A million dying screams ring out in unison.
Ms. Allison sits on a worn-out and uncomfortable chair, with a stale cup of Folgers,
trying only to blink,
and remain conscious.
The third graders hold recorders, drumsticks, and tambourines in their hands
with sweaty palms and itchy trigger-fingers,
the same way criminals hold a gun during a robbery.
She thinks about the whisper of rain on the windowsill that she loved as a child. She thinks about the first time she truly appreciated Mozart, and the years she spent longing to share her passion with younger minds.
But every day is the same.
The third graders are a barbarian horde, far more subject to their personal whims and desires than her central leadership. Musical notes are ancient and forbidden symbols, and instructions are nothing more than the sound of sand
shifting in desert wind.
So she sits on her worn-out, uncomfortable chair, and she tries to embrace the chaos
with the third graders.
On the few days she is not incredibly hungover, she plays her flute with their cacophony. She glides along the discord like a kite in a hurricane, sometimes opposing their noise with melody, sometimes joining in like a jazz musician stricken with madness.
She hears Tchaikovsky’s cannon blasts ringing in her mind.
she even screamed at them like a deathcore vocalist.
And on those days she simply can’t cope with the madness and nihilism of the third graders,
she just has a substitute come in
and play a movie for them.
Thursday, February 2, 2017
Albert woke up one morning, and he immediately realized that nothing made sense to him. He was in a room that he didn’t recognize, an unfamiliar alarm clock was going off, and there was a strange dog looking at him.
“Where am I?” he asked himself softly. The dog tilted its head to the side, as if perplexed by the question.
He uncovered the blankets to reveal that his boxers were made of something like aluminum foil. They crunched metallically and folded as he stood up and further surveyed the room. There were many pictures on the wall, but each of the pictures held the same image of what looked like the back of a man’s head. The background varied in color, but it was always very dull and soft. All he could really see was the back of a head. There were many shelves in the room, but they were all very low to the ground or close to the ceiling, and it seemed like nothing occupied them but dust. There was a window completely blocked by leaves and branches, and in the corner there was a door that bent in the middle at a 90 degree angle.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” he said quietly. The dog caught his attention again. It was beginning to look very distressed.
“What, do you need to pee or something?”
The dog was trembling. He walked to the strange door in the corner of the room and opened it awkwardly to reveal a much larger room. The ceiling formed jagged arches upward, and all the windows were too high up to actually see out of.
“Sahhh dude,” a woman said from the corner. His eyes quickly turned to her. She was also wearing strange metal underwear.
“Hey,” he paused, confused and a little shocked. “What’s happening? Where am I?”
She laughed. “Fuckin’ classic, you’re late for work dumbass. Aren’t ya gonna get dressed?”
“Seriously, I don’t know how the fuck I got here,” he pleaded.
“No one does, mannn,” she said and began laughing again.
He kept looking at her silently with a confused and frightened stare, and she just kept laughing at him more and more, as if it got funnier the longer he kept standing there. The dog walked to the center of the room and began squatting. It pooped into what looked like a litter box, and as he watched it, it looked up at him and meowed. It shoveled dirt just like a cat, and went back to looking at him oddly.
He became overwhelmed at that point. Nothing made any fucking sense. He walked back into the bedroom with the corner-door and began looking for clues, anything that could potentially help. He was now embarrassed and horrified, in addition to being completely dumbfounded by what he had just experienced.
“Am I dreaming?” he asked, as he began pinching and slapping himself to test the question. It certainly didn’t seem like it. Although nothing made sense, it all felt so incredibly real. He considered the possibility of drugs, but then when he began to think about it, he didn’t even know what he did the previous night, or any night for that matter. He knew his name was Albert, but for some reason that’s all he could really remember as he stood there in the strange room.
He looked for a closet, or clothes on the ground, but there was nothing. Just the bed, shelves, nightstand with an alarm clock, and all those pictures of the back of someone’s head. He got down and looked under the bed. Nothing. He went over to the alarm clock. It read “74:W.”
“God damnit,” he scoffed. “74:W?”
Defeated, he walked back out of the room. “If nothing makes sense, then where would the clothes be?” he thought to himself. He looked around the strange room. The girl was nowhere to be seen, and the dog was curled up on the couch. Everything Albert saw was off in some way. He peered into a hallway with a low ceiling, and it seemed to spit off in into many other hallways. There was what looked like a kitchen, but all of the appliances were side-by-side on one wall. The front door was a large circle, and it seemed like the colors were inverted on the TV.
He began looking in all the cabinets on the kitchen wall. Soon he found clothes in the oven. They were burnt and warm, but it seemed the clothes were already naturally black. He put them on in the strange living room, and it felt surprisingly good to wear such warm clothes. He brushed the ash off as he looked for the mirror. The girl entered the room.
