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I knew I was a zombie.
I knew we were all zombies.
That’s the point of this.
Just thought you ought to know.
Zombies know that they’re zombies.
And we don’t do a thing about it.
What else would we do, once that we knew we were zombies??
There’s nothing else out there for us.
All we know is how to be a zombie.
We’re good at it.
Some better than others I suppose.
But this is what we were taught from age 5.
From then on we are sheltered in what I like to call “zombie breeding grounds.”
We do the same thing everyday.
The exact same thing.
Why would we object?
Consistency is great.
But we’ve never had anything to compare it to.
We walk the same path, take the same amount of steps, think the same exact thought that every other zombie is thinking.
It started like this…
I was sitting in my chair.
Just like every other day.
And the other zombies were sitting in their chairs.
We were chatting…
We always chat.
Meaningless things like shoes and shopping and schedules.
It was what we always talked about.
We were being kind of loud.
I remember looking at my shoes.
I was just listening to the conversation, not chatting.
I don’t usually chat.
But the conversation drew me to my shoes.
I’d never bought shoes like these before.
They made my feet look small.
I liked that.
It was a strange feeling.
I didn’t usually like things.
But I liked my shoes.
They were nice.
But anyway, while I was looking at my shoes, the teacher came in.
I didn’t look up.
I didn’t need to.
It wasn’t as if I’d never seen my teacher before.
I was busy looking at my shoes.
Besides, the teacher never had anything interesting to say.
She wasn’t nice, like my shoes.
I didn’t like her.
This was a strange feeling too.
I didn’t usually dislike things.
But that’s just because I didn’t like things.
But now that I liked my shoes, I found that I disliked my teacher.
Comparably, my shoes were much nicer than my teacher, and much more interesting.
These thoughts confused me.
They were abnormal.
In my disconcertion I looked up, and saw that my teacher was not there.
Instead, there was a man.
He was wearing jeans.
And his hair was messy.
A new student?
“Hello class,” he said.
What a peculiar thing to say.
“I’m your substitute teacher, Mr. Jacobs.”
Well that explained the tie.
But not the messy hair.
I’d never seen such pretty hair.
Mr. Jacobs had pretty hair.
I liked it.
I found that I very much disliked my own hair.
Mr. Jacobs’s hair was much prettier than my own.
“Now, I’m afraid your teacher Ms. Parkinson left in such a hurry that she didn’t leave me any instructions.”
What was he going to do?
Was he going to get mad?
Why would he get mad?
I’d never seen anyone get mad.
I didn’t even know where I’d read the word.
No one ever got mad anymore, I knew that.
“So you may use this class as a study period.”
I felt an irregular sensation in my shoulder and looking to the side, I saw that my arm was stretching up into the air of its own accord.
My hand was leading it as if with its own mind.
He didn’t know my name.
“Pandora” I said.
His eyes were a darker brown than his hair.
“Did you have something to say?”
My mouth opened.
“What are we to study?”
He furrowed his brows.
“Whatever you wish.
You could read, or draw, or do any homework that you’ve been given.
As long as you’re quiet.”
My arm dropped back to my side, satisfied.
Some of the other students were looking at me strangely.
The substitute’s mouth had stretched into a knowing smile.
He looked absolutely thrilled.
I looked away from the man’s lips and back down at my shoes.
I quite liked my shoes.
I quite liked my substitute, too.
I wondered how old he was.
My eyes traveled up from his shoes to his face.
He was still looking at me.
And my face—
It did something highly unexpected.
At once it was the temperature of fire.
It was only for an instant, and then the feeling was gone.
I’d read about something like this.
I’d skipped over it at the time, because I didn’t understand, but I remembered anyways.
It was called embarrassment.
Or something like that.
But I didn’t know what it meant.
Who could I ask?
And then I remembered something else.
I remembered where I’d read it.
Crouched on the floor of the attic, dust bunnies in my hair.
Reading from a book that I’d pulled from a box.
A box labeled “ILLEGAL.”
