There it was again. That same sequence of numbers – 1101.
Nelson felt like the universe was trying to tell him something. Four times in the last day, he’d seen that same ordinary but improbable string. On a bill for lunch…eleven dollars and one cent. On a bar flyer, announcing a local band for November 1st. When his cat punched at the number pad on his laptop. And now, the last four digits in a bank transaction.
Yes, he thought. This is a sign. I have to see where this leads.
“Steinfeld?” came a soft voice at his ear. “You have a customer waiting. Shouldn’t you finish cashing her check?”
Nelson sighed inwardly. He hated his job, but he needed it. Instead, he hurriedly apologized and passed the bills and coins in his hand to the woman standing on the other side of the counter. She favored him with a frosty smile and clacked away on impossibly high heels.
She’d been his twelfth customer, Nelson thought. The next would be his thirteenth. In binary, 1101. Would it matter that the sequence wasn’t there? Oh, this was crazy. Like the universe worked that way. Like it gave people signs.
Another woman came to the counter. This one was a bit shorter, looked much more pleasant, and had three checks to cash. Nelson looked down at the address on the top check, and froze.
1101 Ferguson Avenue.
“Excuse me,” he said as he processed the checks, trying to hold back his excitement, “I don’t mean to pry, and I know you’ll think this is stupid, but…I’m in need of some advice.”
The woman shrugged. “Sure.”
Nelson asked the first question that came to mind. “How do you live your life?”
A puzzled smile greeted the question. “‘Scuse me?”
“Do you have a motto, a mantra? A guiding philosophy that helps you make decisions?”
“This is kind of weird. Is this, like, one of those hidden camera shows or something?”
Nelson smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. “It’s just me here.”
“Well, I just always try to do what comes naturally. If I want to do something, I do it. If I all of a sudden get the urge to try something, I go with it. Life’s too short, y’know? Don’t think – do.”
Nelson had always thought of that as precisely the way one shouldn’t go about living life. But would it really hurt to give it a try? What did a bank teller with a lot of debt have to lose?
He waited until he was off work, then went to the nearest gas station and bought a lottery ticket.
“The sequence of numbers doesn’t matter too much,” he told a pasty-faced clerk. “Just make sure the last four numbers are 1101.”
The clerk shrugged, and printed the ticket.
That night at one minute past eleven, Nelson thought to himself, what do I want to do tomorrow? The answer came back: Take the day off.
And so he did. Nelson simply walked around the city, stopping as the mood struck him. And every time, something amazing happened. He wandered into a pizza parlor whose address was 1101 something or other, and won free pizza pies for a month as their ten thousandth customer. He attended a magic show, making sure to sit in row 11, seat 1. He was called up on stage, and got to vanish into thin air. He took a cab because he felt like it, asked the driver to stop as the meter hit nine dollars and tipped him an additional $2.01. Stepping out of the cab, he was run over by a jogger who was very cute, very apologetic, and wanted to take him out for coffee something as a way of showing how sorry she was. Her phone number was Nelson’s exchange…and he smiled as he saw the last four digits.
I’m just doing what I want to do, Nelson thought with glee as he climbed into bed that night. I’m opening myself up to the universe. And the universe is responding.
The next day was November 1st. Nelson woke up to discover that he had won the lottery. Immediately, he felt like quitting his job. So he went down to the bank that very moment and tendered his resignation, in person and with the greatest relish. The befuddled and slightly wounded expression on his boss’s face filled his heart with warmth.
I’ve discovered the secret to the universe, he thought proudly to himself on the way home. Four simple numbers in sequence. People should know what a genius I am. I’ll tell them. I’ll tell them all about my discovery.
Unfortunately for Nelson, he did not have this idea at 11:01…in either the morning or the evening.
Apparently, too many people knowing about the pattern affected the way it worked. Within a few days, it no longer worked anymore. Within a few weeks, Nelson was miserable. The pizza parlor got shut down for health code violations – which, he reflected, explained his diarrhea. The magician at the stage show turned out to be under investigation for pocketing valuables from the audience during his show, and Nelson was questioned as a potential accomplice. The jogger simply got up and left the coffee shop as he struggled to explain his troubles to her. Worst of all, he had simply lost his winning lottery ticket…and his boss turned out to be only too delighted to refuse to give him his job back.
As Nelson trudged despondently home, he wasn’t paying much attention. He stepped into a crosswalk without looking, and nearly got hit by a car. The vehicle screeched over to the side of the road, and the driver got out of the car and shook her fist at Nelson.
“Watch it next time, jackass!”
Nelson didn’t look after the car as it drove away. He didn’t want to see the license plate. He had no idea what the letters were, but felt with both dread and certainty that the numbers would be 1101.
Let me know what you think of the story. If you like it, please feel free to forward the link to your friends! If it wasn’t to your taste, better luck tomorrow — a new piece of short fiction goes up every day.