic
by Antony M. Copeland
Tristan never really felt like he fit in. This was because he was smart enough to realise he was different from everyone else, particularly the other kids at school. He kept his shirt tucked in, his shoes polished and his socks pulled up. His hair was always neatly parted on the right, and he would often wear a tie and sweater vest over his collared shirt, even though there was no required uniform. He never thought jeans were smart enough, and it almost goes without saying that he wore glasses.
His teachers were nice to him, and he was always well-mannered and polite. Even when other children were mean to him, which wasn’t as frequent as you might think. Mostly they just ignored him. If asked, many of them would have talked about his unfashionable clothing choices or just said he was weird. A few kids would have elaborated and explained that the reason they kept their distance was Tristan’s tendency to stare at things that no-one else could see.
His parents and teachers thought he was just day-dreaming. He wasn’t. Tristan could see faeries. Not just little winged ladies, but things he identified from fairy tales and ‘the big book of legendary creatures’ as goblins, imps, elves and trolls. He would stare to try and see them better, but no matter how hard he tried they would never be more visible than a watermark in reality. This would frustrate the boy immensely. He was sure they were trying to get his attention.
He hoped that the secret lay in his favourite stories the ones in which the characters pass through to another realm. He would check the backs of closets, try to push through mirrors, and hope a hurricane would pick up his house. He knew it wouldn’t work, but he felt he had to try. As he grew older he told himself this was all in his head, a childhood fantasy, so he tried to ignore the faeries and focus on his classes.
This didn’t help to make him any friends though, despite the fact he was no longer staring into space. He would find the answers just came to him and it made him feel smart. And he took pride in raising his hand whenever the teacher asked the class a question. In this way he got through school without being distracted by faeries, though sometimes things would go missing and Tristan would sometimes imagine he heard giggling. Particularly when he found homework unfinished that he clearly remembered doing, or even finding work he thought he still had to do was finished.
This became problematic as he grew older and the classes became harder, but Tristan soon learned to do his homework early and to double check it before he handed it in. Whenever he found something he didn’t remember writing he would blame it on having a bad memory even though he would remember other details quite clearly, and chastise himself when he found answers that were wrong.
Sometimes he would find answers in his homework way beyond what he was being taught. To check the answers were right he would read books on quantum mechanics, engineering, and other advanced sciences, and ended up learning more than his teachers even knew. Tristan found it all fascinating, but he missed being able to read the fantasy and science fiction he used to read, along with the cartoons and action figures that combined technology and magic.
Despite his extracurricular reading, or perhaps because of it, Tristan began to find his classes boring. His grades began to drop as he gradually lost interest. he would read his notes from class over and over and still find himself unable to retain the information, and he became increasingly frustrated with himself. He wished he could just skip the boring classes and go to college where he could focus on the subjects he liked. He knew he was smart enough for college, but he couldn’t focus well enough to prove it with his grades.
Sometimes he would hear a giggle as he was trying to study, like a distant memory. He would try harder to remember the dates that certain boring laws were passed, or the correct way to pronounce French phrases he would never use, or even try to improve his drawing skills. When the internet became a thing he would try using his fascination with this new source of information to try and help him learn what wouldn’t stick.
It seemed to work, improving his grades in time to graduate and feeding his insatiable need for new information. It also gave him an outlet for his burgeoning and distracting teenage lust. He found the art of airbrushing both fascinating and disturbingly wrong. Both in fantasy artworks showing barbarian women in tiny strips of fur and armour, and in the images of topless busty ladies he enjoyed ogling.
Once he was at University, he found that self-directed study was not only encouraged, but required. Nevertheless, the novelty of writing essay after essay refuting the findings of various renowned physicists, he began to grow bored again. It was when he was proposing an alternative to the accepted theory of wormholes, and searching for more sources to support his opinion, that he heard the giggling again. He also began to imagine that something was watching him from the corner of his tiny dorm-room.
This unnerved him, so he started to spend less and less time in his room, and far too much time sitting at the local student bar scribbling notes and trying to ignore the inane drunken conversations of his fellow students. It frustrated him immensely that these people still got better grades than he did, despite how boring and stupid they all seemed to him. It also disappointed him to discover that he was listening to them at all, instead of paying attention to his work.
