Forever Endeavor

Somewhere on a sidewalk of a very busy city, a card is being trampled on and ignored by people, until one day, Mr. Bentley noticed it. On it was typed “Want to earn lots of money doing something simple? We’ll pay you $1,000,000 for making us ten counters - this is no joke - contact Jim of Counters Unlimited at 555-COUNTERS”. Mr. Bentley, who was greedy for earning a quick buck, didn’t hesitate to call, he thought to himself “is it counters as in ‘cabinets and counters’ or is it like an odometer of a car that can count” - but it didn’t matter, one million dollars is quite a nice payment!

When Bentley called, he got set up for an appointment that very afternoon, he hailed a taxi, and headed strait for Counters Unlimited. Once there, he was asked to sign some papers and to agree with some terms, he signed them quickly, not even caring for what the terms were, “ONE MILLION DOLLARS, who cares what the terms are” he thought. But what were those terms? - the terms said that once he signed the papers, he will make for them, ten counters to the finish before he could be released and get paid, he would be given meals and a few small breaks and a 5 hour sleep break each day, he will work with a supervisor which will be referred to as his “Compadre”, working continuously (with the exception of the allowed breaks) until all ten counters has been made for the owners of Counters Unlimited. Instructions will be given by Compadre.

Bentley gave the secretary the signed papers, she called Jim on the intercom. Jim came in with a grin on his face, he looked like a car salesman, “Great to meet you Mr. Bentley” he said as he shook Bentley’s hand. Jim lead Bentley to a steel door, and pushed it open revealing a dull gray room with mediocre lighting and a window on the opposite wall. There was a table in the midst with two chairs on the near side of the table, in the right chair sat an average sized man, who turned around, he had the coldest, most serious, indifferent expression on his face, his neon green eyes gave him the fiercest stare - a stare that would put chills down anyone’s spine - “This is your Compadre, who will instruct you and be your supervisor” Jim told Bentley. On the table near the empty chair was a large cardboard box with some thin metal rods near it - Compadre was holding a wheel shaped object with the numbers 0-9 on it, there was a small rod going through the center. Jim told Bentley that Compadre was holding a counter, and he will lead him into making the ten counters, he also said while motioning his hand towards Compadre’s counter, that the first counter has already been made. Bentley was very exited - “Just nine more of THESE! - that’ll take no time at all!”. Jim shut the steel door, and there was the click of a deadbolt locking.

Compadre, with his chilling emotionless expression, nodded his head towards the empty chair motioning Bentley to sit. Bentley was all smiles - “I’m ready when you are”. Compadre, not saying a word, pointed to a metal rod. Bentley picked it up in a very bold way showing that he was more than ready. Compadre then took his counter, and turned the wheel from 0 to 1, then looked at Bentley as though he was thinking “Well, put a wheel on the rod!”. Bentley reached into the cardboard box which was full of wheels, the wheels all had the numerals 0-9 on them. He then slapped it onto the rod, then Compadre turned his counter to 2 and motioned Bentley to put another wheel on. Bentley caught on, “so the counters will have ten wheels - no problem!” he said. This continued, Compadre turned his counter as Bentley put another wheel on the rod - 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. Compadre then turned the wheel to 0, and Bentley put the 10th and final wheel on his first counter - “this is actually the second of the ten counters” Bentley thought to himself being ready to start the third.

Compadre thrust his hand out as if demanding for the counter that was just made. Bentley smiled and placed this counter into Compadre’s hand. Compadre then put his own counter away, set Bentley’s to 0000000000, and then turned the right wheel turning it to 0000000001. Bentley looked at him and said “you’ve got to be kidding, right?” Compadre responded with a chilling emotionless stare and a nodding motion to begin putting wheels on the third counter. Bentley then took on a more concerned look and said “you’re not going to count on THAT counter are you?” - Compadre stared seriously and pointed to the box of wheels and then to a rod . Bentley defiantly said “well there aint THAT many wheels in that box, and these rods aint NEAR long enough”. Bentley looked at Compadre as though he were crazy, he took a rod and plopped the first wheel on. Compadre turned the counter to 0000000002, Bentley put the next wheel on, lining up the 0’s. This continues - as Compadre turns the right wheel of the counter which was set at 0000000009, the second digit flipped setting the counter to 0000000010 - Bentley’s counter is as long as the one Compadre has, the count continues, more wheels are plopped onto Bentley’s rod - but somehow the rod keeps growing to accommodate more wheels - Bentley looks at this in confusion and gets more concerned saying “What tha?” - Compadre quickly turns his head with that fierce serious stare that demands that the work continues. Minutes pass, Compadre’s counter is set at 0000000573, Bentley’s counter now has 573 wheels on it, it is now going out the window due to it being so long.

A few hours pass, Bentley is getting seriously concerned as he looks at his counter which is now longer than a football field, he also notices that the box is always full of wheels, it never depletes, and gets even more concerned as he looks at Campadre’s counter which is now set to 0000010698. He looks at Compadre as if thinking “you’re crazy” - Compadre pauses, realizing that it is lunch time, he then pushes a hidden button under the table, then one of those dumbwaiter style carrying tubes shoot from under the floor, through a metal disk shaped opening in the middle of the back end of the table. Scrunched inside are two bologna sandwiches. Compadre takes them out and hands Bentley one, he puts the tube back which was then sucked out of sight. Compadre scarped his sandwich down his throat and swallowed, then looked at Bentley seriously as if thinking “well hurry up, lets continue work”. Bentley quickly ate the sandwich and got some water in an old rusty faucet in the corner nearest him and got ready to start back up - Compadre stared seriously at Bentley and was clearly agitated with Bentley’s “slowness”. He turned his counter to 0000010699 and the work continued.

Bentley tried to engage in small talk asking Compadre what his real name was, where he was from, and how much was he getting paid - but got no response except for a cold stare, Compadre kept on counting on his counter, making sure Bentley placed wheels on his own. During the next five hours, Bentley’s only breaks were for getting a drink of water and going to the bathroom, there was an old restroom next to the water faucet, Bentley searched for a way to escape - just in case he needed it, but to no avail. Compadre’s counter was now at 0000025433, and Bentley’s counter had 25433 wheels on it - it was already midnight. Compadre got up and walked to the far right corner of the room and pulled a lever - then two beds on opposite sides of the room, were released from the walls - they were very uncomfortable looking, made of cast iron with a small blanket and a grocery sack full of those Styrofoam popcorn thingies - this was the pillow. Compadre motioned Bentley to go to bed, Compadre took the bed on the right wall, Bentley’s was on the left wall. Bentley laid down on that uncomfortable bed, and couldn’t go to sleep, he had to get out of there. Once Compadre fell asleep, Bentley got up and snuck to the door, and tried to open it, but it was locked from the outside, he went to the window but it had a force field that kept him from escaping - he went back to the door and tried to unlatch it using keys in his pocket - then a strong chilly feeling came upon him as if he were being watched - goose bumps was up and down his spine and the hair tingling on his back as he turned around and saw Compadre’s cold icy wide-eyed stare - Compadre forcefully pointed to Bentley’s bed.

Bentley only got about 3 hours of restless sleep. At 5-o-clock in the morning, he was awakened by Compadre who slapped his cold hand on his shoulder. Bentley was getting hungry and asked “What’s for breakfast?” Compadre responded by pointing to the table, but there was nothing there to eat, it became clear that it was time to work on the counter. They both sat down in their chairs and commenced, Compadre turned his counter to 0000025434 to start the day off, Bentley started to plop the wheels on again - Bentley asked Compadre “so - when exactly can I go home?” - Compadre shook his head “no” and pointed to Bentley’s counter. As Bentley was plopping the wheels on during the next two hours, due to insufficient sleep and the monotonous work, he would catch himself about to doze off several times and shake his head vigorously to wake himself. There were times that he actually did doze off, only to be scared half to death by the loud BAM of the hand of Compadre slamming against the table - this caused poor Bentley to nearly jump out of his skin - the frightening stare of Compadre made it that much worse.

