The Space Between Numbers (2009)
This story is based on dreams that I was having at the time. (As most of my stories are). I was lucky enough to have a friend, Ken Ricci, give me a few pointers on what I thought was my final draft. So as a tribute to his insights, I changed the name of the “friend” to Ken and in a twist of irony- Ricci curvature is real…. so it was a natural addition to my story. I submitted this to Analog- but was rejected for unknown reasons. Oh well. Here it is either way…
The doctors suggested that I keep a journal of my time here… so that’s what I guess I’ll do. They said I should make my first entry about why I think I am here.
Why am I here? I don’t know really.
I don’t remember when, exactly, it happened but I do remember how it felt. One day I was fine and the next I was in a desperate race to escape this … Thing.
It came over me like a cloud. Making Its presence known like some sort of wraith, Hell-Bent on destroying me.
The days just suddenly became… dark…. and the nights… darker still. This Thing, that haunted me from the shadows, would get as close as It could… then dart off to the periphery of my field of vision. It taunted me from the safety of the darkest corners of existence.
I discovered the only defense quite by accident… I was contemplating lottery numbers at the local Circle K and out of the corner of my eye I saw It. I always picked Prime numbers when I bought Lottery tickets… have no idea why. I guess I just liked the fact that they were special in some weird way.
Anyway- the Thing… as I pondered my selection, seem to recoil at the very thought of a natural number which has exactly two distinct natural number divisors.
I don’t know how it came to me but in that brief instant the realization stunned me with its simplicity- the Beast lived in the spaces between numbers. Its entire existence was infinite and everywhere because numbers were infinite and everywhere. Or rather the spaces between numbers were infinite and everywhere.
Initially, I calmed my thoughts by counting or repeating simple numbers- as rapidly as I could. But this grew tiresome, and soon I would pause out of boredom and that’s when the Creature would make Its move. My heart would race and I would snap from my reveries to see It nearly within reach and I would frantically begin to count again faster and faster to shorten the spaces between the numbers and drive It back.
Things fell apart at the apartment complex I managed and I succeeded in losing my job, my house, and my sanity all in one short week.
My family thought it best that I take some time to work through my issues… so here I am.
Anyway, I grow weary of this accounting. Sleep is an ever-present danger zone. I can only hope that I dream of numbers. 188.8.131.52.184.108.40.206.29.31.
It’s been a tough week. They tell me I need to relax a little… it’s just hard. How can I relax and be vigilant? 220.127.116.11. I mean – now and again, I do have had short respites from Its malevolent attention but they never last long and are few and far between. 18.104.22.168.
Kathy came to visit a few days ago. She got pretty upset, seeing me like I am, I guess.
She just didn’t (couldn’t) understand. I tried to explain but she only laughed nervously and assured me that it was all in my head. Angered by her jocularity I lashed out at her, striking her smartly across the face.
“Is that in your head?” I demanded. “Does the stinging of your face disappear simply because you choose to believe it does not exist?” 22.214.171.124.
I‘m sorry Kathy!
I’m sorry for that. I didn’t mean to… I have never struck anyone. I just needed you to understand. I need you to know that this is real… I’m not imagining it. 126.96.36.199.107.109.113
They quickly secured (and sedated) me after that.
I know that I fucked up. But I have bigger things to worry about. In my drug-addled state I had no way to defend myself and the Thing was intent on my undoing. While I was distracted, It had crept into the corners of the room, hiding in the spaces between numbers. It made Its presence known and I was forced to fall back on Fibonacci sequences as a last resort. 188.8.131.52.21.
They’ve stopped sedating me finally. 233.377.610.987.
The meeting with Kathy had ended poorly but one interesting thing did come from it- she had jokingly suggested, that perhaps I should “arm myself with better ammunition.”
I mulled this thought and tentatively began to calculate pi out to as many decimal places as I could in my head. I was maybe, 20 places out, when I realized I had shaken my pursuer. I went ahead and pulled a few more decimal places just to be sure- then re-ran the entire calculation again to double check. Then I scanned my room, and the hall, and the lawn outside… all was clear!
I‘ve been walking on air for two days! Even my neighbors noticed the difference. Today, in the yard, I actually received a compliment on my smile and demeanor. And while I cannot be certain- I believe Rachelle, from the 3rd floor, might have been flirting with me. She said I “looked different” and that “she liked the change.”
