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Unidentified: A Science-Fiction Thriller
Author:Douglas E. Richards

“What area did you work on?” asked the host.

I had hoped to skip ahead to the punchline, but apparently that wasn’t going to be possible. “Something called retrocausality,” I answered. “Which basically means cause and effect in reverse. In the quantum realm at least, it’s becoming increasingly likely that future events can affect the present.”

“Can you give us an example?” asked Mark Russell.

I sighed. I was hoping to just get on with it, but it was his show. “It turns out that the laws of physics work perfectly well in either time direction,” I said. “Forward or backward. It’s also true that if you take two radioactive atoms, absolutely identical in every conceivable way, they will decay randomly. The first might decay immediately, while the second doesn’t do the same for an hour or more. Why the difference? After all, they’re identical.

“Scientists have never found any way to explain it or predict when this decay will occur. But there are theories that posit the information that controls the fate of these particles doesn’t come from the past or present.” I raised my eyebrows to build the drama. “It comes from the future. Cause and effect in reverse.”

“Very cool,” said Russell enthusiastically. “So how did you go from there to becoming a writer?”

“In my third year of graduate school I wrote a science-fiction story with retrocausality as the central theme. Basically, it was an exercise to see if I could present my thoughts on the topic in a fun, interesting way that even those untrained in physics could understand.

“Anyway, I posted it online—and it went viral. So I expanded it to novel length, and this went viral also. It didn’t take long before I decided that I was better at telling stories than in making physics breakthroughs. So I left Stanford to pursue writing full time.”

“Fascinating,” said the host. “And I know your many fans are happy things turned out the way they did.”

So was I, but I remained silent. The truth was that I was no Albert Einstein. In fact, I would have been a mediocre quantum physicist. My lack of a PhD was no loss to the world, and in my current capacity, I was able to provide millions with food for thought and a better understanding of scientific principles.

All in all, I was lucky I had found this calling, even if I wasn’t a natural. Even if coming up with new ideas and characters had become ever more of a struggle since that very first effort. For each of my novels I had used every good idea I’d ever had, and was then faced with the terrifying prospect of having to come up with an entirely new set of ideas from thin air.

Still, I had won the lottery and was well aware of it. The last thing I would ever do was complain, or get a big head. I had gotten lucky, and I still remained my own harshest critic.

But even though writing could at times be a torture, not too many people would feel sorry for a man who worked from home, answered only to himself, and earned millions by simply typing words into a computer. Besides, a little suffering was good for the soul.

At least that’s what I told myself.

“So let’s move into the central topic of this episode,” said Mark Russell. “Because, as I mentioned, you aren’t here to tell us about a new novel, or discuss science and futurism. You aren’t here to discuss writing at all.

“In fact, Jason, you asked to be booked on the show to explain what you’ve been doing with the past seven months of your life. You’re here to enlighten us all about what is undeniably the most important, and most fascinating, topic of our age. You’re here to give us a comprehensive final answer to a question that has tortured so many for so long. So I’ll give you the floor.”

Mark Russell raised his eyebrows. “Tell us what you’ve learned about UAP and extraterrestrials. Are they real? Are they here? And if so, why?”





2


Here it was, I thought, staring at Mark Russell’s image like a deer in headlights. I had reached the point of no return. No matter what I did from here, I’d come off poorly. The best I could do was educate, stimulate, even if I failed to deliver on the promise I’d made.

This was a cardinal sin in my profession. If you wrote of mysterious events that were seemingly unconnected, you could surely capture a reader’s attention. But you had to pay it off. You had to tie it all up in a bow, come up with a surprise explanation that would make all the pieces fall into place. If not, readers would resent you for piquing their interest, for the sleep they lost as they raced through pages to find the epic answer, only to be disappointed when they learned it wasn’t really there.

That’s what I was about to do to Mark Russell’s considerable audience.

I started to panic, instantly regretting the desperation, the insanity really, that had led me to attempt this stunt, and wishing I could take it back. But of course I couldn’t. I was a suicide victim who had changed his mind only after stepping off the ledge. Now all I could do was fall.

I had finished my last novel almost a year earlier, and had finally hit a brick wall as I went to work on the next. I was completely burned out. Bereft of ideas at long last. I attempted a few feeble starts to a new novel and quickly abandoned them, wondering if I’d ever finish another one.

Finally, seven months ago, I gave up, realizing I was no longer passionate about writing novels. While I wasn’t paying attention, my passion had changed. My true passion had become getting to the bottom of the current UFO situation. I finally had to acknowledge this state of affairs and decide what I would do about it.