“The Quantum Treatment” featured in James Gunn’s Ad Astra

Super geeked that the fine folks at James Gunn’s Ad Astra published my short story, “The Quantum Treatment,” about kids and quantum mechanics in their latest issue.

And bonus – it’s online and free so anyone and everyone can read it! Go check it out! Here’s an excerpt.

“Crystallized salvia,” Lee beamed, giving the bag a shake. “Tim gave it to me.” Lee took any opportunity he could to point out that his brother’s sixteen-year-old friends included him in their gang. But all they’d really done was make Lee their errand boy and punching bag. Whenever Dane saw them at school, Lee was always red-faced and sweaty, the other boys laughing at his expense.

“What’s it do?” Riley gave the bag a sidelong look, recoiling as if it might bite.

“Dunno. Let’s find out,” Lee grinned.

“Have you done your pre-work?” Riley rattled papers at him. Lee ignored her and offered Dane the bag, nodding as his friend took it.

“Smells funny,” Dane wrinkled his nose.

“You first,” Lee stared, transfixed by the earthy mixture tumbling inside the plastic. Dane licked a finger and dipped it in, coating his pinky like a powdered donut. Riley watched, pen paused mid-sentence. Dane smiled weakly and licked his hand, cleaning every crystalized grain off his skin.

“Give me some,” Lee snatched the bag and poured a bit into his palm. He licked it like a thirsty dog, not caring if some spilled into the dirty sewer pipe. Riley rolled her eyes and returned to her pre-work. She kept one eye warily trained on her two friends.

It didn’t take long for Dane to feel it. It started at his fingertips and toes — an electricity separating his body from his being. It spread to his legs, arms, and finally his chest. Everything below his neck belonged to somebody else, but he could still control that fleshy apparatus with his mind. He was invincible.

“Dude…” Lee drawled out the ooo sound, chuckling at the end. Dane poked his friend’s shoulder, enjoying how it took a few seconds before Lee realized he’d done it. Then Dane felt his own body twist, and was shocked to realize Lee had punched him back a few seconds ago. Lee laughed, and Dane joined in. They shoved each other, harder and harder, until Lee fell over, shaking with laughter.

“Stop…stop…” Lee choked, crawling through a broken section of viaduct. He disappeared for a moment. Dane tried to stop laughing, but it was just too hard. And why should he stop laughing anyway? “Dane!” Lee called, his voice distant and echoing. “Dane, come here!”

Dane waded to the man-sized hole in the cement pipe, leading past dead space and into a dilapidated storehouse. Lee stood over a bunch of white tubes, most stacked in an orderly pyramid, some cast askew.

Picking one up, Lee tested its weight. Lee placed both hands at the base, taking a few tentative swings before growing bolder with his strokes. With one final grin, he raised it high up above his head and smashed it onto the ground.

The fluorescent light bulb shattered to dust instantly. A coarse line of powder remained, a specter of what existed before. Even Lee’s hands still cupped in an “O” around the bulb’s ghost.

“Let me try,” Dane pushed him aside and picked one up. Raising it above his head with both hands, he slammed it as hard as he could, heart racing at the bright shatter of glass.

They both picked another, and squared off like two samurais ready to do battle. Both winced away when their swords crossed, afraid of glass shards in their eyes, but still desperate to see.

After all the bulbs had shattered, the boys were breathless. Standing above the chalky stains on the ground, neither of their appetites for destruction had been satisfied. Their eyes fell on a wheeled cart. The boys grinned with the same burst of inspiration.

Read “The Quantum Treatment” at James Gunn’s Ad Astra