CHAPTER 5 – SCOTT IN THE LIBRARY
I honestly didn’t mean to hit Davey in the face with the door like that. Did she deserve it? Probably. Okay, definitely. Still, I didn’t want her to aim her wrath toward me. Worse, she might say something to her boyfriend Aaron, and he would beat the shit out of me then devour what was left of my dignity with his dimples and perfect teeth. That guy has the looks and the personality of a Hollister ad.
Regardless, I needed to get out of that office and fast. I stole one last glance at Davey and Aaron. Davey examined the door to the Peer Mediation room, running her fingers along the jagged splinters left in the door. The jagged splinters left by a robot from one of my incidents.
She could see it too.
I continued to stare at her, but my mind went elsewhere. If she could see it, then it wasn’t just an incident, or I was fucked up way worse than I thought.
Aaron stood behind her, completely oblivious to anything except that I was staring at Davey (even though I wasn’t really staring at her, it was more just a dead stare in that general direction). He made a pump fake move in my direction, drawing back a fist just the slightest. I jerked out of my stupor and almost tripped over my own feet heading backwards toward the hallway exit.
I’m aware of how lame the gesture was, and someone cooler probably would have stood their ground and said something really witty or nonchalant. But, he plays football and has many more muscles than I do, so I did the sensible thing to do when you know it’s a losing fight: I headed out the door as quickly as possible. I mean, Albert Einstein could be as smart as he wanted, but no matter his knowledge in the field of physics, he still would get ripped apart if he poked a bear. Not to say that I’m Albert Einstein. Or that Aaron is some sort of woodland creature.
Although would it be so farfetched to think that some of those bandages on Davey came from “accidents” of the “ran into a door” variety? Or that Aaron spent many nights crying himself to sleep because of his massive inferiority complex? Probably too farfetched,yeah, but it’s a nice mental image.
I’m glad Lenny didn’t see me, because the last thing I wanted was to end up in Peer Mediation with Aaron again. I already didn’t like Peer Mediation, but talking to Aaron was like trying to talk to that inflatable pilot from the movie Airplane.
The library was just across the main hallway from the office. Since my lunch was in my backpack, I speed walked over to the double doors, slunk in, and immediately exhaled the breath that I didn’t realize I was holding. My mind still reeled from the death robot and the cracked door it left behind.
I saw the guys sitting at our regular table, and plopped down next to them. I sat at the head of the table with Nathan and Ted on my right and Derek to my left.
“Hey man,” said Ted. He was a big dude with a somewhat deep voice. Those two words were about the extent of his vocabulary, or at least the extent of it that I had ever heard. The teachers called Ted slow, and guys like Aaron and girls like Davey called him much worse. Two chocolate pudding six-packs sat in front of him, just as they did every day. Pudding packs were the only thing he would eat at school for reasons no one knew.
Derek gave me the slightest nod. He was a shorter guy, probably around 5’5”. The table in front of him was completely clear. He rarely spoke, and when he did, he mostly spouted random and often disturbing things he read on the internet. It didn’t matter whether or not the things he said were true, Derek seemed to believe them.
“Did you know that in some Asian countries it’s common for the women the cut off the penises of their husbands if their husbands are unfaithful to them? It’s like an epidemic.”
I won’t lie. Sometimes I worried that Derek might be a serial killer.
“Hey Scott,” said Nathan, who then took a hit from his inhaler.
Nathan was so skinny that we worried a strong gust of wind might carry him away or break his spine or something. He had all kinds of medical problems and took all kinds of medicines. So many, that he had a spreadsheet he kept to keep him on schedule. An apple, Cheetos, and a turkey sandwich comprised his lunch, but it had been pushed to the side in favor of Nathan’s favorite lunch time activity.
A stack of library books sat on the table in front of Nathan. Our school library was built in the mid-1980’s, and since its inception, it hadn’t thrown away a single book. Nathan spent time each day finding a few of the most ridiculous and outdated books there. The book covering his face was an original hardback copy of Fatherhood by Bill Cosby. The other books he’d found sat in front of him: Don’t Sit on That Toliet Seat: A Guide to the New Virus Known as ‘AIDS,’ Windows ‘98 for Dummies, Japan: The Next Great Superpower, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and a thick book with the spine facing away from me.
