Mr.Brown is asked a question.

3.88889
Average: 3.9 (9 votes)
Your rating: None

            Mr.Brown turned one hundred sixty-five thousand two on a Monday. He didn’t celebrate his birthday. Instead, he went to Beddington Park and assembled his machine. Numbers meant little to Mr.Brown. They were predictable.
            Calculations, figures and estimations shot across the machine’s glowing screen. The contraption looked like the illegitimate child of an octopus and the Starship Enterprise. Mr.Brown pushed its prodding tentacles away and recorded the readouts in his tome of a notebook.
            At this exact moment, he was recording the angle of a sunbeam as it hit the lake in front of him. It looked like it was sprinkled with gold dust. He didn’t write that down.
            The faint scent of a flower caressed his senses. He turned and saw a torn crinkly leaf dancing in the wind. It landed in the rippling lake and drifted away.
            Something tickled the back of Mr.Brown’s skull. These sights and smells were definitely in his notebook. He took a moment to delve into the chambers of his mind.
            Mr.Brown was immortal. He had survived the Ice Age, Ancient Egypt, the French Revolution and his recent exile to the Andes Mountains, where he lived with a rather tempestuous Spectacled Bear. Fading memories of these days hovered behind his eyelids during sleepless nights.
            Mr.Brown gazed upon his wiry fingers. He didn’t look that old. He had stooping shoulders, a bad knee and bristly hair flecked with grey. If he had known the truth earlier, he would have predicted it.
            Many centuries ago, it dawned on Mr.Brown that his decisions didn’t matter. He would outlive everything. He searched far and wide for a solution. He met famed alchemists, physicists, scientists and engineers from across the ages. They all died without giving him an answer. Or even a (obligatory) footnote in their books.
            Knowing that he could live forever, he decided, one ordinary day, to not decide anymore. For when you always have another day, today isn’t so important.
            Mr.Brown opened a new page in his notebook. Headers were included for eclipses, earthquakes, asteroid probabilities and every world event imaginable. His predictions were always correct. If he could not change a thing, he would foresee everything and tell no one. It was his revenge on the world.
            “Hi,” a voice said.
            Mr.Brown looked up and saw a young boy dressed in a crinkled white shirt and a blazer. Folds of skin jutted out of his tight collar.  “I’m doing a school project and I was wondering if I could ask you a question?”
            “I’m not interested.”
            “I need to ask some random people what their favourite memory is.” The boy had a clipboard and two sheets of paper. It had many blue-inked memories on it.
            “Go away.”
             “Oh. Can’t you remember?”
            “Of course I can---twelve degrees. Interesting.” Mr.Brown tapped his machine. One of its whizzing feelers pointed at a ticking glass dial.
            “Great! So which is your best one? Is it...this thing?”
             “This machine has nothing to do with my memories. You’re distracting me.”
            “Right. What about this lake?” the boy said. “I saw you watching the water. Remind you of anything?”
            “Leave me alone boy.”
            “What if I told you my favourite memory?” The boy took a deep breath and looked up into the mid-autumn sky. “It’s when it rains in summer. You know that feeling just after it rains? When the sun comes out everything seems to float away into the sky. The grass is greener. The clouds look like streaks of wet paint. Everything smells of ...new.” The boy looked down and grinned. “My dad helped me to put that into words.”
            Mr.Brown shot around, eyes pulsing with rage.
            “All of it is exactly the same!” he roared. Silence. A dog barked across the green.
            “What do you mea--”
            “It is not unique. It is not special. Everything you just said is in my notebook. I’ve recorded it before,” Mr.Brown snarled. “Everything’s a DVD on repeat.”
            Mr.Brown leaned in closer to his mollusc-like machine. It chirped and hummed, its tentacles tracing equations in the air.
            Mr.Brown listened. After many minutes, he heard fallen autumn leaves crunching beneath shoes. This sound was very familiar. This was the moment. He breathed a sigh of relief. A (exhilarated) voice broke the silence.
            “That’s a good memory! A DVD on repeat! Cool.”
            Mr.Brown turned around. The boy was writing. He expected to feel a warm glow in the corner of brain, a rekindled memory rapping the doors of his mind. Anything. There was nothing.
            This was new.  
            A chill wormed its way into Mr.Brown’s stomach. He had lived many years. He remembered countless moments like these. And in all of them, people always left him. It was his eternal constant.
            “Why didn’t you leave?” Mr Brown murmured. The jagged end of his last word seemed to float in the air where it had been torn off. The boy smiled.
            “I really wanted to hear your memory.”
            “I want it back,” Mr.Brown said hurriedly.
            “Why?”
            “Because you weren’t supposed to stay.” The chilling sharpness that could be glimpsed in the shadows of his face was gone.
            “Well I guess some people go,” the boy said, “...and some stay.”
            Mr.Brown took a deep breath. He hadn’t predicted this.
            Hobbling over to the boy, he ushered him to sit at a bench. “I don’t want to be recorded saying that nonsense.”
            “So you’ll answer my question?” the boy asked, pen wavering between his fingertips.
            “Yes. But you’re going to need more paper.”
            The autumn air passed over them, and in that moment, Mr.Brown closed his eyes. It’s the smell of cherry blossoms, Mr.Brown thought.

