All Stories, General Fiction

Delta Zero by David Henson

I’m struggling with my formula to solve the Delta Zero enigma when my girlfriend, Jane, calls. I apologize for being late and tell her I’ll join her at Alice’s Restaurant soon as I can. 

I return to my calculations. Before I know, it’s after midnight. I go to bed but can’t get the DZ formulas out of my head. I kick the blankets on the floor, turn my pillow upside down and lie tossin’and turnin’ and turnin’ and tossin’ for hours before drifting off.

The next morning, I realize what I’ve done. Not too proud to beg, I’m about to contact Jane and ask forgiveness when I notice something on the white board. I study my calculations. Of course! How could I have missed it? In a few hours, I’ve solved the equations— nailed the value of Delta Zero.

If you try to divide a number by regular zero, the answer, of course, is undefined. But according to theory, dividing a number by Delta Zero will yield an answer. I can’t wait to test that hypothesis.

I make myself comfortable in my white room with black curtains, close my eyes and mentally divide one by DZ. I taste chocolate. When I divide two by Delta Zero, it’s as if I’m biting the fruit of a lemon tree very pretty. I continue, each integer producing a distinct flavor. The odds tend to be sweet, the evens sour. 

As I approach 100, the quotients transition from flavors to sounds. Ninety-one divided by Delta Zero yields a piano sonata with a taste of tutti frutti. Ninety-two riffs jazz with a hint of mustard. The tastes phase out, leaving pure sound. The triple digits are a cacophony of violins, trumpets, lion roars, squeaky doors, jet engines … any sound imaginable. I’m thinking 180 sounds like my ringtone when I realize it actually is my phone. Jane. I text her — Very busy — yakety yak later.

When I get to the 200s, the sounds are frightening, thrilling, boring. I realize DZ is transitioning to emotional stimulation. This is going to be a walk on the wild side. That’s OK. I was born to be wild.

The early 300s make me feel glad all over like a child scoring a goooooaaaaal. I repeat the operations over and over and over again before moving on.

The good vibrations intensify through 400. I can hardly wait to feel what’s coming, but the next division yields a sense of disappointment. As I plow ahead, the letdown progresses to gloom. By the time I reach 500, I’m in a dark tunnel of despair.

You gotta have faith in DZ, I tell myself, certain I’ll break on through to the other side where a wonderful world of sensations awaits. I’m hurtling through the dividends like a quantum calculator … 551, 552 … when I hear someone at the door. I ignore them, but they keep pounding.

“Can’t you hear me knockin’?” It’s Jane.

Still racing toward 600 in my mind and feeling utter loneliness, I rush to the door … 560, 561 … and fling it open … 562, 563.

When Jane sees me, she gasps. “John-Paul, are you OK? You look frazzled.”

I do? How long have I been at this? She reaches for me. “I want to hold your hand. Let’s get you cleaned up and something to eat.”

Sweet Jane. After the way I’ve ignored her, she’s still here for me. The realization of what I’m missing washes over me. I gently pull away. “Jane, you’re amazing, but you can’t always get what you want,” I say and shut the door.

I’m sure Delta Zero offers the sensation of true love … 564, 565… I’ll reach it even if it’s a million calculations away … 566, 567… I’ll keep this up all day and all of the night, I tell myself, stretching my back to get the kinks out… 568, 569, 570….

David Henson

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

17 thoughts on “Delta Zero by David Henson

  1. David–
    It’s always a great pleasure to see you on the site. I have to go back in and count the musical references–which, considering my math skill, might yield a DZ higher than the sum of the words! As always, your writing flow is outstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide) was a big fan of Procol Harum. I think that they played at his memorial. DA signed a book I bought at Book Passage (famous independent book store where we lived in Corte Madera, also close to many things George Lucas), but we can’t find it. Conquistador was a much smaller hit.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Love all the song references and so deftly done – I’m sure there are loads I’ve missed, but commend your musical taste on the ones I did get! As usual, truly inventive, imaginative, and clever writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny esp. 60’s psychedelic lyrics references. Is this all about Delta Zero for the protagonist, or just a mathematical way to get high? Seems like a genius method to go on a trip, that’s for sure, but I can see there’s side effects…. tho at least they involve calculations rather than chemicals. Oh my, what would the Maharishi say?


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