©2010 The Angst Guy (

Daria and associated characters are ©2010 MTV Networks



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Synopsis: Quantum physics and murder—the perfect combination.


Author's Notes: Brandon League posted a PPMB Iron Chef in August 2009, asking for fanfics in which Daria Morgendorffer or Jane Lane kills the other. For some reason, doing something stupid with quantum physics came to mind.


Acknowledgements: Brandon, you da MAN!











“Explain it to me one more time,” said the tired detective, “but start over at the beginning, and speak slowly.”


“I was supposed to be the cat in the box,” said Jane Lane, equally tired but cheery nonetheless.


“Okay, stop there. What do you mean that you were the cat in the box?”


“It was that physics thing she was going on about. It—”


“Physics thing?”


“Look, I’m mostly repeating what she told me. I can’t really explain it any better than that.”


“Go on, then. Slowly.”


“Okay. Daria said she had been studying quantum mechanics in her physics classes, and that’s what gave her the whole idea for what she did. She started explaining it to me from the moment she showed up at my dorm room with the gun. She… how’d she describe it… she said quantum mechanics is about how reality works at the atomic level. I’m pretty sure that was the idea. She went over it several times on the way over to her place, talking and driving and pointing the gun at me at the same time. It seemed really important to her that I knew what was going to happen, but with the gun and all I had a pretty good idea already.


“So, as to what happened at her place, it was weird. As she explained it, the thing about quantum mechanics is that reality works in different ways, something to do with waves and particles. She—”


“Hold on. I’m sorry, but this… this physics stuff, is it really necessary? Does it have any relevance to—


“You asked me to tell you exactly what happened, and this is the best way I can explain it. I’m doing my best!”


“All right, all right, whatever. Go on.”


“Okay. So, she was studying quantum mechanics, and she wanted to try it out in real life, on me, because of what happened with Marcello.”


“Marcello, her—”


“—her boyfriend, yeah. She found out that I’d been seeing Marcello behind her back, which is funny in a way because she was sneaking around on me with one of my boyfriends back in high school. She could dish it out, but—anyway, we used to be best friends, but her going out with my boyfriend kind of ruined things between us. We kind of made up, but we really didn’t. I was pretty sore about it. Anyway, we both got into different colleges here in Boston, and I figured she should see for herself what it was like to get cheated on. I thought it might do her some good in the long run to get a taste of her own medicine. I just hadn’t figured she’d be that angry about it, given the past. I mean, who’d've thunk it?”


“Did she tell you she was doing this because you were seeing Marcello?”


“Actually, no, but I knew that’s what it was. She never mentioned Marcello the whole time, but I knew. She took me back to her apartment and said I was going to be her guinea pig—well, cat, she said I was her cat, same thing. She wanted to test out the idea that reality has different ways of working, using me in the experiment. Reality, the quantum mechanics kind she went on about, is not fully knowable. You can’t know everything there is to know about a system. She wanted to find out if it was true, and she told me to get in the box so she could lock me in it and get the experiment going.”


“You’re talking about the big metal box in her apartment, the—”


“Yeah. She said she built it with stuff from the Raft University science lab and some high-tech mail-order places. Whatever was in the box when it was shut was supposed to be completely isolated from the outside world. I would be totally sealed away from the rest of the universe so she could test some theories of quantum mechanics on me, the guinea pig. Cat, I mean, the cat.”


“What was this thing about you being her cat? I don’t get it.”


“Oh, yeah. There was this experiment in quantum physics she told me about called Schrödinger’s cat. It wasn’t a real experiment, not one that you were supposed to do in real life. She said it was a thought experiment. You have this cat and you put it in a box. You also put in a Geiger counter that the cat can’t mess with, can’t turn it off or anything. The Geiger counter had to be set up so there was a fifty percent chance of detecting radiation and a fifty percent chance of not detecting radiation within a given time, like an hour. It was like a coin toss. If it detected any radiation, the Geiger counter would trigger another machine in the box, something else the cat couldn’t mess with, and it would spray out poison gas and kill the cat.”


“Meaning you.”


“Yeah, me, right.”


“She put you in the box to poison you.”


“You know, I thought about that, and I think she really did mean to give me a fifty percent chance to survive. Maybe she did, I don’t know. She had a different way of looking at the situation than I did, at first. The part I didn’t understand was that, according to Daria, after a while I was supposed to be both dead and alive in the box. That was the point of the experiment with the cat. The way quantum mechanics works, after a while the cat is supposed to be both dead and alive, mathematically speaking. You only find out which one it is when—wait, no, that’s not it. It wasn’t that obvious. According to quantum mechanics, she said I would be both dead and alive, a probability kind of thing, until she opened the box, at which point everything was settled. Uh, I’m not explaining this very well. You look like your eyes just glazed over.”


