The Birthday Paradox

If there are twenty-three people in a room, the chance of any two of them sharing a birthday is fifty percent. In this particular room, there were twenty-three people. All of them shared a birthday. This was, of course, much higher than one would expect given the probability. This suggested an anomaly. The anomaly was Jon Morris. The other twenty-two people were Split.

The Split with a number one written on her forehead blew snot into a tissue.

Jon Morris scratched his head. “You’ve got quite a problem here.”

“No duh.”

“What’s with the numbers?”

“We can’t merge back,” Split Eight said.

“You have to keep track,” said Split Nineteen.

“Have you never seen any movies with multiplying people?” asked Four.

“It’s basic stuff,” added another.

“Hmmm.”

“You don’t think of contingency plans for if things go wrong?”

Jon did indeed think about what would happen if he and his mirror counterpart switched places or what would happen if he couldn’t return from that pocket mirror dimension. “Not really.”

“Whatever,” said all the Splits in unison. The Splits grimaced and then just One spoke, “ Sorry. We try to not do the all at once thing if there’s more than three, but sometimes we just slip.”

“It’s fine. So, why exactly did you call me?”

“I thought you could help me figure this out.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Mirrors?”

Jon Morris put a hand over his face and shook his head.

“Duplication is kind of mirror territory.”

Jon Morris didn’t say anything more.

“It makes sense. Don’t act like it doesn’t.”

Jon sighed. “I guess I can see what I can do. Maybe we should go outside though. It’s getting a bit crowded.”

Split sneezed and split..

“Oh no,” they all said. Because although only the original Split was sneezing. They could all feel that familiar sensation of a second sneeze tagging along.

Split sneezed again leading to yet another Split.

“I hate double sneezes.”

Twenty-four Splits now occupied the room. The newly emerged Splits looked around while the original Split pulled out a marker. She handed it to one of the new Splits. One drew a twenty-three on the other’s forehead and then passed the marker to receive a twenty-four on her own.

The corners of the room tore like pieces of paper. The ceiling detached from the wall and flew upward. The new view did not reveal the room that should have been above her room, or even the sky, but a blank space. The walls, disconnected from the roof and each other, fell away. Where the walls once were, the same white void from above seemed to stretch in all directions. Then, the floor started sink. White liquid rushed in from the sides and filled the area. Split and Jon only sank a foot into the liquid, but Split’s bed did not fare as well. It continued to sink until it and the rest of the stuff in her room disappeared beneath the mostly calm surface.

“This can’t be good.” A bubble travelled to the surface and popped as if her bed were agreeing with her sarcastically.

Jon Morris crouched down and touched the liquid. He sniffed his fingers and shrugged.

“Taste it.”

Jon Morris turned his head towards her with the most skeptical look he could manage. “You.”

Split pulled her hands up and made her voice into a loud whisper. “We can make twenty-four taste it.”

“I’m not doing that.” Twenty four kicked some of the liquid towards Split One. Enough to make a display of  her discontent, but not enough to actually hit herself. Split was a strict adherent to the golden rule, since in her case doing unto others was often doing unto her(self).

“Good.” A new voice spoke. It seemed to come from from all around them. “Now that there are twenty-five of you. The games can begin.” As the voice talked walls began to rise from the white waters. “Now, we could have done this in your room yes. But, hear me out, I think your style is garbo. Also this room is a bit bigger. It’ll give us so much room for activities.” The voice laughed and Split swore the laughter came from just over her shoulder. Which one though?

The white liquid ran off the walls. A door bisected each wall horizontally, while molding bisected each wall vertically. This kept the two different wallpapers from clashing and the designs in the molding kept the wall from looking too empty. The bottom wallpaper was a simple affair. Vertical lines of gold and green followed one another in a mostly predictable fashion. The pattern only broke at the corners where they would repeat the same colored line twice. All corners save one were gold. The top halves sported a more active design. Cows and zebras raced along the molding on a blue background.. They leapt over hurdles, sped off ramps and through flaming hoops, and, at the top, a select few jumped over moons.

Out from the endless white void appeared a cat. It towered over the scene, standing on its two hind legs. The front paws were encased in pink oven mitts which it used to mime wiping away at a glass surface that kept it from them. “Now, here’s the game. I call it punch tag. When I say go, you’re going to flood out of these doors. If you hit a version of yourself that isn’t real, it goes away in a puff of smoke. No big deal. If you hit a real version of yourself, well that’s not very nice. So you get penalized.” The cat gestured toward another part of the void and an electronic scoreboard appeared. A buzzer sounded and echoed through the space as a zero turned into a one. “Like that. Each penalty is a spin on the Wheel of Danger.” The cat gestured to its other side and a gameshow wheel appeared with plenty of images of skulls and lightning bolts to emphasize the danger part of its name. “Ready? Let’s goooooo!” The cat snapped. Though the oven mitts did not reveal how this was done with paw instead of hands. Perhaps underneath were hands instead of paws. But Split and Jon did not have the time to consider this possibility. For the doors opened and in came Split.

The Splits created an outward facing circle. The other Splits ran towards them. Then, all of the runners froze.

“Wait wait wait.” Everyone looked to the cat. “This is like when I forget to put my playlists on shuffle. It’s boring to always start out with the same song, isn’t it?” The cat snapped again. In an instant, each Split had changed place with another. Some that were in the circle were now running towards it. Some were merely in a different part of the circle. Each stood confused. “Much better,” said the cat and everyone started moving once more.

