Sep 18 2016

[TRIGGER WARNING: This story graphically describes events closely resembling the Aurora shooting.]


If I am here to serve as oracle, with dispassionate recollection and reporting only, of unlikely events having no probable consequence, then I ask that you look at the man the same way. We’ll call him “Daniel.” It’s a common enough name.

Daniel was a graduate student of physics. There was moderate early insult to his brain during birth, but the significance of even this was still small compared to genetic predisposition, being the product of one or more recessive traits that both parents carried without expression. As you might imagine, though, no intelligence metric indicated these factors, and he was rather normal, even “a great kid” by most accounts, until around his twentieth birthday. Estimates differ as to the when the illness began to manifest, from as early as eighteen to about twenty one.

As a graduate student, he was actually at least a halfway decent researcher. His superiors didn’t think so, though, in part because of having caught wind of his diagnosis, which should probably not be admissible as a scientific basis for “reallocating” his funding, simply as a matter of his background. I think we know that this can often be the way of the world, and that science almost universally fails to justify prejudices as these as a matter of policy, but the fact of it is less personal. He felt it personally. He extrapolated it out to everyone he knew, and science won’t justify that prejudice, either.

He had nothing to wake up for the next morning, perhaps in his own mind only, and he committed himself to the End of the World. He idolized Batman’s Joker, who was written to end the world for no reason. He believed he was ending the world for no reason, while he believed it was for revenge to repay a collective sin against him, and he did not let himself see contradiction in his reasoning.

In cold blood, he planned the maximum feasible damage to the human population at large, aided in a significant regard by his education. He planned it up until the next Batman movie release. In themed costume in order to confuse the audience, he slipped into the front of a theater and emptied an arsenal into the audience at large, wearing body armor himself. He injured seventy people and fatally wounded twelve before he was disabled and taken into custody by the police.

He spent much time in a profoundly psychotic state in jail, from there, but he saw no incentive in coming out of the psychosis. That is, he had an awareness that treatment could reduce his physiological symptoms, but he avoided that treatment as best he could negotiate.

The death penalty was an option, in that state of the nation at that time. The jury found him guilty on all counts and ruled for a cumulative jail sentence over the death penalty. He was sentenced to twelve life terms without parole and 3,318 years, twelve charges being punishable by life sentences with the remaining carrying 3,318 years of jail time in total. The judge remarked that, despite Daniel’s illness, mental illness and evil were nonexclusive.

By an unlikely series of events, Daniel lived for a very long time. By the time he was one hundred and fifteen, particular parties were attempting to start a motion on a reconsideration of his case. On reconsideration, it would still be a very long time before parole might become an option.

He felt less guilt than he tried to display. Mind you, at a hundred and fifteen, he was rather spry, he was aware. For a few decades without hope of release, all he had was awareness of his mortality and conscience, I can attest, but he also had the twisted imagination of a mass murderer who happened to be a former graduate student with an illness on the schizophrenia spectrum. He’d had his indispellable delusions as well, at least mostly hidden from the sight of his caretakers and peers. He imagined conversations with Satan, or God, but the upthrust was the same. He felt special. He was convinced he was going to be rewarded, and he took his unusual state of health despite age as acceptable proof. His continuing experience made him more confident in this, month to month.

He guessed that he had time on his side. He stood quiet for five decades.

At one hundred sixty five, he was virtually proven to be the oldest human on the planet. News reports recalled the original case and the fringe groups that revolved around him. The question of releasing him entered the public mind again and was vehemently struck down, anyone could read in the news.

Around his two hundred and third birthday, having never received any of the bionic implants that had by now become available, all I can say is that something broke. The court released him to parole, more worried about something else.

He had already effectively amassed a cult. Daniel believed that the prophecies of major religions spoke about him. Some people believed it, and he had one plain, indisputable fact to support it. He very carefully avoided unnecessary technically illegal activities, and the court had to follow through with its own parole terms. Eventually, realizing a core political conviction among his followers, he entered politics with a strong anti-immigration, pro-deportation, and effectively segregationist official stance, unofficially suggesting internment and genocide. Additionally, he promised “a return to Christian national values.” At first, he probably had no strong personal feelings about much of his platform, but he recognized that these issues were important among his cult and a substantially broader swath of American voters. He was aware of how frightening and morally repugnant he was perceived to be by many voters, highlighted by the unnaturalness of his age, and he leveraged this into bombastic spectacle that he could anticipate would play well with his base despite its vacuousness. He was fully aware that he depended critically on the ignorance and irrational prejudice of certain voters, and that his two strongest points of appeal were his arguable divinity and total avoidance of real political issues in favor of what amounted to a perversely charismatic reality television show about a mass murderer who was chosen by God to live for over two hundred years to deliver a moral, religious, political imperative from the metaphysical realm.

