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The Mathematician
By
The Blue Raven

He walked along the lake, seeking solace in the wings of the birds as his mind soared high in search of the elusive – the sublime messages of nature, so little understood, or misunderstood. His path was deeply carved by his passion, the vehicle in which his brilliant mind travelled through space and time in search of the beating heart of the universe.

‘Kurt,’ a voice called.

He turned his head toward the source of the voice. His eyebrows lifted ever so slightly. He had completely forgotten about her. It was Destiny.

‘You missed the meeting,’ she said.

‘I am very close to solving it … I think,’ Kurt said rather hesitantly. He did not dare to speak with assurance, for he had been wrong before.

Destiny sat beside him. ‘I like it here.’

Of course she liked it here. It was at this very lake, at this very university that they met forty years ago.

‘Walsh has invited us to his house for dinner tomorrow night. I told him that we’d go.’

Kurt by nature was a loner, but did not mind the company of Professor Walsh Miller. They had worked together on many papers over the years, many of which were groundbreaking.

‘How was the meeting?’ Kurt asked in low voice.

‘Interesting,’ she said casually with a shrug of her shoulders.

Kurt smiled. Interesting. The one word his mother always said was the most disinteresting of all the words in the English language. His smile changed into a muffled chuckle. He still remembered it as if it was yesterday.

‘Please, Kurt, if you want to get a job, don’t go and say in the interview that the job is interesting. Say something that shows a bit more enthusiasm,’ his mother would often nag at him whenever he was applying for a job, and of course not getting it, because he was deemed as being too academic. Oh, the years of unemployment! The years of abject poverty, when there was no need for it to be so. But those years also gave him his greatest chance for doing his own private research which led him to produce great papers, ultimately opening the way back for him to the academic world where he found his own little niche and felt comfortable in it. At last, his mother drew a sigh of relief. Her son had a job. His mother’s greatest fear was for him to be stuck in poverty for the rest of his life. She had, of course, another great fear and that was for Kurt to remain single.

His mother drew another sigh of relief when he finally met Destiny. He was thirty-six and she was twenty-six. ‘Destiny,’ his mother said as soon as she met her, ‘is finally here to fulfil my dream of giving me peace that my son won’t be alone when I am gone.’

There have been only two women in his life and he adored them both, devoted to them both. His mother and his wife – two great women, both of whom two great gifts, who gave him two great gifts. His mother allowed him to pursue his passion into the workings of the universe to discover the unimaginable. And his wife allowed him to experience the birth of the universe by giving him a son.

‘I am so close to solving it,’ Kurt murmured.

‘You are a great mathematician,’ Destiny said lovingly, wrapping an arm around his waist. ‘If anyone can solve it, it is you. After all, it is your own equation.’

‘I know. I solve one equation only to find another and now I am stuck with this one. It is like a slippery eel. Just as I think I have it, it slips from my hand. But if I solve it, it will change the world … our understanding of the universe. It will give us all the answers that we ever wanted to know. We will be able to learn the big why. Why the universe came into existence? Physicists and mathematicians alike have always accepted that the universe began with a naked singularity as a matter of course and none of us were ever interested in knowing the why, but if I solve this equation, we will know the why…’

‘And we will be able to see the face of God,’ Destiny whispered in his ear, knowing that Kurt wouldn’t appreciate the remark since he was an atheist.

‘Only metaphorically,’ Kurt said, with a half-smile.

‘Only metaphorically,’ Destiny echoed with a full-smile. ‘Come, let’s go. It’s getting late. I don’t like to drive at night.’

Kurt rose to his feet. He never learnt to drive. In his youth, he never got the chance to drive. He was either too poor to pay for driving lessons or too busy to take driving lessons, and when he met Destiny he saw no reason to learn driving at all. Destiny was the driver.

****

Kurt lay in bed beside his wife, but sleep eluded him. In his mind he went over his calculations again and then crossed them all out – they were wrong. His mind drifted to Mendeleev, the famous Russian chemist, who, after working intensely trying to understand the pattern that the chemical elements were following, ended up dreaming about them and came up with the two-dimensional periodic table upon waking. How he wished that he could dream his solution. He was an old man and time was not his biggest fan.

His eyelids were getting heavy. He looked at his wife again, sleeping so peacefully next to him. He stifled a sigh only to let it turn into a silent yawn. Tomorrow he will begin a whole new set of calculations to trap his slippery eel.

****

The mist grew thicker. He had no idea where he was going, but then the light appeared. At first it was a speck of light, the tiniest flicker, which expanded to form itself into a human shape.

‘Kurt,’ the human shape called.

‘Yes,’ Kurt responded and saw that the shape was gliding towards him. He narrowed his eyes incredulously. Something odd was going on. The shape had Destiny’s features during her youth – the way she looked forty years ago when he first met her.

‘What is it that you seek?’ asked Destiny lookalike.

‘I seek the truth,’ Kurt answered, not sure of what he was seeing or with whom he was even conversing. Everything looked so peculiar. Was he dreaming? He must be. But then it didn’t feel like he was dreaming. He felt very much awake. Maybe it was a lucid dream. His reverie got interrupted when Destiny lookalike spoke again.

‘And when you find it, what then?’

‘Then we will know. We will know why we are here,’ he answered, while glancing around to see where he was. He wasn’t in his home. He was standing in a place that he couldn’t describe. It was foggy and yet it wasn’t. He just couldn’t see anything other than the shape of Destiny lookalike.

‘Why is it so important for you to know this?’

‘It is important for everyone to know this. From the first moment that man walked on earth he has been searching for this answer. Some gravitated towards religion to find the answer, while others towards philosophy, because science could never answer this question.’