The room erupted in noise. The voices as Split gave and received blows, the sloshing of the liquid as everyone moved, and the buzzer as penalties racked up.

“Forehead,” yelled one of the Splits.

The yell propagated through the crowd and many Splits were yelling it in unison. A Split with a thirteen on her head reeled back a fist and made eye contact with a twenty. She stopped and turned before punching a Split with no number on her face. Pretty soon the room was filled with smoke as the real dispatched the fake.

“No fair.” The smoke cleared; the liquid on the floor was a mess of waves from the action. “Here’s what I’ll do. You won that round. Fine. So, I’ll clear the board of penalties. Round two?” The cat snapped.

The numbers on the foreheads of the Splits curled up like a leaf in fall before finally letting go and floating to the ground. Upon reaching the tumultuous surface, the ink sank.

“So, no numbers.” The cat snapped again. Mirrors appeared on the walls, leaving no room for Split and Jon to enjoy the wallpaper. “Now, these are mirrors, but I don’t want you to think of them as just mirrors. Have you guys played Pac-Man? Or do you guys even have Pac-Man in this universe? I can never keep straight which ones have what games, but I’m talking about screen wrap. These don’t just show your reflection, these take you to the other side of the room when you step through them. It’s like infinity rooms but it’s also just one room. Isn’t that great?”

The Split nearest Jon Morris, the one that used to be number twenty-three, gave him a look. That kind of look you give your sister when your dad comes into the room to give you an angry lecture about the need for quiet in a world overrun with noise, but the whole time he has a sour cream and onion potato chip hanging onto his beard. It wiggles, but never jostles free. Jon Morris knew that look. He often gave that same look to his mirror image. Then, he cast a spell.

Each mirror turned ninety degrees to reveal the wallpaper once more. The cows and zebras, once running all in the same direction turned away from the wall. They peeled off like the numbers has just moments ago, but instead of falling they flew into the mirrors. The animals retained two dimensions going into the mirrors. Going into a mirror also means coming out of one. The animals that came out of the mirrors had grown a third dimension. The zebras and cows flew up into the void towards the giant cat that could not believe its eyes. They hit a barrier. The cat had not been merely miming earlier. Or it had, and had since summoned a barrier to keep itself safe. Either way the animals would not be stopped.

The sound of glass breaking filled the air. It even overpowered the sound of the sloshing liquid. A rush of air rustled all of their hair and clothes as it went to escape from the crack in the barrier. In the same moment, Split became one again, and she and Jon began to grow.

Normally, bursting through glass is liable to severely injure the person doing so. In this case, the people doing the bursting were also growing at such a rate that the shards became so small they couldn’t do much damage. I still wouldn’t advise doing this though. Paper cuts don’t usually do much damage either, but no one wants a paper cut.

Jon and Split stood over a normal-sized cat on the table in Split’s room. Beneath them as small snowglobe leaked out, white liquid, tiny zebras and mini-cows. Split jumped off the table and scooped up the cat.

“Bad kitty.”

The cat snapped and it was no longer held in her arms. Instead it floated before them in a standing position. It shuddered. “I do not like being held.”

“And I don’t like being captured and put in some weird game show snowglobe.”

The cat ignored her and turned its attention to Jon who had taken a seat on the table. He had taken the mirror he kept on a chain around his neck and let the small animals fly into it. As they did, bits of paper fell out from it.

“How did I miss Jon Morris? I obviously wouldn’t have used mirrors if I had known you were there. What was it? A concealment spell? Some glamour? I didn’t know you were strong enough to affect me.” His last sentence merged into a purr.

“Split, this is Mittens.”

“I would say pleasure to meet you, but it’s not.”

“It seems the pleasure is all mine then.” Mittens chuckled.

“So were you keeping me from merging?”

“Suppose I was.”

“And the sneezes?”

“I can’t help it if my dandruff just happens to be in the air.”

“But I’m not allergic to cats.”

“I can’t help it if I just happened to make you allergic to cats.”

“For good?” Worry crept into Split’s face.

“For a bit.”

“Why?”

“I had fun. Didn’t you guys? I would say fun is its own reward.”

Split huffed.

The cat turned to Jon Morris. “You guys share a birthday. That’s what it was.” Now, this seems nonsensical to rational beings, but Mittens is a being that doesn’t see the world in the same ways or dimensions most people do. It’s quite conceivable Mittens viewed the world in such a way that the first thing he notices about someone is their birthday and didn’t bother looking beyond that, because what is the probability that twenty-five people in the same room all share a birthday? It’s also conceivable that Mittens was lying about the birthday thing. The cat laughed. “I would say well played, but it was hardly played at all.” Mittens turned and, as its tail passed over its body, disappeared. The tail, of course, had no logical way of passing over itself but it did and the minds of Jon and Split reconciled this with the tail appearing to shimmer away. “See you around, Jon. Nice to meet you Split.” The voice said from nowhere.

Split wore a confused look for a few moments. They both sat in the silence, much preferring it to the constant sloshing of a few minutes earlier.

Split turned to Jon. “It’s your birthday too?”

Jon nodded.

“Let’s go get some cake!”

“Do you have any socks that would fit me? I hate wearing wet socks.”

 

The End.

 

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