Saturday morning I woke Danny by jumping on him and smacking him repeatedly on his forehead while singing ‘Purple Rain’. He tried to get me off of him, but his arms were under the blankets and he couldn’t get them out. When he noticed that I was already dressed, he asked, “How long have you been awake?”
“Long enough to get washed up and ready to go. Now let’s get going, we have a lot of stuff to do today.”
= = =
After we downed a couple of bowls of Froot Loops, Dan and I took off on our discovery tour. The weather called for light showers, so we double checked that our ponchos were still in our backpacks. We had a number of places to go, so we decided to take our bikes. I gave Danny a ride to his place so he could pick his up. Yeah, I know – we’re 16 and in high school and we’re still riding our bikes. But it really made sense to us since Chicago is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. As well, the majority of our time will be spent traveling from one building to the next, so having the bikes will not only make it faster (we don’t drive yet), the bikes will also fit through the portals and we can look around the new cities as well. We already know that we can travel across the country, so now we have to map all the cities that we can get to directly from Chicago. We considered splitting up and getting twice as much done, but we still don’t know what’s going to happen on the other side of the portals, so staying together will be safer… in our minds, anyway.
But first we had to stop at the landlord’s office and find out how they know us… Express Worldwide, Inc., 315 W Washington Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60606.
Here’s some Chicago trivia for you. The rock group Chicago started out as the Chicago Transit Authority and even released their eponymously named first album “Chicago Transit Authority”. Soon after their debut album hit the streets, the real Chicago Transit Authority filed a lawsuit against them. The band shortened their name to Chicago.
The Chicago Transit Authority, or CTA, helped us out. They have bike carriers on the front of a lot of their buses. Mounting our bikes on the carrier was easy enough. We rode the bus south towards the Loop and pedaled the four blocks from Halsted and Washington Streets to Wacker Drive. 315 West Washington Street should be just east of Wacker Drive and on the south side of Washington. Suite 2400 normally indicates the 24th floor and would probably occupy the entire floor, if not a good part of it. There were only two buildings on the street and one was only about ten stories tall, so we bypassed it and went to the taller one.
The only problem was that 315 didn’t exist. We found 301, 309 and 311, but not 315. And assuming that Suite 2400 was on the 24th floor, we had another problem. The building was only 18 stories tall… we counted… twice. We looked at the envelope again: 315 W Washington Street, Suite 2400, Chicago, Illinois 60606.
This was frustrating, to say the least. We had an unknown benefactor who knew what we were going to do even before we did. He, she or it even sent letters to the tenants in at least one of the buildings, announcing our arrival. Now their return address was nonexistent. We counted the floors a third time. The building was still only 18 stories tall. We checked the addresses on the shorter building – 315 wasn’t there either.
“What a waste of time!” I said and shook my head. “Now what? How the heck did the letters get to the tenants?”
“I know what we can do,” Dan said, “Let’s go to each of the buildings on our list and see if they got letters, too. We have to check out the buildings anyway.”
“What if they didn’t? Wouldn’t that call attention to us?”
“Not at all, Jer. We have Mrs. Scott’s letter, so we could show that to them.”
“That should help. OK, let’s go.”
+ + +
Editor’s note: Hi, this is Danny. Jerry asked me to edit the story for him. I’m also going to correct Jerry when he messes up. I kinda get the final say. 🙂 He was really starting to lose it. All I wanted to do was get us back to the buildings before dark. It was only 10:15 at the time. OK, here’s Jerry again.
+ + +
We rode our bikes to Halsted Street and took the CTA back north. On the bus, we discussed our options. Danny was right. We still had to check out the buildings to see where the portals would take us, and we did have a limited amount of time. In early April, the sun goes down around 7:15 pm. Since it was Saturday we had the time to check the buildings and even ride around the new cities a bit. As far as asking the tenants if they received letters too, we decided to only talk to them if they asked what we were doing. Thursday and Friday we checked out the first four of 16 buildings on our Chicago list, so we decided to check out at least six more today and the remaining six on Sunday.
Before we went to the first new building, we stopped at 7-Eleven and bought some beef jerky and Slim Jims… just in case the buildings had dogs. As luck would have it, the second building had one, another German Shepard that looked a lot like Chuck. So much so that Danny checked the dog’s collar. It was Chuck. He was lying in the grass and soaking wet. He smelled like umm… a… a wet dog. We gave him some beef jerky, shrugged it off and checked out the portals in the building – both front and rear – and then went on to the next building a couple of blocks away. I looked at my watch; it was 3:07. I asked Danny if he was hungry – he was. We decided to look for a place to eat in the next city we explored.
