Whatever Happened to Jamaica?

bultot art

© Roger Bultot

“What is it, Al?”

“Beats me Enrico, but my calculations say we’ve got another twelve hours and nineteen minutes to find out before the next reality shift occurs.”

“We wouldn’t be in this mess if that plane carrying MIT’s experimental quantum resonator hadn’t overshot JFK International and crashed in Queens. I wonder why only Jamaica was affected?”

“Probably has to do with the available power and the size of field it could generate.”

“Maybe it’s art, Al.”

“Enrico, do you ever wonder what happened to the original inhabitants here?”

“I hope they’re living in a better world than this one.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge of January 5, 2018. The idea is to use the image at the top as the prompt for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I was stuck on this one but then in the image’s URL, I saw “roger bultot art”. I Googled “Roger Bultot artist” and among other responses, found his Flickr page. Since it says he lives in Jamaica Queens, NY, I set my story there. The fact that it is fairly close to John F. Kennedy International Airport was a plus.

Beyond that, I decided that due to some terrible technological accident, every twelve to twenty-four hours or so, a different version of Jamaica appears on the site. Since the possibility of different quantum realities is limitless (in the fictional universe I’ve just created), all manner of strange and unreal things might appear, including the artwork in the photo above. Al and Enrico (named for Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi) are scientists studying the phenomena.

I guess we’ll never know where the people who were originally living in Jamaica ended up.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

78 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to Jamaica?

    • Thanks. This is more “quantum reality” travel. The date stays the same, but the parallel reality changes periodically. Imagine what we could learn if we encountered a different and previously unknown human culture every twelve to twenty-four hours.


      • I was likening the changing of trains to your story’s changing of “planes of existence” (alternative universes). Apparently it is still a feature of New York commuting to change trains at Jamaica station; and I found a cute video on the subject wherein the airline JetBlue actually awarded a few lucky commuters the opportunity to exchange their train ticket for a plane ticket to the island of Jamaica for a wintertime warm-weather vacation. [See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHgbsT0UCYI%5D


    • When a “new” Jamaica appears, we have to assume the older Jamaica replaced it and so on, so there’s a constant shuffle of different versions of the city across realities.


      • Yes, but imagine what would result from that shuffling if a new Jamaica replaces a prior Jamaica while its train station is loaded with commuters on their way to or from their jobs in New York City. It’s not just the citizens who live in the town of Jamaica who would be shuffling all together from one quantum reality to another. Those who get off a train in one version of Jamaica might get onto a train in the next version, thus also arriving at their destination in that alternative reality and being stuck there. Of course, they could return to the Jamaica station currently in place in that quantum state, and wait for it to change again.

        If there were some way to identify one quantum state from another, and if there were a finite number of states forming a limited cycle of shifts, perhaps one could return to one’s original quantum state by waiting until the Jamaica station had cycled back to that “home state” and boarding one’s train before the next shift. It would give an entirely new dimension to the familiar New York commuter notion of changing trains in Jamaica.


      • Yes, I modified your premise slightly to imagine the quantum shifting to be not entirely random, and for it to be limited to a finite number of states, and for it to form an actual cyclical sequence that could be predicted and its individual states to be identifiable. I grant that such modifications rather constrain the system you proposed with your story, but they open up additional storyline possibilities, somewhat analogously to how liberty constrained by law actually offers greater freedom than mere anarchy which tends to make life “nasty, brutish, and short”.


      • My son suggested a sort of story about four parallel universes that are interconnected and where the laws of physics/magic vary from place to place.


  1. Wherever they are, I’m sure they would be happy since people there would not be confusing their town/city with the Caribbean island anymore (hopefully) 🙂 First time I too heard of Jamaica in the US, btw!


  2. Dear James,

    Roger is an amazing artist, isn’t he? I’ll have to pass along your story. He gets a charge out of my using his photos. I’m glad you took the time to look him up. Unique take on the prompt for sure.




    • Thanks, Rochelle. I just hope he doesn’t take offense to the tiny bit of ribbing I have him. After all, I did suggest that his art could have come from an alien parallel universe.


    • I was glad I could offer a geography lesson since it seems practically no one has ever heard of Jamaica in New York. I only knew about it because of a reference in an old comic book which placed the characters at nearby JFK International airport.


  3. Ahhh, Jamaica me happy with the twisty tale here. Sorry, couldn’t resist the play on words there. Really great story to start off the new year with.


