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The Gate

That was the one comment he had about life.  His life included school, home, and little other than the two.  School was already stressful enough to get into anything else.  Of course, he didn’t have to strive to get excellent grades, nor did he have to waste time on what seemed to be utterly vain activities; however, that was his general everyday schedule.
He was strange to unaware people.  His AP classes were easier than advanced ones.  Although he viewed certain teachers with scorn, he never got into any trouble—he was careful, or, perhaps, careless, not to express his opinion of them by voice.  Ironic as it was, the school system that was supposed to teach students how to think actually inhibited their will to do so.
His life was also boring because there was nothing to excite it.  There was no project to be done, no one he wanted to talk to, nothing he wanted to accomplish.  He finished all the programs in his computer class; due, there were no essays to be written, no presentations to be compiled, no books to be read.  Just tedious homework.  Homework was the root of all evil.
He could not live without computers.  Sadly, his computer could entertain him longer than any other mean.  There were so many things to do: he chatted online, he played games, he listened to music, he wrote e-mails, he read news.
Luckily, his parents were lax about the time he went to sleep.  During the weekends, he sometimes stayed up well past that frightening minute when the clock stroke a dozen times.  Aside from the mournful clamor, he liked the chimes of the ancient timepiece for their ability to bring him back into reality, informing him that he needed sleep.  Today, however, was special; not yet did he know that it would forever change his life.
“Sam.  Sam!”
 “Come here, I need your help.  Why does it do this?”  Mike showed him his program, which kept printing out strange numbers until the window disappeared.
Sam was used to such.  In a few minutes, he corrected the problem.  Often one annoying statement would entirely change the course of the program.
 “Oh, look at that.  It works!”
 “Hey, how’d you do that?”
 “See, here, you destroyed a and b to free up memory, however, b is the same as sum, so having…”
“Oh, I get it,” interrupted Mike.  “Thanks.”
Walking to his next period, he suddenly heard a familiar voice say, “Hi.”
“Hi, Ashley.  How are you?”
“I’m fine.  How are you?”
“I’m okay, sleepy, but okay.  How’s school?”  He asked her that question every time he saw her.
“It’s fine.  Mr. Hale’s class today was cool, we watched The Crucible.”
“How was it?”
“I liked it, and I like the play.  How’s school for you?”
“Well, the computer science is easy.  The program we’re doing is supposed to print out n-th number of the Fibonacci sequence.  You’re heard of it, right?”
“Um…  No.”  She smiled.
“It goes like one, one, two, three, five, eight, thirteen, twenty-one, thirty-four, fifty-five, eighty-nine, one forty-four, two thirty-three, three seventy-seven…”
“Okay, okay, stop.  How does it work?”
“You add two elements to get the third one.  And I’m done with the program.”
“Good job!  Bye, Sam!”
“See ya.”
He was suddenly visited by an idea to find a pattern in the unusual sequence.  He knew that there was probably a formula for the number, but he wanted to find peculiarities in the digits.  He liked math, and so it was not surprising that he wanted to do that.
“Where are you going?”
“To the computer lab.”
“I wanna do something with my program.”
“Doesn’t it already work?”
“I wanna find a pattern, if there is one.”
The computer lab was a place crowded with people either going on the Internet, or trying to fix their programs.  There were a few empty computers.  He sat in one of them and began coding.
“Mrs. Johnson, is there a pattern in the Fibonacci sequence?”  Mrs. Johnson was his math teacher.  Along with many of his friends, he was in Calculus.  However, neither his teacher, nor anyone else, knew of any pattern.
“Maybe there isn’t one.”
“There is.  The one’s digit repeats itself every 60 numbers.”
“Interesting.  Well, good luck.”  His enthusiasm was also fading, for he could not find any logical explanation for such a pattern.  It was Friday.  He went to bed at two.
“Ashley!  Guess what.  There is a pattern!”
“There is?”
“Every one’s digit repeats every 60, every ten’s—every 300, every hundred’s—every 1500, get the idea?”
“Wow.  That’s cool!”
“Yeah.  However, every thousand is not 7500 but 15,000.  It’s strange.”
“When did you figure that out?”
“Yesterday, at about one.  Yeah, it was late, I know; but why?  Why?”
They were good friends.  She knew that sometimes he would be puzzled about one question, and nothing would be able to stop him until he would solve it.  They talked more, until they both had to go: it was her dinner and his time for more horrible homework. That night, he did not go to bed any earlier than three: he found a code in a sequence.
He finished most of his homework that night, and around ten, he got to the computer.  First things first, he went online to chat.  However, everybody left by eleven, leaving him alone.  It was too late for him to start playing, so he just decided to modify his program a little.  He first looked for patterns in 10,000th and 100,000th numbers.  However, that was not leading him anywhere.  So what, he thought, the numbers repeat.  Is there any point in finding out how often they repeat?  If you want to make a program, you have got to find more that that, or else, you would have to take into account every digit, which is impossible.  Thus, he decided to have some fun.  He set his program to find ten-thousandth number, then hundred-thousandth.  Then he printed them in an unusual fashion—first all the zeros, then all the ones, all the way up to nines.  A number, he thought, is a long string, so, every twenty, it needs to go to the next line.  Modifying the size of the line produced strange patterns, which, still, made no sense to him. 
Suddenly a clever idea visited him: instead of numbers, he could print letters.  He changed every digit to a letter, a ten-letter alphabet.  He quickly modified it to have twenty-six.  What am I trying to do here?  Since everything is repeating, all the letters, eventually, will also repeat.  He, again, changed his program to print all the numbers with no spaces between them.  But it repeated.  How could there be anything new if all the numbers repeated?  What is there that does not repeat?  He suddenly thought of PI.  Somewhere, in one of the folders, there was a file with fifty million digits of PI.  A file acquired long ago was actually used for something!  He once more modified his program (which by now only slightly resembled the original) to read the numbers from PI and print out letters.  PI did not repeat itself.  Strange letters appeared on the screen.
He woke up late.  He needed to call someone to share his discovery.  There was only one person patient enough to listen and caring enough to understand—Ashley.
The answering machine picked up the phone.  She was not home.  Whom could he call?  Whom should he tell?
Should he tell?  He thought about that.  Why?  What such great discovery have I made?  A bunch of letters on the screen, how pathetic!  How pathetic is my life!  What do I do for fun?  I write programs.  Programs that work with numbers.  Programs that, instead of numbers, print letters.  At three in the morning.  I don’t go to sleep, no, I write code.  Do I do any physical activities?  Do I run?  No.  Do I play games?  No.  Am I involved in any clubs?  No, except for the losers’ club packed with people who, like me, would rather play stupid computer games than go out and have fun.  The stupid sequence!
