Julia Adalwolfa is the daughter of German architects who moved to the United States of America when she was three years old. She has had trouble making friends and blending in, especially with her mathematical abilities and knowledge of history. Desperate for friends, she will do anything to be connected to someone.
Isaac Newton was a mathematician, philosopher, and scientist in the 1600s to 1700s. He is responsible for almost everything we have today, from increased food production to cars, due to his discovery of Calculus. That was his time alive. In his time after his death, he is the friend/ protector/ helper of Julia Adalwolfa.
The Destroyer is a spirit whose body was put to death by Newton in life. In death, he wants to get even with Newton by taking his soul to tourture forever.
I am so excited! I am in London. I get to see everything from the Tower of London to Buckingham palace. I also have to work on my project for English (not as exciting). While Isaac Newton was an interesting person, working on an essay about his life isn’t as fun as exploring a foreign country. I’m also a Roman Catholic from Germany, living in America. My favorite mathematician is Leibniz, Newton’s lesser known German rival. Newton thought that Catholicism was an awful thing that needed to be destroyed. Oh, well. I don’t have to like the person I do my project on. My parents are at the store, getting food. I hear a knock on the door.
I get up. There’s… a letter? I open it. It has… math problems? Yes. Integrals and derivatives, to be specific. There is something at the top. It says, “the newton project.org. The ‘crazy’ letter. You know the one.”
Indeed I do. At one point in his life, Newton may have had a mental disorder or mercury poisoning. He wrote to friends accusing them of plotting against him.
I fire up my computer and get to work. It’s easy, nothing my calculator can’t solve. I wonder where this came from, though.
I finally finish decoding it. The letter says, “Meet me at Westminster Abbey, 12:00 AM. Near Newton’s tomb. You’ll know what to do when you get there. Bring a quill, pencil, or pen.”
Okay, this is odd. I always like a good adventure but this is going too far. Then something in my mind makes me reconsider. I do like a good adventure… I’ll go.
I open the window. It’s 11:00 pm, and I have to go. I slide down a tree next to the window, sharpie in hand. It’s a quiet walk to Westminster Abbey. Our hotel is right next to it. At the tomb, I check both ways. Nothing. I rattle the door. It’s open. That’s… odd. I walk in. I search it and the churchyard before I find Newton’s tomb. The rock glows and… letters form on it?!
“Hello. What is your name?” the rock says.
I write back, “Julia Adalwolfa”
Suddenly, my feet start to sink. I try to move, but can’t. I’m swallowed up, calling for help, into a pit of blackness.
“H-Hello?” I stammer.
A torch is lit. There, in front of me, is a man dressed in ancient garb. His face is pale with blue eyes. His hair is grayish silver.
“You’re Isaac Newton?” I ask. I pinch myself. Yep, I’m still awake.
“Yes,” he says, “allow me to explain. You see, I need to get out of here. I can’t move far from my bones, and they’re here. The only way I can get out is with a host.”
He lets that sink in.
“You want me to be your host?” I ask.
“Yes. It isn’t so much a parasitic relationship as much as we share a body. You can have it when you want, I get it when you don’t want it. This is very important,” he says.
“Why?” I ask.
He takes a deep breath. “I’m not the only ghost. At this minute, there are the ghosts of criminals, murderers, people I put to death for their crimes in your world. I can’t move on… I don’t know why. They don’t want to move on. They forcibly possess your people to harm others. I know how to make them move on… but I have to be there to do it. Besides, I’ve been stuck in this crypt for about 300 years. I need a change,” he says.
“Okay,” I say hesitantly, “I’ll be your host. We do share the body, right? Also, why did you pick me?”
“Yes,” he says, “and I picked you because I could see the future, and when I followed your timeline, it went black after this point. I will not be able to see the future after we bond. I manifested the letter to your door- it was the only thing I had.”
“Okay,” I say. I feel I need to do this… I have known the supernatural exists for quite some time now. I’ve always been distrustful around some people. I might have an answer now.
“Thank you,” he says, a look of joy across his face, “We’ve already bonded.”
The rock above us scrapes back. I climb out. Newton is hovering next to me.
“I can hear and see you. Can anyone else?” I ask him, “Because if so, we need to get you a haircut.”
“No, no one can. I like my hair this way,” he says.
We walk out, onto the street. Newton looks in awe at the lamp posts. A car goes by.
“What are these?” he asks, wonderstruck.
“Lights and machines that run off a power called electricity,” I reply, and give him an explanation of how electricity works. “It’s all because of Calculus,” I say.
