An unhinged man solves the mysteries of the Universe and embraces the infinite.
| “Mommy, he smells bad.”
Scab turned around. The girl's grimacing mother pulled her close. “I'm sorry,” she said. “You know how kids can be...”
Scab stared. Greasy black tangles of unkempt, unwashed hair dangled in front of his eyes. The woman retreated toward the door, squeezing her daughter.
Without a word, Scab spun back to the oriental man behind the counter. “Here,” he grunted, shoving a crumpled ten across the counter and collecting his food – Lo Mein in a clean, plain white box. The woman watched, full-moon-eyed, as Scab passed.
Outside, Scab opened the box and shoved noodles into his mouth with black-grimed, jagged-nailed fingers. He turned down the alley leading to his apartment. Now that he knew the Truth, Eighteen was everywhere.
The license plate of a car parked nearby: LFY-9312. Add nine, three, one, and two – eighteen. A flyer posted to the brick siding of the building, tattered and faded except where the tape still held, read '18'. Only eighteen stars visible in the sky.
Eighteen was the key. The clues were everywhere. Scab should have seen it all along!
He entered the apartment building, ragged boots thudding on the stairs as he ascended. He finished off the Chinese and tossed the carton over his shoulder. On the third floor he reached his apartment – apartment eighteen.
The freckly-faced brunette girl from up the hall sat handcuffed to the radiator. The side of her face was swollen and blotchy with bruises. She whimpered.
“Almost time,” Scab said, locking the door behind him.
He examined the wall where he'd scrawled copious formulas in permanent black marker to be sure he had the math right. And to become infinite, he needed to embrace eighteen.
A multiple of nine: forty-five. Four plus five equals nine. Add two multiples: forty-five and seventy-two equals one hundred seventeen – one plus one plus seven equals nine. Nine came back to itself. Nine was infinite. The key was to embrace nine.
But he couldn't embrace nine, could he? Not until the year 9999, to which – as a finite mortal – he would not live to see. But Scab was lucky. He lived in the year 2018. See? Eighteen. One plus eight equals nine.
And eighteen days prior, the girl on the floor behind him had turned eighteen. Eighteen in 2018. It had to be tonight.
“To become infinite,” Scab mumbled, wandering into the kitchen. “Is to become nine.” He pulled a knife from the drawer and returned to the living room. “Nine...through eighteen.”
The girl squealed as he jammed the knife into her shoulder. When she fell backward, he stabbed her again, this time in the breast. Then the stomach. Five times. Six. Over and over again, until eighteen holes dotted her torso.
“Now...” Scab whispered, setting the bloody knife aside and sitting. “...I become infinite...”
He curled and watched the blood spread around the girl. It was done. Scab took a deep breath and embraced the infinite.