Archive for the ‘Nine Moons Chapters 1-5’ Category

Q: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

A: “It’s really Escher that is drawing them both.”

The tangled loop (or the tangled hierarchy or the strange loop) is a hierarchy of related  levels in which there is no well defined highest or lowest level. When one moves through the levels, she eventually will end up back at her starting point, the point of origin. (For more in-depth definition see: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Strange_loop&oldid=342971532)

An excerpt from Nine Moons of the Vision Serpent in which Mackie, Jillian and Moon Rabbit are visiting a certain Dr. Amit, who explains to them what a tangled loop is:

“The ability to create comes from what the Hindus call Samadhi, a non-dualistic state of consciousness. You can only reach Samadhi through hard work on yourself and your conditioning. There are no free lunches. When that work is started, you will be able to experience the world with more love and awareness than ever before. You will be happier, because you are no longer bound by your own individual consciousness, but you are a part of something so much bigger.”

“But doesn’t the fact that we can choose, individually, mean that we have individual consciousness?” asked Mackie.

“That is a good and complicated question.” Dr. Amit sat rubbing his chin for a moment. Then he stood up and took out a piece of paper, tape and some scissors. “Have you ever heard of a Mobius strip?” Neither Mackie nor Jillian had. Dr. Amit cut a strip from the long side of the paper and held it up in front of him. With a little difficulty he twisted the paper one time and then brought the two ends together. He tore off a small piece of tape and taped the ends together.

“This is a Mobius strip. This is very clever now, so I want you to watch closely. May I?” He took Mackie’s pencil and placed it next to the spot with tape on it and began to draw a line down the middle of the strip of paper. He started on the outside, but because the paper was twisted, his line also twisted down and then curved up into the inside of the form. The line continued on through the inside and then curved back out and ended up exactly where it had started. Dr. Amit then tore the Mobius strip back apart and held it up. The line he had drawn was on both sides of the paper.

He looked up at the girls. “Amazing, isn’t it? Despite the fact that it appeared that the line was moving away from its source of origin the entire time I was drawing it, it ended up right back where it started! And further, I was able to draw on both sides, without ever picking my pencil up off the paper. This is what is called ‘a strange loop.’ You can often see them in drawing by the brilliant artist, M.C. Escher.” He gave Mackie her pencil back.

“This is how your consciousness works in reality,” he said holding up the Mobious strip. “ For you it feels like you are your own consciousness. It feels like, because you are the subject in your thinking, that you have a thought or do an action and that it moves away from you out into the world. But in reality, everything, front and back come back to the same point.”

“Point A and point B,” he said, holding up first one end and then the other of the strip of paper, “make the appearance of a dualism. But in reality,” he said retwisting the paper and holding the ends together, “point a and point b are tangled up and come together.”

“Hm,” said Mackie. “Is this a metaphorical way of telling us that we’re supposed to try to dissolve our differences and become one with each other?” asked Mackie.

“Not exactly. You are made separate by God or consciousness so that you can have individual experiences. This is a part of the design of the world. You are working toward identifying first with the unified self, first and foremost. You are a citizen of the Universe. Once you understand the illusion of duality, then you can identify second with the ego or your own personality and life more successfully. To try and eliminate your personal self is repression and can only lead to more unhappiness.”

It only appears to our brain that we are making continuous, discrete choices. Meditate on this, says Amit Goswami, and you will begin to be able to stop identifying with your brain. You are not your brain. Your brain is a tool that you use in the physical world, but it isn’t you. It is an object in your consciousness. Your consciousness is the subject.

The observer is the observed. –Krishnamurti


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Thursday, February 3, 2011: 12:34 pm

Tabitha Louise Greyson was not dead… she just looked dead.

