“Here is your food, ma’am,” I said.

“Thank you,” I replied.

Standing behind the woman I just gave the food to was the girl in the raspberry beret. She was dressed the same way as I saw her at my other job at Walmart. Before leaving, I said, “Hey, this is where you live?”

The woman holding the bags from Marciano’s Italian Restaurant looked at me puzzled and then turned around and screamed at the top of her lungs and dropped her hundred-dollar order to the floor.

“Ahhhhh…” She screamed again as I saw two guys came running from the other room. At that point, shit was getting crazy, so I turned around to head for my bike when I heard a voice say, “Arthur Scanlon, only you can save me.”

What the hell? The crazy bitch has my name and what the fuck does she want me to save her from? I get on my bike and turn the key and get out of there. I am not sure what this is about, but it is beginning to scare the shit out of me.

I get up late the next day and I am not going to work anywhere. I try to forget about the surreal events last night as I open my first beer and the cellphone rings. I pick up and say, “Hello.”

“Mr. Scanlon,” said the voice on the other end.

“Yes,” I replied.

“My name is Sam Abelstein.” I know that name. It was the name of the customer in whose home the crazy lady was in. Jesus Fucking H. Christ.

“Yes,” I reply, pretending not to know what this is about.

“You delivered food to our home last night,” he said.

“I am not sure how you got my real number, and if this is about any problems with your order, I am sorry to tell you that the packages it came in were sealed, so any issues you might have you have to take up with the restaurant,” I replied to partially deflect attention from what I was certain his real problem was and in a forlorn hope that this was actually what it was about.

“No, this has nothing to do with the food,” he said.

“So what is the problem?” I said in a last attempt to play stupid.

“I am sure you noticed the woman standing in our den behind my wife, to whom you gave the food?”

“Yes, I did. Look, I am not sure what your issue is with her. I have seen her at my other job at Walmart. To tell you the truth, she just seems like a nutcase who could be stalking me,” I reply.

“Are you busy right now? This might sound like an awful imposition, but I really need to speak with you,” he said.

“Look, judging by the reaction of your wife, I guess she broke into your house. You need to just call the cops and leave me the hell out of it,” I reply and move my finger to the disconnect button when I hear him yell, “Wait, wait!” I almost hang up, but a morbid curiosity got the better of me, so I put the phone back to my ear and say, “What’s really going on?”

“Mr. Scanlon, I think this woman is in grave danger and only you can help her,” he said.

“Why should I?” I replied.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I do know this involves something more fantastic than I could have ever imagined. I am a physicist. This might sound like a bunch of nonsense, but her situation could involve some of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. So, please, if it won’t put you out, I would very much like to speak with you.”

I was interested, even though my better judgment was telling me to hang up and block this guy’s number. I thought I might like to be a physicist back in my young and stupid days when I thought I was smart enough to be something worthwhile. Once again, a small tear of nostalgia began to form on my cheek and, like the fool I always was, I say, “All right. I am available right now. I can be at your place in 15 minutes.”

“Great,” he said.

I drive my bike back to his house and he and his wife greet me at the door. I shake his hand and he says, “How are you, Mr. Scanlon?”

“Could be better, Mr. Abelstein, and calling me ‘Mister’ is like calling a chicken an eagle; it just doesn’t fit. Call me Artie.”

“Well, you can call me Sam,” he said.

“Okay, Sam,” I replied. “So what’s this all about?”

“Well, let’s start with the particulars. My wife testified she called out for you to rescue her, right?”


“Well, as soon as you left, my wife was about to call the police and report her for breaking in, but then my friend and I stopped her. It was clear she did not break in, for nobody heard anything. As soon as my wife calmed down, we sat her down to talk with her. She said she did not remember her name when she got away from the cage, and while she was out, she was only ‘the girl in the raspberry beret.’ I inquired further and she said that only Arthur Scanlon could save her from the man holding her in the cage. I asked her where the cage was and she said it was in what we might call ‘Atlantis.’ After that, she began to start speaking a language I did not understand, and then she vanished,” Sam said.

