Wed, 23 Feb 2000
D Benway
Schroedinger's Cat [K Pryde, X-Men]


This story contains characters that belong to Marvel Comics, but the story itself belongs to me.

This story is not for children or sensitive readers.

Many thanks to Luba K for setting me straight on the paradox and for proof-reading. A brief statement of the paradox can be found at, although it is not one that I (as a cat-admirer) can fully approve of.

Schroedinger's Cat

Observed by Dr. Benway


I had a dream.

It wasn't a good dream. That's why I'm coiled up in a ball in the sheets at the foot of the bed, with the sheets all over my head, in the dark. Just like in the dream.

I live for a dream. I fight for a dream. I'd die for it. I almost have. Some of my friends weren't so lucky. Sometimes it scares me, what this has done to me, what it's making me into.

This dream wasn't like ones I've had before. I've been more scared awake than asleep. I knew what a dead baby left for a week in the tropical sun looked like before I could legally drive.

The worst, the most afraid I've ever been before now, was standing, unable to move, while my friends stood in a trance, smiling, watching an alien being thrust its ovipositor into places where my mom always said I wasn't supposed to let anyone touch me. I saw them writhe and scream as the slimy, shit -covered thing went into them, saw them smile so emptily when it was all over, as the egg healed them. I saw it go down to them, one by one. I was the second last. I saw it and I knew it was coming and I couldn't stop it. I found a way to kill them, both the egg and the thing that laid it. Nothing I could dream of was worse than that.

I didn't remember any of it afterwards, until Logan told me. He said that we'd had eggs put into us, but I never stopped to think of how. Never thought of it, until one night when I was getting really adventurous with Pete and it all came back. He stayed near me then, when I curled up in the sheets and couldn't bear to be touched. He held me, when I could let myself be held. He was gentle with me, and never went near there again. He loved me, and made love to me.

I never sleep in the raw, not if I can help it. Only time I did was when we both drank too much, and I would pass out. If I had to get up to go to the can, I'd put something on. I'm naked now, and I can't remember how I got that way. I can't remember anything about how I got back here, into my bed.

Pete started me on drinking. It wasn't a game that only one of us could play. I drank a bit before, stealing from Moira's stash when I had a day when the dead were with me and I felt sad. Smart as I'm supposed to be, strong as I'm supposed to be, none of it helps on those days when you see the empty places all around you where people aren't there anymore. Rachel, Doug, Illyana. We all did it back at Muir, except for Brian and Rahne. Europeans aren't so hung up about it as we are. I don't know how many nights Brian would fly us back, because we were all so fucking pissed. When Pete and I broke up, I got really smashed and then I stopped, pretty much.

I was in a cave, in the dream. It might not have been a cave, maybe it was a tunnel or basement. The roof had come down. It was on top of me, cold and hard and solid, and I couldn't phase. I was pinned, all alone, only able to a see a tiny bit of daylight up high in front of me somewhere. It was dim, like the moon coming in through my window. There was a weight on my body, crushing it. There was no strength in my arms or my legs or my head. I had no voice. I wanted to scream, to cry out, to let the dogs know that I was still buried in the rubble. Me and someone else that I knew.

When I came back, it was hard to re-adjust. There were so many new people, and I missed Moira and Rahne and even Brian. There was no part of Pete here, except for the drinking. My old friends noticed that, right away, when I asked for wine at dinner, the first night I was home. The way Ororo looked at me almost made me laugh. I mean, I fight like they do, I fuck like they do, and they're not going to give me wine at dinner because I'm a year under the limit? I passed that milestone last month, but they still think of me like a kid in some ways. It's kind of fun sometimes, except when it hurts.

It was hurting bad and twice as bad for the last week. Piotr's decision to go back to Russia was a surprise to us all, but I first thought it was going to be a relief. He'd been so fucking annoying since I'd gotten back, always mooning over me and making really obvious come-ons every chance he got. What did I think of, when he did that? I don't think he imagined it would be Pete in a bed on a respirator, all swollen and scabby after the hands that Piotr held out to me had almost beaten the life out of my lover. The others had tried to talk him away from me, but he just didn't take the hint until last week when he said he was going back to Russia to help out in the Duma elections. Would he be back? I hoped not.

Even so, I didn't want it to end like that. I still remembered tricking him into phasing into Ororo's attic. I remembered his clumsy kisses, his gallantry, the fun we had when Illyana was there and we could all still remember what it was to be a kid. I didn't want it to end on a bad note, so I went with them to the send-off at Harry's. It was pretty much a guy thing, and I think I was the last girl to leave. We did a lot of drinking. Logan said beforehand that he had to leave early, but I don't remember him going. I can't remember what happened after I got started on the Scotch. Somehow, I got home. Somehow, I ended up in bed, naked. Then I had the bad dream.

