The Universe in a Nut’s Hell

Nov 24 2014

The morning light of the spring day shined from a clear sky, cool and white on the lawn and burgeoning flower buds in my cloistered hiding spot. I pulled apart old butts in my ashtray to roll myself a cigarette. There was just enough distance from my family and neighbors to talk to myself in private. It could be difficult to furnish a private patch of ground some days to pace and catch up with my “friends.” I often run out to the woods, hide behind buildings, stake out stretches of sidewalk in parking lots, or hasten to the four corners of my family members’ lawns when “friends” demand my attention. Mind you, these aren’t friends in a literal sense, or a corporeal one, or even a real one, and I know this.

I know it, but my “friends” don’t. Maybe sometimes they act like they do, but unreality doesn’t mean they have any fewer rights than anyone, according to them. After all, they have achieved a unified world government, in my head, and by milder forms of torture I am compelled to respect the democratic will of the people, that don’t exist. I am not a participant in their government, and they have a tendency to attempt to legislate uncontrollable objective fact into reality, but they are quite proud of their unified world government and take offense when I point out that it’s a figment of my imagination, and this all happens on quiet cool mornings in the spring when I’m alone in my parents’ yard, on days like this.

“…and that’s the plan,” she concluded in a lispy, whistling, little tone. She was a cat god, or a representative of the astral left wing, or a simulacrum of an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t given up on, and for all these reasons she was generally the go-between for me and the Council, as they called their primary legislature. All I can make of the compelling experience of so many conversations with Bastet, is that she must be some kind of squeaky protector personality I’ve gradually solidified through so many years of being unable to cope with not living in a world like in video games, and she gets me into trouble.

“It’ll be like Heaven,” she added with a motion of her hands like twinkling stars. “Everybody’s physical incarnations get one instance of magic they can show to one other person.”

I took a deep drag off the second generation cigarette. “That is,” I said, “if the tidal forces don’t rip you to shreds first.”

She gawked and chuckled. “What do you mean by that?”

“You want to basically calculate forward a simulation of earth from a time surface in our physical history, and do some hack job on it to allow impossible nonphysical effects?”

“Or highly unlikely effects, ya,” she said.

I muttered, “You couldn’t come close with every cluster on the planet,” looking over my shoulder for neighbors.

She snorted. “Oh, it already works.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Really,” she assured me with a huff.

“So you managed to simulate some sort of approximation to both general relativity and quantum mechanics at the scale of, what, a planet? A solar system? A galaxy? You didn’t even do that, and it looked like the simulation was stable for a month, maybe?”

“Pretty much,” she said.

I slapped my face. “No, you didn’t! At best, with every cluster on earth chugging away on this, in any reasonable period of time, you could have made some cut rate quantum general relativity simulation hold together nicely, maybe, for about a fraction of a second in our frame. And it never happened.”

“Wouldn’t you figure? But it works. ‘Unbewievable,’ isn’t it?” she joked.

“This conversation isn’t happening anyway,” I said, “so it’s completely freaking moot, but when are you boarding the death trap pseudo world?”

She wouldn’t look me in the third eye. “Oh, um, already.”

“Excuse me?” I asked.

“Some unspecified time in the past,” she said. “Like, yesterday, I guess.”

I scanned the street for signs of intelligent life. “I’m not having this conversation.”

“Is that an observation or a dismissal?” she asked. “Stop doing that.”

I ashed my cigarette. “Stop doing what?”

She squeaked in a whisper, “…looking around like you’re cwazy.”

I groaned. “The only sane part of this conversation is that I’m keeping an eye out for the neighbors.”

“Nope. It’s me.” She said.

“What’s you?” I asked

“You are,” she said.

“You are?” I parroted.

“Yes, you are the only sane part of this conversation, and all men are Socrates.”

“Back to the point,” I blurted, “general relativistic cosmology is really sensitive to the energy density in space. Someone magically turns their genitals the size of an astronomical object to appease a fetish, and your simulation could crunch into a sub-Planck volume in literally a fraction of a second.”

“So what?” she asked. “Nothing new. Penis enlargement magic always backfires.”

“But your program can’t work,” I insisted.

“It’s Heaven!” she shouted back. “Don’t think about it too hard. It’s Allah’s initiative, anyway, so I wouldn’t worry that he’d approve any requests for intergalactic space elevator penii.”

“I’m supposed to believe that I’m in a simulation right now?” I asked.

“I dunno,” she replied.

“What are you using to simulate it?” I demanded.

