As far as we know, reality is pretty much fixed.note Postmodernism notwithstanding. We don't randomly sprout limbs, float into the air, or turn into foot stools. Not so here. There is an area, or at least a circumstance, of the setting that throws the laws of physics in the air and plays merry hell with the established rules of reality. This is not always as funny as it sounds; remember, the same laws of reality that keep your friend from spontaneously turning into a camel are also the same laws of reality that keep your lungs on the inside of your body. As such, regular exposure is not recommended, as you may get... altered.
Sample conditions of a place where reality is out to lunch include Alien Geometries (constant relation between skull volume and its surface is a good thing to have) and time dilation.note Except for Relativity physics. Reality is perfectly real in that case.Perspective Magic is another common trick. A Reality Warper has this as a superpower. Related to Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, only the place in question isn't necessarily used for travel purposes. See also Eldritch Location, where this often happens, and World of Chaos for when the effect is so widespread it makes up the whole of existence. May result in someone Giving Up On Logic. Fairly common, or at least not out of the ordinary, in Surreal Horror.
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If upset, Haruhi Suzumiya can unwittingly create "Closed Space" which looks pretty much like copies of parts of the real world, minus people plus large scary rampaging blue Kaiju-like things. Within said Closed Space, espers can also generate energy fields they can't otherwise generate in the real world. Also, she can also unknowingly warp some aspects of the real world (like making pigeons into doves, allowing cats to talk, giving people eyebeams, or literally turning someone into Santa Claus) while not affecting the rest of the world at large. Actions by the rest of the main cast usually revert such changes relatively quickly.
In the void between worlds between Earth and the Digital World in Digimon Tamers the cast are wandering the dark void wondering what's going on. Then Jeri mentions that "she thinks that way is 'down'". Renamon: "... oh dear." Gravity comes into being and they begin falling.
Several settings in Princess Tutu are like this since they were created by Drosselmeyer. There's a lake that can become solid and then turn into water again, another that functions like water but allows characters to breathe, and a separate reality that includes talking puppets and a crank to turn back time.
Rental Magica has "Magi Night" whenever magical crap hits the Ley Lines. That a version of this, weakened a lot, is used as an exam in a Wizarding School should tell you something. Calling it a survival test was a slight exaggeration, but it was a good guts test. Or it should have been, but our intrepid heroines weren't going to settle until they found the source—and trying to close the faucet, broke it open. Of course.
Ichijou in Pani Poni Dash! appears to have an 'understanding' with reality, leading to it going on lunch break whenever she's around. Very much Played for Laughs.
The Invisibles arc "Entropy in the UK" has the Conspiracy summoning a big-name horror into their base. As a result, the laws of physics go completely random and insufficiently protected characters start developing skin cancer. One psychic character describes trying to read the base as "feel[ing] like someone threw up in my head."
In the Marvel Universe, this is the consequence of trying to use the Reality Gem without the other five Infinity Gems (Time, Space, Soul, Power and Mind) there to act as control rods.
Reality Warper supervillain Proteus from X-Men comics, particularly "The Day Reality Went Wild". His powers are especially traumatizing for Wolverine, whose heightened senses give him a greater awareness of reality, and a consequently greater awareness of reality being raped.
Doom pulled the same trick on Wolvie by having him trapped in a room full of optical illusions meant to keep him disoriented. One gets the impression Claremont just liked screwing with his heroes.
In Captain Britain, the reality-warping Mad Jim Jaspers' brief but nightmarish rule over Britain resulted in this; had the Fury not stopped him, it would have spread not only to the rest of the world, but to the entire multiverse.
In Harry Kipling (Deceased), the gods chucked out the laws of physics because they aren't mythic enough.
Harmony Theory: The Everstorm induces insanity, creates illusions, moves locations, has variable gravity, logic defying weather, attacks with floating skulls and the occasional crucified zombie ursa major animated by fast growing vines among other things.
Just as its original inspiration, T.R.O.T.T.E.R Shadow of Cheernobyl takes place in the Zone of Desolation, where even the laws of the My Little Pony universe do not apply. The weather changes on its own, the area is filled with physics-defying anomalies, magic is nearly useless, and every single animal is violent. It gets evenweirder the closer to the Cheernobyl power plant the characters get.
The Infinite Improbability Drive from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which moves the Heart of Gold vast distances by working from the assumption that the ship exists in every place in the universe, then narrowing down the probability so that it merely exists at the plotted destination. When Ford and Arthur are first picked up, they end up in an area improperly shielded from the effects of the drive, and Hilarity Ensues as Ford turns into a penguin while Arthur loses his limbs.
