As The Crow Flies

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 I was called George, back then, and I was the tribe's medicine man. I was also a full-fledged doctor with a diploma to show for it. However, it was Tabatha's crow that spoke to me in a dream. It knew of the tragedy that this Christmas would bring--if I did not act.
Our tribe's Band Council had entrusted me with full guardianship of this five-year-old child, since her parents could not reach a viable custody agreement. Each were blinded by hate and jealousy and in the end, both simply moved out of country, she to England, and he to the States. No one had heard from either since their separation, but on this Christmas Eve, the family would gather for the first time in years.
When Jerry approached the Customs Officer he was already seething. His revolver was stashed in his glove compartment. His eyes squinted from lack of sleep, and empty styrofoam cups sat wedged between his dashboard and windshield.
"Business or pleasure? Do you have anything to declare?" The officer barely glanced at the American. He was dreaming of Christmas and how he would not be spending it with his family.
"Pleasure. I hate my wife and I'm going strangle her."
"Excuse me?"
"Kidding. My wife's an Angel. Ha."
"You're lucky. Mine's still alive. Ha. Listen, now, if this wasn't Christmas Eve, you and your warped sense of humour would not be crossing today. Happy Holidays. Now, skiddadle!"
A tall crow expanded its dark wings and flew off of the car's roof when Jerry pressed the accelerator. The bird finally landed on the wing of a Boeing 747 as it taxied toward Montréal's Dorval Airport. Above the wing, inside the airplane, sat Mellinda, as she pressed the wrinkles of her dress with slim hands. Her hands turned to fists that squeezed deep into her thighs.
On Christmas Eve we gathered at my home. Jerry and I decorated a pine tree out front as Mellinda baked a turkey in the kitchen. Tabatha's crow stood on the windowsill squinting its eyes--guarding the proceedings. Even Tabatha was not enthused. Following cold hugs and polite greetings, she had excused herself and slipped out of sight. And then it happened. A loud blast echoed against the grey clouds, and the crow flew directly onto Jerry's car. Tabatha had discovered her father's gun and had accidentally fired it. She lay unconscious in the passenger seat. I examined her and was relieved to see she had not been hurt. I should say she bore no outward wounds, but the event had left her lifeless. She hadn't spoken nor smiled in hours. It was as if her heart had suffered from a wound greater than a gunshot.
Jerry and Mellinda's entrenched hate had turned into confusion and fear, so it did not take much coercing to convince them into participating in a traditional Indian sweat lodge, ceremony. I told them it would summon their child's spirit and that they had nothing to fear. But I had lied. They had plenty to fear--simply little to lose.
They sat on a bench across from mine as I poured more water onto the hot coals. Thick smoke rolled up then cascaded downward, pulling at each one's spirit, inviting them to lift and soar. But nothing. All three looked down at their feet, expressionless.
Hours passed and I knew it was time to stop. But they just lay there; lifeless, stubborn, unwilling to let go. I pushed harder when I increased the tent's temperature, and finally, both Mellinda's and Jerry's spirit sprayed outward and formed two gaseous clouds. Hers was reddish, his green. The green cloud pushed toward the red one, encircled it and began to squeeze. The red spirit pushed outward, releasing the other's hold, then both retracted into a dense gaseous tube. They attacked one another once more, as they curled, snaked, then twined together in a tight death hold.
Their drenched bodies lay on the bench, their faces contorted, teeth clenched.
I had no choice. Increasing the heat to a dangerous level, I chanted and summoned spirits from other worlds. From parallel worlds where a Jerry and a Mellinda may be a better fit in this one. With each attempt their coloured clouds behaved with aggression and contempt, until finally, a pair of clouds hovered side by side, circling and probing, as if unsure they should approach one another.
When I reached for the rope that would pull the tent's flaps upward, Tabatha finally joined in. Hers was a white fluorescent nebula. It shot between the two lone spirits then took hold of both and pulled them into hers. There was a bright flash, then only one cloud hovered above. It was multicolored, as the three gases now formed one.
The spirits rained back toward their bodies, and when I opened the flaps they sat up. I watched the reflection of the Christmas tree lights sparkle in their eyes.
"Merry Christmas," was all I said.
I hoped the initial Jerry and Mellinda would fare better in their new world. Perhaps life's variables would be more favourable to them, there, but my jurisdiction was in this world.
Many years have passed since that Christmas day. Jerry and Mellissa now lie side by side under one tombstone. And I should add that they had celebrated many more Chistmas Eves, before they passed. Tabatha has married and is now a grandmother to little Martha. As for myself, I am Martha's protector, now. I am called Ruby. This name I have earned from my obsession with shiny objects that I gather and place on Martha's windowsill. I watch her closely, and I know if there is ever a need, I can spread my wings and fly to the medicine man, as I have his ear.

About the Author: 
Denis's work has appeared in various print and online literary journals. He is pleased to be writing again. In fact, he was last spotted hunched over his keyboard, coffee in hand and cat in lap, as they planned his next Quantum Short.

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Quantum Theories

P is for ... Probability

Quantum mechanics is a probabilistic theory: it does not give definite answers, but only the probability that an experiment will come up with a particular answer. This was the source of Einstein’s objection that God “does not play dice” with the universe.

C is for ... Computing

The rules of the quantum world mean that we can process information much faster than is possible using the computers we use now.

B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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C is for ... Cryptography

People have been hiding information in messages for millennia, but the quantum world provides a whole new way to do it.

B is for ... Bell's Theorem

In 1964, John Bell came up with a way of testing whether quantum theory was a true reflection of reality. In 1982, the results came in – and the world has never been the same since!

I is for ... Interferometer

Some of the strangest characteristics of quantum theory can be demonstrated by firing a photon into an interferometer: the device’s output is a pattern that can only be explained by the photon passing simultaneously through two widely-separated slits.

L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

E is for ... Entanglement

When two quantum objects interact, the information they contain becomes shared. This can result in a kind of link between them, where an action performed on one will affect the outcome of an action performed on the other. This “entanglement” applies even if the two particles are half a universe apart.

K is for ... Kaon

These are particles that carry a quantum property called strangeness. Some fundamental particles have the property known as charm!

D is for ... Dice

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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R is for ... Reality

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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D is for ... Decoherence

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J is for ... Josephson Junction

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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I is for ... Information

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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A is for ... Atom

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G is for ... Gluon

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G is for ... Gravity

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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O is for ... Objective reality

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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R is for ... Randomness

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U is for ... Universe

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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Q is for ... Qubit

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T is for ... Teleportation

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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A is for ... Act of observation

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X is for ... X-ray

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S is for ... Superposition

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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L is for ... Light

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M is for ... Multiverse

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F is for ... Free Will

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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