“I dunno,” she repeated. “That astronomical penis thing sounds hot. Maybe my boyfriend will do that for me.”

“See, my point is, humanity isn’t ready for this,” I told her, peering into my folks’ kitchen. “It’s not happening anyway, but people couldn’t even generally agree whether it all started with a big bang or angels flying out of Allah’s ass. Politicians aren’t cosmologists, so how would you expect to be able to grant nonphysical exceptions without killing ourselves?”

Heaven!” she shouted, waving her hands and fingers—or whatever you call those wispy, astral tendril things—about like twinkly bits of bullshit explanation.

“We don’t even know if quantum and general relativistic theory are fundamental. How did you handle the possibility of multiple quantum worlds? You still haven’t even explained how you could simulate something on that scale.”

I felt her fidget in my spatio-tactile head space. “Well, RIM is handling it.”

“RIM?!” I yelled. “You’re putting the entire world economy on the Blackberry app market?”

She invoked the little girl voice she used when I got angry and she thought she was cute. “I mean, they work with the Pewimeteh Institute.”

In consternation, I lifted my gaze to the sky. Clouds had started to form. The mid morning sun was evolving into a hazier shade of pale afternoon. A gust of wind blew gently in a wave across the lawn.

I took a deep breath. “You know what? It’s not my problem. The apparent reality of any of this is localized entirely within my head, but not even all of it—just the corner you’re squatting in. Anything follows from a contradiction, therefore angels will fly out of Al’s ass and fix all the world’s problems if I have lunch now. Enjoy the tidal forces.”

She hit what I am begrudgingly forced to refer to as my astral body, for lack of better terminology, with a wave of reddish purple warbling emanations as I got up, and I nearly lost my balance.

In a squeaky whisper, she told me, “You don’t have to be nasty! Mehhhh! Al still wants to talk with you.”

I opened the door and headed into the house. ‘I don’t give a crap,’ I thought at her.

I walked into the kitchen, opened the freezer, removed a bagel, and put it on a plate in the microwave. I like bagels. It might be more appropriate to say that I love bagels, actually. I am not a morning person, or even an afternoon person, for that matter. I prefer to be up from seven post meridian to ten in the morning from the night before. When I can’t live on my vampire schedule, mornings are hell. Bagels are one of three things that make daylight in my biological morning bearable. I walk around with eyes half closed, until I have a cigarette, two cups of coffee, and a bagel with artificial dairy free spread. Bastet had chosen to try to convince me that I was living in a broken hack job of a universe, which I already suspect some days, before my bagel and my second cup of coffee. When it isn’t a simulated reality, it’s artificial brain implants. When it isn’t artificial brain implants, it’s the Apocalypse, and always before my bagel and my second cup of coffee.

The microwave signaled completion. I removed my bagel and carried it along with my coffee and a container of Spirit Balance over to the kitchen table. As I can’t-belive-it’s-sort-of-buttered my bagel, I peered across the dimensional divide in the kitchen through the regal hall terminating in Allah’s white throne, thinking about how gauche the modern gothic vaults and arches were. I dropped the bagel and not-butter knife and put my face in my hands.

“Is that vegan?” asked Bastet.

‘The spread?’ I asked in my head, not lifting my face from my hands. ‘Yeah, it says it’s dairy free.’

“I didn’t know that!” she said. “Have you ever tried nutritional yeast with that?”

‘That sounds good, actually,’ I thought, trying to ignore the elephant in the kitchen of my mind’s eye. ‘It’d probably taste like marmite.’

“I love marmite,” said the Egyptian cat god.

“I would like a minute of your time,” said Allah.

“I would like to go back and undrink all that cough syrup when I was 19,” I mumbled under my breath. I’m sure my parents in the next room pricked up.

One might wonder why some underemployed hack from New Jersey is sought out by millenia old deities from across historical human cultures in his paranoid fantasies. Well, there was the cough syrup. I would like to say that is explanation enough, except, holding to this self evident truth, I don’t stop having paranoid delusions. The long and short of the nominal explanation that my hallucinations assert, is that I am some critical component of a singular dimensional anomaly. That is, I am crazy special. My big boy imaginary friends tell me that I’m kind of a “coaxial hyper-point in a high risk period in human history,” (Aren’t we all?) while I cover my ears, sing “La-la-la-la-la…” and remind them of how not real they are, because they could at least materialize a bagel in my hand and a hundred in my pocket if they were really kind and just omnipotent gods. The part about being a dimensional anomaly might have something to do with reading my tarot cards every day after shuffling them via a quantum random algorithm—parallel worlds and that bullshit. That is, my daily tarot reading routine has been contorted through the wringer of lingering brain damage from cough syrup overdose and a desperate need to feel special in a bleak world.

