It's Not the End and Other Lies

It's Not the End and Other Lies

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771484503
Publisher: ChiZine Publications
Publication date: 07/10/2018
Pages: 300
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Matt Moore is an author, columnist, and poet whose works have appeared in On Spec, "Leading Edge," The Ottawa Citizen, Jamais Vu, The Drabblecast, and more. His short story collection, It's Not The End and Other Lies, was recently published by ChiZine Publications. Beyond writing, he is the Co-Chair of the Ottawa "Chiaroscuro Reading Series" (ChiSeries), an award-nominated, quarterly reading series.

Read an Excerpt

Δπ (“DELTA PI”)
by Matt Moore

The digital clock on my desk, synched to the same atomic clock as the facility, reads 11:48:05. One-hundred fifteen seconds left.
I tell myself it’s my true understanding of Cünzken that brought—and kept—me here. This once tiny town of Smythers. Where Cünzken was born and grew up. Yet I can’t discount insanity, either. They say the truly insane aren’t aware of their madness. And only a madman would come here if he believed what Cünzken predicted in his fifth paper. But for three years I’ve been told only a madman could believe Cünzken’s predictions.
I don’t know if I believe, but at least I understand. That’s more than I can say for those working at the facility.
My students don’t notice my momentary distraction. They stare out the windows at the noontime prairie. A lump of resentment settles in my throat. If I could stand—instead of being stuck in this chair—I might command a bit more respect. I rap on the whiteboard to get their attention. “Who knows what the mathematic constant Pi is?”
“It’s like,” a student begins, her eyes still focused outside, “the difference between how far a circle’s across and how far it’s around.”
“Close.” Maybe I should be more impressed by a fourth grader expressing the basic concept of Pi. Considering their parents are research scientists and assistants at the facility built to test the Cünzken Equations, I’m judging on a curve.
Turning toward the board, I wheel myself from behind my desk. I draw a circle on the white board, label it “C”, a diameter I label “D”, and then write an equation infinitely simpler and more immutable than any of Cünzken’s: π = C/D. “Pi is the ratio of circumference—how far a circle is around—to its diameter—how far it is from one edge to the other. It’s an unchanging constant and a fundamental building block in math.”
Nothing. Gazing out the window. I resist looking myself. Looking again at Liz Polaski in her white cotton blouse and grey pencil skirt, red hair in a loose ponytail. I’d say she’s in her mid-40s, almost twice my age, but I guess I have a Mrs. Robinson thing. She has her English class sitting out in the grass, reading to them from some book.
And honestly, I don’t want to look past Liz, past the five-meter high chain link fence that borders the school property. Beyond it lies the facility’s 4,000 hectares grounds. Its main complex towers above the endless, even horizon like a watchful god. Beneath its grounds, right now, supercharged particles are traveling at near-light speed in a 20-kilometer long, magnetically-guided circular track. Their collision will tell us if Cünzken’s predictions were 40 years ahead of their time.
Or perhaps the collision has already occurred.
I force myself to not look outside, not look at the clock. If I can focus on the lesson, so can my students. But the knowledge that I should be on the facility’s staff, not pretending to be a teacher because it was the only job I could get, gnaws at me.
A pulse of pain throbs behind my eyes. I shouldn’t let myself get so worked up.
I push my chair’s wheels in opposite directions to face the class, but I don’t turn as much as I want. Maybe I need the chair looked at. I give an extra push to face them.
“Can we do this outside?” someone asks.
“No,” I reply, my voice lacking a polite, teacher-like tone. Only ten more minutes until lunch and it’s not like I want to be here anymore than they do. Not to mention another twinge behind my eyes. “We’re going to do an experiment. If we finish before the bell, you can leave.”
Faces turn. Attention is given. Using a large, chalk-tipped compass, I draw a circle on a piece of corkboard on my desk, measure its diameter, write the figure on the whiteboard and grab the box of pushpins from a drawer. “Everyone come forward and take a pin. Put them around the chalk circle. I want the whole circle filled in.” The students do as instructed, eager to get this over with. They watch me wind a string around the circle of pins, measure and write its length on the whiteboard. “Now, we have diameter and circumference. Back to your desks and tell me what Pi equals.”
They rush to their seats. Hands unzip backpacks, calculators clatter on desks. Not helping my headache.
I look at the clock: 11:52:44.
Since reality didn’t rend and tear a hundred and sixty-four seconds ago, I assume the research team is pouring over the data from the collision.
A deeper, more bitter pang of resentment grabs me. Even with just a Bachelors, I understand the Cünzken Equations at a more fundamental level than most of the PhDs working there. Having found the bars and coffee shops where they hang out, I’ve talked to them, flirted with the women. Learned what I could about the experiments. Tried to find a way onto the team, even as a junior assistant. I had to be close. Had to know more. At first, they were curious how a grade school teacher knew so much, but then I’d go and mention Cünzken’s fifth paper.
