If she just thought hard enough…She could get into the past. Or crawl into the future. Somehow she knew it.
So she kept trying. This was her third attempt.
The club pulsed around her, but Jax was doing her best to ignore it. She needed the club for this phase of the experiment. Needed the environment. But she also needed to not let the club itself take her over. She wasn’t in this dark, blue-lit black box of a back room bar for fun. Not tonight.
Her skin vibrated with the old Apoptygma Berserk the DJ was spinning out, but the music didn’t exactly penetrate her. Instead, it carried her away. Sometimes that’s how she did her best thinking: she’d wheel her chair into the most obscure corner of the most crowded park, cafe, or room, and half hidden by a crush of bodies, sit and think.
In order to think clearly, Jax always needed noise. Quiet meant her thoughts bounced too much against each other, never going anywhere, like bumper cars crashing around in circles, sparking occasional flashes of electricity that didn’t quite connect. With outside noise, somehow, her thoughts formed themselves into more orderly patterns, out of self defense, she supposed.
The scents of sweat, red wine, beer, and amber perfume comforted her somehow, as she relaxed into her ruminations. Jax understood these people in their black leather pants, their neon-green goggles, their flowing skirts and blood red corsets, and their sturdy, thick soled buckle boots designed for stomping out the rhythms through the floor.
Home was way too quiet tonight, and too confined. Her ground-floor, large room of a studio apartment became a crazed haven of activity if three other people showed up to table-top around her fold out table. The table only had two folding chairs that slotted into it when it was tucked up against the kitchenette wall. The fourth guest had to sit on a couple of milk crates with a cushion on top, or drag the one comfy chair from her “living” area by the TV and nook of bookshelves in the corner.
But tonight wasn’t game night, so Jax had left her quiet apartment and hauled her chair onto the cross town bus to goth night at the Cat Club. The front room music was too swirly for her needs, and besides, it was too early for it to feel crowded there yet, so she had wheeled her way up the ramp to the small back room, gotten a glass of cheap merlot from Joey, the bartender, and found a corner in the back, where the more industrial crowd congregated. The music was harsher here, more pounding, and since the room was smaller, it already felt more crowded, even at 10 o’clock. Just what she wanted.
Jax needed to connect with Gran. Gran had been knocking around her dreams for the last month or so, starting just before the dark moon, ramping up toward the full, and now that the moon was a slivered baby’s smile in the sky again, had been making appearances every night. Gran – her father’s mother – was a strange one. She’d died when Jax was just sixteen, but before then…
Gran had tried to teach her. Gran, with her dyed dark hair, and heavy jewelry, was a strange combination of a physicist and witch. She’d worked out at Livermore Labs back in the day, and, legend had it, with some Haight Street coven in the 1970s.
If Jax could just reach through, she could find her. Where was Gran now? As she had before, she let her whole body relax into the question. Past? Present? Future?
Her mind started with the past.
“Wormholes are theoretical, of course,” Gran was saying, as they sat around the wooden kitchen table in her Lower Haight Victorian apartment. Gran had convinced the landlord to install a ramp up the few front steps for Jax’s chair, though navigating the narrow apartment was a challenge. Luckily Jax was a small teenager, and her chair fit her frame.
Jax loved the place. Old wood. Piled up books. Cardamom, turmeric, and curry. Basil in a jar on the windowsill over the chipped sink. White roses from the garden dropping petals on the table. Light coming in through clear windows where the glass had been replaced, and refracting in wavy puddles through the few remaining leaded panes.
Physics broke Jax’s head, though. She just wasn’t scientifically inclined, preferring to read about dragons and wizards and shit. So Gran’s witchcraft interested her. She put up with the physics to get at that, though Gran wouldn’t tell her much about it, thinking Jax’s parent’s wouldn’t approve.
That made Jax more interested, and she started sneaking books off the shelves when Gran was in the bathroom, stealing them into the backpack strapped to the back of her chair. Gran was too polite to check her pack, though sometimes, when Jax arrived at her flat, Gran would raise a dark eyebrow and hold out one of her heavily be-ringed hands. She always knew.
So Gran must know something now. There must be a reason for the urgency of contact. But Jax hadn’t been able to figure out what was up, even after executing an elaborate ritual on the full moon, calling up Gran’s spirit into the one tool Gran had left her: her willow wand. Nothing happened beyond a little light-headedness. So Jax was trying her next best form of magic, which was the club.
