6. Waiting

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

There was an agonizing eternity of limbo. I sat in the waiting room staring into space. Emergency Room patients came and went. People talked, but I heard none of it. I forced my mind to go blank, to drift into nothingness. I can only imagine how I appeared to other people, this human statue.

My mind was empty. There was no fear, no hope, no sadness. Just this cold waiting. I had no data, and until something changed there was no future. There would be choices once Frank came out of surgery. He would live or he would die, and I would have to make choices about what to do then. Until I had data, the future was a void.

In school we had learned about Schrodinger's Cat, the thought experiment where a cat is put in a steel chamber, while a subatomic particle decays over an hour. It might or might not finish decaying, but if it does it initiates a reaction where a hammer smashes a glass containing poisonous acid. You don't know if the cat is alive or dead until you open the chamber; until you open it, the cat exists in a cloud of probabilities. The experiment is supposed to illustrate how the universe works, especially at the quantum level. You can't really know where an electron is, or what a particle will do. You can only guess based on probabilities until you measure.

Frank was in that cloud, trapped in uncertainty. Until I knew more, until I had more information, he didn't exist. And neither did I, without him.

Eventually the redhead nurse came back. I moved for the first time in ages, looking up at her, not daring to hope.

"Miss?" she said. "Are you all right?"

"Just waiting," I said, my mouth dry. I cleared my throat and tried again. "Just waiting. What's taking so long?"

She sat down beside me and spoke very gently.

"Would you like an update?"

I nodded.

"He's almost out of surgery, they stabilized the worst of it but they needed to do sutures, and that's a lot easier while he's still under."

I waited, staring at her expectantly.

"He's going to be fine," the nurse emphasized.

"How bad was it?" I asked.

"You really want to know?"

I nodded.

"Mr. Franklin's injuries were quite severe. He sustained a gunshot wound to the shoulder, and there was extensive bleeding. He had numerous cuts and shards of glass in his body. His left arm was severely broken, which made operating on his shoulder difficult. He went into shock and had to be resuscitated. Once they're done, he'll be moved to intensive care until they're sure he's stable. Right now he has a heart monitor and oxygen. We had to do a blood transfusion and he has intravenous fluids. It's not pretty."

"When can I see him?" I asked.

"Once they move him to the ICU. I'll let you know."

"Thank you."

I went back to limbo. Though the probabilities seemed less bleak this time.

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Schrodinger's Pet Peeve

I realize that most laymen won't notice, but I would think Calla would have a better understanding of the original thought experiment.

The cat is not 'put in a box while exposed to a radioactive isotope', it is placed in a sealed enviroment with a device that will release poison gas based on the decay of a piece of radioactive material that may either decay, or not, in the alotted time. It was meant to question the what constitutes "observation" and hence causes waveform collapse.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger's_cat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_interpretation

That said, the CONTEXT of the experiment (her 'blurred' emotional state, due to lack of data) is correct and appropriate, but the CONTENT of her description does not fit her detail oriented nature, especially as she's writing with the benefit of hindsight.

Thanks Luke

No, you're totally right -- that's what I get for being sleep deprived and having twins. I relied on my foggy understanding (which is usually better) and should have looked it up first, given that I'm less reliable when I'm tired. I will fix the content as soon as I'm able, since the context still suits her current emotional condition.

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