The library was even worse than the bar though. It was so quiet that he couldn’t ignore the whispering and giggling, and the odd bubbles in the world. However, it did have a computer lab where he could lose himself in the internet for hours instead of studying. he would be debating scientific theory, posting his own theories on his online journal, and occasionally flirting awkwardly with girls he knew he would never meet in person.
Tristan was a bit of a snob when it came to the quantum physics discussion boards. He found that many of them had been over-run with new-agers that believed quantum physics explained magic and spirituality. On one particular occasion though, he found himself engaged in a conversation with a girl, before he would even realised it was happening.
“Physics was my favourite subject is school. It helped me make sense of my life. Did you feel that way too?” she asked him.
“Sometimes. There are a few questions I still have, but I’m on the right path,” he replied.
“Really? What sort of questions? Is it wormholes?” The girl was clearly excited. “I have a theory, but I want to hear yours first!”
“How did you guess? I’ve found several mistakes in the prevailing theory that relates ‘wormholes’ to quantum entanglement. I found that by questioning the basic assumptions that several new possibilities presented themselves.” Tristan often found people quickly put off by him when he spoke this way, and he was doing it deliberately. Despite this she persisted.
“I think wormholes are fascinating. If they occur naturally throughout the universe, it would explain so much. Like when certain stars go in the wrong direction or particles spin the same way when they’re miles apart. It could also explain why people see things like ghosts, faeries, or even true love!”
“How do you mean?” Tristan immediately felt ashamed for not sounding smarter.
“I mean that there’s more to the world than most people see. I think you know what I mean. And quantum physics explains all of it. Ghosts are echoes of living people, their quantum field energy left behind after death.” Tristan began to lose interest. he would heard these ideas before and had long since given up trying to explain that, though energy can’t be destroyed, only transmuted, a system is still required to cause the energy to be transmuted. Nevertheless he tried.
“How can there still be an energy field with no body to generate it?” he asked.
“There’s still a body, it just isn’t visible to the living. It’s like invisible light. It is there but we don’t have the right equipment to detect it, unless they pass within our perceivable range. Faeries are the same. Their particles just vibrate at a frequency outside of our reality, and what we think is reality is only what we’re able to perceive.”
Tristan suddenly realised he was holding his breath. He could feel his pulse pounding in his temples. He couldn’t indulge in ridiculous fantasy. That way led to padded rooms.
“This is fascinating, but I have to get back to my research,” he said truthfully. He logged out without waiting for her reply.
That night, he found himself thinking about what she said, about bodies we can’t see. For the first time in his life, he allowed himself to wonder if the blips he was seeing really were the fae. Then he slept, and in the morning he told himself that it was just the delirium of a sleepy mind.
“Of course faeries aren’t real,” he told himself, “It’s just an overactive imagination. It’s probably due to some localised brain damage from a mini-stroke during infancy or something.” Though he would often assumed there was something wrong with his brain, this was the first time it had occurred to him that it could be some form of stroke. It occurred to him then that the weird visions and the laughter may be indications of a stroke in progress. He decided to go back to the computer lab and search for other symptoms, and once he’s sat at the computer he finds himself pulling up the chatrooms.
“I knew you’d be here” came up on the screen almost immediately. Tristan noticed that username was ‘Mortisha LeFay’, and realised (with some embarrassment) that he had no idea if this was the same girl he spoke to the day before or not.
“How’s your wormhole theory coming along?” she prompted.
“No progress since yesterday, Mortisha.”
“You remembered me! I knew you would. I could feel an instant connection with you. Like our quantum energies are entangled.”
The idea appealed to him, even though it was nonsense. Tristan admitted that he did feel drawn to her, though it may just be because he still had questions.
“You mentioned faeries yesterday. Do you really believe that they’re real?” he asked
“Of course they’re real. No question. Don’t you feel them watching you? I know you do. I bet you’ve seen them since childhood haven’t you?”