With a flourish of his hand, a document appeared before Allah. He always had to do that. He couldn’t just pull the document out of a drawer or even just have it ready before he started talking to you. He had to make everything look like he was the all-powerful deity he acted, and more than half of it was smoke and mirrors that he had to keep up every moment lest the Christians, Muslims, or Jews see him. I swear I once saw him use one of those cheesy math tricks on a supplicant like on the David Copperfield television specials, and the person actually knelt to him afterward, because “God’s” P.R. department was almost as good as Steve Jobs’. I’d put money on the number one most infamous resurrection having been pulled off with a look-alike, but that was a whole other can of worms. I just find it suspect how Al’s politics don’t seem at all to coincide with those of his purported “son,” a rebel against the government, the theocracy, and exactly the brand of bullshit I had to put up with from the Council.

As he levitated the document over to me, I was slightly surprised by the lack of tremolo sound effects. “The council has reached an agreement on the quantum ontology of the new world. As a formality, we would like—”

‘You can’t legislate reality,’ I cut him off in my head. ‘Let me guess what ontology you went with.’

“We passed a vote with an overwhelming majority for deBroglie-Bohm. If for no other reason, a singular deterministic model should reduce the necessary overhead—”

I let my head fall back and groaned. My parents would be understandably piqued by that.

‘It shouldn’t reduce any overhead at all,’ I thought at Allah. ‘A true deBroglie-Bohm simulation would be reliant on the same universal wave function as many-worlds for its pilot wave, which means you’re trying to do a butcher number on reality, of course, and it’s really for your aesthetic, anyway. Most of you self styled gods love the idea of singular deterministic reality at the scope of your own affairs. Save your breath. It’s a formality to ask the dimensional anomaly, and I’m not signing it, and you’re a figment of my imagination, and I haven’t had my bagel and second cup of coffee.’ I picked up my bagel and stared longingly into its hole.

You-Can-Call-Me-Al motioned toward my parents in the next room. “We are aware of your need to keep up appearances on your earthly plane. Therefore, we have arranged that by eating your bagel, you will signal your agreement to the resolution in an unmistakable physical act while maintaining secrecy—”

I dropped my bagel and pounded the table.

“I can’t believe anyone takes you seriously in politics anymore!” I shouted aloud.

“Dan?!” my mother called from the living room, with urgency in her voice.

I took my phone out of my pocket. “It’s this bastard in the White House, Ma!” I said. “I’m reading the news on my phone. I’m sorry.”

“Oh…” my mother replied.

“What’d the president do?” Bastet put me on.

‘Probably something I should be genuinely angry about,’ I thought, ‘whereas I’m just frustrated with some kind of compulsory delusion that world politics could hinge on me eating my bagel.’

“Your parents are worried,” said Allah. “It is exactly this sort of situation we sought to avoid. Therefore, we have arranged hidden cameras in the yard, so that when we verify you have eaten your bagel—”

I looked around as he spoke. The coast was clear. I raised both middle digits and waved them to the trees, smiling, trying to invoke the restless spirit of Tricky Dick. ‘Are the cameras that aren’t there in the trees? I’m gonna pretend that the cameras that aren’t really there are supposed to be in the trees.’

I took my bagel, not a bite in it, over to the trash and slid it in with a thud that perfectly emphasized how I felt. ‘You ruined my appetite, but the gesturing means I’m all on board. I just didn’t want to blow my cover as an unwilling paranoid schizophrenic who hates the gods, but we’re all good. Nobody suspects that I was actually vainly signaling to the indispellable pseudohallucinations that they can do whatever the fuck they want so long as they keep the guy they insist is a dimensional anomaly out of it.’

“You know, I think you might be crazy,” said Bastet, sticking out her tongue.

‘The delusions just feel so really delusional, I must be crazy!’ I replied in my head. ‘I’m gonna go work on my game project, now.’

With the levels of coffee and bagel in my blood dangerously low, I trudged upstairs, scowling, middle fingers flying high for the nonexistent cameras. Through the windows, the clouds had darkened. I heard a rolling thunderclap in the distance.