Jesse, the Ward on duty, even turned his back on me for at least 15 minutes.
I took the opportunity to steal away to the library to peruse some books on geometry and algebra. If working pi out to a mere 20 decimal places could stave off my tormentor this effectively- imagine what more sophisticated contemplations could do! Perhaps I could banish the Despot entirely.
There is hope! (I hope that they are not reading my journal…)
The trip to the library was pay dirt! I got all kinds of really good info. But right after my first successful run, Jesse caught me on my way back to my room. They took away my Open Session privileges for 3 days!
I’ve spent the last couple of days attempting to write a random number generator in my head using C++. It has become apparent that I need a pencil in my room. Many of my calculations are not possible in my head. I mean, they are possible- but the spaces between the numbers are just too great and each space provides access. Each pause is just a portal for It to gain a foothold.
They only let us have sharp objects at Open Session (where we are supervised). Which is why I can’t keep this journal daily.
But I’ve been good. I’ve participated, and been social. They’ve seen it too! I finally convinced Dr. Gaithie that I was capable of handling a pencil (unsupervised) without any danger to others or myself.
I have begun to fortify my room, first with simple equations- calculating areas, and other simple geometric progressions. Then moving on to more complex calculations like proving The Pythagorean Theorem – though not algebraically as it is commonly implemented today but as originally conceived – geometrically, with the square numbers being represented as squares attached to the edges of the triangle.
I guess they feel okay about my past time because they have let me have a few college level books on math. I still have to talk about ‘why’ I want the books- but I’ve been downplaying the… you know.
Whew! Had a bad week. I lost my pencil and they refused to give me another one. They said the rule is you have to turn in the pencil stub in order to get a new pencil. I said, “How could I do that if I had lost it??” They told me I needed to find it. It was a safety issue. I tore my room apart looking. I think they were getting ready to sedate me again. Which made it that much harder to focus. I begged them to please just give me a new one. I told them I had a plan to keep track of it. I figured I could tape a string to it and tie it to my desk. I tried to calm down and just ask nicely… maybe if they saw that I wasn’t flipping out they might relax the rule. To my surprise- they did!
I’ve started working through the Mandelbrot Set.
The Mandelbrot Set made for quite the obstacle for a couple of days! But I did it!
No sign of…..
Things are good right now. I don’t feel like writing. My friend Ken stopped by to see how I was doing today. We had a nice chat and some coffee. (The coffee here is actually pretty good). He told me I was sounding a lot better. I assured him I was doing better. He gave me an amazing compendium of information with discussions ranging from the mathematics of the ancients all the way up to physics, Einstein’s papers on Relativity (both Special and general), String Theory, multi-dimensional theories, and even Quantum Mechanics! And, knowing I was the nostalgic type, he got me a beautifully bound copy of Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”. I’ve got reading to do… more later.
So much time has passed. I stopped writing mostly because I had so much other stuff to do these past couple of months.
It’s been an amazing fall. I can’t remember the last time I felt this good. With the help of Ken’s incredible gift- I have been able to finally work my way through Einstein’s rather pedantic understanding of space-time. He had some interesting ideas. But there are definitely problems with his work… even as far back as 1921 Kaluza saw the holes! His model attempted to unify the fundamental forces of gravitation and electromagnetism by extending general relativity into a five-dimensional space-time. There’s something in that… but I can’t put my finger on it just yet. It seems best to just continue moving forward with what I understand right now. My work in Non-Euclidean geometry has slowly evolved into a study of 4-Space (as I refer to it). And the terror that lurks in the spaces between numbers has stayed put- mostly anyway.
Every now and then I’ll catch a fleeting glimpse of something out of the corner of my eye. But I just focus on something like the Born Probability derived from the decoherence of space-time (as considered when it intersects 4-Space) … forces It right back to the shadows where It belongs.
There is even talk of allowing me to take small trips outside the grounds to a local university where I’m told there’s a professor who has this computer. We aren’t allowed to have computers. Not that I would necessarily want to use one anyway. Staring at numbers doesn’t hold the Beast at bay- only by studying the relationships can I thwart the evil that dances ever-present at the periphery of my consciousness. But the computer might help with this inter-dimensional theorem I have been trying to work through.