Compadre’s counter was at 0000031903 when he decided to pause for breakfast around 7 o-clock, Bentley’s counter was over a thousand feet long, most of it was outside, thanks to the window - the force field had no effect on the counter going outside. Compadre pushed that button again, and up shot that dumbwaiter tube with 2 pancakes crammed inside, and just as with last night’s bologna sandwich, Compadre gulped his down in one swallow - and had no patience for Bentley - who ate the stale syrup-less pancake as fast as he could without choking. Bentley had to get some water too, something that Compadre didn’t take time to do yet. The work continues. Bentley starts to wonder if all of this is some elaborate practical joke - surely they don’t expect him to put TEN BILLION wheels on this counter - he could tell that in order to flip Compadre’s counter back to all zeroes, it would have counted to ten billion. He asked Compadre “Ya’ll don’t expect me to put ten billion wheels on this thing do ya?” Compadre responded with no words at all, just a quick cold stare. “I mean WHAT is the PURPOSE?”, another quick chilling emotionless stare. The counter was in the 40 thousands, as Bentley started to calculate how long it would take to put ten billion wheels on - he figured that 18 hours of work each day and approximately 3000 wheels per hour - that there would be 54000 wheels per day, 54 million wheels per thousand days which was nearly 3 years, and 54 billion wheels in 3000 years - making 10 billion wheels into about 550 years!

Bentley looked at Compadre and asked “Do you realize that I’ll be dead in 550 years!, that’s how long it will take to put ten billion wheels on this thing!” Compadre just shook his head as though Bentley was an idiot. “You know - I DO have a life beyond this place you know, so surely, you’ll let me outta here within a week or so.” No matter how hard Bentley tried to reason with Compadre, he couldn’t get the automaton to dismiss him and let him leave. Bentley also mentioned that he would forfeit the million dollars, if he could go home. This pleading was of no use at all, there was no convincing Compadre - only cold piercing stares that demanded the work go unhindered. Bentley was getting more and more worried that he would have to spend the rest of his life in this room and have to put all ten billion wheels on the counter, or nearly a billion, for he would probably be dead in 55 years, and worse there were 7 more counters beyond that one.

Compadre got up to use the restroom - first time - Bentley had an idea, maybe he could speed it up a bit - he took Compadre’s counter which was at 0000042057, and tried to turn some of the wheels, however only the right most wheel would turn, so Bentley whirled it as fast as he could - watching the numbers race forward - a minute later he heard Compadre about to come back out of the restroom - so he put the counter back down and it now said 0000043896. He acted like nothing happened. Compadre sat back down, took the counter and shot Bentley a chilling stare, then he thumped the counter and it reset back to 0000042057 instantly. Bentley buried his head in his right hand, shaking his head in despair. Work continues. Lunch finally rolls around, but lunch was just stale bologna sandwiches again. Supper is also the same ol’ bologna sandwich. Midnight finally came, somewhat to Bentley’s delight, he can finally go back to sleep, but those beds, those cast iron beds! At this time the counter was at 0000079905. Bentley decided to get some sleep this time, instead of stirring during the night trying to escape this dismal place.

All during the night, Bentley was having horrible nightmares - his first nightmare was that Compadre was coming to attack him, Bentley defended himself with a pistol, the bullets bounced off of Compadre like he was a cyborg - Compadre with glowing eyes kept coming. Bullets bouncing off him, he had skin peeling off of a metallic robotic interior and was about to grab Bentley with a fierce choke hold around his neck, then Bentley awoke in terror, gasping for breath, he was very relieved that it was only a dream. He went back to sleep and had an even worse nightmare, Bentley had just finished the ten billion wheeled counter, then Compadre demanded for it, Bentley - in horror - gave Compadre this counter, Compadre thumped it to set all ten billion wheels to zero, and begun counting on this counter for the fourth counter to be made. He instantly awoke screaming “NOOOOOOOOOO”. Compadre had just slapped him on the shoulder to awake him at the same time his own scream woke him. Compadre, with his awful stare was fully in view of Bentley at this horrible awaking moment. Compadre pointed at the table for work to commence.

Compadre surely was a cold looking individual, but he surely was no cyborg - he may have a chilly air about him, but he has not even attempted to harm Bentley in any way - so Bentley completely waved off the first nightmare as plumb ridiculous. The second nightmare also seemed ludicrous, how could any human being be that cruel, keeping another trapped for eons upon eons making a counter with googols upon googols of wheels - Bentley laughed to himself of how silly that was, he wouldn’t live that long anyway - Compadre shot him a quick stare and then kept on counting, while Bentley kept placing wheels on the counter. “Surely Compadre will release me when we reach 100,000 wheels or perhaps a million wheels - that wont be so bad” thought Mr. Bentley. “If Compadre don’t, I can sure bang on the door until Jim or someone lets me back out”. This third day was similar, the same food, and similar work and breaks, Compadre still scarping his meals down in seconds. However, excitement mounted as the counter approached 100,000 right after lunch. Bentley paid close attention to Compadre’s counter as he was plopping wheels on his - 0000099906 .... 0000099985 ... 0000099997 0000099998 0000099999 0000100000 - this seemed to bring some excitement to Bentley, however the cold Compadre didn’t show emotion at all, he kept on going - Bentley’s counter now had more than a hundred thousand wheels on it and was nearly a mile long. Bentley would also search the room with his eyes for any way to escape - just in case he had no choice. He saw nothing that could help him, just a calendar and clock on the wall to keep up with the day and time - it was on Compadre’s side of the room. Bentley hoped that Jim would come back to check up on progress, that could be his ticket out of there, but Jim never came. The third day ended with the counter stopped at 0000133227. They both went to bed again, this time Bentley’s sleep was more pleasant - except for the hard steel surface of the bed.

The next day, Bentley was feeling uncomfortable, he hasn’t changed his clothes in days, he mentioned this to Compadre, who pushed a button and pointed to the bathroom - Bentley went inside and there was a clean set of clothes to put on, they appeared to have slid down a slanted slot in the ceiling - however it was too narrow to escape through. Bentley changed clothes and continued working with Compadre. More days go by. It has now been a week since Bentley came to this place - no sign of Jim, no other type of food other than stale bologna sandwiches and stale pancakes, and absolutely no sign of Compadre letting up - he STILL hasn’t even spoken a single word - he would only motion with his eyes, head, or fingers - and that horrible stare. The pillow at night has come undone several times with those poppies going all over the floor, Bentley had to keep placing them back in that paper grocery sack that was his pillow. Compadre’s ten digit counter was now in the 300,000 vicinity, while Bentley’s counter was about two miles long! Bentley was getting tired of this business - so when Compadre went to the bathroom, usually only once a day, Bentley would start knocking on the steel door, shouting “JIM, JIM, ANYBODY, Will you let me OUTTA HERE?” - no response would come from outside, however he would get a good disapproving stare from Compadre, as soon as he left the bathroom and a strong point towards his chair. The next week, Bentley was getting very concerned, and during Compadre’s daily bathroom break, he would start beating on the steel door, sometimes even screaming “GET ME OUT OF HERE!!” It was entirely no use, Bentley was at Compadre’s mercy - which seemed nonexistent. Sometime near the end of the third week, Bentley started to get his hopes up, for the counter was approaching one million while Bentley‘s own counter was over 6 miles long - it went further than his eyes could see. His excitement grew as Compadre’s small counter was flipping from 0000999999 to 0001000000 - he thought he might get set free, but NO - Compadre kept on - 0001000001 0001000002 0001000003 . . .

