Number 49

3 min
Image of 2018
Image of Short Story
I stare at the gold letters on the door of the apartment, making a list of all the reasons why this was the right door to choose.
49 is the square of seven which is the best number out there.
It is the atomic number of indium.
It was the year the California Gold Rush began.
It is the parallel that runs a good portion of the border between the United States and Canada.
It was the year Russia tested its first atomic bomb.
Its cube ends in the same two digits- 117,649
It is a lot of other things too. Rich things, part of history and culture. But, people so often ignore it in favor of its milestone brother, 50. It is such an unassuming number and yet such a beautiful one.
Which is why I should knock on this one. Why this is the door that I am meant to choose. There is no need to convince myself further, no need to come up with more reasons why this door is my destiny.
Alaska was the 49th state admitted to the United States.
It is the number of a U.S. Route that ran from Mississippi to Arkansas, as well as an interstate in Missouri and Louisiana and a highway in California.
It’s the smallest number with the property that it and its bordering neighbors are squareful.
It’s the International Direct Dialing code of Germany.
Typical artificial strawberry flavor contains 49 ingredients.
It was the year Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman doctor in the United States.
The list goes on and on. So, why can’t I bring myself to knock? Why do I seem incapable of doing anything but standing outside the door, staring at those golden numbers, repeating to myself facts about how wonderful they are?
All I need to do was ball my hand into a fist, lift it a little, and gently hit the door with it. It isn’t that hard. In fact, nothing could be simpler.
So, why don’t I do it?
The number 49 is composed of two digits- 4 and 9. Both of which in and of themselves are interesting numbers.
The number four is the square of 2.
It’s the only number in the English Language that has the same number of letters as its name.
In Chinese the word sounds much like the word for “death” and is considered unlucky, but in ancient Greece it was associated with earthly balance.
It’s the number of seasons in a year.
It’s the number of humors in a body.
It’s the number of rivers in the Garden of Eden.
It’s the number of cardinal directions.
And, that’s just number 4.
9 is the square of 3.
It is the number of lives a cat supposedly has.
It was the number of muses in Greek mythology.
It is the number of stitches saved by one in time.
It is the atomic number of fluorine.
It is the number associated with being dressed at ones very best.
It is-
NO! I can’t keep this up. I need to do it, to knock on the door. I can’t spend the rest of the day standing here going over facts like this.
I need to take charge, steel my courage and get to work.
So, before I can think enough to stop myself, I lift my hand and knock, the sound resonating off the walls of the deserted hall.
I take a step back, breathing in deeply. I did it. There’s no turning back.
I wait for several seconds, listening for any sounds of life inside. But, I hear nothing but the sound of my own breathing. So, I knock again.
This is my destiny. 49, the number of numbers. This apartment is here for me. It chose me just as much as I chose it. It is mine and there’s no need to be nervous or afraid.
I knock once more and this time I hear a stirring inside, along with a voice calling out that they’re coming.
I take another deep breath, a smile on my face. I adjust my tie, stand up a little straighter. This is my time.
The door opens as far as the chain across the door will let it. A woman in a bathrobe with curlers in her hair peeks out, eying me with suspicion. “What do you want?”
A rock settles itself in the pit of my stomach but I do all within my power to keep my mood positive. “Hello, ma’am, my name is Edward. I’m with-”
“You selling something?” she interrupts, glancing over her shoulder. I can hear a TV blaring from the other room.
“No, ma’am, I’m-”
But, she doesn’t let me finish.
“Not interested.”
She slams the door in my face, leaving me to once again stare at the chipped, gold plated numbers.
With a sigh, I readjust the clipboard under my arm and start down the hall to the next door. Apartment 47.
An interesting number, 47...

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