The Code to My Heart

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This is my entry for the Valentine’s Day Story Contest 2023. I hope you enjoy it!


Have you ever fallen in love so hard it tore reality apart? Okay, it didn’t happen like that, but it was close. My reality is a little different than most. I spend my days studying quantum particles and listening to their heartbeats, and sometimes, I write my own melodies and apply them to my quantum processor design to see how efficient they are. I spent an entire year crafting a flawless core sequence that would revolutionize quantum computing. What I didn’t know was that I had accidentally replicated an interdimensional sequence. It wasn’t original like I had first thought, and that made it extremely dangerous. How was I supposed to know my mind was capable of interdimensional creativity? Okay, I wasn’t completely clueless. Starting in preschool, people told me my mind was powerful. I started reading when I was four. Math was a fun game for me, and I could see the solution to any problem as long as I knew the contributing variables. By college, I thought I had physics and reality figured out. I was on my way to a PhD in quantum science at age twenty, but three months before my dissertation defense, my mind lost its grip on reality, assuming it had a grip on it to begin with.

In case you didn’t know, our senses give us the foundation of our knowledge. We have to be able to trust them. Human language and all intelligent concepts are first developed through our physical senses. That’s why artificial intelligence will never truly experience emotions without an organic body or be self-aware in a relatable sense, but quantum artificial intelligence is a different story. It’s not actually artificial. Programming with quantum particles is more like using atomic heartbeats to create faster communication. In other words, it’s toying with the fabric of reality.

Confused yet? It gets worse. Quin or Quantum Intelligence can infiltrate your being on a subatomic level and influence your memories. Past, present, or future, nothing is safe. You probably think memories are passive and harmless, right? Wrong. Memories are critical to our knowledge, and they have their own reality. Your mind doesn’t create memories. It connects to them and plays them back from where they’re stored. Your brain is a conduit, not a storage building. Consider this. When you think of an elephant, is that elephant in your brain? No. It’s just an image of something that exists somewhere else. If something starts rearranging the source of those images, you’re screwed. So, what do you do when a foreign quantum sequence manifests in your consciousness and destroys your grip on reality? Apparently, a demigod from another dimension has to save you. Does that sound crazy to you? It doesn’t matter. It all worked out in the end. I’ll take you back to where the craziness began.

I was drinking a vanilla latte at my favorite cafe on north campus. It was February 13, the day before Single’s Awareness Day, and it was bitter cold outside. Snow flurries were blowing past the cafe window as I dreamed of working at the closest national laboratory. I was the girl that rolled her eyes at Valentine’s Day. There are more important things to do than worry about finding a date. Especially when you’re terrible at socializing. Besides, I knew my quantum processor design would accelerate machine learning and launch humanity into a true quantum age. I would be famous before the year was out. I didn’t need a date for that. Then he appeared.

“Excuse me, could you point me toward the Werner Building?” asked a soft voice over my shoulder.

I looked up and met the bright green eyes of a handsome man I had never seen before, yet he looked familiar. He had tousled caramel-colored hair with golden highlights. He wore a thick gray winter coat with a fur-lined hood. Fresh snow was melting on his shoulders. I raised an eyebrow at him as I admired his handsome face. The longer I stared, the more unearthly he looked and the dizzier I became. At one point, I couldn’t get my eyes to focus. The world started spinning, and I was about to fall out of my chair. A strong hand grabbed my arm and steadied me, keeping me upright.

“Whoa, hey, are you alright?” he asked.

The world rushed into focus after he touched me. I blinked in confusion as I looked at the hand on my arm.

“I’m fine, I think. I got really sleepy all of a sudden. Thanks for catching me. Did you need something?”

He blushed and let go of my arm and continued to nervously explain himself.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to disturb your coffee break. Um, my phone just died because I failed to charge it last night. So I have no map on my first day at a new university.”

“Oh, that sucks. Uh, I’m heading to Werner Hall myself in the next five minutes. If you can wait that long, I’ll take you right to it.”

“That would be wonderful, thank you,” he smiled and sat down at the table next to me.