He ran for the Republican presidential nomination and won. It was another strange chapter in American history. While the race saw him rise and fall repeatedly in popularity, he lost the election.

At this point, he floated the idea of secession among his followers, not taking it seriously himself. While there was wide sentiment in favor of it within his base, he did not actually consider it an option and did not follow through to starting another American civil war. He attempted to disappear almost entirely from the political arena, in favor of retiring into the enclave of his rather well established cult.

Through his influence, he commissioned the construction of several small fission devices, without autonomous delivery systems. He’d realized at some point that the big secret about nuclear enrichment was that it was not a particularly hard engineering problem, the delivery systems actually being a much, much harder part of fission or fusion weapon design and manufacture. The bombs were built outside of the United States. His cult attempted to personally transport the weapons and detonate them in New York City, Washington D. C., Jerusalem, Moscow, Beijing, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, and Sydney, more-or-less simultaneously. Five of the bombs were successfully detonated, including the device intended for Jerusalem. Perhaps miraculously, in the confusion, there was no nuclear retaliation. In the raid of his compound, Daniel survived a gunshot wound to his head and was taken into custody.

A higher united court was formed specifically to address his crimes and those of his co-conspirators. Roughly half of those polled around the world favored methods of execution that would usually be considered “cruel and unusual.” He was shot in the head again by a vigilante in transport to court before an official ruling was made. Against reasonable odds, he also survived this injury, coming out of his coma about two months later.

The world had not forgotten his improbable longevity, and the recovery from two gunshot wounds to the head increased arguably irrational suspicions. Daniel offered in his defense that he was God. Personally, human rights issues aside, I think the court was right to attempt official execution if only to test a scientific concern that was becoming critical.

Several attempts at his execution were made, all unsuccessful, progressively more clinical. Daniel experienced every attempt first hand. Eventually, exhausting all reasonable hypotheses, the leading scientific opinion became that this was an improbable example of “quantum immortality,” a potential secondary consequence of the “many-worlds” or Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics. Well regarded scientists, half in disbelief, offered as a point of admittedly insufficient consolation that Daniel had died with overwhelming probability by his hundredth birthday, in jail, and that he had ironically demonstrated the limited immortality of every one of his victims and every human to ever walk the planet. Most people did not understand the explanation, and they literally equated these events with the Apocalypse prophecies of major religions. Much public debate was held over it. In one such debate, a well known scientist became exasperated over the religious resistance to attempt any scientific explanation at all, and probably at how unsatisfactory the best scientific explanation even was, and he remarked, “Then we simply might as well be in his [Daniel’s] personal Hell, for all God cares about the rest of us.”

Daniel’s sentence was changed to periodic pain of execution, while conscious, indefinitely. Scientists assured the world that Daniel was the only person likely to observe his survival in any attempt, though that was contingent on a very unlikely world guaranteed to see him survive. I can tell you that Daniel was genuinely terrified, for the first time in a long while, perhaps even more so by the blow to his quasi-religious concept of his own identity.

A scientist on the fringe eventually suggested that Daniel’s circumstances were a pseudo-opportunity for the world to leverage. Daniel could be executed with precision, with temporary reprieve granted for the occurrence of some desired quantum mechanical effect of any nature at any location—in plain and inaccurate terms, “magic.” This method would not make the desired effect any more likely to happen, in reality, but it made Daniel more likely to observe a world where everyone saw it happen. Clear minds understood that the hypothetical event was pseudo-physical. However, the world had mistakenly taken Daniel’s immortality for granted, at this point. Trials of the hypothesis were arranged, and Daniel and the world in which he lived observed their success. There was overwhelming support to “utilize” the effect, whether it was illusory as a relatively fine point of theory. Many voters even understood the pseudo-physical nature of the effect and simply thought it was still appropriate eternal punishment for Daniel.

Holding this point in history conditionally fixed, the world Daniel was likely to live to see was a horrifying one, and he was likely to experience the pain of death many, many times, if he lived.

It strikes me that this unlikely story is far too complicated. This story is far, far too complicated, and this is not even the end of it.

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