Coin Flip by John R. Canter

Chan was feeling cooped-up in the laboratory. It wasn’t that he minded working for the professor, mad though he was, but the strange devices he made, often with no practical purpose (besides destroy everything, somehow) made him feel a little disconnected. He might read the news about the outside world, or see social media posts from this friend or that friend, but usually it was just work. The lab takes up too much of my time, Chan thought. He looked up from his printouts to the clock, and when he saw it was almost noon, he stomach growled, as if trained, on cue.

I should go out for lunch today; I haven’t done that in a while. He looked into his wallet, and felt he was a little short on cash that day, and went into the professor’s lab to ask for a few dollars. He wasn’t there.

That’s strange, he thought, looking around the room, he’s almost always here. He wasn’t at the Atomizer, or outside the Fusion Core, nor by the Supercomputer, or the Robotics Hangar. He scanned the central room again, past the long cluttered shelves marked Do Not Touch, closed behind bullet-proof and laser-deflecting ultra-glass and always kept locked, and aside from some equipment and a small powered-down drone he saw no one. But Chan found some quarters on the table, helped himself, and left a note.

I wonder what I should have for lunch? Chan thought to himself as he walked down the street. He went to the sandwich shop deli, which was not too busy, with only a few people in line in front of him. While he was waiting he pulled out his wallet to be ready, and he realized he had miscounted: one of the ten-dollar bills in his wallet was actually two stuck together. Score! Chan thought, I have more than enough. But I still can’t decide – tuna sandwich or turkey sandwich?

Chan reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the quarters. I don’t need these to pay, but I’ll flip a coin to decide what to have. Heads: tuna; tails: turkey, he thought, and with a flick of his thumb flipped the coin high into the air, where it shone quite brightly. He caught it in one hand, slapped into onto the back of the other, and revealed the side.

It came up heads.

Chan paid for the tuna sandwich, and had a cola to go with it. He had been rather hungry, and felt he shouldn’t keep skipping meals. He savored the sandwich, which had a bit of a tangy flavor; some new sauce, perhaps.

After heading out from the deli, he still had plenty of time before his lunch break was up, and decided to walk to the park. It was a nice day out, and he would take advantage of it.

While walking to the park, his stomach started to bother him. It was cool and breezy outside today, cooler than inside the deli – their air conditioning must have been busted! he realized. And with tuna and mayonnaise not well refrigerated … his stomach was really bothering him now.

He looked over at a nearby trashcan. Someone had stuffed it with trash to the point that it was nearly overflowing. “It can’t be helped,” Chan said uneasily, “but it beats everything being all over the ground”. He hobbled over and tried to position himself, and lost his lunch. Now he felt much better.

After the ordeal, he figured to cut his losses and head back to the laboratory. I’m still not a hundred percent … maybe the professor can give me something for my stomach. When he got in the professor asked, “You took my quarters?” Not even a, “Hello,” and he was clearly in a cranky mood.

Yeah, I left you a note,” Chan said pulling the quarter out of his pocket. “I went to go get lunch …”

I’ve been working with those quarters: they’re experimental, Chan!” he exclaimed. “They’re desynchronized from five-dimensional probabilistic space-time. You didn’t use them in a coin flip, did you?”

After the professor gave Chan some stomach medicine, he took the coin and had him stand in a special experimental space. He hated these kinds of experiments the professor ran, but he did what was asked, and stood in the middle of the square sectioned-off with yellow-and-black striped caution tape. The professor had on some strange goggles, with two different colored lenses; they looked like the old 3d-glasses. He regularly looked over at Chan through his heavy goggles, frowning. He slid a long funneled pipe with a tapered end in front of Chan, and told him to stand as symmetrically as he could.

Okay, when I tell you to, I need you to drop the coin with the heads side facing to your right. Understand? DO NOT drop the coin until I tell you to do so, and don’t do anything afterwords until I tell you. Ready?”

Ready,” Chan replied unsteadily.

It came up tails.

Chan paid for the turkey sandwich, and had a cola to go with it. He had been rather hungry, and felt he shouldn’t keep skipping meals. He savored the sandwich, which was lacking a bit in flavor; it needed some sauce, perhaps.

After heading out from the deli, he still had plenty of time before his lunch break was up, and decided to walk to the park. It was a nice day out, and he would take advantage of it.

While walking to the park, he felt in great spirits. It was cool and breezy outside today, cooler than inside the deli – It’s nice to get out of that laboratory and enjoy some fresh air! he realized. And after a satisfying lunch like that … his stomach was sated, and all of him felt thoroughly refreshed now.

He looked over at a nearby trashcan. Someone had stuffed it with trash to the point that it was nearly overflowing. “It can’t be helped,” Chan said disappointed, “but it beats everything being all over the ground”. He moved over away from it, instead taking in the clean air. Now he felt much better.

After the park, he figured he might have time to head to the library. I’m feeling a hundred percent … but just then his phone rang, with the familiar ring for his boss. Answering, the professor asked, “You took my quarters?” Not even a, “Hello,” and he was clearly in a cranky mood.

Yeah, I left you a note,” Chan said pulling the quarter out of his pocket. “I went to go get lunch …”

I’ve been working with those quarters: they’re experimental, Chan!” he exclaimed. “They’re desynchronized from five-dimensional probabilistic space-time. You didn’t use them in a coin flip, did you?”

After Chan returned to the frowning, unhappy professor, he returned the coin and stood in a special experimental space. He hated these kinds of experiments the professor ran, but he did what was asked, and stood in the middle of the square sectioned-off with yellow-and-black striped caution tape. The professor had on some strange goggles, with two different colored lenses; they looked like the old 3d-glasses. He regularly looked over at Chan through his heavy goggles, frowning. He slid a long funneled pipe with a tapered end in front of Chan, and told him to stand as symmetrically as he could.

Okay, when I tell you to, I need you to drop the coin with the heads side facing to your right. Understand? DO NOT drop the coin until I tell you to do so, and don’t do anything afterwords until I tell you. Ready?”

Ready,” Chan replied confidently.

The coin dropped, heads facing the right, and fell down the tapered pipe until it landed on edge, contained inside the pipe’s close walls. “Now, lean the pipe to your left, and lift it up.” Chan did so and found the coin with heads face-up.

The professor signed with relief, and cast off the silly-looking goggles. He picked up the coin, which shined quite brightly, and placed it in a small metal box, locked it, and placed the box in the locked shelves marked Do Not Touch.

What was that all about?” Chan asked.

I told you: the coin was desynchronized from five-dimensional probabilistic space-time. Each time anyone flips it, they split the time-line in two: one time-line with a heads result, and one with a tails result. By chance you grabbed the one coin I had just imposed that experimental quality onto, and thankfully you didn’t spend it; if it wound up flipped or dropped enough times, causality could be ripped to shreds!”

Well,” Chan suggested, “maybe you shouldn’t just leave stuff lying around on the table, professor …”

He pointed to the Do Not Touch shelves, with its death rays, unstable matter spheres, and colorful gray goos, and he remarked, “Hey, you know half of my stuff is world-ending levels of dangerous, and I had to step out to use the bathroom.” The professor signed. “It doesn’t matter, this time. But next time, use a debit card.”

I would like to hear from you! Do you like short story posts? Do you have critiques or suggestions for future stories? I would love to read your feedback and criticisms – just enter your comment in the Leave a Reply section, and I’ll gladly consider them for future posts.
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