For no particular reason except that he was bored, Jimmy was running across the lawn. These days, although he had everything he wanted, he sometimes just felt like running. In the year 2000 there was not a lot of need to run anywhere. Hover cars got you everywhere even right to the top of hills. In the big centres and buildings there were escalators, lifts and moving walkways. Air tubes shot people from building to building. Now Jimmy was hot and somehow his silver suit wasn’t keeping him as cool as he would have liked in the sunshine. As he was running he suddenly became aware of another boy running beside him. But before Jimmy could say anything he disappeared. For a moment Jimmy wondered who it was and then he wondered where he had come from and, more puzzling, where he had gone. He knew it wasn’t his friend Tommy because Tommy wasn’t allowed out on a Thursday as he had to do special lessons at home with his father. And besides Tommy’s hair was dark brown and this boy’s hair was a sort of reddish fair. “Rather like my own. I think.” Thought Jimmy to himself. He went and examined the gate. It was closed and the latch was firmly in place. “I would have heard it squeak as it always does.” He thought. Then he went and looked at the fence which was made of high plasti-lap panels. It had been newly painted by his mother last weekend using her old insta spray-gun but there was no sign of any gaps or marks where someone could have clambered through or over.
That afternoon, the boy appeared and disappeared again. And again. Each time Jimmy tried to engage him in conversation. He wasn’t afraid, just curious as to who this could be. But the sudden appearance and disappearances puzzled him. He looked over the garden fence to see if Tommy was playing in his garden and, sure enough, there was his friend. “He must have finished his lessons early.” Thought Jimmy and called out but, at that moment, Tommy disappeared. Not in a puff of smoke but he just seemed to disappear before his eyes just as the other boy in his own garden had done.
Jimmy rang the Smith’s bell and within a few moments the door opened. The most disturbing thing about Mrs. Smith was the way in which some parts of her emerged through the doorway quite a time before the rest of her. “Hello Jimmy.” She said. “How nice of you to come and see me. You are such a nice boy. Not like some of the rough boys that live in this street.”
“Umm” said Jimmy. For some reason he could never think of the right thing to say and, besides he didn’t know any of the rough boys that Mrs. Smith might be talking about. The boys that kept appearing and disappearing didn’t seem particularly rough to him.
“You are growing up. Quite like your father. And where is he today? On the golf links again?” purred Mrs Smith. “I know all about him and his golf. He and I have had the pleasure of playing a round from time to time. He has very strong arms and a long, long drive. And so will yours be very soon. If you practise”
“I... I ... don’t like golf.” Said Jimmy wondering why he was stuttering.
“Never mind, I’m sure we can find another sort of sport to interest you.”
“Ah,well. I expect you’ve come to see Tommy, haven’t you? Nobody comes to see little old me.” She pouted.
“Who’s that?” Jimmy heard someone say. It was Mr. Smith.
“It’s that lovely big boy Jimmy Brown.” She breathed. “He’s come to see Tommy.”
“Tommy’s busy at the moment” shouted Mr Smith, “But send him in all the same.”
Jimmy was fascinated by Mrs. Smith’s little pink tongue that peeped out between he lips when she smiled. “Come in Jimmy.” She said and stood back just enough so that Jimmy had to brush up against her as he went through to the front room.
“Heelo, Youngun.” Chuckled Mr Smith tapping his pipe in his hands. “Tommy won’t be a minute. Just finishing up some calculus I’ve given him to do.”
“Umm.” Said Jimmy beginning to recover his voice. “It’s you... I mean... could you help me...”
“Hello? In trouble again. You young rapsacllions are always up to some mischief or other.”
Jimmy spent the next few minutes explaining what he had seen.
“Ah, I think you’ve come to the right place.” Said Mr. Smith and his voice was suddenly grave.
“is it a clone?” asked Jimmy.
“Why no,” chuckled Mr Smith. You see a clone is an exact copy of someone but it is constructed at the cellular level. A clone is a copy in the way that an identical twin is. You know, like the twins, Amelia and Margaret who live down the street.”
Jimmy felt himself colouring again. He didn’t like to think about big girls like Amelia and Margaret.
“They are, in fact, clones who have identical cellular make up. But, of course, as you know they can still be individuals. One likes to wear pink and the other likes to wear, well, a different shade of pink. They grow up differently because minute differences in the environment they live in sets them on entirely different paths as they grow. You don’t have an unknown twin brother, do you? Of course you don’t. No, what you saw was an exact copy of yourself and of Tommy. This Jimmy is, to all intents and purposes, you. And I think I know it might have occurred.”
“Gosh an identical copy. Would he be able to talk and think like me? I’d love to have him as a chum. There aren’t many people who understand how I think.”
“Oh yes. You and he would have exactly the same thoughts at exactly the same time because all the neurons in your brains would be firing in exactly the same sequence.”
“Gosh I’d really like to talk to him. I’ve always wanted a brother.”
“Obviously you can only exist at a distance because you both cannot occupy the same place at the same time. There comes a time when one or other of you must disappear.”
“Would we annhialate each other in a great explosion? Are these other boys made of anti-matter?” asked Jimmy wide-eyed.
“Why no.” Smiled Mr. Smith, “But well done on thinking about anti-matter as a possibility. If you were to meet a boy made of anti-matter then you would indeed come to a very sticky end. But that is very unlikely in our current universe as there isn’t enough anti-matter to make a growing boy like you. But it might happen one day, I suppose. If the scientists like me keep creating anti-matter particles in our synchrotrons. But not yet. Not for a week or two anyway.” And he laughed heartily although Jimmy couldn’t see much to laugh about.
“Look, I’ll level with you” said Mr. Smith tamping his pipe and returning to his more serious demeanour. “If you remember a little while ago I told you about some well... Unhappy People. People who are unhappy about the way most of us live our comfortable lives. The thing is, they want what we’ve got without.... “ For once Mr. Smith seemed to be struggling for an explanation.
“Without playing the game.” Breathed Mrs. Smith from the doorway.
“Bravo. I couldn’t have put it better myself” winked Mr. Smith.
“You see, down at the Government labs we’ve been playing with quantum particles in our synchrotron. What we’ve found is that if you make a collision between two atoms, the quantum particles that fly off will behave exactly as if each of them knew what the other one was doing. We can get particles to be exactly the same as each other so that even at a distance if one changes its state then the other does the same. Even if they’re miles apart. We call it quantum entanglement. Are you following me?”
“Yes, I think so. Quantum particles can behave as if they were exactly the same as each other.”
“Bravo. You’re on the ball. But what I’m going to tell you know is tip top secret. Do you understand?”
“Yes. I won’t breathe a word.”
“Excellent. Because if you did I might have to have you kidnapped and shut up for a very long time.”
Jimmy felt his bottom lip begin to tremble. “If you’d rather not tell me....”
“No, no. You’re an intelligent lad. I know I, and the government, can trust you.” And then Mr Smith’s voice dropped to just above a whisper. “Just last week it was discovered that some Unhappy People living outside our dome had stolen a synchrotron from some other facility and were doing their own experiments in entanglement. I think that they may have moved faster than us and they’ve succeeded in entangling a bunch of atoms at a distance. I think, for some reason, you’ve become a victim of entanglement and you and Tommy have exact quantum doubles.”
(Part 2 to follow)