After several weeks, even months, Bentley’s back and shoulders were sore after all those nights on that cast iron bed, not to mention the powerful slaps to his shoulder which was how Compadre would awake him each and every morning at 5 AM. There were times that Bentley had high fever due to colds or the flu - Compadre made him work regardless, except for the time Bentley’s fever rose to 103 - Compadre would press a different button for medicines and a thermometer during these times. The stale bologna sandwich day after day after day made Bentley sick every now and then, and still Compadre would keep Bentley busy on the counter which had millions of wheels. Bentley got very upset that Compadre wouldn’t even recognize the Holidays, like Thanksgiving or Christmas - Thanksgiving dinner was the same ol’ bologna sandwich that was crammed into that tube - where Compadre would scarp his down his throat and swallow. There was no time off on Christmas at all - still 18 hours of work that day, just like the others. The counter was at numbers such as 0008505634 - it already passed Bentley’s phone number up, which he regretted missing a couple of months back. But what he regretted most was that nobody came to let him out, Bentley already knew - he would be trapped here for the rest of his life - and he still wouldn’t be done with the counter he was working on which is to have ten billion wheels. He would frequently and desperately ask Compadre “Don’t you have a LIFE, cant you do ANYTHING ELSE but THIS?” Compadre would quickly turn with that goose-bump producing stare of his, and then continue counting making sure Bentley does too. Bentley’s counter was well over 50 miles long! The only excitement Bentley had was to watch a string of 6 nines flip to zero, turning the next digit and bringing the counter into the next million - this happened about once every 2½ to 3 weeks.

Days and days go by, week after week, month after month, year after year! The counter has long passed ten million, which was an exciting moment at that time. It has now been over five years - Compadre’s counter is now in the mid 90 millions - Bentley, who is thoroughly sick of this endeavor, is starting to look forward to the giant flip over to come in a few months, where 8 nines will flip over and the second left wheel will finally move for the first time changing from a 0 to a 1. That day comes, 100 million at last - 0100000000 - Bentley’s counter was well over 600 miles long - and it was only one percent finished!

Bentley longs desperately to escape, to eat REAL food again, to meet REAL people, not this constant companion, the automaton - Compadre. He longs to do different things, like going to barbeques, getting married, going out to eat or to a movie, even watching TV, playing a game, or sleeping on a bed with a mattress. How Bentley longs to simply read a book, build something made of wood, draw, to go to church, to go home, or have a vacation, or go shopping, ANYTHING - other than making this stupid counter with COMPADRE in this bland gray room, scarping 2 bologna sandwiches down and a stale pancake each day! Many a time has Bentley tried to beat down the steel door, sometimes causing his knuckles to split wide open, only to be doctored by Compadre with no more than a piece of brown paper with tape to hold it in place, and of course this never stopped Compadre from keeping Bentley busy on the counter. Bentley also stealthily tried to dig into Compadre’s pockets during the night, but no key was there, and Compadre’s nearly glowing eyes would spring wide open, frightening poor Bentley. Bentley felt as though he were in prison, and in a sense - he was.

During these years, Bentley would look forward to any break he had, he would usually stay in the bathroom for several minutes, just to get away from the endless work, he would take his time when shaving, or just sit down on the toilet as though it was a chair, and just lay back and rest - only to be interrupted by Compadre, who would not allow him any more than 15 minutes before continuously pounding on the bathroom door - PAM PAM PAM PAM ... - this was very irritating to Bentley, he would clench his teeth and sigh frustratingly, for Compadre would not stop pounding until Bentley got out. The bathroom had no shower, so he couldn’t just stand in the shower all day, Bentley sure longed for one, the running water would of dampened Compadre’s pounding. The only baths he could take would be a wash rag bath. There were also times that Bentley would get out of his chair angrily and head for the door not caring what Compadre done, he would pound on the steel door trying to get Jim’s attention, Compadre would get up and point to the chair firmly. Bentley sometimes got mad enough to throw a punch, but Compadre’s reflexes were so quick he would instantly catch Bentley’s fist in his hand and squeeze fiercely, pointing to Bentley’s chair with his other hand. Bentley would grit his teeth and start massaging his crushed hand. There was nothing Bentley could do to get out of this room.

During one night, Bentley had an idea, he got up and tried to dig a hole into the cement wall near his bed using the keys in his pocket, maybe he could get it big enough to escape - every night when Compadre was asleep, he would start to dig, and after several weeks, the hole was large enough to squeeze into, Bentley kept digging, the hole was mainly covered up by the bed, so it couldn’t be seen. Even when the bed was up, the hole was fairly well hidden, but one day while Bentley and Compadre was working, Compadre seen the hole, he got up to investigate, went back and sat down - he shot Bentley a stare, then pushed a button under the table, and the hole sealed itself back up - Bentley liked to have died - from then on Compadre would notice any holes that Bentley dug and would push that button, there was no way out.

Bentley had many more nightmares, one time he dreamt that he finished the ten billion wheeled counter, Campadre thrust his hand out, and started to count on IT, Bentley screamed “NOOOOOOOOO”, got up out of his chair in a frenzy, the chair flying to the ground, he beat the steel door like a mad man, screaming “LET ME OUT”, he kept beating on the door until it came loose. Compadre got up and pointed to the chair forcefully, Bentley backed up and rammed himself into the door with a battle yell, and ran out into a steel hall. Running in terror - his dream was in slow motion - Bentley would scream “NOOOOOOOO” in a low slow motion type sound as Compadre came out to get him, Bentley ran through a maze of steel corridors and around every corner was Compadre with that fierce stare, pointing back to the room, Bentley would turn and run the other way “NOOOOOOOOO” pounding on the steel walls of any dead end, his voice echoing off the steel soundings like the scream in a tunnel, “NOOOOOOOO - LET ME OUT” - there was an endless maze of steel corridors that Bentley ran through in slow motion, and every room that he came across was the same dull gray room he was in all these years, “NOOOOOOOOO” he would wake up screaming. Bentley had many nightmares of this caliber.

While Bentley was working on the counters, those nagging, horrible thoughts would cross his mind, those nightmares, what happens when this counter is finished?, would Compadre ask for it and count on it for the next one! Bentley didn’t dare bring it up, he surely didn’t want to give Compadre any ideas, but then again “I would be dead before this counter is done anyway” Bentley thought to himself. Those dreams were just horrible nightmares - or were they? “Why, Compadre would probably let me go when his counter hits a billion - I would be old and wrinkled, but maybe there’s hope” Bentley would think - but those nagging nightmares wouldn’t go away. Thinking again “Maybe if he wont let me go, maybe I can talk him into having a celebration once we hit the billion mark, by going outside and have lunch some where, then I could escape” - Bentley was hopeful of this idea, but then again that was still many decades away, for Compadre’s counter was only at 0145377869 when Bentley glanced at it that time. Bentley sighed.

Bentley also tried his best to get Compadre to lighten up, by celebrating Christmas, or Easter, he even offered to have Compadre tell him his birthday so they can celebrate it - just to get a break from this boring job - But it was all in vain, no celebrations came, no day-long breaks - only the same thing day in and day out - making this third counter. Bentley also tried his best to get Compadre to change the menu, and even to take his time eating the food - instead of scarping it down in milliseconds. Bentley would go on in this manner “Think about it compadre, a nice T-bone steak covered with gravy, how about take out Chinese food, yum - yum. Pineapple, Compadre, pineapple, how ‘bout a nice cheesecake - wait wait - a cherry cheesecake. Ooo ooo how about a nice seafood dinner, shrimp, fish, - come on Compadre - something other than BOLOGNA SANDWICHES” Compadre would only give Bentley a hard emotionless stare and there was no change in the menu. Surely there had to be a heart under that stony exterior - but nothing Bentley done could get to it, Compadre haven’t even spoken a single word in all of these years - it was about eight years now. Bentley also tried to talk Compadre into getting better beds, but to no avail.

