By Chris Morey
One, two… five plump heads! That’s a good number.
One, two… six smooth arms. Not enough, not nearly enough!
How was I supposed to create the divine formula with only six frail arms clawing the dirt beneath my garage floor? The other four were unfortunate irrationals. At least the craniums were accurate. Max, Alex, Rachel, Tiffany and Susan all lazily staring at each other in silent conversation. Their legs formed a stretching sun, or a blooming flower— depending on your point of view. Fingernails and toenails neatly arranged, mathematically ordered. It was a beautiful yet incomplete plethora.
Not much use for the rest of their carcasses, so I kept them safely tucked underneath the house.
“John! Paris is here!” a woman screeched. That woman was Rose—my wife? Never could tell anymore, the distance between us on the bed grew exponentially every night. She used to be the love of my life, if my memories were accurate. She would lecture across the hall, singing Japanese songs with a mob of monotone corpses. Her voice used to seduce me, her smile used to pull me, if I remembered correctly.
Sliding the metal door over the dusty square ditch I locked it with my key. They’ll be safe in there.
“Hello Paris, how can I help you?” My lips formed an insincere crescent with the question. The short blonde always had curves well formed enough to calculate.
“Max, have you seen Max? He wasn’t home this morning and he didn’t leave any messages” Paris whined with some sort of moisture building between the ovals in her head. Max had wondered his last day, with me on the golf course, regarding the loyalty of Paris. I spared him the unfortunate truth before dissecting him between the trees.
“I’m sorry to hear that Paris, but I haven’t heard from him. I’ll certainly keep an eye out.”
She didn’t respond, just turned to walk the other way as she massaged her face with quivering white hands.
“That’s odd; I wonder if they’ve been having problems?” asked the thin Japanese woman to my left as a small hand touched my back. She was always irrationally concerned for others, ignoring the problems within our walls. Sometimes I would question the loyalty of Rose.
Packed my brown bag and threw on my brown jacket. You know, the kind of brown jacket that ensures people I’m the self-righteous prick they’ve been waiting to be taught by. But I wasn’t really a prick, that’s just what they would think.
The university had me teaching Calculus this year, moving me away from statistics, not sure why. Perhaps my asshole colleagues were the culprits, always diminishing my work and methods, mocking my lack of publication. They were too arrogant to appreciate the formula I was building. Oh how proud they’ll be of me when they see my finished work!
The thoughts of Calculus were intimidating; it’s been a while since I’ve been concerned with limits, integrals or derivatives, but I’m sure the symbols and techniques were buried within me somewhere. More so than ever I was excited to meet the eager new minds—perhaps they could help with the formula.
The new classroom was large—almost too large. The glossy white floor reflected the sick yellow light from a distant ceiling. An army green chalk board stretched from one musty corner to a distant parallel.
But worst—and best of all, were the dozens of flush craniums staring at me with glazed eyes. All of them seemed to be sitting in the same position, with the same perfect horizontal line separating their lips. What an orchestra of placidity!
“First let me introduce myself. My name is John Hannon, but you will call me Dr. Hannon.” It took a second for my mouth to calculate the needed decibels for the giant rectangular space. The drones kept their necks locked in position, with one bright-eyed kiss-ass nodding intently. “Let’s go over the Syllabus” I announced as I passed a pile to each row, or column—depending on your point of view.
But at that moment I realized the beauty in the rows of fleshy orbs. Yellow lines ejected from the distant lights; they were highlighting those who were variables and created the equations, curving and snaking to avoid the others. Only a few individuals linked together to make rational formulas, the rest were unfortunate irrationals. I used my finger to trace them, to find the correct techniques to connect the wrapped skulls. It was perfect, their purpose in the divine formula was clear.
As the class adjourned, and the plastic faces of the breathing corpses exited the room, the yellow shine from above showed me the missing factors: three women, all small with curves that would confuse even the most brilliant trigonometric mathematician.
I followed the one with the long black hair.
The way she eased into her little blue box with wheels was encouraging, her movements rational and well executed.
The speed of her vehicle was increasing slowly, a minuscule rate of change.
The yellow light was still highlighting her glossy black hair, ensuring that she was an essential factor to the formula.
She pulled into her driveway as I pulled to the side of the street. As she walked to her green door I slipped on my black gloves, they’ve been with me as I worked out many problems large and small, tall and short. The street was lined with foreclosures, signs of financial despair. Her house was an exception. She must know how to count her pennies.
Finally the sky had morphed into a doleful black, and the irrational cracks and lines in the old street were hidden. It was time.
There was a thin dirt pathway to the left of her house, guarded by a gate I could nearly step over; it was clearly the best method.
As I was creeping down the stepping stones I became disgusted; the stones were tilted, disjointed and cracked. Irrational. Invalid. Ill-conceived equations.
With a hunched back I approached the window emitting yellow, ignoring those displaying black. Through the mustard sheath there was a shadowed silhouette shedding layers, revealing countless well formed curves. My eyes did the calculating, debating the best way to rearrange her terms.
The shadow had vanished from the tint, and the yellow had faded to black.
It was time.
My frigid left hand, wearing a mysterious golden ring, was the first to attempt at finding an area where my fingertips could grip. With success both hands lifted the heavy window, the edge folding fingertips into malformed triangles. Now I could breathe the black.
Her room was small, unorganized, irrational. Countless books and papers littered the bland carpet, only stopped by her twin sized bed and a large wood dresser.
She was lying with a soft shoulder facing me, the curvature dropping dramatically towards a hidden arm in front of her. The yellow was still highlighting the long black strands ejecting from the polygonal head above her shoulder.
I pulled six inches of steel from my jacket pocket. It was going to be a difficult process: creating an irrational variable in her chest before tracing the highlighted equation. But this error would be necessary for a higher mathematical purpose.
