Time: 10 minutes. Click here to go to my list of prompts.
“Create a vacuum day” (Inspired by this list of silly holidays.)
“Aren’t you the asshole that wiped out Charlottesville?” the woman said, spotting me from across the diner. She walked over.
“Well, technically no, it wasn’t me,” I rubbed my arm. I felt eyes study me from all around.
“Your work then. Whatever. I didn’t think I’d ever see you in person, or at least not without a fake beard.”
“I’m not ashamed of what happened,” I said. “Regretful, yeah, but not ashamed.”
“How do you work that out? Wiping out thousands of homes and businesses because you did something stupid?”
She looked genuinely curious. I was used to being berated. But maybe she would understand. I launched into the speech I’d recited in my head so many times. The speech no one ever let me speak. “Have you ever seen a vacuum chamber setup? A real, scientific one? For trying to create nothing, the suckers are enormous. And chock full of specialized equipment, like pumps that can literally be destroyed if they have to push thousands of atoms rather than tens. Frankly, I thought it was all a mess. I thought I could do better,”
She cocked her head to the side. She looked like she thought I was nuts, but she didn’t look angry.
“It was a wild idea,” I continued. “So wild I didn’t tell my advisor. But I didn’t need to tell him, I had the materials to get it done on the cheap.”
“Yea, yea, yea,” she waved her hand. “You decided to make a black hole in one instead, I watch the news. And trust me, no matter how you tell that part, it won’t sound clever to someone who lost a house to it.”
I looked away. “I can’t do anything about that now. I ran simulation after simulation that looked fine. I still don’t know what happened.”
“You got it wrong.”
“I really don’t think I did,” I said. “And I’m not afraid to be wrong—really, go find my undergraduate biology professor. I don’t have any data, it all got destroyed, but something other than just a black hole happened that day.”
She frowned. “You got it wrong. Apparently you are afraid to admit it. How sad that you can’t even see that.”
She walked away.
“Excuse me,” an elderly woman with a colorful scarf said from a booth nearby. “I can’t help but have overheard your conversation. And I have a theory about what went wrong that I’ve entertained for a while. Are you willing to try to reproduce your experiment?”