5:4: “Braiding the World Lines”, by Danny Adams

5:4: “Braiding the World Lines”, by Danny Adams
Atoc, a quiet man clothed in alpaca wool
eats duck, lives in a hut built of mud-chinked stone,
tells the future while twisting his Quipu knots

from the dreaming. He was once
Quipucayamoc—Keeper of the Knots—
Before his spirit fox showed him
flashing lights strung like his yupanu counting board,
Light streaming down the fractional quantum Hall
when bravely or foolishly
Atoc passed through the gate

marked NOT.

While his fingers twisted the Qubit knots
little anyons fed Atoc
Sacred food, thin wafers of gallium arsenide,
then taught him the shaman’s secrets:
Superposition beyond time and space
Existing in all states at once

Seeing all potentialities, hooking only one
on his fishing line when the villagers’ questions
collapse Atoc’s wave function.
All worlds that were, are, to be
open themselves to Atoc’s sight
until he braids the world lines,
twisting and swapping this way or that
crafting his own triplet gates.

Atoc’s prophecies are only in error 10-30 or less
so he knows when and how and why fall
bearded pale-skinned men’s destructive interference
upon the Incas of Tawantinsuyu
along with the 104 to 1 probability against his survival
when one with a round metal hat and sword
cuts open the observed flesh of the man called Atoc.

But the shaman’s body is entranced when they come,
Quipu knots held tight in his hands when he dies.
His spirit roams through logic gates
Swimming in electron gas
Dancing on lights of topology
Wearing virtual wool while perched eternally
Upon the curved pinnacles of nonlinear spacetime.

Danny Adams is the co-author, with Philip Jose Farmer, of the short novel The City Beyond Play, forthcoming from PS Publishing. Some of his shorter works have appeared or are forthcoming in Abyss & Apex, Fictitious Force, Lone Star Stories, The Mount Zion Speculative Fiction Review, Mythic, Not One Of Us, Paradox, Star*Line, Strange Horizons, and Weird Tales. He is a college librarian deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where he lives with his wife Laurie and four wicked cats on the edge of a (though not THE, alas) Hundred Acre Wood.

Like most of my work, “Braiding the World Lines” was born because my brain enjoys making weird connections between things that usually have no business being combined—at least not on the surface. I was reading through an article about quantum braiding in a popular science magazine when I got to their diagrams… and went no farther, because their illustrations looked—to me, the fellow who consumes history and anthropology books in a single swallow—exactly like the quipu knots used as a counting and recording system by the Incas. Connection made: the poem spilled out on the page in a matter of minutes. And oh, yes, eventually I did finish reading the article, too.

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