"Today, good ladies and gentlemen, as we move into the next section of the course curriculum, we will begin a truly remarkable journey into the study of a truly remarkable object. This object, which has almost infinite functionality while maintaining a rare beauty found only in the most remarkable of objects, is thoroughly studied by many of the top minds in the world, yet remains perhaps one of the greatest mysteries known to man today. It is fascinating to note that this object to which I allude is, in fact, responsible for all things known to man today. It is the basis of all knowledge, all creativity, all memories, and all intellectual thought. It therefore also serves as its own instrument of study, much like a screwdriver used to disassemble and investigate another screwdriver. This wondrous object is, of course, the human brain."
The speech caught and held the attention of most of Dr. Haber's high school class, as most of his lectures did. Dr. Haber had looked forward to today's speech. The brain was his specialty; he was involved in neurology research at a local university where he was rumored to have made breakthroughs in understanding and controlling dreams and other subconscious brain functions. It was a superb lecture (which was not surprising, considering that he had worked on it for weeks) and it worked well on most of his audience: they listened intently, actually taking an interest in learning the subject.
Sitting in the front row was Dr. Haber's number one student. He was immensely enjoying the speech as a connoisseur of music might enjoy one of Mozart's mighty symphonies. He hung on every word, furiously taking notes and making sure not to miss a single syllable out of his beloved teacher's mouth. But this is not his story.
Sitting in the back row was Mark Shelby. Today, as usual, Mark was genuinely uninterested in anything and everything that Dr. Haber had to say. Mark had been up until four in the morning the night before working on a history report, and since Dr. Haber's class was the last period in the day for Mark, his thoughts were mainly focused on how nice it would be to go home and collapse on the couch. He hated biology (which was no small feat, considering how interesting Dr. Haber made even the most mundane topics). He was bored, he was hungry, he was tired . . . he became dizzy with fatigue, his eyelids were being pulled down by some irresistible force -- he began to nod off . . .
Suddenly Mark felt something cold against his cheek. He slowly opened his eyes, lifted his head, and found that the cold object was his desk. Gradually, his mind cleared; he rubbed his eyes and looked around. He was somewhat surprised to find that he was not waking up from his couch or his bed, or even his desk at home, but that he was in Dr. Haber's class. Eventually, he also noticed that there was no one in the room except himself.
Mark sat up abruptly as he realized his situation. "I must have fallen asleep during class," he thought, "but where did everybody go?" He looked at the clock. "6:15!" he said aloud. "How could they have left me here?"
As Mark walked out of the room, he happened to notice a note taped to the door:
Friday, Nov. 16
Greetings and salutations, my dear Mr. Shelby! I will not even venture to guess at what time you shall happen upon this note, although I trust that all will have long since departed from the building when you awaken. Thinking it unnecessary to disturb your esteemed respite at the terminus of the school day (as you must, no doubt, be much wearied by your lengthy academic efforts of the previous night), I have left you in your temporary state of unconsciousness, but be assured that I have taken the proper measures to protect against any harm which might come to you. By sealing the building as tight as the proverbial drum, I have, in effect, locked out thieves and other similarly unsavory characters who might find a boy, unconscious and unprotected, an opportune target for wrongdoing.
Yours very truly,
Dr. David R. Haber
Mark stared at the letter for a long time; then, disgusted, he crumpled the paper up and threw it at the first target he saw, Dr. Haber's "Suggestion Box." He walked out of the room to the nearest exit and tried to open the door: Locked. He walked through various halls of the school, pushing on each exit he passed, but always with the same result. Many of the lights and the heater had been turned off for the weekend, making the school quite eerie, veiled in shadows and becoming quite frigid.
Eventually Mark made his way to the main office which he found unlocked. He sat down at a secretary's desk and picked up the phone to call his parents. He listened for a dial tone --
" . . . the left hemisphere, where the parietal lobe terminates at the somesthetic cortex. Now if I may guess, most of you are, most likely, thinking, 'so what?' Well, if you will allow me a mere two minutes more . . ."
It was Dr. Haber! Dr. Haber's voice, on the phone! How could that be? Mark hung up. He moved to the next desk and picked up the phone -- " . . . the cerebral cortex, which . . ." He slammed the phone down and tried the next one. ". . . the imagination is a supremely powerful tool of . . ." It was Dr. Haber again, mocking him! He threw the phone at the wall!
Mark became frantic! He ran out of the office and through the hall again, screaming as loudly as he could. "Help! Get me out of here! Anyone!" He ran for ages, screaming, through a hall which seemed to stretch into infinity, as ghostly shadows danced around him, taunting him! Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder -- he let out a shrill shriek as he turned around.
"Tap him again, Mr. Bradley." Dr. Haber said.
The class watched the third attempt to rouse the sleeping Mark Shelby; after two unsuccessful taps on the shoulder, he sat up and shrieked. He turned around and saw the class staring at him.
"How nice of you to join us again in the land of the living, Mr. Shelby!" Dr. Haber said, smiling. The class giggled briefly as the bell rang. "Have a pleasant weekend, everyone!" Dr. Haber shouted as the room emptied.
Mark was slow to get out of his seat; he was still sweating. Dr. Haber met him at the door. "I suppose you do not find biology very interesting, Mr. Shelby. Perhaps, if you try to view it from a different perspective, you might find it to your liking."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"Precisely. Everyone sees everything from his own personal perspective; I can not tell you which one you should take," Dr. Haber said as he smiled and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from the Suggestion Box, "but I can suggest a few which you shouldn't."
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Story by Jeremy Elson, written in May 1991