Einstein's Dice

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In a dark room somewhere near the top of a tenement building in Chicago a blind woman rolled a pair of dice between her fingers. The girl sitting across the table from her fidgeted and glanced at the window, where she could see the raised tracks of the train trestle beginning to shake. The blind woman rolled the dice and the train screamed by.

“Snakeyes,” said the blind woman, pushing grey hair out of her face.

“How do you do that?” the girl exclaimed, “How did you know?”

“You’re not paying attention,” she picked the dice up off the table and rolled them through her hands again.

“I don’t believe in magic,” said the young woman, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair, “They told me you could teach me something, but all you do is guess at dice!”

“I’m not guessing, and you’re still not paying attention. Stop thinking about magic and watch.”

Nothing changed in the room, but outside a pigeon landed on the train tracks. A tabby cat stepped delicately from a rooftop onto a windowsill and crouched, tail lashing, eyes fixed on the bird.

“Probability,” said the blind woman, and rolled the dice. The cat exploded into motion and the pigeon fell off the tracks in a flurry of feathers and desperation. The tracks began to shake again as the girl stared at the dice.

“A three,” said the blind seer, “and the other is confusing you because it is both one and six and you don’t know how that can be. Tell me how I know.”

The girl opened her mouth, then paused. She looked out the window again, and back down at the table. The cat leaped back to the windowsill and licked its paw as the train roared past. The dice showed a three and a one. “Oh good”, said the blind woman, “I do like cats.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” said the girl, but her voice was uncertain. She looked out the window again. The cat was now washing its ears, “How can you control what the cat does? With dice? That’s impossible!”

The blind woman sighed, “You’re close, but not quite there yet. I can’t control the cat. I don’t think there’s a power in the universe that could make a cat do something it doesn’t want to do. I don’t play dice, I just… reflect the world.”

“With dice?”

“Yes,” the blind woman smiled and patted the girl on the shoulder, “you’ll get there. It took me a while to get it right, and humanity has only just begun to understand how I do it. Watch one more time, and see if you can tell what I’m reflecting, and then you can go if you like.”

The young woman leaned forward, eyes flicking between the dice and the window, but the cat was gone and there were no more trains. The sun hovered on the horizon, gilding the skyscrapers and reflecting in blazes off windows. The streets were already in shadow far below and she knew that somewhere there were people going to dinner, bustling home from work, kissing their spouses, fighting, watching the sunset. The room was entirely still as the old woman fingered her dice and tossed them to the table.

They landed on a two and a five and the girl smiled, “Me,” she said.

“Very good,” said the old woman, scooping the dice away into her pocket, “Tell me how you knew.”

“I leaned back,” she replied, “and I just knew that they were going to land that way as soon as I started moving. I could sort of feel it. I don’t know how.”

“Excellent,” said the blind woman, “You could feel it because you were paying attention, really paying attention this time instead of just watching. When you observe on that level you change the nature of the thing you observe, so you knew which way the dice landed because you made them land that way. You did the same thing when the cat moved out of the train’s way – you watched and the cat was alive,” she smiled, “That one’s traditional, I just put my own little spin on it. It doesn’t have to be dice you know. The Chinese used to use sticks, some cultures used rune stones, or watched the way ripples moved in a pool when they dropped a stone in. Ways of reading chance have existed since humanity first looked into themselves and understood that they were not a flesh apart. It’s not spiritual, it’s just quantum mechanics.”

“You’re not really blind, are you,” said the girl.

“Of course I am,” said the old woman, “I’ve been blind since before I had eyes. I can see perfectly well.”

The girl shook her head, “You can’t be both.”

The blind woman smiled again, “Of course I can. Haven’t you been paying attention?”

About the Author: 
Sonia Grace would like to colonize Mars (or any other celestial body, she's not picky) but in the interim she's happy writing science fiction.