The Surprising Complexities of Simplicity
Once upon a space comparable to time but not time, a folded dimension of another world simpler than our three-dimensional-with-time world—a two-dimensional world with time, in fact, as predicted by the logical extension of Feynmann’s equation of quantum probabilities—there lived a man and a woman.
Woman, what are you doing, the man would ask.
Nothing, she would reply.
As it was a two-dimensional ‘space’, they were both trapped within the plane. Their third dimension had been converted into time, but the trade-off was that they were fixed in planar space. In this universe, this moment was forever trapped and frozen in time and space (albeit a two-dimensional space). The man and woman were not alone: other things happened in this world, but only to two-dimensional characters.
A wise-talking private eye could move around, for example, but not more complex characters, like a futures trader on Wall Street struggling with a dark past whilst striving for a brighter future. Unfortunately for that trader, he found himself frozen in time in this world, forever to dwell upon that single complex thought. We might well infer that he understood that thought better than anyone else, and indeed we could learn so much from his Buddhist-like contemplation of a single thought, had he been able to say anything upon it. But he could not; he was three-dimensional and therefore trapped in time, like a Pleistocene fly in amber, unable to do anything, though the trader knew everything there was to know about that one thought, and would forever more.
Meanwhile, the wise-talking private eye put a tail on the mafioso’s mistress, while the mafioso was being staked out by two cops, just two regular guys who liked a beer after work and playing catch with their kids and so on. You know, regular guys. One had to be careful to survive in the 2D world. There were many other such people populating this world: a single mother struggling through life’s unfairness with her shy kid; a schoolyard bully who just needed to be loved; the slutty waitress with a heart of gold; the teacher who just wanted his pupils to do well; the small-town boxer who dreamed of just one shot at the big time. They were all very careful not to exceed their level of complexity, as they had seen it happen to others in their realm—the very first hint that they might be striving for something more than pastiche, they had turned three-dimensional and frozen in place.
That was bad enough, but for those who kept their noses clean and their heads down, that left a nuisance and a mess. The frozen three-dimensional characters were an obstacle to free movement about the 2D plane. You had to clamber over them, locked into their space, which was not so easy in a two-dimensional world, let me tell you.
On the whole, though, this rule left people feeling safe and satisfied. It meant that nothing unexpected could happen (apart from what would be expected to be unexpected). People reacted only as they thought they would be expected to react, given their characters, and aside from having to skitter past bulges in the fabric of space caused by the frozen overachieving three-dimensional persons, life went on as it always had done.
Benny Neylon lives in Barcelona, Spain, and is the author of the short story collections Yarns and Thumbprints, as well as the satire, NSA.