Kevin fell for what seemed like hours, until he finally saw ground again. He splashed down in a small pond, jungle-like vines surrounding him, a thick canopy of trees up above. How did I make it through that?
he thought. The sounds of birds chirped around him, and all manner of insects buzzed and clicked. And where is this place?
He said a few words out loud, and waved his hands, but the world refused to change. A place where nothing is real? This place seems the most real yet,
Suddenly, loud footsteps could be heard, and a massive ostrich-like bird stomped through the jungle.
"You might want to watch where you're sitting!" it said, stomping away through the vines.
Okay, still surreal though,
Kevin thought, I should probably check out where it was going.
Stepping through the jungle, Kevin pulled back a curtain of vines, and saw a sandy beach at night. A solitary old man was sitting on a nearby rock, softly playing a tune on a wooden flute. Kevin walked onto the sand, a soft crunch heard underneath his feet. Looking down he could see that the beach was made entirely of tiny seashells. He approached the man, and saw him stop playing.
"No need to be nervous, young man," he said, "what is it that you are seeking today?"
"To be honest," Kevin said, "I'd like to know where this place is? And what it is?"
"Ah, this is Unreality," the old man said, waving his hands around, "and as for what it is? It is what ever you wish it to be."
"Really?" Kevin said, "I heard someone say this was a place where nothing is real. And I tried changing the environment, but nothing happened."
"Interesting," the old man said, "very interesting. More accurately, it is a place of shared imagination. I suppose some would
consider that unreal."
"And you don't?"
"Of course not! I live here!" the old man said, "so let me ask you this, have you imagined anything lately?"
Kevin thought about this for a moment, not sure how to answer such a strange question.
"Not that I can think of, actually," Kevin said.
"Hmm, then that is your problem, then," the old man said, looking a bit disappointed, "why don't you try imagining something now?"
"I guess I could," Kevin said.
Kevin thought for a moment, then imagined himself back in the Literal World, seeing Adra again. Opening his eyes, he could see the sky had turned purple, and Adra was standing next to him on this strange beach.
"Hey," she said.
"Wait! You said this is shared imagination - how do I know if she is the real Adra or not?" Kevin said.
"You could try asking her!" the old man said, chuckling slightly.
"So - are you the real Adra?"
"I can be if you want me to be," Adra said, smiling.
"Should I take that as a no?" Kevin said, looking nervous.
"You would reject me a second time?" Adra said, as the sky grew dark, and lightning struck nearby. "You cannot compare to the power I have, the knowledge I possess!"
"I don't want to fight you!" Kevin said, stepping backwards towards the ocean.
"All concepts in the multiverse are mine to command!" Adra said, as the water turned to metal, and rose above behind Kevin.
"I can't beat her! What do I do?" Kevin said to the old man, who was still laughing on the rock.
"She is only as powerful as you imagine her to be!" the old man said.
"That's not helping! I know she's crazy powerful!" Kevin said.
"You, Kevin from not-New York City! You will now perish!" Adra said, as the metal ocean raised above Kevin's head, and threatened to encase him in a molten tidal wave.
"I never told you what I saw in the Pool of Reflections," Kevin said, realizing what was going on, "this isn't
He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. Opening them up again, he saw the night had returned to form, a clear sky above and a thin crescent moon shining down upon the seashell beach, the soft crash of waves audible behind him.
"Whew. That was close," Kevin said.
The old man stopped laughing, and got up from the rock. "And now you know where you are, and what this place is."
"Thanks," Kevin said. In a very roundabout way,
what is your wish," the old man said, "heh. Besides the obvious."
"Thanks for that," Kevin said, sounding a bit miffed. "But in all seriousness, I'm still on a quest to figure out who I am. And where I belong. You don't happen to know anyone who would know about nothingness? Or people who are nothing?"
"Interesting," the old man said, thinking on this question for a moment. "Very interesting. I suppose I do. Your wish is my command."
The old man walked up to a nearby sand dune, and pulling aside reality itself as if it was a curtain, revealed a portal to another place. A multicolored waterfall landscape, where three people could be seen standing beside one of the iridescent pools of water, watching it fall from pond to pond.
"Do they know about nothingness?" Kevin said.
