Overwhelming Oddness

Here’s a short story I wrote for a tenth grade English class assignment. Before you read it, I want to mention a few things:

  1. Back then, everything I knew about quantum mechanics came from second-hand reports of friends who had seen The Elegant Universe.
  2. I had just finished reading Breakfast of Champions when I wrote this.
  3. There’s a painfully obvious reference to a Matthew Arnold poem in here–can you find it?

Overwhelming Oddness

Brian Malcassa, dressed in summer clothes, leaped down the street. Gravity was low that day, and Malcassa was like a leaf in a stream as he floated towards the supermarket. He entered the familiar store and bought a familiar lottery ticket, choosing familiar numbers. If he won, this would be the tenth mega-jackpot in a row with the same numbers. A citizen of the twentieth century might shake his head in disbelief, but according to the laws of probability, it has to happen eventually. Brian walked out again with his lottery ticket in his pocket.

As he walked back to his house, Brian heard a sound like a baseball hitting a wet sponge. He turned around. The parked van he had just passed was sunk up to the door handles in the street. A citizen of the twentieth century might question his sanity, but according to the laws of quantum mechanics and string theory, anything is possible, given enough time. The van’s atoms had simply aligned with those of the asphalt, and down it fell. Stranger things had happened in the strange days of the year of Our Einstein 4521.

Two days later, he was two-hundred-and-forty-seven-point-three-billion dollars richer.

Three minutes after that, his face was on every news station for breaking the old record of nine jackpots in a row.

Brian finally decided to cash in on the winnings from the lotteries. He bought the top seven floors of an expensive hotel in Large Metropolis Area 1-A, formerly known as New York City. A homely man, he also bought himself a nice bride.

Another stroke of good luck came when all of his household plants suddenly turned to solid gold.

His bride, a young pretty blond named Isabelle, had turned out to actually be worth the money. She was intelligent, compassionate, and good in bed. Their marriage lasted happily for years.

They had several children: Michelle, Alex, and Joel.

Despite his riches, Brian worked as CEO of his own company, which designed new, smaller, faster, more convenient, and overall better computers. The slogan of the company, which Brian had created himself, was “Progress makes for a better tomorrow.”

Life had been good and simple to Brian.

One night, as Brian was lying in his bed, alone with himself, he began to think about all the good luck that had come to him. “It must be,” he thought, “because I give donations to the Science Cult.”

He thought about life too: “Life is so beautiful. I have a wonderful wife and three children to make me proud. My house is the envy of the world. My job is fulfilling and makes the world a better place. If everyone had what I have, everything would be perfect.”

He thought about what he would like to do with the rest of his life: “I am going to make it my personal mission to use to my money to better the earth. The hungry in Africa need to be fed. Cancer needs to be cured. Pollution needs to be stopped. Then everyone will be as happy as me. I will keep making my computers, because newer and more is always better. I will give most of my money to charities. All the world needs is a little love. I am such a nice guy.”

The next day, Malcassa walked to his office with a new sense of purpose that seemed to lighten the ultra heavy gravity. It even seemed to brighten the dark sky. It almost dried the rain. A man dripped slowly out from the shadows of a nearby building. “Good day,” said Malcassa cheerfully as he tipped his hat to the bleary-eyed, ragged stranger. The man pulled a bowl of Jell-O out of his pocket and held it threateningly close to Malcassa’s throat. “I saw you face on the television. I know you’re rich. Give me your wallet,” he rasped. “Wha-” Malcassa stammered. Then he felt cold metal on his throat. The knife pushed harder. “Yes! I was hoping it would change,” whispered the now dangerous man. Malcassa handed over his wallet and walked shakily away.

At work, Malcassa discovered that all his computers had been built with chips that had spontaneously turned into potato chips. His business was ruined.

Returning home, Malcassa found his wife and children waiting for him. At the bottom of an elevator shaft. The indestructible-diamond-alloy rope had snapped.

It was almost as if there was something out there trying to destroy his life.

Malcassa needed to get away. He ran through a haze of tears to the bank to buy a one-way ticket to somewhere, anywhere. “I’m sorry,” said the bank attendant in a metallic monotonous voice, “your account seems to have no money in it.”

“Why is this happening? All I wanted was to help. All I had were pure intentions!” he yelled to the sky. As if answering, a plane, fried by lightning like a giant conductive bird, fell from above and crashed into a nearby building. Burning dust washed over Malcassa and scorched his skin.

He wandered the streets for days in a daze.

He finally knew what to do next.

He walked to Metropolis Area Municipal Bridge 7-B, which was once known as the Brooklyn Bridge.

He stood on the edge.

And jumped off.

And landed on a piece of solid air.

“Why can’t I even die!?” he screamed as the air slowly moved him back to the bridge and dropped him off.

He lay on the street for hours until it was night and he was all alone. He thought about his luck. “What did I ever do to deserve such a fate?” he wondered.

He thought about his life: “Everything I once had is gone. I wish somehow I could have it all back.”

He thought about what he wanted to do: “Die. There is nothing left to live for. I can’t even help myself. The world that was once so pure has shown itself to have neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain. Something lurks in the cosmos like a tiger ready to pounce. There is no order. Bad things happen to good people. Good things happen to bad people. Nothing is sane. How can a man live?”

The next morning, gravity was standard.

Malcassa also went crazy.

He saw a sign painted across his field of vision in bright red paint. It read: “EVERYTHING IS RANDOM”

“Oh,” said Malcassa, “that explains a lot.”

Now it said, “DON’T SEARCH FOR ORDER.”

“Okay,” said Malcassa.

His left shoe suddenly turned into a tuna fish.

Malcassa was alright with that.

He now knew that when he died, he would be reunited with his family, the signs told him that. He would also get to know everything that the writer of the signs knew. He also knew how he was connected with everything else. A citizen of the twentieth century might call it the Gaia Theory. The signs called it the truth.

The universe pressed on towards the point when it would spiral backwards in the Big Crunch, repeating one more cycle. Everything moves in cycles. The signs told him so.

Malcassa died poor and alone, but he was okay with that.

He died happy.


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