I gave them a weak “Hey.” Images of the robot attack and Davey examining the door still appeared every time I closed my eyes. I tried to shake it off and focus on something else. My appetite was no longer around, so I instead turned my attention to Nathan’s stack of books.
“What’s this one?” I asked, referring to the book at the bottom of the stack.
“Oh man! Check it out!”
He put down his copy of Fatherhood and pulled the big book out from underneath the others. Bill Cosby stared up at us from the cover as we looked at the mystery book. “It’s some sort of crazy physics book or something.”
He pushed the book in front of me. The cover read, “The NEW Multiverse Theory,” in thick white lettering with a blurry photo of a galaxy as a background. I didn’t know the author, Dr. Daniel Crummond, but I suspected that neither did anyone else, at least not anymore.
I opened it to the copyright page and saw the publishing date of 1987. I mean, yikes. I didn’t know what the guy’s theory was, but based on that, I was willing to bet it required a DeLorean. The text was small and so were the margins. Seemingly every inch of space on every page filled with information. There were illustrations and diagrams as well, but they looked way above my pay grade (which is zero dollars, because I’m a student, so I guess it doesn’t take much to be above my pay grade).
I flipped back to the introduction and read the first sentence.
The reality that we live in is but one of many possible strands. An infinite number of strands exist, each representative of a different variation in possibility.
A drop of blood landed on the page of the book, then another.
I put my fingers up to my nose and they came back covered in red liquid. My nose was bleeding AGAIN. If it kept up I might as well have started renting myself out to anemics for quick access.
Luckily, I knew Nathan always kept a supply of tissues from his sickness-du-jour, so I looked up from my book and turned to Nathan.
A large lizard with a breathing problem greeted me instead. The library wasn’t there anymore either. A dark, slimy cavern that was completely foreign surrounded me. No, not completely foreign.
Somehow something still felt familiar.
I sat frozen in my seat (which was now a rock) for a minute, taking it all in and trying not to COMPLETELY LOSE MY SHIT. Two more lizards sat at the rock formation with me: a large fat one that stared blankly ahead and a little creepy one.
This was by far the biggest incident I’d ever had. This wasn’t just a blue stop sign or something. This was a full-on alternate reality. This place felt real. I was somewhere new.
The Rocketman had taken flight.
The dogs had been let out.
The boys of summer had gone.
To make it cliché, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
On the surface it seemed as if I had a complete break with reality. If that was true, why did everything feel so real?
Finding myself randomly transported to a rock formation surrounded by three giant lizard creatures, I took what seemed to be the logical course of action.
“Gentlemen...at least I think gentlemen...it has been a pleasure,” I said, closing my book and backing away slowly with the type of huge forced grin on my face normally reserved for family Christmas. The three lizards didn’t take their eyes off me.
“I would stick around but I have a-reptile dysfunction.” The lizards sat motionless, eyes still focused on me.
“Get it? ‘A-reptile’? It sounds like ‘erectile.’” The lizards hissed and reared back.
“Fuuuuck me,” I whispered.
I turned and ran. The three lizards raced after me. Despite their reaction, I want to go on record here in saying that I don’t think that the joke was that bad. I should’ve known lizards wouldn’t be a very receptive audience, what with the cold blood and tiny brains and everything.
I turned around and realized why the cavern held some sense of familiarity: despite being made of rock and slime, it still had the same layout as the library. I ran toward where I thought the exit would be. Just as I was just a few steps from crossing over the threshold, an even larger, older-looking lizard came around the corner hissing.
I skidded to a stop on the slimy floor. Lizards were in front and behind, so I took the only option open to me and jumped over the rock formation that would have been the library counter in my normal reality. The library supply closet was located behind the library counter, so I hoped there was a cave equivalent in this place that I could hide in until this whole thing blew over.
