Author : Q. B. Fox

It was bright, cold morning in late November when I pulled up to the high security gates at the Ministry of Defence’s Secure Facility for the Mentally Disabled at Rampton.

The gate guard greeted me formally and took my name.

An orderly met me in the atrium, but he was shooed away by an approaching doctor before we’d finished exchanging pleasantries.

“Welcome to Rampton, Mr. Hill,” the doctor extended his hand, “I’m Dr. Appleyard. Thank you for coming.”

I shook his hand firmly, perhaps a little too firmly.

“How is my brother?” I queried.

“I should remind you,” Dr. Appleyard appeared to ignore the question, “that anything I or any of the medical staff tells you today falls under the Official Secrets Act.” Perhaps he was answering as best he could. “Likewise anything your brother says to you, or anything else you see or read.”

“A very nice man from the Ministry popped by and explained it all to me,” I assured him.

“Excellent,” he responded briskly. “Follow me.”

We set off down one of the green, pastel corridors.

“Your brother was a physicist; is that correct?” Dr. Appleyard glanced down at the notes in a folder.

“A mathematician,” I corrected.

“Ah yes,” the doctor found the correct place in his file. “Have you been told not to look directly at his stump? It will upset him and you may have to leave.” I must have looked of shocked, because his brows pushed together and he asked, “They have told you we had to amputate his hand, haven’t they?”

“Yes, yes,” I assured him, “but it’s taking some getting used to. No one has told me what happened.”

“His hand became stuck in his workbench,” Dr. Appleyard explained. And then, after a short pause, “Mr. Hill, what do you know of quantum physics?”

“Only what I’ve seen on the Technology Channel,” I confessed. “What does this have to do with my brother?”

“Some people think of quantum physics as theoretical, merely science fiction, but I can assure you that, even in my field, it’s very much a science fact; it allows plants to photosynthesise and it’s how your nose is able to smell.”

I nodded, trying to keep up as the doctor quickened his pace. I nearly collided with him when he stopped suddenly outside his office.

“Mr. Hill,” he said looking me straight in the eye, “did you know that if you removed all the space between the atoms, squashed everything down to just the base particles, you could fit the whole human race into a cube the size of sugar lump. Mostly, Mr. Hill, we are made of spaces in-between.”

Before I could respond to this revelation he disappeared into his office, and so I followed.

“If you read further, they will tell you,” he explained, “that what stops your hand passing through this desk,” he moved as if to wrap his knuckles against the wood and then appeared to think better of it, “are the bonds between the molecules. But really, at a quantum level, it’s just probability. Perhaps the sort of probability your brother was researching. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”

I was speechless, so I shook my head.

“Almost anything is possible,” he said seriously, “right at the far end of the probability curve. As a result of his work your brother was, quite unexpectedly, able to pass his hand right through the surface of his workbench. Unfortunately he was not able to remove it again. Do you understand?

It was, probably, enough to push him over the edge.”

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