  4. IF every 24 hours a different version of Jamaica exists, then I really am curious what happened to the ‘original’ inhabitants. And when do they get appear in their native original Jamaica? I also enjoyed reading your thought process that led up to this story.


    • If I can infer correctly the rules of the presumed science underlying this phenomenon, the original territory of Jamaica, in the borough of Queens in the city of New York, is shifting along with its inhabitants. From their perspective, they are still on their home turf, but the rest of the world outside their quantum bubble is changing every 12-24 hours. Whether their bubble will ever return to the quantum state universe where they started is unknown, and could depend on additional rules such as I proposed in one of my prior posts. People in their original quantum universe looking at the phenomenon from outside would perceive new versions of Jamaica (each with its own version of its inhabitants, if there are any) appearing within the quantum-bubble area every 12-24 hours.

      My prior post also posed the problem of trains entering and leaving the Jamaica station, whereby inhabitants from one quantum state universe might arrive inside the bubble area before a shift and find that their outbound train didn’t leave until after a quantum shift, so that they would arrive at their destination in a different universe than the one where they started. The same problem could affect automobiles or other forms of transit also, but since they don’t necessarily stop for any length of time within the Jamaica bubble area, they are less likely to get caught in it during a shift. James’ story didn’t have opportunity to explore boundary effects to imagine what might happen to people and objects located right on the border of the bubble area, or crossing the boundary, at the time when a shift occurs; nor did it try to define how sharp the boundaries might be or whether there might exist an indeterminate fuzzy gray area where one might or might not get carried along with a shifting bubble. The story did, however, imply a presupposition that the process of each shift occurred more or less instantaneously, lessening the amount of time or distance that a moving person or vehicle could continue moving while crossing a fuzzy boundary zone during a shift.


    • Thanks, Fatima. Assuming an infinite number of possibilities, one of an infinite number of variations will appear each time between 12 and 24 hours and probably most of them would be radically different (such as what if human life never developed on Earth).


      • I remember (vaguely!) reading a scifi story in which a gate-to-gate transporter technology went awry, accidentally sending people into other quantum states. Generally, the other state was only slightly different. It was determined that the amount of quantum difference was related to the distance between gates. During initial experiments in laboratories, or even between laboratories on the same continent, transportees stayed within the same quantum reality. It wasn’t until international distances were tried, that intermittent problems began to appear. And only when an emergency required attempting to use the technology to send an injured individual from the moon back to earth did it become clear that greater distance increased the likelihood of overshooting a quantum target destination and ending up in an alternative reality.

        Now, I wonder if a similar principle might be applied to the circumstance of your story? What conditions might tend to keep the quantum shifts constrained to alternatives that were very similar to each other; and what conditions might increase the difference to include states where humanity never developed or where the town of Jamaica was never given that name or its location was developed as parkland rather than as an urban municipality or where its entire population had recently been evacuated due to some accident or disaster or plague, leaving the town empty? Could the amount of difference depend on the amount of energy interchange between your purported quantum resonator device and its environment at the time when a shift is imminent? We might ask where the device was drawing power from. If it was running on some internal power source, could that source run down and decrease the difference between subsequent quantum states, possibly even drawing the quantum bubble closer to its ground state in its original universe until, ultimately, the original town of Jamaica and its inhabitants return home? We might ask also if the quantum bubble is centered on the device where it fell when the plane crashed or if somehow it focused an energy projection onto Jamaica to create that bubble from outside the town. Thus we might learn if the device is causing the continued shifts from within the Jamaica bubble, traveling with it, so to speak, or if new bubbles are being summoned by the continuing operation of the device from outside the bubbles and within the originating quantum universe. I’m presuming that the device is continuing to operate from the center of the bubble, hence it is shifting along with the town and is thus inaccessible to its original designers. Nonetheless, this scenario offers the hope that the situation might resolve itself after some number of iterations.


      • That would be a rather dangerous adventure, because a 12-24-hour variation in the time between shifts is not a very precise predictor. We don’t know from the story so far whether there are any visible or audial indicators that might provide warning that a shift is about to occur, nor how quickly it may occur. Even if we could be absolutely sure that a shift had just occurred, and that the quantum bubble would be stable for at least 12 hours, I certainly wouldn’t recommend sightseeing inside the bubble. It might be reasonable for a scientific investigative team to enter in order to look for a version of the quantum resonator that started this phenomenon. If they find it, perhaps they might be able to deactivate it, which might possibly deactivate the resonator in the originating quantum reality also. If they could gain control of the device, perhaps they could even summon back the original version of the town. Nonetheless, we’re considering a risky undertaking.


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