I hit the ground on the other side of the rock formation with all the grace of a bag of instant mashed potato flakes they use in the school cafeteria. My breath left me. I closed my eyes in pain, but only allowed myself a split second before forcing myself to keep moving. It was much easier to get traction on the carpet.
CARPET! THERE WAS CARPET!
It took my mind a split second to register that I was back in the library. I tried to hug ground, and came close to kissing it, but it was probably gross and I already had enough people calling me crazy around school without anyone seeing me try to dry-hump the library floor. I rolled over and sat up. Slime and mud caked to my clothes and hands. Like shards from the Peer Mediation door, they stuck around after the incident. This was getting crazy. Finding a safe place to try and sort this out became priority number one.
Using the library counter for leverage, I slowly raised myself up and looked out across the library. Everything looked completely normal. It was just your average, mostly empty high school library. No lizards in sight.
Just as I exhaled a sigh of relief, I heard a familiar hissing and clicking. My breathing stopped. A lizard head slowly raised behind the library counter. It was the head of the lizard with breathing problems.
“I guess you really hated that joke.”
It lunged and I fell backwards, its jaws snapping shut on the recently vacated airspace where my body used to be. I scrambled away, the lizard right on my heels. I lunged into the supply closet and attempted to slam it shut, but the lizard was fast. It shot through the opening at the last second, but couldn’t get through fast enough to avoid the door slamming on its tail.
It shrieked pretty wickedly, looked at the stub where its tail used to be, then looked at me with a renewed fire.
“It’ll grow back, right? Isn’t that how lizards work?”
It lunged at me. I jumped up onto the counter just in time, and crab-walked backwards on the counter over protective book covers, crate paper, laminated calendars, and staplers. The lizard jumped up onto the counter and came after me, knocking aside bundles and pens and markers, stepping on a poster that said “READ!” and featured a picture of Andrew “Dice” Clay.
I guess the library’s policy of not throwing away out-of-date things extends to more than just books, and I doubt Andrew “Dice” Clayever knew how to read, I thought as I climbed over one of those giant cutting boards with a bladed lever attached.
The lizard reared back to strike and my back hit the wall. I was out of room. The lizard moved to strike and I did the only thing I could think of: I raised the blade on the cutting board, waited for the lizard’s neck to pass under and brought it down hard.
There was a sickening CRUNCH as the blade cut into the lizard’s spine. Based on the blood squirting from its neck onto my face, the blade cut a main artery. The lizard kept moving, so I brought the blade down a few more times, dousing myself further in blood, until the only movements were death twitches coming from the lizard’s body.
I got down off the counter and quickly exited the supply room. I checked one more time that the lizard’s head was still completely separate from its body, and reassured, I left. I leaned against the door and let myself breathe for a second.
I didn’t know what to think. My mind was racing. Holy fuck. I totally just fought a giant lizard. No amount of closing my eyes and doing breathing exercises would change that. I felt like Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole, except I wasn’t a girl and at the bottom of the rabbit hole was A BIG-ASS LIZARD THAT WAS TRYING TO EAT ALICE.
I walked over to where Nathan, Ted, and Derek continued their lunch as if nothing was different. As soon as they saw me they dropped what they were doing and stared. It took me a minute to realize what it was they were staring at: the blood covered my face, and mixed with the slime and mud staining the rest of my clothes.
“Hey man,” said Ted.
“What they heck happened to you, Scott?” asked Nathan, rubbing his neck.
“You guys can see this?” I asked, indicating the grossness that covered me.
They nodded simultaneously. What in the what was going on?
“I gotta go,” I said.
I headed toward the library exit. I was losing my mind. I needed to see a psychiatrist. Fuck lizard caves with lizards that want to eat me. I made up my mind that I would take anything prescribed to me if that meant no more big ass lizard caves with big ass lizards in them.
The physics book I had been reading before the lizard cave incident caught my eye sitting on the counter near the exit. On a whim, I grabbed it as I walked out, ignoring the “someone forgot to check out a book” alarm that went off as I stepped through the sensors.