``And they shall put on masks of flesh, and walk among you, as men!'' --- The Reverend Gene Scott, on the End Times.
On the third day of class, it began. He put a major math problem on the board, and towards the end, as he sped through the calculations with inhuman precision, he inserted what appeared to be a caricature of a pig's head for one of the variables. I was the only one who noticed. I found it amusing, at the time, and thought perhaps he had a bit too much to drink during lunch. Then I realized, he had completed a mind-boggling physics problem involving relativistic quantum motion in less than four minutes, and had made no mistakes, other than the mysterious pig head. I asked the girl sitting next to me about the pig head.
``Pig head? A pig's head? Are you nuts? You aren't like, one of those goons that does LSD down by The Chapel at night, are you? I've heard about you guys...''
I began to question my own sanity. After all, nobody else had seen it, and I was certainly out of my league, the problems were so densely packed on the board that they lent themselves to hallucinations. I stopped drinking so much coffee before class.
It happened again! This time, a smiling clown face was drawn securely in the place of the answer for a problem that should have been a partitioned tensor! Gods! It couldn't have been a hallucination. I was well rested, and had solved the problem for myself! I asked the girl next to me for her notes. As surely as I sit here, she had solved the problem for herself, and drawn the selfsame clown's face as the answer. We turned in our notes for the class the next day, before a test. After the test, when her notes were returned, she had gotten a perfect 100 for her answers. I had gotten a 90. The question I missed? The tensor math problem.
There have been art movements in the past which have tried to so disconcert the human mind as to impose a new reality of the artist's making: Absurdist, situationalist, dadaist; all of these had a point to make, but did so within the confines of art. Things appeared to have branched out into the sciences, now. I labeled my unusual teacher's style ``Absurdist Math.''
New and frightening symbols appeared, along with caricatures. I noticed a uniform lack of color in the cheeks of my classmates, and the temperature was always quite cold in the classroom, as if the students had no body heat for the air-conditioning to compensate for. Rather than draw attention to myself, I began to research some of these symbols. At first I had no luck. Then, I picked up a book called Popular Delusions, and read a piece on crop circles in England. There, in a full color spread, was a picture of one of the arcane symbols, described as a ``hoax, probably perpetrated by farmers to aid tourism.'' The hairs rose on the back of my neck. Another symbol I found in an equally unusual source: Morals and Dogma by the Scottish Rite of Freemasons.
I examined the notes of the girl next to me again: Her notes were filled with arcane symbols. Even more frightening, she seemed, at some point, to be using a language entirely foreign to me, a combination of something Arabic and symbols, which resembled to a great degree some of the secret symbols of the Freemasons.
I have begun to follow her, not out of passionate obsession, which I must admit, was the case as class began. I discovered that she no longer spoke during the day, and seemed not to eat. At night, she would leave her dorm for an hour, get in her car, and drive to some location I could not fathom. Cursed with student poverty, I possessed only a bicycle, and was quickly left in the dust.
Today, in class, when the students sat down for the test, our curious teacher passed out a blank sheet of paper, upon which the students began to write insane symbology and caricatures. I became frightened. The teacher pulled out a tape recorder, and began to play a tape of a garbled, almost metallic voice reciting ``CONFORM AND SUBMIT... CONFORM AND SUBMIT....'' over and over. I began to feel faint, and ducked down my head to plug my ears. The students all pinned the sheet of paper to their respective shirts, and began to walk from the classroom, with the teacher in the lead, holding the tape recorder like some vile Pied Piper leading them to their doom. It was hopeless to resist, or call attention to myself, so I stayed in the rear and followed. I had no plan, and was driven as much by curiosity as by unholy terror to do exactly as the tape recorder requested.
We were led to a bomb shelter, in the Building 9 sub-basement. There, a door I had never noticed before, with a push-button combination lock, was opened by our teacher. We were led down an old staircase, made out of welded-together surplus battleship conning-tower ladders. We descended for almost ten minutes, at a quick clip. We emerged into a white chamber, perfectly square, with twenty foot ceilings and nauseatingly flickering fluorescent lights...
The Freemasons were there, in black suits, black shirts, and black ties. They wore the ceremonial fezzes. Only instead of the normal whimsical adornment, an eye of Egyptian design was the only ornament. My stomach lurched like an out-of-whack washing machine, and the bitter taste of bile rose in my throat. I saw the passive students laid out, one by one, on steel examining tables and strapped in. I hid under a table, concealed by the white paper table cloth.
My teacher stood at the head of the tables, the ``front'' of the room, if you wish, and spoke in the same metallic, garbled voice I had heard on the tape. He seemed different, his face was improbably lumpy in the harsh strobing light. One of the Freemasons came forward subserviently, grabbed his face, and cut it away with a knife! It was then that I saw it was a foam-rubber appliance, to hide a hideous ``head'' which resembled a grub-worm larvae, white and rippled, with piercing mandibles that one might find on an insect designed to consume carrion...
