This story is by Roy Lord and was part of our 2020 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
”I’m coming for you.”
Solomon Parks floated in silence as darkness enveloped him.
The solution that had eluded him thus far would be his now.
Separating from his body, his thoughts drifted to the start of this pursuit to save the world.
One year ago, Solomon awoke with ‘The Idea’.
“Remember, remember”, he chanted as he filled his journal.
Driving to his office, he considered all the possibilities ‘The Idea’ could lead to.
It was Bold. Revolutionary. Could save the world.
As the private elevator opened to the top floor of Temple Inc., he called out, “Nathan, cancel everything and meet me in the Storm Room!”
The Storm Room was where the magic began. Its four white, erasable walls had been used numerous times before to kick start Temple Inc.’s innovations.
Opening the door, Nathan said, “Calendar is cleared. So, what’s so impor…”
He stopped as he read the single sentence Solomon had written across the wall.
Solomon faced his most trusted friend. “We can do this Nathan.”
Two weeks later, the walls and six rolling dry erase boards were covered with formulas, symbols, and drawings.
“Sol, we’re going in circles now.”
“We’re so close! Can’t you feel it?”
Nathan snatched the marker from Solomon. “I know, but you’re overthinking it and I’m starving.”
Solomon smiled, “Fine. I could go for a steak right now anyway.”
As they walked to their favorite restaurant, Solomon futilely tried working out the solution in his head. There was no such thing as a simple stroll for the man known as ‘The Greatest Tech Mind Ever’. Solomon Parks’ reputation as friendly and approachable turned a 5-7-minute walk into a 30-minute gauntlet. They were besieged by young and old for handshakes, selfies, idea pitches, job requests, and of course, money.
Waiting for their dinner, Solomon shook his head slowly as he put his drink down. “It’s so frustrating. With everyone clamoring for attention and this clutter in my head, I can’t focus.”
“Comes with the territory, Sol. Everyone wants to be near The Tesla of our generation,” he smiled while making air quotes with his hands.
Looking chagrinned, Solomon said, “Stop. I didn’t ask for that tag.”
“I know, but this is important. It could change Everything. The World needs this and I know you can do it.”
Solomon beamed as he raised his glass for a toast. “WE can do it, Nate!”
After two months, they had hit a major roadblock.
Nathan stood from his computer and looked at Solomon hunched over his keyboard.
“Sol, let’s move forward and start producing what we have.”
“Without this key component, none of it will work together,” Solomon said while continuing to furiously type.
“I understand, but we need to make sure everything else works,” said Nathan. “C’mon, it’ll buy us time. Plus, you know how inspiring it is to see your ideas come to life.”
“You’re probably right,” Solomon said as he stopped and hit Save. “Go ahead and ramp up fabrication Nate. I’m going out of town for a while to look into something.”
“Need help?” asked Nathan.
“No no. Just gonna try something new to quiet the noise in my brain.”
Nathan raised an eyebrow.
“I know that look Nate. Don’t worry, I won’t go down that road again. Ever.”
Nathan knew not to prod. Once Solomon Parks decided on a path, he would not be deterred. He was confident that Solomon would not fall into the drug trap again. It had cost him too much.
Production was finished and the final tests were set to begin before Nathan saw his friend again.
He barely recognized Solomon as he landed the company helicopter on the roof of Temple Inc.
“Once again, your timing is uncanny. Testing begins Monday,” Nathan said as Solomon climbed from the pilot’s seat. “From the beard and shaggy hair, I would guess you were in Tibet while we worked our tails off here.”
“Close. Learned meditation from the foremost guru around. Has the Storm Room been prepared as I asked?”
“Of course, Sol. It’s all to your specs, though I thought you were pulling my leg.”
“Thanks Nate. I know it sounds strange, but you have to trust me.”
“Always, Sol.” Pleased to see the haunted look gone from Solomon’s eyes, he asked, “Anything else I can do?”
“Nope. I appreciate all you’ve done,” Solomon said. “Can’t wait to see your results. As for me, I’m going to finally finish the last piece of our puzzle this weekend. See you at the facility Monday.”
