• Ejuen Armstrong

An Entanglement in Hagerty’s Hole

Two friends have a show-not-tell discussion about quantum physics

I was sitting in Hagerty’s Hole with Siobhan O”Flannery, tucking into a hearty meal of Irish stew and colcannon, when she made a bizarre and disturbing confession. ​ Things had begun quietly enough. We’d bumped into each other in Greystones, County Wicklow, where she was working on her next best-selling album and I was finalising research for the Viking series, Sails. Our last mutual sighting had been as undergraduates at Southampton University where we’d bonded over Music and Film Studies while plotting revenge on the vermin that had infected us with student flu. We were going to sneeze our way along all seventeen floors of Mayflower Halls. ​ Although the noise in Hagerty’s formed a health hazard, the acoustics in its seating booths allowed easy conversation. After we’d reminisced over who’d married, divorced, given birth or died, Siobhan took a sip from her Desperados and leaned forward. I drew back discreetly from the heat she emanated, and caught instead a heavenly whiff of brandy cream and rum. Turning, I saw a waiter tottering past with two mountainous slices of porter cake. ​ “So, Ms Delightful Akuma,” Siobhan began, “What’s the craic?” ​ “Commissions and deadlines, mostly.” I reeled off a scriptwriting portfolio that covered Game of Thrones, Warcraft, Eastenders, Harry Potter, and The Walking Dead. ​ She gawped. “Oh aye, that’s impressive!” ​ I didn’t have to ask about her life. Siobhan O'Flannery had a voice that sounded like she’d swallowed every prima donna in existence. She sang in six languages and a thousand emotions. I felt privileged to have known her before fame had taken her off to Hollywood—not the village: population 215, 56 minutes drive down the N81; but the best soundtrack winner two years running Hollywood: California, USA.

“Never thought I’d see you in the flesh again, Siob. It’s been … what? Ten years?” ​ “I’m a homing pigeon, Dee. We’d have met again eventually.” ​ She was probably right; County Wicklow was a magnet for film-makers, and Hagerty’s was a regular pit stop for musicians. Right on cue, a nearby table started up with The Rocky Road to Dublin. I picked out some frenetic phrases:

“... ghosts and goblins ...

Connaught’s cure ...

Whack follol-de-rah ...”

It suited the glowing pumpkins and dancing skeletons lined up along the bar. Although, St Nicholas had also reserved a seat. A rotund mannequin in red velvet and white ermine stood in the corner, a mince pie in one hand and a brandy in the other. ​ I turned to Siobhan with a wink. “So, Ms O”Flannery, naughty? Or nice … ?” ​ With her template of auburn locks and flirtatious green eyes, she’d have had plenty of opportunity for salty behaviour. But her response far exceeded my understanding of the term. “Oh, oi murdered me mam, din’t I?” ​ I pushed aside my 'You do know that Santa frowns upon matricide' riposte and opted for, “I’m very sorry for your loss.” ​ She waved that away. “Last October, she was in hospital, dying. At 19.35.06 she was dead. At 19.35.09, it was, “Hello, again!” ​ “People come back to life all the time, Siob.” ​ “From drowning, perhaps. After actually passing the end stage of pancreatic cancer? Never. The doctors offered all sorts of stupid theories. It must have been faulty monitors; or just not cancer. Or, 'Glory be, it's a bloody miracle!' To them it seemed perfectly acceptable that a sixty-eight year old woman, deceased, was dancing one week later to salsa and planning a white-water rafting holiday.” ​ “New lease of life?” ​ “No. It was as if she’d never been alive—as if everything was a new experience. Then came this little spot upon her neck. At first, I’d thought she’d gotten herself a bloody tattoo, until it began spreading. Da joked she was decomposing. Me, I worried she’d turn black all over—not that I’m racist or anything, Dee.” ​ “I know, Paddy.” I finally accepted that Siobhan was serious. “What was it like, this spot?” ​ She shuddered. “A tiny black hole from space.” ​ “I see.”

I didn’t, but I remembered an old friend Mark Langton, my go-to-geek for Into the Spiderverse, saying, “Black holes, Dee. Give “em an inch and they’ll take a mile. The tiniest quirk in the laws of physics and — kaBOOM!” ​ “And how’d you kill your mam, Siob?” I asked her cautiously. ​ “By over exertion. I put her through the wringer. Took her everywhere she wanted to go. Bungee jumping, scuba diving, rock climbing. Burned up all her energy. In January, she finally keeled over: heart attack. This time we got to bury her. But it wasn’t Mam, Dee, not really. She’d forgotten all me songs too. Before that, she could’ve recited each one word for word.” She looked uneasy. “Do you … think she’ll come back to haunt me?” ​ I reached over to pat her hand but remembered the heat. “No, silly!” ​ Screams from outside curtailed her next words. Through Hagerty’s polished windows we saw teenage boys, Guy Fawkes' idiot rogue agents, running past throwing loose fireworks. Shouts, curses, and blaring car horns followed them. Siobhan jumped at every sound, fretting at a tiny mole on her right cheek. Finally, she slid from the booth. “I need a smoke.” ​ While she was gone, I wondered if she might have gone insane. But Mark popped into my head again, whispering something about entanglement and multiverses; and about event horizons being the outer boundary of a black hole where gravitational force was precisely balanced against light’s efforts to escape it. "A person falling into a black hole might appear to burn up while in fact continuing in another self. Although as you know, Dee, energy—yours, mine—can’t be destroyed. It simply changes form."

Well, I couldn’t keep up with all that isics and ology. It was either the rich taste of beef on my tongue or a hungry headache.

I chose.

Twenty minutes later, plate cleared, I went to check on Siobhan. The streets were empty; the night sky clear. Behind me, Hagerty’s provided the only signs of life. Back inside, I noticed she’d left her gorgeous burgundy Rochas tote bag. ​ Her cigarettes were still inside. ​ I ordered my own porter cake mountain, and ate as if it were my last meal. Following which I returned to my hotel and checked out. That was the last time I ever saw, heard—or came across any mention anywhere—of a woman named Siobhan O”Flannery, world famous singer.

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