A person known as Mr. Bentley spies an advertisement offering $1 million to build ten "counters." He takes up the offer with no knowledge of its contents, and finds himself trapped in a locked room with a mysterious man known as Compadre. Given a seemingly infinite supply of wheels marked with the digits 0-9 and magic rods that grow to accommodate the wheels, his task is to place one wheel on the first rod, 10 wheels on the second, then wheels on the third, wheels on the fourth, etc. while Compadre uses the previous wheel as a counter to keep track of Bentley's progress. The total number of wheels is known as Bentley's number. After he completes this task, he will be freed and given his reward, but until then there is no escape from the room.
Bentley slowly loses his sanity over the centuries he spends building counters. His emotionless, wordless, robotlike companion thwarts all of his attempts to escape, and mysteriously neither of them seem to age throughout the process.
Some time after finishing the third counter, Bentley belatedly realizes the amount of time he will spend. He faints in shock and wakes up to find himself outside in a park. He falls in love with a woman he meets there, but as they are about to lean in to kiss, Bentley wakes up to find that he was merely dreaming this scene, and returns to work on the fourth counter.
Over time, Bentley tries and fails to return to the dream world, and looks for more ways to escape by analyzing the room he is trapped in with places that sound hollow. He uses his keys to gradually dig a hole in the bathroom without Compadre noticing and finds a place he calls the Hallway of Echoes. As he digs a second hole, the technology is tinkered with, causing Compadre to worry for the first time in the story. Eventually the hole that Bentley has been digging gives way and he encounters a man to whom he pleads his case, explaining that he has been stuck for centuries making counters. To his surprise however, it is Compadre !
The room Bentley is trapped in loops in on itself in a higher dimension, meaning that if one were to walk in a straight path one would eventually return to where one started. This can easily be explained if the room in question was situated on the surface of a four-dimensional sphere.
Also, fortunately for Bentley he will inevitably escape the room, and that can be confirmed with quantum mechanics. As the size of an object increases the chance of events like quantum teleportation decrease exponentially, making quantum teleportation an unfeasible event for anything the size of humans. However, given enough time, (and Bentley will have more than enough time for this to occur), the extremely small chance he will be quantum teleported will mean he will someday awake, (or just appear while awake), outside the room. Considering though that the room he is in is probably sectioned off from the rest of reality he will most likely not find his way home.
- In the web page hosting the story, Compadre's face is faintly visible in the background.
See also Edit
- Bentley's Number, a number based on this story