There were times that Bentley was so bored that he laid his head on his arm, facing away from Compadre, with his mouth and eyes wide open in a very bored expression, tongue hanging out, drool dripping on the table, Bentley kept on putting wheels on while listing to the click sound of Compadre’s counter, he would sometimes get so bored that he would slow down considerably, only to be jarred out of his stupor by the loud BAM of Compadre’s hand slamming against the steel table. Other times, Bentley would just want to get it all over with, so he would start putting on wheels rapid fire, about five or six times faster than usual, but then Compadre would take those extra wheels off, and point fiercely to his own counter as if showing what pace that Bentley should be going. Thinking of the nightmares, Bentley would sometimes take wheels off instead of adding them when he thought Compadre wasn’t looking, but only to get the disapproved stare, Compadre stared until Bentley put the correct amount of wheels back on, then they continued.

Days, weeks, months, and years pass - surely Bentley would start to show signs of old age, gray hair, wrinkles - but when he would go to the bathroom and look in the mirror - those signs were never there - maybe he wasn’t old enough yet - but then again - shouldn’t there be some sign of getting older. Staying young didn’t sound bad, but in Bentey’s situation - he longed for the aging to show up - because death would be one way out of this situation - the aging never showed up! Compadre never aged either - he looked exactly the same as he did 15 years ago. The more years that passed, the more concerned Bentley got about not aging - how weird, most people were concerned about aging. Many years pass - it was now 45 years since Bentley came to this prison, but he still looked the same age as he did when he first came here - Bentley was getting terrified - will he have to live to finish the counters! - even if the rest of the counters were ten billion wheels long, it would be several thousand years! What would the outside world be like now, there are probably flying cars, people living on Mars, and who knows what else, what if Jim was dead, or in a nursing home. Bentley was getting more concerned than ever, and those nagging thoughts, those horrible, nightmarish thoughts, those nightmares about the next counter!

Bentley’s counter was over 5000 miles long and Compadre’s counter was now at 0820089756 - the billion mark would strike in about ten years - maybe Bentley had some hope, the hope of talking Compadre into a day on the town, a day to go outside to eat at a restaurant for dinner, a day to go shopping, or even visit some museum or amusement part - and a chance to escape.

During the next few years, Bentley would tell Compadre about his excitement for the big flip over - when the ten wheeled counter will flip all of its wheels and turn to 1000000000 - one billion. He mentioned that “we ought to go out and celebrate that moment, go out for dinner, take a holiday - for that is one heck of an accomplishment, I mean one billion - counting to one billion, this counter here will have one billion wheels on it” - Compadre would stare at him, but what was THAT, was that a different kind of stare, was it a stare of approval - Compadre seemed to like the idea, although he didn’t say a thing - and then again, Bentley may have been seeing things, but what if? Years pass, excitement mounts as the counter becomes 0900000000 (well excitement from Bentley that is) - more years pass and Bentley seemed to take on a different kind of mood, for he was getting more excited for the day out on the town - he would talk to Compadre a whole lot about it, Compadre would look at him, but this time he seemed a bit more - well - warm - the stare wasn’t as chilling - this seemed to uplift Bentley’s spirits a whole lot, Bentley seemed to enjoy these years, even though the work was the same, the meals were still the same, it was the hope - the hope of the one billion - the hope to get out - and escape.

More time passed, Compadre never spoke nor ever smiled - but Bentley was getting very hopeful especially when another nine lined up - 0990000000, Compadre, never showed any emotion, but somehow - Bentley suspected that Compadre was looking forward to the outing. As the months went on, Bentley’s excitement mounted, he would talk about all kind of things that they could do when they go on this outing - “we can go boating, sailing, or how about hiking up the mountains, how about going fishing, I can’t wait for the outing Compadre, to celebrate the special billion mark, you know Compadre, we can go out and meet some girls, sure would be great to have a girlfriend - look at your counter, it will hit the billion mark in only a month or so - ONLY A MONTH - YES!!! - I can’t wait Compadre” Bentley gave him a hard pat on the shoulder “I can’t wait” - the counter was at 0998734555.

While he slept, Bentley now had dreams about going outside, of the spring air, of seeing normal people, of living a normal life again, his nightmares seemed to have vanished. He would sometimes lay awake smiling at the hope of going outside. While Compadre was in the bathroom, he would get up and look out the window, with his arms crossed behind his back, looking forward to one billion - although the only thing out the window was his counter that went further than his eyes can see, a tree that never seemed to change, some grass, and two brick walls, one on both sides, that went out at least a thousand feet. Bentley and Compadre has been room mates for the past 55 years, and no aging has ever occurred, this was puzzling, and Compadre never spoke a word, which was also puzzling. Compadre came back out of the bathroom, and pointed to the table, Bentley went back to work, more hopeful than ever.

Bentley started to think of Compadre more as a friend now, since the atmosphere was not as tense this past year, and asked if he would push a button to give them a deck of cards, so they can play card games once in a while - Compadre shook his head “no”. “Oh well then” Bentley said - “thought, I would ask”. That fateful day finally arrived, Compadre woke Bentley up to commence on work, and the counter was set at 0999979542 - you can just imagine the happy thoughts going through Bentley’s mind, Bentley was sure that Compadre wanted to leave the room also, so maybe Bentley didn’t have to escape from Compadre, they can do their outing and spend quality time as buddies, instead of this monotonous work, Bentley could then convince him to just forget going back and live a real life. But just in case Compadre wanted to return, Bentley could escape at that moment. Hours later Bentley’s eyes were glued to Compadre’s counter - now at 0999999745 - his heart was pounding with excitement.

When the counter was at 0999999990 - he began a count down - Compadre seemed to emphasize it - every time he turned the counter, he would look at Bentley as if thinking - “Here we go, we’re about to hit one billion”, Bentley would clap on a wheel and count down - NINE, EIGHT, SEVEN, SIX, FIVE, FOUR, THREE, TWO, ONE - the counter done the big flip - the 0999999999 turned to 1000000000 - and it was only around noon time - Bentley jumped out of his chair and shouted “YAHOO - ONE BILLION - FINALLY“. Compadre got up and held out his hand as if for a hand shake - but never broke a smile. Bentley grabbed his hand with both hands shaking vigorously, “We did it, we finally did it - NOW, lets go CELEBRATE!!! Lets go out for dinner and eat some real food”. Bentley went to the door and waited as Compadre went to the table and pressed a button under the table, Bentley was rubbing his hands in excitement, watching the door, ready for it to open. Then he heard a familiar sound, it was the dumbwaiter, he thought “huh?” and turned around and thought “of course, the key, he needed the key - that’s what’s in the capsule” But it wasn’t the key, it was two bologna sandwiches crammed inside - Bentley was utterly disappointed - “well maybe he wants to eat here and then go outside” Bentley thought to himself as Compadre scarped his sandwich down his throat - Bentley sat down and ate his and then said “OK, Compadre, lets go out and celebrate”. Compadre then picked up his counter and turned it to 1000000001, Bentley liked to come undone “Compadre, come on - what’s the matter with you, we was supposed to go out and celebrate - do you just want to get a head start on the next billion?” Compadre sternly pointed to Bentley’s 6300 mile long counter - Bentley sat down and put on another wheel, surely his hopes aren’t shattered. He thought “did Compadre really intend to go out? or am I gonna hafta put another billion wheels on before we can go out.” He had to ask - “Compadre, we are going to celebrate aren’t we? We are going to go outside for a while AREN’T WE?” Compadre stared back, and shook his head “No”. Bentley grabbed Compadre’s shoulders and started hitting his head against Compadre’s chest in deep disappointment, on the verge of crying “Come ON Compadre, Lets go outside, WHY, WHY can’t we go outSIDE?” But Compadre slammed his hands onto Bentley’s shoulders, pushed him back and shook him firmly one time - back into reality - and firmly pointed to Bentley’s counter - work will commence, there was going to be no outing - Bentley’s only hope to escape within decades was shattered.