The trips to the university never came to pass. I’ll not be leaving here anytime soon. A few days ago, just as the first snow began to fall, I made a startling discovery. It appears that the Beast has been lying in wait for me this whole time! Biding Its time, looking for a chink in the armor I have so carefully constructed around myself. I don’t know how I missed it – but 4-Space is not really 4-Space at all – Kaluza was right! It is more like 5-Space. I completely overlooked the significance of the induced matter theory. Ricci curvature ha! All I had to do was take into account the five-dimensional Ricci curvature. Apparently it was this incongruity that my Tormentor has been able to capitalize on.
God damn it! Damn! Damn! Damn!!! I can barely sit still now. my days are filled with terror. the horrific creature taunts me from the shadows. they keep trying to assure me that I’m imagining this whole thing. I know better. I’ve been scrambling to modify my theorems. But the harder I try to balance the equations, the more I try to force the equations to fit the answers – the greater the holes become. the beast doesn’t even try to conceal itself. It sits there on my bed – a gaping maw of black torn right through the mesh of our reality.
I believe I understand the true nature of the beast- It is from 5-Space. somehow It has managed to cross over to our dimension. Through some machination of Its own devise it has accomplished something that should not be possible. And for some reason I’m the only one who can see It. no one else sees It even when It is right there in front of them. They use words like prions and aphasia around me. I don’t know what that means. They keep sedating me because they can’t see it- a beast! right here in the room with us – sucking the light from the room and tearing at the threads that define the very fabric of our reality. insidious! I don’t know how much longer I can stay here. I can’t focus on anything but primes when I’m drugged up. I need to figure a way out of this. I can only hope that this record can be analyzed and somehow lead to a true defense. otherwise, mankind is doomed. someone has to listen
someone has to understand!
I only wish I could be there to see the looks on their faces when it becomes apparent that I was the sane one
I was the one who saw it- I figured it out
if only someone would have listened
I could have saved
This is the only document found in Patient #53123’s possession that is actually written in a form legible to the layman. All other documents taken from his room were in mathematical notation.
Initial investigations into Patient #53123’s death seemed to indicate suicide. For the record, in the months leading up to his death, his paranoid delusions had increased to such a state that I had to recommend 24-hour sedation and a suicide watch.
A subsequent autopsy revealed a rare neuro-chemical imbalance that could only have been diagnosed posthumously. It would seem that Patient #53123 did not commit suicide- but rather died from a form of hemorrhaging due to the toxic levels of Glutamate (an excitatory neuro-transmitter) concentrated in the Parietal Lobe- an area of the brain normally associated with logic and mathematical processing. This, in conjunction with a severe deficiency in Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA – an inhibitor neuro-transmitter), in the same area was probably the source of his obsession with mathematics. It might have also accounted for his delusions of a creature from another dimension that was attempting to form a portal into our dimension for the purpose of “destroying mankind.” (His words)
All of the other papers left in his room were sent, at the request of his friend Ken, to Dr. Seldon Wiley at Cambridge for study. In one final twist of irony they have recently contacted me with regards to Patient #53123’s true identity. They have asked to release his name so that the International Congress of Mathematics can award him the Fields Medal (posthumously, of course). Apparently, much of his work was genius in its scope and insight.
In my own defense-we here at the clinic never really delved too deeply into all the various equations Patient #53123 had plastered on his walls. It is not uncommon for paranoid schizophrenics to use symbology to ward off the evil spirits that seem to chase them through life.
“It lives in the spaces between numbers” that’s the one thing he continued to assert throughout his stay with us. From the day he walked in right up to our last session. But how do you believe someone when they tell you an Nth-Dimensional Monster is standing right beside you waiting to suck you into a tear in the time/space continuum?
It was impossible to believe. At least until a few days ago when I got a
glimpse of something moving at the edge of my peripheral vision. When I turned to look I saw nothing- but all the way home I found myself running Prime numbers in my head.
I will be forwarding this document to Dr. Wiley tomorrow… it seems prudent to at least give them an idea of what they might be up against.
I mean if he was right about all those equations… what if he was right about the creature as well?
Dr. Nancy Gaithie M.D./P.H.D
Head of Psychology