The time and days passed until Friday afternoon came. All Cary had left between himself and his chance to have his own computer was Clearing's class. His other worries had burned away against the great fiery hope of this possibility. The day had been almost uneventful, especially in regards to the last few before it. Somehow, Cary had managed to avoid Troy Smalls and his cronies. True to his word, for once, Bird found a way to get Coach Mandy off Cary's back. Mandy hardly even looked sideways at Cary during Gym. Not once did the ornery little man try to force Cary into participation. Cary spent the whole period Friday sitting on the edge of a row of bleachers, staring up at the ceiling and the floor, alternately. Searched, vainly, for answers he was sure he should be able to find but seemed unable. At best, the only thing he managed to decisively think was he was even more sure he did not want to be a “fag" or “some weirdo.”
I won't be a fa...
Cary didn't even want to think the word. As such every time Clearing tried to engage Cary personally in class on Friday, Cary demurred, forcefully pushed the voice in his head down. He still paid close attention to the lecture the portly man gave about higher dimensions.
“The fourth spatial dimension yesterday is actually the fifth dimension after we've included time, which again is referred to as the fourth temporal dimension.” Clearing paused and looked around the room, Cary immediately looked down again. Clearing harrumphed before he continued. “Now, can any of you give me an idea of what the fourth spatial dimension would look like? Try hard to imagine it!”
Murmurs floated across the room. Few people ever volunteered answers for questions in Clearing's class. The few who did were almost always wrong, as Clearing would forcefully point out, though never cruelly, as some other teachers in the school, such as Bateman or Mandy, did.
“Yes, Ms. Edgecombe?” Clearing said to a shrimpy girl with frizzy hair.
“No one can visualize it. The nature of our brains won't let us, we can only picture three dimensions.” Carise Edgecombe muttered. At the sound of her confident voice, Cary noticed her, looked up. Why have I never noticed her before? She seemed to not want to make eye contact with anyone but Clearing. Like me. The more Cary looked at her he felt drawn and at the same time he was quite sure he had literally never laid eyes on her before. Nor had he ever heard her name.
“That is correct, Ms. Edgecombe!” Clearing said, shaking his head in surprise. Nothing in the teacher's voice indicated Miss Edgecombe was anything other than a regular student. "What a start! Your first day and already you're zooming along!” Twitters of derision rolled around the room as the other students laughed under their breath at Carise or Clearing or both.
“Now, as Ms. Edgecombe stated, we cannot visualize the fourth spatial dimension, but we CAN visualize two and three dimensions. This can easily illustrate the point we are trying to understand. Nature simplifies all things in lower dimensions.”
No one seemed to understand this, though Cary saw out of the corner of his eyes Carise nodded.
“Imagine a man who lives in a 2-D world, on this whiteboard, for instance.” Clearing drew a stick figure on the board, with glasses and scraggly beard. “Now, to this man, let's call him Stickler. Stickler has ALWAYS wanted to travel, across his whiteboard world and off it. He imagines there must be OTHER places, but how to get to them?” Clearing surrounded the stick man with a solid circle. “This circle is a solid wall to Stickler. He obviously cannot see through it. But we can. Yet to Stickler it is impenetrable. Does everyone see why that is so?”
Scattered murmurs of vague assent. Carise merely nodded again, looking slightly bored, Cary was now watching her quite openly. No one noticed him doing it because he had spent years being invisible while staring at the floor while talking to himself, had made an art of it. Carise, intent on the lecture had not noticed him stare either.
“I'll take those as a collective yes. Now. Can anyone tell me how to get our good Mr. Stickler out of his impenetrable prison?”
Carise's hand slowly rose, though she did not look around. How does she do that and not care if people see her? Clearing waited and when no one else volunteered, he told her to proceed. “Tell us then, Ms Edgecombe.”
“You have to lift him up and over the line of the circle. Essentially raise him into the third dimension, which he can't perceive, then set him down outside the circle. The only way to escape a dimensional prison is to go higher up in dimensional space.”
Carise said all of this so fast Cary barely caught it all.
Clearing stared at her, utterly taken aback, then slowly pushed his glasses up his nose, his beard quivered under his jaw. “Well, yes. Precisely correct, Ms Edgecombe.” Startlement fluttered around the room. It was one thing to be a know-it-all nerd in Happy Endings, Cary knew several of those from his other classes, but even they were wrong half the time. And the other half were just faster on the draw, mentally speaking. But Carise had simply made them all look stupid, instantly. Cary could tell other people were impressed by Carise, and probably annoyed. He was as well.
