Every time I tried to learn something about the spirits and all the mysterious things that had been happening, I stumbled across something entirely new. It was incredibly frustrating.
“Doc,” I whispered, still careful not to arouse suspicion in the library. “What’s going on?”
The little spirit cocked his head side to side. “Numbers changed,” he said again.
“I know,” I hissed, then, trying to relax, I took a deep breath. “Why?”
“Magic?” he shrugged.
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not enough for werewolves and vampires to exist. Now magic does, too. I can’t believe this. When will this start making sense?” I buried my face in my hands, rubbing my eyes.
“Numbers change!” Doc repeated, excited now.
I glanced to my wrist. The black number ‘0’ under ‘WILL’ was fading. When it vanished completely, a string of digits started appearing. They were spaced apart in such a way that resembled a date. If it was a date, it said ‘3 26 2017’. I could only presume this meant March twenty-sixth. Why was that important?
A realization dawned on me. Were these numbers changing in response to questions I asked? What had I just asked it? ‘When will it start making sense?’ It was a date. March was about a month away. It was a week after my parents were due home. Was it predicting the future? If that were the case, why wouldn’t it predict the day my parents got home? Was something bad going to happen?
“When was the Declaration of Independence signed?” I whispered into my wrist. I hoped fervently nobody had been watching me.
The numbers vanished. In it’s place, new numbers appeared. ‘8 2 1776’. August? That seemed odd, but the year was right.
“How much cash do I have in my wallet?” I said again. This time, I held my hand down, away from my mouth. It wasn’t as if the ink had ears, anyway, and since I didn’t understand how it worked, I thought I might as well test out out.
After a moment, the number ‘8.05’ appeared. I pulled out my wallet to verify. Three one dollar bills and a five. I pulled out the five to see if the number on my wrist changed. It didn’t.
“What’s the population of the Earth?” I wondered aloud. The old number faded.
When it had vanished entirely, my entire arm started darkening with the dozens of digits. It looked almost as though I had spontaneously grown a tattoo sleeve full of numbers. Anyone that was looking would have noticed immediately.
“How many quarters equal a dollar?!” I asked hastily, trying to get it to stop.
All the ink on my arm vanished once again, and I was left with a small ‘4’ under the word ‘WILL’. I relaxed.
“I guess I should have asked for human population,” I said to Doc, who was still seated on the shelf nearby. “Maybe we should go home to experiment with this a little more.”
“What about Will?” Doc chimed.
“He knows something, obviously. But I can’t confront him here. I need to talk to him in a safer environment. Find out if he’s friend or foe. He’s a vampire for all I know. Or maybe a witch or something. I guess that makes more sense.”
Doc inclined his head, standing up on the shelf. “Not a vampire,” he said after a moment.
“Yes, you’re very helpful,” I replied. “I’m putting my glasses back on. You’ll have to follow behind me or I’m leaving you here.”
I took my glasses out of my pocket again and put them on. I looked to my wrist to see if the ink had vanished, but it didn’t. “What’s Will’s telephone number?” I asked my hand.
The ‘4’ vanished. In it’s place, a string of ten digits materialized. I had what I needed. Time to go home.
I walked back out of the aisle and started pacing to the entrance of the library. It was still pretty vacant. Only a few people looking for books and even fewer people sitting down to read any.
As I passed the main desk in the front, I saw Will sitting at a computer. He looked up from his work and, adjusting his glasses, winked at me.
I quickened my pace, hurrying out the door. He probably wasn’t a witch, but, as they say, better safe than witch food. Or something like that.
The sun was setting by the time I got outside. I had been gone longer than I’d realized. Only then did it occur to me that if the ink was magical, it might also be temporary. Assuming it would be gone by the time I got home, I had to learn what I could from it now.
“How old is Will?” I thought in my head as I walked down the sidewalk. I crossed my arms, folding them across my chest so that nobody driving or walking by could easily see my wrist. The number didn’t change. I asked the question out loud, and it morphed into ’23’. Definitely not a vampire, then. I wondered why it wasn’t more specific. Why give me a date and not the time of day? Why tell me in years how old somebody is, but not also give the months? It all seemed so arbitrary.
“How old is Doc?” I asked, scanning around to make sure nobody was nearby. Aside from the occasional car that flew down the main road, there was nobody. Looking back to my wrist, I was disappointed when nothing had changed. “I wish I had somebody to tell me how this stupid magic worked,” I mumbled. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough. “How old is Doc in human years?” Maybe they counted them differently, like dogs or something. Still, nothing changed. Was it because Doc was a nickname I had given him? Did I have to use his real name? What was his real name?
Maybe I could figure that out later. For now, a higher priority was knowing whether I could trust Will. The thought of having a real person to talk to about the supernatural and everything that had been going on was enticing, and I wasn’t about to shun the possibility just because he might want to eat me.
At the same time, though, I couldn’t ask ‘Can I trust Will?’ because it seemed to only operate in numbers. “How many times has Will been arrested?” I instead asked.
A small ‘1’ appeared where the ’23’ had been. “How much jail time has Will spent in months?”
The number didn’t change. Another bad question?
Either way that didn’t give me anything concrete, so I thought about taking a different approach. “How many times has Will killed a human being?” I stated, voice low.
The number ‘1’ faded. In it’s place, the number ’35’ appeared.