Author Topic: Truth in numbers - chapter 1 part 2 draft 2 1437 words  (Read 412 times)

Offline Nooglepop13

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Truth in numbers - chapter 1 part 2 draft 2 1437 words
« on: February 13, 2020, 11:40:33 AM »
Tash ran a hand through her hair, relishing the pressure of her fingertips on the exposed nerves of her skull. Curled up on the floor, she resembled a small, muttering clam. Another wave of euphoria swept over her: she closed her eyes, mushed her head against a cool wooden bedpost, and let pleasure overcome her.

She took the bus still slightly dazed. By the time she arrived on campus though the sun was a fiery crescent in the blush coloured sky, and her high, like the once dazzling night, had faded. Her legs were steady as she crunched up the gravel pathway towards the lake. She hated herself for wishing them weak and wobbly. For wishing for the reedy twig legs of anorexia, for the way her calves used to feel hollowed and precarious. She marched on, past the dark lineament of sentinel trees; past the squawking low-lying birds nestled in shrubbery; past the scampering dormice that darted out from obese green hedges; past the fairytale-esque bridge that arched over the lake. Finally, she arrived at the foot of Wanderer’s Hill, at the rim of the flat black water, where a whispering crowd of teenagers huddled around an object that at this point was invisible, but which Tash knew was a body.

She pushed through the indignant crowd and leaned over the body. The victim was a thin white male, aged around twenty by Tash’s best guess, with long dread-locked hair and round glasses which gave him an air of John Lennon. His skin was an eery shade of puce, his limbs were stiff and doll-like, and some student or another had had the decency to press his eyelids shut. And then there was the surprising part.

All over his body numerical equations were scratched into the skin, covering every exposed part of him like grotesque tattoos. There was one on his ear. One on his nose. One on the wrinkled underside of his foot. Looking closer, Tash discovered not all of them were equations. Most of them, in fact, were simple numerical formulae, the sort of thing any first-year maths undergraduate would understand.
Turning to the crowd, she spotted Hannah, who stood dressed in an illegally short skirt and six inch heels.

“He’s quite good looking isn’t he?” Tash said.

“Tash!” Hannah hissed. “You can’t say that!”

“Why not? I would.”


This was a lie.

She breathed in and raked a cursory hand through her impenetrable curls.

“It’s basic stuff. The problem isn’t the maths it’s the meaning. For example…”

She stooped over the body and pressed her little finger to the dead man’s ear.

“What does ln(e) written on the earlobe mean? Ln(e), as I’m sure you know, simply means 1. That could mean it’s the first killing of a series, meaning you lot are off the hook, probably.”
The gaggle of twitching teenagers, at the merest mention of being potential suspects, exchanged nervous glances.

“But why 1 on the ear, not the foot, or the chin, or the forehead – the forehead is the most exposed part of the body and therefore the most visible, the most obvious” She spoke calmly, as though trying to teach fractions to a seven year old for the first time. She was clear, but also meek; she walked as she spoke, slouched into herself, eyes fixed on her own feet.

“My guess would be that the ear has some significance linked to the number one. What number one do you hear? Number one in the charts. The question then is the number one in which country, on which date? And what significance that number one has.” She flicked her eyes upwards towards her captive audience for a second, and flashed them an awkward grin.

“Sorry. I rambled on a bit.”

She did a perverse run-hop-skuttle ensemble to the edge of the circle of teenagers, trying without success to blend into the crowd.

“Go on Tash! Keep going”. Hannah threw her fist in the air as though praising a rock star. She turned to one of the gaggle.

“See what I mean? She’s like fucking Sherlock Holmes! Bit odd but very clever. Never get to your lectures though do
you Tash?”

“No.” said Tash, without inflection.

“And?” One of the students piped up with a sneer. “What does this even mean? Who killed James?”

Tash did not emerge from the cluster of teens but her voice could be heard over the light murmering of the wind.

“I don’t know yet, I’ll take some photos and send Hannah the results, I’m all talked out.”

She spoke with her hands clasped to her eyes. Hannah sauntered over and put a confident arm around Tash’s plump
shoulders. She gave them a tight squeeze. As she hugged her, she slipped a £50 note into the pocket of her grimy hoody. Tash gritted her teeth and inwardly counted to ten.

“We’re really grateful Tash, honest.” Hannah said. She moved away from Tash and started snapping pics with her phone, capturing the body at every angle. 

After a quick but arduous bus journey involving a stroppy driver and an extremely sociable young mother, Tash’s sense of social exhaustion had not abated. She disembarked the bus and headed straight for the adjacent supermarket, propelled by a buzz of guilty elation. Her index and middle fingers pulsated rhythmically on her leg, mimicking the motion they would make in an hour or so when she would thrust them into her mouth and pound them against the pharynx until her guts gushed out. Her cheeks were flushed. The thrill was in the chase, or in this case, the accumulation of the food, more so than in the eating or puking. She grabbed a basket, turned the volume of her headphones up to full, and began flinging cakes, biscuits, all kinds of confectionary into it. The rush crystallised and shattered, however, when she had to pay for everything she had chosen. It was always like this. The urge to binge, her feverish purchases, the humiliation at the checkout. The paranoia that she’d be recognised. Then the regret, already sour in her stomach, as she walked back home, over-stretched bags swinging.

It wasn’t easy doing what she did. First off it was expensive; secondly it hurt. The first few mouthfuls were an explosion of flavour in her mouth, the next thousand were born as much out of pig-headedness as of a need to fill the stomach. And then there was the purging. It wasn’t pleasant, but it was euphoric. It was painful, but a relief. Afterwards, she rinsed her hands of the mucus-thick saliva that came from purging, and of the vomit that seemed to get everywhere: on her fingers; in her hair; down her t-shirt. She spritzed the toilet with cleaner and wiped the underside of the seat down. She changed into a fresh pair of pyjamas as she had urinated involuntarily during a violent heave. She stuffed the empty wrappers in the rubbish. It was important to cleanse after a binge. No matter how hard she tried though, the urge always resurfaced, and the odour of vomit and degradation clung to her whatever she did.

She sat in the middle of her chaotic floor and ruffled her hair. She wished she could tear it out. Popping another
couple of pills along with her morning antidepressants, she began scrolling through the images of the equations and working on them on various pieces of scrap paper. The first equation used the constant X. Tash wondered if this was a quip on it’s double meaning, if it eluded to an ex -partner. This was confirmed when X was revealed to be a decimal with the same number of digits as a phone number. She jotted the phone number down and returned to the puzzle of the number 1 on the ear. She presumed somewhere there must lie a clue to the date the single achieved number one, but as yet she couldn’t find it.

The vomiting had left her woozy. She crawled into bed and threw the duvet over herself. As always, she fell into a
fitful, sleepless doze. When she awoke, or rather could no longer ignore the fact that she was awake, she decided to call the ex’s phone number.