Arthur unwittingly exploits this effect later, when a pair of nuclear missiles are fired at the Heart of Gold; he activates the Drive without enabling the probability screens, and the missiles are most improbably transformed into a bowl of petunias and a very surprised-looking whale. The bridge of the Heart of Gold gets some redecoration as well..
Discworld. Reality is so malleable in that setting that things like this are not entirely out of the ordinary. It's actually stated at some point that the trick to breaking physical laws is to get this to happen and then get away with it before the universe remembers that what you're doing is impossible.
Also, in areas devastated by past magic wars or where residue from magical experiments was dumped, random distortions in reality are commonplace and troublesome. Such areas are known as "unreal estate".
And some realms — like Death's abode or the tower of the Tooth Fairy — have problems with basic essential laws, like time. Or space. Or even death... kinda.
Perhaps especially notable is how Unseen University uses Hex; knowing that many impossible things are in fact possible until reality notices, they can use a half Magitech, half Bamboo Technology computer to violate the laws of physics in very many extremely similar but distinct ways, very quickly, too quickly for the universe itself to adjust!
The Ramtops in general are known for harboring high levels of ambient magic, even by Discworld standards. Rains of fish and two-headed calves are so commonplace that locals dismiss them with "Oh, bother, another bloody portent!" As seen in Wyrd Sisters, it's only when the portents stop happening that they get worried.
Some of Boris Vian's works are textbook cases. Froth On The Daydream (L'Ecume des Jours, literally "The foam of the days") has expanding and shrinking windows and houses as well as a water lily growing in Chloe's lung and ultimately killing her.
China Miéville's Bas-Lag Cycle has the Cacotopic Stain, an area of desert (well, it's desert now) which is completely consumed by a Torque storm, and Suroch where New Crobuzon dropped a "torque bomb" in a past war. The way they're described, they're part nuclear wasteland, part half-opened door to the abyss.
Then there's the Scar, in the Swollen Ocean, where long gone reality altering beings once entered the world and 'broke it'. What actually happens there is unknown to the main protagonist, but a person who goes missing returns from an alternate timeline claiming that he saw everyone fall into a massive chasm into the bowels of the earth. The protagonist has several theories as to whether this was a hoax or not, but quits that line of reasoning in disgust.
The Nevernever of The Dresden Files is a spiritual realm where the flow of time is subject to the whims of its Queens, where gunpowder or fire stops working when in the wrong place, and where dying in the wrong place can cause global warming or a fresh ice age. It's suggesting that further realms are even less based in normal reality.
Then there's whatever lies beyond the Nevernever. So far it hasn't made many appearances in the books, but things from it have — the Outsiders (Eldritch Abomination types who are extremely resistant to magic) and mordite (a material that is basically calcified death).
In The Changing Land, the land around Castle Timeless is currently inhabited by the "mad" demi-god Tualua. Tualua is undergoing one of the "changes" common to his kind, which in this case causes the land surrounding the castle to be subject to all sorts of chaotic, unpredictable, and often-deadly effects.
In the same author's The Chronicles of Amber, an Amberite can travel to any Shadow (aka parallel universe) they can imagine by simply visualizing the changes they desire as they move. At one point, Merlin is dosed with very strong hallucinogens. It... goes badly. (Even just regular Shadow travel can end in this situation if it's taken out far enough towards Chaos.)
Jack Vance's short story "The Men Return" takes place After the End, when the solar system has entered a vast "pocket of non-causality" and the law of cause and effect has crumbled into chaos. A few sane survivors struggle to stay alive in a world where the landscape and circumstances shift randomly around them like a Salvador Dali painting, while the lunatics have adapted to the madness and thrive in it. By the end of the story, the Earth's emerged into normal space again, the insane behavior that'd kept the madmen alive is now useless and self-destructive, and the sane men begin to violently retake the world.
There's a short story that begins with a quote from Saint Augustine. ''God Is Dead, God is dead—perfidy! When God dies, you'll know it!" As it turns out, the deity just expired, and the world was formerly controlled by the strength of his belief. Now it's a variant of Clap Your Hands If You Believe—and most of the world didn't believe in itself enough to keep existing.
in the Black Company novels, there's an area where this is caused by a God brought in from another world. A bunch of stuff got dragged with it and made the best of the situation. There are giant airborne whales, talking and moving menhirs, and lightning-shooting flying stingrays.