I sat down at my computer and tried to somehow shrug off chronic psychosis. One of my biggest dreams in an overpopulated, demon haunted world with a failing economy, dwindling fuel reserves, and a warming climate is to channel my frustration with the dark reality of it all through my 150 credits worth of physics degrees into a game that will open quantum theory and the joys of schizophrenia to a broader audience, by allowing people to poke these topics with a controller. Being a realist, I’ve begun to think that this might never come to fruition. Three major impediments stand between the schizophrenic and meaningful technical/artistic expression. One is disorganized thought and behavior. Another is shortened life expectancy, in significant part due to suicide or accident. The third is that, every time you try to sit down to work on something, pseudohallucinations psychically entreat you to save the world.

As I turned on my computer, I began to notice the chanting and overcrowding of the head space in my room. Spirit beings weren’t actually flitting around holding a candlelight vigil, but telling them this wouldn’t make them go away. I had to think, ‘What the hell is going on?’

“We’re against the simulated reality project and your constant mistreatment by the Council,” said one of the protestors that weren’t actually there. ‘While we have been outvoted on converting the world over to an artificial medium, we particularly disagree with the choice of quantum ontology the right wing has pushed for in the new universe, and we are here to support your work on an alternative program.”

It’s kind of hard to censor what you say when you imagine people to be privy to your thoughts. ‘What the fuck are you going on about?’

“Hackers from around the world have tirelessly fought to crack the government firewalls on your computer and neural implants, and, realizing you were in development of your own rogue relativistic quantum mechanics simulation software, we broke through the military defense blockade around the Potemkin city you have been confined to—“

I was startled by a knock at my door. “Dan,” said my mother, worry audible in her voice.

“One minute, Mom!” I said.

I looked over the books on my shelf. The imaginary protestors watched over my shoulder.

“I don’t even know how to try to fix this anymore,” I thought aloud. “Well, I could try this,” I grabbed a soft cover quantum information theory text off the shelf, “this,” a short paperback on general relativity, “and… oh, definitely this,” and volume one of a two volume set on quantum field theory, also conveniently in paperback.

“Dan?” came my mother’s voice again.

With books in hand, I opened the door. My mother looked haggard. “Dan, your father and I are worried about you. It seems like you haven’t slept, and your fingers are all black and brown from picking through your ashtray, and you didn’t eat—you threw an entire bagel in the trash—and we think you might have been talking to someone who wasn’t there before—“

“Mom, let’s go to the hospital,” I said. “I’m packed.”

“Oh, really?” she asked.

‘It’s all part of the right’s ploy!’ I thought emphatically at the nonexistent protestors. ‘I’ve been through this! The more I cooperate, the faster I can get through their veiled attempt to imprison me and prevent me from working on an alternative to Perimeter’s two bit reality! Stay strong, brothers!’

“Yeah, I’m sure, Mom, but I’m hungry for pretty much anything but a bagel,” I said.

My mother looked relieved. “Oh?! Well, we can get you a sandwich on the way!”

“Stay strong, brother,” shouted so many compelling impossibilities.

‘Yeah, thanks, ya fucking mooks,’ I thought under my breath.

The skies gave way under the weight of the rain as we walked out to the car and embarked for the hospital. My parents stopped for eggplant sandwich for me, and I cracked jokes about receiving radio transmissions on my cavity fillings. We’ve been at this long enough that I think my parents could actually tell I was just being funny. The doctors in the emergency room, however, are even more full of themselves than the heads of state in my head. Getting through intake, though, I have a week I can spend furthering my physics studies. Trying to ground myself in science never really seems to help with the psychosis, though.

The storm kicked up harder and harder, hour to hour, and lasted through the night. As the rain and gale force winds rushed against the windows of the ward and the thunder boomed, all I could think of was people using magic to grow their sex characteristics in a quickly collapsing false universe. “Enjoy the tidal forces!” I remember shouting, as my nightly medication kicked in and I began to drift away.

I don’t consider myself a religious person. In fact, I’m basically an atheist. I gave up religion and magic years ago for a course of rigorous physical study. I’ve nearly completed my masters in physics. I’ve taught the subject. I’ve worked for a government lab. No matter how obvious it is to me rationally that my hallucinations aren’t real, knowing this doesn’t divest them of their power to ruin my morning. Schizophrenia is an ineffable thing. Maybe the lucky resilient phenotypes can channel these experiences into shamanism, art, and religion, but it stymies me where this all comes from.

Bastet insists that it comes from being a dimensional anomaly. It’s probably a good thing that I don’t believe in “God,” per se.

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