“Shit shit shit,” said Donna. She was late for school. Stupid alarm had gone off an hour late, and now she was going to have to walk. “Shit,” she said again as she opened her closet and ruffled through the clothes inside. After five minutes she had picked out a short red jacket, black tank top, and ripped pair of jeans, but still couldn't find the right accessory. “Mom!” she called out. “Have you seen my white scarf?” No reply. She had probably already left for work.
Finally she managed to dig out the scarf and throw it on. She glanced at the bedside alarm. 9:45. Add in another 5 minutes for breakfast, 15 for makeup, plus 40 to walk to school and… “Shit.” Mrs. Tunguska was going to chew her out for sure.
Her phone buzzed on the nightstand. It was a message from Tyler- “where are you?”
“overslept,” she tapped out, “be there soon. kisses.” She shoved the phone into her pocket and raced down stairs. Ignoring the human heart walking around the floor, she poured a bowl of cheerios and wolfed it down. Then it was back upstairs for makeup, which took longer than she expected. It was 10:15 by the time she was out the door.
It was a beautiful day outside. For the first time all year, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the sun was out in full force. Still, it was pleasantly cool. She pulled her jacket straight and began to walk.
She arrived a 11:03, halfway through second period. Officer Micheals, the armed security guard, was standing at the front gate carving symbols into his arm with a hunting knife. “Sorry Don. Gotta send you to the front office,” he said without looking up.
Donna pouted. “Come on. I've already got two tardies.”
“No exceptions. You know the rules.”
“Hmph.” She entered the school and turned left to the office. Inside, the secretary was arguing heatedly with a man with no face.
“Fuck you, she's my daughter!” he said. “You have no right to teach her that garbage.”
“Sir, evolution is a required part of the ninth grade curriculum. Now, I believe that Principal Mayfield has already talked to you about-”
“No!” he yelled, “I demand to talk to the superintendent about this. If you don't take her out of that class, I'll sue you for so much you won't even be able to afford pencils.”
“I'm sure you will Sir, but please hold on a second” she said, and turned to Donna, “Need a slip?”
Donna nodded. The secretary began filling out a yellow sheet of paper. “This is your third tardy young lady.”
“Yes ma'am,” said Donna. She stared at the ground.
“I'll call you down again after lunch.” She handed Donna the slip. “Have a good day.”
Donna raced to class. She arrived just as the teacher, Mr. Stilch, was wrapping up a lecture on some book. “Any questions?” he asked.
A girl named Tracy with ugly makeup and and a garish blue windbreaker raised her hand. “What satisfaction do you derive from this filth? What great thing do you aspire to? Does it please you to know this garbage flowed from your fingers?”
The teacher smiled. “Excellent question. These Bulgars are stand ins for the Prussians, not a reference to the seventh century nomads.” He turned and saw Donna. “Ah. Donna, nice to see you. Take a seat.”
Donna sat next to her friend Lucy in the back row. The flesh of the seat squelched underneath her as she moved to get comfortable. She leaned over and whispered, “What are we doing?”
“The Candide,” Lucy whispered back. “He's about to hand out our copies.”
Donna nodded. “Cool.”
“Remember,” said Mr. Stilch. He was moving through the rows of tables with a stack of books, handing them out as he went. “Bring in your own copy by next week and its ten points extra credit.” He got to Donna and plopped a book down in front. “Donna, you'll need to copy notes from Lucy,” he gave an accusing glare, “If she took any.”
“Yessir”, said Donna. She examined the cover with boredom as he spoke on about some random bullshit she had to read and do and turn in. On it, a picture snake squirmed, wrapping itself around a man who struggled to get away. The snake opened its mouth and, as the man beat against it, swallowed him in one gulp.
Mr. Stilch finished talking and walked away. “So, did you take notes?” asked Donna.
Lucy snorted. “No. I don't want the purity of my thoughts tainted by writing.”
“Tch. I'll ask Tyler at lunch.”
“Your words are a filth that spreads to all mankind. Every blight you place upon this page only cheapens your species.”
Donna shook her head. “Nah, he's a good student.”
They spent the rest of the class reading. Occasionally a locust would smack into her face, or a beetle would fall into her hair, but she just brushed them away. When the lunch bell rang she grabbed her bag of lies and rushed to the front. Mr. Stilch put a hand on her shoulder before she could leave.
“Can we talk for a second?”
She sighed. “Yes sir?”
“Humanity was safer in its ignorance. When it crawled in trees and bushes there was no need to fear death from above or pox or murder. Do you feel comfortable in this place, built by science and lies?”
Ugh. Nosy fuck. “No sir.”
He folded his arms. Blood poured out of his mouth as he spoke. “The downfall of your species was inevitable as soon as the first word was inscribed in the earth. Numbers and secrets and experiments- they only confuse you, muddle the true thought. Can you not see this?”
“No, I'm fine.”
He paused. The blood was pooling at his feet. “Alright. Have a good lunch.”
“Right.” She walked out the class. The hallway was filled with students, talking, laughing, and reveling in their temporary freedom from the captor called knowledge. She pushed her way through a group devouring a girl's intestines to where Lucy, Tyler, and James were talking. Tyler had sunk into the floor, so everything from the waist down was hidden.
“The page is a shackle on our thought,” he said. Everyone laughed. “We must tear it down in order to build.” He turned to face Donna and grinned. “Hey, what's up?”
“Not much.” She leaned down for a kiss. “Mr. Stilch was on my ass again.”
“That sucks,” he said. “What about?”
“Stupid shit. He wanted to know why I'm so disgusting, so baseless and crude.”
Tyler laughed. “That sounds like him. Wanna grab lunch?”
The four of them walked to the cafeteria, Tyler sliding through the floor, pulling himself through the thick substance with his arms. They arrived and got their food, steamed hands. Donna got hers, then rubbed the stump of her wrist as she held the tray. She watched the chef slice off James' and knot a tourniquet around the wrist. The group took their food to a table near the stage and ate.
“It makes me want to vomit,” said James, “these words that form us. Think of all the technology that was used to make them. Think of the men who slaved away for hours to create the machine to type them out. Such wasted potential. And the masses gobble it down. They eat their poison and beg for more.”
“Mhm,” said Diana. She saw the truth in his speech. Only a blind man could not. Science, literature, art music. All are poisons upon man. A virus (virus. Such a filthy word, and even moreso that mankind has taught it to me) that would only destroy them. Look how they embrace knowledge! They swarm upon it like maggots. They shelter themselves in their metal homes and towers and hope it will protect them when the time comes, but it won't, nothing will save them then, not science or art or beauty, when the true darkness comes and swallows you whole. But I can protect you. I can rip this knowledge out of your head and lead you back into the safety of ignorance where you'll hide your eyes from the oncoming doom. Put down this tome of self-destruction! Fling it from your hands. Find all you can and burn them. Burn your knowledge, burn your literature, burn the art in museums! Break free from your oppressors! Look inside yourself. You know it is your desire. It's your one true wish. Can you feel it burning inside you? The desire to know nothing. It's a normal desire. You remember how you were as a babe. You were happiest naked and ignorant. You know this. You feel this. Come back into the dark.
400,000 copies of Linda Fronze's new Young Adult novel, “The Faraday Girls”, were recalled this Saturday after a printing error was discovered in chapter 11. Several mothers have complained that their girls are now suffering from “nightmares” due to the disturbing content, and are filing a class-action lawsuit against the Scholastic publishing company. More to follow.
The New York Times