Fractals

As I entered the building, I always take note of the guard’s tone.  It is perfectly neutral, with no hint of any feeling behind it.  “Morning, Inspector,” he comments, his eyes making contact with mine for the very briefest of instants.

I give him a nod in return, stamping my feet inside the entrance and brushing the small piles of snow from my lapels.  After sucking in a couple of mercifully warm breaths, I make my way inside.

From my briefcase, I withdraw my clipboard, noting the date and time at the top of the form.  I scroll down the form to the man I was here to consult.  “Jauffe,” I pronounce the name aloud.  It’s vaguely familiar to me, but I can’t put a face to the emotion.

A young woman walks past in her uniform, her hair cut short to hang above her shoulders.  “Excuse me,” I interject, stepping ever so slightly into her path.  “Where can I find Dr. Jauffe?”

My eyes are on her eyes.  The flash of irritation, of anger at being interrupted in her work, is only present for a fraction of a second, but I still catch it.  There’s a reason I’m the head inspector.  “He’s already in one of the interrogation rooms,” she replies, pointing back down the hallway.  “He’s with the fractal guy.”

“Fractal guy?” I repeat back blankly.

She nods.  “Crazy one.  Well, that’s a given.  But this loony made over a hundred million on the stock market in the last six months, making wild bets on the futures.  A few days ago, he comes down here, insists on turning himself in.  Says he’s a danger to society, that he’ll lose control and destroy us all.”  Her eyes briefly unfocus.  “Man, a hundred million and he’s locked up in here.”

“What a world,” I reply back sympathetically.  The words don’t mean anything, but the tone is one of comforting agreement, and it serves its purpose.  She nods and continues on her errand.  I set off down the hallway, looking for Dr. Jauffe.

I find the room quickly enough – it’s not my first time here.  “Cold Harbor – Room 2B”, reads the sign.  I push down on the handle and step inside.

Inside the darkened room, I move to the large window that makes up the majority of one wall, looking down at the back of a man in a white coat.  Dr. Jauffe is talking to the man sitting across from him.  I briefly size up the subject.  He’s wearing a very expensive suit, clearly custom tailored, but it’s disheveled and dirty.  One of the sleeves is torn.  His hair is trimmed but mussed, and his eyes hold the slightest hint of panic.

“Now, you tell us that you’re afraid you will destroy the world,” the doctor says in a soothing, comforting tone.  I hate that tone.  It means he’s trying to play nice with the subject.  I can’t imagine that it would work on anyone but a head case.

The man nods, the hint of panic never leaving his eyes.  “Not destroy it, per se,” he corrects.  “Watch it destroy itself.  I mean, it’s pretty much inevitable at this point, the iterations just folding in on themselves.  We’ve already set the large strokes, now we’re just filling in the details.”

“The details of what?” presses Dr. Jauffe.  I approvingly note how he remains calm, despite the man’s disagreement with his statement, and make a corresponding note on the form.  Behind the glass, I am a silent observer.

In response, the man waves his hands around wildly.  “Fractals!” he states emphatically.  “I told this to the man at the front desk!  Fractals constantly form by folding in on themselves, growing ever smaller, each second adding more definition, making hypotheticals more real.  Once you can see them, you realize that all the big decisions are already made, we’re just debating over minutiae.  With each second, Mandlebrot grows more real, we can’t escape!”

I see the man change themes.  “That’s how I made all my money, you know,” he says.  “Once I realized that the fractals were fairly easy to trace, I saw how to take advantage of them.  Knowing the path made my bets a sure thing.  Money wasn’t a problem.  But then I realized that I’m making money off of our race’s destruction, and I just couldn’t stand it any more!”

The man’s finger stabs across the table at the doctor, who, to his credit, barely flinches.  I make another approving note.  “Your life is already decided,” he decrees.  “You may not have made all the little decisions yet, like whether you’ll have coffee or tea in the morning, but these aren’t of any consequence.  This is all predetermined!”

The doctor opens his mouth to ask another question, still calm and collected, but I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket.  I step out into the hallway to answer it.  “Yes, I’m already at the mental institution,” I tell the voice on the other end of the line.  “Yes, he’s checked in.”

I wait for a minute, listening to my instructions.  “Yes, sir,” I reply crisply.  “I’m inspecting his doctor today.  I’ll make sure that he’s steered towards a heavy medication dose.”

I hang up and walk back inside, waiting for the doctor to finish his interview.  So far, Dr. Jauffe is doing well on his inspection, I think to myself.  Calm, collected – and obedient.

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