“I wonder what she’ll be wearing tonight.”
The man had simply strolled up and said it. Barry thought that was weird, but didn’t say anything. In truth, he wasn’t sure that the weird man was even talking to him, so he was more than a little surprised when he found himself responding to the weird man’s weird statement.
“Gold” said Barry, knowing exactly who ‘she’ was, without knowing why.
He could even picture her. A gold dress with a leafy type of embroidery on the corset, augmented by a simple gold necklace bearing a tiny, diamond encrusted amulet. Barry thought he sounded like a fashion designer, in his mind.
“Aha!” cried the weird man, “I had a feeling it would be you. You seemed a little… Out of… Space? Dimension? Place?... Yes place. That works.”
“Sorry,” retorted Barry, who had found that last statement a little on the stinging side, “But who are you to-”
“John Smith… Well, that’s what it says on my invitation.”
Barry was about to continue his objection, when Mr. Smith procured a funny little doo-dad with a blue light on one end, and started waving it at him.
“Excuse me! But who do you think you are?” whined Barry, now thoroughly unsettled, “And what is that?”
“I told you, I’m John Smith,” said ‘John Smith’ as he examined the doo-dad in a very detached manner before returning it to his coat pocket. “This little beauty is not important, and you, Mr. Barry Lipton, are my ticket out of this party.”
It was too much for poor Barry to process, so he just said “How do you know my name?”
“Never mind that now, I’ll tell you everything in a minute, first I need to ask you a question.”
“Okay,” said Barry, but only because all this strangeness was starting to affect his digestion, and the promised explanation was the only thing he could think that might prevent him being sick.
Smith looked at him intently, searching his eyes. Barry didn’t like that, so he looked away.
“What did you have for breakfast this morning?”
Barry opened his mouth to say ‘eggs’ but then realised he wasn’t sure. In fact he didn’t have a clue what his breakfast had consisted of that morning. However, since is mouth was already open, Barry felt obliged to say something.
“Something… Tasty. What’s it to you?”
Smith did not seem impressed.
“Everything. It is everything to me right now. Can you remember your breakfast?”
Barry tried. He really did. But he couldn’t remember anything before Smith’s statement about what ‘she’ would be wearing. This confession prompted the reappearance of the doo-dad, which Smith started waving at everything and examining periodically.
“One more question, Barry. What is her name?”
“Emma.” Barry replied before suddenly gasping and gripping his mouth as if Liverpool had suddenly won the Treble.
“How do I know her name?!”
“Because you’ve already met her.”
“What do you mean tonight? I’ve only been here ten minutes. Haven’t met anyone except you.”
Smith returned the doo-dad to his coat pocket and turned to Barry.
“Look, it’s all very wibbly wobbly right now and I haven’t quite figured out who, where, how, what, or why yet. But I’m quite sure that right now, you and I, and everyone at this party, including dear Emma, are stuck in a temporal re-alignment… uh… bubble?”
Smith was crazy, Barry was sure of it. Crazy people always ended up making a scene, and with this being the first celebrity party Barry had ever actually been invited to, Barry was determined not to be party to this madman’s making of any scene whatsoever. But Barry couldn’t leave, he just couldn’t. As crazy as Smith evidently was, Barry was just intrigued enough to decide that if a scene started being made, he would leave before anyone noticed, but until then, he would indulge Smith’s eccentric behaviour.
“Well, sort of. This party, tonight, just happens to be a fixed point in time. Whatever happens tonight, has to happen. If it doesn’t, the universe collapses in on itself and it just gets very, very messy. Romans riding mammoths while updating their Twitter feeds kind of messy.”
The last part didn’t make sense, but Barry understood everything else so far, so he nodded. Whether or not he agreed with the implications of fixed moments that always happen the same way was another matter, but he decided it was best to be polite and let Smith finish.
“However, theoretically, if one was to contain a particular fixed point inside a sort of bubble, attached to, but also separate from time and space, one could alter the events within that bubble without affecting the flow of time and space and thus create an entirely new universe, completely of one’s own design.”
Smith had said all of that in one breath, so fast that Barry was still processing the first bit when Smith suddenly walked away.
“Hang on!” shouted Barry as he followed Smith to a large crowd of people gathering at the entrance to the hall.
Everyone in the crowd was buzzing with excitement – the limousines had arrived.
Barry found Smith, after jostling and pushing and almost punching his way through the mob, right by the door to the entrance. He was not half pleased at the fact that he had a full and clear view of the red carpet outside. The lights from a thousand cameras had already started flashing away. Something was still niggling Barry.
“What’s all this got to do with me… And her dress.” He asked Smith over the shoulder of an exceedingly loud youth.
“Her dress is a causal signifier,” he answered, without taking his eyes off the red carpet.
“It’s their way of tracking which changes to this event work or not. So it changes with each iteration of this event.”