Tristan surprised himself by replying, “Yes.”
“I knew it! I wrote a spell for you. I knew I’d find you here. I’m not freaking you out am I? It’s okay, you can trust me. I’m known for it. So many people’s minds don’t match their words, but I’m not like that.”
“Me neither,” Tristan replied, figuring it was the safest response. He contradicted himself though by thinking, ‘This is insane!’
“So yes, Faeries are real. The old legends say that the gods split the world of man and the Fae, and the veil separates the two. The old pagans didn’t write the legends though, the early christians did. There was a lot lost in translation, often deliberately, but it also stands to reason that none of them knew any quantum physics. There may be a clue here though. Perhaps the fae are somehow out of phase with us? A wormhole of some kind might be able to get us through the veil.”
Tristen had had enough magical nonsense for one day, but to her he said, “That may be worth looking into. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Let me look over my data again and I’ll let you know.”
“You’d better!” she typed.
Tristen signed out, and decided to avoid that particularly chat-room in the future. He thought about the conversation as he went back to his room.
There’s no way that ‘Mortisha’ could be right, and yet he had never found anything else that could explain the ripples in reality. he would spent years trying to deny what he would seen, and secretly hoping that the next scientific discovery he read about would prove he wasn’t crazy. She called it the veil, this barrier that separated us from whatever they really were. Maybe he would been looking in the wrong place?
It felt right to read the stories of myth and legends he grew up with again and yet odd to be reading them as research instead of entertainment. He was halfway through analysing the crack in the floor that swallowed Rumplestiltskin, when the entire exercise struck him as absurd. Dropping the book on the desk, Tristan went to bed. He couldn’t sleep though, and soon found himself up and scribbling notes at his desk.
By morning he had written a rough essay titled, “The Veracity of the Veil: A Quantum Physical Explanation of the Metaphysical”. Tristan felt elated. He felt free. He still wondered if he might be crazy, but he would scanned through all the numbers and double checked all the formulae. He even reviewed his research notes on wormholes, and cited his own published papers on the subject. If Mortisha was right, as his own work suggested, then it would be feasibly possible to create a doorway in the veil.
“This could really work,” he said aloud. Smiling, he put himself to bed and dreamed of doorways to other worlds.
Tristan woke at 5pm the next day, having missed all of his lectures. He didn’t care though. He was feeling vibrant, terrified, and grateful. He went back to his computer, still in his sensible cotton pyjamas, and began re-drafting the essay. he would never get funding for the idea if it was riddled with grammar mistakes and errors. It would have to be perfect.
He began to flag as he was typing the words. “It becomes clear that the ancient cultures were onto something once you put aside the assumption that it’s fantasy and compare the seemingly fanciful descriptions of ‘magical mirrors’ and similar portals to ‘magical realms’, to the effects produced under experimentation during my studies of wormhole theory.” It sounded preposterous even to him.
Tristan stared at the screen, suddenly feeling like the biggest fool that ever lived for having believed this. He threw on some real clothes and went to the bar to think. The idea of going to the computer lab made him feel embarrassed.
He was sipping his second pint, staring at the water droplets running down the glass, when a girl sat down next to him.
“I thought I’d find you in here” she said. Tristan was confused. She sipped on her vodka and coke and smirked slightly, a hint of mischief in her eyes while he puzzled over who she was. Her hoodie and jeans gave nothing away. “We met online,” she said finally. “I’m ‘Mortisha’. Louise really, but I’ve always felt more like a ‘Mortisha’.” She sucked on a cigarette. It seemed out of place. Contrary to the image he had of her online.
“You’re not what I expected,” he managed.
“Smart, right? I bet you were expecting tie-dyed fabric and flowers!” She punctuated with another drag on her cigarette.
“I wasn’t expecting you at all! How did you find me?” asked Tristan. She moved closer.
“It’s destiny, Tristan. Just as it is your destiny to tear down the veil and return magic and wonder to the world.” Her words seem to resonate. Memories that seemed to point him to this moment flooded his mind.
He was still searching for the words to reply with when she kissed him, and it felt like magic.
To be continued…