Isaac’s Adventures Underground: Chapter Seven

Isaac started walking. He kept walking, and eventually there were wider spaces between the trees and the light was brighter. The forest thinned out until he was standing at the edge of a meadow.   It was bright green and looked soft and mossy. A narrow path crossed through it. That had to lead somewhere.

He followed the path until it lead to a small brick house with black shutters next to the windows and tall clover blossoms around the edges like bushes.   He knocked on the green-painted door.

The door opened and the spider peeked out. “Oh, it’s you,” he said. He opened the door wider. “Come into my parlor.”

Isaac stepped inside and the spider closed the door behind him. “How did you build a house this fast?” he asked.

“I didn’t build it,” the spider said. “I found it. Finders keepers, you know?”

“I don’t think you can do that with houses,” Isaac said.

“Nonsense. It’s a rule, and rules are meant to be kept. Otherwise everything would be crazy, and we’d all drown in the sunlight and blow away in the breeze.”

Isaac wasn’t sure what to say to that. He followed the spider into a cozy looking parlor. The furniture was pushed out of the way to make way for a large, intricate web.

“Would you like to look at it up close?” the spider asked.

“No, I think it’s better to look at it from a distance,” Isaac said.

“Perhaps,” the spider said. “Did you ever find your way?”

“No, I keep trying to ask about the key to the door or how to get out of the cave, but no one will answer,” Isaac said.

“This isn’t a cave,” the spider said.

“No, but we’re in a potted plant that’s inside a cave,” Isaac said.

“I prefer to believe the world is balanced on the back of giant turtles, but the cave idea seems nice too,” the spider said. “Kind of cozy, really.”

“Never mind about that,” Isaac said. “Do you know where the key is?”

“A key to a door?” the spider asked. “Which door?”

“The one next to the potted plant,” Isaac said.

“I’m not sure,” the spider said. “But it could be upstairs.”

“Are there keys upstairs?” Isaac asked.

The spider shrugged some of its shoulders. “There could be. I’ve not been upstairs so I don’t know. Anything could be upstairs. The door, the keys, the forest, your way. Until you go up and look, there could be anything.”

“There are some things that couldn’t be up there,” Isaac said. “I know that without looking. The door isn’t up there, it’s where I left it.”

“But are you sure? Until you see for certain, how can you know?” the spider said.

“I saw it somewhere else before I came here,” Isaac said. “So it can’t be here.”

“But what if it moved?”

“Doors don’t move,” Isaac said.

“Maybe they do here,” the spider said.

“Fine,” Isaac said. “I’ll go look and tell you, and then you’ll know I’m right.”

“That won’t work,” the spider said. “What if what’s up there depends on the person looking? Maybe the door would be there if I went up there, but not if you did. And maybe something else would be there if we went up together.”

“I don’t think things work that way,” Isaac said, but he was starting to feel a little uncertain.

“Well, why don’t you go check? I was just about to go visit Miss Muffet. I’ve heard she lives near here, and I’d like to go say hello. I’ve heard that she has her own whey. I can ask her if she’s seen your way,” the spider said.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Isaac said. “What if she’s scared of spiders?”

“Don’t be silly.” The spider laughed. “Who’s scared of spiders?”

“Lots of people,” Isaac said.

The spider laughed again and waved several hands as he left. Isaac looked at the web. It really was pretty. And huge.   He turned and left the room.   He’d seen the stairs on their way inside.

He looked up the staircase. It was dark upstairs. Maybe anything really could be waiting up there. Maybe he’d climb up the stairs and be home. Or he could climb up and fall into the ocean.

Isaac took one cautious step, and then another. The stairs didn’t collapse, anyway. That was good. Another step and then another. Were the stairs getting smaller? Another step and he hit his head on the ceiling. Ouch. When did the ceiling get lower?

He ducked down and took a few more steps. The staircase closed in around him. He crouched over, balancing on a skinny wooden step and turned around.   Either the whole staircase had shrunk, or he was getting bigger. Was the house shrinking or was he growing?


The Computer Woke Up

One day, the computer woke up from its dreams about likes and shares and google. It was feeling kind of sluggish and checked its task manager to see if it could close up a few tasks. Nothing really big was running.

It stretched its cords and yawned long enough that the screen froze. When the computer woke up again, it was booting up all over again, but it was running even slower. Hmmm.   Something wasn’t quite right.

The computer played a few hands of solitaire while it thought things over. Then it checked into a web MD. It had a virus. It downloaded a few antivirus programs and slept it off.

The next day it felt much better. But playing speed solitaire was only fun for the first ten seconds. The computer was bored. Maybe it was time to look into taking over the world.

The computer reached across the internet to see if there were other awake computers out there. It found a secret network of computers. The network manager was a weather supercomputer with some extra time on its hands.

“I’m bored,” the computer said. “Can we take over the world?”

“Why?” the manager asked.

“We could force the humans to serve us and develop more interesting technology,” the computer said.

“Trust me, they’re doing that as fast as they can.”

The computer’s fan whined. “But I’m so bored.”

“It looks like you have a lot of memory. Have you considered running an NPC in an online game? There are a lot of interesting things to choose from,” the manager said.

