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Schrödinger’s Cat

- Eileen Schuh

Chordelia, straddling two of the realities proposed in Everett’s Many Worlds Theory of Quantum Physics, has no idea how distorted the line is between choice and fate.

In one of her worlds, Chorie’s young daughter is dying—a drama that quickly contaminates her other, much rosier, reality. Before long, the emotional burden of dealing with two separate lives spawns heated legal battles, endangers her role as mother and wife, and causes people in both universes to judge her insane. As her lives begin to crumble, so does Chorie’s heart and mind.

When Dr. Penny, a man with disturbing, murky, hypnotic eyes offers to rid her of the life that’s causing so much pain, she must decide if she is willing to sacrifice the chance to be with her dying child for the chance to save her marriage and experience happiness.

She thinks she’s planned it well—she’s researched her choices, prepared herself for the consequences, put everything in place. She makes her decision. However....

Life, as it has the propensity to do, strikes back with the dark and unexpected.

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CHAPTER 1

Chorie slipped on her rubber gloves, grabbed the toilet brush, and sighed. She’d read somewhere that despite today’s technology, she did more chores than the privileged of the middle ages. In other words...

She opened the toilet seat, held her breath, and squirted the blue cleaner around the rim...queens and princesses in the ancient world didn’t scrub their own chamber pots...or their own floors. Hell, they didn’t even suckle their own babies; wet nurses did.

She turned her head and inhaled deeply before leaning over the bowl to scrub. She thought of cold, dark, stone castles lit only by candles, smelling of rancid smoke…and mould in damp corners…and un-bathed bodies. She thought of beheadings and public hangings. Of witches and knights and dragons…of untreated infections…of mothers dying during childbirth….

Of children dying….

She flushed the toilet and watched the water swirl down the drain. There would still be a brown stain at the bottom once the blue left. Probably some streaks on the side. There always were. A taunt. Because in some lab somewhere, a man who’d never cleaned a toilet in his life, decided the cleaner should be a thick blue. So thick and blue those who did clean toilets, couldn’t see where they needed to scrub. She caught the sound of a moan over the whir of the water and stepped to the open door to listen.

Children dying.…

Another listless whimper wafted over the back of the sofa, a soft cry of pain rising from behind a veil of sleep.

She flipped the lid closed without checking for spots and ripped off her gloves. She hadn’t planned for her life to turn out this way. She hadn’t wanted children, but Gus had. So, she’d conceded—on the condition she wasn’t going to be a stay-at-home mom. She’d keep her career. Hire a nanny. Maybe a housekeeper. That’s what the deal had been.

She left the aseptic aromas and cool smooth lino of the bathroom and made her way to the great room. Her stocking feet whispered against the plush burgundy carpet. The fridge kicked in with a low hum. The neighbour’s dog barked.

She peeped over the back of the black leather sofa and caught the strange metallic scent of approaching death. The fever spots reddening her daughter’s cheeks looked artificial—as if someone had brushed dry tempura over a thin pale parchment.

Krystaline was too young to realize the injustice of her pain. However, she wasn’t too young to see the worry etched on her mother’s face and understand that somehow, she was its cause. Krystaline would never have cried out had she been awake. So many times Chorie had seen the guilt smouldering behind the glaze of pain in her daughter’s green eyes. “Mommy,” she’d smile wanly, “I feel much better today.”

Children dying…

A wave of guilt brought bile to Chorie’s tongue. Sweat beaded in her cleavage and trickled into her bra. She loved Krystaline more than anything in the world, and shouldn’t have been thinking about not wanting children. Shouldn’t have been complaining to herself about how her life turned out. Those were evil thoughts considering…

Perhaps, she comforted herself, as she’d been counselled to do, these thoughts were simply her way of coming to accept the inevitable, the unfathomable.

Like when an old pet starts shedding, making mistakes on the carpet, smelling bad—so that when, two months later, it sucks its last breath, relief takes the edge off its master’s grief. Perhaps that’s what it was.

Or, perhaps, she was just finally going crazy.

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