Bentley was grief stricken, his mood utterly changed, Compadre wasn’t the friend he hoped for, now he seemed like a slave driver, even though all this time, Compadre was just the same ol’ Compadre. Bentley wouldn’t even speak to Compadre during the next few weeks, he was very sore with Compadre for letting him bask in those hopes, only to be utterly shattered in the end. Bentley’s mind was reeling with thoughts of escape, then something hit him - “THOSE BUTTONS, Why haven’t I thought of it before - Maybe one of those buttons will open the door, or at least send out the key” Bentley waited patiently for Compadre to finally take his daily bathroom break - finally the moment came. Bentley looked under the table and saw all kinds of buttons down there, he started to push them, and absolutely nothing happened, “What, why aint they doing anything?” The buttons would only work for Compadre, it was as if they “knew” who was pressing them. Compadre came back out with that disapproving stare, Bentley sat back down sheepishly.

Bentley starting pondering on a way to get out, he then thought that the buttons were sensitive to Compadre’s fingerprints, he had a plan. Next day, when Compadre went to the bathroom, Bentley took the most heaviest liftable item he could find in the room, his chair - for the table was bolted to the floor. He waited for Compadre with the chair, ready to strike him upside the head to knock him out. Compadre came out and before he could react, Bentley knocked him out cold - “HA, YES” - Bentley dragged Compadre over to where the buttons were, and took his hand to the buttons and started to push the buttons with Compadre’s fingers - something started to happen! Once the dumbwaiter came up, but it was empty, another time it had two bologna sandwiches in them, it also came up with bandages, medicine, and other things that he had seen before, like new grocery sacks and Styrofoam thingies for pillows, Bentley pushed every button, but there was never a key, there was no unlocking the steel door - nothing led to his escape - “Well, how are we supposed to get out!” Bentley thought the unthinkable, killing Compadre, even if he did killed him, it would do absolutely no good at all, it would only do harm, within a few months after death, Compadre’s fingers would be useless to press the buttons, the fingerprints would be decayed, and Bentley wouldn’t be able to get any food - besides, he was repulsed of the idea of spending years with a corpse. Compadre was only knocked out though, he finally came to, holding his head, then he shot Bentley a very cold stare - Bentley thought his life was over, he was sure that Compadre would kill him, but instead Compadre sat down, still staring, and firmly pointed at the counter - he never retaliated. Work commenced, there was no escape.

Bentley even started praying, surely God could get him out of here, even if it required an earthquake, or a path into a higher dimension, ANYTHING - but for some reason, his prayer was never answered. Years, more years, and more years, and more years pass, decades upon decades pass, over a century. Bentley lost all hopes of getting out anytime soon, Compadre wouldn’t even let him out to celebrate hitting two billion, or even three billion - the counter was way up there now, it was at 3564256674 - and Bentley was a prisoner for nearly 200 years - but looked no older than when he first came here, except for bags under his eyes, but that could be due to poor rest - Nothing changed, not the food, the breaks, the bed, the despair, and especially not Compadre. Bentley estimated that his counter was over 22,000 miles long, it could nearly go all the way around the world - he wondered if anyone ever tampered with it, or ever see it, he would sometimes daydream of a squad of police breaking through the door after finding the counter, and arresting Compadre - but this NEVER happened - it is as though the counter was not on earth, but on another planet, like earth - with no people to bother it. Bentley never seen any signs of life outside, besides the tree and grass - no birds, squirrels, animals, people, not even rats, frogs, insects, not even ants or cockroaches - there was no animal life at all outside - ever - this seemed to make it all the more hopeless. There were times Bentley got into deep depressions, he sometimes went years without shaving or changing clothes, almost looking like some badly dressed hobo - “What’s the use”, he thought “the only person I ever see is Compadre”. Later he would get a bit of dignity and shave himself clean, and change his clothes. There were also times that Bentley let himself get so ragged, that he reeked something terrible, and Compadre would turn his head away and point to the bathroom, obviously wanting Bentley to clean up - Bentley only had a wash rag to bathe with though. Compadre on the other hand seemed like he never had to shave, he only had a very light beard, almost like a clean cut person who hasn’t shaved in a week - just bristles.

Bentley would often ask Compadre to bring in something to make the work more pleasant, like a radio, CDs, or even a television - but with no luck at all - Compadre would only glance that stare of his, and keep on wheeling his counter. Bentley would also wonder why the counters had to be made by hand, surely they could get them made automatically by robots - but still - no answer from Compadre - only that emotionless expression, which just DEFINED Compadre. Years and decades pass, three more centuries.

It was now 500 years since this endeavor began - and there’s still no change in activities - continuously making the counter, eating bologna sandwiches, 5 hours of sleep on that cast iron bed, and every once in a while, pleading from Bentley, pleading for Compadre to let him out. Compadre STILL haven’t spoken a word, or even showed a shred of emotion - any emotion seen, like coldness, or a slight warmness, was only in Bentley’s mind - Compadre’s expression was entirely emotionless. Bentley did start getting exited when the first digit of Compadre’s counter finally became a 9 - now the counter was at 9092345602. Bentley wondered what kind of history has going on back in the real world - what was technology like, Bentley even asked Compadre if there was any way to bring some technological wonder into the room - like some virtual reality computer, or some exotic videogame system, where you were actually in the games. Surely this type of technology would be around by now, in the 26th century. What kind of discoveries have been made, were people colonizing other planets and moons, have people found life on Europa, Titan, or some other world? Another thought that struck him was prophecy - has the battle of Armageddon happened yet? - why wasn’t this room obliterated - has Christ returned?, if so why was Bentley still trapped in this room? - has time come to a stand still?, there was not even a sign of a breeze outside, or any motion at all - has time actually stopped? - then what is the purpose of the calendar, only to show how long he has been in the room? He couldn’t get any answers from Compadre, not even a sliver of one.

Bentley knew that this third counter that he was working on should be finished in about 50 years - maybe he could get Compadre to celebrate this event, it would be even more spectacular than hitting one billion - for then it would be ten billion, and the counter would be complete. The years go on, more decades pass, and the time was coming that this dreaded chore would finally be complete - well - only the chore of making the third counter. Bentley forgot about those nightmares of long ago, he was certain that Compadre would use the ten wheeled counter for the remaining counters to be made, Bentley estimated that each of the remaining 7 counters would take 550 years, so there will be 3850 more years to go, this thought was horrifying, nearly 4000 years to go - Bentley could take it though, he managed to survive this work for 550 years now, how much worse would 4000 years be - if someone in Moses’s time started this bit, he would finally be finishing it up about now - Bentley’s sighed at this thought.

Compadre’s counter was getting very close to the grand finally, the grand flip over. It was now at 9999875437 - Bentley hoped to have the outing at this time, surely Compadre would allow it THIS time. Bentley’s counter was nearly 63,000 miles long - it would go around the world two and a half times. In only a few days, the grand flip over would occur, Bentley was getting his hopes up again. The day has come, Bentley watches Compadre’s counter in excitement - 9999999997, 9999999998, 9999999999, 0000000000 - Bentley’s counter had a whopping ten billion wheels on it! “YEHAW!! Now that it’s finished lets go outside now” Bentley then asked Compadre “by the way what on earth is it gonna be used for anyway?” Bentley regretted asking that and put his hand over his mouth and said “never mind that”. Compadre held out his hand as if wanting the counter, Bentley reluctantly gave it to him, Compadre thumps it and all of the ten billion wheels set to zero - Bentley asked, with more concern in his voice “were going out this time aint we?” Compadre shook “no” - pointed to a rod on the table, and threw the old ten wheeled counter in the trash. Bentley got extremely worried and asked in a desperate way “were going to need that aren’t we - to make the other counters?”, Compadre shook his head “no” and lifted up the 63,000 mile long counter that was just finished - pointing to it - then he turned it to . . . 0000000000000000000......billions of zeroes....000000000000001.

