It all started with the Genesis wave.
That was the first fractal ever used in movies. I don’t say this because I’m a Star Trek geek or anything, though I am it’s just beside the point. A wave of burning flame sweeps across a dead moon and in its wake are lush oceans, trees growing on fertile land, and mountains.
It’s these mountains that are the pinnacle of this fractal effect, created with Brownian motion in a three dimensional plane. Brown was a great mathematical thinker. He thought about how to track the movement or paths of small particles, like perfume, but he never actually solved it. All he did was ask the question. It was Einstein that would later come up with the map, but it was Brown who would get the credit. Brownian motion, chaotic and random, enough to create all the crags and crevices of those genesis mountains.
Fractals giveth and fractals taketh away.
My world had shrunk to the size of my front door. I could see the house across from mine, and a few in either direction, but taking more than a few steps resulted in gray fog, intense headaches, and loss of time. At first I saw this as an opportunity, a way to see the future. But what good is the future if it’s only a few feet in front of you?
I knew the world was still out there of course. Every night I could turn on my TV and see the places I was once able to walk.
Now someone might wonder if this is agoraphobia. I thought as much myself until I realized my bills were still being paid, the amount of gas in my car kept varying, and my fridge was always filled with burritos. It didn’t seem to matter if I stepped out into the world or not, however. Eventually time would pass of its own accord, and the things that I was running out of were being replenished.
My world was more limited by my closed office door, my fractal books still lying where I had left them, unless in some waking dream I had picked them up and put them back, but somehow I never got the nerve to check. I took to sleeping in the living room. I had the sense that this shrinking world I was living in revolved around me, and I didn’t want to fall asleep in a room without the television, or my cigarettes.
But long before the TV disappeared, the basement became a distant memory, the shows were all reruns. I no-longer had any way to tell the seasons but somehow I knew spring had not come and gone, that the finales would not have aired. The yard had disappeared, and with it those damned dormant trees, just as they were beginning to grow leaves. I actually watched them go with sick satisfaction, eating bowl after bowl of Captain Crunch and waiting for the last of those damned iterative systems to get out of my head.
I knew the books would be gone soon too, and the fridge, all things that contained organic matter. The only fractal left in the world would be me, the lungs that breathed in the air that still tasted fresh no matter how many cigarettes or how small the world appeared. The veins and arteries that pumped blood once hypertensive, but now somewhat at piece. And the three-dimensional Hilbert curve of my brain, processing all of this.
In the end it is my brain I have to blame for all of this, for the world shrinking around me, for the fractals that will never leave me alone. It’s simpler than remembering all the individual atoms of a tree just to remember the algorithm. It’s image compression, allowing the world to run on less memory, memory that’s fading fast. Soon the hard disk will be empty. The experiences, the places I’ve visited they’ll all be gone.
In the end the fractals were trying to save me, trying to let me hold onto as much of the world as I could with what little faculty I had left. Strange how at the end, when I can’t even see the tips of my fingers any more, that something I tried to dull, tried to chase away, tried to escape from, was letting me see my life one last time. The way I used to remember it. I don’t know how I understand any of this, maybe it’s the grace of the dying, those last few days where the patient gets a little better before it’s all over. There’s clarity in that moment.
I fall asleep, and dream. And in that dream I can hear birds singing.