Monday, May 22, 2006

Solarainne 2

(For an explanation of this project, please see the note on the post entitled "Solarainne 1." Thanks!)
(And sorry - for some reason this won't let me indent paragraphs.)

By Marcy and Bryan

The class filed out quickly, mumbling to each other about the absurdly short class. Connall looked at none of them. He fixed his eyes on the floor, making a line for his professor's desk. He wanted to know what the note meant, or what he should do. This guy says one thing to me and I'm going to deck him. He straightened himself up just in time to see Mary McCrary, a pretty girl that sat in the front, head him off. She was focused on Mr. Durst, and opened her mouth to speak.
"Mr. Durst, this is by far the most outrageous form of sexual harassment I have encountered at this school, and I hang out with rugby players, so that is saying a lot!" Mary said, her green eyes flashing with anger. She held up her essay, which had the same blue-inked message on it as Connall's did.
Mr. Durst laughed.
Connall's brow furrowed. "What is going on here? Is this some kind of joke?"
"Well, at least you both took offense to my little experiment," Mr. Durst said. "That's a good sign."
"A good sign of what? That we're human beings? And that we don't like being treated as objects by a professor who uses his assignments for his own personal agenda?" Mary retorted hotly.
"Exactly, Miss McCrary. That you are humans. And humans with some shred of moral character to boot. It's taken me half a semester to root you out of the crop of this year's pathetic hybrids. Our kind are rarities anymore."
"What the hell are you talking about? Hybrids? Are you on crack?" Connall asked, and then realized that he was simply asking questions that the good professor was already about to explain.
But Mr. Durst simply handed them a small business card. "Go to this address, at precisely four o'clock. Show this card to no-one, do you understand? I will meet you there and show you exactly what I am talking about. I'm afraid this classroom, even this campus, is not the place to discuss such subjects."
"Why should we trust you?" Connall asked.
"Do me a favor," Mr. Durst said. "Go to the coffee shop. Sit down with a mocha and observe your fellow college mates. Really observe them. And imagine that you are watching a cosmic science experiment. You'll be surprised what you see."
He gathered his things and headed for the door, leaving Mary and Connall completely baffled. Before he exited, he turned to them again. "Stay together until you meet me later. It's not as safe for you out there anymore; you're in the know."
He left.
Connall looked at Mary. She said:
"Do you have any clue what he's talking about? I've got another class at four. What's he talking about? He's not getting off that easy..."
But something in the way he said cosmic science experiment didn't sit right with Connall. He had heard those words once before, but where exactly he couldn't recall. Clearly, though, this professor had a plan for them. And it didn't involve wine and cheese in his dining room followed by gladiator movies in the bedroom.
"Look, it's a little weird, but maybe we should do this," Connall said. "And I know you don't know me and I don't know you, but it's probably just part of some lesson he's trying to teach."
Mary's breathing slowed a little. Curiosity began to take over.
"Well, he can't rape us both, can he?" she said, wishing instantly she hadn't. I don't even know this guy, hope he's not offended. His smile told her he wasn't.
"Well, I hope not. Here's what's really wrong: I left my money in my dorm room, so if we're supposed to hang out for the next three hours, I guess you're coming too. What do you think?"
Half an hour later, after money was fetched and more cold braved, Mary and Connall were sitting in the coffee shop, each with a mocha and a chocolate chocolate-chip muffin. They kicked back in a booth and began their people watching experiment, oblivious to what they were actually looking for.
"I can't believe I'm skipping Chem to sit here and ingest carbs with a stranger at the request of a perverted, demented professor." Mary said through a bite of muffin.
"Tell us how you really feel," Connall countered.
"What are we supposed to be looking for, anyway."
Connall sipped his mocha, then wiped whipped cream from the tip of his nose. "A cosmic science project."
"This whole thing is a cosmic science project." Mary mumbled.
Connall scanned the crowd, a regular mix of coffe shop patrons. The punks, the goths, the poets, the preps, and the average joes all mingled and gorged on treats. He watched them for weirdness, but spoke to Mary as he did.
"So where are you from, Mary McCrary?"
"Ohio. You?"
"You came a long way for school then." She huffed.
"That's original."
Mary sighed. "I'm sorry. I'm frustrated. None of this makes any logical sense, but it seems to be the right thing to do here."
Connall smirked, and was about to speak, when something caught his eye...
He found himself staring back at an iguana with a pearl necklace sitting atop Ben Ngyuen's shoulder.
Ben took a poetry class with Connall, and Connall remembered his was particularly bad, not just for the writing but because Ben came from Korea, and his r's were sometimes lost in the shuffle. Even with the public readings in class, up until now Connall never saw Ben communicate much with anybody, let alone a pet lizard. Yet here he was, feeding cracker crumbs to it as he read a bike manual in a far corner of the room. And the lizard looked at Connall like it was waiting for him to look away, but he didn't.
Mary saw the confusion smattered on Connall's face.
"What is it? What's the matter?" But before he could answer, she turned around to look at the lizard, which was now whispering into Ben's ear.
Ben's head snapped around to look directly at Connall and Mary. Connall swore he thought he saw Ben's eyes flare a brilliant yellow, and then fade back to normal. Ben pulled the lizard off of his shoulder and carefully placed her inside his backpack. He shouldered the bag, and with a cold glare, turned his back on the two observers and left the coffee shop. The backpack rustled, and the lizard peeked out of the bag, flipping off Mary and Connall.
"Did you see -"
"Oh yes, I saw," Mary replied before Connall could finish.
"How soon until four o'clock?"
Mary looked at her cell phone's time display. "Thirty-five minutes. Should we go? A trained lizard doesn't necessarily constitute a cosmic science experiment."
"But a Korean poet's eyes glowing yellow might." Connall stood and donned his jacket. "Safety in numbers. Let's go."
"How reassuring," mumbled Mary, but she followed Connall out to the bus stop.

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