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Professor Rosen pushed his chair back and ran his fingers through his hair. His headache wasn’t getting any easier and two Nurofen hadn’t helped. Outside he could hear Rebekah and her friends at the far end of the garden.
He picked up his lightpen and scrawled some figures of the whiteboard. As he sketched, the figures appeared neatly on the computer screen to his right. He had almost, for the third time he remembered, managed to bring the ideas together with the numbers. Somehow there was a number a series of, what were they, harmonics. That was it..an harmonic series, but beyond Pythagoras. It was a constant, the one they jokingly called the Rosen constant, the one that was signified by the little squiggled rose..and the numbers had Bach’s mind behind them, not one short theme, not a chord , not even a progression but a set of variations around a new enigma. The number was too great but the harmony was almost audible. He could hear it ringing in his ears. The lightpen flashed across the white board and the answer appeared in neat black letters and symbols on the computer screen linked into the Institute, all in black except the squiggle of the Rosen constant in red. There it was. Symbols, letters, numbers, all poised around the prime number last before infinity.
It was something to celebrate, with a cup of proper coffee, made in his grandfather’s proper copper coffee pot.
The quartet came in through the front door and headed into the kitchen. Rumpus nosed his way through them to his water bowl, tail wagging slowly. ‘Darling, the kettle’s on..come and join us’ Dr Rosen called out. She heard the office door open and then, a stumble, a fall, a cry.
Her husband was lying awkwardly on the floor, his right arm twitching helplessly. The stroke had been sudden. She took charge
‘Cameron.call security,there’s an ambulance on the base. Rebekah, a blanket for your father, Claire can you get me a glass of water. Audoen, just stand back will you’. She knelt beside her fallen husband, holding his hand and whispering to him. Audoen stepped back around the corner of the hallway. The office door was open. He pushed it back and stepped quickly into the room. He scanned the computer screen ‘ We can’t have that’ he thought, picking up the light pen, and quickly erasing a couple of numbers and replacing them. The he lightly tapped the enter key and the newly discovered and slightly adjusted formula materialised on Lily Chen’s computer.
The ambulance drove slowly towards Adelaide with Dr Rosen holding her husband’s hand in the back. Claire offered to drive Rebekah to the hospital. Cam would come with them but Audoen chose to cycle home.
The news struck the Institute heavily.. Oliver Gibbons phoned in from Harvard and Stella Mantegna’s brother flew in from Melbourne ahead of schedule to take up his position in the unit. Dr Rosen took leave to spend days with her husband. Rebekah was uncharacteristically quiet, spending time alone in the music room, surrounded by her musical idols. Claire would come and play for her sometimes., Cameron came one day with a vinyl album she had always wanted and Audoen would come over in the evenings and they would sing .
For anyone a stroke, an acquired brain injury, was a disaster, but for a mathematician it was catastrophic. Even if or when Professor Rosen regained his mobility, his mathematical skills would be irreparably impaired.
Life in the valley went on.
It was thursday night. Josh Carver turned onto Adelaide road, finally heading home. The concert had been worth the long drive and his newly purchased CD of the first book of the preludes and fugues was safely tucked away in the glove box, the pianist’s sprawling autograph adding a little extra value. As his car drove over the rising and falling roadway he caught sight of a distant figure, walking purposefully towards the town on the other side of the road. As he got closer he recognized him, slowed to a halt and wound down the window.’Audoen’..
The boy turned towards him. He beckoned him over. Audoen leaned down at the open window.
‘ What are you doing..it’s after midnight?
‘Sometimes if I can’t sleep I go walking, I’m almost home.’ He waved his hand vaguely ahead on the road.
‘ Get in.I’ll drop you there.. The lightings bad, and some of our local drivers are mad for speed.’
Audoen seemed to hesitate for a minute, then walked round the side of the car and opened the door, climbed in and clicked his seat belt into place.
‘Can you keep a secret? Mr Carver asked .
‘This will be my last term at the school. I’ve been headhunted for a job in Sydney. Can’t tell you the school but they have a huge music budget, and there’s a chance to conduct the Sydney Philharmonia’.
‘You’ll be missed’
‘I’ll miss this place but Sydney calls. What about you? After year 12. You really must do something with that voice. If you’, he paused,’ ever came to Sydney, you could stay with me. There are great teachers, great opportunities’.
‘Thanks, I’ll remember that’.
They drove on in silence.
As they neared the Grainger house they were temporarily blinded by the high beam of a car heading towards them at speed. Mr Pike pulled over to the side of the road as the orange Holden sped past them heading for Gawler.
Faz pressed down on the accelerator. Even at speed he’d recognized the car on the other side of the road, and who was sitting in the passenger seat. That was something that might come in handy.
At her desk in the Institute, Dr Lily Chen smiled at the elegant formula in front of her, grateful that Professor Rosen had actually sent it to her before his collapse. She could see the sweeping curve of silence crossed by elliptical relationships, and the swirling curves that blossomed like petals of numbers More than a rose, a peony, a camellia, something that drew unknown places into order along invisible lines. For her it was the calm of a Zen garden as wide as creation; for Sol, she knew it was the grand harmony of existence, sounding silently in the vastness of space and answered by the infinitely small breeze within the heart of the atom. She marked the derivatives, first using the Chinese keyboard then letting the translation program convert her symbols into algorithms. The phone rang. A simple reminder of a meeting that Friday night in Adelaide. She would tell them nothing more than that Sol had handed her more than a challenge, a gift.