This was written as part of the ’28 Plays Later’ challenge, where participants have to write a play each day for the month of February.
For this one, we were asked to write something mathematical. (This is a subject close to my heart, so some of this is a bit arcane. Apologies to my less mathematical readers. Some of it may also be plain wrong.)
As you can imagine, these are written under quite a lot of pressure of time (most participants have full time jobs) and what can be defined as a ‘play’ is pretty broad.
10110 is standing in line talking to 10111
0: I’m telling you, it’s ridiculous.
1: You don’t know. You just don’t know.
0: I do know, I bloody do know. So would you, if you would just open your eyes.
1: That’s only from your perspective. You can’t just see the world from your perspective. Maybe you should open your eyes, and appreciate how others feel, and not just look at things in your own narrow way.
0: Look, I know you may have certain feelings, and I respect those feelings, I really do. I really don’t mind what you want to think about yourself.
1: I look like one. Don’t I? I look like one.
0: Well… ye-es. But so do I, come to that…
1: There! I didn’t think you were ever going to come out and admit it.
0: No, but that’s it, you see. It’s not about admitting anything. You have to face facts. There are incontrovertible facts that prove you wrong.
1: Like what?
0: Well, for a start –
1: See? None. There are no so called facts that aren’t based on a narrow, bourgeois, reactionary concept of what it even means – I mean…
0: (interrupting him) For a start, just look to your left.
1: What do you mean? I never like looking that way. He’s a phobe.
0: Look that way, or if you prefer, lean over my shoulder and look to my right.
1: No, he makes me feel sick, that one.
0: Look, the fact that you won’t look either to your left or to my right, just proves that you’re in a state of denial. If you looked in either direction, you would see that you can’t possibly be a right.
1 looks over his left shoulder
2: (brash and loud but friendly) Hi, mate! How you doing? Great here, isn’t it? I love it, here. Hey look at the ass on 3 over there.
1 shudders, before looking back to 0.
0: Well? Did you see it?
1: Oh my God, it’s so disgusting. He makes no attempt to hide it, waggling it around all over the place.
0: Well, why shouldn’t he?
1: He should have a bit of respect for other people’s feelings is what he should do.
0: Put feelings aside for a moment. Grit your teeth. Face some brutal facts. What number are you?
1: (doggedly) 1-0-1-1-1
0: All right, if you insist. Then what number am I?
0: Okay. Now, I know you’re saying it like that for a reason, but having just made the acquaintance of your lovely neighbour, tell me what number he is.
1 goes into tortured paroxysms before blurting out:
1: Ten thousand one hundred and twelve. (he winces) and he’s currently dry humping Ten thousand one hundred and thirteen! And she seems to like it!
0: So, doesn’t that make you even suspect that maybe, just maybe, despite all appearances to the contrary, you, and me as well, aren’t actually the binary numbers you think us to be, but are in fact just ordinary base 10 numbers?
1: No, no, you’re making a big mistake. Someone has made a mistake.
0: Well, I’ll say. I mean for a start, if you were binary, do you realise how small you’d be? Do you?
1: Oh, you denaries are all the same, you think that everything is about size. It’s nothing about size, it’s all about identity. It’s about actually being who you have always believed yourself to be.
0: That’s fine, but don’t you see that if you were binary, you’d actually be 23. Do you know how small that is?
1: I just told you it wasn’t about size.
0: I’m not talking about size. I mean distance. Have you ever been to 0? Have you ever actually made that trek? Have you even met anyone who has?
1: 0? No. Of course not. That’s bloody miles. But I’ve seen lots of pseudo-binaries around here. I often see 10100 and 10101. I’ve even seen 11000 once or twice.
0: Eleven thousand? He talked to you?
1: No, I didn’t say he talked to me.
0: No, I’m not surprised. You think you’re going to get him to swallow the idea that he isn’t grand old eleven thousand, but is in fact just the binary representation of 24?
1: 24 is a great number
0: It’s a great number, it’s a great number, but it isn’t eleven thousand.
1: Why do you denaries always think that we care about things like that.
0: Eleven bloody thousand does! You know what a pompous wanker he is!
1: Look, if it comes to that, I don’t even care about him, I don’t care about you. If you’re happy out here in the backwoods being an obscure number in the thousands without acknowledging your binary status then that’s fine for you.
0: Obscure? I’m divisible by three.
1: Divisible by three? People like that are two a penny. If you think you’re going to be able to start using your properties as a status symbol, you’re going to have to do a lot better. I mean I met a pseudo-prime the other day.
0: Round here? Get away.
1: No kidding. 10,261. Lovely bloke. Signed an autograph for me. But what have you got? Divisible by 3? Pah!
0: I’ve got a three digit prime factor.
1: Okay, but really. If you’re reduced to talking about your prime factors, you’re really scraping the barrel.
0: (Getting a little irritated) At least I’m not lying to myself. At least I’m not pretending to be something I’m not. Sure, sure, you and I, we happen to look like we’re consecutive binary numbers, but we’re not, we’re NOT. For one thing, if we were, we wouldn’t be out here, would we, out here in the big thousands, as I said? We’d be rubbing shoulders with 21 and 24, or as you’d want to call them 1 – 0 – 1 – 0 – 1 and 1 – 1 – 0 – 0 – 0 .
1: I tell you, eleven thousand just needs to get off his high horse and accept –
0: Except, of course, that we wouldn’t be, would we, because this isn’t a binary number line anyway. I mean, if you open your eyes, you’d be seeing 2s and 3s and 7s and 8s and 9s all the bloody time.
1: I know, there’s a fucking 9 the other side of you, and it’s disgusting!
0: It’s NOT disgusting, it’s the way of the world! It’s how things are! The sooner you accept it, the happier you’re going to be.
1: I think there has to be a purge.
0: Dear God.
1: We need to clean up the streets round here.
0: You can’t kill all the numbers which don’t look like they’re binary?
1: Oh, can’t I?
0: No, you can’t!
1: We’ll see about that.
0: No we won’t. Think about it – in binary, we’d be 22 and 23. We are in fact, over ten thousand. That means you’re going to have to kill ten thousand numbers before you’re finished. That’s even putting aside the fact that it’s an infinite task…
1: I can dream.
0: Well, if you’re going to have a dream, then just – just carry on. Carry on dreaming. Pretend you’re binary if you like, but don’t expect me to join in with it.
1: You’re worse than Herman Heer.
0: Herman Heer?
1: Yeah, well, I don’t suppose I’d have expected you to have heard of him, because you don’t interest yourself in things like this because the plight of the non-binary is of no interest to you. He’s a radical number theorist. Liberated the Mersenne Primes in the sixties, but he’s recanted a lot of what he said.
0: So what does he say now?
1: He says it takes more than stripping out your non-binary digits and disagreeing about quantity to make you a binary.
0: I’m sorry, but I can’t see what’s radical about that.
1: Exactly. I can’t believe I’ve got to stand next to you. You don’t care at all about the feelings of non-binaries.
0: It’s not a matter of feelings. I might want to be a power of ten, but I’m not. I might want to be a perfect number, but I’m not.
1: Oh, when was the last time you saw one of those?
0: Exactly. But I get it. I understand that this isn’t just something you want, I understand that it can be a deeply held conviction which has always been present. I do get that, and I’m really sorry that it hurts your feelings, but I really think it isn’t reasonable to expect everyone else to treat you as if you’re actually 23 in disguise, when you’re standing all the way out here in the thousands.
1: Fucking fascist!