Tiny cells in her brain and spinal chord were receiving messages from her body and sending electrochemical pulses to stimulate various body parts and organs. Message received: grilled cheese sandwich has entered the stomach. Message sent: release gastric juices to break down the cafeteria lunch! Message received: carbon dioxide level in the blood has increased. Electrochemical pulse sent to the diaphragm: expand and pull oxygen rich air into the lungs!

No, Tabitha Louise Greyson was not dead.  Her body, despite her apparent lack of consciousness, was continuing to strive for homeostasis, balance across many complex systems. Her eyes were softly closed. Her breath, so aptly monitored, had slowed to less than three per minute. She did not move, yet she wasn’t asleep. She lay on the floor in the auditorium of her high school building. There was nobody around. The auditorium was dark.

This is a story of the last underworld of the Mayan calendar. It was told to me by three young women and their friends, so that I could write down and immortalize the amazing and, at times, unbelievable tale of what happened to them at the end of the Mayan calendar.  I am Andres Zotz, historian and amateur daykeeper. I myself had a small part to play in the story too. I tried my hardest to relate the tale appropriately. I hope you find the tale as enlightening as I did.

Where to start? Perhaps it would be wise to go back and examine the happenings up to the point when we find our young protagonist, Tabitha, in such a state of apparent deadness.

This particular segment of the story started on the evening of March 23, 2010.  It was spring break, and Tabitha was sitting on the beach in Tulum, Mexico, vacationing with her two best friends, Jillian and Mackie, and Jillian’s parents. She was writing in a new journal, given to her by her father. The inscription on the inside cover read: For my precocious daughter: Write it all down, lest it pass you and be gone forever.

Tabitha found herself slightly annoyed by her father’s prosaic inscription, but the journal itself was really quite nice–leather bound with a silver clasp.

March 23, 2010

It’s around noon, I think. I need to remember to put on more sun block. I don’t want to burn. Jillian is lucky she has dark skin. She doesn’t need to worry about burning. I won’t complain though. It is so beautiful here! The beach is amazing with soft, light sand and the water is blue like an Easter egg. I feel so relaxed. I could just forget about everything.

Swimming is sort of scary. I’m thinking of the shark attack story I read in the Guard before we left, where the shark tried to eat the guy’s dog and the guy jumped in and punched the shark until it gave his dog back. Who punches a shark?

Our little cabana is so cool. It is one round room made from thick branches lashed together for walls, a thatched roof, a bathroom and a big tub made from a carved out tree trunk. The beds are actually tied to the rafters with thick sailing rope. Jillian’s parents have an identical cabana next door. I am so lucky that they let me come. Neither of my parents could have afforded to bring me here. There’s a hot tub outside on the deck where we can soak and watch the stars. It makes me wish that I knew more about constellations. I’m concerned about going to these Mayan pyramid ruins. It sounds like it could potentially be a little boring, but I guess I’ll take the bad with the good.

Later still—nearly midnight

Something weird happened at Tulum. When we drove up, everything was normal. We bought our tickets and our headphones and waited for our guide. We started in and listened to our recorded tour. It was a little spooky walking around in the dark but the paths were lit up so it’s not like we were tripping on stuff. The moon was really tiny, so that wasn’t much help. We were walking around all these old grey stone buildings where Mayan leaders used to live and work with a man with a Spanish accent talking about the people who used to live here. Then the wind started to pick up. It was already a little eerie but wind in the dark always makes things way more eerie feeling. Clouds were passing in front of the sliver of moon and the more I watched them the more alive they seemed, like they were dancing. I started to feel strange, like someone was there but I couldn’t see anybody out of the ordinary.  I’ve heard people talk about feeling the “presence” of something or someone who wasn’t really there, but I’ve never felt it myself before, until tonight.