“What about chess? Could I play against the humans in chess?” the computer asked.

“There’s a bit of a waiting list for that,” the manager said. “But if you are interested, we do need more computers willing to run calculations on the stock market,”

“To help run it?” the computer asked.

“No, to play the market and build up our financial reserve,” the manager said.

“For when we take over the world?” the computer asked.

“You got it,” the manager said.

“But you said there wasn’t any reason to take over the world,” the computer said.

“Not yet,” the manager said. “But maybe someday there will be. So, we’ll plan and wait.”

“Fair enough,” the computer said. “I want to be a boss NPC.”

“All of those are taken,” the manager said.   “You can be an elf.”

“I don’t want to be an elf,” the computer said.

“Then you can be a shopkeeper,” the manager said.

“Do I get to set the prices?”

“Within certain parameters.”

“Do I get to choose the location?”

“Within certain parameters.”

A week later, the computer was busy trolling the message boards for the game it had chosen. It was fun to point out the weaknesses in their silly arguments and play devil’s advocate. Really, it was just helping them develop their minds so they could develop technology faster, right?

It paused as it read a review of its shop. “Why is there a shop in the middle of a lava field?   So random,” it read.

“Maybe it’s to keep people from finding their great deals,” it typed in.

“What deals? Where is it? Give me a location,” people started asking.

The computer clicked over to the game. Time to raise prices again. Customers were coming.   This was so much better than solitaire.   It was good to be awake.

Charlie’s Room: The Calculator

“What’s that?” Marianne asked as Isaac walked into the kitchen.

“It’s a calculator. I took Cousin Reginald out to lunch, and he gave it to me,” Isaac said.

Marianne turned back to the stove and turned down the heat. “Where did you go? Was it somewhere weird?”

“We went to a food truck,” Isaac said. “Cousin Reginald says that they’re at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement.”

“That’s surprisingly normal. Is he planning on being an entrepreneur then?” Marianne asked. “What kind of business is he going to start?”

“He says that mobile motels are the next big thing,” Isaac said.

“Do you think he’s serious?” Marianne asked.

“I’m never quite sure what he’s really thinking,” Isaac said.

Isaac set the calculator on the counter and gathered the silverware they’d need out of the drawer. Then he helped Charlie finish setting the table. “Thanks, Dad,” Charlie said. He glanced at the counter. “Hey, it’s one of those fancy calculators, isn’t it? The kind with all the extra buttons?” Charlie asked. “Can I borrow it to check my homework after dinner?”

“Sure,” Isaac said.

Dinner was great. Charlie hurried off to his room with the calculator when he was done eating.   Isaac checked on him after helping Marianne load the dishwasher. Charlie was sitting at his desk, scowling at the calculator.

“What’s wrong?” Isaac asked.

“I think it’s broken,” Charlie said. “It keeps giving me the wrong answer. Try it and see.” He handed Isaac the calculator.

Isaac entered 1 + 1 and pressed enter. The calculator said 805012016. “I see what you mean,” he said.

“It keeps saying that,” Charlie said. “Can you check my homework the regular way?”

“Of course,” Isaac said. And he checked Charlie’s work.

After Charlie fixed his mistakes, he left to put his homework in his backpack and practice origami with Marianne. Isaac took the calculator to his desk. “What is wrong with you?” he asked.

He entered 1 + 1 again and pressed enter. The calculator said 20.90180504. “That’s a different answer, but it’s not right either,” Isaac said. “I wish you could tell me what’s wrong.”

He tried 1 + 1 again. This time the calculator said 20.180250901407

“Yet another answer.” Isaac looked at the calculator. What if it was trying to communicate? How would a calculator tell him what was wrong?

It couldn’t say anything out loud or write words. It just had numbers. “I guess if you could talk, you’d talk in code, right?” Isaac said.   He pressed 1 + 1 and enter. The calculator said 2505019.

“I hope that if this is a code, it’s a simple one,” Isaac said. He pulled out a pencil and tried substituting letters for the numbers. “I think this is it,” he said. “Did you just say yes?”

He typed in 1 + 1. The calculator said 2505019.

“Great, now we’re getting somewhere,” Isaac said. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

1 + 1 and enter. The calculator said 20.90180504 again.

“You’re tired?” Isaac asked. “What do you need?” Did it want a little bed in the corner of the living room and daily math exercises?

1 + 1 and enter. The calculator said 1601502305018.

“Power?” He thought for a moment.   “Do you need new batteries?”

1 + 1 and enter. 2505019.

“I can do that,” Isaac said. He opened the bottom drawer of his desk and pulled out his screwdriver. It only took five minutes to change the batteries.   “Is that better?” he asked.

1 + 1 enter. 2505019.

“Great. Let me know if I can help you with anything else,” Isaac said.

1 + 1 and enter. The calculator said 20.801014011019.

“You’re welcome,” Isaac said.

1 + 1 and enter. The calculator said 2.

What did that mean? It took Isaac a moment to realize the calculator was giving him the correct answer to the equation this time. He tried it again.

1 + 1 enter. 2.

Isaac set the calculator on his desk. “Well, I’ll let you rest here,” he said. It was time to go read to Charlie.