We got to the next address on our list, and while we were walking down the steps to the portal, we smelled him first. Then we heard his familiar bark. It was Chuck again! What the heck was going on? He jumped on us and started nudging Danny’s hand again. Thankfully, we had our ponchos on! Danny reached under his poncho and came back with a Slim Jim. The goofy dog didn’t want to wait for Dan to unwrap it first. I held Chuck by the collar until Danny gave it to him. Hehe. But how did Chuck get to the building? Sure, he could have jumped the fence – it was only four feet high – but that didn’t explain how he got to this building. We sure could use a dog whisperer. We gave him another piece of beef jerky and continued through the portal, making sure that Chuck stayed on the Chicago side.
We ended up in Phoenix. Google Maps showed that there was a McDonald’s a block from our location. It was also a lot warmer here, so we took off our ponchos and draped them over the fence to dry. Our jackets must look out of place for the weather, so we put them in our backpacks and rode to see Ronald. While we were eating, we tried to figure out how Chuck found us. We decided that we should take him back to Mrs. Scott’s building after we checked the rear portal of this building. When we got back, retrieved our ponchos, and returned to Chicago, Chuck was gone. We shrugged and went to the rear portal and found we were in Denver. It was snowing, so we decided not to look around.
Despite the ‘coincidence’ of Chuck showing up, we still wanted to check out at least six buildings today. More than once I wanted to find out what was going on, but Danny kept us on schedule. “There has to be a logical explanation, Jer.” I wasn’t so sure that I agreed, but I couldn’t think of an illogical explanation either. We kept going.
Around 6:00 pm, we finished surveying the sixth building. We were not too far from Danny’s place, so we went there to sort out all of our pictures and notes about the buildings we visited. We were still confused about Chuck being at so many of the target buildings, but not as confused as we were about the portals and our benefactor. Other than Mrs. Scott the day before, we hadn’t seen any people at any of the buildings. That in itself wasn’t very odd. After all, it’s still kinda cool outside, not to mention the ‘April Showers’, so not many people were walking around as it was.
= = =
When we got to Danny’s place, Mrs. Caputo insisted on feeding us. “You boys have been going all day! You must be starving!” We didn’t tell her that we stopped at McDonald’s three hours ago… in Phoenix. 🙂
While Mrs. Caputo got the food ready, Danny and I washed up. I also checked in with my parents. I got ahold of Mom on her cell. She and Dad were on their way to dinner and a movie. She told me that she left some money out for me and Danny to order pizza. I let her know that Mrs. Caputo was feeding us and that I’d probably be staying at Danny’s place tonight. She perked up about that – I think Dad is going to get lucky tonight. Hehe.
I helped Danny set the table while Mrs. Caputo was finishing the hamburger mac & cheese. She had the broiler going so she could do the garlic bread, and soon we were sitting down to feast. Mr. Caputo seemed to appear out of nowhere at just the right time. Hehe.
While we were eating, Danny posed a question. “Are wormholes real?”
His dad didn’t think so, but his mom knew that Einstein had theorized that they could be possible in his Theory of General Relativity. “So far, no one has discovered one, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” she said. “I think they were originally referred to as ‘Einstein-Rosen bridges’. The term ‘wormhole’ didn’t come into existence until the late 1960s.”
+ + +
Ed: Did I mention that my mom was once a physicist at Fermilab? 🙂 When I was born, she quit and became a fulltime mom and housewife. I wonder if she misses working at Fermilab.
+ + +
“But if they did exist,” Danny continued, “what would they be used for?”
“Danny, the universe is limitless. There are an estimated 400 billion galaxies spread out so far that the closest star to our solar system, Alpha Centauri, is 4.37 light years away. Unfortunately, we can’t travel at light speed… yet. But if there was a wormhole between the two solar systems, ours and Alpha Centauri, we might be able to travel between them much faster – virtually instantaneously. It’s also believed that they could allow travel in time.”
Danny was persistent. “Has anyone experimented with them in the lab?”
“In Fermilab? Not to my knowledge. Why all the interest in wormholes?”
“Ummm… we saw that movie Interstellar and we were wondering how much truth was in it.”
“Oh. Well you can rest assured that it was, for the most part, factual. A colleague of mine, Dr. Kip Thorne, was the technical consultant and an executive producer on the movie. Kip is extremely knowledgeable on wormholes and time travel, as well as black holes and much more. He was the Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics at CalTech for almost 20 years. Not only is he an astrophysicist and PhD, he mentored at least 50 other PhDs. In other words, he knows what he’s talking about.”
Danny’s dad looked up from his plate and said, “Name dropper. Hehe.”
“Oh, Tony, hush. Haha.”
Danny had one more question. “Mom, could there be a ‘mini-wormhole’? You know, one that a person could use to get from New York to Los Angeles, for instance.”
“I suppose it’s possible. And something like that would be great for traveling and small package transportation. Are you planning on inventing one?”
