Many Worlds Theory

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

20th November 2015
I read the article whilst sitting in the playground watching the twins play on rusty swings and a dirty slide. Usually I'd push them, laugh with them, run with them, but today there was not even the residue, the last tiny gram of energy to tap into. It was as much as I could do to make myself stay upright on the bench. We were the only ones in the park. Most people stayed indoors these days, fear of pollution and dirt and kidnapping and other media-hyped disasters that befell us no more than they did last year, but were talked about far more. So we kept doing what we always did. And if the supermarket shelves were a little bit more empty each time we went out, and if the newspapers were thinner yet more full of bad news... well, I just pretended it wasn't happening.

I never read the papers anymore. Each word seems to take away what fragile hope I have left for the twins' futures. But today, I can't sit and stare at nothing; I can't bear to watch their innocent happiness and know it's going to get taken away, just like mine did. So I pick up the tatty, discarded paper and begin to read an article that catches my eye. It's not full of doom and gloom and fear like they usually are. This one contains a tiny glimmer of hope, a flash of a diamond amongst its black words.


There've been films made about this, sci-fi novels. But here, in black and white, is something real. I skim-read the article, glancing up at my children every few lines.

In essence, this is what it says:

Scientists have found what they believe to be a twin planet for each planet in our solar system. They found an Earth ages ago, but now they've found all the rest. The weird thing is, they planets are closer than they were. All of them, including Earth. It means that within the twin's lifetime, we may be able to travel there. But this is not all. The woman who made the discovery, a Dr Glover, says she thinks this is just one of many solar systems exactly like ours. She said they'd found proof that there are several Jupiters; something to do with the vibration of the planet's energy (which sounds worryingly hippyish to me) has echoed across space and been found in other corners of the universe. Which means, says Dr Glover, that there are other Earths as well. She thinks there are hundreds of them.

That's what it says. I read the article again and again, and can't glean anything else. I try to absorb what it all means. Does it mean there are infinite versions of me, living infinite lives? Does it mean we're all living the same life? That all the other Annas out there have twins and are, right now, sitting in rundown playparks trying to digest some incredible news and watch their children?

The twins come over saying they're hungry. I give them what I have - half a packet of digestives, gone soft but wolfed down nonetheless. Are the twins in a copy of Earth eating biscuits too?

I want proof. Of course. I was a scientist once. Showed great promise, according to my lecturers, but met a man and got married and had children and gave up my career to look after them, and support him. Eight years on and I'm still here, looking after them but not supporting him, becaseu he is long gone.

In an alternative version of my life he's still here, perhaps, sitting in this very park whilst I work alongside someone like Dr Glover, making amazing discoveries like this. Then one of the twins gets the giggles and so does the other and soon we're all laughing like drains. No, I think. I wouldn't change this, not ever. But I'd not be on my own. I'd still have a partner who came home every night to whom I could speak about my day, instead of neighbours in the grottyish scheme we now live in, who all ignore me. My chances of meeting someone are nil and I'm lonely. Tears prick my eyes - I suspect I'm depressed, partly because of the amount of crying I do, but then who isn't, these days? And there are no longer 'happy pills' to come and make everything better. Like antibiotics, they are long gone. That's another reason people don't go out: they are afraid to get sick. I used to tell anyone who'd listen that being out was the best way to make your immune system more robust, but people don't listen. They get sick; we seldom do.

I watch the children run back to the play equipment after scoffing down the rest of the biscuits. If we still had the internet I could go on one of those sites, those dating sites and meet someone just like me. Single parent of children, no money, job or prospects, probably depressed, not suicidal (yet), likes cooking but sad there's hardly ever any fresh food, misses good TV drama and hates all the repeats we get, would like to read more but has read every book she has about twice. What a laugh we'd have sharing all that. Sarcasm will get you nowehere, says a voice in my head. It might be my ex-husband's, but I don't know where he is, so I don't know if he's too far away for me to hear.

I go back to my vision: it'll be someone I could share my last bottle of wine with, one I squirrelled away a year ago, when they were still being sold. I'm saving it for a special moment.

But there's no internet, no chat rooms, no dating sites. So I look abck to the park, and shove away the feeling of panic that sometimes comes, when I think about being alone.

I'm about to get up and push the twins on the swings, when I notice something miraculous: another person, holding a small child by the hand, entering the park. She's alone and looks like everyone else: fed up, tired, undernourished. But also familiar. She looks around and sees my bench (the only one left not vandalised) and steps around on the spot a little, as if trying to decide whether or not I'm safe.

'It's okay, I'm fairly normal. You can join me,' I say, thinking that probably all dodgy people say that. And if we believe the media, most people nowadays are dodgy in some way. The woman shrugs and walks over, giving her child a gentle push towards the slide. The twins watch him approach and then put out a hand and take him off to play. At least children can still reach out as easily as that.

'Hi,' the woman says, nervous, quiet-voiced. 'I've just moved to the scheme over there. Is this the only place kids can play around here?'

I nod. 'I'm Anna,' I say.

'Laura,' she replies and we shake hands, a little awkwardly. But the result is the same for us both: we laugh a little self-consciously and I wonder if she touches others as seldom as I do.

'So Laura, what's your story?'

She looks at me and I can tell she's wondering if she can trust me or not. I smile and say, 'I'm Anna, deserted by a husband, trying to fend for myself on what's left of the state like everyone else in the scheme, would like to get a job but don't want to resort to you-know-what, want a better world for my kids but have no way of bringing that about, unless we can jet off to one of these.' I indicate the paper. 'Apparently there's another world out there, just like ours. Lots of them, apparently.'

'Oh,' she says. 'Got a spaceship handy?' and we laugh a little, then a lot, and soon we're in hysterics, bent double on the chairs, tears on our eyes. The three children watch us as if we've gone mad. Maybe we have; it wasn't even that funny but God, it feels good to laugh.

Our laughter subsides into little snorts and giggles after a time. The kids are happily playing again.

Laura wipes her eyes. 'I never had a husband, but I had someone else's. As soon as George came along, he was off like a shot. I'm not proud of it but he gave me the usual bullshit - we've been out of love for years, staying cos of the kids etc etc. Turns out that wasn't quite correct and when I told him I was pregnant, whoosh, didn't see him for dust. Heard he and his wife had a remarriage ceremony or some such crap. He was loaded but never gave me a penny. I lost my job - no maternity pay where I worked, like everywhere else, and then I lived on my savings til they ran out and I lost my house... and here I am. The scheme's not so bad though, is it?'

'It's paradise, Laura. Fucking paradise. Didn't you read the brochure?' And that's us off again, laughter echoing across the almost empty tarmac like a school playground heard from far away.

By the time the children are tired and ready for home Laura and I have crossed into the realm of that precious and rare thing - friendship. Friends are hard to find, these days, with so much mistrust and so much damage around.

We walk back together and I feel as if I float upwards, just high enough to look down, and see us walking like an alternative little family. I imagine I'm coming into land on one of our twin planets, seeing us from above, thinking that we look happy and realising that this new world actually looks quite good. There is hope, right there, in the way we're walking.

I stop looking up at the rust coloured clouds and concentrate instead on what Laura's saying.

'... I've got a bit of minced something or other left over from yesterday and a couple of spuds, if you've anything to add?'

I grin at her, my new friend. 'I've got a bottle of wine,' I say and she makes a big round O with her mouth. 'I've been waiting to share it with someone. Let's open it, and have it with the minced something or other.' And at that, we start laughing again. This world I've found isn't so bad. People can still laugh, and where there's laughter, perhaps we can find some hope, as well.