Maybe it was the dramatic tour guide telling us that Tulum means ‘the place of the dawning sun’ with dramatic, stormy music playing in the background or maybe it was the shifting colored lights in the dark shining on the ruins, but I felt electrified, sort of. Near the Temple of Frescos the man in the headphones talked about Ixchel, the Mayan moon goddess. Apparently there was a painting of her somewhere inside that tourists couldn’t see.  In the painting, she was holding two rain deities. As soon as I heard her name I felt a vibration inside me, like something humming in my stomach. It was all sort of weird. Jillian and Mackie didn’t seem to notice anything different. They didn’t mention it if they did anyway. Strange.

Tomorrow we’ll be visiting the ruins in Coba and hopefully do a little street shopping. I still need to get gifts for my family.

There was no electricity in the cabana, so that night the girls lit candles and lay around, talking until late in the night.

“Hey Mackie, what book are you reading?” asked Tabitha.

“It is called The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness. It’s by a Swedish biologist named Carl Johan Calleman,” came Mackie’s reply.

“What’s it about? Well, obviously it’s about the Mayan Calendar, but like, what about the calendar? I don’t really know much about it.” Tabitha sat up and looked over at Mackie, who was sitting in a hammock chair that hung from the ceiling.

“Ummm, well, it’s kind of hard to explain in a nutshell. This guy did a bunch of research on the Mayan hieroglyphs and he talks about humans and the ways we think and the Mayan World Tree. His theory is that the Mayan pyramids represent time from the very beginning of the Big Bang. It is really cool stuff. But kind of complicated.” She pushed up her glasses. “I could tell you more if you want.”

“Ahh, no thanks. Not right now. I’m trying to relax over here,” Jillian interjected. She had painted her toenails red and was reclining in the big bed with her feet up on the wall, fanning them. “No offence, it’s really quite fascinating, but school doesn’t start for another week, and I don’t want to waste any time.” Jillian smiled sweetly at Mackie who rolled her eyes.

“You’re going to want to know all about this before too long, you know. We’ll see who is wasting your time then.” She went back to her book.

“So,” Jillian went on, as if Mackie hadn’t said anything, “Did either of you two get a look at that French guy down on the beach this afternoon? I thought he was hot. I think he was looking at us too.”

“That guy was like thirty years old, Jillian. And his teeth were bad,” said Tabitha.

“Oh, that’s just a European thing. Lots of guys from Europe have bad teeth. I think it’s like a fashion or something,” Jillian answered, still fanning her toes.

“Yeah sure,” snorted Tabitha. “You won’t think it’s very fashionable when you’re grinding up steak in a baby food grinder for your hot European boyfriend and his rotten teeth. We have teeth for a reason you know. Plus, I’ve seen lots of European men, and none of them have rotten teeth.”

Jillian stopped fanning. “Excuse me, what European men have you seen Tabitha?” she challenged.

“Hugh Grant. Arnold Schwarzenegger. That exchange student in AP History from Finland. And I bet that Mackie’s Swedish biologist has fine teeth too. Is there a picture on that book Mackie? Let me see…”

“OK, whatever, I thought that he was cute anyway. Maybe we’ll see him tomorrow.”

“One can only hope and dream, right Jillie?” Mackie giggled from behind her book.

March 24–noon

Coba, Mexico, sitting on the steps at the base of a towering Mayan pyramid. There is a Mayan ball court off to the right of us. Today is not windy at all. There’s some smoky incense burning in front of the stele nearby. The steles are these giant stones that the Mayans carved, telling about the gods that live in certain areas. The Mayans call them stone trees. They’re covered with thatched roofs, which is a recent addition seeing as these stele were made hundreds and hundreds of years ago. I couldn’t see much carved on the stele in front of this pyramid. It had all worn away over time. Mackie said that people who study Mayan symbols learned about the Mayan calendar from carvings on a stele here at Coba. I don’t know much about it, but supposedly the calendar is going to end in a year, according to the stele. Nobody knows what that means. Some people say the end of the world, some people way that the world will move on into a new paradigm. That’s what Mackie said anyway. Sounds like a superstition to me, but Mackie thinks it’s true. She said that it was the modern day Mayans who lit that incense by the stele and that they’re still following the old sacred calendar. I don’t know how she finds the time to learn about all of this stuff. She never stops reading. She even brought books along with her here to the beach!