"They are experts in all things conceptual," the old man said, "or at least the best experts I know. Go on, no need to be shy. They are not dangerous, at least to those who are nice to them."
"Thanks," Kevin said, "I'll be on my best behavior."
"You will," the old man said.
Kevin stepped through this curtain, now engulfed in an exotic environment of rainbow aurora clouds up above, multicolored waterfalls suspended high in the atmosphere.
Turning around to see the beach through the portal, he said to the old man, "wait - are you real?"
"I am as real as you imagine me to be," the old man said. He closed the curtain and the portal, leaving Kevin standing on a wisp of pink energy.
• • •
The Practice of Creation
Kevin walked nervously across the shimmering strands of light, cautiously approaching the group. As he came closer, he noticed that they were all young women, probably about college age, but each one looked quite remarkably different from the others.
"Kurako! Get out of the pool! We have to go soon," said the one in the middle. She wore a seemingly-ordinary shirt and pants, but had exotic circuit-board-like tattoos on her arms and legs. She also had stark white hair, indicative of great age, or at least it would be, if she were human.
"I would be more concerned about the person behind us," another said. She was dressed in all-white robes, and had deathly pale skin, along with stark black hair. She turned around and stared at Kevin.
"Hey!" Kevin said nervously, "I was just at the beach, and this old man pulled aside part of the sand dune and I landed here. He... said you were experts on concepts?"
"Intriguing," a third said. She was dressed in a patterned shirt and a matching skirt, with blue hair waving down in a decidedly unphysical fashion. "And you are?" she said, looking at Kevin carefully.
"Kevin, from... Nowhere," Kevin said.
"You're from Nowhere?" another person said, skipping around a corner from a nearby waterfall. She was the most colorful of the bunch, sporting a pink shirt with a heart on it, matching hair, and a slightly-darker purple skirt. "I love
that place! We've only heard about it in rumors, though. I've never met someone actually from
"But... doesn't it like, not exist?" Kevin said, sounding confused.
"Of course it doesn't exist," the white-haired woman said, "but that doesn't mean it can't be interesting. What was
"It was... uh," Kevin said, struggling to remember.
He had been through so much, and seen so many places. A place that didn't exist - what was
"Well, there was a great plain of brown grass," Kevin said, "and a bunch of black buildings. I think one of them had the smallest number, and one the largest? I've honestly kind of forgotten much more than that." Was there much more than that?
"So cool!" the pink-haired woman said.
"Interesting - did you see either of those numbers?" the blue-haired woman said.
"No, I thought the whole place was impossible. That was... a long time ago."
"That's still an interesting experience," the white-haired woman said, "it would be interesting to visit a place without time. I have no idea what that would feel like."
"It felt, well, really strange," Kevin said, at a loss for any other words.
"Of course, if we were to go there, we would likely cease to exist," the black-haired woman said, "so we should at least complete our training first."
"What training?" Kevin said.
"To become creators of universes, of course!" the white-haired woman said. "Oh wait - where are my manners! We haven't introduced ourselves. I am Tokanae, personification of Time."
"And I, am Shiko, personification of Death," the black-haired woman said.
"I am Riko, the personification of Logic," the blue-haired woman said.
"And I'm Koiina! Personification of Love," the pink haired woman said.
"And Kurako, as usual,
is running late, and she's the personification of Chaos," Tokanae said.
"Probably difficult to keep on task?" Kevin said.
"You have no idea," Tokanae said, shaking her head. "Anyways, now that we have been introduced, and we have satisfied our
curiosity, what are you interested in the ways of concepts, Kevin from Nowhere?"
"Actually, I was interested in a place where nothingness was normal. But now that you've mentioned you've actually heard of Nowhere, I'm somewhat interested to know how to go back. Perhaps that is my true home after all," Kevin said.
"Oh, I bet Fred could take you there," Koiina said, "he drives us around all sorts of dimensions."
"Fred? The guy from Nowhere?" Kevin said, "he's real?"
"Of course," Riko said, "but he's not from Nowhere."
"Where's he from, then?" Kevin said, sounding incredulous at this conversation.