In Storm Thief by Chris Wooding, the "horror" version of this is played with: probability storms happen all the time, at random, with no warning, and can change anything. Of the novel's two main characters, Moa is an orphan because of this and Rail is forced to wear respirator constantly. The city also has barely any technology because the storms turned off all the power and it was hundreds of years before they turned it back on again. The kicker? This was done on purpose to keep the city from stagnating into a cruel dictatorship. It does anyway.
Happens in Claws that Catch, when the Vorpal Blade's chaos drive interacted with the chaos-based shield of a giant derelict, producing a bizarre effect the crew dubbed "the anime zone". Mostly it involved massive flanderization of the appearance of the ship and crew, as well as the crew's personalities.
This has started happening in All-World, the main setting of The Dark Tower, due to the Beams that support the titular tower failing. Resulting in time and space beginning to 'drift', what was east one morning may be north-east the next, the passage of time becoming uncertain etc... and while it's All-World that is the most effected, due to it being the closest to the Tower, as the strength of the Beams continues to decay this would spread to every world.
Greg Bear gives us a particularly nightmarish case of this in The City at the End of Time. The Chaos is effectively a new universe running on new rules. But the new rules are either incomprehensible to anything that can exist in the normal universe, or constantly changing, and it's eventually implied that they're both. Creatures from our universe need specially designed armor generating a field of reality just to be exposed to it. Even so, they can only see because the armor converts the nearest equivalent it can find into light, and they have to be constantly on the lookout for... pretty much everything.
Once the Chaos starts actively trying to kill its visitors, this gets worse still. One example sees characters running for their life, chased by future versions of themselves from the possible future in which they did not get away from their future selves, and were instead dragged by them into the stable time loop they are trying to avoid. Yes, that bad.
In Blood Music the megaorganism/noocyte collective that used to be the United States start observing reality so hard that it starts to perceive new laws of physics which the rest of the planet are unaware of. This in turn stretches local earth reality like a rubber band, and when the collective decides to Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence it snaps back so hard that the rest of humanity has to live like stone-age people, since the only reliable means of generating power is by burning wood. At least until they come back...
Younger Brother has an album called The Last Days of Gravity. The left side album art◊ depicts a man walking into a street corner. The right side has giant scissors walking the streets.
The Wyld from Exalted. Those who live too close to it develop mutations, some of the things that exist within literally cannot exist in reality, and travel time is measured not in terms of distance but by where you are in the story. Oh, and if that weren't enough, The Fair Folk live there. Some other examples of Wyldlife are 'grass with fangs', and the delicious yet nutritious 'Rockodile'.
The Chaos Wastes, or anywhere sufficiently exposed to the Chaos Winds, from Warhammer. Bathed in energy from the same creepy otherspace that plays home to the setting's Cosmic Horrors, those who spend a good amount of time there usually end up mutating horribly... if they're not already eaten by all the other flora and fauna that's already mutated horribly.
The Abyss from Mage: The Awakening is pretty much established as "anti-reality." No one actually goes in there, but plenty of things comeoutof there... Well, OK, a few go in, it's just that they don't come out. Unless they happen to be Archmages, and even then, they can only go in for a short while.
The Abyss also gives rise to the Nemesis Continuum, a set of warped physical laws that create a zone where things work wrong. If you enter a Nemesis Continuum area wearing something green, it'll immediately hit 100 Celsius and give you horrible burns.
And then there are the Lower Depths. If the Abyss is "anti-reality," then the Lower Depths are "lack of reality" - a ever-shifting series of planes where at least one of the Arcana (such as Death, or Life, or Mind, or Fate...) is missing entirely.
Faerie/Arcadia from Changeling: The Lost is a much better example. Like the Wyld, it serves as home turf for The Fair Folk, and everything within its boundaries is defined not by physics but by contracts and pledges (for instance, if you haven't agreed to let fire warm you up, you can stand in the middle of an inferno and not feel any heat — though you will get burned). Not only does time work on the Year Inside, Hour Outside principle according to Earth, but it works both ways, meaning ten days on Earth could pass in three years' time in Arcadia, or vice versa (and those are not fixed values). Also, those of the aforementioned Mages that control Time and Fate may come here to awaken (the Arcadia of the Mages is within human experience, the Arcadia of the Fair Folk is not, and the nature of their connection is debated even by the Archmages - Arcadia is that screwy).