He hated his life.  It was composed of apathy and nothingness.  He didn’t care about school, he didn’t care about self.  His future was a blank sheet of paper, not lined, but blank: he had not a slightest clue of what he wanted to do.  And now he wanted to brag about his achievement.  Sure, people who’d see it would be impressed.  They would say how wonderful his coding was, how ingeniously he had arranged the input, how foolproof he designed the program.  So?  For them, it was impressive.  For him, it was elementary programming.  He needed more attention and recognition.  Now, if he could work in a company and design simple functions…  But who would accept a juvenile nerd to work for their company, part-time?  He was so filled with rage that he was ready to…
It had now become somewhat similar to a goal.  It was not exactly a goal, but a fight between him and an invisible foe.  He was struggling.  On one hand, there was a hope for a somewhat normal life.  He could stop caring about PI.  He could start listening to others.  They were telling him that he was only young once, that he should start worrying about grades, that he was weird and crazy.  On the other hand, there was dignity.  He could not let them tell him what to do.  He was annoyed with them already; now they were infuriating him with their shallowness and selfishness.  He quickly stopped paying any attention to them and resumed his searches.  Both in classes and after school he was seen to whisper, silently, the digits of the number, to scribble them on paper, to add them on a calculator.  He did not care.
This obsession started with the phone call.  It was a friend of his, who called him that Sunday.  They hadn’t spoken to each other for about a month.  Naturally, they chatted about every piece of news they had.  Eventually he mentioned to her his discovery.  It was in her nature to believe in the supernatural—she believed in UFOs, latent mental powers, and similar mysteries.  However, this time was different.  He did not expect her to be half as cynical as she was: “A sequence in PI?  You’re crazy.  Do something healthier, like go running or something.”  Instead of abandoning the idea, he clung to it even more.  The snowball of interest was rolling downhill.
As the days were passing by, he was becoming increasingly skeptical of the number’s truthfulness.  All the formulae seemed to be wrong.  They produced the same number; however, that number differed from the one on his hard drive.  In one spot, there was an eight instead of a nine, in another—a five instead of a six.  He tried other formulae and files as well.  He was in the constant search for new formulae.  He used the simple series formulae of Leibniz, Knopp, Euler, Sharp and more complex formulae of Ramanujan and Chudnovsky.  All those produced same results, but no two acquired files were alike.  The differences were impossible to distinguish, for it would be an extremely long process to detect a discrepancy in 8346-th spot.  But this, and the other facts, absorbed him.  He had to know why.
He was not alone.  Whenever he uncovered something new, he could always count on Ashley’s being there to listen.  She was among the very few people who understood and avoided the mediocrity of high school.  She recognized in him the hidden qualities he possessed.  He could be sensitive and emotional, he could be excited and unstoppable, he could be somber and revolting.  However, not once did he say anything rude to her, except as a joke that they both understood.  Whenever she needed his opinion, no matter what he was doing, he always had time to talk to her.  They were talking about different subjects.  Now they were talking about certain “friends” of theirs.  Then her unusual day, including a weird dream.  Then his even stranger dream.  He was supposed to meet someone.  A girl.  As he saw her face, he knew he was supposed to meet her.  Who was she?  Why would he dream of someone unknown?
He was the only one who knew what the code said.  Never did he actually disclose the “message.”  He was afraid.  He felt that he had done something, for which he was to be caught.  He was investigating PI; those letters remained concealed.
She then suggested that he go to the library.  The idea had crossed his mind earlier, but instead, for research, he went online.  However, now, as he thought about it, the thought became increasingly appealing.  She, however, had other things to do the following day.  He had to go alone.
There were not too many books on the subject.  In fact, he had a hard time finding any at all.  There were books about Pythagoras, Leonardo Fibonacci, the Golden Ratio, the history of those; only two entries contained PI as their subject.  He took an elevator to the desired floor and, having found the shelf, started perusing through the pages.
The second entry was on the upper floor.  Strangely, he has never been on the upper floor, mostly because there were atlases and encyclopædias.  Having turned around the corner, he headed towards the “P-Q” row.  He suddenly stopped.
He has to squint a few times to believe his eyes.  She was the girl from his dream.  Now he saw her in person.  He slowly walked towards the table, then sat down.  She lifted her head, looking into his green eyes.  They both started to smile.  It was not a smile of politeness, nor was it a smile saying, “Okay, now go away.”  They both felt something almost magical happen between them.  They felt as if they had known each other their whole life, and longer.
“What are you reading?”
“I am researching about Teddy Roosevelt for History.”
“Yes, I have to.  History is the most boring subject.”
“Mine too!  In the class I can almost fall asleep.”
“What are you here for?”
He liked her voice.  “Actually, I want to find stuff about PI.”
“Yes, PI, like in 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884…”
“Okay, okay, stop,” she said, smiling.  “That’s a lot of digits…  Is that for math?”
“The weird part it, no.  It’s for myself, kind of an obsession.  I have got to find a reason for something I discovered.”
“It’s like a code.  There are different versions of PI, and I want to know why they exist.”
“You like math?”
“Heh.  Yeah, it’s my favorite subject this year.  What’s yours?”
They talked for quite a while.  Two strangers, they have barely known each other for two hours.  They went back to their studies.  He finished scanning his book.  They were sitting next to each other.  Since she had but a few more sentences to write, she decided to save that task for a different source.
“So what have you discovered?”
“Nothing, really.  This book is more about the history of PI then the actual number.”
“What is it that you found so hard to believe?”
“You’ve got to see it, I can’t just tell you.”  She looked at him in an inquiring way.  “It’s hard to describe.  And to believe.”
“You don’t…  Never mind.”
“Tell me.  Please?”
“You say it’s hard to believe.  I’d believe you.”  He smiled.  Her smile followed.
“Works Cited.” The day was growing old.  All that time they had spent talking.  The library would close in half an hour.  They headed outside.  More specifically, he was putting away his book, when he inadvertently flipped to that page.  Strangely, there were but four entries.  Three of them involved history.
“What kind of author is he who uses only four sources?”
“Yeah, this is strange.  ‘Patterns and Sequences?’”
“I know.  Hey, it starts with an ‘P,’ which should be in this row…”
“Why would it be on this floor?”
“Good point.  Let’s keep looking.”  She shrugged and followed him reluctantly.
The book did not have a barcode, nor was there an author.  These ominous and perplexing observations were intensified by a stack of papers, falling from the back cover.  In a legible handwriting, plentiful notes were written on these numbered pages.
They sat down on the floor, reading.  Their elbows touched.  Their minds were consumed by the words.  They read with the same speed.  They looked at each other for a long time, prologue having been finished.
“I’m sorry, you can’t check out this book.”
“What?  Why not?”
“It does not have a barcode.  You had better put it back where you found it.  We’ll work on these new books within the next month, so please come back around then.”
As they were going back, he whispered, “What?  A new book?  This is at least five years old.”
“Well, maybe it is new to the library?”
“Maybe so, but why does she want us to go back?  That is not how a library works.  They put a barcode on the book and check it out.”
“Maybe we should just put it back…”
“No.  Wait…” He quietly walked into the corner and listened.  He could sense the coolness of her hand, which was some distance away.  He could barely make out the words.
