I woke with a start. My hair was stuck to my head with sweat. Valena had her hand on my shoulder and I was sitting up straight in the bed. “Are you OK?” she asked.
“Yeah, yeah, just a bad dream.” I said.
“Been having a lot of them lately.” Valena said matter of factly.
“Yeah, they’re getting worse too,” I said, “Maybe I need to see a doctor. But, I don’t know what kind of doctor I should call”
I pursed my lips and exhaled – it might be good to get it off my chest. “Ok, let’s make some coffee and sit in the kitchen.”
Ten minutes later I set her cup down in front of her and sat myself down across from her. I blew gently over the top of my steaming mug of coffee and looked into Valena’s eyes. “Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“OK then. Some of this I am not sure of, there are strong impressions and feelings but nothing concrete. Other parts are real. I swear they have already happened or they will happen, soon. It always starts off the same. I am in a moving vehicle. Moving fast but I’m not driving. I feel like it might be a train but I can’t hear the tracks or other train-noises. In fact, there is no sound at all. Perfect silence. I am looking out the window at the passing countryside. Very pastoral, very peaceful. Meadows, cows, ponds and stands of trees silhouetted off in the distance. I think it’s dusk. The sky is yellow and red-orange like a sunset.
“Then instantly everything goes black. My impression is that there has been an accident and this is reinforced by pain. Severe pain coupled with total silence and absolute black. I stay like this, wracked with pain, unable to move, not hearing or seeing for a long time. It’s torture but eventually it passes and there is some light. It’s very dim but not far away. I feel that if I could hold my hand out it would be illuminated. Gradually I sense motion and shadows in the light.
“It’s a struggle but I pull the shadows together into forms of people, people that I know. I can hear them too. I recognize a classroom. My classroom when I was in high school. It’s the room where I took AP English – Microfiction 101.
“I’m surrounded by my classmates and none of them have aged. Lindsay Backer is sitting in front of me and she’s still 17 years old. I’ve aged though and so has my teacher. Ms. Hanolsy is standing in front of the class and she has that blue hair thing going on, but she still stands straight and speaks with strength and confidence. You know, she was one of my favorite teachers she was stern, and she was strict, but she was fair and she knew her stuff. I learned a lot from Ms. Hanolsy.
“She’s explaining our lesson for the day. She’s teaching gargleblasters.”
Valena looked up, “What’s that?”
“It’s a particularly advanced genre of microfiction – very vertically integrated and not something to be taken lightly or attempted alone by a rookie. Careless gargleblasting can lead to headaches, oily discharge, severe bodily harm or even death so the tone in class that day is serious, none of the typical joking or grab-assing that can normally pervade a high school AP English class. Everyone understands that this has to be done correctly.
Written on the blackboard behind Ms. Hanolsy is the ultimate question that has to be answered with our 42 word gargleblasters. She turns and points to the neat block letters behind her…
WHAT IS THE AIRSPEED VELOCITY OF A FLYING MONKEY?
(LADEN OR UNLADEN, YOUR CHOICE.)
Then she moves back to her desk and watches us carefully. She’s worried. I pick up my pen and dash off a submission. I write carelessly and cavalierly:“I stand with my paper and start to move to the teacher’s desk. Ms. Hanolsy has fear in her eyes. She knows what’s about to happen.”
“What happens?” Valena asks.
“I find myself in a moving vehicle. Moving fast but I’m not driving. It might be a train.”
See me? I’m smilin’