Another screwy realm is the Pandemonium where the Mages of Mind and Space awaken. This is where Your Mind Makes It Real is the guy in the cubicle next door, who is doing reality's work while reality is out to lunch.
Demon: The Descent eventually reveals why the World of Darkness is so screwed up; there's a secondary set of "occult physics" that allows weird shit to come into existence if weirder shit is done to generate it. A lot of these experiments are set up by the God-Machine and its agents, but sometimes, the principles just fulfill themselves on their own.
Most of the Umbra in the Old World of Darkness gets pretty close. Even areas under the hard control of the Weaver, the spirit of stasis, tend to have unusual flow of time and sentient spirits of data running around. Where the Wyld or Wyrm rule, even simple things like waking up the same shape you started as is a rarity.
The interior of Hundan, the Titan of Chaos, in Scion cannot be mapped in any reasonable manner. To do so would be to define it, and Hundan cannot be defined. This renders Hundan impossible to seal away, but thankfully, it's so chaotic that it cannot focus long enough to act. And then the other Titans got out and asked Hundan for assistance...
The original AD&D module "Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits" included a table of random Reality Is Out to Lunch events that can occur while the heroes are exploring Lolth's spider-ship, due to the inherent chaos of the Abyss. It's stated that these would be much more common and severe, if Lolth's own willpower weren't keeping them in check to preserve her headquarters.
There's also the Far Realm, the place of H.P. Lovecraft's nightmares. Nevermind that it's THE location that nearly every Eldritch Abomination spawned from, there are areas where it leaks over into the real world, causing some... interesting effects. The more mundane ones are stretches of exposed bedrock with the consistency of chocolate mousse, balls of psychic energy randomly coalescing into semi-sentient beings, the typical tentacular mutations, and, of course, general insanity. Depending on the setting, the stars in the night sky are actually the remnant tears left over when beings of the Far Realm broke into the mortal plane; in others, the stars are said Eldritch Abominations, they know you're watching them, and they're watching you back, filled with incalculable malice.
Limbo, the realm of pure Chaos, is rather like this. Wild Magic is the rule there, rather than the exception, and the whole place basically exists in an endless state of creation, with new things coming to existence all the time.
The Mournland from Eberron is a low-key example of this, seeing as it turned into the magical equivalent of a nuclear test site during the final years of the Last War. How bad is it nowadays? One of the common enemy types in the area is sentient spells.
In the Ravenloft setting, the Forest of Everchange in the Nightmare Lands is only called that because its constant transformations are slightly more likely to result in forest than other terrain types. The domain of Vechor is also prone to this, as its darklord is a Reality Warper and batshit insane.
The Torg RPG featured an invasion of Core Earth by other realities (cosms), in which those alternate realities' laws of nature were superimposed on the invaded/supplanted territories. This means you could have fantasy, super-science, mad science, horror, pulp-adventure, and cyberpunk tropes all mixing it up in the same game-setting.
Earth in Rifts has also been invaded by other strange realities.
The Mystery Vortex in Sam & Max Hit the Road. Almost every single room of this tourist trap appears to feature some disruption of reality, from the M.C. Escher entrance hall where visitors become too small or too tall to enter certain doors, to the permanently upside-down gift shop.
Sam: "Gravity has taken a holiday and lost its luggage!".
In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, Reality isn't out to lunch as much as it's on extended medical leave. The old Chernobyl power plant exudes... weirdness, moreso during a blowout, which, even aside from all the potentially fatal radiation, REALLY tends to mess things up. Just for example, you might be walking along a perfectly normal mutant-infested swamp only to have gravity suddenly crush you into the ground, possibly fatally. And that's a rather mild example. There are also the stretches of ordinary unremarkable ground which exude enough heat to burn a human to death for no reason at all, the random massive electrical discharges, the always-entertaining white-hot jets of flame from out of nowhere, the plants that dissolve skin on contact, and the occasional place where space has folded in on itself and created a bizarre maze out of an ordinary room.
The eponymous location in Improbable Island was the testing ground for a device that was supposed to disprove the laws of thermodynamics by creating more energy than it used. It created something, all right—things and people that spend too long there tend to turn into other things, often in surreal ways.
Higure Anghel of Hatoful Boyfriend can create this kind of effect. He's able to draw people into different fantastical versions of baseline reality when he's particularly excited, and their bodies and sometimes minds change to suit. See: Primal Feather, Wallenstein, Pretty Coore. He claims to be a Fallen Angel, he definitely has intoxicating/hallucinogenic pheromones and strange Reality Warper powers whose full extent he is not aware of. If he leaves the area, stops making an effort, or loses consciousness things return to normal, though something destroyed remains destroyed.