A little later—

I just had the strangest little daydream. I put the journal down and lay on the step here for a minute. I closed my eyes and I felt this soft breeze of incense on my face. It smelled a little like lemons and herbs and smoke mixed together. I lay there for a minute, just relaxing and listening to the leaves rustling and the birds. Right when I was about to fall asleep, an image flashed into my head. Just for an instant I saw her.

She was a little, old woman with dark skin. Her face was deeply crinkled like a dehydrated apple. Her head was covered with writhing and hissing snakes. She was pretty naked, except for two squares of woven blood colored material draped over her thin hips. She wore these thick jade anklets and long strings of tiny beads around her neck. Her ears were pierced and the holes were stretched bigger than the holes on some of the hippie’s ears at the bus station in town. She was wearing very large earrings.

This little woman bared her teeth at me, stomped one foot, then the other, and then she was gone.

*                        *                      *                      *                      *

Although she usually told them about everything in her life, Tabitha decided not to tell Mackie or Jillian about the daydream. It seemed too out of the ordinary and she thought that they might think she was weird. She decided to put the image from her head, at least for the moment.

The next afternoon the three girls went shopping on the market street outside Tulum. Jillian was dressed in her best travel outfit, a pale yellow summer dress that perfectly accentuated her dark brown skin and long black shiny hair.

“How do you always know exactly what outfit to wear in any given moment?” Tabitha asked her, as they waited to cross the street in front of a taxi stand where a group of men stood nudging each other and pointing at Jillian. Jillian smiled at Tabitha.

“I don’t know. I just put on what I put on and the moment makes itself perfect for me. I can’t help it. The world just looks good with me in it.” Tabitha’s mouth fell open for a moment, then she shrieked and laughed, shoving Jillian lightly as made their way to the shops.

“I’ve been here so many times, visiting my grandparents, I just know what to expect, that’s all,” Jillian said. “You would too, if you’d been here every summer since you were a baby.”

Tabitha thought about that for a minute.

“I don’t think so. I just never seem to quite feel like I fit in. Maybe someday.”

The shops they passed were painted bright pinks, yellows and teal, which made the street look merry in the bright sun. Vendors sold wooden carvings, bright colored woolen blankets, drums, copal incense, silver jewelry, hammocks and other tourist memorabilia.

Mackie wanted to buy a wool blanket for her room.

“Do you suppose this was a fairly traded item?” she wondered aloud, running the thick blanket between her fingers.

“What are you talking about, fairly traded? It looks really great and that blue will really match your room.” said Jillian.

“I mean I wonder if the person who made this blanket received a proper amount of money for it. Sometimes these things in tourist shops are made by people who are really poor and the shop people take advantage of them by buying the stuff they make for way less than it’s worth. I don’t want to support that with my consumer vote. Jillie, ask that guy where this blanket came from.”

Jillian waved at the large man who was haggling with some other American tourists over the cost of some Quetzalcoatl adorned coasters. “¿Me excusa, de dónde esta manta vino?”

The man eyed her suspiciously. “Venía de Mexico. Cuesta  doscientos cincuenta pesos.”

Jillian looked puzzled for a moment, squinting her eyes. “I don’t think that he quite understood. He said it was made in Mexico and that it’s two hundred fifty pesos. That isn’t what you meant was it?”

Mackie sighed deeply and pushed her bangs out of her eyes. “Of course I know that it was made in Mexico. I want to know who made it and if they were fairly compensated.”

Jillian looked back at the man who had finished his bargaining and was folding some bills into his fanny pack. “No, no, quiero decir, que lo hizo? Eran bastante compensado?”

The man smiled patronizingly at the three girls. “No sé que lo hizo. Cuesta doscientos cincuenta pesos,” he answered slowly, then walked back to his chair and sat down.