I was facing her now, with my grey factor dissector gripped tightly in my right hand, pointing towards her left breast.
The motion was quick, with a very high instantaneous velocity, or low—depending on your point of view. The sound was short, a scream muted into a gasp, before quivering into nothingness with the outside wind. The black handle was still stuck in her chest—reluctantly I pulled it free. The wound was flowing with mathematical errors, mostly algebraic, but there was nothing I could do. I only needed her hair.
The yellow highlight on her head seemed to grow brighter as I scalped her, ensuring me that these black strands were indeed essential.
Before I left I couldn’t help but give the hole in her chest a solution. I used a sewing needle and thread I found in one of her drawers. My solution was messy, but there was certainly not enough time to simplify, I left that for another professor.
Her hair was placed perfectly in the center of the leg flower, with black strands tickling severed edges. That was where the variable belonged.
The teeth of one of the other girls formed a circle next to the toenails, with the ears of the third listening intently to beheaded debates. The lines were connecting, the correct variables were there, but some factors were missing. My stomach dropped. I was convinced they would complete the formula, but it was still invalid. It was a beautiful but irrational plethora.
There was chaos in the streets, or mild panic—depending on your point of view. The cries for missing family members were deafening with every step, fliers on every wall. It was unfortunate; really,that I couldn’t share with them the magnificence of the formula I was building. Oh how proud they’ll be of me when they see the solution!
“Honey, something is really starting to smell and I can’t figure out where it’s coming from” the short woman with short black hair said as she leaned sideways from a distant kitchen.
“Boy, that’s strange, I’ll check the back yard here in a few minutes” I mustered out with lifts in my voice, hoping they made me sound sincere. But now I was fearful—fearful that she would somehow discover the disregarded irrationals rotting beneath the floors of our house. That’s where they belonged; I determined the rest of them were of no use. But this woman, Rose, would not understand. I wished part of her form would be highlighted yellow, but I knew she wasn’t useful, not in this divine formula.
I waited for her to fade to black under the curves of our red blanket.
The pillow next to her was free, so I used it. She struggled and kicked as it smothered her, but eventually collapsed in complete surrender. I could taste her final exhalation. The act was irrational, the act was invalid, but at least it left no flow of miscalculations.
They would know soon, they would realize soon, when the Japanese woman misses her lectures at the university the next day. They would discover the perpetrator behind the missing, the responsible for the lost. My neck jolted back and forth, debating what to do with the body of Rose. She wasn’t useful, not a single variable highlighted among her tiny frame. I left her mangled in the curves of our red blanket.
My feet sprinted eighteen strides to the rusted lock on my garage floor. The key turned once and the large metal covering slid open with three clicks.
The formula had aged, the variables were rotting. Sunken cheeks, fading eyes. Darkening skin, shriveling lips. The yellow was still there, connecting them, waiting for completion. It was still invalid, still irrational.
It had to be completed tonight.
The toolkit would be useful. Altering the variables would surely bring me closer to the solution. The pliers reflected brighter than the others and felt heaviest in my hand. Max’s mouth had opened gradually over the past few days, revealing a blackened tongue. It was difficult to grip, but the pliers sank in. Pulling towards myself I separated his tongue from his throat, until it dangled from the edge of his lips.
The lines were closer now, the yellow brighter. Not many more calculations needed. I took the hammer next.
Bones cracked with each strike, but the leg flower needed alteration. Gaps, bends and sunken bone just below the knees. Now it was valid, now it was rational.
I could feel the glow on my skin. I was close.
Toenails were now on a number line leading from the back of Max’s tongue to the flesh of Rachel’s cheeks. I had thoughts of calculating the derivatives of their eyes, finding the limits of their rot. No. Calculus was not needed here, not in this divine formula.
The dull teal glow creeping beneath the crack of my garage door had faded to black. The hours had disappeared, subtracted from time. The glow of the formula was burning my skin, but somehow it still wasn’t complete.
The tools from the kit went flying. Chipping wood, denting boxes and tumbling paint cans. The red strands from my head were tearing out. Incalculable yells bouncing off dusty grey walls. They would know soon.
A screwdriver, the last of the tools, went flying into a standing mirror on the far side of the garage. The shattering glass splintered into a thousand fragments, endlessly cloning a dying, quivering light. The shards were surprisingly valid, surprisingly rational, but the light they reflected was strange.
As I approached the torn reflections the glow grew stronger, the numbers became more vivid. As I approached the equations became apparent.
The shards were all pointing, directing me to the largest of their kind, the one spitting the most light back into the world. Its form was jagged, with points in all the correct places. The texture was rational, with well calculated edges.
I leaned over the equation and picked it up with heavy hands. The edges dug into my palms, pooling red in the cracks of my fingers, but that didn’t matter. I stared into the equation with restless eyes. The glow was burning my skin. The glow was penetrating my mind. The glow was yellow.
My mouth formed a sincere crescent, and I held the equation higher. The reflecting yellow glow was wrapped around my skull, with the line bordering at my neck. It was perfect, it was rational. I could complete the formula now.
The red was seeping down my arms as I started my dance. With each twirl the red on my body would escape, or be freed—depending on your point of view. The crescent on my face grew wider as the yellow in the glass grew brighter.
“I’ve found the solution! I’ve found the solution!” I cried to a distant, lifeless Rose, mangled in our curving red blanket. Oh how proud she would be of me now!
My reflection was nothing but yellow, and my arms nothing but red. I climbed into the ditch with the other variables and pulled six inches of steel from my jacket pocket. The cold grey separated the final variable from the last of the unfortunate irrationals.
“Oh how divine a formula!” I tried to say as the yellow faded to black.
Copyright © 2009 by Chris Morey
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