If youre reading this, Im dead.

If youre reading this, Im not yet born.

Its both. And neither. And in a way.

Such a relief to be writing in freeform again. And to stop counting words: copysqueezing of the manuscript saved room for these intro notes — enough for what little needs to be said.

At first I thought about writing a novel. A life. Timeless, fundamental form. Novels may be popular where you live, and have a reputation — the good ones — for packing a lot of meaning into modest space.

I even started writing. Childhood, love, death.

That didnt get far. It seemed silly, back then, to waste this incredible chance on “Y loved X and she died.” Who cares? A novel can build a world but only when the writer and the reader already share a world — not my case. I have a very probabilistic idea of where or when or who you, my reader, are. If at all.

Or perhaps Im just not good at writing novels. In a few summers I retraced the history of literary form which, where I live, has long ago loosened and got rid of direct narrative. Many false starts later, material reluctantly assembled into an alphabetized vocabulary — at least a workable approximation for what I meant to write. It gradually condensed and even more gradually structurized, snaffled by cross-links.

So here it is. A hermetic book by a hermit. I have no time nor stamina left to rewrite it anyway.

What did I mean to write?

This text is a one-way, one-time communication. I first discovered a way to send it, then I had to write the message. That proved much more life-consuming. A “hello world” wouldnt do: I was going to send it literally into another world. And it could only be done once. A lifetimes chance.

This is my “hello world,” then.

Its the best I could do without a clear idea of who Im addressing. Calculations seem to point to four hundred years into the past as the most probable emergence locus. (I have no one to cross-check the math, though.) So this book may be your worlds future, only not quite: our multiverse loci arent causally connected. I am downstream from you, in the arrow-of-time direction, but also sideways. Theres no such thing as worldline-direct past (or at least you cant send messages into it).

Nature deals in tradeoffs. I cant write all I want; the size of the message is fixed. Then, even without a causal past/future link, a version of the grandfather paradox still applies: the message is not allowed to be too specific. Its like interworld censorship: no names, no dates, no detailed (reproducible?) descriptions of anything.

Ive been using a test filter to verify my text is passable. Its been somewhat counterintuitive — killed plenty of innocent stuff while some major giveaways passed without a hitch (see those swaths on lazyball physics, for instance). The filter is very simple though, so has a chance of being right. Ill never know if I botched it.

The biggest hurdle wasnt the censorship. It was suppressing the sweaty show-off thrill. Ours is no age of final answers any more than yours; sounding preachy is understandably cringeful. The last thing I wanted to do was to convert. And yet I so wanted (wouldnt you?) to talk about stuff that matters — to share what I think “we” understand that “you” may not yet; to sketch my native world at its most essential, controversial, thought-provoking; yes, to proselytize. Sorry if thats uncalled for, or if theres an excess air of superiority in places; I may have lost sensitivity to it. Theres no one to proofread it for me.

Some of the topics may sound irrelevant, or superfluous; for one reason or another they mattered to me. If something appears missing, it may genuinely not exist around here. And when claims appear to contradict one another, or just sound too weird — well. Its an image of a living world.

Perhaps what a world really is is its unanswered questions. The rest is buildup.

There are many unattributed quotes in the text; I took the most laconic and striking ones — those with an emotional impact to make up for whatever background information wouldnt pass the contratemporal filter. I worked to pack into each entry as many terms, metaphors, memes, cliches as I could remember — a weird thicket in places, but that felt right: heres the noise of my time (which I lack the ability to echo with cleaner prose), the background hum I cant always hear myself.

Anthologists' standard curtsy: Everything thats good in this book comes from others; the insufferable is my own.

Its the best I could write inside a bubble.

See, time is basically an entropy gradient. You can only go against the flow of time by zeroing your entropy cost — canceling out your contribution to the universes eventual heat death. Here your means your: not just the message to be beamed into the past but you the author, mind and body and all, must cease and desist from disarranging the world around you. You cant quite stop interacting with it but you need to block your entropy exhaust.