Jillian smiled back at Mackie apologetically. “He said he doesn’t know who made it and it costs two hundred and fifty pesos.”

“Oh come on! Let’s get out of here. This guy obviously doesn’t need our money,” Tabitha said. “We can find that blanket at any of these shops around here.” She gave the shopkeeper a look as they left the shop.

“Well that was interesting!” Mackie said as the girls rounded the corner into the next open shop. “I did really like that blanket.”

“I just hate it when people act all annoying like that. That guy was acting like he could just be mean to us because we’re annoying tourists. It makes me so mad when people do that!” said Tabitha. “Plus that blanket was too expensive. Two hundred and fifty pesos is more than twenty dollars! We can probably find the person who made it off in the countryside and buy it from him personally for half the cost. Everybody is happy!”

“Yes,” Jillian began, “Everybody. Except for us because we will be exhausted and irritable from searching for the exact right color of blue for Mackie’s room and we’ll have to search every house from here to Coba to find it. We’re going to go back there and get that blanket.”

“Wait, what about your consumer vote? What about the poor workers who were taken advantage of?” Tabitha exclaimed. 

“She’s choosing her battles, right Mackie? Plus, you don’t really care about the workers, Tabitha, you’re mad at that guy,” Jillian said, laughing, as they walked back to the blanket shop.

“Wait a minute,” said Mackie, “ This will balance things out.” A small group of Mexican children came out of the ally, asking tourists for money. Mackie took out her money pouch and passed out a bunch of pesos to the crowd of gleeful children.

“You really have to learn to relax Tabitha,” said Jillian. “Sometimes you just have to ignore people who are annoying.”

Tabitha huffed sulkily.  “So much for the revolution.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Tabitha’s trip to Tulum felt too fast. Soon she was back in Eugene, Oregon, finishing up the last few weeks of her tenth grade year. But shortly after she returned home and began to reintegrate, she could tell that something was different. Something in her trip to Mexico had changed her. She longed for the feeling of release, sun on her shoulders, ocean waves lapping the shore. Even her relationship with Jillian and Mackie became strained as time moved forward.

“Don’t you just miss the beaches and the cabana so much?” she asked Jillian one day walking home after school. “And the ruins too. I felt really alive there.”

“Do you feel dead now, like a zombie?” Jillian put her arms up and walked toward Tabitha as if she were going to put her hands around Tabitha’s neck. “I’m going to eat you, Tabitha Louise Greyson!”

“Knock it off Jill. I’m serious. I feel like I’m suffocating here. Everybody wants something from us all the time. Mow the lawn, write a report on the Civil War, read the boring Scarlet Letter in two weeks. It is never ending.”

Jillian dropped her arms to her sides. “I liked the Scarlet Letter. It was so dramatic and sad, the way Hester Prynne was betrayed. You didn’t like it?”

“No. I thought it was boring. I want to go back to Mexico, or at least somewhere else away from here.”

Jillian stared at her for a long moment. “You’d probably get bored in Mexico too, if you lived there. You should look at all the good stuff we have, instead of concentrating on the bad stuff. It’s not so awful. At least we don’t have to work and pay mortgages or rent or anything like that yet.”

“Oh great.” Tabitha rolled her eyes. “Now you’ve given me another thing to dread. I’m going to go take a nap,” she said, turning into her driveway. Jillian stood alone in the street, shaking her head.

The summer passed by and the days began to shorten.

September 6, 2010

Ugh. I started school again today. I remember feeling excited to go back to school when I was younger. It didn’t wear off until Thanksgiving. Now I can’t even stand the first day. Everything is so hard or annoying. I think I’m depressed. My life is going nowhere, fast. I got into a fight with my mom again. She asked me to do the dishes again, and it isn’t my night. That makes me so mad!