“Well, Sam, that account sounds similar to what happened to me. She showed up at my other job at Walmart like I told you and started talking similar nonsense to me and the vanishing. I just thought she took off. Do you have any idea what’s up with her?”

“I have a hunch. Are you willing to stay a while?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“Let’s go downstairs,” he said.

He motioned me to come down the stairwell to his basement and pointed to a desk with a computer that was hooked up to something. There was another man at the computer. Sam introduced us, “Clint Richardson, this is Arthur Scanlon.”

“How do you do?”

We shook hands.

“Look at this,” Clint said as he picked it up.

“What’s that?” I replied.

“Well, I should know,” Clint said as he continued to examine it. “We found this at an Anasazi archaeological site. I taught a course in Native American archaeology, but it is like nothing I have ever seen. Besides, much to my chagrin, it was Sam who discovered the site. He should be the one who explains it.”

“All right. Right now, I got nothing but time.

“Do you think this world we perceive is real and all there is?” Sam asked.

“Yep. I don’t buy any of that religious or mystical bullshit,” I told him.

“Well, have you ever heard of quantum mechanics?” he said.

“Sure, I failed it when I was in college.”

“Really. That doesn’t surprise me. It’s a bunch of mathematical equations that don’t make a whole lot sense in that we really can’t imagine what they represent, but they do predict the behavior of real things,” he said. “Without going into the details, I believe I have an answer.”

“Okay,” I replied, still wondering where the heck this was going.

“Do you remember anything about the wave function?” Sam said.

“Yes,” I replied, surprised at myself for remembering something that I had not had to recall almost three decades and failed at that point. “The wave function describes the probability distribution for finding a particle.”

“Correct, but what is it? Can we see it? Can we hear it? If it’s a wave, what is the medium it travels through?” Sam said.

“As far as I can remember, it has no medium and we can’t know anything about it. It’s just math,” I replied.

“It’s math that can calculate the behavior of anything around us except gravity, and with my tweaking with Wheeler and DeWitt’s modifications to Dirac’s equation, even that, too.”

“Okay.” I was not quite sure where he was going and he was beginning to lose me, so I said, “So, do you think you can tell if Schrodinger’s cat is really alive or dead?”

“There is no cat,” he replied. “What you see is just the part of the wave function our bodies have turned into something that we can process.”

“Well, if there is no cat, then what takes a shit in the hall in my building every other morning. Pixies?” I replied as both men laughed.

“Let’s try an analogy. Is the trash icon on your computer desktop actually a trash can?”

“No, it’s an icon,” I said.

“But it does something, right?”

“Yeah, it holds files for deletion.”

“Now, there is code that deletes those files even though we can’t see it. Do you think something similar is true of all the other icons on your computer?”

“Sure,” I said.

“Do you think the icons you see contain all of the code on your computer or do they show you only what is relevant to you as a user?”

“Well, I guess what’s relevant to me, but how the hell is what you are going on about relevant to anything at all?”

“He really is a great teacher, but he tends to go off on tangents,” Clint interjected. “Let me show you what is going on.”

He pointed to the computer screen.

“This is actually GPS coordinates. The last column is actually a code that tells the state of the wave function. Notice that it is mostly all the same.”

“So is that what that thing does?” I asked as I pointed to the strange object attached to the computer.

“Yes,” Sam said.

“This is something we discovered at the site. I’m not sure what it is, although I know it’s not Anasazi, Diné, or from any other tribe or, for that matter, anything I’ve ever seen,” Clint said.

“I think it is like the source page for a web site,” Sam said. “We can use it to view the code for certain places and times, but not change it. If I call up the time and place for the last time we were at the site, we get a different number for the last column.”

“And why do you think that is?” I said.

“Well,” Clint said. “When we were there, that same woman who brought us all here appeared before our eyes and one very large carved Anasazi stone disappeared, too. The hole where that stone used to be is where we found that object. She vanished just as quickly as we saw her.”

