Oct. 23, 2027, 9:33 p.m.
18 Years, 145 Days Ago
Paul and Bill sat at the dinner table talking about scientific theory. They’d gotten a series of white boards and had somehow started jotting down notes that became an honest to goodness theory.
Phrases and formulas littered the bulk of the boards, and they’d have to buy a new batch soon. Jordan quickly joined the effort, but he wasn’t there at the moment. Paul let the experiment slip in class, and the next thing he knew, even the school had started showing an interest. Honestly, other schools, started showing interest.
Paul distracted himself from the news by checking his latest numbers. Bill probably knew something was up, but Paul was waiting for his mother to get home. Which meant Paul needed a more powerful distraction, and he also wanted to try and test a more unusual theory.
“Do you ever, um, evangelize?” Paul asked.
“Hopefully every day,” Bill said, “but I imagine you mean something more formal. I’ve done two missionary trips, and I’d like to do more, but I haven’t really set anything up yet.”
Two? Paul had seen Nobody far more than that, and neither Bill nor Nobody would ever lie. They were eerily similar. The problem was it was hard to remember Nobody’s physical attributes. They may have only been standing together once, and Paul was much shorter then. Nobody always wore that mask, which muffled his voice just like it covered his facial features.
He couldn’t exactly blurt out the questions he wanted to ask. “Are you Nobody?” “Why did you wait years after visiting me that first time to talk to my mom?”
Then there was the experiment. If Bill was Nobody, he’d already know how to teleport. Could he just be teaching Paul how to do it in one of his drawn-out lessons?
“The problem is researching a way to break down a physical object in a way that doesn’t destroy it,” Paul said. “Right now, I’m thinking of teleportation like a sort of physical email.”
Bill nodded. “It’s a line of thought to consider. It may not lead to the answer, but in things like this, all a person can do is develop theories and test them.”
This was actually their eighteenth theory. The front door opened, announcing that Paul’s mother was home.
“We’re in here!” Paul called.
“Where else would you be?” She walked in smiling. She gave Paul a hug before accepting a light kiss from Bill. In all these months, Bill had never stayed the night. He’d hang out until bed time and go home.
Paul originally thought Bill would circle around back and sneak in so things looked appropriate, but even an all-night observation, one he felt both idiotic an ashamed about, proved Bill never stayed the night.
This was one of the odd nights Paul’s mother worked late. Bill went into the kitchen to heat up some of the leftovers from dinner while Paul’s mother looked around the dining room.
“I think it’s time we think about getting something like a small garage with a space heating and cooling unit,” she said. “I want my dining room back, but I don’t want you to stop your studies.”
Paul smiled. “About that,” he said. “I have some news.”
“He’s been exceptionally quiet this evening,” Bill said as he walked back from the kitchen and set the plate in his girlfriend’s spot. “I imagine whatever it is will be exciting.”
“It is!” Paul waited for Bill and his mother to sit down. “This experiment … It’s important.”
“I certainly never expected you to be this passionate,” Bill said. “One day I hope you’ll trust me enough to tell me where the idea really came from.”
Only if you trust me enough to tell me why you’ve been visiting me all these years, if you are Nobody.
“I’m not lying,” Paul said. “I met someone years ago, and I think he vanished.”
“So someone can do what you’re trying to learn how to do,” Paul’s mother said.
“Wouldn’t he be selling his idea?” she asked.
“I don’t think he’s very interested in money,” Paul said. “I’m not either really. I just want to see how he did it.”
Paul kept the more unusual details out of his story, but by the time they realized Paul really wanted to develop this technology, he had to at least explain why he was so adamant that it was possible.
“Anyway, the school found out, and I guess they told, well I don’t know who all they told, but Carnegie in Pittsburgh found out,” Paul said.
The mention of one of the more prestigious technical schools caused Paul’s mother to sit up straight.
Paul smiled. “They offered me a scholarship if I study this at their universi— ACK!”
Paul’s mother practically flew from her chair and flung her arms around him. It was genuinely hard to breathe.
“I’m so proud of you!” she said.
“Mom, can’t … breathe .. “ he wasn’t exaggerating. She was much stronger than she looked.
She let him go, but then she covered him in kisses. Suffocation would have been a preferable alternative to embarrassment. Paul stepped away. She thankfully realized she was being dramatic and sat back down.
“That’s an incredible achievement,” Bill said.
Paul shrugged. “I still have to graduate high school. Oh! and yes, I told them you were helping me. They didn’t seem to mind.”
Bill shrugged. “It’s not like I’m doing much more than offering you research.”
Paul frowned. “They called you, didn’t they?”
Bill nodded. “Not to convince them to offer you a scholarship. They only wanted to see if you were helping me more than I was helping you, and I told them the truth.” “
“Why didn’t you tell me you knew?” Paul asked.
“I only knew they called,” Bill said. “I had no idea they’d actually offered you the scholarship.”
… to be continued …