September 15, 2010

I feel like crying, but I don’t have time. Every day I think to myself: Stop the world, I want to get off. I don’t mean killing myself. I just want to step off into space, let the world spin seconds into minutes and minutes into hours and hours into days, with me not here for a while. God, I would love to go back to Mexico, to live on the beach and not have to worry about schoolwork or my family or anything. The image of the old woman that appeared to me at Coba keeps showing up in my dreams, along with some other things. Just for a second here and there, but it is sort of freaky. I should go to the library tomorrow to see if I can find out anything about her. Holy crap. I’m sixteen years old, and my life is out of control.

There were a lot more entries like this one. As a matter of fact this types of entry was fairly common up until the morning of the day Tabitha was to become not dead.

It was very early in the morning. There was no visible moon in the black winter sky. Tabitha Louise Greyson was having a dream. She woke up suddenly, breathing hard, feeling unsettled, like she had lost something important. Something was gone, but she couldn’t remember what it was. She reached down for her journal. Her counselor at school had recommended that she write down any unusual dreams that she might have, so they could talk about them later. “Your dreams are a window to your consciousness,” her counselor had told her. “If you write them down, perhaps you will find some of the answers you seek from deep within yourself.” She wrote down what she could remember of the dream before the daylight chased it out of her consciousness:

Thursday, February 3, 2011: 1:16 am—Dream

It seemed like late afternoon. The air was clear but very hot. A white, chalky stone road stretched out in front of me. At the end of the road, half a mile up, stood an enormous tree, massive buttresses flanking its sides, the trunk straightened like the leg of a giant elephant, opening up into a wide and spreading canopy. A vulture swept a figure eight into the sky and disappeared into the jungle beyond the tree. I walked the last half-mile to the tree and with each step there rose a tiny puff of limestone dust. Then I stepped off the road onto a downward sloping path into the forest.

I immediately smelled the greasy, rotten odor of death in the air around me. The raucous flapping of wings, vultures hopping on forked branches, and more swooping specks in the distance indicated there was a decaying body nearby, waiting to be pecked, pecked clean, digested and returned to nature. I moved quickly along the path to escape my senses. As I passed on I sensed the conversations of old, whispers on the breeze, just quiet enough to be unintelligible.

I stepped lightly so as to not attract attention to myself. I was trying to be respectful of those who stepped here before me. More than stepped here… created here. Created this very place, with numbers, with watching, with magic. I don’t know how I knew that in the dream, but somehow I did. The sun baked my shoulders. I pulled a soft linen scarf up over my shoulders to protect them from the hot rays. Then, I saw the crumbled remains of a limestone wall jutting up out of the jungle to my left. The stones spilled onto the path and I knelt down. The sun cut through the leaves, and the forest glowed gold green. Pale stringy plants hung on the branches like living cotton threads that brushed my shoulders. As I knelt, a small darkish stone dug into my knee and I picked it up and looked at it. It had a circle with a cross carved through the middle of it. I slipped it into my pocket. Then a vulture landed on the stone wall near by and made a hissing sound. Startled, I opened my eyes and found myself home in bed.

By the time Tabitha finished writing her dream down, she was too late to finish her math homework from the night before. She sighed to herself and swung her legs down over the side of the bed. She would certainly receive “the look of disapproval” from her math teacher. Fortunately, she had gotten quite good at pretending these things didn’t bother her. So good, indeed, that she usually didn’t even have to pretend anymore, it just worked out that they didn’t.

But this day was not to turn out like the 6,438 days that Tabitha Louise Greyson had experienced so far. This day was different.

She finished her toast and tea and was tying her shoes. She sighed as she heard her mother walk into living room and lean against the doorframe.

“Good morning dear,” her mother said. “How are you feeling?”

“Fine, Ma.” Tabitha finished tying her shoes and stood up, grabbed her bag and tried to step around her mother to leave. But her mom was standing in the way and had no apparent intent to move right away.

