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José Vargas de las Joyas Matemáticas

Divided by zero on June 13, 2021.

José Vargas de las Joyas Matemáticas came back into my life this Wednesday, in the dead of night, in a dream, to admonish me about my gratuitous use of a multitude of mathematicalisms strewn about this docile & perfunctory blog. He called my numerous subscripts suboptimal, my superscripts superfluous, and my overuse of fractions vulgar. He demanded to know why I was obsessed with π and if I mightn’t be happier obsessing over pie instead. I reminded him I used to be quite addicted to insidious flobcumber pie, until that unfortunate flobcumber flambé made me downright flobcumbophobic. But he was unimpressed and unrelenting: If I did not desist from bringing up π and ∞ at every opportunity, he insisted, he would square every one of my circles and double all my cubes.

“You wouldn’t!” I gasped, aghast.

“Oh, I would,” he retorted unctuously, contorting his face into the tortuous smile of a tortellini. I awoke then, shrieking like a little girl still in her pigtails. I spent Wednesday curled up in my I’ve-been-hornswoggled corner, whimpering and simpering like a drunken monkey.

Again this old frenemy from İstanbul came to me on Thursday, mathematizing quietly to himself as he was wont to do. This time he was not the least bit angry with me; he just smiled ever more unctuously. He was carrying in his left hand a single glowing object. It was a number. I stared at it. The number was odd. It was very large. And it was perfect. I—

I awoke in my bedchamber shouting to Heaven that José Vargas de las Joyas Matemáticas had delivered humanity a miracle, a number heretofore undiscovered by science: Sixteen hundred and seventy-five digits of pure, efflubious perfection! Now if only I could remember all of those digits before the dream faded into dark obscurity, replaced with the unforgiving and unforgettable terrors of the trenchant and pointy waking world. I fetched my graphing paper notebook and my sharpest Sharpie and went to work scribbling the numerals as fast as they poured forth from my leaky, sieve-like memory.

Hours later, I squatted in a (different) corner of my palatial bedroom, rocking back and forth, nearly catatonic with despair over the calamity that I had allowed to transpire: After scrawling ninety-two of the miraculous digits across the first page of my notebook, and then the walls and floor of my bedroom, my mind began to go fuzzy trying to remember the remainder of the sacred numerals. I was unsure if digit #93 was a two or a three. Digit #94 I was confident was a zero. But digit #95 may have been a six, a seven, or an aitch… possibly even an aitch with a second bar skewering it. This image brought back disturbing, half-formed memories I couldn’t quite bring into focus, so I dismissed that digit with a shiver and moved on to #96. A five, another two… or an eleven? By the time I arrived at #101, I wasn’t even certain if it were a digit, a letter, an emoji of a toaster oven, or perhaps even a kookely-wanger shaped like a shmoo.

“No! It was a clownbutt!” I vociferated, but then recalled that clownbutts aren’t used as digits in any system of mathematical notation. I sank back in despair to my own non-clown buttocks and resumed rocking back and forth like a distraught madman. A sad, sad madman.

I prayed to all the mathematical gods that I knew—Poincaré, Lemaître, Erdős, Gödel—but still the remaining digits would not come back to me. No epsilons were forthcoming from the all-powerful Erdős, nor could omnibenevolent Lemaître’s fast Fourier transforms transform my vacuity into anything less empty. Even my prayers to the great god Gödel left me incomplete. Poincaré reminded me that every simply-connected, closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to the 3-sphere—every single one of them, without exception—but this brought me no closer to the digits of José’s perfect oddity.

By noon all I could remember is the number wasn’t divisible by 105. And the 33rd digit was an upside-down nine.

My sieve-like mind had vanquished me again. If only it had been like the sieve of a certain ancient Greek mathematician, I would’ve been swimming in prime numbers right then, some of which may’ve guided me back to Señor Vargas’ enormous perfect number. Instead, I was wallowing in my own self-pity. Out of desperation I even considered an excursion to the distant shores of Digitopolis to plead my case to the Mathemagician, but I knew the Terrible Trivium and the Gelatinous Giant would stand in my way: I would return home as empty-handed as I was empty-headed.

