Disclaimer: This story is for fun, not for profit. I own nothing that didn't come from my own mind.
It was his second birthday today. He decided it was a good day. After all, now he had a proper bed, lots of different sized blocks, a police car and best of all – books. From what he'd heard, today was a special day because it had been two years since he was born, and he figured out that 'was born' is the same as 'first came into the world' because his Daddy said both, and this was the only thing that made sense.
Now, maybe his new picture book could help him understand what a year is. His Daddy looks in books to find things.
L's mother was slowly getting better, she still didn't spend much time with her son but she was gradually talking more and more, and she seemed to look at him properly now instead of looking straight through him. L's father was secure in his job and spent half of his evenings with L in his room, and the other half in the front room after L was asleep. Being the man that he was, L's father had taken it upon himself to force Marie into recognising her surroundings on the weekends and after over a year of effort, and many instances where he'd had to restrain himself from just shaking the woman out of pure frustration, he felt that their dreams were within reach. He wasn't asking for much. A good solid house that's actually theirs, a car that doesn't eat money, one holiday per year maybe...
Most of all he just wanted his family to be happy.
L knew the routine better than his parents did. He woke up when his Daddy's alarm sounded, and lay quietly in his bed until he heard the toilet flush. That meant his Daddy was finished in the bathroom, and his hands would be free to make breakfast. Only then would he leave the room, to go and sit quietly on his chair at the table. His mother would finish in the bathroom just as he took his last bite of breakfast, and then it was his turn. After he was finished - and had cleaned the blob of toothpaste that always fell on the floor, no matter what he did – he would dress himself in a pair of his usual jeans and a t-shirt of some colour or other. It depended on what kind of day he felt it would be. By the time he was dressed his Daddy would have left for work, leaving his mother sitting at the table, cigarette in hand and tea in cup.
L spent his days either copying letters and numbers he saw onto rolls of lining paper, or looking at people's faces in magazines. Before his new toys arrived, the only other option was to stare at his silent mother, watching for every twitch of her face, wondering what it meant, thinking maybe she didn't talk like his Daddy because she used her face instead. Perhaps it was part of her sickness. This theory was shot down when L twitched his face back at her one day, and she gave him a blank stare and turned back to the window. L wasn't very sad about this. If she said something to him, he wouldn't know what to say back anyway. Not like with his Daddy. The day would stay very much the same, with neither caring for the other's presence. Both of them were waiting for the same person to come home.
When the shadows lengthened as the day wore on, L would wait for the twitch in his mother's eye that meant she had seen a red car. If it was Daddy's car, she would say 'he's home' to herself and start making tea. If it wasn't Daddy's car she would sigh softly, light her cigarette without looking, and take a slow drag on it.
L wondered if the clouds she blew out were like the ones in the sky. If they were, he never wanted to go outside. It must be terrible out there.
Daddy would come home, L would go to his room and wait while Daddy drank one cup of tea, and then his favourite part of the day would begin.
Daddy would bring either a cake or a pastry of some kind that he got from the cafe at work, and L would sit and listen as he ate. There were stories about numbers, shapes, people, anything. It didn't matter. L listened to it all. At these special times, the little boy would sit on the floor, crouched over his plate, and he would be so absorbed in his father's words that he would forget how he was sitting, and even to blink. He never forgot his cake though.
After that, there was dinner, then bath, then bed. Then it started again when he woke up.
It would be almost another year before the letters that L wrote started forming words, and from there, sentences. It was around this time that L realised what time was, on his third birthday in fact. After all, he remembered his second birthday, and if it was his third birthday now, then it had been one year, which is 365 days. Days were fascinating to L, he knew that there were 7 in a week, and that his Daddy worked for five days, then stayed at home for two days, then worked for five days again. He wrote the days on his paper.
' = 3 weeks'
L's father had gotten a surprise that night when he'd seen that. He managed to hide his shock however and simply taught L the days of the week, writing them down for him. From there, every evening L's father would read through what L had been doing that day, helping him with spelling and counting, and even starting to teach him Japanese, which he was fluent in due to his mother being Japanese.