He looks around, happy. “I knew it would make a difference,” he says.
He turns to me, his blue eyes gleaming.
“May I borrow your body?” he asks, “I just want to know what it feels like to be alive again.”
“Sure,” I say.
Suddenly, I’m floating next to my body. Newton, inside the body, turns to look at me. I register a shock- Where my two green eyes were, there are two blue eyes!
He jumps in the air. Then he laughs happily. Then he starts to run.
“Wait!” I say, floating after him.
He suddenly stops, coughing loudly.
“Pull out the red thing in your pocket, yes, that’s it. Now put it in your mouth and take two puffs,” I say.
“What was that?” He asks in a dry voice.
“That was an asthma attack,” I say, “maybe I should take us back to the hotel.”
Still panting, we switch.
As we walked back to the hotel, I feel sort of sorry for him. In life, Newton didn’t have many friends, but did have many enemies. In death, that ratio seems to have widened.
We climb up the tree outside my window and roll from a branch onto the bed.
Newton surveys the room.
“Whoa,” he says, “this is amazing!”
I explain to him several different items. Light switch? Check. Bathtub? Check. Calculator? Check.
“This is amazing,” he says, looking at the calculator, “can it do calculus?”
“Yes,” I reply, “it can do almost anything. By the way, you might like this.” I pull out a box of pfeffernusse cookies. In Germany, it is polite to welcome guests with food. This is no different, except I am welcoming an old mathematician who has a sweet tooth and is *technically* dead.
He gasps, a happy look crosses his face.
“May I borrow your body for a moment?” he says, stunned.
“Sure,” I say.
Five minutes later, my body weighs a bit more. Ten pfeffernusse cookies more, to be specific.
“It’s been about 300 years since I had a sweet. I missed them a lot,” he says, mouth full of cookies.
“What was it like, being shut away in a tomb for 300 years?” I ask.
“It was horrible. I woke up, and saw my body lying there. I could see the future, and after 100 years, I knew it was you I had to follow. I lost hope in my second century, and faded in and out of existence for a while. Then you came. You awoke me from a 200 year slumber, 200 years of phasing in and out of existence,” he says, “I cannot tell you how much I owe you.”
The next day, I walk down stairs to a bike shop. Since I’m going to college next year, my parents let me do whatever I want.
Newton paces around outside my body, squinting at the gears and chains on the bikes.
“These are weird… how do they work?” he asks me.
“Like this,” I say, paying the manager a pound, getting on a bike, and peddling.
“Whoa,” he says, floating next to me.
We bike around London. He points out sights of his past life. The Tower of London, where he was Warden of the Mint. The house that the Royal Society gathered in. Finally, what used to be the underbelly of town.
“I went there,” he says, pointing to the outskirts of London, “I caught some criminals on forgery charges. They were murders, thieves, but we could only get them to hang on forgery charges. I almost got killed once, over there,” he gestures to the hills, “but I got out of the way of the club fast enough and ran.”
“You mean you actually traced down criminals?” I asked, in awe.
“Yes,” he says proudly, “and had a lot of fun doing it, too.”
I see a man dressed in all white. He isn’t a living human, he’s a spirit. He glows in the sunlight.
“Who’s he?” I ask Newton in a low voice
His face grimaces. “He’s one of the ones who was able to move on. They come back to Earth for missions, to help others. I still have to move on,” he says.
“Can he see you?” I ask.
“No. I’m invisible to everyone but you and spirits who haven’t moved on,” Newton says.
“What’s your mission?” I ask.
“I have to get some of the crooked spirits to move on, as I told you. There’s one that will be really hard to do – he now goes by the name Destroyer. In life, he was a murderer and foreger. I had him hang. Now he possesses people to do his bidding. He kills many people, but his main target is my host – he wants to kill my host and capture my spirit so that he can tourture it forever,” Newton says, “we have to get to him first.”
“WHAT?” I say.
“Calm down. He doesn’t want your spirit,” he says, looking around.
I gulp. This won’t be easy.
I see something in an alley. I bike over to check it out. It’s a ghost of a girl, in tattered clothes, begging at the side of the road and sniveling.
Newton bends over. “Clara?” he says to the girl.
“Y-yes?” A broken voice answers.
I’m in shock. How did he know her name?
“What’s wrong?” He asks.
“My parents are dead and they left me here to scrounge money off of the sidewalk,” she says, bursting into tears, “now I’m dead and I can’t move on.”