“Just… just go on.”


“You’re recording this, right?”


“Just talk, please.”


“Okay, Daria said this thing that might happen, about everything being decided when she opened the box again, that was called a wave-function collapse. Opening the box would cause this wave-function collapse, or whatever, so whatever the possibilities were of me being either dead or not dead, it would all settle out when she opened the box, but not before. I just had to be completely isolated from the rest of the universe in order for that to work, plus I couldn’t stop the Geiger counter or the poison gas sprayer. It wasn’t like I would get poisoned and she would open the box and see what happened, according to her. It was like nothing was going to happen until she opened the box, do you see?”


“Frankly, no.”


“Whatever. She had a movie camera in the box, too, so she could find out what happened, if that wave-function theory was right and nothing happened until she opened it. The theory she was testing was that nothing would really happen to me until she opened the box. She said consciousness causes collapse, meaning her consciousness, but she was curious to know if me being conscious inside the box would affect the experiment, too. In other words, would it be her observations that caused something to happen, or would it be mine. Uh… yeah, I think I got that right.”


“This still just sounds like she wanted you to get into the box so she could kill you.”


“Nah, you know, I really don’t think so. Daria was never that simple. This experiment was real big to her. My living or dying wasn’t the issue, though I think she liked the idea that I was going to suffer no matter what happened, either dying or getting so scared I went nuts.”


“She had the camera there so she could see what happened to you while you were in the box, before she opened it.”


“Yeah, that was it. She couldn’t use the camera to see what I was doing while I was doing it, because that would mean the inside of the box was connected to the outside world, which would ruin the experiment. Everything in the box had to be totally cut off from everything. Oh, and there was the alternate-universe thing. She wanted to see if that would happen, too”




“This whole thing with the wave-function collapse was one thing she said that might happen. The other thing was that an infinite number of universes would be created from the time she locked me in the box, each universe branching off from the point at which the Geiger counter goes off and I get poisoned. It had something to do with this thing she went on and on about called quantum deco… decoherence, which I didn’t get at all. She gave up trying to explain it to me. The point was, she wanted to see if the experiment would split up reality into a series of alternate universes, and she had some way of detecting that, but I didn’t understand it at all.”


“This is pretty weird.”


“Yeah, I thought so, too. The only thing I knew for sure was that, whatever she was doing, she was getting me back for seeing Marcello.”


“So what happened at her place?”


“She explained everything and then locked me in the box. She didn’t bother putting an oxygen tank in there for me, because the lock would unlock itself automatically after an hour, which was the exact point where there would be a fifty-percent chance of the Geiger counter going off and killing me within that whole hour. I would be fine until the box opened, she said, and then either something would happen or it wouldn’t. So there I was, and there was a little tiny light bulb in there so I could see everything, and after a few minutes I could tell there was no way I could turn off the Geiger counter or anything else. There wasn’t anything to do except sit there all squished up and think. Thank God she made me go to the bathroom first, I had enough to worry about.


“So I was sitting in the box and I started thinking about what she said about quantum reality, how reality really works. It sounded from her like reality only existed if you were observing it, so if no one was looking at something, it didn’t exist in some way.”


“Like, if a tree falls in a deserted forest, does it make a sound?”


“Uh… something like that, yeah. I was mulling that over, and then I started thinking about that alternate-worlds thing. She told me that there was a fifty-fifty chance I would get sprayed with gas each time I got in the box and closed the lid, but each time I got in the box, reality was actually split into two. There’s one reality where I get sprayed and die, and one where I don’t. There were two options, and they existed at the same time, sort of in the same place.


“Wait, okay, I can see your eyes are glazing over, but let me finish. She said the first theory she was testing, the wave-function collapse thing, it was like the opposite of the multiple-worlds thing. When something was observed to happen, it was what she called a, um, quantum… super… position, a quantum superposition. In other words, everything that could possibly happen existed as a probability until the moment you looked to see how it came out. That was when there was a wave-function collapse, and something actually happened, you saw the result, and it was one thing or the other. The cat was either dead or alive when you opened the box, but before you opened it, it was sort of both, dead and alive at the same time.”




“But with the multiple-worlds option, there were all these alternate worlds, and I got to thinking and I realized that I didn’t have to worry about all the alternate worlds in which I got sprayed, because I was still alive and observing things, so my consciousness was not interrupted and was still having an effect on reality. Do you see what I mean?”