Nathan paced as he tried Solomon’s phone for the tenth time. Solomon Parks was never late on test day. Never.
He turned to the lead technician, “Postpone the tests. I have to go to headquarters. Thank everyone and give them the day off.”
Opening the door to the Storm Room, Nathan was overcome with the smell of incense and body odor.
The walls were covered over and over with a single, unfinished formula.
Solomon sat in a corner, knees pressed to chest and hands clutching hair. He rocked and quietly mumbled, “It’s hopeless.”
Kneeling in front of his mother’s youngest son, Nathan whispered, “Sol. Enough.”
Looking up at his big brother, Solomon sobbed, “It was right there, Nate. I saw it. Got rid of all the noise, but my own voice kept me from getting to it.”
Nathan pulled him up and tugged at his beard, “Time to go old school Sol. We’re going to Gino’s.”
Grinning, Solomon ran a hand through his mop of hair, “Gino! I guess I am overdue and I’m definitely over this.”
Pushing him toward the door, Nathan said, “He won’t let us in til you get a shower though. You are ripe!”
Gino’s Barbershop was as old school as the proprietor; a small, Italian man in his late 70’s. Gino looked as though he came straight out of a scene from The Godfather.
Rising from an ancient, yet well-kept barber’s chair, the old man greeted them.
“Nathan! Why you bring this homeless man in here?”
With outstretched arms, Solomon exclaimed, “Itsa me, Gino! Solomon.”
“Ahhhh… I just a teasing. Come, you are in need of professional help for sure.”
After his haircut and the best straight razor shave in the city, Solomon stepped to the antique cash register. As Gino rang him up, Solomon noticed a flyer hanging on a cork board.
‘Want to get away from the world and Yourself? Come Float with us!’
Pointing at the flyer, Solomon asked, “What’s that about?”
“Don’t know. Pretty girl asked if she could hang it.”
“She didn’t say where it is?”
“Oh sure, it’s two doors down. Nice girl.”
Gino was right, Tranquil Spas’ owner was very pretty. Solomon lost interest in her physical appeal as she explained how an isolation tank could open the mind.
As one floated in water saturated with salt for buoyancy and heated to body temperature in an enclosed, soundproof tank; all senses except taste and smell were eliminated. With no input, the brain would be free from outside influence.
Solomon was hooked after one 30-minute session. He knew this was the means to breaking through.
During his fourth 60-minute session, The Answer came to him.
As The Answer neared, the automatic timer brought soft lights on and a recording quietly notified him “Your session has ended”.
The Answer drifted away as the lights grew brighter.
Reaching to grab The Answer, his hand banged the lid of the tank.
“NOOOOOO!” he screamed as the salt water burned his eyes and coated his tongue.
Solomon had to get The Answer. Nothing and no one could be allowed to interfere in his quest.
He called Nathan from the spa and told him to go forward with the tests and production.
“You sure?” Nathan asked.
“Positive,” Solomon lied. “I’m going to the cabin to regroup. Back in a month.”
Solomon set out to build the ultimate isolation tank, not regroup.
He found outside suppliers to manufacture a tank and generator of his own design. Separate contractors then delivered them to an abandoned missile silo he had secretly purchased. All involved were paid handsomely in cash and signed non-disclosure agreements.
Nathan knew nothing about the entire process.
Flying solo, Solomon landed near the site and hiked the final five miles to his destiny.
After locking himself in the silo, Solomon disrobed and entered the tank. Closing the lid to the world, he laid back and opened his mind.
“I’m coming for you my beautiful answer.”
Two weeks later, Nathan Parks stepped to the podium, looking out over the reporters.
“After searching the world and a thorough investigation by law enforcement, I am saddened to report that my brother, Solomon Parks, is still missing. Please, if anyone has any information, please contact me.”
Solomon Parks floated.
He lost track of time.
Hunger pains came and then passed by.
Suddenly, he was leaving his body.
He was a Universe and The Answer was a star just out of reach.