“Iterations? Wait… How many times have I come to this party?”
“Once… About forty times now.”
Barry had finally said it. But Smith didn’t seem to take offence, or even notice for that matter. Obviously, Barry thought, Smith was used to being called mad, but in spite of this, Barry stayed.
“So what does it matter to me?” he asked again.
“You’re not supposed to be here.”
Now Barry was offended.
“Excuse you!” he shouted over the din that greeted the arrival of yet another limousine, “I was invited, I’ll have you know.”
Smith turned to him, finally aware of his faux pas. “Well you’re supposed to be here, but… not like you are now, you see?”
“No I don’t see.”
“Well I can’t blame you,” said Smith.
It was then that Smith was suddenly distracted by something happening on the red carpet.
“What did you say she would be wearing?”
“Gold,” Barry said, again without thinking.
“That’s strange.” said Smith.
And then Barry saw her. She glided over the velvet like an angel, Barry thought, practically glowing in the most exquisite gold evening gown he’d ever seen. It was beautiful, perfect.
“I thought you said her dress changes each time,” said Barry as he and Smith were forced back inside by the crowd.
“It has…” Smith said, “This is the first time I’ve seen her in the original.”
Smith made no sense, and so Barry decided, as he grabbed a glass of champagne off a passing waiter’s platter, that he would end this conversation and think no more of it. It just so happened that at that precise moment, Smith started making a scene – a scene which focused entirely on Barry.
“Of course!” Smith shouted as he slapped the waiter so hard on the back that the poor boy fell to the floor. “They’ve stopped fiddling with her!”
Barry tried to sneak away, but Smith grabbed both his arms and started ranting excitedly.
“You! It’s you Barry Lipton! You brilliant man. They’ve switched you around. Oh that’s clever! That’s so very clever. I’M ON TO YOU OUT THERE! I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING! IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK!”
“What are you on about?” cried a thoroughly spooked, and embarrassed, Barry.
“What do you do for a living, Barry?”
“Wha-? I’m in catering.” said Barry, his eyes like saucers.
“You say you’re in catering, but you’re a waiter, aren’t you?”
Barry knew it was true, but couldn’t say it. Something was stopping him. So he just stood with his mouth open.
“That’s why you looked out of place. They could never stop you from meeting her, because you’re a waiter. In every iteration of this party you just kept walking around with that platter and kept on bumping into her and spilling champagne on her.”
Barry was mortified.
“You’re saying I meet her and spill champagne on her?”
The thought of it made Barry want to hide away. Smith however, got even more excited and even laughed.
“Oh, more than that, Barry Lipton. Your daughter is brilliant, so brilliant in fact, that someone is trying to build a whole new universe without her in it. Isn’t it great when it all clicks into place?”
“Daughter? You mean - ?”
“Yes! Exactly. It’s funny how spilling things on people leads to romance. It’s actually very common. Which is weird.”
Barry wasn’t sure if it was because of what Smith had just said, or something else, but an earthquake suddenly rocked the entire party, quite literally.
“What was that?”
Smith was positively bouncing off the walls in his excitement.
“A rupture in the stasis matrix,” he said, once again whipping out his doo-dad.
It was all too much. Barry had to sit down. He couldn’t see a chair, so he just sat down where he was.
“But what’s going on?” he shouted over panicked partygoers.
“Believe it or not, our conversation compromised the structure of the ‘bubble thingy’ and any minute now it will collapse in on itself and the person pushing the buttons will have to hit ‘reset’.”
“You mean we’re all going to die?”
“Yes… Well sort of… This iteration will cease to exist. But there will be others. Oh this is brilliant!”
Someone obviously overheard Smith, because the chaos suddenly went up so many notches it ceased to be measurable by human understanding.
“HOW IS THAT BRILLIANT?” yelled a terrified Barry.
“Because an unstable matrix has holes!” replied Smith.
“What?” screamed Barry.
“It’s my ticket out!” shouted Smith, “If I can accelerate the instability, I can create a gap big enough to pass through and I can finally see who’s pulling the strings.”
And with that, Smith climbed up on a nearby table, pointed the doo-dad toward the kitchens and jumped as everything suddenly exploded.
Barry had a good feeling about that night’s shift. He whistled as he straightened his company issued bowtie and picked up his company issued silver platter. He liked doing celebrity parties. The money was good, and he always got the chance to name-drop and talk rubbish about the stars with his mates afterwards. It was a good gig, he had to admit.
It was about ten minutes before doors opened and the whole team was helping out with the décor. As he was straightening a particularly silky tablecloth, he turned to his friend at the table next and said:
“I wonder what she’ll be wearing tonight.”
Figured I'd do a written post in between my other thangs. This is now public domain. Coz I wrote it and I said so. Yay.
Peace, , Love and a Little Madness