“My next question is, what do you all think Stickler would SEE when we lift him up and into the third dimension? And what would his fellow Stick-peeps see, those remaining in the two-dimensional space?”
No one volunteered, instead they all looked to Carise to see if she knew the answer. She did.
“They would see Stickler appear to disappear entirely, then reappear on the other side of the circle. As if by magic. Stickler however would see slices of 3-D objects represented as slowly changing 2-D forms, like lines that grew longer or shorter, thicker or thinner, slimmer or wider - as he moved through third dimension space. Like circles and squares and triangles and things changing shape as he moved, but always in two flat dimensions. Although to Stickler they would not seem flat, as his mind would only be able to process two dimensions to begin with.”
The class waited on edge and Clearing, who was clearly now enjoying himself, let the tension mount before he said, “Ab-so-lutely ….correct!”
Scattered applause broke out. Carise did not smile at the accolades. She did adjust her glasses though. “Quiet down now...” Clearing said, obviously bemused he had to utter those words. Clearing beamed at the class and raised his arms gallantly.
“Now!” Clearing said. "What does this all have to do with the fourth spatial dimension, I'm sure you're all wondering.” Clearing did not pause and risk being refuted. “The point is thus: like Stickler - as Ms Edgecombe so correctly pointed out - who can only conceive of two dimensions and thus is limited by his perception, so we too, are limited by ours. String theory tells us quite elegantly there are four local dimensions, three of space and one of time, and six additional dimensions, higher and wrapped up in coils so tiny, so infinitesimal we can not begin to imagine how to probe these dimensions with our current understandings of physics.” Something in Clearing's tone rang false to Cary, as if Clearing were lying, though Cary had no idea what the teacher could be lying about. “But the extra dimensions are there. The math is quite certain. And as we can infer from Stickler's wonderful example, just because you cannot see, touch or probe something, such as a higher dimension does not mean it is not thoroughly valid. It does not mean it is not utterly real!”
Clearing stopped, as if awaiting more applause but the bell for class dismissal rang. Clearing sighed. “OK, people, for next week, read Chapter 11 - Hyperspace and Forces of Nature! Be ready to discuss the nuclear force; the strong force, the weak force and the electromagnetic force. We'll leave gravity for next week after I've unraveled the Theory of Everything!” Clearing burst into snorting peals of laughter. And surprisingly, he wasn't alone. Carise Edgecombe chuckled as well. It took Cary a moment, but, not understanding why, he chuckled as well. The class filed out, most shaking their heads at the weird people.
“Well, that was a most productive class! Miss Edgecombe! You m'dear are such a very bright girl...” Clearing said, but Carise had darted out of the room without responding or even seeming as though she had heard. Her head stayed glued to the floor as she left. Cary almost thought, “What a weirdo!” But he snapped back, and realized she was eerily familiar. Clearing sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. “Bright girl.” Clearing said, half to himself, half to Cary. "I trust I will see you later this evening, Cary? Ready to fight the good fight against some most worthy electronic components?”
Cary nodded and without a word ran out of the classroom... much as Carise Edgecombe had. His walk home was uneventful, though he looked around for her he did not see her after leaving the classroom or school. When he got home Bird and Lana were both gone. The night came slowly, the sky darkened around the house as Cary sat outside, waiting for either of them to arrive. After two idle hours when neither arrived Cary sighed - and fully aware that he would be punished - locked the door and left for Clearing's house.
He had not been over in some weeks, not since the last time he and Jonathan had come to play SNES and help Clearing move furniture around. The house had not been fully set up then and the difference was stark. Where before had only been boxes and crates, now were racks of thin metal shelves holding massive, whirring computers and monitors and keyboards and mice. The living room had a large comfy looking sectional sofa with a dark blue quilt draped over it. A huge flat-screen TV was mounted on the wall. Another computer was recessed into a niche Clearing had built into the wall, an office chair seated in front. The walls had been painted a deep brown and the carpet covered with soft area rugs. Very little about the place matched or seemed designed, but it felt comfortable all the same and lived in, yet with all the machines whirring strangely – remote.. Inside the second bedroom, Clearing led Cary past the hallway closet where Cary had once hidden the old SNES. The walls were now covered in framed photographs. Cary recognized the man Clearing had shown him before, Derek. There were others, but most of the photos were of Clearing and Derek, occasionally with a large Labrador retriever in the mix or, more often, a starkly, dark gray cat.