“Yes, come here quickly.  Two kids tried to check out the book.  They are on the top floor now.”
“Craps!  We better get out, now.”
“She just asked someone to come here because two people found the book.”
“I don’t want to hide from them.  Maybe they want to help us.  Maybe it’s about someone else.  Why us?  What did we do?”
“Chloe,” he said, looking into her eyes, “trust me.” Perhaps it was something about the way he spoke, or maybe it was their subconscious mutual understanding, but when he said that, a warm feeling entered her heart.  She could not resist smiling.
As they were running towards the back door, she subconsciously noted that upon contact, his hand was as cold as hers was.  As they were about to open the doors, they heard slamming of car doors and tramping of feet.
“Quick, this way.”  They ran down a white metal staircase only to find a locked door.  Swiftly, they crouched under the stairs.  They were panting, quietly.  Neither of them let go of the other’s hand.  About thirty minutes later, having searched the upper floors of the building, people clad in black left.  Soon, the two followed.
Chilly breeze struck their faces as they left the building.  He went a bit in front to protect her from the wind.  They were walking towards the parking lot.  “Which one is your car?  You did drive here, didn’t you?”
“It’s the purple one.  Which one’s yours?”
“Mine?  It’s parked over there,” he pointed towards the building.  “I drove a bike,” he said, after a short pause.  “And it won’t fit in your car either.  And I don’t want them to see it: I don’t trust them.  Wait here.”  He jogged towards the bike and ran away.  She got in her car and started the engine.  He was sprinting back.
“What happened?  Where were you?” she asked, after they drove a safe distance away.
“This is bad.  This is very bad.  You know the bike racks there?”
“Well, I went there, and I parked my bike, and I saw the people from the library.  I don’t think they saw me, though.”
“What?  What were they doing there?”
“I don’t know.  Maybe waiting for us, or calling someone, or something.  I had to crouch and then sprint to your car.”
“But why?  What do they want?”
“I don’t know, I wish I did.  Something strange is happening.”
“This is weird.  What if they get us?”
“I won’t leave you.”
She smiled.  “Where to, sir?”
“I’m kind of hungry.  What do you think of Denny’s?”
“Denny’s?  Why?  I mean, I like Denny’s, a lot.  How did you know?”
“Magic,” he grinned.
Dim lights lit the restaurant.  They were seated in a table, across the hall from a family.  Two more tables were occupied.  “Ready to order?”
“Yeah, I’ll have this—Lobster and Shrimp.”
“Aah!” he uttered.
“You stole my order!  Why?  Grrr.”
“What?  What did I do?” she replied with an innocent face.
“I’ll have the same.  It’s weird, that we order the same dish…”
“What is your opinion about school?”
“What?  School?  Of all topics, you choose school?”
“Sorry,” she said softly.
“School?  Boring.  Pathetic.  Pointless.  It would been better, if there were someone I could talk to.”
“Don’t you have any friends?”
“Of course I do, it’s not that.  Only two people can and want to understand me.  The others…  It’s so frustrating.”
 “What is?”
“Well, the people.  I try to talk to them about things, but it’s no fun to talk to them.  Mostly they don’t respond, or find other things to do.  I don’t know.  In class, everyone is listening.  At lunch, they are either eating or doing homework.  There is the least communication.”
“Isn’t there anyone who doesn’t do anything at lunch?”
“Sure, there are people like that, but it’s no fun being with them.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.  And also, school is so frustrating.  Some of the things they tell us to do are so pointless!  There are two classes I like; in the rest, I wish there were a pillow and a blanket.”  They both smiled.  “What about you?”
“It’s similar.  Many people in my school are either shallow or immature.  Yes, I have good friends, but there are also some people who are…”
“Who are what?”
“People…  People who can’t take me for who I am.”
“What do you mean?”
“They treat me like there’s nothing more in me than the things I happen to know.  They say, ‘Chloe, what’s this,’ and ‘Chloe, what’s that.’  Like that’s all I do.  They can’t just…”
“Just what?”
“Well, I know that I shouldn’t be complaining.”
“I’m…  Crazy sometimes.”  She smiled.  “I know some things other don’t.  What’s the big deal?  Why can’t some of them just see me?”
“Because that’s a part of who you are, a part that you can’t and shouldn’t deny.  Knowledge doesn’t hurt people, people hurt people.  I mean, if they ask you something, don’t answer if you don’t want to.  Don’t care about them, care about self.”
She sat quiet for some time.  “Thanks.  Why do I get the impression you know how I feel?”
“I don’t know, I guess I just know how people feel.  Sometimes.  Rarely.”
“Yum!  This is good!”
“Oh yes.  I love seafood.”
“I love shrimp!  They taste great!  What other foods do you like?”
“I don’t really like meat.”
“Do you feel bad when you see blood?”
“Depends on how much; and it’s not that I see it, it’s that I eat it.”
“I’m different.  My mind works differently.”
“I am not afraid of blood.  No, the only things that I’m afraid of are bugs.  If I imagine hundreds of bugs crawling on me, especially on my head and in my hair into my eyes and ears…  That and many razor blades, , That’s scary.  Everything else, I can stand.”
“I have a lurid imagination.  I think in pictures.  I can even do 3D rotation in my mind.”  She raised her eyebrows.  “I can picture and object, and spin it, and throw in a parabolic trajectory.”
“Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Do you consider yourself different?”
“You mean from other people?  Of course.”
“Do you like being different, or do you wish you were more like the rest?”
He chuckled.  “That’s funny.  Hell, I don’t wanna be like them.”
“It’s hard to describe.  I can’t talk to many people for a long time.  I don’t know, people are concerned way too much about grades and stuff.  I mean, damn it, what the heck difference does it make if you have 91% or 101%?”  She smiled.  “And they’re afraid that they’ll get a B; they want to have the highest grade in the class; they study all their free time; in school, at home, on the way to school; they never have time to write e-mails, perhaps once a week.  I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but people are annoying.  Many can’t even understand what I’m saying.  Don’t try either.  It gets boring.  No one wants to talk; they don’t care.  I stopped too, most of the time, I just have fun at their expense.”
“You’re mean.”
“Well, they’re mean.”
“You know, I know what you mean and how you feel.”  He looked at her intently.  “Yes, I do.  I, too, know people who can be completely… dumb.”  He smiled.
“Don’t you find them so frustrating?”
“Look at the time.”
“Oh my gosh!  We’ve been here for…”
“Two hours,” they said simultaneously.
“Don’t you just love it when two people say exactly the same thing at the same time?”
She smiled.  “That felt like much less, like…”
“An hour?”
“Yeah, it did.  Wow, the time went by really fast.”
“I’ve never actually talked to anyone for that long, in person,” he said, as they were walking out from the restaurant.  The sun has long been down.  Through the screen of red and purple clouds, a dim circle of moon could be seen.  “Maybe on the phone.”
