Socrates in the Land of Numbers
Posted by: Maria Atalanti
Published on: 09/01/2024Back to Blog
Dedicated to Socrates Andreou and his familly
The summer was hot. Socrates, with his family and his friend Nikolas, had traveled to the mountains that weekend, to a house near the forest. They would spend their days there, enjoying the coolness and breathing the fresh mountain air.
As soon as they arrived and before the two children, around ten years old, could even unload their luggage, they grabbed the soccer ball and ran to a clearing to play.
“Don’t be late!” called Veronica, Socrates’ mother. “It’s almost noon, and we’ll have lunch soon.”
“We’ll be back in an hour,” replied Socrates. “We’ll just play for a bit.”
“Let them be,” said Constantinos, Socrates’ father. “You know how passionate they both are about football. I’ll go get them when it’s time to eat.”
The two children happily ran off and started playing with the ball. They stood opposite each other, trying to score goals in an imaginary goal behind them.
However, the ball is round and does not always follow the path the player tries to determine with his foot, that is, into the goal of the opposing player. So, at one moment, the ball rolled and moved into a cluster of trees at the edge of the clearing. Both ran to catch it, but when they arrived, the ball had disappeared.
They started searching among the trees and bushes but discovered nothing. The ball was nowhere to be found. At one point, Socrates noticed an old olive tree with a large hollow at its roots.
“Maybe it went in here,” he thought.
And he bent down to look. However, he couldn’t distinguish it because it was dark inside the hollow. Meanwhile, Nikola had arrived, and both were searching. They put their hands in and looked around, but nothing.
“I’ll slowly crawl inside to look,” decided Socrates.
“Be careful,” Nikolas told him. “There might be a snake inside.”
“I’ll be careful,” said Socrates.
He lay down on his belly and began to crawl inside the hollow. At first, it was very narrow, but gradually, the hollow started to widen, resembling a small room. It was dark, though, and he couldn’t see clearly.
“Are you okay? Did you find the ball?” Nikola called from outside.
“I’m fine. I can’t find the ball. It’s dark here. But come and see. The hollow is very large. I’m standing upright here.”
Nikola gathered courage and crawled inside as well. The two friends were surprised by the size of the olive tree hollow.
“It’s enormous!” exclaimed Nikolas. “You can’t tell from the outside!”
Gradually, their eyes adjusted to the darkness, and the first thing they noticed was something like an entrance at the opposite end from where they arrive in.
“Our ball must have rolled in from here,” Socrates said. “Do you see where this entrance leads?”
“It seems to have a staircase descending downwards, and in the depth, it looks like there’s light. What do you think? Should we go down and find our ball?”
“Yes, but we shouldn’t take too long, as my parents will be waiting for us.”
“If we don’t find it, we’ll leave,” said Nikola.
The two friends began to descend the staircase cautiously, which was actually branches of the roots of the old olive tree. It took quite some time until they reached where the staircase ended, and then the biggest surprise of their lives awaited them.
In front of them was a vast expanse, like another country, filled with light and colors. Instead of a sky above, there was a transparent dome, from which, instead of clouds or stars, numbers and equations hung. It resembled Earth, but all the colors were softer. The trees had green foliage but much lighter and transparent. One could see behind a tree as if it were a shadow and not real. Waters were running everywhere, there were lakes, streams, and waterfalls, but everything had a transparent white color and much higher density. If you put your hand to feel the water, you could hold it in your palm as if it were gelatin.
The two friends were so astonished that they even forgot about their ball. They stared with wide eyes, unable to articulate a word. That’s when they noticed a group of children far away. These children were all small, with very blonde hair and blue eyes. These children had their ball, but they didn’t kick it or throw it at each other. These children didn’t speak, nor did they make any sound. They simply opened their mouths, and numbers and equations came out, dancing in the air along with gentle music.
The strange thing was that these numbers had a power on their ball, making it spin in the air without falling to the ground, rising high, rolling on the tree branches, and dancing on the water surface. Every time a child opened their mouth and an equation came out, the ball took a different path. And these children seemed to enjoy their game very much.
“Hey, kids!” shouted Socrates, “the ball is ours. Give it back to us.”
But the children didn’t respond. They just opened their mouths, equations came out, and the ball spun, here and there. The two friends tried to grab it, but they couldn’t. The ball kept floating in the air. When it descended into a small stream, and they ran towards it, it moved deeper. That’s when Socrates decided to enter the water to get it. To his surprise, instead of sinking, he could walk on the surface, as if it were a sponge. Soon, Nicholas joined him, and the two friends had fun walking on the water’s surface.
