Not quite an error

by Randal L. Schwartz
originally published at 12:19PM on Monday, November 19, 2007

“The results of the experiment still confirm our theory?”


“And the expected errors are all within tolerance?”

“Yes, but that’s the odd thing. We’re seeing a pattern in the errors.”

“What kind of ‘pattern’?”

“Some of the values are slightly higher. Others are slightly lower.”

“That’s expected, right?”

“Of course, but Kevin decided to record the deviations as an independent data stream. If we record a higher value as a one, and a lower value as a zero, we get a series of binary numbers.”

“Of course you would. What’s the relevance of that?”

“If we break up the bits into groups of eight, forming bytes, and encode each of the results as an ASCII character… we get…”

The scientist paused. He shuffled uneasily in his chair, and continued.

”... we get… your dead wife’s first name, repeated over and over again.”




  • from Eckhouse:

    Awesome! Nice build-up of logical progression to the twist at the end. Not sure if the stars are working again or not, but five-star from me.

  • from pfig:

    cool, but “we get a series of binary numbers” gives it up, imo.

  • from Kermitgorf:


  • from Saint Chuck:

    Love it. I really wasn’t expecting that twist at the end. Sequel coming up?

  • from someday_93:

    I wasn’t expecting that either! It was like, whoa, I don’t really understand a thing he’s trying to say, and then, wow. Nice job! Keep going!
    5 stars

  • from horrorfan13:

    Very good at building suspense. However, it still leaves you with wanting more.

  • from Randal L. Schwartz:

    I’m thinking there’s a sequel or two, although it’d be interesting to sit back and see where others take it first. I got the idea in the shower this morning, germinating from “what if ‘expected error’ was really some quantum effect trying to tell us something?”. But for ease of storytelling, I decided to take it supernatural instead of supertechnical.

  • from Robbie:

    way cool! ponders a sequal.

  • from James McNally:

    Very nice. I love this kind of mixture of “hard” sci-fi with more ghostly/spiritual themes.

  • from One Time, One Chance:

    makes me wonder..
    ..and creeps me out.
    nice job. =]

  • from m8ryx:

    at least the error is repeatable ;)

  • from Pat J:

    Very cool. I like the twist at the end, too.

  • from Kevin Lawver:

    One of the best ficlets… ever. Well done, and it sets up sequels perfectly.

  • from YodaOnCrack:

    Excellent – loved this. I see that this has spurred some sequels / prequels… Off to read those now too. Great job.