“It’s cold!”  A sudden wind blew in their faces.
“We’re close.  The only question is…”
“Where to go.”
“It’s scary.  Where can we go?  We’ve got to read this.”
“It’s Sunday, isn’t it?”
“School tomorrow.  How about we meet after school?”
“We don’t go to the same school, remember?”
“We live close, don’t we?”
“Yeah, we do…  Good idea!”  He grinned.
They were driving along the abandoned streets.  It was late, and tomorrow would be a workday.  These two factors compelled everyone to go into their safe apartments in the skyscrapers.  It was the growth of population and industry: all cities were extended upwards.  Only few old houses survived as museums; the rest were razed to give way to these slender mountains.  It was unusual for the streets to be so empty: only thirty or so cars could be seen at once.  A real winter was abroad: sometimes there could even be snow—snow, which was becoming extinct along with the small rural houses.  Few (too few) places were rural; the old library was one of such.
“So where do you live?”
“Right around there.”
“Wow, this really is close.”
“Told ya.”
“Where should I drop you off?”
“You shouldn’t.”
“I’ll jog home.”
“O.K., suit yourself.  I live right… here.”
“I see.  What’s your phone number?”
“You got a piece of paper?”
“I thought you did.”
“Okay, fine,” she growled with smiling eyes.  “Here.”
“Whoa…  No way.”
“The number PI, it goes, 3.141592653589793238462643383279…  It’s then 502-8841”.
“You sure?”
“What do you mean, am I sure?”
“Oh sorry, I forgot that you’re a—”
“Shush!”  She smiled.  “Well, see you tomorrow.”
“Good night.”  He stopped, looking at her.
“What’s wrong?”
“Why’d you stop?”
“I don’t know…  I guess I just wanted to see whether you’d look back.”
“I don’t know too many people who do that.”
“Now you know one more person who does.”
He flipped through another page of the book.  It was late, and he should have been already sleeping to get some needed rest, but he could not stop reading.  The “book,” for it could hardly be called one, described, in detail, author’s search for any pattern in PI.  The author, as Sam was surprised to find out, reached the same results as Sam did.  However, the author spent more time on this issue, and so his conclusions were more advanced.  Some were conclusions about the nature of the number, others—about the reasons.  The nature was that the number was generated using commonly accepted formulas, with the exception of some numbers’ being switched by a seemingly negligent accident.  The most crucial and anomalous fact was that the sources of the number changed it every day around four in the afternoon, or, by Greenwich time, at midnight of every successful day.  Every pattern switched numbers randomly, yet in every first switch, 9 was in the place of 8.  Usually about a hundred numbers were switched; two pages contained arrays of the new numbers, sorted by date, and possible connections between some of them.  In every such array, numbers could be picked so that they formed a 14-digit number, 90818284778490.  If each pair of digits were translated into English, it spelled “ZQRTMTZ.”  A cold chill ran down his spine.  This was the sequence he uncovered prompted his searching.  He had always wondered what it meant.  Now he realized that he was not the only one.
But what was it?  The word must have been an acronym for something, he thought.  Or a password, or a marker of some sort to identify the sequence.  It could not be a marker, because every sequence would have to be compared to the actual number before the word could be discovered.  Then what was it?  With such thoughts, he fell asleep.  Somewhen, before he fell asleep, he realized that the program that the author was talking about was not there.  Some information or something.  He fell asleep.
Waking up a few hours later, he felt different.  He was happy and proud of himself, he had finally accomplished something that only a handful of people have: he uncovered the secret word.  He was sure that it was a password, but he did not know to what.  He wanted to tell someone, for such was his nature.  He had to tell people of his discoveries; he had to share his happiness and sadness with someone.  The reasons—he himself did not know that the reasons went back to his childhood of bland joy where, subconsciously, he suppressed most of his emotions for fear of being understood.  Surely, he had friends, very close friends; however, he was more an adviser than he was a patient.  Yet, the major strike came when he moved to another state, to a place foreign and hostile.  He did not know anyone, no one knew him.  He was a stranger, and from that dim hideout, he very efficiently observed others’ fortunes and follies.  As he met more people, he gradually told them of his identity, becoming their close friend.  He learned to express his emotions that had been trapped for years and to treasure those few people he could call friends.  And yet he continued to be an observer, learning from other’s mistakes and thriving at their expense.  Most of all, he thusly tried to understand himself and to gain the answer to the most common question of humankind: “Why?”  For that reason, he could not stop his research of PI.  While others would have stopped, he must keep going and find the answer or an explanation.
But whom would he tell?  Only Chloe.  He remained silent for the rest of the day, exchanging casual greetings and advices.  Soon the school ended and, excited, he went home.  After a relaxing break, he headed to her apartment, as they had agreed.  Along with the book, he took some of the programs he wrote and some music, as he always gave everybody his favourite music.  He exited the elevator and knocked on her door.
They were sitting at her computer, looking at the numbers.  He ran another program that displayed the word.  He made a file containing million of digits PI, and ran the program using the new file.  The letters were entirely different.
“Whoa, this is weird.”
“I know…  What do you think ZQRTMTZ might mean?  I think it’s a password or an identifier of the type of a sequence.”
“What do you mean?”
“They can’t find the sequence until they find the beginning and the end markers, so it can’t indicate that there is a sequence, but what kind of sequence it is.”
“But shouldn’t they know what kind of sequence it is?”
“Yeah…  How dumb would they have to be if they don’t even know what they’re making?”  They smiled, then became silent.  He looked at her.  She looked up.  Only the cars outside could be heard: the dim, yet persistent noise of the traffic.  It was barely audible, thanks to the brilliant invention of the nearly soundproof walls.  Without it, life in a city would be impossible.  Suddenly, he said,
“You have pretty eyes.”  She was startled; then she slightly blushed, and smiled.
“Thanks.”  A moment later, she said, “Frankly, you do too.”
“Me?”  She nodded, still smiling.  “Wow,” he whispered and smiled too.  They continued looking at each other.  Suddenly he said, “Even seen the movie ‘Contact?’”
“The old one?”
“It’s not that old…”
“But still.  Yeah, it was good.”
“Remember that part where she says that every code in it has rules to decode it?”
“Maybe that’s what it is?  Maybe, somehow, it’s translatable to English?”
“It’s a good idea, but I don’t know how you’d do it.”
He muttered, “How I’d do it.  Heh.”
“You’re smart.”
“And so are you.”  They started thinking.  Suddenly, he sat at the computer, ran his program, and then started writing numbers from 65 to 90.
“What are you doing?”
“Maybe it’s not a password after all, maybe it’s a way to decode the other numbers.”
“What do you mean?”
“The sequence, those letters, maybe they weren’t meant to be letters but numbers…”
“I know, I know, I tend to confuse people.  The sequence was 90818284778490, right?  Well, maybe if we change the other letters it will make sense.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know.  Let’s see…  This is the sequence.  This is the sequence without the numbers…”
“Now, what do you think: add or subtract?”