Over the next year, L would come to spend more time in the front room, where there was more space for his rolls of lining paper. By the time L was four, Marie was splitting her time, half by the window, and the other half watching L quietly. L took as much notice of her as she used to of him, and happily ignored her in favour of completing whatever puzzle or question had been left for him on his paper by his father that morning, armed with two dictionaries he had requested for his birthday, one English and one Japanese. There was a third, a French dictionary, and L was looking forward to his father teaching him this language too.
By the time L was five years old he had a thorough grounding in written and spoken English, Japanese, and French, and rolls of used lining paper were stored anywhere and everywhere, filled with L's writing. L had written about everything from spiders to supernovae to volcanic eruptions, and had even drawn sketches here and there, mostly of the things he found intriguing. Somewhere on one roll L had written out a recipe for a strawberry cheesecake he had seen someone make on the television, along with coloured drawings from various angles of the finished product, storing it in his memory since it looked tastier than anything he'd ever had before. He knew exactly which roll this was since he had had the bright idea of putting numbers on his rolls a few months ago, and when he was old enough to cook he swore that strawberry cheesecake would be the first thing he made. L's mother spoke to him now, not very often, but L didn't mind. He only had eyes and ears for his father, who always had something new for him to learn, or something new and interesting for him to think about. L's obsession at this stage in his life (apart from strawberry cheesecake) was something that his father had introduced to him recently, and it had led to rolls of paper being filled faster than ever before.
Probabilities. L found that he could no longer fall asleep as easily after this discovery, and instead would sit in the dark, in a crouch that had long since become habit, forgetting to blink as his mind whirred through possibility after possibility, either staying up all night, or falling into an exhausted doze. On the occasions where his mind would sleep, he would either wake up still in his crouch, or he would wake up on his front, with his knees tucked under his chest, having fallen forwards during the night. This had meant sitting in the middle of the bed, facing the pillows, just in case. It had all started when his father had told one of his stories.
"L, I want you to think on something for me. Remember what I told you about the world outside?"
"Everyone is part of a bigger picture, we are all puzzle pieces, surrounded by other puzzle pieces, all trying to find our way, and all connecting with each other."
L said nothing, he sat quietly waiting for his father to continue.
"Well, I recently spoke to a very lucky puzzle piece." There was a pause as the older man read through some of what L had written. L hadn't moved.
"There is a woman where I work, let's just call her Jane. Now, let us imagine that she wakes up in the morning, and carries out her normal routine, whatever that may be. It doesn't really matter for the purposes of this story. She leaves her house taking her handbag with her, and walks to the subway station nearest her house, just as she does every day. Now, Jane reaches the platform and realises that she is only just in time to catch her train."
L listened intently, something in his father's tone telling him that he would be thinking about this story for a long time.
"This is where the story gets interesting. Now, imagine that we can pause Jane in the middle of the platform," his father said, miming pressing a button on a television remote. "From then on, to keep it simple, let's say two possibilities exist."
L was intrigued to say the least. Tilting his head slightly to focus better on his father, and nibbling absently on a thumb that had made its way to his mouth, the five year old waited.
"In possibility number one, Jane makes it on to her train just as the doors close. Unfortunately due to a fault the train derails, and Jane is seriously injured. She spends a long time in hospital recovering and is left with many scars."
L's father glances towards the small boy and smiles inwardly at the wide eyed stare, although none of this shows on his face.
"In possibility number two, the strap of Jane's bag gives way and snaps as soon as we release the pause button, causing her to miss the train by seconds in her scramble to retrieve her bag from the ground, thereby saving her from harm."
L's eyes are wide as his father finishes speaking, and he stares blankly at the wall as his mind tries to sort his thoughts into some kind of logical order. There were so many hidden messages for such a short story. First though...
"Which one actually happened?"
At this quiet question, L's father sat up straight from where he'd resumed leaning over to read L's work, and looked at L.
"I think you already know what happened," he replied, letting a slight smile cross his features.
