Short Story: Silent Achievement

Suspicion lured me into the animal enclosure at the local show. It was the one place I had hoped to avoid. My allergies to the scattered hay and animal hair triggered a rash under my jowls, but the rewards would be worth it. Within this farmer’s haven was a cryptic word that would win me ten thousand dollars.

      It was the only reason I attended this overrated yearly ritual. Others my age revelled in its festivities, but the noise was too much for me. In particular the buzz of the crowd and the shrill screams radiating from thrill seekers on rides. There were too many distractions and I felt on edge. The only enticement of this insipid event was the ‘Mystery Code Word’ competition.

      Organisers had hidden a word amongst the attractions as one of their advertising ploys to lure people to the event. It was so cleverly encrypted that only a genius could solve it. No one had!

       Laughter burnt my ears as I crawled under tables, studied barcodes on show bags and skimmed the labels of food items. I knew it would be to my detriment. My inferior understanding of the complexity of social interaction always made me a victim. I had exhausted all other possibilities leaving me with no other alternative but to visit the animal enclosure.

      My infuriation with human incompetency bothered me as I studied the names of the different cattle in their enclosure. DO NOT TOUCH THE ANIMALS! That is what the sign said. I secretly hoped an animal would chew the finger off one of those inconsiderate pests.

       I had lost focus; distractions frequently had that impact on me. It returned when I noticed a pattern in the names of Farmer Fitzpeter’s prize winning beef stock. Who on earth names their cattle after elements on the periodic table? Then it hit me, just like the smell had triggered my senses the moment I walked into this foul environment. The symbols of the elements spelled out a word.

       Instinctively my hand attacked my neck, scratching at it vigorously. The rash was spreading; my breath shortening. Must stay focused! I read the name dangling from a sign on the gate of the prize winning beast. I knew the periodic table well. Titanium! Ti! I hurried to the next pen and searched for the name of the bull proudly wearing its first-place blanket over its back. Actinium! Ac.

       Fluorine, F, and Francium, Fr, were the names of the last two cattle. When I put the symbols together I discovered that the letters were jumbled. The irritation of the rash had become unbearable. I could hear myself screaming, as could everyone else. They backed away, they always did when I acted like that. I must stay focused! I must discover the word! Suddenly, it appeared in my mind. Traffic! Then, silence!

        I awoke in hospital three weeks later, my allergic reaction denying me my achievement. Only I would know of my success.

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