“Hmm, do we subtract from every digit or from 2-digit numbers?”
“2-digit numbers.”
“How do you know?”
“I don’t,” she smiled.
“Let’s see…  50524950485150514956.  Translated from ASCII to our language, it’s…  2412032318.”
“And what’s that number?”
“I really don’t know.  It might be anything, another password, a serial number, an ISBN number.”
“A book number?”
“Well, maybe they come and read books…”
“You’re crazy.”
 “I always thought myself weird.”
“That too.”
“You’re kind,” he said with a serious expression.
“I’m…  Sorry,” she smiled sweetly.
“It’s okay.  But what’s this number?”
“Hmmm.  Do you have…?  Silly me, it’s on my web site.”
“What is?”
“Well, I write programs.  For fun.  I just write them, and I put a few onto my web site.”
“What kinds?”
“They’re mostly tools and things I need.  Computers, originally, were used to do repetitive tasks.  So if I need to make a long file with numbers, or do something to a number, graph it, save some files, rename them…  If there’s an order that I need to put them it, I just use programs.  They really save me a lot of time.”
“You know…  Never mind.”
“I used to program.”
“You did?  Why’d you stop?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, we should work on something sometimes,” he said unwittingly.  She looked at him with a raised eyebrow.  “O.  How silly.  Don’t you love being silly sometimes?  I do.”
He went to his page and downloaded a few programs, ran them, and typed the number.
“Nothing in hex, not prime, apparently, divisible by 2, 17, 983, and 72169, nothing special about it…  Darn!”
“Why hex?” she asked.
“What else should it be?  I can do octal, binary, 256…” And he did, with no useful result.  “Wait a second…”
“What if it’s an address?”
“There must be a lot of houses on that street.”
“No, I mean an IP address?”
“IP address?”
“You know, the 32- or, now, 128-bit identifier assigned to a host using Internet Protocol.”
“Jeez, you sound like a dictionary.  What I meant was that don’t they come in 4-numbered numbers?”
“You mean the dotted decimal notation?”  She glared at him.  “They also come in this way.”  He opened her web browser and typed in the number.  “Look!”  At the bottom of the window, they saw the name of the server and its common representation.  However, after a long pause, nothing came up on the screen.  “It’s not working.”
“How old is the number?”
“I got it a few days ago.”
“And the numbers on the site changed every midnight?”
“They did!”  He went to another site, a URL memorized by heart, and downloaded a copy of PI.  Then he ran his program, and sat back.  “It’s going to take a minute or two.  What’s wrong?”  As he looked at her, he noticed something different.  Her enthusiastic gleam was replaced by an expression more calm and listless.
“I don’t know, it just feels like something’s… missing.”
“I’m okay, I am.”  Still, the expression stayed even in her smile.
“Whoa.”  Having deciphered the new address and entered it into a web browser, they were amazed to see the site.  Even its first page was a colorful design of scrolling images and videos and links written in…  They could not comprehend any letters, which looked like either ancient manuscripts or random jerking of the pencil.  “What the heck does this say?”  Somehow, luckily, after clicking on a random link, a few scriptures changed into English letters.  Still, they had no clue what anything meant.  What did the designs mean?  Was that an airplane?  Everything was too dark and cryptic.  The background was black and randomly there were rectangles of dark-blue.  In those rectangles appeared unusual pictures which did not represent a thing, thus they simply clicked on links and watched.  Many of them led to the same black page with a deep-blue rectangle.  There was but another green rectangle on the page.  For a split second, a “word” caught his attention: “aReMaC”.  Aroma?  Arena?  Almanac?  Another such “word” was “SioHW.”  Sioux?  Show?  What the heck are these?  In Latin, “si” means “if”…  If homework?  If who?  Along with the image of a looking glass, he suddenly remembered and uttered “Whois!”
“Who is who?” she asked, startled.
“No, this says ‘Whois,’ and this is ‘Camera.’  Backwards.”
“Wow, they are.  I wonder…” But he already loaded the page, somewhat different from “black page of nothingness.”  (He always came up with unusual and funny names for everything.)  Something was familiar.  He hesitated a moment and then typed, “Samuel Freeman.”
“So that’s your last name,” she said.
“Yup.”  Yet, the same black window of nothingness appeared.  This time, however, he typed “ZQRTMTZ” and clicked on the green area.  The computer made a sudden loud buzz, making her jerk away from the screen.
“You get scared easily.”
“Doesn’t everyone?”
“Not me.”
“What was it, anyway?”
“My guess is that they want a password.”
“The password!  But it didn’t work…  But don’t they reverse things?”
“Exactly.”  He typed in “ZTMTRQZ” and waited.
He gasped in surprise.
The page was relatively long, with many entrees of his name.  The shocking fact was that for every entry, it contained a full name, birth date, a few facts, and a picture.  Having found himself, he was shocked to find all the information correct.  “How do they know?  Who are they?  This is illegal!”
“You can’t tell anyone.”
“You’re right, but…  I mean, this is crazy!  How do they know?  What’s your last name?”
“I won’t tell you.”
“Okay, Miss Gordon.”
“How did you know?”
“I just did.  Okay, let’s see, Chloe Gordon.”
“You live…  Where do you live?”
“Where do I live?”
“What do you look like?  Here you are.”
“Don’t look!”
“Too late.  Hey, it’s a pretty good picture.”
“Well, you’re pretty.”
She smiled.
“Hmm, you’re born in August.  Weren’t you born in July?”
“I could’ve sworn you said you were.”
“But I wasn’t.”  She smiled.
“That’s strange.”
She said bye as she watched him jump down the stairs.  “You’re crazy.”
“You tell me.  Why are you taking the stairs?  It’s the 38th floor, man!”
“That’s how you’re crazy.”
“I know.”  He continued to run two steps and then take a leap onto the ground.  Really, he did not care.  He knew he was faster than the elevator, he checked.  Besides, he loved to jump, so why not?
What the heck?  He again went to the mysterious site and looked at her description.  Everything looked normal, except for the birthday.  It was in August.  It clearly said, “August.”  He remembered their conversation in the library.  For some reason he said, “Well, I’m a Leo.  What are you?”  “I’m also a Leo.”  “Born in August?”  “No, July.  What about you?”  She said July.  Or did she?  What did she say?  Why did he think she said July?  Maybe it was just his imagination, always wandering through things real and unreal alike…
He started flipping though the book in hopes of finding anything about the site.  What was up with that book, anyway?  It was not a hard cover, but it was not soft cover either.  Some pages were glued together in the back to make it denser.  But why in the back?  And whoever did it did not do a good job because it started to come apart.  It was in his nature to investigate things.  He had to know and understand.  It was not a problem for him to hold opposing views or contradicting ideas; yet, he could not go on in peace if he did not know what he thought or felt.  The drops slowly accumulated and rarely emptied by surges of joy.  In fact, when he asked himself, “Am I happy,” the answer was no.  Something was missing, something that he could not identify or find.
