After a sleepless night, Edward Snoue was not late for class. Nor was he taking a nap on his desk – though, admittedly, the only reason for that was the fact that it was somewhat difficult for a teacher to dream and simultaneously manage a roomful of hormonal entropy in the form of college students.
“Why? Why did it have to be me? If I am ever again so dumb as to show off in front of the Dean-“ – the thoughts echoed painfully in Edward’s head, but his marker-yielding hand remained as steady as ever, bringing order to the chaos around him.
Strike – as the hydrogen takes its place in the formula, Edward imagines turning around at the giggling teens and screaming at them to shut the hell up. Index two.
Strike – the H is joined by S, that looks almost like a lightning bolt that Edward would like to throw at the openly snapchatting baboons at the back.
Strike – now there is oxygen, the final component of the acid that could burn straight through the insides of the Thermos girl (Edward did not bother with names), were someone to replace her stinking coffee with the contents of a certain test tube from the lab. Index four.
Done. The elements are in place, the formula in perfect balance.
“Can anyone tell me what process is displayed on the board?”
Simple question. Too simple. Edward let his eyes wander around the room, going through faces as if they were pages in a book. All of them blank. He could not understand. It was all so clear, so natural, so beautiful – so how could they disregard it without even trying?
The silence was excruciating. Though, naturally, there was no such thing as complete silence. Edward knew it better than anyone else. Those small, insignificant sounds were always present, and now they seemed to surround him. The two-hours-ten-minutes-and-fourteenseconds- late clock ticked on the menthol-colored wall, true to its own erratic rhythm. Edward set it right the first time he walked into the class, but the damned mechanism seemed to have absorbed the dull obstinacy of the students, returning to its mischievous ways after only a week. The air was filled with the sharp vibration of letters being pressed in yet another meaningless Snap. Worst of all, surpassing even the labored breathing of an overweight guy at the front, was the scratching of a 2B pencil emitted by the Punk at the window. Unconsciously, Edward felt his eyes being drawn to the shiny black tip. Back and forth, back and forth – the same pattern, over and over again. It was driving Edward insane.
The young tutor’s inner battle was broken by the sound of someone’s alarm clock going off, marking the end of the allocated 50 minutes. The students woke up from their classroom trance and started packing their stuff, not caring in the slightest about Edward and his whiteboard.
Edward sighed, making a mental note to self that it made no sense to care if no one else did. One thing had to be cleared though. Using his newly found invisibility power – a posh way of saying that he was ignored by every living soul, as his inner critic remarked – Edward strolled casually towards the back of the half-empty class, careful to avoid the creaking floorboards. Snatching some books off the far shelves, he threw a glance at the Punk’s tattered wreck of a notebook.
As he had suspected. From the pages he met the eyes of no other but himself, but what a sight he was! All the grotesqueness of his broad shoulders and large feet, the older-than-it-is-considered-to-be-decent lab coat – these details were amplified tenfold with the skillfully cruel hands of the artist. But all this faded in the comparison to the grandeur of his head. Blown like a balloon it was, not a single hair standing out, decorated with a thin mouth and tiny dark eyes. The facial features did not seem to belong there, it was as if someone had plastered them on with no regard for human anatomy.
The sketch was accompanied by the self-explanatory inscription:
One single part of this world that Edward hated a little more than the rest of it was people torturing his name – intentionally or not. What could be easier than manipulating the muscles in that hole in your face to emit three simple sounds? Only properly reading five letters of the Latin alphabet according to the rules of phonetics, maybe.
Edward let out a short, sharp sigh and, dumping the books on his table, walked out into the hall.
The school’s hallway was a miserable place. It’s not that the rest of the educational institution wasn’t – but the deep, marsh-green corridor, encircling the concrete block of a building like a snake with its intestines scrapped out, seemed to be particularly depressing. It took Edward only about two weeks to memorize the most chewing gumbombarded spots, but he still was getting used to bowing his head each time he passed under one of the ceiling lamps. “Schrödinger lights” was their unofficial nickname, for when you flipped the switch you could never tell which ones would burn (and whether any would at all).
