This story is by Rachel Wilson and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
They always say it’s the quiet ones that you should be wary of. Until he stole my heart and led me down a wormhole, I didn’t realize how true that was.
I never intended to fall in love; as cliché as it sounds, it just happened.
“Have you ever heard of a wormhole?” he asked me the first time I met him.
“If that’s some lame attempt at a pickup line, buddy, you can stop right there,” I replied, rolling my eyes.
“No, no, no. There’s a theory, you see, that there are multiple universes out there and that the only way to travel to another is through a wormhole. Isn’t that cool?” his large blue eyes were locked on my face, seemingly searching for agreement or approval.
“I guess,” I replied, grudgingly. Inside, I couldn’t help but agree. Multiple universes? That’d be something, for sure.
That’s all it took, and he was off, speaking of quantum physics and string theory and those alternate universes that he’d caught my attention with in the first place.
I didn’t understand half of what he said most of the time. If I’m being honest, it all just goes over my head a bit, even to this day.
Give me a solid poem to analyze or an essay to write, and I’m good. But string theory? It all seemed, and still seems, far-fetched, despite all I’ve been through.
Then again, I never thought I’d fall in love, either, especially not with someone like him.
I was wrong, on all counts. It wasn’t far-fetched, and I COULD fall in love.
Over the course of several months, we continued to meet up for study dates or coffee or dinner. He’d quietly but excitedly talk about theories and his research into the possibility of a wormhole right there in our midst, and I’d watch him speak, fascinated by the shape of his mouth as he spoke the words, wondering what it’d be like to be kissed by him.
If he caught me staring, he was too polite to say anything, but his cheeky grins said enough.
I’m nothing if not stubborn, however, so we took a while to get to the point.
I thought he’d finally act the afternoon we sat in the university library, him waxing eloquent on another aspect of quantum physics and me pretending to read. He commented on something – I don’t even remember what now – and I replied in a semi-intelligible way about whatever it was.
He looked at me with those eyes of his, and the corners of his fascinating mouth quirked up.
“Have you been researching quantum physics, Adiee?”
I flushed and smiled, nervous flutters swarming my stomach, and replied, “I may have watched a video or two.”
He grinned, and it was glorious. I couldn’t help but return it in kind.
After that, instead of rambling at me, he started coaxing me along in discussions about it, and I stopped pretending to ignore him.
I was content to go with the flow of our new relationship dynamic, never really saying anything but enjoying an increased closeness, but on an ordinary, humdrum Monday in early October, when the trees were in their full New England autumn glory, that all changed.
I was running late for my perfunctory physics class, and he came running up, out of breath and panting my name.
Red-faced, he spoke, “Adiee, you have to see it. Come on!”
He grabbed my hand in his large and warm one and pulled me to an out-of-the-way part of campus. If I hadn’t spent months interacting with and learning from this always gentle and kind man, I would have been quite uneasy.
But it was him. I was his. And he was mine, lack of declarations aside.
We stopped in front of a large tree. If I’d thought to ask, I’m sure he’d have been able to tell me what species it was. As it was, it looked like an ordinary tree to me.
“Did you carve our names or something?” I teased, and he flashed me a smile.
“No, no, no, not yet at least,” his eyes twinkled, and then they positively glimmered as he switched tracks.
“It’s a wormhole, Adiee,” he said breathlessly.
I studied the tree in front of me, then glanced back over at him.
“I…Well, it looks like a normal tree to me, Paul,” I said tentatively.
He nodded vigorously.
“Yes, it does, but it’s not. Watch,” he commanded softly, and with the hand that was not holding mine, he reached towards the tree.
To this day, it’s still hard to believe, but the trunk wavered, and his hand disappeared. I let out a startled shriek.
“Paul!” I gasped.
He pulled his hand back with some visible struggle and frowned briefly.
“It was more difficult to bring my hand back through this time,” he commented without me having to ask.
He took a deep breath, turned to face me, placed his hands on my shoulders, and spoke.
“I’m a scientist, Adiee. You know that. I research. I study. But experimentation is my goal. That’s how we learn new things, no?”
“I have to go in, Adiee; the wormhole will only stay open so long, and…I’m not sure I’ll be able to come back. I don’t want to leave you, but if I don’t do this, if I don’t do this now…” he ran a hand through his normally quite neat brown hair, causing it to stick on end.
“If I don’t do this, I’ll always wonder. Honestly, now that I’ve gone even partway through, the pull to jump in is that much stronger. I don’t know how long I could resist.”
It was difficult due to the lump building in my throat, but I managed to whisper, “I understand. You have to go.”
All this time we’d wasted, quietly dancing around each other, bantering back and forth. Until that moment, I didn’t realize how deeply I loved him.
Now he was leaving.
“Adiee, come with me.”
“Come with me,” he implored, his hands still tightly grasping my shoulders.
“I’m going. There’s no question about that. I want you to come with me, though. I’ll understand if you don’t. It’s unknown. It’s frankly a bit crazy. Whatever is on the other side, I’ll take care of you. We’ll take care of each other. I love you, Adiee,” he whispered the last bit.
I’d like to pretend I was so caught up that I didn’t think of my family in that moment, but I did. My mom and dad, my three younger brothers and one older sister. My grandparents.
Not one of them was enough for me to refuse what Paul suggested.
I placed a shaky hand on his cheek, stood on my tiptoes, and initiated our very first kiss.
“Well,” I exhaled as I pulled away. “Let’s go then.”
He grinned, kissed me deeply, grabbed my hand firmly, then pulled me through the wormhole with him.
I never looked back.