Gran would have said it was Jax’s best magic, not second best, because the club was the place Jax felt most connected, music being the main source of her power. Jax wasn’t sure. All she knew right now was that she needed to try. Because otherwise something really bad was going to happen. Gran’s face in the dreams was growing more and more intense, but Jax couldn’t quite ever make out the words her mouth was forming, let alone the symbols and equations Gran kept drawing, either in the air with a wand, or on an old fashioned blackboard with a piece of chalk.
Jax replayed her dreams.
In the dreams, in the middle of the pentagrams and elemental tattvas, Gran interspersed equations that Jax couldn’t even comprehend. And after those equations, she would write the same thing: ER = EPR. ER = EPR. Over and over. Like the letters were supposed to mean something to Jax.
And then Gran started showing her pictures of what looked like two tornadoes, funnels touching in the middle, one facing up, and one face down. Large and small, Jax couldn’t get those images from her head. Dark tornadoes were coming to fuck things up, and there was no way to escape them?
That’s what it was starting to feel like, every time Jax failed, and Gran showed up again in the middle of the night.
As the images ran through Jax’s head, she felt no closer to figuring out how to contact Gran. The DJ put some Covenant on blast, “I stand alone…” the lead singer crooned into the black box of the back room. Maybe tonight was another failure. Or perhaps it was just time for a dance break.
“Excuse me,” Jax said to the bodies in front of her corner. They couldn’t hear her. Figured. She leaned forward in her chair, tapping the lower back of what she assumed was a man, skinny in black trousers hung with straps and buckles, tucked into Doc Marten sixteen-holers. He jumped a little, almost spilling his cup of beer, and whipped around, finally thinking to look down.
“Shit! You scared me!” he said. He was way hot. His tight black afro was shaved on the sides and wedged into a mohawk on his narrow head. The woman next to him turned too, pale skin flashing in the strobing lights, shades of blue shifting over her heavily lined eyes and her substantial curves shoved into a latex dress.
Figured. Jax always was attracted to hot men with equally hot girlfriends.
“Can I get through?” She gestured to the floor.
“Sure,” he nodded, and they parted to make room. He tapped a few people on the shoulders for her, so she didn’t have to repeat the process on her own.
By the time she made it to the floor, the song was half through, but she wheeled out to the center anyway, bodies making way around her. She began punching the air, and slicing her hands through the darkness filtered into strobing lights, allowing the music to rise up through the wheels of her chair into her ass, and through the metal footpads up into her feet. She couldn’t quite feel the vibrations in her feet, but she sensed them, and could feel the resonance as soon as the music hit her upper thighs. Slamming her back against the chair, she let her long dark hair swing around her face.
Breath. Music. Vibration. Noise. Jax loved it all.
The skinny hot man was in front of her, suddenly, stomping his boots right next to the foot pads of her chair. He swung his body around his hips, shifting his whole torso back and forth, then up and down. He grinned down at her, teeth bright and slightly crooked in between lush lips. Jax wanted to kiss him.
“What’s your name?” he shouted down at her.
“Jax!” she shouted up.
“I’m Gabe,” he said, then nodded and kept dancing. The way he danced was gorgeous. Powerful. His arms and hands would trace strange patterns, fingers flicking like he was banishing snakes of fire from the ends of his wrists. All the while, his torso swiveled as his feet stomped out the beat beneath him.
Jax was definitely attracted. Shit.
She noticed that when one of her arms moved up, his arm moved down. When she shifted left, he shifted his body to the right. Mirroring without mirroring. Filling in the spaces she was leaving in the air, before she even knew where she was going to move.
The song started to wind down, the beats mixing into other beats. VNV Nation. Another favorite. She grinned, happily, and saw that Gabe was grinning back at her, still. Gloved hands on metal rails, she began to rock her chair back on its wheels. The blue LEDs she’d gotten her father to string through the spokes of the canted wheels cast their lights on the floor, and onto the legs of the dancers swirling and stomping around them.
