His feet tired from running, Nathan watched the signal lights changing as he trundled to a walk. The flashing red hand lit up, and he stopped. There was something about that hand. He knew it was not just telling him to stay on that side of the road. It was telling him to stop for good until a sign told him to proceed.
He sat down on a bench and looked down the street. He glanced at his watch. Then he glanced at the flickering streetlights. Then, slowly, he let the beating of his heart match the rhythm of the streetlights. Only then could he continue.
He watched a few leaves blow free from the gutters of an apartment building. There were five leaves. He got to his feet and began to make for fifth street. On fifth street, he heard the ringing of a bell. A bicycle passed and he smiled. The bell had reminded him of his childhood; his mother would ring a bell when it was time for supper. Nathan looked up the road and sure enough, there was a diner called Mother Jill's.
He walked up the street and entered the diner. A paperboy passed him on the way out. Once inside, he gazed over the tables available. On a hunch, he chose the one with the newspaper.
Sitting down, he unfolded the newspaper and gave it a critical stare. The first heading caught his eye and he wrenched his eyes away, throwing his head into his hands. Now, this was a bit much! The past few hours had played like a dream. Sign after sign had made itself clear, and he'd continued to follow them, as if fueled by a sick curiosity that continually wished to see each sign fulfilled. And each one had been, no matter how obscure the reasoning. So long as he never doubted himself, the clues would lead from one to the other in a chilling manner. But now...this was too much.
In the newspaper there was an advertisement. The first thing to catch his eye was the flag. It was the same flag that he'd seen that morning, the one that was enjoying the flickering shade of the tree. The article was looking for a volunteer to teach English in China. Nathan immediately knew that, just as he knew the five leaves were telling him to go to fifth street, this message was telling him to go to China. But he couldn't exactly let this peculiar day get that out of hand! Going to China would involve a lot of logical decision making. Yes, he had moved through the city today on a magical whim, but such a whim could not be powerful enough to land him China!
He swallowed and looked up. A cute Chinese waitress stopped beside the table and handed him a menu with a smile. Nathan stared at his napkin. His heart was beating rather fast.
He looked back at the article. There was a contact number. The number was the same as his current address. There was a contact name. The name was the same as his best friend's name. There was a quote. It was the same quote that had been in his fortune cookie last night.
"Alright, alright!" Nathan's mind screamed. But the signs were not yet over. The waitress reappeared and said, "You look familiar. Hold on, I think you remind me of the English teacher I had in China..."
Nathan nearly burst at this remark. That sign had lacked all grace, and was blatantly being shoved up his nose! He was no longer staring at his napkin. Now he was attempting to squeeze it into a pulp. "Mmm..." he managed to say, between clenched teeth. "Is that so..."
"Yes," she responded. "That's it for sure. I am positive."
"Yes," said the waitress. And then, "Are you ready to order?"
Nathan smiled. "Erm," he said. "What do you suggest?"
"Well," she said. "The special for the day is wanton soup."
Nathan nodded. "I thought it might be something like that...Well I suppose I may as well get it over with. Could I have something even more obvious--a fortune cookie perhaps?"
The waitress was confused but returned momentarily with a fortune cookie.
He opened it and then sighed. "Well thanks."
The fortune cookie said,
Your travels with reward you with a worth of experience.
Now Nathan felt he didn't have a choice. He was going to China.