welcome and heeded prophets

Canto the first

"Blixa, come here," calls Beatrix. Blixa is her cat.

He jumps down from the top of the wall-mounted air conditioner, where he has been taking a snooze. Beatrix pats the sofa with her palm, and Blixa curls up there.

"A sonnet," says Beatrix, "is composed of fourteen lines. Repeat after me: fourteen lines."

Blixa yawns.

Beatrix sighs, then continues. "Each line is ten syllables. That's five iambs. What's an iamb?"

Blixa swats at the string of Beatrix's jumper.

"We covered this last week. At least tell me you remember the rhyme scheme." Beatrix watches her cat for some sign of comprehension. "The eight-and-six? The turning point?"

Blixa, bored, hops off the sofa.

Canto the second

There is a flash of warm light, and a little green man appears before Beatrix. For some reason, he is wearing a mortarboard cap, like a professor. He speaks:

"You humans, in your limited grasp of the dimensionality of number, imagine all numbers on a single one-dimensional line. Your number line has its origin at zero, and its positive numbers stretch infinitely in one direction, while its negative numbers stretch infinitely in the other.

"What you fail to grasp is that there are yet other numbers on yet other number lines, again originating from zero, but extending in all directions outward from this origin; not merely in two directions radiating out from the origin like a wheel; not merely in three directions radiating out from the origin like a sphere; but, when one considers the infinitude of alternative zeroes that stretch along the fourth dimension, from each of which radiates an infinitude of number lines, one can begin to fathom the infinite exponentiality of infinities involved.

"On our world, basic numeracy begins with simple operations involving numbers from disparate number lines. Our elementary school first graders learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, addtract or multivide two numbers from two separate number lines originating from the same zero (we do not bring in the fourth dimension until the second grade); but even as basic an operation as this seems beyond you humans. This I aim to change.

"I will teach you. You shall learn. Come, begin."

The mortarboard-topped little green man spends the next four minutes attempting to teach Beatrix. He finally gives up in frustration. He says:

"It is useless. I see this now. Frustrated by your lack of progress, despite having lavished twice as much time on you as I would an infant of my own species, I have scanned your brain and find that your synapses are simply numerically deficient. I must say, this saddens me.

"You humans attempt to make sense of the world with one paltry number line. Numeracy, like literacy, contributing to the bedrock of structured logical thought, it is therefore no wonder that you fail to comprehend larger concepts such as the conflict/compromise calculus central to the general agreement method (thanks to which our civilisation has avoided war, controversy and strife for ten million years) or the risk/credibility transform that underpins relative truth theory (by which we have reconciled the conflicts of religion, reason, absurdity, identity and the self/social conflict, leading to a hundredfold increase in our wisdom, benevolence and knowledge).

"All this could have been yours—if only you'd been capable of it."

Canto the third

The green man notices Blixa, who has again taken refuge atop the air conditioning unit. "Kitty, kitty. Here, kitty."

Under no circumstances will Blixa jump down. He stares down inscrutably at the green man.

"I want to pet the kitty. Come." The green man attempts to hop up and touch Blixa, but his stubby legs are too feeble—Earth's gravity must be more powerful than wherever he's from. He only manages to clear a few centimetres from the floor. "Come on. Come here, kitty." He hops up and down.

Blixa looks at him like he's crazy.