And Metro Last Light, one of the side effects of the nuclear war that destroyed most of humanity is that reality now sometimes...falters a bit in certain parts of the Metro. The first game included bizarre electrical anomalies that appear out of nowhere and float down tunnels, shocking everything around them, and some kind of sentient room that induces a hallucination of a great, glowing door that traps and kills people. The second followed suit with an Eldritch Location called the "River of Fate", where dead skeletons move around like they're alive and swimming in the river can allow people to visit entirely different places and times.
Reality goes out for a smoke break whenever Alma of First Encounter Assault Recon pays a visit. Then it goes to lunch. And visits the gym. And takes a three-day weekend. And quits its job. In the meantime, ghostly horrors and dismembering tentacles will erupt from nowhere, and monsters lurking in pools of blood will erupt without warning, and this is before Alma herself starts actively transforming the environment around you. Interestingly, the developers invert the usual Real Is Brown pattern: a monochromatic or desaturated color palette indicates that some seriously unreal stuff is about to go down.
Psychonauts has you delving into a colorful cast of characters' mindscapes, which have their own laws of physics. That said, the "real world" features a psychic summer camp with telekinetic wildlife.
In Twitch Plays Pokémon FireRed, the majority of the mons can use moves and abilities that don't even fit their anatomy. The mob was amazed when they encountered an Abra with the Levitate ability (i.e, something that makes sense in the World of Chaos that is Kanto during this run).
Pokémon Randomizers in general. You can make a randomized rom up to or more chaotic than the settings the streamer of the aforementioned run used. If movesets, abilities, and possibly even types are randomized along with encounters, expect the mons you see to not even follow the laws of physics.
Kerbal Space Program has a long running bug known by the community as the "Deep Space Kraken" that has been known to make planets invisible, tear apart spaceships for no apparent reason, and in general wreak havoc on your save. The original Kraken was caused by a floating point error, but since its fixing multiple different Krakens have thence spawned.
The first Kingdom Hearts game had the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, End of the World, created from the remains of worlds consumed by The Heartless. The phenomena there includes: small islands floating in a purple void with spheres of darkness (which contain snowy canyons filled with treasure chests) constantly dropping on them; towers of rock that contain purple flames that can transport someone to other worlds (or Bald Mountain); an ornate door at the bottom of a cavern that opens up to Destiny Islands, which splits open to reveal a valley made of purple rock; and a lot of organic-looking structures.
There's also Hollow Bastion from the same game, which has also been consumed by darkness. The laws of physics don't work properly due to the world being damaged; Water acts as a solid surface and flows uphill, there are floating landmasses, and bubbles of water can levitate and transport people underwater, among other things.
In Unsounded the Khert is the physical representation of reality and physical laws. Magic bends the Khert, and powerful enough magic can damage it. If the Khert is damaged in a location, extremely strange magical effects occur spontaneously in the area (and this can be dangerous if it happens, say, in the middle of a densely populated city).
Several places in the Whateley Universe, including the Dreamscape where Sara Waite has to fight The Kellith to the death even though they are the same person, or Gothmog's domain, or even the dimension where the demon BKCRMWDJVG comes from.
The Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "One Plus One Equals Ed" involves the Eds taking reality apart to see how it works. Among other things, Eddy turns day into night by taking a bite out of the sun and turning it into a crescent moon, steals Jimmy's outline (turning the lad into a puddle of goo), and forces Sarah to go away by generating a Wheel o' Feet and sticking her in it. Ed uses a hand saw to create an interdimensional hole into the Kanker's bathroom, and then things get really weird.
Edd: Don't look now, but there's a cow hovering just overhead.
Wackyland in the Looney Tunes cartoons. Like Wonderland, but with more dodos.
Wackyland is an actual place in Tiny Toon Adventures, situated on the outer edges of Acme Acres. A few episodes focus on it, like one in which Babs briefly became their queen or the time Gogo Dodo took Montana Max to task for dumping sewage in it and spoiling his surreal surroundings.
Star Trek: The Animated Series had an episode called "The Magicks of Megas-tu", where the Enterprise enters a part of the universe where reality breaks down. One character has their arm break off of their body and drift away.