Cary was sure Clearing sighed as they walked past the wall of photos, but the man didn't say anything. The second bedroom had been outfitted with a large workbench, two high stools placed before it. Wires stuck out everywhere and small tools lay haphazard over most of the bench's surface. Boxes wrapped still in shrink-wrap were under the bench; with logos and names like Intel and ASUS and NVIDIA emblazoned upon the cardboard. A massive metal computer case sat between the bench and the wall. Smaller and shabby looking in comparison, another computer exterior sat beside it. Cary looked at the shabby exterior and he realized what it was.
He shivered from the excitement. He watched as Clearing went to the bench and cleared space off the top. “OK, Cary. Now, I assume you've never done anything like this before...”
Cary listened rapt even made occasional eye contact while Clearing spoke about computer parts, static electricity, being careful, and various other admonitions. Cary made a sincere effort to remember what he was told and when Clearing stopped, he felt confidently nervous.
“Good. now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's get started!” Clearing said.
They worked in tandem for four hours. At first Clearing did most everything, explaining as he went along. Then bit by bit he began to let Cary do things: insert screws, position components, change jumper switches, and plug cables in. When Clearing looked up at the wall clock he did a double-take.
“Whoa! It's nearly midnight! You've got to get home, Cary!” Clearing said, startled.
Cary wanted to say it didn't matter really, if he left now or in the morning or the day after. Bird would punish him harshly either way, but he yawned instead. clearing tired.
“Your foster-father is going to be livid with me!” Clearing said anxiously as he hustled Cary out. When they went through the living room again Cary noticed something he had not seen at first. A display case tucked into a corner, it had large doors in front to be opened and the large shelf inside it pulled out to examine the object the case held. Cary could see the object: a largish book, flipped open about halfway. His hand was up and reaching towards the book before he even thought twice. His feet moved him towards it so strongly it took Clearing pulling hard at his shoulder to make him stop.
“Cary? What's going on? You've got to go home!” Clearing protested confusedly.
“I ... What is THAT, Mr. Clearing?” Cary said, pointing his shaking hand at the book and the case.
Clearing went distinctly shifty. He looked away as though he did not want to answer Cary's question. Instead, he went over and pulled a covering up and over the case, hiding the case and its contents.
“Oh, it's nothing Cary. Just an old book I'm studying. A hand-written edition of Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone. Nothing to worry yourself about. Come on now!” Clearing said and he hustled Cary out of the house unceremoniously.
The door slammed behind him.
Cary stood there, staring at the closed door, unable to get the image of the book out of his mind. Harry Potter?!! Hand-written? I bet it has all kind of secrets in it! Even the amazing fun he had building Clearing's new supercomputer was pushed back until the book was all Cary thought of. After a few minutes he realized Clearing probably wouldn't want him hanging around his driveway after midnight, so he wandered to the area between the houses and ducked behind a bush. He couldn't really explain why he did it, only some innate sense told him to hunker down and wait.
He didn't have to wait long. A few minutes later Clearing's door swung open and light flooded the carport. Clearing rushed out of the house, got into his car, backed out of the driveway and was soon gone. Two blinking red lights shone in the distance and were swallowed by the night. Cary huddled there, behind a large bush, stared at the door. Clearing didn't lock it! Harry Potter!
He wrestled with a dilemma. The book was in there and it called to him so strongly he could hardly think of anything else. But Clearing is my friend now, isn't he? I can't just break into his house! Why not? It's not like you haven't broken into that house before! And Clearing didn't mind THEN! He knew Clearing would not appreciate him just going inside and looking at the book, whatever the rationale. Clearing does not want me to see it. Cary stood there, stuck for a moment longer and with a snap decision, he rushed to the door, found it unlocked, pulled it open and ducked inside Clearing's house.
It was quiet and yet not. Loud whirring fans were everywhere on shelves in the dining room attached to the kitchen, the living room and presumably elsewhere in the house. They were far more noticeable now than they had been before, as if the silence of the house, the lack of another person, amplified it. The whirring was the only sound aside from his footsteps. He made his way, single-minded, into the living room, threw back the black cloth draped over the case and opened the doors. Gingerly, Cary pulled the shelf out and stared down at the book. He had to pull out a little stool first so he was tall enough to look down at it.