"So do I, but I thought it would be a good idea to make sure," the boy mumbled, thumb still slightly touching his bottom lip as he spoke.
"Would you tell me what you are thinking? I will tell you if you are right."
Both sat in silence as L ordered his thoughts. Already his mind was applying what he'd learned from the short story and slotting his many conclusions into what he thought he had known about the world. Being used to this by now, L's father showed no irritation and sat quietly, knowing that L would speak when he was ready.
"It is plain to see from the beginning that Jane would be lucky somehow. You said that she was a 'very lucky puzzle piece'. It wasn't hard to know that it was going to be the second possibility as soon as you mentioned injury in the first." The thumb had not moved, and unless one was looking closely, the child did not appear to have spoken. The words themselves sounded flat and emotionless, L's mind being so busy with his new information that he barely heard himself speak, trusting his mouth to form the words he needed as he thought on the more interesting aspects of the story.
A truly mischievous grin appeared on the elder's face, and it was duly noted by the younger, who had the distinct feeling that something was amiss.
"Ah, my clever one, what of the possibility that due to her injuries, Jane would be classed as lucky to be alive?"
"That... would be a possibility, yes. However since it is you telling the story, and you have not been late home from work recently, I am guessing you must have spoken to Jane at work. The accident I think you are speaking of was reported on the news two weeks ago, and I am fairly certain that if Jane was severely injured, she would either still be in hospital or she would be recovering at home. Plus the simple fact that I know you prefer to tell me happier stories."
"You've got me there L, correct on all points. I'm starting to think that soon nothing will get past you." This was said with a wistful smile and a touch of worry. "You'll outgrow my stories soon enough, wont you?"
"If I ever do, I think it would be too soon. Your stories teach me a lot of things that I will need to know." Sensing his father's slight worry, he continued, not liking the feeling in his chest at seeing that concern there. Distraction always worked, even if it always saddened him at the lack of challenge in doing so. "I learned a lot of things from your story."
"Like what?" and just like that, the worry was gone, replaced by curiosity. Success.
"Well, were it not for the accident, possibility number one would indeed be the lucky one, and possibility number two would be the unlucky. However, accident or no accident, at the time Jane would be annoyed by the strap on her bag breaking, and consequently missing her train. It is most likely that she would blame her bag rather than admit that she was running slightly behind schedule. I am also guessing that as soon as Jane realised there had been an accident, and that it was the train she would have been on, she then decided that it was her bag that saved her life. Her bag would have gone from being a nuisance to being her saviour."
"She actually mended the strap and still uses the same bag. She had it with her when she was telling me the story. Apparently it's her 'good luck' bag now," the man chuckled at the memory.
"One of Mother's magazines printed a story last week that I think you and Jane would be interested in."
"Is that so?"
"The story is of a man who was in a similar situation to Jane. He'd later told his wife who then wrote to the magazine, talking of guardian angels. Specifically she said that she thought her dead mother was watching over her loved ones. I don't believe that is true."
L's father sat in silence, knowing that the boy would continue when he was ready.
"The man arrived at the same platform at the same time as the Jane from your story, but a few seconds before he reached the doors he was distracted by a noise behind him. He stopped, and when he turned to look he noticed that a woman had dropped her bag. After deciding to go and help the woman to collect her scattered belongings, he then heard the doors closing behind him and realised that he had missed his train, and by the time he had turned back to the woman, she no longer needed his help. The man was at first irritated but then very grateful. I think Jane would like to know, and I can give you the name of the magazine and the page number of the story."
"That's... The chances of that happening are very slim, almost none..." Many emotions crossed the man's face, shocked, excited, and strangely enough to L, concern.
"I agree. That the strap would give way in that exact moment, not only saving Jane but an unknown man as well, is something that seems very... unlikely."
"Not only that but me sitting here, telling you that story, and you not only knowing about it in the first place, but then linking it with something you read in a magazine last week. L, listen to me, I haven't really spoken to you much about this, but I think you are old enough to understand fully." There was an intensity rarely seen from the man in his gaze as he said this, and he sat up straight. L knew that whatever would be said was going to be very important.