Similarly in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Where No One Has Gone Before", the Enterprise is transported to the Outer Rim of the universe, where reality breaks down and starts making crew members' memories real.
And then there's also the Delphic Expanse in Star Trek: Enterprise. In some parts of it, the known laws of physics did not seem to apply. Once a Klingon ship emerged from the expanse with its entire crew anatomically inverted, but still alive.
The Teen Titans episode "Fractured" features the inter-dimensional imp Larry, whose "magic finger" can bend the rules of reality. So, naturally, when he breaks his finger, reality gets broken along with it. This includes making an entire city look like it was drawn in crayon, Starfire's head growing wings and flying away from her body, and mouths becoming easily detachable from people's bodies.
In X-Men: Evolution, when the Scarlet Witch cut loose against the X-Men in her debut episode, she made the entire area (and the X-Men's powers!) go crazy. It's hard to fit the things she made happen under 'probability alteration,' but damn, if it wasn't awesome.
Regular Show has this happen occasionally, such as when Mordecai and Rigby go beyond time in the episode "It's Time" where everything is invisible as far as the viewer and Mordecai can tell, and the time-lord exists as a mass of talking clocks.
The world went this way in the Adventure Time episode "A Glitch is a Glitch," due to The Glitch breaking down reality at the fundamental level, bits and parts of people and things disappeared haphazardly.
Anyone venturing into the city of Lost Angles in ReBoot gets such fun experiences as: gravity working in different directions; walking through doors/behind objects and ending up in some random other location; Tears appearing and disappearing at random (well, even more randomly); and of course, the joys of navigating the already twisted landscape which is only made worse by the above problems. And all of this is WITHOUT the interference of Hexadecimal, the insane Reality Warper that saw the after-effects of an experiment to open a portal to the Net that destroyed and twisted an entire drive or "city" of Mainframe and thought it looked like a cozy place to set up shop.
In The Amazing World of Gumball, Richard got a job delivering pizzas. Richard getting a job is so alien to the universe as we know it that in every move he makes he warps reality where ever he passes, such as changing the weather, making stuff float, and reshaping people. Things go back to normal when he got fired (for eating one of his deliveries).
Dreaming is an example of this. With sufficient practice, dreams can even be shaped.
Quantum physics. 'Nuff said.
If you need an example, quantum tunneling. Imagine a real-life example: you can't push something up a hill if you don't supply enough energy to it, but it gets that energy back when it rolls down on the other side. If you don't have enough energy to get it up in the first place, in real life you're out of luck. On the quantum scale, this doesn't seem to matter as much. There's a good chance that if you aren't being observed, you can pass right through the hill and be on the other side of it when reality comes back from lunch.
Quantum physics is really an inversion. Reality works perfectly fine and even consistently at that level, it's we who have trouble fully understanding how it does so.
It's theorized that there are parts of the universe where matter randomly comes into existence, though usually not in a coherent form (that we know of...).
A Boltzmann Brain is a complete human brain created by this process. It's estimated that one will probably show up sometime in the next 10^10^50 years.
In particle physics reactions, there can exist "virtual" particles which have invariant mass much different than what would be that particle's usual mass (if that particle weren't extant only as part of a reaction). Example: An electron and an antielectron (positron) annihilate, to form a single photon that has mass equal to the total center-of-mass energy of the two electrons, then that photon decays after a time to an electron and a positron with the same center-of-mass energies as the originals. A free photon would normally have zero mass and not decay, but here the virtual photon has mass, but decays - almost literally it is "Reality is Out to Lunch," and when reality "catches up" with the improperly-massed particle, it decays. Or at least that's one way to think about it. Of course, this is a "cartoon" picture, since in real life it's impossible to "see" the virtual particles, so it's hard to say whether they "exist" or not.
For any given space, there are a finite number of ways that space can be filled. Theoretically, a sufficiently large universe should contain copies of complex structures, and eventually entire observable universes. However, since these repetitions are not fractal or in any way dependent on one another, the result would be a "glitch universe" where such things as human bodies randomly floating in space occur.
A lot of higher mathematics invokes this trope, playing around with imaginary numbers, hypothetical spatial dimensions, and conceptual permutations of infinity.
The fun thing about mathematics is that it doesn't have to reflect reality at all; it only usually does so because that's more convenient for most things. Want to redefine "continuity", make a longer-than-infinite line, work in fractional or infinitely many dimensions, or split a sphere into two copies of itself? As long as you can formally define it and prove it works, there's no problem.