“Simon are you sure you’re okay?” Kirsten asked, shaking Simon from his thoughts on what he was trying to convince himself he hadn’t seen as the two sat at the back of their Physics lesson waiting for Mr Hudson to arrive.
“Huh?” Simon said, realising she was speaking “yeh I’m fine”
“You just seem distracted that’s all,” Kirsten said slowly “what’s on your mind?”
“Nothing,” Simon insisted “haven’t slept, bit of work I gotta do at home”
He could tell Kirsten knew he was lying, she squeezed his hand that lay on the desk and looked soulfully at him “You know you can tell me don’t you?” she said, almost pleadingly.
At that moment, Simon realised what she must be thinking, she clearly suspected that Simon had her and Justin on his mind, and as this was one of the few times that this was not the case, he was keen for her to know that it wasn’t.
He considered briefly telling her about what he thought he saw, if he made it sound like a joke they could quickly drop the subject. Then it occurred to him that she was unlikely to believe him, and would no doubt pass off his ‘creature sighting’ as a cover story for his real emotions thought up in a split second.
He was searching his imagination for a plausible tale, when he was saved from that by the entrance of Mr Hudson, flamboyant as always, with his long ginger hair and goatee shining across the classroom, and the standard purple blazer and orange shirt, complete with yellow tie, that everyone who had known him since their first year had grown to expect.
Simon quickly mouthed “I’ll tell you later” to Kirsten, gave her a reassuring smile, and turned as Hudson began to talk, hoping this lesson was interesting enough to make Kirsten forget his quietness. He had every faith it would be, Hudson’s lessons never failed to impress, whether it was an interesting topic or simply a cringe worthy mishap involving someone falling over the overhead projector (usually Hudson himself).
“Afternoon gang,” Hudson said energetically as he strutted over to the whiteboard “now, who here is a fan of science-fiction?”
A few hands were sheepishly raised throughout the room, and after a knowing nudge from Kirsten, Simon joined them.
“Great,” said Hudson, clapping his hands together and giving a little bounce “so you’ll all be aware of the idea of “Parallel Universes””
There came a murmur of agreement, which Simon joined in with.
“Well then,” said Hudson happily “who can give the less-imaginative of the class a brief explanation... yes Simon you’ll do”
Simon sighed; he was used to being picked on in Hudson’s lessons, and stood up.
“Basically,” he began; the itch on the back of his head had become very distracting “a parallel universe is...” he knew what he wanted to say, but wording it was hard “a parallel universe is a sort of... secondary existence... that’s like ours but... just... sorta... not”
“It’ll do!” laughed Hudson, and Simon threw himself back to his chair, begging quietly for no one to look at him.
“Simon says,” Hudson went on, using once again his favourite ‘Simon-related’ joke “that a parallel universe is sort of... secondary existence... that’s like ours but... just... sorta... not” he laughed at his own impression “that’s quite right” he bounced over to the board again and began to write down notes as he spoke “in scientific terms, or rather, Wikipedia’s terms,” he laughed, tapping his laptop as he spoke “A parallel universe is used to describe a different reality that co-exists with our own. Now, I suppose many of you would say that an alternative reality and a parallel universe are the same right?”
A murmur of agreement.
“But are they?” Hudson laughed, glad the class had fallen into his trap “of course, generally the two terms can be used to describe the same thing, but in truth, the term “alternative reality” is used to describe an alternative version of our own reality. Are you with me? So in an alternative reality, things would still fall downwards, jumping would still result in your feet leaving the ground, throwing yourself in front of a lorry would still kill you, whereas a parallel universe is more vague, anything could be different, with no necessary similarities to our own universe... with me?”
The standard murmur.
“So you see,” Hudson laughed “parallel universes and alternative realities do have their differences, and most science fiction writers may not care to notice that but I’ll be docking points off if you lot don’t”
He paused and grinned around the room with unnaturally white teeth, hoping someone would laugh at his good-mannered humour. When nobody did, he went on.
“I assume we’re all familiar with time travel? Good. Now, who can tell me, is time travel theoretically possible?”
A pause, then Katie Simpson stood up next to Simon “We don’t know sir” she said at last.
“Have you ever been to a foreign country?” Hudson asked her.
“And have you ever noticed how some countries are certain hours ahead or behind us? For example, when I was holidaying over in New York last summer, I found myself having to set my watch back five hours before I arrived... therefore... theoretically, I had just travelled back in time five hours. Obviously this is not what anyone would call real time travel, although it does sound good I must say, but suppose we exaggerate what I just told you yeh? Most physics believe that if we travel into space relativistic velocities, and return, more time will have passed on Earth than for us. So, in that case, we have effectively travelled into our own future. Get me?”
Everyone was staring intently at Hudson, and Simon was beginning to suspect that his prayers for an interesting lesson had been answered ultimately.
“Now,” Hudson went on, “many people believe that travel to the past is highly unlikely, as we would need to resolve the problems of causality, the relationships between cause and effect. I’m sure you’ve all heard of the grandfather paradox? What would happen if we travelled back in time and killed our own grandfather? Well, we’d never exist, it’s just not logical really is it?”
A lot more of the class where listening than usual.
“However,” Hudson continued, seeming more and more excited as he went “if time travel was possible, scientists believe that paradoxes could be avoided by appealing to the Novikov self-consistency principle”
“Y’what?” Simon blurted out.
Hudson laughed; apparently glad of something to fuss over “can someone please tell our stressed colleague what the Novikov self-consistency principle is in short?”
“Basically,” Sasha said slowly “say you went back in time to... I don’t know... prevent the Titanic from sinking. If you succeeded, the disaster would obviously never have happened, but, without the disaster happening, in this new continuity you would never have gone back and prevented it, because it would never have happened and you’d have had no motivation to. Therefore, theoretically, it would still have happened”
“And that makes it impossible to change major events, and therefore create paradoxes” laughed Hudson triumphantly.
“I’ll stick with Doctor Who thanks” groaned Simon.
“Of course,” Hudson grinned “there is one other theory that scientists have on the subject of paradoxes... know what that is?”
“Parallel Universes!” Hudson concluded “maybe, paradoxes caused simply cause the creation of alternate existences, one world carries on its original continuity, the other alters itself to account for the changes made. Are you all with me?”
Apparently no one was.
“Well, as Katie put it, we don’t know,” Hudson finished “maybe time travel is possible, maybe alternate universes exist, only time will tell, if you forgive the irony!”
“But, sir,” Katie Simpson again “if there are indeed parallel universes, would we ever be able to reach them?”
Hudson swallowed “If they existed then strictly it would be possible to reach them,” he said slowly “just very unlikely”
“But how?” Katie asked, as as many faces as there where people in the class turned to look at Hudson, waiting for an answer.
“To reach a parallel universe,” Hudson said, checking the clock and praying the end of the lesson would arrive “something would need to split the time and space boundaries of this universe completely into shreds, and that would take power, immense power, dangerous power” he stared around the room at the awe-struck class, and seemed impressed with himself “in other words,” he finished “if anything that has the ability to jump between universes exists... you’d better hope you never meet it”