Collider

Drs. Ellen Duffy and Ingvar Torvik were inseparable, so it seemed only natural that they were both among the final three players left at the table. Poker was a game of evolving probabilities, and the other researchers and physicists had already cashed out and left for the evening when the numbers turned against them. All but Dr. Maksim Brankov, who neither of them knew well. He was new at the 100km Collider, on loan from the government. Brankov rolled a green chip incessantly over his knuckles. They smoked and dealt and fought a three-way war of attrition round and round, but mostly without chit-chat. Until, very late into the evening, Duffy finally spoke up.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what is the nature of your work here?”

“I have a theory,” Brankov said.

Duffy and Torvik exchanged glances. “Well,” said Torvik, “we all have theories. What is yours? And I check.”

“Well, the universe is not really accelerating, or even expanding. These are merely illusions, artefacts of the hyper-relativistic speeds with which it travels through the bulk. And I raise. Ellen?”

She’d been at the collider a long time and heard a lot of off-the-wall ideas, but this one took the crown. “There’s a lot to unpack there,” was all she said. “And I call.”

“Well,” continued Brankov, “the four dimensions of spacetime are actually the small folded up dimensions. You just can’t tell from this perspective. But the other dimensions, I assure you, they are much larger. In fact, this universe is merely a point, just one in a stream of universes flying through an immense collider built by hyperdimensional beings. The universe will end much as it began—with a bang!” Brankov smacked his knee and laughed uneasily.

Torvik kept the game moving. “I’ll call as well. Let’s see those cards, Dr. Brankov. And I must say, that’s quite some theory.”

“Oh, that’s not my theory. Those are the facts. My theory is that the tiny folded-up universes in the collider can in fact produce intelligent life due to the time dilation effects of their hyper-relativistic speeds.” He placed his cards facedown on the table. “And I’ll fold.”

“You can’t fold,” said Duffy, “you’re the one who raised.”

“Well then,” said Brankov with a devilish grin and a gleam in his eyes, “I suppose I’ll have to unfold.” In a brilliant kaleidoscopic display, Brankov’s body shimmered out of existence. The green poker chip he’d been fiddling with fell to the table, spun on its side, and toppled over.

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