Newton reaches into his pocket and pulls out two pieces of silver. He puts them in her tin cup. He touches her forehead, saying “Go to God. Your time here is no more.”
She dissolves. The last thing I see are her fading eyes, pools of infinite gratitude for the man who helped her.
Newton walks over to me.
“I don’t know how I knew her name or had the silver pieces. I saw her once in life, begging on the sidewalk. I guess that’s one of the people I needed to help,” he says.
Once we are home, I tell him about school and how I’m in England over winter break because my parents are architects and have a contract here and have to go back to America soon. It takes a little explaining, but I think he’s clear on the concept.
“Let me get this straight,” he says, “we’re going to fly across the ocean in a metal tube to another continent and drive to your house?”
“Yes, all tomorrow,” I say while packing.
“Okay, just wanted to get that straight,” he says.
We are boarding the airplane. I snag a seat in the back, away from everyone else. Pretty soon we take off.
“How does this thing work?” Newton asks, awestruck at the idea that he is in a metal tube a few thousand miles above Earth’s surface.
I explain to him the ideas of thrust and jet engine. The rest of the trip is quiet. So quiet, in fact, that I fall asleep.
I awaken to a sound in my ear.
“What?” I ask groggily.
Newton says, “we have to get out of here. One of them is on the flight.”
We hurry to the back. I open a closet and get in.
“Heh heh heh,” we hear, coming from behind. We turn.
There’s a man standing behind us. He has a gun. Pointing it at my head, he says, “any last words, Newton, before I capture your soul?”
My martial arts training kicks in. I kick the gun out of his hand. He had already pulled the trigger. The bullet “pings!” off the side of the metal closet. I grab the gun, and a magazine that the man dropped and reload.
“Hasta la vista,” I say to a man, cowering in the corner. Everything goes black.
I’m outside my body. What? Oh. Newton must have taken over. The body’s eyes glow blue, a far cry from my green. Newton bends down towards the now whimpering man and touches his forehead.
“Go to God. Your time here is no more,” he says. A spirit is pulled out of the man’s body. Kicking and screaming, it dissolves.
Newton turns to me. “You need to show mercy. Killing them will do nothing, the bad spirit will be on the loose and the innocent host will die,” he says.
We pull the unconscious man out of the closet and prop him up in the bathroom. He’ll be alright.
We trade places. “Was that the Destroyer?” I ask Newton.
“No,” he says, “that was one of his companions. It will be much harder to catch him.
We are alert for the rest of the flight.
In the car on the way home, we talk about our plan to take down the Destroyer. It will probably be coming after us, Newton says, so we will have to keep a lookout. Once we get home, I fall asleep while Newton is on guard duty.
The next day is a Sunday. My parents load me into the car and start driving. Newton presses his face to the window to see how the landscape speeds by.
“This is.. interesting!” he says.
“Yeah,” I say, “I like it.”
The trouble starts when we pull into church. As we pass the sign that says “Trinity Roman Catholic Church,” Newton’s eyes widen in shock horror.
“You didn’t tell me you were a Catholic!” he exclaims.
I sigh, roll my eyes, and tell him to be quiet.
Ten minutes later, I sit in the car with my arms crossed.
“You acted totally inappropriately,” I tell Newton, “now my parents and the congregation are VERY angry with me.”
He sighs. “It is my mission to bring God to the Heathens,” he says.
The next week is still off from school. I decide to go to the Masquerade ball.
“Now Newton,” I say as I drive up, “There will be people at this party dressed like devils. They aren’t the real thing. I do NOT want a repeat of the Church Incident.”
“Okay, okay,” he says, rolling his eyes.
We walk up to the door. I knock. We can hear the pulsing music.
“Come in,” someone yells.
We walk in. Newton falls over in shock. He quickly recovers and all goes black.
I am outside my body. What? Oh yeah. I can float. This can only mean that Newton’s inside my body. At a party. Ohh no. I look down. Newton is screaming.
“And another thing!” he shouts, “You all look like harlots! Even the men! Get decent clothing on!”
At this moment, the host, Juana, walks up to us.
“Calm down, Julia,” she says, a red solo cup in one hand, patting the body with the other.
People are whispering and pointing. They give Newton a wide berth.
Newton looks at the solo cup. We can all smell the alcohol coming off of Juana. The rest happens in slow motion.
Newton slaps the solo cup out of her hand. Everyone else looks shocked.
“You’re too young to drink alcohol! Don’t get sucked into the vices of men! That’s very irresponsible! I’m telling your mother! Where is she?” he says.