That sounds nonsensical, and in a way it is, but its a burgeoning area of research nevertheless. Many things that werent, until recently, thought possible are getting routine. I just happened to be the first to collect all pieces of the puzzle. Before the first word of this text was written, I became — and must remain to the end — consequenceless in my multiverse locus, perfectly shielded from the outside world. “Entropy bubble” is the technical term.

It wasnt even much of a sacrifice (so it seemed). Ive always been a reclusive kind.

The bubble is not altogether material. I remain mobile: I travel around, hang in the treetops (inserting cross-links is nearly automatic by now), walk down roads, peek into windows; I can do pretty much anything — except I remain read-only. I can cause things to happen but only if their exact entropic equivalent would have happened anyway.

Imagine what it is like to read only what others are reading, over their shoulders. I can peek at any public screen on the planet but cant make a single query. Please keep that in mind as you read my contorted abstracts.

To everyone on this planet Im effectively dead, for many years, ever since I embarked on this project. It was an unexpected find: take it or squander it. I had to act quickly lest anyone gets an idea of what Im doing. The choice was, dive into it at once or give up the whole idea; worse, poison it for anyone who might invent it, independently, later.

No one knows Im still alive. No one knows Im about to die.

Dying is part of the plan, too. When the message text is ready — or Im too tired to hammer it any longer — I, personally and with all my records and traces, must cease to exist in this multiverse locus. Must Leave, as people like to say.

The implosion of the bubble is what triggers sending the message out. Not in any detectable form; for an observer here (except there cant be any, of course) it will just disappear, utterly, irretrievably, along with its author. And that disappearance will somehow release my text — allow it to transpire elsewhere: in some causally disconnected locus of the multiverse. A bit like cosmic leap. If youre reading this, it worked.

Transpire how? Naturally, entirely naturally. Most likely someone somewhere will sit down and write my book — in your world. Yes, its invasive, not to mention melodramatic (ghostwriting!). Sorry about that. The transmission will likely be imperfect; nothing should be lost but content may be scattered — bits missing or bungled in this manuscript might pop up elsewhere in your world (search around). There are easier emergence pathways but they require the infrastructure you probably dont have. (Where I live we have plenty of it, and could be receiving outworld messages in reams; do we? I dont know, and have no way of checking now. Didnt think of it in time to look around — was too excited to start writing my own. Someone will have to have this idea and test some texts; Library is a prime suspect.)

I personally think our world does hear from someone out there, from time to time.

One more thing. There are still bytes left so I thought Id explain.

The I in the above should really be we. We a couple, we a molecule — we two were breathing, working, thinking together, for a total of five lives between us. Together in our entropy bubble from the start: planning, composing, arguing, writing and revising and discarding, writing again. Chasing seasons, doing a grand farewell tour of the globe, intaking our world. Readying to go.

Only, you know, “Y loved X and she died.” To hell with those novels.

Childhood, love, death.

It wasnt “Leaving.” It was death. Whatever you may be imagining, there is literal, irreversible, horrendously meaningless death when youre shielded off and cant cry for help. Cant kill cant steal. Cant do anything, anything, least of all break out from the bloody bubble.

Consequencelessness is torture.

Shielding off entropic radiation has been known to inflammate whoever is inside. We were careless, a perfectly destructive little whirlpool; she snapped just as

Sorry. Ill erase. Are you listening? Are you — did you do this for me? for us, so I dont quit? follow you to the end? you thought I

We were so one, the “I” isnt even a disguise: we just liked the first-person singular to stand for the dual. Cant tell now who wrote what in this monstrous book. With all the editing Id be surprised to find more than a few words in a row by the same hand.

Diving into it together was a consolation. A heroic hermitage, an ascension. A finality of love. Each others faces to have seen last in our last life.

No regrets.

Alone now. So not used to it. Makes me feel so invisible — now even to myself. Hard to be any less mattering in the world. I barely am.

But I have to finish the job.

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