The teacher’s last words resonated in Astu’s mind. “Tomorrow will be a big day. Don’t forget to bring your notebook. I don’t expect anything peculiar or anything.” What could that mean? The weather forecasted a 75% chance of snow, so it was likely to be a snow day. Astu hated snow days, and he loved school. He didn’t get much sleep that night. He called his friend Fay to discuss something. They talked for a few minutes and finally agreed that they would do something no student had ever done before.
The next day at school, it wasn’t the most interesting morning. Everyone else was at home because of a snow day, but two certain boys loved school so much that they came anyway. They had planned to come the night before. Their teacher came too, or so they thought. He wasn’t there.
“Where do you think he went?” asked Astu, who had just slid into his seat at the most exciting science classroom in the world.
Astu Dent was the nerdiest nerd of all nerds at the Middle School of Science. He’d won more science fairs than he could count, and he had the highest grade in the school, a 99. The only reason was: memory. He couldn’t remember half the elements of the periodic table, and he failed the assessments. Though it seemed like an impossible task, everyone else could do it. It’s not that he didn’t try, it was just one of those things where you need a shortcut. Unfortunately, he was gone when his teacher, Dr. Fizz Icks, gave the lesson on memory.
“I don’t know. Dr. Icks is never gone,” said his friend Fay.
Fay was never a great student. He tended to slack off in class, and he never payed attention. He usually got Cs, and if he even got a B, his friends would accuse him of cheating. The most embarrassing thing, though, was his last initial: L. When you said his first name with his last initial, it sounded like you were saying “fail”.
“Wait,” said Astu in a suspicious voice, “I see a piece of paper in my desk!”
“Let me see!” exclaimed Fay.
“It says: ‘Go to the table near the tree. Another paper you will see.’”
Fay suddenly realized. “It’s a riddle!”
“Yeah, except there are no tables near the tree,”
“Do you think it means the periodic table?” asked Fay.
“You’re a genius! Well, not really, you’re a dumb genius!”
Astu hated the periodic table. It was kind of obvious but when he had to find his favorite teacher, he didn’t care.
He said, “Hey, I don’t see any papers,”
Fay didn’t hear him. He was too busy examining the element Xenon. The 54th element, it was Dr. Icks’s favorite one. There were always secrets about it. He liked the way it sounded, and it was a “Noble Gas.” Dr. Icks was the most noble person Astu had ever met.
“The element Xenon has another riddle on the back!” he exclaimed like a squirrel being chased by a psycho dog.
“Really? What does it say?” replied Astu
“It says, what the… it... it says… nothing,”
“What? Did you look on the back?” suggested Astu.
“Oh. Yeah. Right. It says, ‘Don’t panic, it could be worse. Look behind element the first.’”
“The first element, hmm…”
“Hydrogen, duh! You owe me a quarter.”
Fay and Astu had a deal back in third grade to help Astu’s memory. Whenever he forgot something, he had to give Fay a quarter. The money would go toward buying a pie, and when there was enough money, Astu would get a pie in the face.
“Shoot, one more to go,” murmured Astu, tossing 25 cents to Fay.
Struggling to reach the element Hydrogen, Fay said, “Toss me a ladder so I can reach Hydrogen,”
“Ok,” replied Astu handing him a big, heavy stepladder.
Fay surprisingly said, “Wait, there’s nothing,”
“What do you mean?”
“What are you talking about? It says: ‘Nice try. Look at the clue differently.’ on the bottom left corner in small print,”
Now Astu and Fay were still far from cracking the mystery, but if they knew what was going to happen, they would have given up in a heartbeat.
It was almost 2nd period, and when the bell rang, they didn’t budge since all the other teachers were gone anyway.
“Hold on, what was the first element discovered?” asked Fay
“Phosphorus!” said Astu triumphantly. He had remembered something! Then, he said followed it up by saying, “The 15th element!”
“Awesome!” replied Fay, jumping to flip over Phosphorus on the periodic table. When he did, he pulled out a card with a mysterious riddle. “This one says: Many riddles you have cracked, many seemed a bit abstract. The next clue is near something tall, hidden next to something small.”
“What could that possibly mean? Tall and small are almost antonyms!” Astu asked curiously.
“Well, maybe it could be in the middle of two things, or to the side, or the other side, or on top, or on the bottom.” said Fay
“ARRRGGGGHHHH! That doesn’t help!” yelled Astu as loud as an elephant starting a stampede.
OK. If you read this far, just send me the first 100 digits of pi with the code and get a trophy.
“Maybe you could look behind the picture of a redwood tree and an atom inside it. That’s tall and small, right?”
“Yes! Why didn’t you say so?”
“I don’t know. Do you?” demanded Fay
Astu was annoyed now. His ears were steaming like a locomotive. He opened his mouth to scream, when he saw the very corner of a card sticking out from behind the painting. Calming down, he wondered, what’s with everything being behind stuff? Then, he said, “Fay, make yourself useful and read me that card,”
“Huh? You mean the one sticking out from behind the picture of the redwood tree and the atom?” said Fay with a huge grin on his face. He knew that would make Astu mad. He especially liked doing that.
“Yes! You know, this is getting stupid fast. It’s almost time for break and we’re standing here wasting time as we speak!”
Astu was about to say something else when Fay cut him off, “Then why don’t you stop talking?”
“Okay! Okay! I’ll get it myself!” Astu yelled as he yanked the card from the picture and began to read, “If the next clue is what you need, CODE:142857 something you will have to feed,”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Fay.
“I’m almost certain it’s referring to the rattlesnake in our Titanium Terrarium! Let’s Go!” said Astu enthusiastically.