And so, the remainder of Thursday was ruined by increasing madness: Confounding hallucinations of sinister, luminescent numbers hiding in every corner around the house, lurking in every nook and cranny, and skulking underneath every piece of furniture and appliance (even my bagel biter and egg cracker). These nefarious numerals would leap out at me as I happened by them, sending me into a gibbering panic. I considered running out the day’s clock by hiding in the third corner in my bedroom, but a very surly seven had taken up residence there and showed no signs of budging anytime soon. He just glowered at me, filling me with nameless dread using nothing more than his wordless stare.

I was quickly running out of corners.

On Friday, as I dozed off at ¾ past 10 p.m., I resolved that when José came to me this time, ready to lambaste me over that vulgar use of three quarters, I would seize his numerary talisman by force and learn the secrets of this 1,675-digit number, even if he threatened to dissect me alive or trisect my angles.

I fell into infinite, enveloping darkness, so thick I could cut it with a knife. And I continued to fall. I was asleep, dreaming, and falling. But there was no José Vargas de las Joyas Matemáticas this time. Instead, I was met by horrors worse than the leaping demonic numbers that were now filling my waking world.

As I hurtled downward through the unending murk, I became aware that every unseen surface was punctuated with dozens—nay, hundreds—of fissures, each one the interstice between a long, winding burrow and the blackness in which I now squiffled and burbled helplessly. None of this could I see, but I could feel its presence, like a dark and ominous oatmeal cookie poised above my head. Something was about to happen—

Things could be heard moving. First, a solitary slithering, then another, then another, then suddenly many more. Many, many more. Seven thousand ghouls emerged from the warrens, streaming outward like angry ants and skittering across every surface, defying gravity and every other wholesome physical law known to man- and number-kind. They crawled on all fours, dog-like, a mivulating mass of pale innumerate horror. Each shriveled, skeletal ghoul bore numbers atop its elongated and eyeless skull, and each number bore 1,675 more numbers trailing behind. And each of those numbers bore—

My frustrated squiffling rose to a panicked murder-shriek.

Cafarolions and saralions of gnomes and gnutes and gnizzles whizzed by my head in dizzying numbers. As I hurtled ever onward, nurdles and turtles followed in twirling logarithmic spirals. I groaned and clutched at my curiously icosahedral head, curled into a fœtal position, and began twirling myself as I fell. I felt like a Klein bottle, curled in on myself, not only disoriented but fully non-orientable to boot. I was sick—not as sick as I had been that time I found myself excreted out the anal sphincter of a giant space slug that had devoured me, but this was close.

“Oh, sneŗt—!” A new horror flashed into view: The Sneŗtman had cometh once again; I was wholly unprepared. Not even melting into a rubbery, gibbering panic would save me this time. I grabbed a gnute by the tail and a gnome by the hat, and hurled them at the Sneŗtman, but he only sneered and chortled. From out of the chaos I seized hold of two of Knuth’s up-arrows and chucked them with all my might at the Sneŗtman. It had no effect. Still the gnomes and gnutes and gnizzles whizzed by. “Oh, sneŗt—!”

Poit, poit, poit—! A sound echoed through the chaos, like a sharpened four stabbing me in the eyebrow.

Poit, poit, poit!!

It was all coming together in my mind now—

“Oh, sneŗt! Sneŗt, sneŗt, sneŗt—!”

And then it was clear to me, clear as the darkness—

A week had passed since St. Norbert’s name day, but that changed nothing. My stand of spaghetti trees out back was still infested with pasta lice, and my latest attempt at fumigating them had failed utterly. If anything, the pesticide had actually made the bugs stronger. I sighed. It would be another long week ahead of me—probably even eight or nine days of it. I went back to work.