I wasn't alone in the dream. I couldn't see Piotr, I couldn't hear him, but I could smell him. He always had a strong scent. He never understood our quaint little American custom of deodorant, or perhaps just did not care. I could always tell when he came near after a workout. They'd how I knew he was in the cave with me.

I can still feel it on my hands, the blood I found when I felt around down there. It hurt in both places. My period was over last week. I found Steely Dan in the bedsheets, with blood and stuff from both places on it. I never use it down behind, and I never use it when the batteries are dead, like they've been since Sunday. My hands are down there covering up, making safe, with the strength back in them, too late.

I think Piotr raped me.

There's a paradox from physics called Schroedinger's cat. It helps you to learn quantum mechanics. It helps you learn what the math that so perfectly describes atomic interactions would mean in the world that we live in. It's an unknown world, down there on that scale, one that we'll never consciously experience. Even so, we can use our beautiful theory to predict how many things will behave, how many things that we might never have imagined otherwise might exist. It helps me believe that there is a higher power, that the world is assembled so elegantly that we can perceive it on so many scales.

Yet, we can't see everything. We can never be sure about anything on that small a scale. Heisenberg saw that, and used Cauchy-Schwartz to summarize it in a single line that I first saw at 10 and didn't understand until I was 14. Bohr and Heisenberg and Schroedinger established that observation was all-important; you would never be able to know both the momentum and position of an electron at the same moment, never be able to tell if an electron was a particle or a wave until the moment that you looked.

Schroedinger told a story about a box with a cat in it. There was a device in the box, triggered by radioactive decay of an atom with a half life of one hour. There's a 50/50 chance that the atom decays and if it does, then a device is triggered that empties Prussic acid into the box and kills the cat. That's how they used to get rid of pests, back then. Erwin didn't have any hidden meanings in mind. He conjured it up in a letter to Einstein in 1935. Any rate, in the quantum view of the world, the cat's fate depends on the state of that atom and its wave function, so until you actually open the lid, there is no cat in the box, just a wave function floating in the ether.

Ether. I've been hanging around Brits for too long. Honor Schroedinger, dis Einstein. Wave functions don't float in something that doesn't exist, they are ideas in our heads. I always get pissed when people who don't understand physics go and appropriate our models and use them in common speech. They almost always get it wrong, but I can see why they want to steal from us. Our ideas are so clean. A wave function will collapse into certainty the moment the observation is made. I will never be certain of what will go through the minds of my friends after I tell them that Piotr raped me.

I imagine that most of them are awake now. Piotr will be at the airport, Ro and Logan will be wondering why I'm not down for the training session. I'll have to tell them. I'll have to see their faces when I tell them, or just after. Maybe all I'll see is sympathy. Maybe I won't see doubt.

They'll test me, of course. From the pain, I'd guess he went in metaled up after I'd passed out. I know he used to prefer jerking off that way. Better sensations, he told the prof. I know, because I hacked into the files when I was 14. No-one ever found out. Maybe he just used Steely Dan. If he did either of those things, there'd be no biological traces, nothing for the swabs to find.

If they did find something, what then? Whoever saw me there knew I was drunk. Drunken people do stupid things. I want to believe, believe in my heart that I would never have asked him to. But what if I did? What if I was so lonely, I begged him to fuck me so I wouldn't have to think of Pete? I won't be the only one who thinks of this. I know I never would have, but it's only belief. I can't remember a thing about what I really did.

I could ask Charles or Jean to go in. They'd see the wreckage left by all the drinking, and they'd never put it all together perfectly and objectively. Charles told me its never possible to find out what happened during a blackout. Given how much Piotr was drinking, how often he blacked out in Muir, they wouldn't find anything there, either. It would be his word against mine, judgment to be made by a jury of our peers.

It might not be that way. Piotr might be downstairs, head in his hands, waiting to beg my forgiveness. He might have run, but been careless and left something for McCoy and his DNAnalyzer or some fingerprints on the dildo. He might not have been so drunk that Charles couldn't find his guilty or triumphant thoughts. I don't know. I cannot know.

If there is no doubt, what will the justice be? If there is doubt, will I be able to continue here, with my friends second-guessing me behind my back? Will some never bring themselves to believe that Piotr could have done such a thing? If Charles did find something, if there was any ambiguity, any ambiguity at all, I couldn't be sure that he would decide fully in favour of me. Will I always have to be watching my back to make sure no sharpened splinter of bone finds its way during the heat of battle? I don't know.

My eyes are still closed, as I go on trial in my head, over and over again, never winning. I feel like I feel when there's a new hole in my life, when someone's gone and they won't be back. The tears keep flowing, but soon they will stop. When I open my eyes again, there will be no more tears. There will only be blood.