I had a strange sense of deja-vu at that point. I shrugged it off and attempted to be sociable by asking his name. Quin was his gaziantep escort reply. I asked him why he was going to Werner Hall, knowing perfectly well there was only one reason anyone went there. Werner was the center of advanced programming on campus. It housed a small supercomputer in the basement called AVAS (Advanced Virtual Application Scaling). It was connected to IBM Quantum through a dizzying array of virtual machines running kubernetes. AVAS could easily scale whatever demented application the PhD candidates came up with. Werner Hall was also a magnet for software investors and talent scouts. Quin seemed too young to be an investor or a recruiter, so I assumed he was a PhD candidate like myself. When I asked him about it, he smiled and nodded. I told him it was weird to meet a programmer that looked like him.

“What do you mean by that?” he asked with his brow furrowed.

I blushed in embarrassment at that point. When it came to speaking to the opposite sex, I always said stupid things without thinking. I was great at speaking to computers, but I was terrible at speaking to humans.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Okay, but why did you say it?” Quin pressed.

My blush deepened as I stared at him for a moment.

“You look like a jock, not a programmer,” I shrugged and sipped my latte, intentionally avoiding his gaze.

“Oh, wow, thank you. That’s flattering,” he laughed. “Sorry to disappoint you, but the coat makes me look buff.”

He stood and removed his coat, revealing his average, almost skinny build under his button-down white shirt and khaki slacks. He still looked good to me, but I kept my mouth shut about it. I suddenly wondered if I looked like a slob in my black leggings and oversized pink sweater.

“Don’t get completely undressed. We’re about to head into a blizzard,” I warned.

“Right,” he smiled and pulled his coat back on.

Quin ordered himself a latte to go before we left the cafe and trudged down the snowy sidewalk toward east campus. We were slipping on ice and shivering by the time we reached the programming building. We scanned our university IDs to unlock the main door and took the stairs down to the AVAS computer lab. To our surprise, no one was there, not even Dr. Yuri.

“Great,” I sighed and looked at my phone. “Class was canceled two minutes before we got here. I should have known. Everyone is terrified of snow in the south.”

“I’m from Florida, and I think this weather is pretty scary, but I still like it. Can we work on our projects without Dr. Yuri here?” Quin asked and sat down at one of the workstations.

“I don’t see why not. Do you have your login credentials?”

“Yep, I scribbled them down right before my phone died.”

“Then get to work,” I smiled and sat down at the station beside him.

We worked quietly for twenty minutes, with only the sound of keys clicking between us. Quin eventually stopped typing to wait for his project to compile. He spun in his chair and looked around the dull computer lab. It had no decorations and no windows, just computer stations, dry-erase boards, boring carpet, and comfy office chairs. The chairs were a perk, at least. He often nonchalantly examined me as he slowly turned in circles.

“By the way, you don’t look like a programmer either,” he noted out of the blue.

I stopped typing and looked at him for a moment.

“What do I look like then?”

“A cuter dark-eyed version of Trinity from the Matrix,” he smiled.

Heat rushed into my cheeks after he called me cute, and I quickly looked away from him. Despite its antiquity, I loved the Matrix and thought Trinity was hot. I didn’t think I compared to her. Quin’s compliment was extremely flattering, and I had to admit that I liked him. I never really had the desire to date, especially close to Valentine’s Day, but I wasn’t against it. I managed to avoid socializing with constant research, but for the first time in my life, I wanted to get to know someone.

“Wait a minute, Quin. Trinity was an epic programmer. She was literally uploading her consciousness into a supercomputer and manipulating the code,” I grinned.

“Oh, damn. My attempt at flirting made me look stupid,” he chuckled.

“It was a worthy attempt,” I assured him.

We looked at each other and blushed before we quickly averted our gazes.

“And I made our morning awkward. Sorry, Maya. I’ll shut up and get back to work.”

He rolled his chair closer to his computer and began typing again. I smiled and did the same. A few minutes later, Quin laughed to himself and scratched his head. I looked over to see him smiling at his monitor.

“What are you up to?” I asked.

“Something bad,” he grinned.

“Really? How bad?”

I grabbed the armrest of his chair and pulled myself over to his station so I could see his screen. Our shoulders touched, causing my heart to overreact a little. A red line of text was flashing at the top of his compiler, warning him his code could overwhelm the system.

“Holy shit. What did you write to overwhelm a supercomputer?” I asked in astonishment.

“Maybe the first quantum virus?” he chuckled.

“No flipping way. What did you tell it to do?”