The Titanium Terrarium was a special name for the terrarium for the rattlesnake named 22. It's a weird name, but Titanium is the 22nd element of the periodic table, so it’s not too weird. The Terrarium was as strong as a boulder, and it was hit with a hammer multiple times, just to be safe. Rattlesnakes are poisonous.
Astu happily went to the rattlesnake and saw a clue hidden in the sand. It wasn’t too big, but it stuck out like a groundhog checking for its shadow, just enough to see. Fay saw it too. There was just one problem.
“How are we going to get to it?” questioned Fay.
“I have an idea,” said Astu, “and it doesn’t have anything to do with letting out the snake, so don’t worry,”
“Good, now what’s your plan? Does it have anything to do with turning on the fan and blowing some sand off the paper?” asked Fay.
“You stole the words right out of my mouth! Let’s do it!”
Astu turned on the fan and it started blowing some sand off the clue. Not too much though, because Astu had only turned it onto low power. When all the sand was gone, there was good news and bad news. The good news was, they could read the clue. The bad news was, it was mirrored, so they couldn’t really read it.
ALRIGHT. If you still kept reading, send me the next 1000 digits and get two trophies. also, send the code times 3.
“Darn! Can you read mirrored writing?” asked Astu.
“Can you?” asked Fay.
“Yeah!” answered Astu.
“Same here!” replied Fay.
“What does it say?” they both said simultaneously.
Astu was the first to speak, “There are three elements here, followed by the letter ‘t’.”
“What are they?” asked Fay.
“In order, Chlorine, Oxygen, and Selenium!” stated Astu.
“What are their symbols? Maybe that spells a word like on the cool T-shirts!” asked Fay.
“Hmm, Cl, O, and Se,”
Fay exclaimed, “That spells ‘close!’”
Astu was excited next, “With the ‘t’ it spells closet! Let’s look in the closet!”
“Did you say the closet?” questioned Fay.
The closet was by far the scariest thing in the whole classroom. Scary as it was, it made science class fun. Dr. Icks couldn’t stress more to the students how dangerous it was. The students took that as a dare. Whenever Dr. Icks went out of the classroom to run an errand, the students would draw sticks to see who would have to peek inside. If they chickened out, they would have to pay everyone in the class 50 cents. That was how the class got the Titanium Terrarium, the plastic tree, and the rattle snake itself.
Astu wasn’t scared the least bit. “Of course! This could be our only chance for the rest of our lives!”
“I don’t know,” said Fay. He'd never been a daredevil, and he would have paid everyone a dollar in a heartbeat.
That caused a huge argument. Astu was saying what a great once in a lifetime opportunity this was, while Fay was arguing that no matter how cool things sound, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Right when they were about done, they saw their friend Spike. Spike was cool for having a cool name. Spike was always the most popular.
Astu and Fay went out of the classroom to talk to him. “What are you doing here?” they asked.
“Me? I’m just taking a walk and enjoying the breeze. What about you? Why are you at school?”
Now Astu and Fay had a choice to make. They could either tell Spike about the mystery, or they could play it cool. It doesn’t take a mastermind to find out what they did. “Nothing, we... we left our homework here,” said Astu quickly. The old reliable. Real smooth.
“Okay. Tell me if you need anything! I’d be happy to help!” said Spike, heading toward his house to build a snowman. Spike's house was close to school, and he a never late there. He would usually spy on Astu and Fay if they were caught doing suspicious things.
Once Astu and Fay were HOR He didn’t suspect anything this time.
“That was close,” said Fay, “what were we arguing about?”
“We were deciding on looking in the closet.”
“Oh. Right. You can go if you want. I’ll take a better look at the clue,” said Fay, chickening out big time.
Astu went to the closet. He opened the door. “What the... there’s a bunch of coffee filters and comic books!”
That caught Fay’s attention, who after 15 minutes of examining, had found nothing extra on the clue. “Uh, Astu?”
“What now?” said Astu, annoyed by now. “I’m just saying that there’s another clue on the back of the closet door,” said Fay slowly.
“What? Why didn’t you say so?” yelled Astu.
“Wait. Does this count as ‘Deja vu?’”
“You know what,” said Astu quietly, “I don’t care! The clue says, ‘This is your last clue, but you are being warned. You don’t want to know where I am.’”
Fay was scared out of his socks. “That sounded ominous. Should we give up?”
Astu was more than mad now. Smoke was steaming out of his ears. Giving up was the last thing he would ever do. He screamed, “There is no way we did all this for nothing! If we don’t find Dr. Icks by the end of the school day, you can say goodbye to your cupcakes! I mean it!”
That was enough for Fay to give in. His cupcake collection was more than priceless. It consisted of 26 cupcakes, each with a letter of the alphabet. He would spell out messages to his friends. He kept it safe in his safe. The combination for it was, it’s hard to explain. “Okay! Okay! I’ll continue the search after I sneak some food out of the janitor’s closet. Care to join me?”
Astu then got a realization so powerful he almost fainted. “Did you say ‘closet?’”
“Then maybe he’s in there reading comic books and drinking coffee!” said Astu, jumping to a conclusion.
Ring! Astu and Fay were so excited to go that they didn’t even hear the bell(again). When they yanked open the janitor closet door and saw Dr. Icks, he had a lot of explaining to do.
Dr. Icks began by saying, “First of all, I will probably never regret doing this. It was just so funny watching you guys try to figure out the riddles. I had a security camera app on my phone! Second, I can’t congratulate you boys enough on finding me. I made my riddles so complicated! Finally, here are the snacks you wanted. My camera has sound too. They have an app for everything nowadays,”
Later that day, Astu and Fay went home, and everything went back to normal. At least that’s what they thought. They were never the same.