Bentley jumped up “NOOOOOOOO” and shot for the door, “Come on Compadre, don’t joke around like this” Bentley shouted. Compadre pointed to the rod for work to continue. “You’re joking, aren’t you - - AREN’T YOU?” Compadre shook his head “no” and firmly pointed to the empty rod that will start the fourth counter. Bentley completely lost control - screaming to get out, clawing at the door, banging, and hitting the door with all of his might, Compadre got up to get Bentley under control, Bentley fought him off, grabbed chairs, and threw them across the room, shouting like a mad man, demanding to be freed, Bentley even tried to smash the counter, but it was unbreakable - Bentley tried hitting Compadre upside the head with the chair, but he caught it and tossed it aside. Bentley swiped his armed into the cardboard box, scattering wheels all over the floor, “LET ME OUT - LET ME OOUUUUTT” He banged on the unyielding steel door - “JIM, HELP, HELP, SOMEBODY - GET ME AWAY FROM THIS MONSTER” Compadre approached with that dead emotionless stare - and forcefully pointed to the table. Bentley fought like a tiger to get away from Compadre. Compadre grabbed a hold of him, Bentley started to swing punches at him, missing Compadre’s face by inches, and the next thing Bentley saw was the rapidly approaching fist of Compadre. Bentley was out cold for half an hour - Bentley’s nightmare has been realized.

When Bentley came to, the first sight he saw was the emotionless stare of Compadre, who then pointed towards the table, Bentley was laying in his bed, when he awoke - Compadre had put him there while he was unconscious, Compadre also cleaned up the mess, for everything was all set to commence on the next counter - a counter that would need - not ten billion wheels - but one followed by ten billion zeroes wheels! Bentley sat there with tears streaming from his face, pounding on the steel table in agony - and he finally put the first wheel on the fourth counter. Bentley was in a horrible mood for the next few years, it would be a lot more than any ol’ 4000 years to finish this task, the fourth counter alone wouldn’t even be done when the universe passes away - it would of only just begun. A hideous thought occurred to Bentley, When the fourth counter is ever finished an eternity away - will Compadre want to count on it next, and continue this until the last one is made - the thought of how long that would take, made Bentley’s head swim, it would take an eternity. This counter alone would take googols of years, not just googols (a googol is one followed by 100 zeroes) - it wouldn’t just take googols of googols of years, it would take so many years that to get a number that big you’ll need to multiply a googol times itself nearly a hundred million times!! When Bentley thought of this, he completely passed out, it took Compadre three hours to get him awake.

Bentley came too very groggily and said in the most pathetic voice, a voice that would cause the hardest of men to crack “PLEASE, I don’t want to be trapped any more, especially for googols of centuries”. He looked at Compadre and seen many ghost-like images of him swirling around before he passed out again. He felt himself get picked up and carried on Compadre’s shoulder. Bentley was as limp as a rag doll and was barely even conscious. He then heard some sort of deep metallic clanking sound before being carried some more. Bentley has no idea how long Compadre carried him, a minute, an hour, no idea - but he soon felt himself being laid down gently on the floor, or was it the bed, but it felt somewhat softer. He heard Compadre’s footsteps fade into the distance.

Bentley slowly gained consciousness and wondered how long he was laying there. To his surprise, he heard the songs of birds and talking in the distance. He opened his eyes and seen the sky with birds flying about. He quickly sat up and looked around completely ecstatic. He was no longer in that horrible place, he was outside in a park laying on the grass! Compadre was nowhere to be found. A large oak tree was a few yards away. On the other side in the distance he seen picnic tables with people cooking food. Bentley couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, nothing has changed - he was in a park near real people.

Bentley heard a female voice from behind him, so he turned around while still sitting on the grass. He seen a very beautiful woman, around 30 years old, with long brown hair and light brown eyes. She smiled and asked “How long have you been asleep, come get up and get something to eat.” She helped Bentley up as Bentley said “I have no idea” as he rubbed his forehead, still a bit groggy. “I haven’t seen a park in over 550 years”. The young lady giggled and said “You don’t look THAT old, you look no older than me.” Bentley asked her “Did you see anyone else around here, a man with bright green eyes with a stare that would frighten a tiger”. She giggled “No, seen no one like that” as she walked him towards the picnic table. “Who was he … the guy you’re looking for?” she asked. “They called him “Compadre” - I hope I never see him again”. “Why’s that?” Bentley was about to tell her how Compadre had him locked up for over 550 years making this odometer like thing, but it sounded so crazy that he decided to say “His personality is like a robot and he never lets you leave - by the way, what year is this?” She then said “2012, silly.” Bentley said to himself in a quiet voice “whew, it’s not 2566 after all, time must of stayed still - or was it all a never-ending dream. Thank God it’s all over.” She asked “What are you talking about”. “Oh nothing”.

She sat Bentley at a table with a married couple sitting there across from him. There was a large guy at the barbeque grill fixing the food there. The delicious aroma coming from the grill, made everyone hungry. Bentley was dying to sink his teeth on whatever it was they were cooking. The young man sitting across from Bentley asked the girl, who just sat down by Bentley, “Who’s this dude”. She looked at Bentley not knowing his name and Bentley said “My name is Jack Bentley” as he shook the man’s hand. The girl said “My name is Brittany, and this is Kyle and his wife Darla, that big guy over there is John”. Bentley said “Oh it’s so good to be outside again.” He then said with exuberance “I’m FINALLY free, I’m finally free of that DAMN Compadre”. Everyone, including John was looking at Bentley wondering what THAT was about. Bentley was embarrassed, he then asked “What’s for dinner?” John lifted up a sizzling steak off the grill with a fork so Bentley could see it and then flipped it over to finish cooking it. He turned back around to finish flipping the steaks.

Darla asked “So Bentley, are you married?” He said “No, I haven’t seen any nice ladies in centuries - uh, sorry, I mean months” Brittany glanced at him with a hint of desire and glanced away when Bentley looked back. Kyle said “Brittany’s single.” Brittany and Bentley were clearly attracted to one another, she scooted closer to Bentley as she said “You know, you are kind of cute”. Bentley smiled back, he couldn’t believe how much his luck has changed - for only an hour or so ago, all seemed hopeless.

John finally started to pull the delicious sizzling steaks off the grill and onto a plate, he then placed it on the picnic table. He sat down on the far end of the picnic table on the side near the ladies and said “Dig in!” Everyone forked steaks onto their plates. Bentley couldn’t wait to eat the wonderful steak in his plate. Brittany held Bentley’s hand and moved in close as fireworks started to go off in the distance. Darla said “this is quite a romantic evening” as she leaned in to kiss Kyle - this set sparkles in Brittany’s eyes as she looked at Bentley, who looked back with anticipation. John was sawing on his steak and eating paying no mind to the romance.

Brittany leaned closer to Bentley and their noses touched as the fireworks kept exploding overhead getting louder and louder. Bentley and Brittany was on the verge of kissing, the exploding fireworks were loud enough to shake the table and were going off at regular intervals - BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. The fireworks were getting annoying now, but this wouldn’t stop Bentley’s first kiss with Brittany. He looked into her beautiful eyes. BOOM, BOOM, BAM, BAM, PAM, PAM, PAM. Brittany faded away and Compadre with his epic stare appeared, slamming his hand on the table one last time PAM - Bentley was finally awake with drool all over the arm his head was resting on.

Bentley got up looking around frantically “Where’s Brittany, where’s my steak? He called out “Brittany!, Kyle!, where are you?” He broken down to tears as realization hit. He called out “Brittany….!” as he fell into his chair reaching out into the air to try to grasp any remains of that dream. He sadly looked over to Compadre “can I at least have the steak?”. Compadre pressed a button and the dumbwaiter tube showed up with two stale greasy bologna sandwiches, complete with slightly molded bread. Compadre swallowed his sandwich as Bentley ate his quite reluctantly with a sour look on his face. Compadre then picked up his 63,000 mile long counter and turned the one wheel on the end, it now said 000.…….0000087798321.

Over the next few years Bentley longed to go back to that dream world, he tried everything to get back - like trying to dream of the place again, concentrating real hard, even hoping to teleport with his mind. He would try this every time Compadre wasn’t looking. None of this worked, so he eventually gave up after 32 long and pathetic years and hundreds of dreams and nightmares no where close to that dream world.