He laughed at that, and presented his palm for a high five. She dropped back down and smacked his hand. They danced the song out. Gabe leaned forward, so close to her chair. So close to her. He smelled of candy. The hard butterscotch that Gran would slip her when she would pick Jax up from school sometimes.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
Jax felt her face flush a little, and craned her neck around, looking for the curvy woman. “Aren’t you with someone?”
Gabe leaned back, and looked temporarily confused. “Oh. Bella! She’s just a club friend. Nice girl, but not my type.”
Not his type. What was his type?
“Okay then,” Jax said into his ear. “I’d love a glass of wine. And some water.”
The music had segued again, this time into Stromkern. Damn. She loved Stromkern and wouldn’t have minded dancing another song. She reached out and grabbed Gabe’s arm.
“One more?” she asked.
When he heard what it was, he shouted, “Fuck yeah!”
They chanted together, “They can’t keep us down, cuz we’re too damn strong!” The synth and beats pounded them together, and apart, together, and apart again. They were dancing closer now. Intent. Joyful. Fierce.
Just the way she loved it. Just the way she always wanted it. Moments like this made club night extra worth the hassle of getting back home at 2 am in her chair.
By the time the song was done, she was breathing hard and her biceps and abs were getting sore. Her dark hair stuck to her forehead with sweat.
Gabe raised an eyebrow at her and she nodded. Yeah. Wine. Water first, though.
The DJ shifted the mood slightly, sending some heavy German beats rolling across the floor and under her wheels as she moved toward the bar. Goth edging into metal, the way industrial sometimes did. Jax didn’t mind. She loved it all.
She wheeled behind Gabe as he threaded his way through the dancers, making way for her chair. He had a great ass. But more than that, she loved the way he carried himself. Confident without being cocky. There was something there…some threads she was trying to grasp. Something about the way he danced with her, like he was connecting without trying. Like his arms were moving to fill the space above her arms right in the moment she moved. How did that happen?
It reminded her a little bit of Gran, trying to explain this physics thing that sounded more like her witch stuff: “spooky action at a distance,” she called it, when particles that had been spewed out together knew what forms to take, and how to move, even when they were meters apart, in separate rooms.
Jax never quite got what Gran was saying, though it made some sort of intuitive sense. The particles changed their forms to meet each other. Just like dancing.
Gabe turned from the bar with a cup of beer, a smaller cup of wine, and a bottle of water. He jerked his head to the right, nodding toward the ramp down, where there were cushioned benches, small tables, and a slight oasis between the dance floors. They would be able to listen to the music from the front of the house, but still hear one another talk down there.
“Sure,” she said, nodding. This time he let her lead the way.
As she wheeled her way down toward the ramp, she somehow felt Gabe right behind her, balancing the drinks. Even though that shouldn’t be possible. He wouldn’t be walking that close to her chair, because he’d bump her, and he wouldn’t want to spill. But she could sense him all the same.
People were parting for Jax, smiling at her, or ignoring her, but moving anyway. Jax’s vision started going wonky, like someone had dumped some Mollie in her first cup of wine. Fuzzy. Sound grew distorted, funneling around her ears. The beat slowed down, lengthening. A huge pressure grew inside her head and she felt like she was either going to pass out or throw up.
And then Jax was through.
And Jax’s Gran was moving toward her, through the darkness, with a frown on her face. Was she pissed? No. Her arms were out for a hug. She just looked worried, frown lines deep between her still dark eyebrows under her dyed dark brown hair. Even dead, in this place lit through with the pinprick lights of stars, she looked the same.
“I’m glad you figured that out,” Gran said, grabbing Jax into a hug. “I’ve missed you.” And then they were somewhere else, again.
Jax came to in a sparely furnished room with three lavender walls, and a beautiful sculpture made of some translucent material in the center. Liquid poured out the top, cascading down the sides with a friendly burble. A fountain. They were in a room with a fountain. Two more walls in the five walled room were covered with plants. Not on shelves or in hanging baskets, but the actual walls were varied shades of green, with small washes of other color interspersed. The walls were growing.
The room that felt really weird, with not quite enough pressure on Jax’s skin. It felt like her ass was floating two inches above her chair seat, though she knew that wasn’t likely.
“Um, Gran?” Gran was bustling around the room, pushing buttons on a counter and holding a navy blue ceramic mug – hand thrown by the looks of it – under a small spigot above a counter. Jax was hit with the familiar scent of lavender. Her hippy-witch Grandma’s favorite sort of tea. Hence the color of the walls of this place, too.
