First day of class at University. The students have gathered dutifully in the classroom to await the arrival of our professor who will un doubtedly shed all manner of enlightening facts and thought-provoking theories upon us. The class is some kind of mash-up of classical literature, metaphysics & ontology, and some other hypothetical items. The syllabus leads us (or at least me) to believe that it’s a pretty open deal. Something free-form and “let’s see where it takes us.”
Only it doesn’t seem to be taking us anywhere. We wait for ten minutes after class is supposed to start. The professor still having not shown up. Someone remarks that the syllabus has a few names at the top, maybe all three of them have forgotten who was supposed to introduce us all to the material. More time goes by. Twenty minutes. Thirty minutes. I haven’t gotten all that agitated yet because I’ve been flirting with another of the students (a lovely young woman in the vein of Scarlett Johansson). By the time that we feel an hour has passed, someone gets up to leave only to remark that his watch indicates we’ve been sitting there for approximately four months.
This doesn’t seem right at all.
A terrified someone from near the back runs from the room, only to immediately return. The hallway outside – – the one we’d each traversed before entering this room – – has been replaced with a library. Except that the library is filled with traps.
Considering it’s the only way out, someone else is the first to brave the library gauntlet. He returns after a half hour, bleeding and cradling his arm. “I made it through the first three rooms.” He explains the traps and puzzles and how he’d either disarmed them or else determined a way to bypass them. Each room has several doors, several choices out. The room that follows the preceding room doesn’t necessarily follow in proportions – – it may be taller, wider, colder, anything about it could be different.
Someone else goes. Forty minutes, only to return with a missing digit and frostbite on the nose. This continues for hours. Days. No one’s sure. Time does not pass reliably. Some folks are back almost immediately. Some don’t come back at all. Someone thinks they found the professors in that maze but they can’t be sure. Something about flying books aimed straight for their heads. Eventually I take a turn, having gathered information from each individual before me.
I can’t remember my exact course, how many rooms I traveled through before coming to my first real trap – – the first one I hadn’t received a primer for. The stacks are filled with scorpions. I rush through this room. I don’t see a way to defeat it. Clever here is replaced with quick feet and carefully timed steps. And into the next room:
The next room has twelve foot high ceilings but is light on the bookshelves. Just a few in the middle of the room; most of the books are in built-ins along the perimeter. There’s only one door here – – the one behind me. In the center of the room, the three professors are seated around a small table sharing stories and each clutching a glass of brandy. The dangers here? Are these really our professors? The books from the perimeter shelves are flying across the room seemingly at random. I get close enough to strike up a conversation with them. They congratulate me on getting this far. Through the first portion of the ordeal at least. They laugh at their ability to be intentionally vague. I dodge a flying book. One of the professors plucks it out of the air. It’s an ancient leather-bound copy of Dante’s trilogy. Each page is divided into two columns, the original Italian down the left and an English translation down the right. It’s opened to a page in Purgatorio, and the professor refers me to a verse about a prideful Italian bishop. He urges me to continue my search. “We’re not exactly free to leave the maze either.”