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By Tonya Cannariato
I wrote this book as part of my second winning effort at NaNoWriMo in 2011. There had been news coverage at the time on the order of Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” with the advent of the opening of the Large Hadron Collider in Cern, so my way of exploring what a disaster arrogant scientists could unwittingly create was to write this story. The science of my novel is dubious—how could any one man lose a Higgs Boson? But since Higgs Bosons have also been called “God particles,” are the mechanism for atoms to accrete mass, and I have long been interested in the intersection of the sub-atomic world and what enlightened people call Spirit, this seemed an ideal playground for churning out what to me at the time were a lot of words.
Since both of these topics are rather esoteric, it’s never surprised me that the novel hasn’t reached a wider audience, but I had a lot of fun letting my imagination run while I was writing it. And those few who are fans, are super-fans, claiming this is my best, most interesting work, and it really deserves a sequel. Or at least an answer to what happened to Petal. I’m still kicking those ideas around, though when I conceived of this story, I had meant for it to be a standalone.
Mark Inman has two loves: particle physics and Sarah. She agrees to become his wife at the same time his experiment to find the Higgs boson goes off the rails. Journey with Mark while his existence melts and reforms in unpredictable ways as the veils between realities thin. His exploration of the minutiae of quantum physics builds a fascinating tapestry of alternate universes. His search for survival, and the search for meaning and what is real, drive Mark as he experiences lives he never dreamed possible. His only touchstones: find Sarah and find his way home.
I started this adventure as a research scientist, carrying on where the Montauk experiments seemed to have failed; deep in the bowels of a remote naval station. The government didn’t want to risk civilian exposure a second time, given the proliferation of ghost stories, sightings, and conspiracy theories after that early experiment.
Even the Large Hadron Collider was deemed too public for this kind of research, so, with typical efficiency, some bureaucrat chose a random mountain in the Denali chain. My whole department got shifted to the 63rd latitude—after a few years of bickering and building. In the meantime, my research showed great promise. Focusing multiple lasers on a single point could give us access to alternate dimensions. We were now able to strengthen our defensive capacity without resorting to more offense. That was the theory, anyway.
I was happy enough to be doing something in line with my pacifist inclinations, though it was a lot to ask of Sarah to move out to the wilds of Alaska—even if we were within 100 miles of Anchorage, which had a population of a third of a million people. She took the request in stride, though, and decided her creative self would be satisfied by learning local crafts from the native population.
Life was good—or at least on something of a normal/expected track. I was young enough that when I asked her to marry me, I was all nerves and thumbs, but being on a government payroll and housed within government apartments, I had the extra cash to be able to be extravagant with my proposal. I felt lucky when she said yes.
It wasn’t long after her commitment, though, that my life started feeling like it was the storyline for a Twilight Zone episode. At first, I put down the missing papers and unexpected experiment results to distractions related to our wedding planning, but even Sarah started noticing a change in the atmosphere in the housing complex.
In hindsight, I suppose we were gullible to assume my superiors would resolve the situation—or even that it would be possible to close the Pandora’s Box we had opened with our early tests. But I was trained as a scientist, and had supreme faith in the scientific method. I still wonder if the team had had more people of faith—or even just naïveté—whether I would be on this dark path.
Richards, my boss, while always a methodical and brilliant man, was careful to keep us younger set away from anything that smacked of spirit—let alone a collaborative esprit de corps. His answer to everything was competition and more layers of secrecy. I don’t think I know what any of the other members of the team were experimenting with in the same lab, let alone in the same complex. Maybe there were quantum entanglements we should have taken into account in our calculations. But those thoughts don’t help me put my world back together, nor track down the rift I need to plug, to put me back where I belong.
Sarah was worried enough to ask whether we should postpone our nuptials, but I didn’t want to wait. She might still change her mind. She was that supportive, loving, once-in-a-lifetime mate for me, and I wanted the world to know it. So on a bright June morning, true to all wedding clichés, we exchanged our vows in a small local church in front of a handful of colleagues and friends. We planned a visit back to the DC area to give our parents, who were older anyway, a chance to show us off. Being only children, we decided to be selfish and keep the main ceremony small and private. Without the weight of extra eyes, I was more comfortable sharing my awe at Sarah’s agreement to join her life with mine.
As it turned out, I wish they could have been there, because while the ceremony was beautiful, something about the collection of colleagues assembled started the sub-atomic changes that are pushing me further and further from my birth dimension. I never got a chance to see them once I was wed.
A voracious reader since she was a toddler, and an ordained spiritualist, Tonya Cannariato has now presided over the marriage of her love of reading and her love of writing. She’s lived a nomadic life, following first her parents in their Foreign Service career through Africa, Europe, and Asia, and then her own nose criss-crossing America as she’s gotten old enough to make those choices for herself. She’s currently based in the Washington, DC suburbs with her four loves: her husband and three Siberian Huskies. She suspects her Huskies of mystical alchemy with their joyous liberation of her muse and other magical beings for her inspiration. She loves to sleep, to watch her interesting dreams, some of which are now finding new life in written form.