“Dude you’re super late, it’s already 82:W,” she said.
“Late for what?”
“Shit, how late?”
“You were supposed to be there three days ago!”
“Three days ago?
“Hahah yeah. But you’ve like four days late before. It’ll be OK.”
“You sure it’s OK if I’m three days late?” He was almost willing to believe anything at this point.
“Yeah of course. Hey, you tired?”
“I guess so.What do we have, coffee?”
Coffee? Wow man, that’s a little hardcore. What are you gonna go buy that on the streets? All we have is some good ol’ crack.”
“Yeah, we have SunCash premium crack right over there. It’s your favorite,” she pointed to the kitchen wall where there was a little crackpipe and strange lighter next to a brightly labeled package of SunCash Crack™.
Albert was feeling thoroughly defeated. He felt some strange desire to go to work, even though he remembered nothing. If life was this strange inside a house and with a job, then how much worse could it be broke and homeless?
He looked long and hard at the crackpipe. He went up close to inspect it, and ran his fingers along the pipe’s glass contours.
“We really just smoke crack?” he asked hopelessly.
“DUUUUUH, it gets you ready for the day!”
Well, I suppose it will, he thought to himself as he lifted up the crackpipe to his lips. Albert grabbed the lighter. It was metallic, shaped like brass knuckles, and had a red button on the top. It felt good in his hand. The dog caught his attention with another confused glare as Albert looked around the room. He looked back at the dog with an equally confused look as he ignited the crackpipe, inhaled deeply, and held his breath.
Smoke poured from his lips in waves as he began coughing, but he suddenly felt the smallest flake of sense fall back into his world. It smelled like burning hair and fried electronics. Then he was hit with an instant bust of energy and euphoria that was almost overwhelming. He still did not know what else this day had in store for him, but he suddenly felt completely ready to take it on.
“Where are my shoes?” he asked.
“Uhhh, what are shoes?”
“You know, the things you put on your feet.”
“Oh! You mean bananas?”
“Bananas? Are you fucking serious? Bananas?!”
“Yeah, there’s the banana basket right over there,” she pointed to the table by the circular front door with a wicker basket full of massive bananas. He picked one up, and somehow intuitively peeled one section halfway down, placed it on the ground, and squished his foot into it. An icy shudder went down his spine, but it somehow felt comfortable. He did the same with the other foot and took a few steps around the room. He looked at the girl.
“So are you like my girlfriend or something?”
She laughed harder than he’d seen her laugh all morning. The dog meowed again.
“I’m your roommate dumbass,” she managed to get out through the laughter. “Hurry up, it’s already 123:L”
He looked at the strange dog, the smiling girl, and the strange room again.. And after taking another quick blast of crack, he walked out the circular front door briskly.
The bananas squished on his feet as he walked down the street. He saw other people with burnt clothes like his, big bananas on their feet, and the dazed look of someone on crack, too. He felt self conscious about the way he walked in his banana shoes, and wondered if he looked more high than them.
He walked for a long time, and the confusion set back into him like mist over a city by the sea. He didn't know where he was. He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t know where he was supposed to go.
So he just kept going.
Strange city block after strange city block, Albert walked until the bananas fell apart, and he gave up trying to keep them on his feet. Fucking banana shoes, he thought.
Barefoot and desperate some semblance of meaning, he looked curiously at a sign that read:
Pyramid Schemes and You: A Pathway to Happiness
(*Happiness not included)
He walked in deliriously and sat down in one of the many chairs facing a stage. More people slowly trickled in. Eventually a speaker walked onto the stage. He was dressed like a surgeon with green scrubs and a facemask.
“Immortality is the product of a feverish human mind,” the speaker said. “Everything dies. Oceans die. Planets die. Stars die. And the universe will die, too. Yes, that’s right. But it’s going to be OK. Do you know why it’s gonna be OK? Because I am going to make you rich. Also, because I’m Brad Pitt.”
He tore his facemask off to reveal that he was indeed Brad Pitt, smiling gloriously to the applause of the room.
“One morning we drank black tea,” Brad Pitt continued as he looked directly at Albert. “The rain was so thick outside that it seemed like the sun hadn’t fully risen, despite it being a mere two hours away from noon.”
The crack was wearing off. The walls were closing in. Brad Pitt kept look at him as he spoke and walked closer.
“They’re firing heavy artillery, captain!” he shouted at Albert. “Our position is compromised! Get to the shore you stupid bastard! Get to the shore!” he slapped Albert across the face. “What are you def? Are you dumb? Get to the fucking shore!”
He woke up in the hospital with a gasp. Turns out none of that actually happened and Albert has a severe, inoperable brain-tumor.