Schrodinger's Scale


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Rekha Valliappan is a multi-genre writer of short fiction and poetry. She has won awards & nominations and seen her work feature in popular journals including The Saturday Evening Post, Queen Mob's  [+]

Image of Summer 2020

'I guess we don't know what's real or unreal . . . '  - Anne Rice

One day in midsummer the snow on the meadow turns red. All Simi can do is prepare for the end of the world. She thinks she is dead. The world is facing strange times. Crowds gather. They call it a trick. There's no reason they argue why flame retardants or water throwers operating from planes high in the air can't spray scarlet color. To find the familiarity with red snow experts take over. They provide various unknowns, scenarios of global warming, climate disaster, biosphere breakdown, new virus, cow diets. Simi takes to calling it her Merinda crunch after the probability, since the melted or dissolved snow is of such deep maroon as to remind her of her daily glass of wine. 

Much later the scientific community move on. Conclusions are ditched. New theories are applied. Simi counts the heads of phlox nodding in the distance beyond the line of her blood red meadow. In her mind the new theories are the improbable-snap theories. Since her dad's time the world has been mired in snaps. There were snap tsunamis, snap hurricanes, snap floods, snap pandemics. There was one so nightmarish, life never returned to the old ways again. Her father lay hooked to a machine till his demise. Half her world did. Some were her neighbors. Then all were gone.

Every TV channel and news tabloid declares the red snow phenomena to be aggressive meteorite detritus spreading all the way from Urania, for how else can one explain the intense luminosity glowing from the snow like a star constellation when no one quite knows what to start calling it. Through it all the red algae spread creates more red snow on many meadows. Frigid Serbia on maps glows blazing red. Simi, trying to make sense of the spread ultimately determines it to be a sneaky star attack of sorts. Alien DNA at work permeating the red snow clusters.

When flower like spores resembling plum blossoms are detectable on the surface of the red snow another connection is made. The scientific world are now certain the localized spread is the same widespread pink snow phenomena observed a very long time ago--by Aristotle in fact in the third century B.C. The pink has since been galloping around the globe in bursts. Nothing strange about it. People are told to stay calm. Stay at home, but stay calm.

The hope is the light at the end of the tunnel. But truth of the matter is that the snow on the meadows is turning bright watermelon red. More accurate, it even smells slightly sweet just like watermelon. Better yet, one can safely eat it. Some do. Some don't. Some enjoy the free taste of raspberry in attractive shades of red. What a gift! Others find it laxative and give up eating the mush altogether. Simi gives the viscous substance serious consideration. She decides she would be better off without tasting.

Eventually all fears subside. People go about their daily tasks. Simi is resigned to her feelings of snow in dynamic color. She liked when it was white. As long as she does not open the box her dad had said long, long ago, her mental state exists in a mix of two determinates, both certain and uncertain at the same time. That's how Schrodinger works, he had said. All her life she has lived near a ring of brown rock, pollarded chestnut trees, rows of junipers and ribbons of uncut grass on the meadow. Those are gone. Or she can no longer see them. Now her windows open dramatically to a stretch of icy red. At nights her portal is the Ursa Major, their silver blue sparkles unmistakable in the veil of darkness. It has been a cold spring. She shivers. Her eyes sting. The mix of colors explode into a supernova of purple. A knowing smile tugs at her withered face. Her time has come. 

Squeezing her lids shut she hears a movement of a million starlings bleeding from the valley. Smacking the gates of Valhalla they sound so alive like a sucking movement of a billion particles in fluid motion. What squishy softness is this? In feathers of red? What pearly brightness is this? In stars of blue? Real or unreal? She is tired. Time to open the box, dad. Time to give up lying awake figuring it all, trying to interpret flavored snow cones in the box, trying to spiral the brilliant infrared, trying to measure a star's scale to round off infinity. There's nothing there. She is free.

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Image of Houda Belabd
Houda Belabd · ago
Thanks for this fantastic trip!
Feel free to read my competing haiku, here:
https://short-edition.com/en/story/poetry/like-in-an-eden

Image of Sarah Beaudette
Sarah Beaudette · ago
Rekha, beautiful prose and an excellent conceit for our global situation as we stare into the unknown. My entry is in the Poetry category, but we were both moved to use the starling as a key image. Thanks for a great read!