The Catalyst

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“Funding. Publicity. What makes the world go around.”
I raised my eyebrows.
He adjusted his glasses and sighed. “Put it this way, Felicity. If I manage to apparently duplicate elementary particles by taking advantage of a flaw in the MWI to allow the two separate possibilities to interact with a time displacement, who would even care?”
“I would,” I replied, affronted. “If your designs work, it will end years of debate on the proper interpretation of apparent wave-function collapse. That's huge!”
Professor DeWitt smiled at me. “But you are a scientist. Most people are not.”
“At least in this universe,” I joked, petting the black cat in my lap, who was blissfully unaware of the fantastically dangerous experiment it was about to undertake. “So you're popularizing it. Duplicating a cat is more interesting than something we can't see.”
“Exactly.” He opened the chamber of the machine above him, a massive spherical shell surrounded by the most advanced space-time manipulation devices of the day. They weren't useful outside the lab, but DeWitt theorized it'll be simpler to drag something out of a parallel world than across our own space-time continuum.
I placed the experimental subject inside, tickling its ears. It meowed at me and tried to hop out, but DeWitt shut the door. We followed the experimentation procedures, warming up the last few machines. I stared at the screen, at the cat inside the 'box'. Depending on the theory, that cat either had a 100% chance of both living and dying, or it had a 50% chance of death. I didn't like the odds either way.
DeWitt chuckled. “Don't worry. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”
An old proverb, with an almost forgotten ending. I nodded automatically.
If DeWitt was correct, the machine would force both states of the wave-function to exist in one universe, collapsing two parallel universes within the 'box' for a few moments before the more stable configuration of two separate worlds reasserted itself. For a few seconds, both a dead and an alive cat would exist in that box – one killed by cyanide, and the other alive and well.
I crossed my fingers and DeWitt hit the switch.
A light flashed on the control panel, and the world shifted within the sphere. Our gazes moved to the monitor and sure enough! Two cats. The live Siamese sniffed at its departed copy and flattened its ears as the corpse flickered and stabilized.
“Fantastic!” DeWitt cried, grinning widely. “It's stable. That's more than I hoped for!”
“Too stable,” I commented. “Shouldn't that be fading...?”
“Who cares? We'll figure it out later but now, think of the possibilities! This is limitless energy. Limitless matter. A Star Trek replicator. I can't believe it.”
I swallowed. The live cat was backed against the back wall of the small chamber. Something was blurring and crackling in the air beside it. I reached for the control panel. “It's behaving erratically. We should shut it down.” Something strange was materializing in the small amount of empty space left in the sphere. DeWitt, frozen with awe, didn't respond. “Professor? Professor!”
“What is that?” he asked no one, releasing the hatch and swinging the door above him open.
It felt like that moment when a tooth comes out and leaves a gap where the bone stub should be. It sounded like the moment when someone interrupts an orchestra, and the piece they're playing falls to pieces as the strings vibrate in exactly the wrong way. It smelled like a burning plastic and wild electricity and sounded like an incalculable number of cats hissing at the same time.
Time juddered, and space twisted, ripping apart the steel sphere with a shriek of torn metal, spilling the cat and the corpse from within. The live cat fled, yowling, and the corpse fell on the professor's head. He caught it and clutched it happily. “It's stable? Felicity! The experiment is stable without the machine's continued intervention.”
He stood, holding the corpse. “True replication!”
My professor shook the dead cat for emphasis, then staggered as he was pelted by cat after cat, corpse after corpse. He swore, dropping the original cat to the ground and folding his arms over his head to protect himself. The room filled with hissing as dozens of black cats scrambled out of the sphere. I just stared, frozen, at DeWitt's glee turning to horror as their claws covered him in blood. He vanished beneath a pile of floppy black fur twice his height. A panicked cat clawed up my shirt and over my shoulder.
The pain shocked me into action. I ran.
I managed to get out of the lab before the mass of cats escaped into the hallways to relieve the increasing pressure from the unending stream of all possible cats. I think the campus police tried to contain them, but failed. There was a lot of yelling.
I didn't know what to do. I just got in my car and drove away from those cats. I heard on the radio that there are about ten thousand identical black cats in the LA basin now, and it's not going to stop.
We were so hopeful... but MWI stands for the multiple worlds interpretation, and that clever little thought experiment of Schrödinger’s shouldn't have been tried. A living creature is composed of too many variables; it contains an uncountable number of potential wave-states. Each electron in every atom in every molecule of every whisker has an infinite number of potential states, and Professor DeWitt's machine allowed every possible state to exist at the same time. Every possible variation of that cat, an infinite number of permutations spilling out... and if we can't repair the rip? A black hole will form where the earth once was.
It will be a complete catastrophe.

About the Author: 
I'm a physics major attending Rogue Community College. Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved sci-fi and the science that makes those stories and so much more possible.