He slowly ripped the pages apart, discovering an unusual-looking black circle.  It was about four, no, three, three and a half inches in diameter with a hole in the center.  The surface was flexible and reflective.  Surely, it could not be glue.  It did not fly too well.  Its color reminded him of something, some object he had that was about as old as he was…  A cassette!  Of course, that is the colour of the tape in videocassette!  But then, this must be one of those…  Floppy disks?  That’s what they were called, he remembered.  He looked around his box of things, which he never used, but which were too dear for him to throw away.  Surely, he still had one of those floppy disks.  He found about three or four, and cracked one open.  Carefully, he removed the sliding metal part, which he knew he didn’t need, opened the case, and removed the disk.  He took out the metal part and put it on the circle he found, and put the structure back into one piece.  Now he needed an old computer.
He remembered that they had one of such in school, which could still read these floppy disks.  He put it in his backpack and went to bed.  He was tired; shortly, he was asleep.
“So, you went to her place?”
“Cool!  What’d you guys do?”
“Just some of this PI stuff.  And I got to tell you something, it’s so cool!  It’s weird!  No, I must show you, it’s so crazy!”
“It’s a site…  I don’t know who owns or runs it, but it’s…  It’s really weird.  I has a listing of people.”
“What people?”
“All the people.  It has information about me!  And you!”
“Yeah.  You’re 5’7”, weigh 145 pounds, born at 2:08 p.m. on a Wednesday.”
“You’re joking.”
“Am I?”  He was not.
“You gotta show me the site.”
“I will, I will.  Don’t worry, I started a program that extracts its IP address automatically.”
“Need any help?”
“Thanks, but it’s almost ready.”
“Okay.  But you two couldn’t’ve just sat there all the time?”
“That’s pretty much what we did.”
“Yeah right!”
 “We sat, and chatted…  There’s one thing, though.  It’s minor, yet it’s bugging me.”
“What is?”
“Back in the library, I thought she said she was born in July.  But apparently she wasn’t…  It’s so weird.”
“Well, I would remember what she said, wouldn’t I?”
“Does it matter?  Where are you going?”
“I guess it doesn’t.  I have this old disk I need to convert.  It’s from the book.”  They went to the computer lab, and soon the disk was copied.
“No, don’t look at it in school.”
“You’re right.  Damn them, always trying to see what we do wrong.”
“School sucks.”
“That it does.”
There was only one file.  He couldn’t tell much about it except that whoever made it was clever: all its attributes have been cleared.  It did not have a date or any sort of a signature.  A rare file, as if it were made five years ago.  The contents of that file, a picture, puzzled him even more.  There were about five lines, a rectangle, and two big numbers.  God, more numbers!  I’m so freaking tired of all of it.  He suddenly felt tired, fully exhausted.  He was lacking much of his sleep, his mind was going insane over a few numbers…  What was the use?  He suddenly stopped to think about it.  Why?  Why am I doing all of it?  What will I get, where is this leading me?  What the hell?  He suddenly was overwhelmed with his own thoughts, overwhelmed and tired.  He thought too much.  All of his time he wasted on this “research,” looking for strange patterns.  It was so tiring.  Then it all made sense.
It’s the number!  It’s the damned number!  What the hell?  What, what am I doing, why am I doing this, what is it given me, aah I am losing it yes I am my personality my self I am losing jeez stop stop now the damn number why?  What did I ever do?  Why have I suddenly lost everyone else’s support?  He closed his eyes, put his left fist into his right palm, and took a big breath.  He relaxed and kept breathing like that for thirty seconds, then he opened his eyes again.  What did I do?  What did I really do?  What did I say?  I said, “Hey, guess what?”  “What?”  “I found something really cool in the pattern, it’s this weird sequence of letters.”  “In the number PI?”  “Yes, when I convert this pattern to letters it gives me something like a password.”  “A password?”  “I don’t know what it is, but it’s really weird.”  “Hmmm…  What else did you find out about that dumb number?”  He paused, then said, quietly, “Dumb number?”  “Yes, the stupid number.  Come on, man, look at yourself!  All you’ve been doing is that dumb number of yours.  God!  What?  Wake up, man!  Welcome to the real world.”  He did not reply anything then, just looked with an confused and inquiring expression.  Then, the same day, a few hours later.  “Hey Sarah, how are you?”  “I’m good, how are you?”  “I’m okay.  The number is really weird.”  “The number, again.”  “What?”  “Nothing, never mind.”  “What did you mean?”  “Nothing, I said.”
“What the heck?” he quietly uttered to himself.  “Where are they going?  Weren’t they supposed to be interested?  Who cares about them?”  He looked at the numbers.
He was especially proud of his ability to concentrate at any given moment except for the times when the din was so high-pitched that it distracted everyone’s thoughts.  He was looking at the numbers and the lines.  They were somewhat thick, perpendicular to each other.  And the rectangle, and the numbers.  What were the numbers?  He looked closer.  There was something odd about the digit 1.  There were three of them, two identical, but the third one, the last one, was not straight.  He looked even closer.  A line, a thin line was nearly impossible to see.   He had to examine it more closely.
He started editing the picture.  He zoomed in as much as the computer would let him, did various coloring and shading, applied different lights.  There were more lines, but this time they could not be detected without some analyzing.  What were they?  He looked at the digit 1.  Suddenly he saw that it was handwritten.  The handwriting was so much like a computer font that it tricked him, but it was handwritten.  The lines seemed to be drawn by a black pen, very carefully, yet not digitally.  The line, it looked like a comma.  Why, it was a comma, and the other lines were parentheses enclosing the numbers.  Erased?  But what was it supposed to be, two numbers with parentheses, a coordinate?
“Yes!  It’s a map!”  The lines were streets, and the coordinate was the location in the world…
He quickly wrote another program that converted the long numbers into something he could understand: degrees, minutes, and seconds.  There it was: a perfect coordinate.  Where was it?  He took out a map.  No, the scale was too small.  Okay, then it’s the Internet.   Hmm, let’s see, what is it?  Where is it?  Hey, it’s in this city, it’s…  He knew where it was.  He printed the map and wrote down the street names.  He knew how to get there, but what was it?
The phone rang.
“May I speak with Mr. Samuel Freeman?”
“This is he.”
“I suggest that you stop.”
“Excuse me?”
“You heard me.  Listen to your peers, for once they may hold the truth.”
“The truth?”
“Heed my words.”
“Who are you?  Hello?  Hello?”  The phone clicked.  He sat in dismay.
“You won’t believe this.”
“I just got a call from someone.  He wanted to threaten me.”
“What?  Who?”
“I don’t know who it was.  It was a man.  There’s something about his voice, it’s like he knew what I would say, and was ready for it.”
“What’d he say?”
“He said, ‘I suggest that you stop.  Listen to your peers, they may hold the truth.  Heed my words.’”
“What the heck?”