Compadre’s counter was now at 0000000000 .….. billions of zeroes …… …00000709880520 and Bentley’s counter was now near 4500 miles long, which was shorter than Compadre’s at 63,000 miles long. Both counters stretched across the table and through the room to the window and out the window going further than the eye can see. One thing has been puzzling Bentley, he even asked Compadre about it “Why aren’t these counters bunched up like a train wreck out in the distance, there’s no way I could push thousands of miles worth of counter without it bunching up - maybe it acts like a conveyor belt, but invisible, which pulls the whole thing along to keep it from bunching up.” Compadre said nothing of course.

When Compadre went to the bathroom, Bentley walked to the window longing for a way to get outside, but only the counters could pass through. He decided to test his “conveyor belt” theory by pushing on the counters, they were much harder to budge and they seemed to bend outside some - this confirmed his conveyor belt theory, the counters are being pulled as they are being built, but not at other times. Then an idea struck Bentley “OF COURSE!!” hoping he didn’t startle Compadre by his loud outburst. “Why didn’t I think of this sooner”. Bentley was overjoyed as he shoved the two counters out the window entirely, this took a bit of effort since the “conveyors“ were off. “Now lets see Compadre count on those damn things”. Bentley smiled looking at the inaccessible counters outside. He then walked in the now empty space where the counters went across the room a moment ago. He then moseyed along to his seat all smiles. He sat down, crossed his arms and waited for Compadre to come back to his seat, wondering what his reaction will be. “Check mate you bastard” he said to himself as though he was saying it to Compadre. Either Compadre will need to “open” the window where Bentley could escape or stop this silly endeavor creating the counters.

Bentley was laughing to himself when Compadre came out and sat in his chair. Compadre attempted to pick up his counter, but it wasn’t there. Bentley was buckling over laughing out loud, he couldn’t help it now. Compadre shot him an icy stare, got up, and walked up to the window. “What are you gonna do now Compadre! - open the damn door, we can’t finish these counters with them outside now, or at least let me go out the window to get the counters back - Hahahaha!”

Compadre walked back to his chair and sat down, pressed a button under the table, and up came the bologna sandwiches - “Ah, I gotcha didn’t I?” Bentley said. Compadre ate his sandwich at a more normal pace and Bentley ate his. Bentley smiling said “It’s over Compadre, it’s over.” Compadre walked back to the window and clapped his hands together real hard. The two counters shot up through the window as though they were spring loaded and their ends landed on the table. Compadre sat back down, shot Bentley a hard stare, and pointed at Bentley’s counter to continue the work. Bentley said despairingly “Why Lord, Why! - Why can’t anything I try work?”

Bentley was still determined to escape, but he had to be smart about it. While at the table, he would study the room in detail by glancing at various objects and areas. He would do this while putting wheels on the counter in a way not to get Compadre’s attention. While Compadre was in the bathroom, Bentley would tap the walls with the back of his knuckles. He would tap the floor with his foot in as many areas as possible. He would even tap the ceiling using the handle of an old broom that Compadre would sweep breadcrumbs and poppies with. He never found any hollow spots behind the tapped surfaces. Bentley would usually stretch and swing the broom around like a bo staff during Compadre’s breaks so he don’t get too stiff.

During Bentley’s breaks to the bathroom, he would study every detail there as well. From the door of the restroom looking in, you would see the sink and mirror, to the left was a small table that could be moved. To the right were cabinets with supplies like towels and rags. Further right was a stationary table with the clothes chute above it. To the far right was the toilet, a small trash can to its left and the toilet paper to its right attached to the wall. Bentley used a pen and a paper towel to draw a map of the room and bathroom and noticed that there could be a hidden space behind the toilet adjacent to Bentley’s bed in the main room, for the bathroom was shorter than the main room. This got Bentley curious. Bentley moved the small table and tapped the wall - it didn’t sound hollow, but it was well hidden. Bentley would then use his keys to dig a hole behind the table every time he went to the bathroom. This went on for several months and Compadre never noticed it.

One day Bentley finally broke through and made the hole wide enough to crawl through “Yes!”. He moved the table back to hide it and returned to the counters so Compadre won’t get suspicious. A few hours later, he took another bathroom break. Bentley moved the small table, crawled through the hole, reached back in and pulled the table back in place - “I’m Out!” he said. He was now in a two foot wide corridor with little lighting, it seemed to stretch along the back of the bathroom wall but kept on going - frontward and backwards - but who was that man in front of him? He was about twenty feet ahead facing away. “PSST, hey - who are you?” Bentley whispered loud enough for the man to hear him. But Bentley heard the same words behind him, he turned around and seen another man behind him turn around, so he only seen his back - “What the hell?” Bentley turned around and walked towards the first man, but he walked off at the same speed keeping their distance the same - “Wait, who are you” Bentley shouted which echoed from in front and behind him in an endless burst of reverberating echoes which quieted over several seconds - “This is just weird”. Bentley raised his hand, and the man in front did the same thing. There were more men at equal intervals in front of him doing the same thing. “My gosh, that’s ‘me’ in front of me - this hallway loops into hyperspace, how is that possible!” And that’s what it was - an endless hall of “Bentleys” - or better yet, a hallway that loops in another dimension. “I’ll call this place - the Hallway of Echoes.” Bentley said as his words echoed through the hallway from the other Bentley’s for a few seconds.

Bentley went forward a bit and started hearing a pounding sound that echoed through the hall, it was strongest near a hole in the hall, he crawled through, pushed a table out of the way and was back in the same bathroom, the pounding was Compadre - PAM, PAM, PAM . . . “Ok! I’m coming out!”. Bentley replaced the table and joined Compadre at the counter table in the main room. Bentley didn’t dare say anything about the Hallway of Echoes to Compadre for obvious reasons. However, he was eager to visit it again. Many times Bentley would visit the Hallway of Echoes, sometimes breaking in a run to give his legs some exercise, it was like running a marathon with a bunch of others - a bunch of Bentleys that is. He wouldn’t stay too long, to keep Compadre from PAMing the door. Bentley became more curious about the potential space behind the toilet, so he decided to dig another hole, but to keep it hidden, he decided to dig from the Hallway of Echoes. He estimated where to dig, about 15 feet ahead of the bathroom hole which was equivalent to five feet behind. He then started to dig with his keys. He also considered digging a second hole on the far wall, hoping that it may lead to an escape. He kept his time in the Hallway of Echoes to about five minutes so not to arouse Compadre’s attention.

Bentley expected that digging the two holes would take a few months, but he didn’t always feel up to digging. Sometimes he’ll ignore the Hallway of Echoes and just entertain himself by “thunking” wheels across the floor - he’ll take a few of the wheels from the cardboard box to the bathroom, hold one vertically on the floor with his index finger, flicking his finger down causing the wheel to fly across the floor and then roll back towards him - he used to do this with checkers when he was a kid. He knew of no word to describe this action, so he called it “thunking”. He would thunk the wheels so long that Compadre started to pound on the door. Bentley used to thunk them while at the table, but this irritated Compadre, so he took it to the bathroom instead. Every now and then Bentley would get back to digging the two holes in the hallway, instead of a few months, it took about 50 years before he got the first hole dug. He also had many dreams about the mystery space behind the toilet that he might find there perhaps a way to escape via a long ladder, a room with nothing in it, or another hall of echoes - he was about to find out. Compadre’s counter was at 00000000 …… billions of zeroes …….. 0001645322098 and Bentley’s was over ten thousand miles long, about a sixth of the length of Compadre’s at this time.