"You know, I'm not sure," Tokanae said, "maybe we should ask him next time we see him? Anyways, he's not here now, but you can wait, if you want?"
"I actually do want to wait, come to think of it," Kevin said, "I mean, he... you all... seem to have all the answers."
the answers," Tokanae said, "we're nowhere near as experienced as our parents, Alorn and Dinaya."
"Your parents are?" Kevin said, practically falling over from the realization. "This is... uh, small multiverse, right?"
"Ok, ok, I'm ready to go!" said another woman, walking up to the group. She had short red hair, and was wearing a red shirt with some kind of equation on it, along with dark red pants.
"Perfect, now we can go meet Fred, he's waiting for us at the bus stop up above," Tokanae said.
"Great! How do we get there?" Kevin said.
"Simple, we'll just use this transmaterializer," Tokanae said, pulling out a small device that looked remarkably like a pencil. "It simply disassembles our matter, then reassembles us wherever we want to be. Very convenient, and totally safe!"
"Thanks! So... I'm ready whenever you are," Kevin said.
"Cool! Here goes!" Tokanae said, raising the device into the air, as a bright orange flash filled the environment.
Kevin looked around, and noticed that the device had no effect on him. He was still standing next to the waterfall, completely unchanged. Oh no!
he thought, the one time I didn't want my powers to work!
He sat down on the iridescent blue wisp of energy, and looked up into the sky. They'll come back, right?
• • •
Failure of Imagination
They have to come back, right?
he thought, still sitting on the ground. This isn't some cosmic joke, right? They seemed too nice to just leave me here, even if their teleporter didn't work on me.
He stared at the waterfall for a few more minutes. It had felt like hours had passed, and the water continued to flow. I never imagined I'd be in a situation like this,
he thought. The answers were so close for a moment, then just got yanked away,
he thought. There must be a reason for all this,
he thought, or this wouldn't have happened.
He stared at the water again, for what seemed like days. Waited for anyone, or anything to stop by. To say hi, to try to trample him or kill him. To do... anything. But, there was...
That's it, isn't it?
he thought. I can't cheat out of this. I have to do this on my own. I've conquered all the other challenges the multiverse has thrown at me, so this is just another one. Right. Now... how do
I get back to the Middle of Nowhere?
He looked around, and seeing nothing obviously useful, decided to imagine something up. Fine, we'll do this the hard way.
"I summon you, imaginary Adra!" he said, as the imaginary Adra from before appeared once more.
"What do you need now?" Adra said.
"I need a way back to Nowhere," Kevin said.
"Impossible. It doesn't exist."
"Fine, then, uh, I need to find Fred, he'll know what to do."
"In an infinite multiverse? How do you know they were even talking about the same Fred? Or the same place? Nowhere isn't exactly a unique-sounding name."
"Crap. You're right. How did I not think of that!" Kevin said, walking around angrily. "They probably left because the Fred they know told them I was some crazy person, and that Nowhere isn't a real place!"
"You bet it isn't!"
"Then... I need..." Kevin said, thinking on this more.
Until something clicked.
"I need to be Nothing!" Kevin said, "that's the whole point, isn't it! I can't be in Nowhere if I'm something. I can't just be from nothingness - I need to be nothingness.
crazy talk," Adra said.
"Maybe," Kevin said, "but I do remember now. Fred said - when I understand. I must return. So Adra, you know the nature of the multiverse, what's the best way to completely and utterly erase myself from existence?"
"Beats me, I don't think that's possible."
"You don't think
that's possible?" Kevin said.
"Well, I've never done it before," Adra said, "so I can't be confident on it."
"You're always confident - more so than anything or anyone I've met," Kevin said, "so yeah, it might be impossible. But then all I've got to do, is do the impossible. Piece of cake, right?"
"If you say so," Adra said, shrugging her shoulders.
"Thank you so much Adra," Kevin said, "if I make it out of this alive, well I... might take you up on that offer from before."
"You should," Adra said, winking at him. "And Kevin, good luck." She then promptly disappeared from sight.
I don't remember imagining that,
Kevin said, was that... the real Adra?
Feeling rather nervous, he decided to disregard the feelings, and continue on his quest.
"Alright. Imagining something else useful - interdimensional taxi!" Kevin said.