It was open about halfway, and it seemed very, very old. But the text was loopy cursive on thick, smooth paper. He slid his hand down it and the jolt of pleasure was electric. A hand-written Harry Potter! It's like a REAL thing! Like a wish come true! This rang a bell in Cary's mind, but he was too fascinated to pay mind. Instead he read. But he turned another page and was shocked to see a hole cut in the smooth paper. Inserted in a rectangular hole was a tablet, the kind of gadget Cary only loosely knew existed, and certainly had never touched. It was most certainly not a hand-written Harry Potter. Cary ran a finger across the surface of the tablet. It jumped to life. Cary recognized the font of the text. It was Harry Potter. But it looked like a website, and the title bar of the page read Pottermore: A Unique Online Experience from J.K. Rowling.
“the Scion's fingers swipe as the false world around him pulsed with life. Unbeknownst to the Scion others watched from the Fifth Dimension, those who were alike to him... He does not know them … and maybe will not ever know them. Perhaps one day, if he is nimble enough he may one day discover the secrets of the Book of Fates and thereby fulfill his destiny.”
Cary swiped the page. What the eff is this? He had heard of Pottermore. Had very much wanted to check it out but getting to the public library was difficult and Lana would never let him use her computer. He focused back on the page. For a second he was sure it was covered not in intelligible writing but in strange symbols which seemed to vibrate and pulse on the electric page, almost like they were somehow alive or electrified. Is this part of the website or something wrong? Quicker than he could process what he had seen the page was suddenly covered in text. He shrugged and started to read again.
“..finding he can read the Book of Fates, the Scion of the Book is alive with excitement. His mind wanders inside its boundaries, filled with questions which would be answered, if he knew but how to ask. Wishes which could be granted if he but knew how to speak them. Dreams could be fulfilled if only he knew the key. Surrounded by people who care little for him, people who would demean, belittle and bury him, he does not understand his purpose. To him, the most important thing is to be left alone, to simply be, to eke out the small pleasures. He does not know the truth lies before him, waiting for him to but read on.”
Cary's head whipped up. He looked back down and read the words again. What is a Scion of the Book? Strange. This doesn't seem anything like Harry Potter. He had Harry Potter but Pottermore seemed almost like a terribly written biography. He swiped through pages and randomly read it again. It was more of the same. The text implored the Scion to use the Book of Fates, to embrace the supersymmetry of the Fifth Dimension. Cary flipped another group of pages, watched as the strange symbols appeared, winked and turned into letters, he was sure now that was what was happening. This is just some stupid Physics textbook. Why the eff would Clearing hide this inside a fake book and lie to me about what it is? And why is it on Pottermore? Cary did notice the edges of the page and was quite sure this was Pottermore. There was an owl, an buttons with stylized text which read Pottermore.com, Pottermore:Shop, and Pottermore:Insider.
The front door of Clearing's house opened and closed. Cary let out a low yelp of startlement and dashed off to the bathroom, Pottermore quickly forgotten. He climbed up on the toilet paused when he distantly heard paper crinkling from what must be the kitchen. Clearing went and got fast food!
Hours and hours spent inside this very house playing SNES, all the while filled with anxiety he would be caught, had left a strong impression on Cary. He had moved towards the bathroom almost by instinct. Strangely, the window was already open, the toilet's tank was cleared off and much to his pleasant shock, a large, sturdy fifty gallon drum placed just under the window outside, making it very easy for Cary to make an escape.
He ran away, not looking back until he was several houses past Clearing's. Huffing and panting, Cary knelt over with his hands on his knees trying to catch his breath. Between the rush of adrenaline-laced fear from making it away undetected Cary was light-headed and dizzy. His mind raced, he could not settle on a single thought long enough to examine, to understand and process anything, they all rushed by, unnoticed. He stayed this way for sometime until a passing car screeched to a halt on the street beside him.
A car door slammed and feet pounded pavement and sidewalk while Cary stood hunched over, paying no attention. He never saw the blow coming.
One moment he was getting his breathing under control, the next he was lying the grass of Lurlene Darxis's front yard, a swaying and cursing Bird hovering over him spitting and shaking with anger.