“Yes, Jax? I suppose you want to know where you are and how you got here.”
The two mugs rattled together as Gran carried them, one handed, over to the table nook Jax was sitting next to. Gran’s other hand balanced a plate of ginger cookies. This was getting seriously weird. What was even stranger was that Jax swore she could still hear the music from the club, like it was bleeding through the walls, the steady “untz, untz, untz” pulsing softly into the room.
“Gran, is this some sort of afterlife? And if that’s the case, how am I even here?”
Gran set the plate on the small table and handed one of the mugs to Jax, who grabbed the hot rim quickly, before shifting her grip to the handle as soon as it left Gran’s hands. A handmade sachet floated in hot water, slowly releasing lavender oils into the liquid.
Finally, Gran sat down.
“Remember I used to try to talk to you about nano-technology, EPR paradox, Einstein-Rosen Bridges – wormholes – and all those other things?”
“Yes.” Jax put the mug to her lips and blew across the surface. Took a sip. It was still too hot to drink, so she broke a piece from one of the cookies instead. The tea should steep longer anyway.
“Well, that’s what all this is. You got here because I’ve been trying to contact you. We’ve been experimenting with a variety of methods, helped by the Nanos. It turns out that humans, and certain other animals and types of beings, can travel by the speed of thought. That we can transport ourselves by simply thinking hard enough and at the correct frequency. I was hoping you’d help me test our theories.”
“But aren’t you dead?” Jax asked.
Gran laughed, a head back, full throated bark.
“No. Never have been. I just left a box of ashes behind. Sifted in a few beef bone shards so no one would suspect. It was my time to leave earth anyway, but I’d been slipping here for five years before you all held my funeral.” Gran sipped at the tea. “At least, I assume you held a funeral. Your dad would. He was always good to me.”
Jax sat back in her chair, feeling suddenly deflated. What the hell?
“Am I really here?” Jax asked. “And wait, aren’t you in trouble?”
“Can you taste that cookie?” Gran asked. “And no. Sorry about the sense of urgency. It was the only way I could amp the signal enough to get through, it turned out. I’m glad it worked.”
Jax took another bite, the sharp taste of ginger biting at the back of her tongue. Sugar. Flour. It was even the right texture, crispy without being so crisp the whole thing shattered when your teeth hit it. Just enough give.
“You are here,” Gran continued, “but not like I am. You’re mentally strong enough, with just enough psychic intuition, and just enough of an affinity for certain frequencies, to be in two places at once. Though you’re only fully conscious here.”
“You mean my body is back at the club?” Jax’s heart increased its rate and she could almost feel her pupils dilating. She so did not want to have a panic attack, and forced her breath to slow again.
“Calm down. You’re perfectly safe. That nice young man is looking after you.”
“I have to get back!”
Gran put a hand on Jax’s. Her skin was cool, soft, comforting. “You’ll be back in no time. Literally.”
Jax frowned and shook her head. It took her hair a couple of seconds to fall back into place around her head. Weird. Untz. Untz. Untz. The music from the club. Was it getting louder?
“I don’t understand what’s going on, Gran.” Jax could feel her throat getting tighter, like she wanted to scream.
“Physics, Jacqueline. Physics. But now that we know you can find the bridge, I think I’ll send you back before your body starts to miss you. This was enough for a practice run.”
“You want me to do this again,” Jax said.
“Of course I do! We need someone elsewhere than here to test things out. I knew you wouldn’t mind. You always were a clever girl.”
“Hope to see you soon.” Gran touched Jax’s temples, and Jax was sucked back into the vacuum of swirling stars and space, then, with a huge popping sensation around her, like the lid of a jar snapping open, she was back in her chair, the lights and noise and spilled alcohol smells of the club around her.
She blinked. Too much. Closed her eyes again.
“Hey, Jax! You’re back!” Someone was leaning over her chair. She smelled butterscotch breath and opened her eyes again to find two dark brown eyes staring back at her. Shaking her head, she looked around. Her chair was resting next to a round table and Gabe was crouched down at her side. He proffered a plastic bottle.
“Drink this,” he said.
Water. Water was good. She needed water.
“What happened?” Jax asked.
