Claude wakes up just as the sun peers over his windowsill. Over the years, his circadian rhythm has aligned perfectly with the Earth’s daily rotations. This morning it takes him a full three and a half minutes to make it into the shower, six times his normal pace. For the past week, something’s been gnawing at him, keeping him up at night. He turns the faucet all the way to the right, swallowing a scream and welcoming the frigid torture, hoping to drown his fatigue and anguish.

He lives on the 21st floor of his tower, deliberately picked for its binary equivalent, an elegant palindrome: 10101. In all of New York City, his building is the nearest, cumulatively, to a hospital, fire station, and police station: 2.718 kilometers. There’s a new tower sprouting up across the street which will eventually dethrone his. He started browsing units last week. A few seconds in response time can save one’s life.

Claude has devoted the past two decades studying the Measurement Problem. If forced to describe it to those unfamiliar with quantum physics, he’ll reference the Red Light, Green Light game. Fundamental particles are in many places at once, but once we observe them, they suddenly freeze and appear in one place. Going any deeper usually breaks people’s brains. During the week, Claude demystifies the cosmos. On weekends, and today happens to be Saturday, he tidies up his own private universe.

He emerges shivering but alert from the shower. The daily duel against disorder can now begin. He first arms himself with his toothbrush, banishing the clutter in his mouth with brisk, perfectly circular strokes. He swaps weapons for a comb and commands every hair on his head back to its rightful place. The hairs on his cheeks are not so lucky. This morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. Discipline is the key to maintaining order.

Claude lives alone, doesn’t have friends, barely speaks to his family. Why would he? Everyone is so… ignorant. Truth be told, he has yet to meet another human being worth befriending. They all aimlessly drift through life, brazenly wasting time as if it were dishwater. On their death bed, they’ll look back on a long thread of sloppy decisions. Not Claude. In a universe relentlessly marching towards its heat death, his world is a sanctuary for structure.

In eight strides, he’s out of the bathroom and in the living room, where he takes a seat on his meditation mat. Plucking his phone from his pocket, he queues up Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. As his eyes shut, he frowns slightly with anticipation. It’s one thing to purify the body, but the mind is another beast. He centers his attention on his slowing breath. His thoughts grind to a halt. Until… There it is again! In the darkness of his consciousness, a small speck of light shimmers, a stain on an otherwise perfectly black canvas. This entire week, it has taunted him from the periphery of his mind. Until now he has tried to ignore it, in vain. Apprehensive, he turns his attention to it.

The pinprick of light expands into a disk, a distant light at the end of a tunnel. Claude approaches and tentatively peers through. Beyond, a world of utter chaos opens up. He stares, mystified, as faceless figures haphazardly burst into flames. Others spontaneously vanish into thin air, or pass through each other unimpeded. The laws of physics clearly don’t apply here. The scene seems strangely familiar to him. A surge of doubt rises within. What sets his world apart from this one? What keeps his universe from collapsing into this madness? Order and rationality, the scaffolding on which his entire existence rests, wobbles slightly. Scanning the anarchy of color and sound beyond, a shiver travels down his spine. Randomness reigns here. Are things really different in his world? The very idea of causation becomes laughable. How audacious! To think that whatever rules he has observed throughout his lifetime will hold true in the next instant. What is keeping his body from abruptly turning to stone? Or his apartment and its contents from liquifying into one large puddle? Unlikely events, perhaps, but to say that they’re absolutely impossible? Preposterous! To presume that all physical laws which humanity has dreamt up over millennia of measurements are bound by some cosmic contract… HA!

Claude staggers backward. Reeling, he turns and retreats deeper into his consciousness, hoping to return to a state of blissful ignorance. Glancing backward, he catches the light in the distance starting to move towards him. As it approaches, its radiation pierces his body. His very identity begins to dissolve in the heat. The identity of all things, really. He sees himself, the quintessential intellectual, childishly segregating things into tidy distinct classes, oblivious to how arbitrary his divisions are. National borders, biological species, units of measure. Nature ignores them all like a child coloring outside the lines, wreaking havoc with her crayons. His own self does not stand the test of distinctiveness. He hears the tsunami of molecules his body is steadily exchanging with his environment. He senses the extent to which his thoughts are shaped by his experiences and surroundings. There is no Claude.

The light is close now, barreling towards him at a furious speed. He spins around as he hears the deafening blare of a horn and screech of wheels. The outline of a train emerges behind its ditch light. It’s too late, there’s no stopping it. It collides forcefully into his mind’s defenses. The impact is so strong that his fortress of rationality, carefully erected over a lifetime, spontaneously shatters from all sides. The dam now broken, chaos floods his mind.

Claude opens his eyes. Light comes through, but as a senseless heap of pixels. Chopin’s composition still reaches his ears, now a cacophony indistinguishable from the impatient city traffic outside. His muscles abandon him. He collapses on his side, drowning his mat in urine and drool.

The universe carries on, unconcerned, in its entropic descent.

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