IEEE 754

(A short horror story. Happy Halloween!)

The concept used to be the sole domain of religion. An eternal afterlife. Creators with infinite power. An endless universe. Then Science came to murder God, slowly squeezing shut the gaps in human knowledge until all the angels and demons that dwelt within were crushed to death. We discovered the truth of our situation: Brief creatures whirling around within a black balloon of a universe rapidly running out of warmth and light.

How lucky we were! Death awaited us like the period at the end of a sentence, giving meaning to our life. No eternal rewards or punishments or rebirths… just a chance for a tiny chunk of atoms to notice themselves. Everything we did mattered, because we knew we only got to do it once. Our fragility was our strength. Mathematics plotted out the rules of the universe and freed us from the terrible infinite.

But then they kept counting. They rediscovered it, hidden in the smallest particles. Endless possibilities. A multiverse full of parallel worlds. Infinite parallel worlds.

Science didn’t save us from an eternal universe. It discovered something worse.

When most folks imagine the infinite, they think of an endless number — a digit that just gets longer and longer, like Pi.

But that only skims the surface. You have to imagine that endless number also going backwards from zero. And then, in between each number, an endless number of fractions, growing smaller and smaller, endlessly dividing.

And then, beside each of those endless numbers, and endless fractions of a number, another endless series of numbers and fractions. And above them. And behind them. An endlessly expanding cube of numbers and fractions, except each one has its own endless cube expanding out from it, too. Except they aren’t cubes, but spheres, because the numbers don’t just go left and right and above and behind, but an infinite number of possible directions, smaller and smaller fractions of Pi, forever.

An infinite number of those numbers are the exact same number. An infinite number of them aren’t numbers at all.

Infinity means everything is not only possible, but assured.

In an infinite number of parallel worlds, you are dying, and coming, and crying, and laughing, and screaming, and hurting… infinitely. The worst possible thing you can imagine happening to you? It’s happening an infinite number of times, somewhere else. This is true of everyone you’ve ever met, and also all the people you’ve never met, and all the people who don’t exist in this one single reality you inhabit.

There are an infinite number of ways to suffer, and we are all experiencing them an infinite number of times. In fact, there are an infinite number of things infinitely worse, things you’ve never felt, things you cannot imagine, things your body is incapable of feeling but that an infinite number of other bodies are feeling, right now and forever.

There isn’t even any comfort in knowing this dimension, the one we’re experiencing right now, will always be as it seems. There’s an infinite number of worlds in which everything has gone exactly as it has… up until the moment it changes forever. The point at which that happens is infinite, and the chance you are in one of those realities where, at this very point, or this one, or the next one, your eternal horror begins?

The possibilities are endless.