An absolutely fabulous tale of a man outwitting the devil, reminiscent of “The Devil and Simon Flagg” and in a very creative way. George Cantor, who has been hospitalized with mental exhaustion from his acrimonious battles with Kronecker over the existence of a completed Infinity, is visited upon by a dragon who tells him that upon death, Cantor must choose to go to either heaven or hell. Hell is near, heaven infinitely far away. To reach heaven, one has to climb the infinitely long “Dragon’s Stair”. Each stair has a name carved on it. If the climber finds his name on a stair, he must wait there for all eternity, unable to climb any further. Ergo, Heaven has always been empty. Before going up the stairs, the climber must state his name. However, Cantor detects a loophole in this scheme and implements his Diagonal proof judiciously to not only outwit the Dragon, but also put a reverse condition on the Dragon which ensures that all of future climbers would find their way to heaven.
Such a gem of a story! I was reminded also of Kafka’s story, “The Law”, where the dying man finds no recourse to reach the doors of justice. In the present story, the situation seems just as hopeless, but the ending mathematically brilliant.