I remembered the feeling I’d gotten when I read it, as well, when I’d heard my mother coming down the hall.
Coming to investigate what I might be up to.
I’d felt fear.
I’d stuffed the book under my shirt and shoved the box under an old wooden desk and started rifling through the notebooks from middle school.
I had hidden the book.
Under my shirt.
I had lied to my mother.
Told her that I’d just lost track of time, reading my diaries from so long ago.
I remembered the next feeling too.
And back then, in the class room, I felt embarrassment.
Though I didn’t know what embarrassment was.
I didn’t know if I wanted to.
I did know that my feet, under the desk and inside my shoes, were moving.
And I wasn’t moving them.
And before I knew it, my legs were bringing me to the front of the room.
Where Mr. Jacobs was standing, watching me with…
What was that expression?
For a moment my legs faltered, but they held.
Was it… anticipation?
I didn’t quite know what anticipation was either, but I’d heard it described once.
Finally, my legs regained confidence…
…and continued carrying me to the front of the room to stand before Mr. Jacobs.
He was bouncing on the balls of his feet.
He was smiling.
His teeth were very white and very straight.
It took my mouth a few seconds to realize that this was its cue.
“Ah, yes” I said.
“Could I visit my locker?”
My mouth obviously knew something I didn’t because I’d never been to my locker before.
I didn’t even know where my locker was.
For a second I wondered if this whole “not controlling my body” thing was very good, but I dismissed the worry.
Obviously my body had its best interest at heart, right?
I never thought that that could be entirely the point.
Mr. Jacobs looked… disappointed?
As if he expected me to give him more of a show.
“Yes, of course, Pandora.”
“You can use the locker pass.”
The… Locker… Pass…?
“There’s a locker pass?”
He turned and fished a piece of paper from the mess piled on top of Ms. Parkinson’s desk.
He scribbled on it and handed it to me.
It said “Locker Pass.”
I tried to take it from his hand, but he held tight to it.
“Pandora” he said.
My mouth replied, “Yes, Mr. Jacobs?”
I don’t thing I’d ever strung so many words together in one day.
It was almost as if I was having a conversation with this man.
I hadn’t had a conversation in quite a while.
“Are you feeling okay?”
What did he mean?
How could “okay” be a feeling?
It was as if he was asking me “Are you feeling yes?”
He saw my expression of confusion.
“I mean, do you feel sick or anything?”
This man must have been an English teacher at some point.
He knew so many strange words.
It was the correct response.
He smiled, “Good.
Now go ahead and leave, but come back when you’re done”
Where else would I go?
My legs carried me from the room without worrying about it, so I didn’t worry about it either.
They led me down a boring hallway painted white and lined with gray lockers.
I stopped next to one and my hand spun the dial on the front.
The door swung open.
And inside there was a number of things.
My favorite old blue raincoat, a pink highlighter, a crumpled up essay I’d gotten a B on and a battered old book.
After I spotted it, I no longer cared about any of the other artifacts.
My hand reached out and took hold of it, fingers running across the title embossed on the cover.
That was the title.
Mathew was a name, I knew that.
I had an Uncle Mathew.
Or at least, I used to.
He wasn’t around anymore.
My left hand held tight to the book, and my right hand swung the locker door closed with a loud slam.
By now, my body was distracted; all focus on the book, and not where I was walking.
For I was walking back to the classroom.
For a while, I didn’t even know why that was a bad thing.
I walked through the classroom door, and none of my classmates looked up at my entrance.
Mr. Jacobs did though.
I handed him the Locker Pass.
“Good book” he said.
I cocked my head.
He looked down at my hand that was grasping the leather-bound papers.
“Mathew” he said, “A very good book.
I’ve read it.”
I turned and walked back to my seat and as I took it, I saw a glimpse of Mr. Jacobs face.
It held a disenchantment that I had never seen the like of before.
I’d never even read the word disenchantment, but I knew it, and I knew that this was perhaps a moment he had been waiting for and that it had not been quite what he expected.