* * * * *
Jessica’s lips parted and Marcus imagined he could hear her breathing through her mouth as if her chin was perched on his shoulder. A sparkling tingle danced around the lower portions of his stomach, then wormed its way down into his intestines.
“And then you have the ‘x-factor,’” Marcus said, struggling not to squirm. “Dark matter. It’s the only scientific phenomenon that can account for everything from predictable atomic entanglement to the most incredible examples of high strangeness. Take, for example, studies that have been done in researching WIMPs and MACHOs—”
“Mmhmm.” Jessica’s expression seemed to ask him which he thought he was. She closed her eyes as she listened, running her hand along the inside of her collar.
Marcus huffed through his nose in spite of himself. “Most of our experts agree that dark matter exhibits some sort of property that allows what happens so easily at the atomic level to occur, albeit rarely, at the composite level.” Marcus’s eyes were drawn to a faraway place, but the words that followed were not his.
Jessica spoke. “Normally, we’re like rows upon rows of magnets moving together along a line, each of us restricted by the parameters of our dimensional reality, the sameness of our polar destinies. But on occasion, when dark matter is at play, it causes us to flip on our axis and become attracted to what lies on the opposing plane—the nearest influence—and a transference occurs.”
“That’s right. When you get right down to it, it’s all transference. We understand transference between atoms because of quantum mechanics and the relative ease at which one can examine a single particle compared to that of a composite system, like you and I.
“It’s more fluid at the atomic level,” Marcus breathed, lost somewhere between Jessica’s neck and the curving lines of her blouse. “But forced at the composite level.”
His eyes were uncontrollably drawn to the smooth bare skin of her thigh, revealed as one half of the split-seam on her skirt shifted. Marcus swallowed hard and continued.
“The question is, what can force a xenoform to transfer with a person? We think it might be psychological or emotional, with dark matter pulling the strings from above. But might there be an element of entropy in all of this? Some think so. The apparent disorder between two bodies, like their temperature and energy signatures, and how they coincide is an entropic relationship. So too when an individual is eclipsed by a stranger, resulting in a supernormality, becoming shadowbred—the umbranati.”
Jessica was moving her hand in small patterns now, a conductor leading an orchestra, but she missed not a word of Marcus’s ramblings.
But what are the warning signs? The question seemed to echo from out of nowhere in Marcus’s mind.
“Changes to our static initial conditions,” Marcus answered aloud. “We are all ingrained with static initial conditions from our shared evolutionary background. Like a factory-made motherboard, it keeps us up to spec, but prevents us from vibrating at a harmful frequency on our own plane.”
Jessica’s eyes fluttered open. “Now you’re getting into chaos theory.”
Marcus looked up then responded as if she had asked him if he loved her. “Of course.”
“Let me see,” she began, tapping a finger to her lips. “Chaotic behavior is normally only observed in systems that are predictable, such as technology or in pure science, but in this regard has a theoretical application. I believe the seminal theory is called the ‘inverse differential butterfly effect,’ or ID-b effect for short.”
Marcus’s head bobbed back and forth like his neck was on a spring. The standard butterfly effect stated that influence could be exerted on a system by small changes in the initial conditions of that system. The common example being that if a butterfly flapped its wings in Central America, that initial condition would trigger a storm in Texas. What Jessica was referring to was similar but with a different outcome. He was staring at the perfect woman.
Jessica took a sip of the tea and then held it in front of herself, rotating it between her hands. “For the theory to hold, the subject in question must be dynamic and fixed. We, as composite systems, are dynamic in that we consist of many parts that act independent of each other, and fixed in that our future planar states are derived from our current planar states. This is what you meant by static initial conditions. Although, cosmologically speaking, we are resistant to initial conditions, but sensitive to ultimate conditions. Simply put, we are shaped more by what happens to us over the course of a long life than what happens to us at birth. Therefore, it is said to be the inverse. And the changes we see are small and incremental, thus it is said to be differential as well.”
“Exactly,” Marcus said. “Repeated and prolonged exposure to metaphysical stress has a direct influence on the body. Coupled with an influx of dark matter and you have a recipe for an eclipse.” A strange attractor that attracts strangers, he mused.
Marcus placed his hands behind his head. “It stands to reason then that if one knew their metaphysical self was under attack they would naturally struggle to resist, otherwise, because the transference is incremental, one may never know they are being eclipsed until it is too late.
“And once again,” Marcus chuckled, “there is an equivalent parallel to all of this in quantum mechanics. In QM, one can measure energy in waves, and the superposition or overlapping of waves is called interference. Constructive interference is when the waves of energy are acting in concert, while it could be said that destructive interference is when the waves are resisting each other.…”
“And an analogous relationship exists where transference is concerned,” Jessica inserted, lighting a cigarette and placing it between her lips. “A person’s willingness or resistance to conform to metaphysical stress is proportionate to their detriment or benefit by way of their planar state, their metaphysical self.
“Take Jung’s concept of the ‘shadow’ and how it relates to individuation, or the finding of oneself; it may be a more natural process than we give it credit for. What if when a person is eclipsed by a supranormality they are simply expressing individuation on a cosmological level? Evolution bridging time and space. Even with all this understanding, even if it were so easy to diagnose, there’d be no way we could stop people from feeling, thinking, or changing. As I’ve told you before, Mr. Holdman, theory and the practice of theory in the real world are never as related quite as we would like.”
“No,” Marcus admitted. “But after all the research and advances of the last century it is up to us. We are charged with—”
“Yes, Mr. Holdman, I know.” Jessica smiled briefly and then her head tilted backward as her eyes rolled up into her skull. Her body went rigid as the balcony and the golf course it overlooked began to dissolve into a prismatic jumble.
Marcus’s features shifted in mild alarm, and a slowed sense of consciousness dawned on him. “No, wait!” He stood up out of his seat and leaned across the table. In his haste, he bumped Jessica’s teacup and it rolled off onto the floor. But there was no shattering of glass, shattering of glass, of glass, of glass, glass.…
Marcus’s lips drew nearer and nearer to Jessica’s mouth, the edge of a smile tracing it still, but he never got there. Her face had already begun to pixellate, begun to pixellate, to pixellate, to pixellate, pixellate.…
The teacup was no more. Jessica was no more. Marcus was no more. No more, no more, no.…
* * * * *
And the rabbit hole stretches on.…