Gabe swung onto the padded bench, staying close to her side. The narrow planes of his face were highlighted by the red and gold lights in the front part of the club.
The DJ up front was spinning Bat for Lashes. Segueing into old Kate Bush. No way.
“Running up That Hill?” Jax snorted. She loved Kate Bush, but hearing her in a club in 2015 was pretty funny.
Gabe grinned at her, relief running across his face.
“You fainted, seemed like. Just for a couple of minutes. By the time I dropped our drinks on the floor, grabbed your chair handles, and got you down the ramp and settled here, you were already starting to come to.”
He leaned in again. “Does that happen often?”
“It’s never happened before this. I have been a little weird lately. But no. I’ve never fainted.”
“Do you need food?”
Jax swigged down some more water, plastic cracking under her fingers.
“No. No. Just give me a minute.”
He got up and went to the long bar that took up three quarters of one side of the front room of the club. Came back with a beer and a wine again.
Jax felt stupid. He was being so nice. But all she wanted to do was get back to her apartment and think about what the hell had happened. But here was this totally nice, totally hot guy, buying her another glass of wine because he’d dropped the first one trying to save her chair from crashing.
“Thanks. Can I give you money for this round, considering I made you trash the last one?”
“You can buy me a round some other time. How’s that?”
Jax felt a tingling in her belly at that. Shit. He was still coming on to her.
Gabe cleared his throat. “So, uh Jax?”
She nodded, sipping the wine, letting the tannins roll harsh across her tongue. She set the glass back down, hoping it would smooth out if she let it rest for a minute.
“When you were out, I couldn’t hear too well because of the music, but you know, it sounded like you were saying ‘ER equals EPR.’”
Gabe continued, “Now, before I sold out and started working tech because I like to make real money, I was a physics major.”
Jax froze. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope. I am one smart dude. Just ask my parents.” He grinned again. Jax was beginning to notice he did that a lot. She liked his grin.
“So when I hear a beautiful woman muttering about Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen in a goth club, I grow seriously intrigued.”
Beautiful? And Podolsky? That’s what the P stood for? Jax took another drink of merlot. She clearly needed some.
She inhaled, then blew her breath out in a puff.
“Okay geek, talk to me about physics. And if I decide I trust you enough, I’ll take you out for grilled cheese and tell you what the fuck just happened to me.”
“Really?” he asked, sipping his beer.
He raised his beer cup and glanced significantly at her cup of wine. She raised that, red liquid facing amber under the lights of the club.
Looking into her eyes he said, “To Einstein-Rosen Bridges, and spooky action at a distance.”
“I’ll toast to that,” Jax said, “But you’ll have to tell me what it really means. I mean, I kinda know, because my Gran used to talk to me about it, but I think something is happening that means it might be real.”
“I think it is real,” Gabe said. “I think spooky action is the cause of more things than we can imagine.”
“And you can explain it to me?”
“In a minute,” Gabe said, still waiting for her to finish the toast.
Jax took a breath, and clinked her cup on his. They drank, eyes on each other. And then they both leaned forward for a kiss.
Two funnels met, one facing up, and one face down. Music. Stars. Wormholes. Men. Women. Witchery.
And particles, trying to find their proper form.
When they parted, seconds later, Jax knew: ER = EPR. She couldn’t explain it yet, but Gabe would help with that.
“I’m going to take you to meet my Gran. But first, I want grilled cheese.”
T. Thorn Coyle, Nov, 2015
This short story was funded by Patreon. Each month, interested readers fund one essay and one piece of short fiction, to be released for free to the public.
This month's theme of "wormholes" was suggested by Patreon supporter Greg.
I give thanks to Sarah, Rain, Cid, Alley, Mica, Christine, Vyviane, Katie, Emilie, Louise, Victoria, Greg, Ealasaid, Jennifer, Louise, Rose, Starr, Sinead, Lyssa, Aeptha, Cara, Crystal, Angela, Misha, Eridanus, Cheryl, David, Lori, Soli, Peter, Angela, Ambariel, Sonia, Jennifer, Ruth, Miranda, Jeremy, Jonah, Michelle, Jenny, Jen, Mir, Ruth, Emilie, Jonathan, Kate, Roger & Nancy.
For more magical short stories, here is my first collection.