Sure, they’re all about the first four papers, theorizing how a particle collision could create a stable wormhole by unrolling a micro-dimension to travel along. But they dismiss his fifth paper with as much fervour as I embraced it. They laugh me off, turning back to their drinks. Just like my advisor calling me mad when I proposed doing my thesis on the fifth paper. He refused to accept it and wouldn’t write a letter of recommendation. So despite completing my Bachelors at Caltech in less than two years, my career is going nowhere.
I can’t help it. I look outside—
The headache must be worse than I thought. My eyes can’t focus, like the complex is over the horizon.
“Three point three,” one of my students says.
Another: “Three point two six.”
“Three point two five nine.”
More voices shout, throbbing in my head. I hold up my hand for quiet and ask, “Did everyone get 3.26?”
Heads nod. I grab a calculator. This is the first time I’ve done this experiment with the pins and string. There’s a sampling error since the pins form a multi-sided polygon, not a true circle, but the ratio should come up short.
“Can we go?”
“You promised.”
A few keystrokes later and I see the ratio’s correct. How could I screw this up? Though something about Cünzken’s last paper nags at me, I say, “Sure.”
They burst from their seats and run for the door, amplifying my headache. A few seconds later, they go streaming across the blacktop. Liz tells them to walk in that unquestionable tone veteran teachers have before returning to her reading.
Rubbing my temples, I tell myself I’m not bitter that I’ll never run. Never be part of the group. Always be on the outside. Maybe it’s ego, but these headaches give me a sense of kinship with Cünzken. By all accounts, he was an overlooked, bookish kid who suffered from headaches growing up in a town of farmers and tradesman. Friendless, he spent a lot of time wandering alone outside of town. Good grades got him into college, odd jobs around town allowed him to afford it.
Once there, he remained bookish and friendless, yet excelled in his studies. Working at a part-time job, he invested his earnings in the stock market, studying its fluctuations, and made a fortune. He received his PhD less than four years after enrolling in a Bachelors program.
But his skills at predicting stocks brought him fame, not his research. He taught sporadically, never remaining at a university for more than a few years before being let go. His four papers were published in obscure journals over a fifteen year career. Described as “esoteric” and “alchemic” forty years ago, it wouldn’t be until results from CERN showed Cünzken had been right all along.
He often returned to Smythers, buying up the land outside town where he’d wandered as a kid and the facility sits now. As a man, he took long walks out there, pondering his theories. Despite Smythers being a farming town, this land had always sat fallow, the few farmers who’d owned it saying nothing would grow there. Small town rumors of the land being cursed amplified when the few people who knew Cünzken reported he used to say nature would talk to him out there, whispering its secrets to him.
These rumours cast Cünzken as peculiar, but his fifth paper turned people against him. In it, he took his equations further, to an ultimate conclusion. Testing his theories, he warned—and theoretically demonstrated—would open a Pandora’s Box. An unraveling reality beyond human comprehension. Like probing the mind of God, it would bring obliteration, not enlightenment.
Yet reading his fifth paper changed my perceptions of the world. I didn’t understand how anyone could fail to grasp the irrefutable conclusion that the fabric of reality is an oversimplified illusion. That our 3-dimensional perceptions had evolved to protect us from reality’s true nature. Physics and mathematics rested on a delicate framework that would collapse with the slightest nudge. So many of my classmates just didn’t get it, only able to see his graphs in the two dimensions of the page, not the five he’d intended. Judging variables as unknowns needing to be solved, not as true unknown factors to which we three-dimensional beings could never assign values. I debated it online, enduring endless insults and finding no one who truly understood the elegance of the equations.
The irony is Cünzken didn’t live to see the fifth paper published. He’d killed himself by then, a suicide note explaining it was inevitable someone would test his equations. More than that, he claimed his pondering the deepest recesses of reality had created a multi-dimensional space in his mind. It had allowed something in the farthest bowels of the universe to reach out to him. To mark him. If a doorway opened, he feared the indescribable wonders and horrors that would emerge from the hidden dimensions would seek him out.
At least, he concluded, his headaches had subsided.
That’s why I understand why Cünzken willed his considerable fortune be used as seed money to build a collider for testing his equations on the property he had purchased. Cünzken had been a ridiculed outcast his whole life. He dared the world to prove him wrong. The world itself would be the stakes. His hometown would be ground zero.
Forty years later, a consortium of scientists and commercial interests accepted the dare. Once home to just eight hundred people, the facility’s construction crews brought roads, restaurants and hotels to Smythers. Staff brought their families, which meant schools, which brought a desperate search for teachers. All one needed was a Bachelors degree. It gave me the chance to get closer.
The bell rings, stabbing my head, and a moment later stampeding feet and gleeful voices fill the hallway. Another moment and hundreds of kids bolt outside, breaking into small groups that claim spots of grass.
