Divide by Zero

A story set in a world where everyone is a number.

Three paced barefoot on the beach, scooping up small, polished stones here and there without stopping. A quick glance at her too-deep footprints would betray the nature of the thoughts she aimed to distract herself from, but her hatred was no secret. She trudged on; at the other end of the sandy expanse was a beached canoe—someone else’s—that she frequently used in times such as these. Skipping rocks was an easy, nonviolent solution to her discomposure, and doing so from the middle of the lake gave her all of the personal space she needed. She liked to aim at the shore, where she pretended her brother Five was standing.

Five was her twin. One might be so bold as to include the word ‘evil’ in between ‘her’ and ‘twin’, since every good story should have one, but Three would not, because she believed that it was childish to so categorize people. She did, however, have a comprehensive laundry list of his unsavoury qualities that could easily prove his malevolent nature, should she ever change her mind. He was quite probably a sociopath, and he had more charisma than a crooked politician. Five could mold people like clay, and did so at every opportunity. They trusted him, loved him, let themselves be enchanted of him. Or at least, Three reminded herself, strangers did; she was the only person close enough to him to know better.

By the time she reached the canoe, one of the rocks she had picked up was held fast in her fist by white knuckles. She made to step into the vessel, but stopped when she saw that a sleek, furry, grey something had flattened itself on the seat, absorbing the sunlight. She instinctively launched the rock at it (and would later wonder why this had been her instinct), but missed. The would-be missile clattered against one side of the canoe, startling the animal. Five’s adored cat, Twenty-Three—perhaps the only creature he was capable of having such feelings for—leapt from her perch and made an ear-grating complaint. Myowrr.

"I agree with the cat," someone said from a small ways behind Three. She didn't turn to face them immediately; she was feeling in her pocket for another projectile. "If you're angry with your brother, go take it out on him."

Cheekily, they added: "The cat also wishes you would ask for permission first before you go hijacking people's boats."

The End

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