FOLLOW THE SIGNS

Tim Tucker

Neil and Janice Seagan arrived at Atlantis Paradise Island in The Bahamas one summer morning and from that moment on it was nothing but deep tissue massages, the most delectable of peas n' rice and Johnny cakes, and Bahama Mama's served in coconuts that went straight to your head.

To see Neil sprawled upon the white sands, all barrel chested and mahogany skinned basking beneath the crisp sun, one would think of him as a steel worker vacationing after hitting the big jackpot, or perhaps some exotic African dignitary wasting away his tax payers money in paradise. In all honesty however, here was a man who loved science more than life itself.

Next to him, his wife Janice stretched out on her towel, as sleek as a panther and still as sensuous as the day he had met her.

"The weather here is perfect!" she said. "The sky, it's so deep and blue, I always wondered what made it that way."

"That, my dear, would be caused by the light from the sun being scattered throughout the air molecules in our atmosphere, and it just so happens that the color blue is of a shorter wave length of light, thus making it more compatible to the human eye."

Janice loomed over Neil and sprinkled sand on his forehead. "There you go again, Mr. Know-it-all! Can't you just let a girl wonder for once?"

The only thing Neil wondered was that if we ever found intelligent extraterrestrial life somewhere else in the Universe, would we find an organism more enigmatic and complicated than a woman who asked questions to which she didn't want the answers to.

Somehow he doubted it.

"This whole vacation you've seemed distracted, aloof, if you will." Janice continued. "You gotta let that big brain of yours rest honey, you're retired, start acting like it. I know! You need to take up a hobby mister!"

Neil chuffed. Sure, there were other endeavors in his life. There was the science fiction novel he would never get around to finishing. There was also his university lectures that always seemed to attract the less than enthusiastic students to his hall.

But his true passion?

His true passion was in the stars, the billions within trillions of helium enriched diamonds strewn across the vast darkness of space with their titanic variety of heliocentric companions, each one with the potential of harboring not only precious materials but life as well. He was absolutely fascinated with the celestial bodies and natural world, from the most colossal of galaxies to the microscopic organisms thriving in the most inhospitable of places. Science was his anchor, it enriched his mind, broadened his perception, and more importantly, it humbled him as a human being.

"I'll tell you what," said Neil. "When we get back I'll take up horseback riding, juggling, and finger painting with my toes – all at the same time, but you're right. This is our vacation, our time, and the only thing I need on my mind now is you."

Janice leaned over and placed a pillow soft kiss on his cheek. "I'm right? There's something you don't say every day. You know with your blood pressure this getaway is just what you need, relax a little. I booked us a class for Salsa dancing later today, that'll really get your mind in the right place!"

Neil groaned. "My feet can't wait."

The day flowed like a gentle current.

Faded blue denim skies eventually gave way to an intense hue of sunset, the first sign of distant stars peeking behind a ribbon of orange and crimson until the sky finally receded into the glorious, expansive void of outer space. It was a clear night, figures of constellations coinciding with each other against the backdrop and if one looked close enough they could even spot the Andromeda Galaxy with their naked eye hurtling towards our own Milky Way faster than a bullet but frozen in time through our brief, meandering existence.

At this hour of the night the beach lay deserted for endless miles save for two people. One was Neil Seagan, binoculars in hand for star gazing.

Further along the shore a small girl walked alone through the moonlit sands. She was deeply tanned, her hair decoratively braided with a kaleidoscope of beads that gleamed, and her eyes were clear and bright as twin stars.

And so on this lonely shore the stage was set, and whether it was fate or just the random machinations of a series of coincidences that fixed these two strangers upon this very beach on this very night, what would happen next could be be refuted.

The girl stood alone. Glancing about, she spied a small, slender stick of driftwood on the sand. Smiling, she picked the stick up. With another glance around to secure her solitude, the girl stooped again and began to trace in the sands with light sweeps.

She sketched one figure, admired her work and then moved over where she drew a second figure, and a third, and a fourth.

Neil Seagan, printing the sands with his feet, gazed upon the deeply tanned girl, watched the sand fly as she doodled and scribbled away with long, deft strokes, the sand portraits flourishing onto the sands -

Neil took one more step and stopped in his tracks.

The girl was so enchanted by her solitudinous creation that she did not seem to sense anyone behind her and the world of her drawings in the sand. Neil looked down at the drawings and after a long while of just looking, he began to tremble.

For emblazoned on the flat shore were the most intricate of sand circles and formations, the introverted vertices and matrices juxtaposed between linear distances of curvature shapes, their digits inscribed beneath the figures to a preternaturally shocking degree by this small child.

3.1415926535897932384624338327...

Here on the sands were complex Euclidean geometric triangles, there dimensional spaces refined with uncanny precision in relation to the Pythagorean Theorem along with the Divine Proportion, golden rectangles impeccably layered ad infinitum along their aspect ratios. Across the shore in perfect alignment the wooden stylus of this small, mysterious child looped, ribboned, and scribbled over and up, in and out, stitching, whispering through the fleeting sands which were now embedded with these enigmatic hieroglyphs in which men from not only 3,000 years ago but also 3,000 years from now could stare upon these symbols, these signs, in reflective contemplation and sheer wonder. One mural in particular caught Neil's eye. It depicted dual sun like shapes, a smaller star flanking the two perpendicularly with five sphere like objects positioned beneath the trio of stars.

The artist stopped.

Neil drew back and stood away.

The child glanced up, surprised to find someone so near. Then she simply stood there, looking from Neil to her portraits scattered about. She smiled at last and began to carve numbers into the sand.

14 39 36.4951

-60 50 0.2308

Neil stared at the sand frieze in silent awe as the child watched him with bemused curiosity. Neil opened his mouth as if to speak then closed it, reached out his hand, only to take it back. He stepped towards the pictures, stepped away. Then he walked along the line of figures, like a man viewing a precious series of museum art work. His eyes would not blink. His hand wanted to touch, but did not dare touch. He wanted to run be he did not run.

He looked suddenly at the hotel. Run? Yes, run! The camera! Run and get it, get back and take all kinds of pictures, just click away, clicking...

The child had inched closer and was now gazing into Neil's face with great inquisitiveness, as if she were calculating his very thoughts. The piece of driftwood slipped gently from her fingers and she began to wave goodbye, and then she was gone, skipping back down the beach into the night.

Neil Seagan stood looking after her. After some time he did the only thing he possibly could do. He started at the beginning of the mosaic of equations and algorithms and walked slowly along the shore. He walked a long way and when he came to the end of the sand glyphs he turned around and started back in the other direction, just staring down as if he had lost something and did not quite know where to find it. He kept on doing this until the first vestiges of dawn peeked just over the horizon.

Neil sat down at the breakfast table.

"I know you were out last night." said Janice. "So much for relaxing, you look like the walking dead, did you sleep good at all?"

"Yeah." He said.

"Neil are you OK"

He picked up his fork and stopped. His gaze shifted to the window, to the sun drenched sands below where just last night something very special had happened. Now there was nothing but the waves lapping empty against the shore.

"What are you looking at Neil? Neil?"

He shut his eyes for a moment, the last sequence of numbers burned into his mind.

14 34 36.4951

-60 50 0.2308

No, not just numbers.

"I wish you could see." Neil whispered.

"See what? What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing...it's nothing." He said after a while, his eyes still closed

Not just numbers...but star coordinates.

THE END