Everyone backs up.
“Fine! I’m leaving!” he says, storming to the door. I’m in shock.
As if things couldn’t get worse, someone says “Good riddance, you German freak!”
We trade bodies once in the car.
I start to cry.
“Why are you sad?” Newton asks.
I stare at him.
“Could you possibly make things worse? I wanted to make friends at my new school, now the only thing anyone will know about me as that freaky German prohibitionist!” I say through tears.
“They wouldn’t be good friends if they’re drinking at this age,” he says, “You don’t need them. If they don’t like you for being responsible, they don’t deserve you.”
We drive home in silence.
As we pass the library, I get an idea. Newton wasn’t trying to make things worse, he did what he thought was right. What I need to do is inundate him in 21st century culture. It was also probably good that we got out of that party- I don’t want to get kicked out of my new school for underage drinking.
“I think I have a place that you would like,” I say gruffly to Newton.
“We’re good?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say as I pull into the parking lot of the library, “this is a modern library. You can take my body and browse as long as you are quiet.”
He looks at me, eyes full of joy.
“You mean it?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say, smiling back.
We trade. Newton and I walk into the library. There is a huge display out front with a 5’ 7” cutout of Newton. The banner above it says: “Isaac Newton’s 400th birthday!” Below it are all sorts of books on Newton. Newton goes straight to the books under the banner.
“I just want to see how I’m remembered,” he says.
Things go well for a while. He looks through the books on Calculus, happily. Then we run into some trouble.
He picks up a comic book. It has a colorful cover with a picture of a man in detailed armor with silvery hair blasting people apart. It’s title is “SHIELD Vol.1”. He looks through it. Then he sees it. An animated Isaac Newton stares back at us, proclaiming that he is the Sorcerer Supreme. Newton turns the pages with a look of shocked horror on his face. It shows him living forever. A sorcerer who kills his enemies. A person who abandons his baby still in a woman’s womb. He shuts the book abruptly and looks for another one. He finds one by Voltaire. After reading a little, he storms out.
“I can’t believe that’s how I’m remembered! I gave them Calculus, interpreted religion, and physics all for them and THIS is how they repay my memory?! They make me into a harlot of a sorcerer who is an egomaniacal serial killer who abandons his unborn baby?! Voltaire uses my own works that I did to glorify God to show that there is no God?! I’m done!” he shouts.
I instantly know what to say. “Don’t return the spirits for them. Do it for the people who honored your memory. Did you know there was a statue of you in Trinity college, where you taught? You created a branch of mathematics that many people find a community in, it’s where they feel safe. If you were never here, I probably would not be alive. That asthma medicine you took? Developed based on Calculus. The surgeries I’ve gone through? Calculus was needed,” I say, “and what’s more? When I researched you, even before I really knew you, I saw you as a spirit somewhat similar to mine. You took comfort in mathematics, you didn’t care for people, and you tried to do what was right. Guess who else does? Me! I even prayed for you, to be happy wherever you were.”
He turns to look at me. His face looks more happy.
“Really?” he says.
“Yes,” I say.
“Thank you. You’ve saved me once again,” he says, sighing, “I can’t believe I got that out of hand.”
Together we walk into the library.
We decide to look through the books on Calculus. Newton is really happy about how much it has grown.
The next day, we decide to go ice skating.
“Do you want to try?” I ask Newton.
“Sure!” he says.
Five minutes later, my body is in an ambulance. Newton accidentally fell, put out the body’s left arm to break the fall, and broke a leg along with the arm.
In the ambulance, he turns to me.
“Are you angry?” he whispers through tears of pain.
“No,” I say, “You are the one feeling the pain. It’s fine – I’ve been through surgery for my stomach before.”
Ten minutes later, we’re in surgery. Everything goes black as the anesthetic gets pumped into my veins.
When we wake up, my parents are there and furious. They lecture me about how I should never put my arm out to fall. Just then, the doctor comes in.
“You’ll be fine,” she says, “Just rest up. Both the arm and leg are in casts. You’ll be able to go to school, just in a motorized wheelchair. By the way, you need another endoscope soon- we don’t want your Crohn’s disease acting up!”
Soon, my parents leave. I have to stay in the hospital for 24 hours so that they can teach me how to get around and what to do.
“What’s Crohn’s disease?” Newton asks curiously.
“It just means I can’t eat some foods and have some stomach pain a lot of the time,” I say, “That’s part of why I want friends. It will distract me from the pain. Unfortunately, having a debilitating illness usually leads to a lonely life,” I sigh.
