Glitch | Sophie L Macdonald


Sophie L Macdonald

The Lucky Numbers Award

A sound. Like a bell.

And a man. Leaning in—looking at me.

I think it’s a glitch. I shouldn’t have been able to see them.

It’s too late now—I got too close. I started to see the patterns, and I realised nothing was by accident.

We’d theorised about it for years, of course—it’s not a new revelation. Alan and the guys postulated way back that they thought it possible we were unwitting players in an artificially created world.

People laughed at them at the time—we were all still talking about intelligent design versus a chain of happy accidents. They said that intelligent design was not impossible, but perhaps the gods were not the sort we think of up in Heaven, but us—people—in a parallel universe ahead of our own timeline.

They said the rate at which our computer simulation abilities were improving meant that it was possible our future selves could perfectly simulate reality, and we were now just players in some advanced game. I thought it sounded pretty crazy—the kind of thing that would get your department lots of publicity, which was probably what they were after, but not anything we should pay particular attention to—and it was nothing we could hope to prove anyway, but then I experienced a glitch and now everything has changed.

I was walking to work when it all happened, and I had some exciting news to tell the rest of the guys: we’d been looking into Fibonacci sequences, and how they can be replicated in nature, and we’d managed to prove the one about the rabbits—which previously had been dismissed as a long shot. I was taking my usual shortcut between Albert and Priest Street when I heard the noise—a clang, like a bell—and the street around me kind of shifted a bit, as if the edges had gone fuzzy, and then it all faded away to reveal a black space with men in suits looking down over me—in some ways they were bigger than me, but in other ways not—and they looked just as surprised to see me looking back up at them with a smile of recognition.

I wasn’t afraid to see them at all—I was actually very excited, as I was picturing Alan and all the guys at the department raising their glasses and cheering that I was finally on board with their crazy simulated universe theory—but they looked scared to see me, and one of them leant right in and said: “One of the player characters can see us—we’ll need to make some changes to his timeline, and make sure he doesn’t take this back to the other players on Earth.” I used to play computer games as a kid—especially  those big multi-player role playing type games, and one of the things that stuck in my head was that he used the words ‘player characters’, which made me think there were non-player characters on Earth—people who weren’t really people, but we all thought they were—and I started questioning if I was a person, and the whole thing freaked me out so much that I just started screaming, and then I was back on the street, but some men were pulling me into a van, and saying I was crazy, and needed to go somewhere to calm down, and now I’m in this room with cushioned walls, and I just don’t know what’s real and they won’t let me go home—so can you help me—are you a player character or not?



You may have noticed an unusual structure to the story. The writing adheres to the golden ratio, with the word count for each paragraph adhering to Fibonacci numbers. A Fibonacci number sequence is where each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers, e.g., 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21, and so forth.

The golden ratio is a number equivalent to approximately 1.168, and it reoccurs frequently throughout nature, art, geometry, and more. Interestingly, if you take any two successive Fibonacci numbers, you end up with something very close to the golden ratio.

For example: 3/2=1.5, 5/3=1.6666…,8/5=1.6, 13/8=1.625, and so on.

The paragraphs in this story follow the Fibonacci sequence, with each containing two sentences producing the golden ratio.

Paragraph 1 contains sentences with 2 and then 3 words, Paragraph 2 contains 3, 5, Paragraph 3 contains 5,8 – all the way through to Paragraph 9, containing two sentences each with 89 and 144 words respectively (144/89=1.6179775281).

Further notes:

The reference to the ‘rabbit’ problem goes back to Fibonacci’s first postulation that if a single pair of rabbits produced one boy and one girl baby each month (and no rabbit died), the breeding pattern would resemble what we now call a Fibonacci sequence. Of course, this is an artificial construct, but some have tried to argue for the possibility of this type of sequencing to occur in nature.

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