The Heliosphere and the Subprime crisis - Ch. 3 - Of Cereals and Prime Numbers

São Paulo, Tuesday, 2nd, September, 2008

It was twenty past seven a.m. when police detective Paulo Silva de Oliveira parked his car in front of his house in a middle-class neighborhood in São Paulo.

After twenty two years as detective he was still doing night shifts very often, he thought. That was the way it had to be, since Paulo had been working for the last ten years in the missing people division of the department. And most of the cases were solved during the night.

This case he was working now was total waste of time. In the last two weeks twelve people (six men and six women) had been abducted late at night and were set free early next morning, with no signs of violence and nothing stolen or missing. The only weird thing was that the victims did not remember anything regarding the abductions and - strangest of all - had their hair completely shaven. Otherwise, though, they were physically fine and followed on with their lives.

The case was a joke because Paulo had seen this happen before, in the end the abductees happened to know each other and made part of some cult or religion or something like that. Real waste of time and resources.

Paulo was not the kind of near-retirement cop one might expect. The man was not collecting ex-wives, did not have problematic kids, or even had a drinking problem. As a matter of fact he was very well married to Margarida, a nurse, which was his sweet soulmate. They had two sons, José was an oddly mature sixteen year old, and Antonio which was seven.

Antonio had always been the center of the attentions. Being born exquisitely intelligent (he had learned to read at the age of two), he had problems fitting in traditional schools and getting along with other kids. Arranging special education was unthinkable even when considering their combined paychecks.

With a lot of stimulation and a good sense they had done what was possible. Antonio was specially gifted in math and they arranged for him weekly meetings  with a graduate math student, for example.

Paulo entered the house through the back door, which led directly to the kitchen where Antonio was watching the news on the tv and having his breakfast alone - Margarida and José had already left for the day.

-“Hello there, good morning!” Paulo said.
-“Morning dad...” Antonio replied with his mouth full of cereal and milk.
-“What are the news?” Paulo asked serving himself some coffee and staring at the tv.
-“The heliosphere is shrinking and nobody seems to know why. We could all be dead by the end of the month, except for the roaches of course...”.
-“The helio...what?” Asked Paulo getting ready for another science lecture he would not understand.
-“It is a protective shield around the solar system that prevents harmful cosmic radiation from hitting the Earth and messing up with our DNA... It is a very nice thing and it is getting weaker so we should...”
-“Jesus!...We are turning this tv off right now, mister.” Paulo said laughing and walked to the tv.
-“One more thing!” Antonio shouted.
-“Look at this cereal commercial” Antonio said as the news ended and a cartoon started with a stupid song and a purple elephant.
Antonio continued: - “It always shows in minutes of an hour which are prime numbers, like 7:02, 7:07, 7:19, 7:23... In any sequence, but always prime numbers on the minutes.”
-“And there is more...,” the boy continued “In the news paper this DeliCrunch cereal ad with the purple elephant also only shows on pages which are prime numbers... see 2, 5, 7 and again in the 11, and so on!”
-“So what do we make of that?” Paulo asked feeling very tired now.
-“It could be something like a behavioral trigger, the right image on a specific sequence, can trigger something on susceptible individuals” the boy replied.
-“Jesus! No more internet for you as well! This afternoon we are going to play some soccer young man!” Paulo said and left to sleep.
-“Crap!” Antonio said.

The End

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