This was getting even more insane. I’m just a guy who works a couple of part-time jobs to pay the rent on my single-room occupancy and doesn’t give a shit about anything except having money for rent, beer, and an Internet connection. What the fuck am I doing with these academic pinheads, one of whom can afford a house bigger than I could afford in 20 lifetimes? I should tell these people to fuck off right now and jump on my bike and never see them again, but then, once again, my inner dumbass takes over and I say, “Let me look up the GPS coordinates of the Walmart I work at and for last Friday morning about 1:00 AM.” I send these to Clint at the computer, who puts in the info in the right boxes and says, “Well, I guess our hypothesis is confirmed. The wave function is different there and then according the last column.”

“It looks like wherever she is, the wave function is different or at least showing us something different. It is though a different app is being used when she is around,” Sam said.

“Or else we’re getting a pop-up ad,” I replied.

“Hmmm…” Sam said. “It is as if she can poke through and perhaps she is pulled back.”

“Wait a minute,” I replied. “Every time she started speaking her gibberish, she vanished not long after. It’s as if she forgot how to speak English. It could be that what is in our own heads is part of what you call our ‘interface?’”

“Yes, I would think our memories are a part of the interface,” Sam said.

“So what could be happening is whatever is pulling her back into this cage she told you about and from which apparently only I can free her is literally grabbing hold of her mind. Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets Drag Me to Hell.”

“Yes, that does make sense. Why aren’t you a scientist, Artie?”

“Dammit, I actually tried that and failed. I’m a fucking waste case who drives around for Grubhub and stocks shelves at Walmart. Besides, I haven’t figured out jack shit and more than either of you. She appears sometimes and disappears. We don’t know when and where she’ll show up next. Whatever issues she’s facing, I doubt I can fix ‘em. I think I’m going to go home. It was nice meeting you guys.”

As I turn around to leave, Clint says at the computer, “Hold on a minute. I think I found something.”

“What?” Sam said as I turned around. It’s not like I had anywhere to go, so I wasn’t leaving that quickly.

“I have been looking at these numbers, and after finally figuring out how the search function works on Sam’s program, I have mapped out the places that have had an anomalous reading in the last column. Come here, Sam, help me with this. Your program is not very user friendly.”

I just stare off into space for a few minutes wondering what I am still doing here and reminiscing about the days of yore, when so much more seemed possible. Sam’s words had a weird impact on me that I couldn’t fully articulate. It was as though he convinced me to stay without even trying.

“Okay,” Clint said, “I think I have the readout on all the anomalies in the last column. As you can see, the Walmart you work at, the site we found the device, and our location are all included, but there are several more.”

“Well. I am not sure what this is going to do for us,” I said. “It’s not like you can tell where and when she will show up, and even if we knew, it isn’t likely we can do anything about it. She’s just there for a few minutes and disappears.”

“Like I discussed earlier, this device only seems to tell the state of the wave function in a particular time and place, but not to change it. However, this thing is in the shape of a Klein’s bottle. It is a three-dimensional projection of a four dimensional object with a single continuous surface, as if it’s a part of something else.”

“So do you think you can use it to find the rest of it, whatever ‘it’ is, and perhaps use that to rescue her from whatever the fuck is vexing her?”

“Precisely,” Sam said. “But where do we start?” All three of us stood agape at the computer screen.

As I am staring, I notice a set of GPS coordinates for one of the anomalies that looked familiar from my Waze app. “Hold up,” I said. I looked up the coordinates and said “Gotcha!”

“What do you see?” Clint said.

“This is a place I deliver to. It’s Johnson’s farm.”

“Huh? What does that mean?” Clint said.

“That crazy bitch called herself ‘the girl in the raspberry beret.’ That’s from a song I heard on the radio the last two times I saw her,” I replied.

“Geez, I remember now. It was Prince, right?” Clint said.

“Well, I like the Warren Zevon version myself, but you get the point. Google the lyrics.”

He did so and he read the words, “And-a we went riding down by old man Johnson’s farm.”

“Well, I’ll be flummoxed,” he said. “Sam, do you think this increases the Bayesian prior for where we should start our search?”

“Absolutely,” Sam replied.

“Okay, let’s go. You all can look up the coordinates.”


For all installments of “Raspberry Beret,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2