Passing the faded posters on the walls, each of them mutilated by some artistic human anatomy fan, Edward reached into his denim bag, fumbled around the empty snack wrappers and half-used pens and finally fished out a king-size pack of mints. Tossing a couple into his mouth, he reminded himself to stick to the 5-per-day guideline, but immediately decided that for an exceptionally horrible day rules did not apply. Focusing on the herbal cold, Edward felt the twisted
iron knot of nerves inside loosen a little.
He had to report to the Dean’s office today – the thought made him want to swallow the entire pack of mints and hope to get sick and die – but instead of turning right, into the toothless mouth of the North Wing, he turned left and entered the bathroom.
As a kid, Edward was pretty good at occupying himself, mostly with books. He never really understood the gamest that others played or the talk they talked. From the mass Santa Claus hysteria to pointing fingers at one another and yelling “bang” – all these society-approved degrading traditions were nothing but an irritation to him. One of the more annoying ones was “lava floor” – why would anyone in their right mind bellow that the ground was melting and then jump on whatever happened to be near, knocking over people and objects that had the bad luck of being in the way? The greatest folly about this was that if this hallucination had been real – which it wasn’t – then all the frantic actions would have been equally useless, as all the furniture would have melted or burst into flames as well.
Anyhow, as bizarre as this game was, it was what Edward remembered each time he entered the college bathroom. The basic rule remained the same: Do not touch anything.
Cold water always helped Edward to calm down. He washed his face vigorously, as if attempting to scrape off the memories of the wretched morning.
After what seemed like 5 minutes, he finally closed the tap and met the eyes of his own reflection in the mirror in front. Suddenly he became very aware of the water dripping from the end of his nose and streaming down his neck with no hair to stop it. The creature on the other side of the looking glass was a pitiful sight to behold. Instead of the calm and dignified contempt at the fools surrounding him, Edward-the-reflection’s face expressed a mixture of sadness, anger and disgust. They were accompanied by the recognizable traces of sleep deprivation: those dark bags beneath the reddened eyes bulged, holding the many rest hours that were instead spent hunched in front of a computer screen. The skin was pale yet yellowish, just about as dry as the sheets on which Edward so enthusiastically scribbled his formulas, hiding away from life itself.
While these self-loathing thoughts were well-known guests in Edward’s brain, that day they took on an entirely different direction.
That Punk may have a good eye after all.
The bitter memories of the morning rushed into Edward’s consciousness, helpfully providing him with a detailed mental copy of the drawing. He followed along the lines, noticing how sharp the were and how accurately they chose the traits to target.
“The less morons there are in my class, the better. Maybe he will be of more use elsewhere anyway”, – Edward murmured
And maybe, for once, I will…
The thoughts stopped there. Do what? Become accepted by society? Do something good for someone other than himself? Find an unlikely friend?
Edward chuckled, despite himself. How perfectly naïve. Perhaps stupidity really was a contagious disease spread by the crowds, and now, at last, it caught up with Edward, who’d deemed himself immune. Whatever the case was, this time he had an entirely logical excuse for the seemingly irrational behavior. Getting the Punk out of his eyesight was too good an opportunity to miss.
Edward could, with a some degree of certainty, remember one family friend who worked at a rather well-read journal. He also recalled that the guy was searching for interns at the publisher’s office. Given the high esteem in which the friend – whatever his name was – held Edward’s judgement, in all likelihood there would be no trouble in finding room for yet another “very promising aspiring illustrator with a talent for caricature”.
Still bewildered by the atypical deed he had in mind, yet satisfied that he had come up with such a masterplan, Edward Snoue left the bathroom, merrily clicking his tongue. He had not yet realized that he had forgotten something rather important behind, so immersed in his own thoughts he was.
At 4:34 pm that very day his body would be discovered sprawled on the lavatory floor, and the medical expertise would list the cause of death as “heart stroke”. The case of Edward Snoue would become a legend among all med students utilizing the Pathologies in Anatomy: Hereditary and Behavioral Factors textbook, as a perfect example of a rare disease that was initially caused by a combination of genes being amplified by self-destructive habits (including excessive consumption of caffeine and sleep deprivation) and finally brought about by constant stress.