“I don’t know, but it’s freaky.  I think he meant the number, I really do.”
“You have caller ID, right?”
“It’s blocked.”
“But, man!  This is scary.  Or maybe it’s just a big joke…”
“Hi, may I please speak with Chloe?”
“She’s not home right now, can I take a message?”
“No, um…  No, just tell her that Sam called.”
“No problem.”
“Okay, thanks.  Bye.”
Surprisingly for him, his worries were gone the next morning.  The classes were flowing smoothly.  No one asked him anything.  It was a regular Wednesday, the middle of the week, “The Hump Day,” as Chloe liked to call it.  True, they had only spoken for a couple of hours, and he knew that he did not know anything about her; yet, he was constantly creating an image of her in his mind, adding details about her life.  He trusted her.  He didn’t know why, but she conveyed to him a sense of security.  He felt calm and well rested, and filled with hope, as felt the warm rays of sun.  “It must be the sun,” he thought.
“Hey Sam.”
“Oh hey.”
“Any luck with yesterday’s strange phone call?”
“No.  But there is something very strange.  The disk, yesterday’s disk, it had a map.”
“A map?”
“Here.”  He took out a small piece of paper.
“I know where that is.”
“Yes, it’s close.  I’m going to go there.”
“I am.  On Friday or Saturday, I don’t know when.  Wanna come?”
“Actually, yes, I do.”
“Oh, shoot!  I can’t go.  Damn!”
“Wait, is it your aunt’s birthday?”
“Yeah, it’s this weekend, so we’re all gonna go on Friday night.”
“That sucks.”
“I know.  Well, I guess you’ll have to go with you-know-who.”
“Or alone, if she doesn’t want to go.”
“Hey, did I tell you…”
 “She’s not home right now.  And you’re Sam?”
“Yes.  Do you know when she’ll be back?”
“No, I don’t.  She’s working on a research paper, she said she’ll be back late.”
“Okay, thanks.”
“Well, this is weird.”
“What is?”
“Now I can’t reach her.  She was working on a research paper, her mom said.”
“Oh well.”
“Yeah, I guess.  Is she isn’t home today, I’ll go to the library.”
“Okay.  And hey, I went to the site.”
“You did?”
“Yeah.  It’s weird, man!  I mean, where the heck do they get all this info?”
“I don’t know.”
“And what’s that camera thing?”
“Camera?  I’ve never tried.  Hold on…  What’s the IP today?”
“Okay.  Camera.  Hmm.”
The page was very similar to Whois search.  Again, he had to type in the password, and the name.  Only this time there were no results.  He typed in other names, but none worked.  “What do you think it is?”
“I don’t know.  No names work.”
“I know.  Hey, maybe it’s for cities.”  He typed in the name of the city.  Surprisingly, he saw a map.  “Hey, this is cool.”
“Yeah.  I think you can zoom in.”
“You can.  Wow.  Jeez!  Look at this.”
“This is incredible.”
He could really zoom in.  He could now see the street and his house.  Now the cars on the street.  It was so advanced that he could distinguish the number on the license plate of the car.  “Good grief!”
“I know.  What about that place on the map?”
“Good idea.  Let’s see.  It’s here…  Strange.”
“It’s a building.  I can’t see anything about it.  Looks like a regular building.”
“It does.”
“Nothing special about it.  That’s weird.  I’m still gonna go there.”
“Okay.  Have fun.”
They continued to explore the site.  Much of it was in strange code.  They typed in the password, yet, the resulting pages were written in the strange language.  They could find no translations.  The only two pages they understood were the camera and Whois page.
Yet, he noticed something odd.  It was very hard to notice, but he was observant of details, “the little things.”  He searched for his name and looked at the list of people.  There was his name, his address, his picture, some basic facts (all written in reverse), a very big number (he counted fifty-seven digits), and some strange letters.  He looked at the letters of other people, and while they were very similar, a character or two were different for his name.  Moreover, when he clicked onto something, he got to another page.  (He did not know where he clicked, because there were no links, there were areas that were not highlighted.)  The new page was even more confusing: it contained a mixture of English and the strange, the “alien” language.  There were many numbers and times, as if it were a diary.  “Maybe it is,” he thought.  None of the numbers made sense.  He tried to click on some, but nothing happened.  He scrolled down and observed more and more numbers.  Now there were random letters.  Somehow, everything reminded him of a picture of a fragmented hard drive.  Near the end, the last readable word he saw was “ePiW.”  “Wipe?”  He clicked on it.”  He saw another message, in the strange language, he clicked on something.  He returned to the diary page, however, it was changed: it was almost empty!  He returned (somehow) to the page with his name, and was surprised to see that although his entry was on the page, the number was shortened to only twenty-seven digits.  Also, he noticed a new red mark written in the strange language.
What the heck?
He clicked on the red mark and waited.  He was taken to a new page with a listing of some names.  He looked closer and recognized some government agencies.  Suddenly, one of them disappeared.  Then another one.  After some time, the page became blank except for one entry.  A drop of sweat ran down his forehead.
“What did I just do?”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t.  I think I erased my self.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think I deleted my name from some government records.”
“You what?”
“Let me try something.”  He hung up and dialed the information number.
“How can I help you?”
“I would like to get the phone number of Samuel Freeman.”
“One second please…  I’m sorry, there are no such person in your city.”
“There is no one under that name.”
“But…  I’m here!”
“Please hold on…  That name is not under any records.”
“Okay, thanks,” was all he could say at that moment.
“Oh my God!”
“My name…  I, um…  They don’t have my name in the info number.”
“I deleted it.  Accidentally.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“You can call them if you want.  It’s not there.”
“What now?”
“I don’t know.  I hope I’m not going to get into any trouble tomorrow…”
Despite his fears, the day went smoothly.  He even felt a little excited, perhaps because of the warmness of the sunny day.  He liked the sun.  He did like the rain, indeed, at some times he would rather walk outside in the rain than hide under a warm roof; however, he wanted the sun, for it meant freedom.
The day itself was dull.  Endless classes and endless testing exasperated him.  He despised standardized tests, for in it he saw no reason.  He strongly clung to logic and reasoning.
Maybe that was it.  Maybe that was the reason of his confusion and suppression.  He hasn’t felt anything for some time.  He thought.  He thought about PI, about the site, about his programs, about people, about homework, about all the stupid tests, about his friends.  His friends…  He did not feel appreciated because he didn’t feel he deserved to be appreciated.  What did he actually do?  He felt stupid.  What did he do?  What could he do?  He could listen and jump and write programs…  And happiness?  He could not feel happy, he felt that he did not deserve happiness.
Or maybe he didn’t try?
But try what?  Did he lose his path?  He attempted new things before, and they worked.  What was happening now?  Was he scared to try, to lose?  Or was he tired?  He didn’t try because he didn’t want to try because he was too tired to try, too tired to do anything but sleep…
When he finally got home, he went straight to sleep.  Although only a two-hour nap, he felt very refreshed and invigorated and happy.  He did not really feel happy, but he had the energy to be.  He quickly finished the little homework that he had, and called Chloe.  Once again, she was in the library, so he decided to pay her a visit.  The ride was long but it was well worth it.