About the Author: 
Kane Wheatley-Holder is a scriptwriter, producer. He currently works as a scriptwriter for a children's television channel in Singapore, as well as working on his first children's adventure novel.

Newsletter Signup

Submit your email address so we can send you occasional competition updates and tell you who wins!

Quantum Theories

M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

R is for ... Randomness

Unpredictability lies at the heart of quantum mechanics. It bothered Einstein, but it also bothers the Dalai Lama.

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

At extremely low temperatures, quantum rules mean that atoms can come together and behave as if they are one giant super-atom.

N is for ... Nonlocality

When two quantum particles are entangled, it can also be said they are “nonlocal”: their physical proximity does not affect the way their quantum states are linked.

A is for ... Act of observation

Some people believe this changes everything in the quantum world, even bringing things into existence.

X is for ... X-ray

In 1923 Arthur Compton shone X-rays onto a block of graphite and found that they bounced off with their energy reduced exactly as would be expected if they were composed of particles colliding with electrons in the graphite. This was the first indication of radiation’s particle-like nature.

D is for ... Dice

Albert Einstein decided quantum theory couldn’t be right because its reliance on probability means everything is a result of chance. “God doesn’t play dice with the world,” he said.

R is for ... Radioactivity

The atoms of a radioactive substance break apart, emitting particles. It is impossible to predict when the next particle will be emitted as it happens at random. All we can do is give the probability that any particular atom will have decayed by a given time.

O is for ... Objective reality

Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.

H is for ... Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

S is for ... Superposition

Quantum objects can exist in two or more states at once: an electron in superposition, for example, can simultaneously move clockwise and anticlockwise around a ring-shaped conductor.

P is for ... Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

T is for ... Teleportation

Quantum tricks allow a particle to be transported from one location to another without passing through the intervening space – or that’s how it appears. The reality is that the process is more like faxing, where the information held by one particle is written onto a distant particle.

D is for ... Decoherence

Unless it is carefully isolated, a quantum system will “leak” information into its surroundings. This can destroy delicate states such as superposition and entanglement.

L is for ... Light

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

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!

W is for ... Wavefunction

The mathematics of quantum theory associates each quantum object with a wavefunction that appears in the Schrödinger equation and gives the probability of finding it in any given state.

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.

G is for ... Gravity

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

J is for ... Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics.

T is for ... Tunnelling

This happens when quantum objects “borrow” energy in order to bypass an obstacle such as a gap in an electrical circuit. It is possible thanks to the uncertainty principle, and enables quantum particles to do things other particles can’t.

U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

One of the most famous ideas in science, this declares that it is impossible to know all the physical attributes of a quantum particle or system simultaneously.

A is for ... Alice and Bob

In quantum experiments, these are the names traditionally given to the people transmitting and receiving information. In quantum cryptography, an eavesdropper called Eve tries to intercept the information.

M is for ... Multiverse

Our most successful theories of cosmology suggest that our universe is one of many universes that bubble off from one another. It’s not clear whether it will ever be possible to detect these other universes.

S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

This is the central equation of quantum theory, and describes how any quantum system will behave, and how its observable qualities are likely to manifest in an experiment.

G is for ... Gluon

These elementary particles hold together the quarks that lie at the heart of matter.

Q is for ... Qubit

One quantum bit of information is known as a qubit (pronounced Q-bit). The ability of quantum particles to exist in many different states at once means a single quantum object can represent multiple qubits at once, opening up the possibility of extremely fast information processing.

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.

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.

K is for ... Kaon

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

H is for ... Hidden Variables

One school of thought says that the strangeness of quantum theory can be put down to a lack of information; if we could find the “hidden variables” the mysteries would all go away.

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

In 1801, Thomas Young proved light was a wave, and overthrew Newton’s idea that light was a “corpuscle”.

A is for ... Atom

This is the basic building block of matter that creates the world of chemical elements – although it is made up of more fundamental particles.

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.

F is for ... Free Will

Ideas at the heart of quantum theory, to do with randomness and the character of the molecules that make up the physical matter of our brains, lead some researchers to suggest humans can’t have free will.

I is for ... Information

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

W is for ... Wave-particle duality

It is possible to describe an atom, an electron, or a photon as either a wave or a particle. In reality, they are both: a wave and a particle.

R is for ... Reality

Since the predictions of quantum theory have been right in every experiment ever done, many researchers think it is the best guide we have to the nature of reality. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for plenty of ideas about what reality really is!

Q is for ... Quantum biology

A new and growing field that explores whether many biological processes depend on uniquely quantum processes to work. Under particular scrutiny at the moment are photosynthesis, smell and the navigation of migratory birds.

U is for ... Universe

To many researchers, the universe behaves like a gigantic quantum computer that is busy processing all the information it contains.

V is for ... Virtual particles

Quantum theory’s uncertainty principle says that since not even empty space can have zero energy, the universe is fizzing with particle-antiparticle pairs that pop in and out of existence. These “virtual” particles are the source of Hawking radiation.

Z is for ... Zero-point energy

Even at absolute zero, the lowest temperature possible, nothing has zero energy. In these conditions, particles and fields are in their lowest energy state, with an energy proportional to Planck’s constant.

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.

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.