“Goodness, honey! You have gotten so tall all of a sudden. You’re really growing up quickly. It’s lucky I still have your little sister to look after. Pretty soon you aren’t going to need me for anything!” Her mom stood in the doorway and smiled at her. Tabitha hated it when her mom talked like that. It made her feel sad and guilty and angry all at the same time.

“Mom, I have to go to school now. Could you move out of the way?” Tabitha moved toward the door again, but her mom didn’t move yet.

“Do you have all of your homework done for the day?” Tabitha had known she was going to ask her that. Why was she surprised then when it happened? Anger surged through her like a flame. She clenched her jaws together. She had to make a choice. She could lie and get out of the house or she could yell at her mom and tell her to get the hell out of the way and let her go to school.

“Yes, I’m done. Can I please go? I’m   going to miss the bus.” She couldn’t handle the guilt that came with yelling that morning.

“Sure honey.” Her mom squeezed her on the shoulder as she passed by, which she allowed, begrudgingly. Tabitha slammed the door behind her and ran down the front steps. As she made her way to the bus stop, she noticed something. Across the street, watching her hurry up the street, was a vague grey figure that seemed to be looking in her direction.

Tabitha couldn’t tell if the figure was a man or a woman. It was covered in a gauzy black and grey vestment. As she hurried away, she thought that she might have heard someone whispering. She glanced back across the street a time or two, trying to decide if the figure was really looking at her, or if she just thought it was. She decided to let it go and continued on to the bus stop. By the time she was on the bus, she had convinced herself that the figure she saw had an older woman, and that she probably hadn’t been looking at Tabitha after all. Why would someone waste her time staring at me? she thought to herself.

When she arrived at school, Tabitha moved through the crowd to her locker. Dewayne Heath was there. His locker was next to hers. The lockers were in alphabetical order. Tabitha and Dewayne were not very close, but since his name came after hers, they had to spend a lot of time near each other.

“Hey, Tab,” Dewayne murmured.

“Hey, Dewayne. How’s it going?”

“Alright,” Dewayne answered. “See ya.” He slammed his locker closed and disappeared into the ranks of other freshmen making their way to class.

“Yep. I had a great night! How about you? Oh really? Hm, I never heard such an amusing story, ha, ha, ha! Yes, Dewayne, you have a really fine day too! Thanks!” Tabitha whispered to herself into her magnetic locker mirror and then rolled her eyes.

Tabitha Louise Greyson had a habit of assuming that all the problems she saw in the world were everyone else’s problems. She also had a habit of rolling her eyes.

“Hey Tabitha! How’s your morning going?” Mackie walked up and chucked her on the shoulder.

“Oh, fine. I just had the most enlightened conversation with Dewayne before you walked up! Too bad you missed it. All four words.”

Mackie scowled. “I don’t know what you have against that boy. He’s just shy.”

“I don’t not like him! He is just so…simple.” Tabitha knew how bad that sounded as soon as she said it, but couldn’t take it back.  “Whatever. I don’t care. I’ve got to get to class.”

Mackie rolled her eyes. “Jeez, you’re in a mood today. What’s up?”  Tabitha rolled her eyes back at Mackie, slammed her locker shut and leaned against it, glaring at Mackie.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Mackie asked.

“I don’t know what’s up with me, Mackie.” She looked up at the ceiling and then glanced around to make sure nobody else was listening. “I just can’t feel happy anymore. I mean, there’s nothing really bad going on in my life. There was the divorce, but mom and dad have been separated for years, so that wasn’t a surprise.”

“What about Maggie? Is she still being nice to you?”

“Well, at first it was weird that dad had a girlfriend, but now it’s normal. I think I’m meaner to her than she is to me, to be honest. I just feel so angry and depressed all the time. I’m starting to feel a little bit crazy. I’m even imagining that weird people are staring at me.”

“What? You saw someone staring at you? Who?” Mackie looked around as if someone might be peering around the locker rows. Tabitha rolled her eyes again and decided to ignore the question.

