A Ripple in the Fractal Pattern

Author: David Henson

The table is still set, and one of the plates is untouched— baked cod, peas, potatoes. Cold. Ruined. I was so upset at work, I forgot to call and tell Helen I wouldn’t be home for dinner.

I hurry upstairs and find the bedroom door locked. “Helen, I’m sorry. Helen?” Shit. Looks like the couch. Again.

Next morning, the door is still locked. “Helen, don’t be mad…. OK, see you this evening. Love you.” I hesitate at the door a few seconds then leave for work.


I’d always enjoyed my job at SETI, had been totally dedicated to it. Too much so in hindsight. But lately it’s making me miserable. Since we’d developed a breakthrough signal processing algorithm based on quantum gravity waves, progress had accelerated exponentially. In fact, during the first 60 years, my predecessors searched a portion of the universe equal to a glass of water in the ocean. In the 10 years since, we’ve drunk the whole ocean. Now I think we’re about to make a huge mistake.


“I’ve taken what I need. I won’t be back.” I crumple the note and run upstairs. Helen’s side of the closet is practically empty. I go back downstairs and smooth out the paper on the kitchen counter and read it again. Simple and elegant, just as the universe prefers. Just as Occam’s Razor would — Simpson, you fool. I’ve just learned my wife’s gone, and my mind’s reflecting on scientific philosophy. No wonder she left me.


I don’t know how much I’ve had by the time I stagger outside. The sky is bursting at the seams with stars. Bursting at the seams. How’s that for technical accuracy? I lose my balance, fall flat on my back, and stare at the Big Dipper. “Fill’er up,” I laugh, stretching open my mouth.


I take a couple more aspirin and chug another bottle of water. “Sally, has management made a final decision?”

“Yes, Stan. Are you OK? That’s the third time you’ve asked me.”

“What about the ripple in the fractal pattern?”

“Mr. Quinnipen said, and I quote, ‘Tell Simpson that sometimes a fractal pattern ripple is just a fractal pattern ripple.’ Then he said something about a cigar and laughed. Seriously, boss, we’ve studied this to death.”

“So that’s it? We’re going to tell the world tomorrow that there’s no sign of intelligent life anywhere else in the universe? That we’re all alone and giving up the search? This isn’t helping my headache.”

“I’ve got my resume up to date,” Sally says.


People reacted more or less as we expected. Many rejected the findings. Some “rejoiced.” Most chattered about it a few days, then turned attention to the upcoming Global Trophy competition.

As for me, I’ve started my own small research group, and we’re studying the fractal pattern ripple in the data. I still don’t think the anomaly is natural, but we haven’t been able to prove it. Yet.

I’m also trying to adjust to coming home to an empty house. Well, not completely empty. I have a cat now. I take her out back with me on starry nights, always leaving the door open so I might hear in case Helen returns. Tabby sits on my lap, and I scratch behind her ear. It’s silly, I know, but I pretend she’s really an envoy from a planetary system that somehow has escaped our prying algorithms. When I ask about her home world, she looks right at me, and, sometimes, in the sparkle of her eyes, I swear I can see a galaxy, hidden and waiting.


  1. Jae

    Of ending hope on a grand scale whilst continuing to hope on a personal one.

    Oh yes. Like this one a lot.

  2. JH

    Off topic, but I LOVE reading the random story every day.

    It would be great if there were a second link to it at the bottom of the page, since that is the natural place to want to click to it from…………

  3. SimonJM

    Hope is the last thing to give up, and that’s a big one … love it, such quiet pathos.


  1. A Ripple in the Fractal Pattern – WiredFiction - […] hurry upstairs and find the bedroom door locked. “Helen, I’m sorry. Helen?” Shit. Looks […] Go to Source Author:…
  2. A Ripple in the Fractal Pattern – Words Music - […] https://365tomorrows.com/2018/01/25/a-ripple-in-the-fractal-pattern/#comment-2891 […]

Submit a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Random Story :

  • The Hood Rat

    Author: Hari Navarro, Staff Writer The cliff face rises shear …

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member


We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact ssmith@365tomorrows.com