𝘣𝘺 𝘙𝘪𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘥 𝘞𝘦𝘢𝘷𝘦𝘳
was rereading the Collected Works of Kurt Vonnegut,
the newly released Library of America edition, when its
wandering eye spotted a typo. Overheated Brain read on
keeping score, after returning to the frontispiece
and beginning anew. No room for sloppiness when obsession
has the high hand. As the errors noted increased Overstrained
Brain suffered a crisis of faith. It knew that on average a scan
from original copy created 4 errors per page, rounded up to 1%.
Multiplied by 2500, the number of pages, Overwhelmed Brain
knew true despair. Darkness visible as Styron so bravely wrote.
Looking at the tally it found comfort in the numbers, nowhere
near the projective level. Far short in fact. And curious in their
distribution. Appearing on pages with prime numbers it soon realized.
A pattern. Not errors. A message hidden in numbers amongst
mangled words. A challenge Overwrought Brain embraced
with fever and fervor. 1229 instantly appeared in its overstuffed
mind. Exactly that many words would be wrongfully misspelled
in the number of pages had before him. And no more.
Night gave way, bowing to the task, and morning moved aside
as triple espressos emptied exponentially. Even the cell phone
knew not to interrupt. When the time came it also knew.
The numbers matched. Misspelled words and prime numbers.
Overexcited Brain took 4 deep yoga breaths. Inhaling and exhaling.
Through his nose and then mouth. This calmed and reengaged
the oversized grey and white matter, and immediately it knew
reading the words as they appeared would not yield meaning,
and backwards even less. What then was the code? If not the words,
then surely the numbers. All 1229 of them. Binary. He made
a simple list, having memorized Pi well past that point. Converting
the numbers to binary, he realized, would be unproductive.
Hex would be best. Overtaxed Brain trusted his inner mathematician,
but suspected Vonnegut was lurking behind this elaborate charade.
Bokononist thoughts, he thought. Boko maru. Was it that simple?
Foma? Or wrang-wrang? An intentional necessary distraction
from the ultimate question. And so it goes and goes and . . .