Another yellow-and-black cab pulled up to him and opened a door to the wisp of energy he was standing on.
"To the mathematical lands, and step on it!"
• • •
N = 0 ↯ 2
Kevin sat on a highly-complex fractal landscape, watching a beautiful sunset over infinitely-repeating clouds. He had tried talking to many people, some stranger than imagination itself, and many others that considered him completely bonkers. Imagining things didn't seem to work at all here, and the cabbie had cleaned him out of the rest of his money. Apparently fares across concepts weren't cheap.
And so he sat down, dejected that his quest was so close, and yet so far away. There seemed to be no-one here that could help him, and the faregates to the train station told him his card was empty. Whether it was simply poor planning, or the multiverse sending him a message, it seemed his quest would end here, one way or another.
That is, until two odd people walked up behind him.
"Hello Kevin from Nowhere," the first said.
"We hear you are trying to go to a place that does not exist," the second said.
Kevin turned around, and saw two people, a man and a woman, both identical-looking otherwise, and wearing perfectly-smooth thin white space-suits.
"Who are you?" Kevin said, looking at them.
"We are the Mathematical Twins," the man said with a female voice.
"Explorers of all spaces and times," the woman said with a male voice.
"Explorers of everywhere
?" Kevin said, sounding confused as usual.
"So yes, but only in templates. Not to any instances."
"Such as individual universes."
"Those are not included."
Oh jeez, they're like linked or something,
Kevin thought. "That, sounds cool," Kevin said, "but why are you interested in helping me?"
"We have seen everywhere."
"Everything there is."
"So a place that is not?"
"That intrigues us."
"I have to tell you," Kevin said, "it's a lot more boring once you get there. But... if you're still interested, then sure, that sounds amazing!"
"We can take our ship."
A white cylinder appeared next to them, as if it had been there the whole time.
"How did that get there?" Kevin said.
"It appears wherever it is programmed to."
"It accepts any equation, and will exist in that solution."
"Or solutions. So if it is programmed to be 'here'?"
"Then it will be here."
"Impressive," Kevin said, realizing how 'here' could conceivably be anywhere.
"How do we get in?"
"On the side."
"There is a door."
A slice of the cylinder opened up, and the three of them stepped inside into the stark white interior. The door closed behind them, and Kevin could scarcely tell if they were in the same place, or even standing still, given the lack of input.
"So, I do have to warn you," Kevin said, "I'm not really sure how to get back to Nowhere. I was there once, and... that's about it."
"It is not a problem."
"We have infinite time."
Whoo... that is patience,
Kevin thought. "I'll probably get it before then," he said. Hopefully.
Kevin thought on how to erase them from existence. Do they put in an equation with no solution? Something that equals zero? For some reason, he felt neither would be quite enough.
"So... apologies if this is a bit forward, but before we hop across space and time," Kevin said, "I did have one question. Aren't you two a bit... backwards? You know gender-wise?"
"In order to truly understand each other's existence."
"We became each other."
"And that doesn't cause any problems?" Kevin said.
"Not really," they both said in unison.
Enough awkward questions for now,
he thought. Wait! What about an equation that has not only no solution, but could never possibly have one. The only solution - could never exist.
"What about," Kevin said, "one divided by zero?"
"That seems too simple."
"It is a plain impossibility."
"Have you tried it before?" Kevin said.
"No," they both said in unison.
"What other options are there? Equations without solutions? Equal to zero? The word nothing?"
"Words do not work."
"Equal to zero is just back to the beginning."
"Equations without solutions simply delete the ship."
"Insurance can be expensive."
"Well, if you two have seen everything there is, and every single possibility, then I'm all ears for any other suggestions!" Kevin said.
The two of them stared at each other for a moment.
Then speaking in unison again, they said, "we have seen Everything. But not Nothing. You Kevin from Nowhere are clearly without a universe. Without a dimension. Without a past, present, or future. You are an anomaly. One who cannot and does not exist. You are something new. Something beyond everything. Something without an origin. You are the key to novelty and creativity. You are correct."
"Thanks?" Kevin said, "how do you know all this?"
"Because we inputted your equation. And we are still here."
See what is not