The Brief Life of Tina

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Before she was born, Tina wondered about a great many things. She wondered if there was more than one of her. Was she the only one? Perhaps there were an infinite number of her. She wondered if there was any difference between “one” and “infinite.” She had many other thoughts as well – an infinite number of thoughts, or perhaps it was all one thought. She really couldn't tell the difference.
Now, for those of us who live within the planes of reality, it may seem remarkable that Tina could have had any thoughts at all before she was born, before she even existed. But for entities like Tina, who are often born on the surface of a star, it wasn't unusual.
(You may note here that Tina was not the only one. There were many others of her kind. At least from our perspective. From Tina's point of view, it's entirely possible that the others were all just instances of herself.)
You see, Tina and her kind exist outside the flow of time. Even after they are born and become “real”, they do not themselves experience time. We may witness their passage, notice their movements, detect the changes they cause within our universe when they die. But from Tina's perspective, her birth and death and all the time in between (which was approximately eight minutes from my perspective), all seemed to happen simultaneously.
Therefor, since Tina didn't experience the passage of time during her brief life, she had to have all of her thoughts before she was born. (Also after she died – it's all the same to her.) Anyway, I'm getting beyond the story, which is supposed to be about Tina's eight minutes and the aftermath of her death.
Our name for an entity like Tina is “photon”. It just so happens that the photon named Tina was born on Sol, our own lovely sun. She was spit out of a hot fusion reaction on the near side of Sol, and unceremoniously flung towards Earth at the speed of light. At the time, I suspected Tina of being rebellious at heart, and it occurred to me that she might break the rules. She might try going slower than light speed. Photons never do that, but like I said, she seemed different.
For most of her eight minutes, nothing remarkable happened, but I didn't expect it to while she was passing through the near-vacuum between planetary bodies. No, I knew she would probably wait until she was within the haze of Earth's atmosphere, where things get crowded and her rebellion might go unnoticed. So, as she whizzed past the first few lazy atoms of the outermost gasses, I sat up. I focused. I refused to blink for fear of missing something.
She passed more atoms and waved at a few lost electrons as she went by, without slowing a bit. (She always waved, even when there was no one to wave at. Must be a cultural thing. Her kind can be colorful.)
As the atmosphere grew denser, it became more crowded, but it was almost as if she knew I was watching. She continued in a perfectly straight line, moving exactly at light speed. She passed into a watery cloud, and just when I thought she would make her move (or slow it down), she slammed into an electron that happened to be orbiting a hydrogen atom directly in her path.
Unfortunately, Tina didn't have collision insurance (photons never do), and I watched Mr. Electon's reaction in utter horror. Just like that, he obliterated Tina – wiped her out of existence - and stole all her energy. That was it. She was gone.
I was devastated. “How do electrons get away with such behavior?” I wondered.
With the addition of Tina’s stolen energy, Mr. Electron became downright hyperactive. Before the collision with Tina, he had been moving about in a comparatively small orbital, but now his bachelor pad simply wasn't big enough – he needed the whole yard! He jumped outside to the larger orbital and ran around like a madman. This was getting ridiculous. I decided to put a stop to it.
He must have seen me coming. Before I had taken two steps, Mr. Electron was done. He used the last of his stolen energy to poop out a brand new photon, then went back into his little orbital as if nothing had happened. I wanted to tear his atom apart, but that wouldn't bring Tina back. (Right?)
So, Mr. Electron gave birth to a brand new photon. Not Tina – this one was named Clair. Clair got shot out of Mr. Electron’s butt at the speed of light. Like Tina, Clair could only exist while moving at light speed. I realized Tina and Clair and all the other photons dying and being born within the gasses of Earth’s atmosphere would all be moving at light speed, always. None of these photons ever slowed. The reason that the light took longer to get through the gasses of the atmosphere was because there was a pause between Tina’s death and Clair’s birth. Mr. Electron took some time to zing around in a bigger orbital before pooping Clair out and going home.
Is there a moral to this story, you ask? I suppose the moral is that photons are all conformists. (Or maybe they're all Tina. I'm starting to think they're just instances of the same thing.) They can have such an impact on you, but the truth is, they have no substance whatsoever! Don't let one fool you with her rebellious pretense. She'll be just like all the others. Whether she exists for only a fraction of a second, or was born during the Big Bang and still continues on, she has one speed and one speed only (or is it velocity?), and it will be indistinguishable from every other photon throughout time and space.

About the Author: 
I took some physics in college. When I asked some questions about photons, the teacher said “nevermind -- those questions won't be on the test.” I did his boring math involving electron orbitals, and never took another physics class again. Now I read sci-fi to heal my scarred psyche.
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