"I know that you've never really been outside, but you have watched television. Have you noticed any differences between yourself and other children your age?"
L shifted slightly on his heels and averted his gaze, biting on his thumb. "They are strange. I... do not understand the children's shows, and the children are always loud, and messy, and they move for no reason. They can't write, they can't draw properly, and they can hardly speak. When they do speak they say such stupid things, and they only use a few numbers, not as many as I do. Are they all like that? Although, I have noticed a lot of stupid adults on those shows too."
The man's eyes danced with amusement. "I expected you would say something like that. To answer your question, no, not all children are like that. After all, there is you. You should know however, there really aren't very many children like you. Most children your age are the noisy kind, and because of that, you won't be going to school with the other children your age. You would be very bored, and to be very truthful with you, I don't think the other children would be very nice to you, seeing as you'd just constantly make them feel stupid without even trying. Your brain just happens to be wired up that way, and just like you can't understand their world, they can't understand yours. It takes them a good while longer to grow up. It doesn't make you any better or worse as a person, it just means that a normal school wouldn't help you at all. I have contacted an old friend of mine about something a bit more challenging for you, but he won't be in the country for another month at least, as he has business abroad that he must maintain. He helped me when I was younger, and I learned a lot from him. In fact I think he's rather excited to meet you."
"He's... coming here? To see me?" L was amazed, usually nobody visited. He couldn't help but feel excited. "I will say that going to school did worry me a bit."
"Well there's no need for you to worry, we will find the way that works best. I do need to tell you, that I told my friend about your rolls of paper, and I know that he would be very interested in reading some. He also sent me a book for you to read, I've had it for a little while but I've been meaning to talk to you about schooling for a while, so it has stayed on the shelves. He would like to know your thoughts on it."
"What is the book called?"
"'A Study in Scarlet'. It's about Sherlock Holmes, a detective. Judging by how you linked our lucky puzzle pieces just now, I think you will like it."
"Alright. Thank you."
There was a short silence where the man stared out of the window, thinking of the last time he'd spoken to his friend, but his thoughts were interrupted as L dashed over to his most recent roll, and started drawing circles, of all things.
"What are you doing L?" he asked, knowing that the answer may take a while. Sure enough many circles and minutes later the response came.
"I am going to draw pie charts of our stories and use different colours for different possibilities. The bigger the slice of pie, the more likely the possibility. That way I will know exactly how likely it all was." Here L paused and still in his crouch, turned to look at his father. "I do have a rather large problem. I don't think that using fractions would be a good idea. There is something else that fits but it would be faster if you told me." Of course L knew, but it would make his father feel even better if he pretended otherwise.
"Aha! The easiest system to use would be percentages, much tidier than having fractions everywhere."
Now L was filling rolls of paper with his pie charts, and his mind was creating the next pie chart before he'd finished colouring the previous. Reading 'A Study in Scarlet' had been a challenge in itself, made more difficult when L decided to draw pie charts, trying to solve the case alongside Sherlock Holmes.
He was right. His charts worked. Was it possible that with enough information, everything could be written as numbers? His mind played a film of a faceless woman's bag falling to the ground. Those other people though... the ones who got hurt. The chart was right for them... but then my charts say that the chances of an accident happening in the first place were less than one percent.
It was two weeks until his father's friend would be in the country, unless something urgent prevented him from coming. It was a Saturday morning. L's father had almost finished the latest project he'd been working on, and L was being given a lesson on his father's computer. Marie was in the kitchen. The bells of the nearby church started ringing. Everything was as it should be.
That was, until the unlocked back door of their shabby ground floor flat opened, and gunshots mixed with a woman's shrill screams rang through the flat.
L was roughly shoved under the desk by his father, hurried, whispered words ringing in his ears, along with his mother's screams and the bells of the church.
"No matter what you hear, no matter what happens to me, don't make a sound!"
This was the last time L saw him alive.