The Sum of the Parts by Tricia Lowther

Pictures within pictures, codes within codes, worlds within worlds. Eve shook her head at the screen, then logged off and closed the laptop lid.

She leaned back in her comfy black chair, squeezed the leather under her fingertips, then turned her head to the side and pressed her face into the material. She inhaled the warm, soothing scent. It was real, there could be no doubt—this was a real chair. It had been a gift from Stephen after she’d completed her doctorate. She smiled at the memory of his words as he’d wheeled it into her office. “A mastermind needs a suitable chair.”

And now she had discovered the mathematical structure underlying the creation, and the demise, of the universe. She had proof. But no one would believe it. Not in this lifetime. She snorted at the word, “Lifetime.”

Everyone had known there were problems. Sea ice was melting, soil was eroding, medicines were becoming inefficient. The trouble was that each branch of science had focused on one small part of the problem—none of them had put the whole picture together. Until now. It all tied in to Eve’s Ultimate Theory of Everything.

Eve had found the source code from which the universe had grown. Not grown. Been designed. She knew now, beyond any doubt, that the world was not an accident.

She thought of the game of “Would you rather?” she’d played this morning on the walk to school with Luna. Her eight year old usually asked funny questions like, “Would you rather have bright orange ears or a blue nose?” “Would you rather eat only fish eyes for the next ten years or only carrots for the rest of your life?” But today, she’d asked, “Would you rather have one hundred virtual lives that felt exactly like real life, or have only one really real life?” Eve had felt sick, and she’d squeezed Luna’s hand so tightly that the poor kid squeaked.

Scientists had already created complex Artificial Intelligence. There was even talk of giving human rights to robots. Artificial beings now had the potential to create even more complex more artificial beings. It was almost certain that—


Ada grew bored of watching the screen. The Eve character had been sitting in her chair for twenty uneventful minutes. At first, Ada thought the computer had crashed, but then she realized there was variation in the way Eve moved: leaning on one arm, then the other, scratching her head, crossing and uncrossing her legs. She was thinking, but Ada wouldn’t be able to access her thought readouts until later, after the code had been fully deciphered. The icon for “sad” glowed in the bottom right corner of the screen.

They were close to a breakthrough. The computer characters were beginning to understand the reality of their own existence. Their scientists had developed a pixelic theory of matter. Eve was more intelligent than most of them and Ada anticipated her next theory eagerly. We are gods, she thought.

She picked up the shell that sat on her desk. The Fibonacci spiral that had given her the initial inspiration for her work. Her fingers traced its contours. Patterns within patterns, shapes within shapes, worlds within worlds.

Tricia Lowther grew up in Liverpool, England. Her fiction publications include pieces in: The NoSleep Podcast, The Third Corona Book of Horror Stories, and Flame Tree Press.