Now Danny and I were laughing. “No, Mom, but it would be a great thing to invent. Haha.”
“Well if you do, make sure you have a gateway to Orlando or Anaheim. Your dad loves the mouse.”
= = =
After we ate, we went back to Danny’s room and updated our spreadsheets and notes. This week we visited 10 buildings, and we logged a total of 20 cities. But we still had no idea what the portals were for, and most of all, we didn’t know who knew we found them. Our benefactor didn’t seem to want to stop us. Quite the opposite – he wanted us to have full access to the properties. The letter that Mrs. Scott gave us was proof of that.
“Jerry, we have to talk with Mrs. Scott again. But we have to figure out what to ask her. Maybe she has a phone number for the landlord. That would be a big help.”
“Yeah. And I wonder if she ever met the landlord in person. And how does she pay her rent? Does someone come to her apartment to get it, or does she pay online, or what?”
“Good questions. We can ask her tomorrow or Monday. For now, let’s examine the pictures we took yesterday and today and see if they tell us anything.”
+ + +
Ed: Danny again. We took pictures of the portals’ frames again today. We also checked what we thought was silicon caulk between the boards of the frames. It was opaque, so we couldn’t see if there were any wires or circuitry in it. I wanted to dig around in it with my Swiss Army knife, but Jerry convinced me that I might mess it up. With the caulking being opaque, taking pictures didn’t really help. But we decided to continue taking pictures of all the portals. It didn’t help much today, but taking pictures only took a little bit of time. We decided that having the pictures and not needing them was better than not having the pictures and wanting them. Besides, it didn’t cost anything.
+ + +
= = =
When we finished with our notes and such, I took my shower first and when Danny finished his, we watched the Lego version of Shaun of the Dead. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard! When it was over, we turned off the lights, but before we went to sleep, we talked a bit more about the strange things that have been happening this week. I’m not sure when it was, but I finally nodded off.
= = =
On Sunday morning, Danny woke me a lot nicer than I woke him on Saturday. He put his feet on my back and forced me out of bed. “That’s for yesterday, Scheißekopf!” he said. I laughed and we got ready for the day.
Mrs. Caputo made pancakes and sausage for us. We tried to tell her that a bowl of cereal would be fine, but she insisted. “I have to feed Dad, too, and this is his favorite.” We thanked her and chowed down.
When we finished, we set our plates, glasses and silverware in the sink and told Mr. and Mrs. Caputo that we were going out for a bike ride. Since that’s how we were going to get to the buildings, it wasn’t really a lie. 🙂 They said to have a good time and not to over-do it.
= = =
Two things were in our favor today: 1) it wasn’t raining (but we had our ponchos anyway), and 2) we didn’t have to go downtown and waste time. Like yesterday, it was easy to get our bikes through the portals. Having them was a great idea. We spent about 20 to 30 minutes riding around each new city.
The placement of the portals didn’t seem to be in any specific order, neither did the cities the portals led us to… other than they were, in general, east and west of each other or north and south of each other. For instance, the first building earlier in the week took us to Cleveland and Kansas City (east and west), and the second one took us to St. Louis and Minneapolis (south and north). We didn’t find any cities that didn’t agree with this scheme, for instance St. Louis (south) and Cleveland (east).
The weather was pretty decent, too. It seemed that about half of the places were warmer than Chicago and some of them were about the same, and a couple of the cities were colder. We also had the anomaly with Chuck showing up at four of the six buildings. We’re gonna have to figure out how he gets to the buildings – this is crazy!
+ + +
Ed: Danny here. I had to keep Jerry on track again Sunday or we wouldn’t have been able to check more than three buildings. Wow! Talk about ADHD! Every couple of minutes he was off on a tangent. Focus, dude! Take your Ritalin and focus! We can figure out what Chuck’s doing some other day.
+ + +
The day seemed to fly by. In next to no time, we had checked out the remaining six building’s portals, both front and rear, not to mention riding around all the places – except Baltimore, it was pouring there, so we came right back. We stopped a few times for snacks and drinks, but we never spent more than 30 minutes at any destination city. Danny the Time Keeper made sure of that. Hehe.
When we finished, we went back to Danny’s house again – we were closer to his place. We updated our spreadsheets and notes, as well as filing our pictures. In addition to our portal pictures, we had at least another 300; that’s almost 10 pictures per target city. It was getting late on a Sunday evening, so we decided to end it for today and get to our homework. We said our goodbyes and I rode home for the night.
= = =
Meanwhile, at 315 W Washington Street, Suite 2400, two figures are going over their books.
“I can’t believe your guy didn’t want to figure out how Chuck was doing that.”
“And I couldn’t believe how your guy was so hung up on Chuck. As for the dog, they’ll figure it out in a couple of weeks… even without our help.”
To be continued…