And Other Stories



It wasn't that long ago when they finally proved it. One of the big questions, the really big ones. The ones so big they hadn't been a base of active study, just idle speculation and endless philosophizing. Until a couple years ago, when they finally demonstrated that the universe was a simulation. The apparent observable universe is all just a program running on some unfathomably powerful machine, somewhere else. Somewhere one step more real. This had been revealed, received a massive wave of attention, and then mostly faded into irrelevance. I mean, what did it really matter? And plenty of people didn't believe it, anyways. I mean, how could you actually possibly prove that from inside? How could you be really sure that the supposed artifacts really were artifacts, and not just natural features of a weird universe? Yeah, yeah, I read the articles.

It's not that I'm unconvinced. I do believe it, just bear with me. I just don't think that's the best way of proving it, right? Some bits of writing about various features of evidence and the likeliest explanations and then some math none of the article authors actually understand but try to summarize anyways. That's not how you reach the public. That's not how you convince yourself. It's all abstract, and while that's all well and good it's hard to tell if it's shaky, and how much. For the abstract to be rock solid, you have to completely understand it. Anything you don't quite know for sure is a weak point, somewhere a mistake could be hiding out of sight and compromising the entire structure. But something concrete? Well, seeing is believing.

Yeah, you know exactly what I mean. Just give me a minute, and do excuse the flourish. I've been looking forward to this. Years of planning, months of work, and it's finally, finally ready. This right here? It's my magnum opus. No, no, even more than that. It's the Great Work.”

The figure spun on their heel, the tail of their too-large lab coat billowing out a little behind them. They thrust their arms out to indicate everything behind them, a labyrinth of boxy plastic casing and tangled wires. They were grinning ear to ear, relishing the moment as if it was full of applause, rather than the hum and whir of computer fans. After a couple moments soaking it in, they spun again, shoes squeaking horrendously against the floor. They stepped up to the nearest bit of hardware, a little stand of buttons and knobs below a goliath monitor. Humming to themselves, they punched some memorized sequence of inputs, and waited.

Lights and indicators lit up over the mess of parts, in haphazard, almost random order. The drone of the fans flew into a whine, approaching a fever pitch before leveling off, overwhelmed by a low-pitched thrumming from somewhere in the disarray. The lights in the room dimmed for a moment, and then the massive screen blinked to life.

It showed a dark scene, with only a few indistinct outlines barely visible. It was playing the sounds of approaching footsteps, then a clack of metal against metal, and the overhead lights blinked on. The room was dominated by a jumbled mess of blocky hardware and intertwined cords. The centerpiece of it all was a TV screen that looked humongous compared to its surroundings.

Then a figure moved onto the scene. They positioned themselves in the center of the screen, brushed off their several sizes too-large lab coat, and cleared their throat. They took in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. Their face looked contemplative for a moment, and then they turned, presenting their back to the screen. Softly, they counted downwards, and then turned their head over their shoulder.

“You know the simulation hypothesis?