She was reading a book, sitting in the same place where he first met her.  He quietly walked behind her and sat at a nearby chair.  Because he walked quietly and she looked the other way, she didn’t notice him.  He drummed his fingers on the table, and then lightly poked her in the ribs.  She yelled loudly.
“Don’t ever do that to me again!”
“Hi.  What are doing here poking me?”
“You answered your own question.”
“What, you just came here to bug me?”
“Bug you?”
“I mean…  I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I’m sorry,” she sad sadly.
“It’s okay.”
“Now you’re mad at me.”  He chuckled.  “What?”
“You’re funny.”
“Of course I’m not mad at you.  Why would I be?”
“I don’t know…”
“I don’t know either.  So what’s up?  What are you doing?”
“Oh, this term paper I have to do for History.  God, I hate that class!  But what are you really doing here?”
“I just came here…  You were here.”
“You came here because I am here?”
“It’s actually about the number.  I’ve discovered a heck of a lot of things.  But wait, you have this paper to write…”
“I’m almost done.”
“How long will it take ye?”
 “Ye, like, you know, ‘you’ but pronounced ‘ye’?”
“You’re weird.”
“And I also say ‘thou’ and ‘thy’, and ‘yea’ high…”
“Yea high?” she interrupted.  “I say that!”
“Cool!  I’ll be back!” he said, as he was walking to the stairs, looking into her eyes.
“You just came here…”
He smiled in reply, closing the door behind him.  Again, he started jumping happily down the stairs and over trashcans outside.
“Don’t!” she yelled, as she saw him about to jump over a bush.  “You’ll get yourself killed!”
“No I won’t.”
“But what if you do?  What am I gonna do with you if you break your head open?”
“Pick me up and throw me in the dumpster or something…”
“No!  Don’t!  No, stop…” she screamed as he jumped over a tall orange construction cone.  “Oh my God!”
“Do you believe in God?”
“No.  Do you?”
“I’m agnostic.”
“Tell me about the number.”
“The number, eh?  Okay, remember on the site, you could find anyone?  Well, I, um… accidentally discovered something else.”
“You can change a person’s info.”
“What did you do?”
“Not actually change, but, um…  Delete.”
“I, um…  I don’t think I exist.  At least not in the phone database.  I tried, they don’t have my number anymore.”
“Maybe they never had it.”
“They did.”
“Maybe they got rid of it or something.”
“No, it’s not them, it’s me.  I deleted it, yesterday.”
 “What are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know.  Just wait, I guess.  And there’s another thing, too.  What are you doing tomorrow after school?”
“Nothing, I don’t think.”
“Wanna go somewhere?”
“Sure.  Where?”
“Remember the book on PI?  There, in the back cover, there was a disk, and on that disk there was a map.”
“A map of what?”
“I don’t know, but I know where it is.  I’m going there, definitely.”
“But you don’t even know what it is.”
“I can jump and I can run.”  He smiled.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like what?”
“I don’t know.  You’re looking at me all weird.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, raising his head to the heavens above.
“Fine,” she said, apparently glaring at him, as he continued to walk looking upwards.  “Oh, stop it.”
“You bum!”
“Where are we going?”
“I don’t know.  Where are you going?  How did you get here?”
“Same way.”
“You’re crazy.  It’s like 10 miles!”
“It’s a lot!”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not.  But where are you going?”
“I don’t know, my car is back there…”
“Hmmm…” They turned around.  “How are you?”
“I’m good.  How are you?”
“I’m…  Okay, I think.”
“You think?”
“Uh-huh.  I’m tired, though, and frustrated…  I think too much.”
“About what?”
“About everything.  My mind is filled with thoughts and images about everything…”
“I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.  It’s okay.”
She smiled.
“So, tomorrow, you wanna visit this place on this map?”  He handed her a piece of paper.  “Somewhere else?  Both?  Neither?”
“Somewhere else?”
“Well if you’d rather go somewhere else, or not go at all…”
“Then both.”  They smiled, for different reasons.
“So, what’s up?”
“Nothing much, actually.  I’m tired.”
“I’m tired too.  But hey, there’ll be a break soon.”
“I know.  I wouldn’t survive without it.  What are you tired of?  Anything besides school?”
“School mostly.  There’s all this work I have to do, projects and stuff.  You?”
“Me?  Not school, for sure.”
“I’m tired of people.”
“People…  It’s hard to explain.  I’m tired.  I feel like I need to go away for a while.”
“Why?  Do they annoy you?”
“No, it’s not that.  It’s just that I feel that sometimes they need me to do things for them but they don’t understand me in return.”
“I don’t understand you in return.”  She smiled.
“Not everyone does.  Not when I speak in riddles, anyway.”
“Why do you?”
“It’s the easiest.  It’s like writing a poem.  I can explain myself in riddles.  Often only I know the solution to them.  Kinda sad.”
“Why don’t you tell people more?”
“Not too many ask.”  She glanced at him with an inquisitive expression.  “I write poems, and I don’t know how many people actually understand them.  They don’t ask either.”
“Maybe they don’t want to offend you?”
“You must read one.”
“I must?” she said, smiling.
“Yes, you must,” he replied.  “I have some with me…”
“You just carry poems like that?”
“In my backpack…  Sure.  Where is it?  Aah, here.”
She slowly read his short poem.  “Wow.”
“Wow.  It’s very pretty.”
“Do you understand any of it?”
“Some.  Tell me: do you want to be understood?”
“By who?”
“What do you mean by who?”
“By everyone?”
“No.  Only by people who want to understand.”
“Did you have an argument with someone whom you don’t like anymore?”
“Hey!” he smiled.  “You’re close.  It wasn’t exactly an argument, something different.  Things changed after that.”
“What about now?  ‘Then where is she and who am I?’  Who is this new person?”
“I had to think about an hour about that line.  At first, it was ‘Who is she and where am I?’  But now, the way it is, it is undefined: ‘she’ is an image, who may exist.  Haven’t found her yet, I don’t think.”
“Want to tell me what happened?”
“It’s a long story…  Not very long, but weird…”
“I have time, but I might not be very patient.”
“Okay, I don’t have much patience,” she smiled.  “But I wanna know what happened.”
“You do?  Why?”
“Well…  I understood some of the poem, right?  What does the rest mean?”
“Okay, I’ll tell you some things…  Maybe all of them…”
“So what are you doing tomorrow night?”
“Nothing, actually.”
“Want to go to this mysterious place?”
“It’s kind of weird, because I don’t know you that well…  But yes, I want to go.”  He smiled.
“I know where you live.  And I know how to reach you.  So I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“Okay, then, good night.”
“Sweet dreams!”
“Thanks!  You too!”

Part II: Push The Limits

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