‘And you think if you solve this equation you will know the answer and set humanity free once and for all?’

‘I don’t know about setting humanity free, but it will certainly set me free.’

‘Set you free? How?’

‘Because I want to know,’ Kurt answered, his eyes flickering about, trying hard to see something, anything that could determine where he was.

Destiny lookalike moved her head sideways and looked at him in a way that Kurt thought she was studying him.

‘Who are you?’ Kurt asked, frowning in puzzlement.

‘I am the answer you seek.’

Perplexed, Kurt’s brow furrowed. He was looking for equations, not a Destiny lookalike woman made of light. ‘I don’t understand,’ he said in a tone of utter bewilderment.

‘What is it that you don’t understand?’ she asked, quite composedly.

‘You! This! All of this!’ He waved his hands about. ‘It doesn’t make any sense to me. How could you possibly be my answer? You offer me no geometrical or algebraic solution.’

‘Are you sure?’ the woman said with a touch of amusement in her voice.

Kurt remained silent for a few moments, studying the being and his surroundings. He even made an attempt of injecting some esoteric elements into the whole scene, but nothing worked. This was not the answer he was looking for. ‘I am sure,’ he said finally.

‘Follow your destiny but know that the path will be difficult,’ Destiny lookalike said, as she turned away to disappear in the mist. Kurt tried to follow her through the mist, but found it impossible. The mist was too thick. Then he heard his mother. Suddenly he was sitting in his mother’s kitchen. Clearly, this was a dream, which was most likely brought on by stress over his work, for no other explanation could be attached to it. But damn it, why couldn’t he have a dream similar to the one that Mendeleev had? Surely, dreaming about his calculations would be more productive than visiting the ghost of the past.

‘Kurt, I think you should apply for this job. The pay is very good,’ his mother was saying about a job ad.

‘I’ll apply but I doubt if I’ll get it,’ Kurt responded, while wishing he could get out of this dream, even though he loved seeing his mother again.

‘That’s negative talk.’ She stopped, rubbed her forehead and sighed. ‘For the life of me I can’t understand why it is so hard for someone to give you a job. There is nothing you can’t do. You are brilliant.’

‘So says my mother.’

She sighed again, but said nothing, and Kurt went to hug her. ‘I can’t rely on anyone giving me a job, no matter what I know. The only person I can rely on is myself. The only thing that will get us out of this poverty is my own work.’

His mother nodded, accepted that that is how life was. They had to do it the hard way.

‘The path has been difficult, but maybe it can be easier now,’ Destiny lookalike said as she appeared again. Once again he was back in the mist.

‘How?’ Kurt asked abruptly. He was beginning to lose his patience with this nonsensical dream and wanted to wake up from it, but didn’t know how. He had no control over it. He was also not quite sure if it was a dream. It certainly didn’t feel like he was dreaming. But if not a dream, then what? For surely it couldn’t be a hallucination.

‘You have done all the hard work and now you must look for it in the right place,’ Destiny lookalike advised.

Kurt grimaced. ‘What do you mean?’

‘In your notes you have all your equations...’

‘Yes, and they are all wrong,’ Kurt said, feeling frustrated both with the dream and the argument.

‘Are you sure?’

‘Of course I am sure,’ he said, rolling his eyes. ‘I am going to delete all my previous equations.’

‘That would be a grave mistake,’ Destiny lookalike warned.

Kurt suddenly woke up. So, he was dreaming. It must have been the stress of his work that was responsible for him having such a weird dream. He looked at Destiny and then got up and went to his study. He switched on the light, turned on his tablet computer, and pored over all his equations. They were wrong. He was certain. Then he saw it. The answer was there all along, but for some inexplicable reason he had failed to see it. But how was that possible?

‘You know, darling, you have a habit of sometimes ignoring little things,’ his mother once said to him when he had been slaving over some particular mathematical proof when he found out that he had actually solved it, but didn’t know that he had.

****

Kurt’s cellphone vibrated. It was Walsh. In his excitement, Kurt had texted him in the middle of the night that he had the answer.

‘I always knew that you would solve it one day. But when did you do it?’

‘Oh, about fifteen years ago.’

‘What?’

‘Yeah, I can’t explain it. Go figure…’

Walsh laughed. ‘Well, this will surely make your name immortal.’

Fifteen years! For fifteen years the answer has been sitting there somewhere hidden in his equations on his tablet, until he dreamed of Destiny appearing as a creature of light to enlighten him.

‘Good morning, darling,’ Destiny said, as she came to his study. ‘Breakfast is ready—’

‘I have the answer,’ Kurt said excitedly, with a big grin.

Destiny smiled and before his eyes she disappeared to be replaced by pure light.

Kurt blinked in disbelief. This couldn’t possibly be a dream. It can’t be. He was wide awake.

‘Are you ready to reveal it to the world,’ the light asked, breaking into his thoughts.

I am,’ Kurt said with assurance, though he was anything but assured. He didn’t know what was going on.

‘Do you think that the world is ready to learn of this greatest of discoveries?’

‘I think so. Yes. Yes. Of course.’ He nodded profusely, despite his confusion at the whole thing.

‘Kurt! Kurt!’

He turned his head around. Someone was calling him, but he couldn’t see anyone. In fact, he couldn’t see anything. All around him nothing existed but light. He was swimming in a sea of pure white light.

‘Kurt! Wake up!’

‘What? I am not sleep. Who is this? What is the meaning of this?’ He squinted his eyes to see through the thick veil of light. He brought his hands close to his eyes. Nothing! The light was so bright that he couldn’t even see his own hands. What was going on in here? Had he lost his mind?

‘Kurt, wake up! It is time…’

‘Time? Time for what?’

‘To be born…’

The End