Unbeknownst to them, they had already moved quite far from the olive tree’s root and didn’t know how to return.
“Friend,” said Nicholas, “we better leave and let them have the ball. We can buy another one. Your parents will worry. We’ve already been delayed for too long.”
“Let’s go, I agree,” said Socrates, “but how do we leave? Where is the olive tree’s root? We’re lost. Hey, kids, tell us how to leave, and we’ll give you the ball.”
But the children neither spoke nor answered. They just opened their mouths, equations came out, and the ball spun, here and there. The two friends started to worry. Their adventure seemed dangerous now. They were ready to cry when suddenly the ground began to shake beneath their feet. Trembling, they embraced each other, and then Socrates saw his uncle Vasilis in the distance, within the gap that had formed.
“Vassilis, Vassilis!” he shouted, but the gap closed before Uncle Vasilis could hear him.
“I saw Vassilis, but he didn’t hear me,” he told Nicholas. “What do we do now?”
“I don’t know,” said Nicholas. “I’m starting to get scared.”
At that moment, the children with the ball approached them and signaled them to follow. The ball led the way, bouncing in the air, followed by the children with equations, and behind them, the two friends, not knowing where they were going or why. They simply followed without knowing what else to do.
Soon, they arrived at a glass building with no doors or windows. The ball, leading the way, passed through the glass wall as if it were made of gel, and the children with equations followed. The two friends, enchanted by the strangeness of this place, hesitated at first but then, with more courage, crossed the wall and found themselves inside the peculiar building. Socrates looked back to see if a hole had formed, but the wall had closed again and become solid. At that moment, he felt like he saw Uncle Vassilis sitting in the depths behind many transparent walls, hunched over in front of a computer.
“This place is enchanted,” he thought.
They shouted again, along with Nicholas, this time:
But once again, he didn’t respond. It seemed he hadn’t heard them.
They looked around, and the children and their ball had disappeared. At that moment, an elderly man appeared in front of them. His beard and hair were blue, and to their great surprise, he began to speak to them:
“Welcome, my children, to the land of numbers. It’s been a while since we’ve seen children from your dimension.”
“Look, sir,” said Socrates, “I don’t know what ‘our dimension’ means, but we want to go to our parents. It’s been a long time, and they will be looking for us. We’ll leave you the ball for your children, who don’t speak. to play. Just help us find the olive tree to return home.”
The elderly man laughed.
“What did you say? You want to go to your parents and leave us the ball? But my dear children, haven’t you understood that it’s the ball that brought you here? Only the ball will take you back. It’s your key to return to your own dimension.”
“But how do we catch it?” asked Nicholas. “It keeps flying away, and every time we approach it, one of those children spits out an equation, and the ball goes far away again.”
“Then you must learn the corresponding equation to make the ball obey you and come close.
“But we don’t know how to say such equations,” replied Socrates. “We haven’t learned them in school.”
“ Stay here and learn,” replied the elderly man and vanished.
The two friends were about to burst into tears when they saw a cute little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes approaching them. She stood in front of them and began to utter equations while a soft music played. The numbers danced in the air, just like their ball, and then disappeared. However, this time, as they looked enchanted at the beautiful girl, they heard her words in their minds, coming out with the equations:
“Don’t be afraid,” she told them. “Pay attention, and you will learn the equations you need to say to catch your ball. You are in another dimension, so everything may seem different to you.”
“What does ‘another dimension’ mean?” asked Socrates. “We need to go back home. My parents will worry.”
“Here, time passes differently than in your dimension. In your world, only a few minutes have passed, and your parents haven’t started to worry yet.”
“Finally, you’ll tell us what ‘another dimension’ means,” said an annoyed Nicholas this time.
“It’s difficult to explain to you. It’s another world that exists parallel to yours, in the universe. Here, the spirit of all scientists and wise people in the world lives. That’s why you see Vassilis appearing between the folds of the cosmic fabric because he is a scientist. Don’t be afraid. Soon, you will meet many wise ones, and you will learn many things. Only then will you be able to learn the right equation that will bring back your ball and lead you to your own world.”
“But we don’t want to become scientists,” said Socrates, frustrated.
“But you want your ball back! And you will get it only when you learn the right equation that will bring it close to you,” replied the little girl.
After that, the girl disappeared among the folds of the cosmic fabric. The two friends were left alone. Both realized that their adventure had just begun. From now on, they would have to pay full attention to manage to catch their ball and return to their own world, or their own dimension, better.
To be continued…