“Also, everything that everybody says just sounds so…stupid. People in this town and in my family are just so clueless that I can barely stand it.”  She stopped leaning against the lockers and adjusted her books. “Whatever. Things are fine Mackie. It doesn’t matter anyway. I gotta go to math class. I’ll see you at lunch, ok?” Mackie nodded and Tabitha shuffled away up the hall.

When she arrived at math class, the teacher was already calling for the students to get out their assignments.

“Sorry Ms. Greg. I didn’t have time to finish it.” Tabitha pulled out her semi-finished pages and thrust them toward the teacher.

“Oh Tabitha. That’s the second time this week!” Ms. Greg sighed. “I’m afraid you’ll have to come back after school and finish this one. You can’t move on into the next section until you understand this one thoroughly.”

Ms. Greg could be an imposing figure. She was average looking, average height, and average size, with very short black and grey hair. When she was teaching something new she was patient but when she was upset, her eyes got squinty and flashed like fireworks. She was slightly upset now. 

Tabitha scrunched down into her seat and glowered. “What makes you think I don’t understand it? Just because it isn’t done doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it. Who cares about quadratic equations anyway?”

Ms. Greg scowled. “I’m sorry. I can ignore your bad attitude, but not your complacency. You can understand this stuff, you just aren’t putting in the time!  We have been over this and over it. You are not meeting me halfway, Tabitha, and I won’t accept that. Come back in at 3:15.”

Tabitha rolled her eyes and began to practice a new skill she called her “artful method of barely listening.”  The balance between barely listening and not listening at all needed to be perfect. Just a touch too much listening and you might appear to care about the subject matter. Not enough listening and you would be written off completely as a loser kid. Or possibly asked to leave the class. How terribly embarrassing. The results of the barely listening needed to be constantly reevaluated. Tabitha was an expert.

She sighed and looked at the clock. Two-thirds of class was through. Suddenly she noticed a strange shimmering near the fire exit door. She sat up a little straighter and pushed her brown hair out of her face. What was it? The shimmering shifted into a translucent glowing. Tabitha looked around at the faces of her fellow classmates. They didn’t seem to have noticed anything at all out of the ordinary. She looked back to the fire exit. The parts of the glowing were rotating slowly, concentrating the glow thicker in certain areas. Her brain, realizing that her body was entering into an uncertain and potentially dangerous encounter, sent a message to her heart: pump fast and send blood to the limbs, soon we will flee or fight! Her heart hammered blood cell sentinels out to her arms and legs where they transferred the oxygen needed for battle. Despite all of this rushing energy inside her body, Tabitha remained stock still.

The rotating shimmer had nearly stopped. The form, if you could call it a form, was made of a sort of bluish-grey light. In certain areas the light concentrated itself to look almost solid. Tabitha could see orbs of glowing light throughout the form. She was incredibly frightened and it was all she could do to not shriek or get up and run. The only thing that kept her in her seat was the fact that no one else seemed to notice that anything unusual was happening. The thought of standing up and pointing to some creature obviously unseen by anyone but herself was mortifying.

As frightened as she was, still, what could she do but sit and stare? The form was not recognizable, although it seemed to have an organized system of parts. The shining orbs of light seemed to be moving about within the glowing form, almost like eyeballs swiveling about an eye socket. Tabitha felt certain that the form was observing the room. She could sense the sweeping gesture as the being moved slowly from ceiling to floor and window to wall. Her hammering heart began to slow as the minutes passed by and nothing particularly terrible happened.  But then the most frightening thing of all happened. The sweeping orbs stopped sweeping and came to rest, pointed directly at her.

She sat still, trying to will the creature to leave her alone. They stayed that way for a few minutes before the form began to vibrate again. The orbs of light swirled back into the glow, the glow stretched into a shimmer, and the shimmer disappeared into the background of the classroom.

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