An August Horror

A shudder rippled through his body.  It felt visible, but no one seemed to notice.

He did his best to maintain his composure.  He had only just turned away from it when “SNAP!”  Without warning he had actually broken the pen he was holding.  Exhausted, he realized he was tense beyond belief.  His vision wasn’t focused as he sat contemplating everything, but the noise caused him to see that he was staring at it again.  Why?

Symmetrical, he knew the round objects could be beautiful in other settings, if they weren’t paired together.  Hanging on the wall just a few inches below the ceiling, they were menacing.  The one on the right measured time.  He wondered how many times it had tormented him before, only to transform as soon as the halfway point was reached.  After that, he was always relieved.  After that, it became a source of hope.

It wasn’t the clock, but what was left of the it that really gave him nightmares.  When he was younger, all the time; these days only while he slept did it cause these nightmares.  He felt a paralyzing fear.  Who would invent such a dreadful device?  Torturous, its design irritated him to this very day.  An impenetrable grid of metal covering who knew what–for who knew what reason.  He was curious if there had ever been an attack, or if the designers knew precisely the evil they were creating and preemptively bolstered its defensive systems.

He realized everyone was staring at him, just as he stared at the object.  He would never know for how long he had been shouting profanities.  Luckily, this time around, he was the teacher.  This time around the speaker, that formless voice dictating orders as if by divine right, had no hold over him.  This time he had no concern for, nor did he need to know, anything it issued forth.  This time, he told himself, he wouldn’t be disturbed by it.

He feigned a calm, collected exterior as he and his students waited together.  Everyone heard the familiar peremptory crackle of the P.A.  They were only moments away now.  He thought he could do it.  He thought he was bigger.  He thought he was more mature.  He thought he was grown.

“Good morning school,” the speaker spewed.  “This is your principal speaking.  Welcome to the first day of the 2013-14 school year.”

Running as fast as he could, he arrived at his car out of breath.  Keys in the ignition, the DJ’s giving away concert tickets, he was determined to leave.  But he couldn’t.  He started this journey, and he could never forgive himself for quitting.

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