“You’ve got me,” he says, “I don’t care what illness you have. You are one of my only friends.”
I smile at him. “Thanks,” I say.
The week passes quickly. We learn how to use a motorized wheelchair and take more prescription painkillers. On Sunday, we play a card game. My parents wonder what I’m doing because it looks like I’m playing against myself. Eventually, we fall asleep, crashed on the couch because I can’t walk upstairs.
The next day, we arrive at school. Newton looks around in wonder.
“This place is huge!” he says of the brick building.
Our first class is Calculus. I’m in a class of my own because I took all the Calculus classes my school offered my freshman year. I have a test on integration today. This is where we run into some trouble.
“You need to do it this way,” Newton says, explaining a problem.
“No I don’t. I’ve got this,” I mutter.
“No you haven’t. You need some help,” he says haughtily.
I turn to face him. “SHUT UP!” I say.
It is at this moment that I realize my teacher is staring at me.
I have detention for a week. The maximum the school allows. Great. All because of a dead mathematician.
“I’m sorry,” Newton says at lunch when we are on speaking terms again. I’m sitting alone and all of the other students are whispering and pointing at me. So much for blending in.
I shrug. “It’s okay,” I say, “who knows? Maybe we had to go through this for a reason.”
The rest of the day passes in a blur. In detention, we have Mr. Jones as a monitor. Mr. Jones is asleep.
I’m doing my homework when Newton says, “Umm… Julia?”
Mr. Jones is walking towards us, with a pistol, moving in the same way the man in the airplane closet did.
“I am the Destroyer!” his voice booms, “Come out of your host, Newton, and no one gets hurt. Surrender, for you have already lost.”
Newton starts to drift towards him.
“What are you doing?!” I exclaim, “Stay with me. If I die, I get to move on. If he gets you, you’re trapped forever!”
“I can’t let you get hurt,” he says, tears pooling in his eyes.
I grab his arm. I’m the only one who can feel him.
The Destroyer comes nearer. “I’m relishing this conflict,” it says, “Instead of one soul, I’ll get two!” He points his gun at my head and pulls the trigger. All goes black.
I open my eyes. I’m floating outside my body. Newton is in control. To my surprise, I’m not bleeding! How– Oh. I see. I see a body on the floor bleeding silver blood. Newton blocked the bullet with his spiritual body. It’s only physical to me, and because of that, it was able to save me from a bullet. Now that that’s gone, my body is the only thing he has.
The gun is on the floor. The wheelchair is next to Mr. Jones. Newton is leaning forwards, his hand on Mr. Jones’s forehead. Newton says, “Go to God. Your time here is no more.” He repeats this two more times, as a silver body, kicking and screaming, comes out of Mr. Jones’s body and dissolves.
All goes black.
We are both in the same body. I can see Newton in my reflection on the window.
“Thank you so much. I’ll miss you,” he says, tears in his eyes.
“Wait, you’re leaving?” I say, “you were my only friend!”
He looks at me sadly. “So were you,” he says, “but I must go.”
He puts his hand to his forehead and says, “Go to God. Your time here is no more.”
The silver body on the floor disappears as he dissolves. A sad grin on his face is the last thing I see before he’s entirely gone.
I struggle to get the gun out of the window and into the river with my wheelchair. It’s not Mr. Jones’s fault that he was possessed.
I wake Mr. Jones. He says I may go, embarrassed that he fell asleep on the job.
I motor over to the park and park in an obscure part of the paved sidewalk. My shoulders start shaking and I burst into sobs, my face in my hand. I don’t know how long I cry.
“Hello,” a voice says.
I wipe my face on my sleeve. Probably some do-gooder park goer, I think drearily.
I look up. I see white shoes, white pants, a white button down shirt. I scan the owner’s face. It’s pale with intense blue eyes, shining. The long hair is perfectly combed, a silvery gray shade.
“Isaac?” I ask, in disbelief.
“Yes,” he says.
My face breaks into a smile. “I’m so glad to see you!” I say, “why are you here?”
“It’s my mission,” he says happily, “My mission is to guard you for your life and beyond. If you can’t move on, I’ll help you. If you can, we’ll be partners.”
I draw him in for a hug.
We sit on the wheelchair, him on the front, me in the seat, talking. Our next mission is in Virginia. Should be fun.
“Does the name Thomas Jefferson mean anything to you?” He asks.
Alexa Renner lives in Akron, Ohio.