by Mike Fiorito
As Aldous looked upon his desk, he saw something moving before him that made him distressed. A penciled line, writhing like a worm, seemed to peel off the page, twisting and turning. It moved about, and while his mouth was agape the wiggling shape shook off his squiggle and stated:
“Come with me, Aldous! My name is Cymberline.”
Now Cymberline lunged at Aldous’s hand, and they plunged deep into a mirror, which hung on the wall. And so, he and Cymberline vanished into vapor. The world behind the mirror looked to Aldous like an immense playground with amusement park rides of strange sizes and shapes: spinning polyhedrons, curved lines, and piles of formulas entwined within each other, twisted and warped, turned and wrinkled, and rippled
and wrapped, and wormy and mingled.
Aldous walked to the formula that read: F=MA. Stepping into the F, he felt a heavy
magnetic wind pressing on him. He tried to lift his arm and to his alarm, the wind resisted his efforts.
As he came crashing out of the F, thrashing about, right to left, Aldous was shot, like a cannonball, into the equal sign.
The equal sign was smooth and metallic. Aldous glided on its back, like a sliding pond. Indeed, he was so fond of the equal sign, Aldous repeated his sliding several times, sliding through the rails, or sailing on the edge, or scaling the pointy tip of the top.
Meanwhile, Cymberline, smiled a smile, which only a line could smile. It bent the upper
part of his body and curved it, so that his top half twisted into one huge canoe shape.
Cymberline than said:
“Sample the ample wonders and wonderful amplitudes of these exciting and enticing beatitudes, but never, I daresay never play with the Loop. Never even stoop near the Loop. It can tear you to strips. No one has emerged from its endless steps and mazes
though it has raised immense curiosity in all. So please, let it be, let it be.”
So noted, Aldous did not dote on the foreboding words of Cymberline.
Aldous found the addition signs to be like great spinning wheels, as he would reel off them and come crashing into a number, only to then slide down their lumbering backs,
like fives, sixes and especially twos.
The minus signs were like boomerangs, they would escape from a number and zoom over his head, like guided lead missiles. He had to duck and dodge the bucking flight of negative fractions, as they contracted and contorted, and then just aborted out of sight.
The multiplication signs had golden spikes, and he liked to let them fling him into space,
across numberscapes, where cones and parallelograms had hidden from the rest of the Numbered Race.
Once Aldous found himself in a remote corner of space, holding onto the edge
of a four, dangling in silence. Not a sound could be made or heard. He just looked
at the world around him. Silent and still.
Before arriving at the Valley of Odd Numbers, where Aldous took slumber, he came upon The Hall of Forgotten Shapes.
There he saw skeletons of shapes lying scattered on the dewy ground. Some were triangles, some were almost round, and some were not quite icosahedrons, their edges
abound. No one had used them anymore, so, they died broken inside these doors,
and scores of dead shapes were only found here.
It was here that Aldous thought of the Loop. He knew what Cymberline had said
but just one peek would satisfy his curious head, just one look, Cymberline would not mind, indeed, he would not, to see this great Loop was no mean plot. Just a peek and look
was all he would need. And with this Aldous made promptly to the Loop.
As he approached the Loop, Aldous admired its shiny smooth surface, the tubes that drooped from its body, like saxophones twisted together, spotted with knobs and buttons and speckled with glitter. Sticking his head inside the Loop, he heard fierce winds blowing from within. Aldous leaned in, and was sucked up, quickly, into the mouth of the Loop.
Tumbling down its endless body, Aldous noted that its walls were decked with colorful
patterns that seemed to be swelling and breathing, and which pulsed into evermore richer and finer designs as he looked at them. Wailing and failing his arms about, Aldous’s shouts were shunted by a sudden bump. He had hit bottom. There were mechanical objects lying about, some roundish, some small, others tall, and stout. Some were constructed of wheels and pulleys attached to other machine parts, leading to
ladders that ascended into other objects. Aldous stepped on a ladder. He turned to go backward, but the entrance now became a passage leading to another ladder. He dreaded what Cymberline had said. Then Aldous saw a sign that read:
There is no way out,
whether you go this way,
or that way about,
so close your eyes,
no need to pout
for TIME is limited
to those with doubt.
Aldous ran down a path, made by a series of arrows, and drearily he ran, but when he arrived at the end, and when his running was done, he had run back to where his
And here Aldous realized he was not getting out.