"Crazy Fun in the House of Mirrors"
"It's Sunday in July, and you're
still working?" Kay said, shaking
her head. "You need more practice
managing your free time, folks!"
Ash and Alex looked at each other,
and then turned to look at Kay.
"Nah, we're good," Ash said,
and went back to her laptop.
"Seriously, this is getting
ridiculous," Kay said. "What's
there to do in town today?"
"It's Waxahachie," Chris said.
"There's never anything to do.
Except get drunk or laid, and
they're not into those."
"I heard there's a circus
in town," Morgan said. "We
could go check out the Midway."
"That sounds like fun," Kay said.
She pried Ash and Alex away from
their keyboards and chivvied them
toward their rooms to change clothes.
The Midway was full of bright lights,
junk food, and scantily-clad girls
sweating in the July heat.
"Great idea, Morgan,"
said Chris as he dug into
a bag of nachos with chili.
The rides whirled and tootled
all around them, while barkers
called out from the game booths.
"I want to go in the House of Mirrors,"
Alex declared, and so they did.
They laughed at the images
of themselves stretched tall and
thin, or squashed short and fat.
Strange sound effects made them laugh
as voices echoes through the mirrors.
Then Ash's smartphone shrilled an alarm.
"What's gone wrong now?" Pat asked,
leaning over to look at the screen.
"Incursion alarm," Ash said.
"Something's connecting with us."
"Where?" Kay said sharply.
"Right on top of us," Ash said.
"It's right around here somewhere --
we should be able to see it soon."
What they saw were strange images
of themselves cavorting through
the distorted mirrors in the room.
And then they were somewhere else.
"Scout around, but don't lose track
of each other," Kay said. "We need
to know where we are, and we
need to stick together."
"On it," Chris said.
"This looks similar to
the House of Mirrors, but not
the carnival kind," Pat said.
"It's more of a psych-out."
"This could be why," Morgan said,
pointing to a sign that read,
"Yikes," Alex said. "I don't
trust the soft sciences."
They hunted around for
another ten minutes before
Ash found the lab notes for
an experiment in self-image.
Then Alex pointed out the window.
"Look what's next door," she said.
"Fermi Building of Nuclear Physics,"
Morgan read aloud. "That's not good."
"Okay, guys, it's been crazy fun
in the House of Mirrors, but we
need to get home now," Chris said.
"Let's see if we can find the Alex
in this dimension," Morgan said.
"That should speed things up."
"Hacking the university database,"
Ash said, her fingers tapping away
at the keys of a lab computer.
"Good idea," Kay said. "I'll
stand guard while you work."
Within half an hour, Ash had
matched up names and found
a probable location for alter!Alex.
They trotted across the quad,
where they found their quarry
in a coffeehouse, planning
a party on posty notes.
Well, sort of.
She had the blonde hair and
the big blue eyes, but she wore
contact lenses instead of glasses
and her whole left forearm was
a rainbow of friendship bracelets.
"Hi, I'm Alex, can I help you?"
she asked, holding out a hand.
Pat shook hands and said,
"Yes, please, we need your help
with an urgent physics issue."
"Who, me?" alter!Alex said, then
shook her head. "Couldn't be. I'm
no good at math. Can't stand it, even."
Chris stared at her. "Welp, it's
gonna be a long walk home, then."
"This may sound a bit bonkers,
but we're from another dimension,
and we would like to get back to our own,"
said core!Alex. "For proof, take a close look
at me: I'm actually another version of you."
"Woah," said alter!Alex. "I'm sorry
that I can't help you, but it's okay.
I know someone else who can!"
She grabbed her alter's hand and
scampered away, back toward
the ominous physics building.
They wound up deep inside
the bowels of the building, where
a black man tapped busily at
the keyboard of a computer
hooked to a whole render farm.
"Hey, Pat, I need a favor,"
alter!Alex said, sitting on
the desk beside his.
The man just grunted.
"It's about the mirrorphone
you're trying to invent?" she said.
"Well, why didn't you say so --
hey, who are all these people?"
alter!Pat said, narrowing his eyes.
"This one is me, and I'm pretty sure
that's you," alter!Alex said, pointing.
"They told me that they all came
to our dimension from theirs
through a House of Mirrors."
"Okay, so instead of doing
light/sound conversion, we're
getting light/matter conversion,"
Pat muttered, typing away.
"Actually, we heard voices just
before we wound up here," Ash said.
"That helps," alter!Pat said, bringing up
a new window full of complex equations.
"Come on, darlings, talk to your lover-boy ..."
More and more equations spilled
across the computer screen.
"Okay, so apparently alter!me is
polyamorous with the laws of physics,"
said core!Pat. "I guess that works ... for him."
A few hours later, Pat showed Ash a screen
that helped her figure out how to open up
a mirror portal back to their own dimension,
this time on purpose instead of accidentally.
"Nice to know some things hold constant,"
Morgan said fondly. "Even though alter!Alex
is a social genius instead of a mathematical one,
she still managed to save the day for us."
"Yes indeed," Ash said. "They both
saved us a bundle of time."
When they got back to
the House of Mirrors,
their own Alex was
waiting for them.
She had eaten all of
the caramel corn, but
that was the only catch.
"I knew you guys would be okay,"
said Alex. "You always manage
to find me sooner or later." Then she
winked at Pat. "You horndog, you."
"Alex, what have you been up to?" he said.
"I might possibly have recorded alter!Pat
pillowtalking the laws of physics and
sent it to your spice," Alex confessed.
"Last I heard, Judy was trying to think
how to dress up as Ampere's Law. I
believe it involved several yards of
stretch lace and a feather boa."
"Interdimensional phone sex,
it's a thing," Kay snickered.
"Aaannnd I need to get home now,"
Pat said, hastening toward the gate.
It was good to be back.
* * *
A House of Mirrors is an exhibit with different shapes of reflective surface which distort images for fun. This touches on the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum physics.
A render farm is a bank of computers used to produce images.
The line integral of the magnetic flux around a closed curve is proportional to the algebraic sum of electric currents flowing through that closed curve; or, in differential form curl B = J.
This was later modified to add a second term when it was incorporated into Maxwell's equations.