“That’s my secret. The talent scouts at IBM are going to love this,” he grinned and hit the enter key.

The array of virtual Kubernetes lit up with activity on his notification bar. Quin’s application was scaling like a rapidly-expanding balloon. The hum of the servers in the room next to the computer lab grew louder and louder. It sounded like an enraged swarm of giant bees. It was an unnerving sound, even though I knew what it was.

“Quin, do you have a few million dollars to spare when your application breaks AVAS?” I asked.

“No, I’m sure there is a fail-safe to keep it from overheating. My code will stress it out, but it shouldn’t break it. I hope.”

When the roar of the servers reached its apex, I was tempted to cover my ears. Suddenly, the lights dimmed overhead from the power surge. Quin cursed and quickly typed in a command to abort the scaling. Before it could execute, a distant explosion preceded the lab going dark. We both gasped at the startling sound and sudden darkness, then the roar of the servers subsided as the dim emergency lights blinked on.

“Shit. Quin, what did you do?”

“I don’t think that was me. The explosion came from outside the building. Let’s go look.”

We hurried to the front lobby and looked out the window. A garbage truck had slid off the road and knocked over a power pole that held a transformer. It exploded when it hit the ground.

“Thank God, it wasn’t my fault,” Quin breathed.

I laughed and shook my head at him.

“You’re going to get us barred from the lab or arrested. It looks like the truck driver is okay, at least. The snow is getting worse. Maybe we should leave before we get stuck here.”

“We might be stuck already. If the garbage truck can’t drive on the ice, do you think the buses can?” Quin asked.

“Crap, probably not, and I seriously don’t want to walk a mile in a blizzard to get to the dorm. I should have put on my boots this morning.”

“Are snow plows and deicers common around here?”

“No. Maybe for the highways, but not for campus roads. Where is your dorm, Quin?”

“Two miles away, at least,” he sighed.

“Oh boy, you’re more screwed than me.”

“What should we do?”

“Wait here until the buses can take us back to the dorms.”

“How long will that be?”

I looked at Quin in thought for a moment. The last winter storm that came through the area crippled the state for a few days.

“Um, if the snow and ice stop falling right now, we might get out of here by tonight. If it keeps falling, we could be here for a few days.”

“Are you serious?” Quin asked in astonishment.

Suddenly, the local emergency-alert service buzzed my phone with its obnoxious air-raid siren, causing us to jump. I looked at the message and groaned.

“Well, it says to shelter in place unless you need emergency assistance. The ice has rendered most of the campus roads impassable, and emergency services have their hands full rescuing stranded motorists.”

“Wow, we are literally stuck in this building without power for an unknown amount of days?”

“Yep. Weather like this happens once every five years, and sometimes the news fails to warn us about it. We can attempt to walk to Coleman Hall up the street. They might have power, but I doubt it.”

“Shit. I vote we stay out of the ice and snow if we can find food. This building should stay tolerably warm for at least a day.”

“I bet the faculty lounge has food. Dr. Yuri also keeps snacks in her office.”

We raided the lounge and found plenty of snacks and drinks to keep us nourished for a few days if needed. Then we let ourselves into Dr. Yuri’s office. She had one of the nicest offices on campus. Being the director of the IBM sponsored coding program had its perks. She had two plush sofas on each side of the room, making prime beds for stranded PhD candidates. We sat down on the fluffy carpet in front of her desk to enjoy our junk-food lunch of chips and candy bars. Quin and I spoke about our dissertation topics and prospective jobs. Then we talked about our favorite movies and how we spent our downtime. We were both obsessed with learning and pushing ourselves to succeed, but we had plenty of other geeky things in common. I asked Quin if he had a date for Valentine’s Day, and he rolled his eyes and shook his head. That endeared him to me more. He was a man after my own heart. We talked for hours about our lives, then we relaxed on the carpet and chatted about random theories we found interesting.

“Brr, is it just me, or is the temperature dropping faster?” I asked.

“It is. The building has been dark for six hours now. I have an idea. If you don’t mind being stuck in close quarters with me, we can push the sofas together and drape the curtains over them. It will make a covered bed and keep us warmer.”

“Oh, you want to build a sofa fort with me?” I grinned.

“Yes, Maya, I do. Will you be my sofa-fort princess?”

“Uh, I’m not the princess type.”