After using the bathroom, Bentley went back into the Hallway of Echoes and broke through the first hole which lead to the space behind the toilet. Inside was a room with water dripping from a drain in the ceiling and a pool of water which was four feet deep, Bentley noticed it as he slipped and fell into the pool. There was also a drain at the bottom that water kept slipping into. The room had low lighting and several pipes and filtering systems. “I bet this is the reservoir which feeds water into the water faucet, sinks, and toilet”. A turd floated and bumped into his arm as though to confirm what Bentley said. “Yuck disgusting! - I bet the toilet drains into here and it gets filtered back into the sinks.” Bentley took a small key and dropped it through the drain to see what happens to it, something small fell on his head and bounced into the water, it was the key - it went through the bottom drain and fell from the top one. Bentley tried this a few more times - “Space loops vertically also” Bentley said to himself. The water seemed quite clean, the few turds that were in there were already being sucked up a dumbwaiter type devise - “Oh hell no, I hope that’s not where the bologna sandwiches are coming from”. Bentley called this place the “pool room” and realized that it would make a nice getaway to kill the monotony of making the counters and the other routines from the main room - “I just need to be careful not to stay in here too long or Compadre would get suspicious”.

Bentley got out of the pool and back into the hall realizing that he was soaking wet and his clothes were drenched, how was he going to explain this to Compadre - “Oh no”. Bentley crawled back into the bathroom and replaced the table, he had to come up with a plan. Then an idea hit him. He turned on the sink real hard to make it splash really bad - “AHH, damn it!” Then yelled out “Compadre, I got my clothes wet, send me a new set!” A new set came through the chute and Bentley put these on after drying with a towel. He rung out his old clothes as much as possible to make it look more like a sink splash instead of a dunk in the pool and then he laid them on the small table - “That should do it, I hope - I might hafta hide the shoes though, they’re too wet”. He went back to Compadre at the table barefooted, and Compadre looked at his wet hair “Thought it needed a washing.” Compadre continued with the counter. Bentley said to himself “shyoo, that was a close one” very quietly.

During the next few years, Bentley was much more joyful, for now he could go somewhere worth going to, a pool. But he decided it would be best to remove his clothing before going for a dip, he also tried to keep his head from getting too wet. Although when in the Hallway of Echoes, seeing an endless array of his naked self wasn’t very appealing - “AHH, I am NOT seeing this” echoed and reverberated through the hallway. He left his clothes in the bathroom to keep them dry and put them on before going back to the counters. Every now and then Bentley would use his keys to dig out the other hole, the one on the other side of the hall, it was about halfway done.

One day Bentley decided to sleep in the pool instead of his bed, he waited for Compadre to fall asleep, then he went to the pool and fell asleep, he originally planned to get up in a few hours, but he overslept and rushed to the bathroom hearing the pounding of Compadre on the door, he put on his clothes, “I’m coming! I’m coming! - Sorry, I fell asleep on the toilet!” He came out and realized it was 9 AM, Compadre was pounding on the door for over three hours! He gave Bentley that fierce stare and forcefully pointed to the counters and they commenced on them and skipped breakfast. Bentley didn’t try that stunt again.

Another time, a strange phenomenon took place. Bentley and Compadre were working on the counters when something on the far wall, opposite the bathroom caught Bentley’s attention, it was a strange blue colored electrical sizzling “thing” zipping around randomly near the center of the wall - “What the hell is THAT” as he pointed to it for Compadre to see. When Compadre seen it, he got up in a hurry and acted almost in a panic - “Compadre, what’s wrong, it might just be ball lightening or something.” Compadre grabbed the broom to try to sizzle it out by jabbing at it in a frenzied manner. “What’s wrong, I never seen you act this way?” Compadre turned around and looked at Bentley with his mouth opened and in sweats and looked very worried, this worried Bentley also, what could possibly cause Compadre of all people to get worried. The sizzling thingy zipped towards Bentley and he tried to touch it and it zapped him, but it was no where near fatal. “Compadre, this thing won’t kill you, what is the matter.” Compadre swung at it when it moved towards the window and then it shot like a lightening bolt out the window and was gone, it didn’t seem to bother anything but Compadre. Compadre was sweating as he nervously put the broom away and sat back down shaking a bit. “Compadre, you’re scaring me, you don’t act like this, what the hell is going on?” After about two minutes, Compadre settled down, looked at Bentley and pointed to the counters. Bentley put wheels on his counter, wishing he knew why Compadre panicked, was he terrified of electricity, Bentley seriously doubted it, but something was off.

Many more years pass, the second hole was nearly finished - Compadre never found out about the extra places Bentley found and Bentley still had no idea why Compadre flipped out so bad. But then another strange event happened. Compadre was calling up the dumbwaiter for the bologna sandwiches and the sandwiches had pancakes instead of bread and the bologna tasted different, like it had butter inside it. Compadre had that worried look again. They still ate the unusual sandwiches, Bentley enjoyed having something a tad different, but it was still quite stale. But why was Compadre concerned about it. A few months later, yet another event happened. A fly was buzzing around Bentley as he was shoeing it away - Bentley then got quite excited - “Wow, I haven’t seen a fly in centuries!” Compadre noticed it and got into a panic again. “Compadre, it’s JUST a FLY, it can’t harm you - you OK?” Even after Compadre slammed his hand down on it killing it, he was still sweating and very worried about something.

While Bentley was in the pool he wondered to himself “What is eating Compadre, I never seen him act worried in centuries, but a fly nearly causes him to panic, if only he would talk - maybe I could get him to write!” Bentley went back to the bathroom after scraping on the hole some more, got dressed, and then grabbed a paper towel and a pen. After sitting down, he asked Compadre - “Why did you nearly panic with the fly, the weird sandwiches, and the electrical thing - can you write down the reason?” He gave Compadre the pen and paper, but Compadre shook his head “no” as though he couldn’t even write. Compadre seemed very alert, looking for any odd event - this got Bentley concerned about Compadre finding out about the Hallway of Echoes and the pool and sealing up the holes. “I better keep digging that other hole before Compadre notices it” Bentley thought to himself.

In another month Bentley was finally about to break through with the hole, he knocked on it and it started to sound hollow, then he got an unexpected response, someone or something knocked back. “Hello, is someone out there, knock back” He got a knocking response - “YES, I’m saved! - Who are you?” No response, “You still there?” He heard one knock. Bentley then said “Can you get help, call the police or something, I’m locked in at Counters Unlimited and have been here for over 600 years, my name is Jack Bentley - get help - understand?” His reply was a single knock. “I better get back or Compadre might get suspicious, I’ll be back in a few hours” Bentley was ecstatic as he went back to the counters with Compadre staring at him strangely. “Everything alright?, no new strange events?” Compadre pointed to Bentley’s counter and work commenced.

After a few hours, Bentley went back to the hole - “You there?”, a knock was heard. “I’m going to try to bust out, do you have anything to help me bust through?” He heard a knock and then a loud smash as the guy on the other side of the wall was using a pole of some sort to bust Bentley through. A hole appeared as both men worked on it. Bentley started pulling the debris away and he seen a hand come through the hole to help pull Bentley out. When Bentley finally got pulled out by the man, he gave the man one huge hug, tears streaming down his eyes “You have no idea how much this means to me, thank you thank you thank you!” Bentley told the man. Bentley let go of the hug to get a better look at the man - the tears of joy running down his cheek became tears of anguish - the man was Compadre! “NOhohohoho, NOOOOhohohohoho” Bentley beat his head into Compadre’s chest in despair. Bentley found that there was a third dimension that looped back on itself, for he has busted into the main room where he has been for over 600 years, through the very wall where the electrical phenomenon was seen. Compadre shot Bentley the fiercest stare, put the broom up, and pointed to the table. Compadre looked into the hole, seen the Hall of Echoes and the pool room, he crawled through into the bathroom and pushed the table out of the way and then came back into the main room carrying the small table which he sat down by the steel door. Compadre shook his head and then reached under the main table to press a button - “NO DON’T, I need that pool, PLEASE” - it was too late, the button was pressed and all the holes sealed up. He then sat down and pointed at the counter. Bentley was in despair for the next few decades, this was the end of the adventures of the Hallway of Echoes.

.... to be continued ....

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