Worlds like a Hundred Thousand Pearls
Part of The Numbers Quartet, co-written with Nancy Fulda, Stephen Gaskell, and Benjamin Rosenbaum, Daily Science Fiction, 2012
Exponential: the transcendental number that is the base of Napierian or natural logarithms, approximately equal to 2.71828. The number also has applications in probability theory–symbol e, first referenced in work by John Napier in 1618 AD.
Shall I tell you a story?
Not the Buddhist fables in the sutras, about kings and their sons–the cryptic wisdom you stopped believing when war stole your husband from you, leaving you with only a hologram on the ancestral shrine, and your son Hoang, too young to understand, who kept asking you why Daddy wasn’t coming home. Not a Daoist story either, full of heroes with peach-wood swords and demon-fights–where the dead can rise, and walk again: the miracles that never happen. For you have stood at too many funerals, watching the coffins covered with a yellow shroud, and no one ever woke up, not even to become the shambling monstrosities that used to frighten Hoang so much.