“What sort of hoax is this?!” I shrieked. “Show yourself! Get out of my lab!”
I grabbed the note, a striker, a nearby bunsen burner, and set the letter afire. “Sayonara, sucker!” My hands felt like they were roasting. I took off my gloves and gasped, “GAH! I’m Jade! I’m turning jade!”
I turned off the gas, threw off my lab coat, and inspected my arms. The color was spreading all over my body. I was transforming into an emerald ogre.
“Heck no!” I screeched. “Once a socially awkward chemistry major and now a hideous monster, I’ll never make it to grad school at this rate. Help! Kevin, Dr. S! Anybody! Help me!”
I sought refuge under a safety shower and pulled the lever. Water came rushing down on me, seeping through my clothing and revealing newly-formed muscles that adorned my arms and legs. Despite my apparent brawn, the water pressure was so strong that I lost my balance and went flying into a fume hood. I attempted to stand, but was propelled backward by the force of the water. I crashed head-first into a thermometer stand, shattering glass and sprinkling red-dyed ethanol across the room. Or maybe that was my blood. I lay quietly on the tile floor, convulsing and drowning in the exponentially-rising flood of safety shower water.
A was awoken by what sounded like a liquid nitrogen tank releasing pressure. I felt the floor around me. It was damp and concrete. I opened my eyes. Darkness, with patchy areas of light coming from hanging fluorescent bulbs. The stench of chlorine occluded my nostrils and sent me into a dizzy haze. The scene began to materialize: I was in the chemistry building basement.
I tried to get up, but realized that I was strapped to the floor; metal chains wrapped around my wrists and dug into the cement beneath me. Hoping my muscles would emerge like earlier, I dragged my body across the concrete. It was futile; my robust physique normalized to its “skinny-fat” self. “I hate life!” I bellowed.
“No, Helen. Relax, I’m certain that everything’s going to be okay,” a male voice echoed.
“Who’s there?” I demanded. I could feel my temperature rising, my body mutating.
“Listen to me,” said the voice. “I’m just like you. We’ve very special, you and I.”
I heard footsteps. A shadow came into view and grew as the figure walked toward me. The man took out a ring of keys from his pocket and looked at it dubiously, fumbled for about twenty minutes, and then released me from my bound state. He patted me on the head.
“Meh, don’t touch me,” I retorted.
“Well aren’t you a feisty little thing.”
I examined the man. He was pale with blue eyes and blonde hair. He wore a green Ralph Lauren sweater with brown corduroy flares. He appeared to be in his late 20’s. “Not bad,” I thought to myself.
“Who are you?!” I demanded. “And why did you bring me here?”
“My name is Werner Heisenberg,” he declared. “I need your help.”
“THE Werner Karl Heisenberg? But you died thirty-six years ago,” I said, slightly perplexed. “You look great!”
“My death is a bit of an obscure matter,” he looked down. “It all started in 1941 when I met Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. I informed Bohr of my moral objections as a scientist working on nuclear weapons during World War II…. I faked my death and moved to Switzerland in 1976. I’ve been living off of Muesli and Swiss fondue since then.”
“Umm, what?” I was a bit lost. “So, how did you end up here?”
“I’m not quite certain,” Heisenberg stammered. “I was accelerating protons at the speed of light using the Large Hadron Collider with a 0.00001% precision in time measurement. I must have created an energy density high enough to infiltrate the energy barrier and force the decay of the false vacuum to the lower-energy vacuum! I think I tunneled here.”
“Precisely, you landed in The College of New Jersey’s chemistry building basement,” I retorted, raising an eyebrow. “So why do you need my help?” I wanted to know. “And WHY did you chain me to the floor?”
“I was afraid you’d run away.”
“Why would you fear such a thing?” For a talented scientist, this guy was irrefutably irrational.
“Don’t question the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle!”
“Whoa, all right then.” I analyzed Heisenberg. His eyes looked sincere, yet sad. His face read dejection and uncertainty. But he was cute. I wanted to trust him.
“So why are we special?” I asked. I felt dumb for smiling, but I couldn’t help it.
“Fairy dust,” he stated. “I had some of my own, back in the day,” he winked. He was definitely growing on me.
“Anyway, I explored the building after my crash. I walked by the DSC instrumentation room when you were running your samples and I saw you spill a great deal of fairy dust on your hands. I was also present when you verbally attacked the instrument for providing you with less-than-desirable results.”
“Oh,” was all I could utter.
“Tell me, Helen. Have you been experiencing mood swings and hot flashes lately? Possibly changes in melanin content too?”
“Um. Maybe,” I responded. I felt myself shaking.
“TELL HIM,” my conscience screamed. “HE KNOWS WHAT’S UP.”
“Okay, yes, to all the questions,” I added. “What’s wrong with me?”
“The same thing that’s wrong with me.”
“Let me tell you about it,” he said, taking my hand. “You like iced caramel macchiatos?”
Leslie prepared our drinks. We grabbed a high table near the front of the Starbucks.
“Uranium-235 powder. I spilled it on my feet in 1940 while working on a draft of the atomic bomb. I was wearing open toed shoes. It ruined me, turned me into a monster,” Heisenberg suddenly blurted out.
I searched for something to say. “You’re actually quite handsome.” Did that really just come out of my mouth?
“Thanks,” Dr. Heisenberg responded, squirming in his chair. “I’ve had plastic surgery. But I mean the transformed me. Underneath this charming facade I’m nothing but a hideous, raging beast.”
“How would you feel if you affected everything you measured?” Heisenberg sobbed. “Everything in this world is imperfect, Helen. You understand. When an instrument performs below our standards, we become exasperated. You release your wrath on the apparatus. I create thought experiments to mitigate my dissatisfaction with the physical world.”
I nodded. “You’re absolutely right.”
“Don’t you dream of the ideal world, where signal noise is nonexistent, intensity is always high, and detection limit is consistently low?”
“I do long for that, Dr. Heisenberg. But how? Where?” I swear I saw a twinkle in his eye.
“The Quantum Tunnel mural. I found it on my search. On the other side is an unparalleled universe! We just have to pass through the energy barrier. And then we can rejoice. I’ll need your help, but I know we can do it.”
“Anything for perfection, I mean, science,” I mumbled, sipping what was left of my iced caramel macchiato. “When do we start?”