As I grab the eraser, Liz walks in and hops up on my desk. “You ran the experiment?”
“It says Pi, the great universal constant, is 3.26.” Something is wrong with my chair. It takes more than a complete turn to face the board.
“I thought you had a physics degree,” she teases.
I motion to the figures on the white board. “Run the numbers yourself.”
She grabs my calculator. From how she’s sitting, I could have a great view of her legs, but the headache is pounding an uneven rhythm.
Her eyebrows knot at the result. “Well, you did something wrong, speedy.” She hops off my desk, squeezes my shoulder to let me know she’s kidding, and grabs the compass, intent on repeating the experiment.
I’m barely aware. The pain in my head is uneven, but there’s a pattern. Complex, sophisticated. Oscillating in multiple dimensions.
“Does—” The tone of Liz’s voice pulls me back. Next to me, she’s tense turning the compass. Watching, it’s taking the compass longer to complete the circle than it should. Like there’s more than 360 degrees to traverse.
A kid’s voice outside: “Hey, look!”
I look up. A handful of kids are standing, pointing. Pointing at the horizon.
“Liz,” I say, wondering if my eyes really have gone bad. “Outside.”
She looks. Sees what I see. Sees what the kids see. The horizon is curving. “Oh my God.”
The agony in my head pulses, filling my mind, pushing beyond it.
A wordless understanding arises.
I haphazardly shove pins around the circumference of the circle Liz has drawn.
“What are you doing?”
It’s language. Something so foreign, so immense, is trying to communicate. “What if Pi has changed?”
“What?”
Cünzken predicted this: unravelling a micro-dimension could cause another dimension to curl up, possibly changing universal constants—Planck length, speed of light, Pi. “The collider—” I gasp.
“That was today?”
The circle looks smaller than the one I drew, but it takes almost all of the string to wrap its circumference. I fight through the pain that threatens to overwhelm my awareness and measure the string, punch the measurements into the calculator and hold it up for Liz to see: Pi is 3.71.
She says something, but I don’t hear. Holding Cünzken’s graphs in my mind, I apply it to this communication and the pain shatters. The message, loosed from the constraints of my three-dimensional perception of space-time, expands along infinite dimensions. It would take a lifetime to explain its intricacies, but it boils down to a basic concept: We have been noticed and it is coming.
“What does that mean?” Liz repeats.
Entry to a wormhole comes via a three-dimensional space—a sphere. A finite space. “Look out your room’s windows,” I tell her.
She runs to the door without question. From there, she can see into her classroom and out its windows toward town.
Outside my windows, the horizon continues to curve. Curve upwards. A few teachers stand, pointing. And the children, taking their cue from the adults, remain motionless.
“It’s flat,” Liz says from the doorway. She’s only twenty-five feet away, but she seems so distant.
The speaker at the front of the room crackles. A voice trying to hide its fear says: “Attention, attention. There’s been an accident at the collider. We are asking everyone to calmly leave school grounds and walk toward town.”
“Get the kids,” I tell her. “Run. Get outside its effects.” Corners where walls meet the ceiling and floor begin to bow.
Footfalls pound by in the hall.
“I’ll get someone to carry you.” She leans into the hall, but I shout: “There’s no time. Get the kids out.”
Her face is pained. “I’ll send someone back.” And she’s gone. I begin to turn toward the window, wheels spinning and spinning, but I barely rotate as the wheels’ circumferences increase with each passing second.
Liz emerges outside, commanding the kids to follow her. Unquestioningly, they and the teachers obey. A moment later, everyone disappears around the corner of the building.
The horizon is now bowl-shaped, the collider complex impossibly distant rising from behind it.
This is no delusion borne from madness. It’s truth, the ultimate truth I have sought for three years.
With a sense I can’t quantify, I detect the approach of something from a direction moments ago I could not fathom, but now seems so obvious. It has been here so close all along, yet infinitely unreachable.
I wait for the universe to reveal whatever wonders or horrors it has concealed.

Table of Contents

Show Your Work: An introduction David Nickle 11

Δ π ("Delta Pi") 15

Ascension 23

The Machinery of Government 27

Full Moon Hill 43

Silvermans Game 47

They Told Me to Shuffle Off This Mortal, Infinite Loop 65

That Which Does Not Kill You 73

In the Shadow of Scythe 85

Balance 109

But It's Not the End 119

Only at the End Do You See What Follows 129

The Wall of Gloves 145

Of the Endangered 147

Brief Candles 173

The Pack 197

The Thing That Killed Her 207

The Leaving 227

You're a Winner! 243

The Weak Son 249

While Gabriel Slept 261

Touch the Sky, They Say 267

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Subtle power, intelligence, and humanity are the hallmarks of Moore’s work.
These stories are apt to stick in your mind like quills. They did in mine.”
—Nick Cutter, author of Little Heaven, The Acolyte, and The Troop


It’s Not The End and Other Lies is the taut, muscular debut of an original and gifted voice. Matt Moore is a gardener of nightmares, artlessly turning over the dark soil in which the horrors that entangle ordinary people in their killing grasp bloom. If you read one new writer this year, read this one. You’ll thank me later.”
—Michael Rowe, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of Wild Fell
and Enter, Night

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