“I realized that there was a good chance that nothing at all would happen to me, and I was going to get out of the box alive. In fact, I didn’t even have to worry about being sprayed with the poison, because with that multiple-worlds thing going, I wasn’t going to die at all. Every possibility that the Geiger counter would go off did not exist in my consciousness. I realized from what she was saying that the very act of me observing the experiment from inside the box changed the whole experiment. If I had not been conscious inside the box, the experiment would go on exactly as she had planned. However, with me actually watching everything in my own separate universe, completely cut off from hers, there was no way I could die, because then the reality inside the box would cease to exist because it wasn’t being observed. If she really had cut me off from everything, then the only thing keeping my little reality going was me. So I had to survive.”




“It wouldn’t have worked if the box wasn’t cut off from her universe, the universe we’re in now. If the inside of the box was still connected to the rest of the universe, then I did have a chance of dying. But being in my own universe, I was going to live because reality had to be maintained in that little pocket of space and time until she opened the box again. I was riding the crest of the reality wave, surfing my own existence, so to speak. The existence of that pocket universe was all up to me. I was going to make it out.”




Wait, lemme finish. So then I had the issue of what to do when I got out. Then I got to thinking about that, too. Daria thought that she was the one doing the experiment, but she left me out of the equation. There were two observers in two separate universes. What if she was the one who was the cat, and I was the experimenter?”


“Please don’t pound the table.”


“Do you get it? Consciousness gives existence. I didn’t have to worry about her consciousness. All I had to worry about was my own! See, we think that there’s this one reality and we’re all a part of it, but we’re not. Each of us is in our own little reality, our own universe, and within that universe, we can’t die! Everyone else sees us die, okay, but that’s the many-worlds idea in action. There are an infinite number of worlds branching off each instant from what we think is reality, all these probabilities co-existing, and I wasn’t going to see my reality end! I could see everyone else’s end, and you could see my reality end, but I never would, because consciousness maintains reality!”


Miss Lane, don’t—”


“Once I figured out that I wasn’t going to die, everything worked out! All I had to do was wait an hour until the box unlocked itself, and I would get out alive and whole. But Daria was a different matter. From my point of view, my consciousness, her existence was not guaranteed. I’m not saying I was going to kill her or anything. I didn’t have to. She was as much in her own box as I was. She had a chance, from my perspective, of dying outside the box while I was inside the box. No matter what she did, though, I wasn’t going to die. Do you see?”


“This is giving me a headache.”


“I couldn’t believe it was so simple. I just sat in the box and waited until the timer on the lock opened the box. And that was when I got out and found the cops and the neighbors in Daria’s apartment, and Daria lying on the sofa where she had shot herself. It worked! She died because she wasn’t the observer who mattered! I was the one that mattered! That’s how it is for all of us. You are never going to see your reality die, even though you might see me get run over by a truck or something and see my reality die. And I saw Daria’s reality die, but mine kept going because I’m the observer! Wow, that was a thrill ride and a half! Did you save the camera film, by the way? Can I have it?”


“It's being held as evidence, sorry. Is there anything else you have to say?”


“Uh, no. I mean, yeah, from Daria’s point of view, I died in the box, I know that. But that was from her point of view, in her own quantum universe. That whole reality split off from this one hours ago. It’s nothing to worry about, not for me. From her perspective, in her own universe, she got her revenge and maybe even the answer to her experiment. The me that died, though, that wasn’t me. That was a copy of me she observed in her own reality, and who cares about that, right?”


“Whatever. We’ll call you if we have any questions.”


“Sure thing. I can’t tell you what an experience this has been. I’m glad she did that, put me in the box and everything. It really opened my eyes.”


“Yeah, right. Let’s go. I’ll see you out of the station.”


“Thanks. Funny, I keep thinking about that old story about the lady and the tiger. It had some relevance to what happened back in high school, when she was running around with my boyfriend. Daria put me in a box tonight and was expecting to see either a live lady or a dead one when the box was opened, but—”


“I get it. She got a tiger instead.”


“Hey, you’re pretty smart!”


“Look, something you said sort of bothers me, about you not being able to die because you’re alive. That’s—”


“Because I’m conscious, you mean. Don’t worry about me. I can get hurt, but from my own perspective, in my own quantum universe, I’m never going to die. And neither will you in yours. If you see or hear about me dying, don’t worry about it. It won’t be me, it’ll be the copy of me in your universe or someone else’s, and that won’t matter.”


The detective shook his head in frustration. “But that just isn’t right.”


Jane smiled before she went out the door. “Wait and see. You just wait and see.”







Original: 09/30/09, 11/02/09, 05/19/10