The first time I noticed the numbers that is what they looked like.
I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror in nothing but my boxer shorts, blinking into my own eyes, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me. The numbers hung over my head like a digital alarm clock's face, bright red and glowing. I rubbed my eyes, blinked, rubbed and blinked again, sure I was seeing things. Then I decided I must've gone crazy. Surely this was the first steps of my mind being lost. I waved my hand above my head, making the numbers fall apart like smoke, then regroup almost instantly. I shook my head. "Impossible," I mumbled. I stepped to one side, the numbers followed. I bobbled to the other side. The numbers followed.
I looked around the bathroom. "Is someone here?" I called, "Is this a joke?" But nobody answered, of course, cos I was alone. I stared at the numbers. They didn't even make sense. Five twelve forty-two fifty-three? What was that supposed to mean? "This is nuts," I mumbled, waving my hands through the numbers again, watching them fall apart and regroup. I stood there a second, and then the panic set in.
I rushed out of the bathroom, into the hallway of the hotel and frantically banged on Howie's door. "Howie... HOWARD," I called. It took him a few minutes, but he finally answered the door, peeking out. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that he, too, had numbers over his head. His were diffrerent, though... longer. They were also blue, where mine were red.
"Howie..." I breathed, "What do they mean?"
Howie looked at me like I was a mental case. "What does what mean?" he asked.
I pointed, "The numbers, Howie... the numbers."
Howie glanced up at the numbers, then looked at me again, a confused expression clouding his eyes. "What...numbers, Nick?"
"Thirty-seven, one hundred twelve, fifteen, fifty-three, nineteen," I read them. My eyes met his, "Didn't you see them yet?"
Howie raised his eyebrows. "Them?"
"Yeah," I pushed Howie into the room, and right into the bathroom. I flipped on the switch. "See? The numbers." I reached over Howie's head and waved my hand through his numbers the way I had my own.
Howie eyed me wearily, "Maybe we should postpone the rest of the tour a little bit..." he suggested slowly.
"Don't you see them, D?" I asked.
"No.. no I don't," he answered, raising an eyebrow.
I waved my hand through my numbers and looked at him. "Maybe it's a government thing. Maybe they're numbering us for some reason. Like a census..."
"Maybe you lost your mind?" Howie asked, yawning and leaning against the counter.
"I don't know," I answered. "I don't think I am. I mean, I don't feel crazy." I looked at Howie's numbers, then glanced in the mirror at my own. "I just... see weird numbers."
Howie nodded, "Right. Well, Nick, go to bed... Maybe you're just tired."
"I'm not tired..." I answered, pouting.
"Okay." Howie shephereded me to the door and out into the hall. "Go relax, dude. I'll see you later."
I stood helplessly in the hallway, looking at Howie's door, even after he'd closed it. It took me several moments to regroup. Howie almost always backed me up, even if he didn't quite think I was sane. I scratched my head and glanced to one side, catching a glimpse of myself in the reflection on the glass front of a picture that was hanging on the wall. The numbers hung over my head.
Somehow I felt rushed just looking at them, and fear swelled up in my throat. I felt as though I had no time to lose. I ran down the hallway, past AJ's hotel room door and past my own, throwing myself against Brian's room door. Somebody, somewhere in this hotel, had to be able to see these numbers, too. Surely I wasn't the only one.
When Brian opened the door, he had Baylee at his heels. The first thing I noticed was Brian's numbers, like Howie's were longer than mine and blue.
The second thing I noticed was how ridiculously long Baylee's was.
"Do you see them, Brian?" I asked.
Brian looked take back by my greeting. "What? Good morning to you, too, Nick."
Baylee held up a DVD. "Did you come to watch the movie with us?"
I shook my head to Baylee, "I didn't know you were watching one."
"Yeah, it's gonna be great!" he ran back into the hotel room, leaving Brian and I in the doorway.
Brian eyed me, "What's going on, buddy?"
"Nothing. Well, something. A lot of something." I furrowed my brows, "Brian... have you looked in a mirror today?"
Brian's hands went to his face, "Why? What's wrong? Did Baylee scribble on me with his magic markers again?" he turned scurried around the corner into his bathroom. In the reflection the numbers glowed but he didn't even look at them. Instead, he leaned closer to the mirror and began stretching his face every which way trying to see if Baylee had written on him.
"The numbers," I said, "Don't you see the numbers?"
Brian raised an eyebrow at me in the mirror. "Numbers?"
I sighed. "Nevermind..."
"No, Nick, what --"
Before Brian could finish the sentence, though, Leighanne swept into the room, smiling. She wrapped her arms around Brian. "Hey Nick," she greeted me. I looked at her numbers.
I looked at Brian's. Leighanne was almost exactly the same as Brian. As hers ticked over to 29:354:23:10:40, Brian's clicked onto 29:354:23:10:43.
"I gotta go," I said, backing out of the bathroom, my knees feeling weak. "You sure you can't see it, Brian?"
"Nevermind." I rushed out of the bathroom, out of the hotel room and into the hallway. I stood, looking either way, unsure what the hell to do with myself. Was I going crazy? was this some messed up optical illusion?
As I stood there, AJ emerged from his hotel room. "Yo Nick," he waved to me. He wandered my direction, carrying two water bottles. "I was just about to come get you, actually..." he tossed one of the bottles to me. "Ready to jog?" I turned the bottle over in my hands, and glanced up at AJ's numbers.
"Yeah, I'm good," I replied, "Ready and good."
AJ smiled, "'kay then, let's go before the streets get too crowded, huh?"
"Yeah, let's go."