I read a short story about a number between (IIRC) three and four being disappeared by a conspiracy. The short story revolves (again, IIRC but not that important) around the death of person (possibly scientist) having made the discovery, being harrassed and subsequently killed or gone missing. The police officer in charge wasn't believing its story but subsequently the theory grew on him. While trying to explain it to his teammate, one of them drops three matches on a table to make a point,

then later one of them goes on to light a cigarette with one of them, and to the reader's (or his?) surprise three matches are still on the table.

I just can't even remember if I read that on the web or in a book.


2 Answers 2


You're describing "The Secret Number" by Igor Teper. The full version was originally published in 2000 on the www.strangehorizons.com website.

It's available (in full) online here.

"Bleem, that's what. Bleem!" shouted Ersheim, banging his fists against the desk. He then leaned close to Tomlin and whispered, "The secret integer between three and four."

"We have been over this, Professor -- there is no integer between three and four."

"Tell that to Laszlo Bleem, Doctor," said Ersheim. "Only you can't -- he's dead," he added, giggling. Then he whispered, "He died for trying to expose bleem."

"Laszlo Bleem died in a car accident, Professor."

at the end...

Tomlin watched in horror as the jelly bean described a parabola in the air, ending up in Gene's mouth. "Want one?" asked Gene, motioning at the remaining jelly beans. Tomlin looked down at the night table. There were three jelly beans on the tabletop.

It was made into a short film in 2012 of the same name which you can see in full below.

A psychiatrist is compelled by his patient, an obsessive mathematician, to consider the existence of a secret integer between three and four.

  • That's it! Thanks for the short film.
    – Lloeki
    Aug 17, 2014 at 7:29

Your story sounds very similar to "The Secret Number" by Igor Teper. In this story, Professor Ersheim discovers the number "bleem" between three and four. He is institutionalized before disappearing.

One discrepancy is that Ersheim leaves behind three jellybeans. The investigating officers takes one, leaving three remaining.

The story can be found here: http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/the-secret-number/

  • I must have mixed up things, because that's the one.
    – Lloeki
    Aug 17, 2014 at 7:29

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