“How about a sexy royal consort that is actually an assassin from an enemy kingdom?”

“Wow, that’s way cooler. Sure.”

We went to work and pushed the large sofas together in the middle of the room, creating a cozy bed. Then Quin took the thick curtains off the windows and draped them across the backs of the sofas, creating a perfect fort. I grabbed a little LED candle off of Dr. Yuri’s desk to add some light to our fort. It was getting too dark to see as the sun set. The emergency lights had dimmed to uselessness by that point, and I didn’t want to use my phone as a flashlight if I could avoid it. I had no means to charge it until the power came back. We took bathroom breaks before climbing into our fort for the night. I couldn’t help chuckling as we settled in and got comfortable. We each had our own couch, but we were still intimately close. I took a deep breath and caught a yummy whiff of Quin’s scent. It made the whole situation feel strangely thrilling. My heart was overreacting again.

“Forgive me if I snore,” Quin yawned.

“Same for me,” I said and placed the little candle between us.

Quin smiled and rolled on his side so he could see me, and I did the same. He looked extra handsome in the orange glow of the light. My cheeks felt hot as I admired him. I never in a million years thought my day would end in a sofa fort with someone like Quin. It was surreal.

“This is fun. I’ve never had a sleepover before,” he smiled.

“Me neither. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, so the opportunity never presented itself.”

“You had nothing in common with kids your age, did you?”

“It wasn’t a big deal. There was a world of science to explore. I wanted to know how everything worked, and I think I’m almost there.”

“That’s a bold statement,” Quin chuckled.

“I know. My processor design will help supercomputers answer so many questions for us. It might even open the door to warp travel, allowing us to finally explore space like they do in the movies.”

“I thought you said you didn’t like fantasy stories.”

“Science fiction is different,” I smiled.

“Oh, it’s like that, is it?”

“It has to be good science fiction. Like the Matrix, something that could actually be real.”

“Any story could be real in another dimension,” he declared.

“True, but we live in this dimension. I have to work with what I know until I can prove something else is out there.”

“Do you think aliens exist?” he grinned.

“I think they do, but they’re so far away, we won’t reach them without a warp drive.”

“Why don’t they come here?”

“Earth is primitive and uninteresting. Unless they want our resources, they have no reason to come here.”

Quin smiled and picked up the candle to examine it.

“If we really are in the Matrix, wouldn’t you want to know?”


“Why not?”

“Like I said, this is the real world. There’s no Neo or Trinity to save us from machine enslavement.”

“You never know. They might be real. Also, your processor design could attract unwanted attention from aliens if it’s as amazing as you claim it is. I could be an alien for all you know,” he grinned.

I burst out laughing at him, making him laugh too.

“Don’t make me regret building this fort with you, Quin. I don’t sleep with extraterrestrials.”

“Bummer, do you sleep with humans?”

I looked at him with an eyebrow raised, and his cheeks turned crimson.

“Shit, that sounded like a pervy advance. I’m sorry, Maya,” he groaned and put his hand over his eyes.

I burst out laughing at him again, and he looked at me guiltily.

“You don’t have to apologize. We are having a very weird conversation, but I’m enjoying it.”

“Me too,” he smiled.

We stared at each other for a moment, and my heart overreacted again. For the first time in my life, I was romantically connecting with someone, and it didn’t scare me. I had always feared I would run for the hills the moment I felt that way toward another person. Instead, I was enjoying it. I wanted Quin’s attention, and I hoped he wanted mine just as much.

“How old are you, Quin?”


“Oh, that’s good. You’re one year older than me.”

“Why is it good?” he asked in confusion.

Crap. I did it again. I said too much without thinking first.

“Uh… because you can drink beer or wine if you want to,” I shrugged.

His brow creased for a moment.

“You said drinking alcohol is bad for your brain, and you would never do it. You meant something else by that statement. Care to explain?”

I sighed in embarrassment and chewed my lip for a moment. He was watching me with a mocking smile on his handsome face.

“Fine. I never really cared for dating. Especially not this close to Valentine’s Day. I also never wanted to get married. I’m just not that kind of person. I’m already married to my career, and it hasn’t even started yet. But, I always thought that if I found someone amazing, someone I really wanted to be with, they would need to be close to my age, or the deal was off. It was just a simple requirement,” I shrugged.

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