I was taking a night class. The classroom was full of chattering students, but only half of it was lit, seeming to signify the lateness of the hour. There was no teacher there to instruct us. Instead, a tall cart bearing an old television had been wheeled into the room by some unknown person and set up by the chalk board under the lit portion of the room. On the television there was a black and white image of a man in a lab coat wearing horn rimmed glasses. He was giving a lecture about the moon, which barely anyone was paying attention to. But at one point he paused in his lecture and lifted his right hand and pointed his finger upwards, as if to indicate something above the frame of the TV. He had a smirk on his face as he did this, as though he were divulging some wicked secret. Everyone followed the direction of his finger and looked up towards the ceiling of the classroom. There we could see the moon in the sky above us, glowing unbearably huge and full as though it were only a few feet away, every crater, crack, and crevice sharp and clear.
This sight caused a stir among the students that threatened to break out into pockets of full blown hysteria. But one girl in a brown sweater, who I recognized as the top student in the class, stood up and managed to restore order. She proposed that we all go down to the administration office and complain about this outrage. None of us were sure what the administration office was supposed to do, or even quite what the nature of the problem was, but it seemed to be as reasonable a course of action as any other. We rallied behind this girl and we all marched out as a group into the hall behind her.
The lights were on throughout the school, but all of the other classrooms were deserted. There were papers and notebooks strewn about the floors in the classrooms and the hallways, giving the impression that everyone had just up and fled the building in a tremendous hurry. As we navigated the hallways, I made my way up to the front of the group next to the girl in the brown sweater. I tried to ask her exactly what the plan was, but she stared resolutely ahead, determined to give the administration office a piece of her mind. She barreled ahead, bent towards her goal.
But then we came to an impasse. The hallway we were following suddenly came to a dead end and we were confronted with a bank of vending machines. The girl just nodded and scrunched her nose at this. She turned back to the group and told us that this wouldn’t be a problem. She said that a certain combination of coins placed in each machine would cause them to slide apart and reveal a secret passage behind them. She collected all the spare change from the class. Everyone counted the coins out in their palms and then passed them forward. We put thirty five cents in one machine and sixty five in the other, and they pulled back and swung open like a set of secret doors, just as the girl had promised.
The passageway behind the machines was dark and impenetrable. The class hesitated to go on, but the girl stirred them all to action just as she had before, and everyone followed her into the darkness. We stumbled around a bit, but there was a light from the open door of a room somewhere up ahead, drawing us all forward. We crowded in the doorway of this room, the girl at the head of the group and a few people behind her, straining to see over her shoulders. The room was set up like a studio of some sort. There were maps and charts of the planets on the walls, and in the middle of the room there was a television camera. There was a mannequin set up in front of this camera. It was only the upper torso of the mannequin, supported on a brass pole. It was dressed in a lab coat and horned rimmed glasses, and we could see that it was the same man that had been on the television back in the classroom. It still had that same smirk carefully painted on its face, and its finger was still pointing skyward. The significance of this pointed finger suddenly dawned on me, and I turned to warn the rest of the class, but it was too late. I could already see their eyes drifting upwards.