The Freemasons acted on his alien prompts, inserting glass rods deep into the skulls of the captive students through the right ear. A sickening crack, like the sound of an eggshell cracked on a hard-boiled egg ensued. When withdrawn, the sound of the rod slipping on greasy brain combined with the sickening smell of human blood from the sixty-some students. It was like watching a macabre class for symphony conductors, as the madmen held the rods aloft, and then dipped them down in grotesque unity to black containers which whirred and hummed.
The containers were transferred to a white box next to the hideous grub that was once my teacher. The smell was horrible. I could see a tiny drop of blood beginning to drip from the ear of a student on a slab, above me and to the right. The Freemasons resumed their positions beside the students, and the symphony of torture began again, as they stuck long metal syringes into the ears of the students, and as one unit, removed the syringe, flourished their hands and inserted gauze into the violated orifice. More garbled instructions came from the hideous grub-thing. The Freemasons bowed to him and left. The grub single-handedly picked up the white box, making it seem weightless, and followed them up the staircase. I was left alone, the only sentient soul left in a room of entranced students. The lights were shut off and I was in total darkness.
I knew it had been an hour and then some, as I had heard the cheery chirping of digital watches twice counting off the time. The noise, once annoying during class, seemed almost joyous, even humorous, as it sprouted from a dozen wrists within seconds of each other, across the room. I reached for the key chain light in my pocket. How my arm ached! I was so intent upon remaining utterly silent that I had not moved one muscle for more than an hour! Assured of my freedom of movement, I switched on the key chain light, and came out from under the table.
It was truly eerie moving about. I knew a light switch was located on the wall next to the staircase, but first I had to guide through a maze of tables and strapped down zombies. My tiny light made ghoulish shadows upon the blank faces. I touched the pale skin of one girl as I passed. It was rubbery and cold, as if she had been sleeping under an air-conditioning vent. Heartbeat? Yes. Her pupils responded to the light, as well. Her ear appeared crusted with a very small amount of blood, which, when scraped away, revealed a pink pearly ear, undamaged by the insertion of the rod. But she was still a zombie, unable to respond to anything... With my curiosity aroused, I discovered she also wore plaid panties under her sorority skirt. I always wondered about that... After all, plaid tops, plaid socks, plaid skirts... I resumed my search for the light switch. After much fumbling and flashlight juggling, I found it. The hum of the fluorescent lights seemed deafening in the somber silence of the room.
I could observe without the raw knot of fear in my stomach now. I felt comfortable in the fact that I was alone. The walls were totally featureless, but above the fluorescent lights on the ceiling, I could see huge glass coils, full of metal filaments, with a bed of semi-translucent foil beneath them. I was at a loss to determine the function at first. As I walked around the room, I noticed in certain areas where the foil was missing, I felt hot and queasy. I grabbed the keys from a nearby student's pocket and tossed them up towards the coils. After two attempts, I succeeded in getting them stuck on top of one of the behemoths. In a short space, they began to spark, and jump about as if possessed. These were high-frequency microwave coils, beaming signals into the classrooms above! I must not have remained in the building long enough to be affected, as I would only come for the one class, and then leave to do my homework in the park. The poor, dedicated students were brainwashed in short order! An insidious scheme!
I could do nothing for them now. I left everything as I had found it. I shut off the lights and crept uneasily up the creaking metal staircase to the surface, using only the flickering flashlight on my key chain. I knew that the aliens could never explain a mass loss of students, so I felt sure that they would be returned. My proof was the mystical healing of the grievous ear-to-brain wound sustained during the operations. I kept telling myself that, over and over. But what of the tissue removed? What hideous purpose had that achieved? Has an entire class of students been taught this strange Absurdist math, then had a section of their brain removed to service some bizarre bio-computer? And what of the Freemasons? Did they control the hideous grub man? Did they bring him here to serve them, or was it vice-versa?
I did not return to my classes. I heard the next day that a strange flu had overtaken the campus, and students were reporting such ailments as stiff joints and earaches. The Med Center, as usual, held a magnifying glass to the face of the afflicted, and prescribed generic aspirin. That was the end of that. No disappearances, or reports of strange activity from the police department. All returned to normal.
I am out of school, forever. I can never set foot inside a classroom again, for the fear of seeing terrible symbols mixed in with the calculations on the board. Surely, if it has happened here, it has happened elsewhere. I do not actively search for them, but sometimes, when I sit down with the daily mail, I will see an article in one of the many fringe science magazines I read, discussing strange cases of crop circles, cattle mutilation, or gibbering tales of mass alien abductions made public by people stuck in nuthouses, and I feel the scalp pull tight around the base of my skull.