Caught Between Worlds
James Wellborn, Junior year, University of the Midwest: A Memoir
The thing I must clarify first is why I, James Wellborn, would be personally involved in such a menial task as journaling. The short answer is money, both the lack of and want of. None of the motley crew that surrounds me is willing to undertake the project, but I can’t blame them for not having the vision that I do. I am most certain that this document would be worthless as a standard biography but in the hands of an experienced fiction writer, well I already have dreams of the royalty checks. But this isn’t all about the money, no, my second motivator is to meticulously document the rampant insanity of said motley crew. From the minute we somehow landed in a forsaken cave and attacked by things that can’t exist… well I get ahead of myself.
It all started with the beginning of my junior year in business school…
Looking back I wonder why I even bothered to apply for the Xerxes scholarship. I have not had a need go unfilled for, well, my entire life. My father was a business man, owning many small businesses; he was successful from an early age. He realized at some point that working with Indian nations was a niche that few men could work in. Determined to capitalize on the unique business opportunities he met my mother and shortly thereafter married her. With that door unlocked, he began a 20 year run that is still talked about in some circles.
So here I am in a no-name university applying for a scholarship. It is not what you think; I did not run away in some rebellious fashion. No, my father suggested that I soak in other experiences outside of the community he was so influential in. He challenged me to find the hidden gems in an area that no one else would over look. I guess I’ve done exactly that, if that teleportation we experienced was real, and if it could be commercialized. *I now realize the benefit of journaling for the purpose of creating notes, someone else can edit the document… ah the small things.
Okay, the first day of class, the required course for the Xerses scholarship. I walk in on time, no need to be early for a course I don’t actually need to take, take my seat, and immediately hop online, and start reading over market news. The afore mentioned motley crew begins filling up the room, but no teacher in sight. There was the classic nerd, if a little dark, I targeted him early as someone to do my work, there was no way I was going to invest time in the course. There were two international students, one being the typical college stoner, such a waste of time, and the other being a British snoody type; she wouldn’t acknowledge any of us with a hello. The last two seemed way out of place, but they somehow put the group together. One ROTC soldier-boy, and the opinionated talker. We managed to hit nearly every stereotype, I wonder if that will be hard to work into a piece of fiction…
Still no professor, so I’m just watching the clock, on my computer, waiting for that golden 15 minute mark. Someone else noticed it first, thought I can’t remember who, we were all sitting in the room for several minutes and then spontaneously there was a note on the board about the class being moved to the library. There are few things that I am 100% confident of in life, but one of those things is that there was no message on the chalk board when we walked into the room. The rest of the group did not seem fazed by this change, at all, and simply got up to head for the library. I take the time to point this out because it is first indicator that the others are not mentally stable.
The university library deserves its own book. It stands out against the background of the bland campus like watching HDTV on a black and white television from the 50s. In short it is a complete waste. The quality, the architecture, the shear presence of the building, not to mention the incredible selection of rare texts, is not lost on me, nor any of the students here. I simply see large amounts of money spent to impress some imaginary audience and imaginary audiences do not often spend or donate money. Moving on, we finally sorted out which room to go to, and again no instructor. By my watch we were at 12 minutes with no instructional presence. I was more than happy to sit down and wait out the 3 minutes until I could feel justified if walking out of the class. Apparently everyone else in this course was excited to learn though. While this alone is not enough to be another point of insanity it is odd enough that I must make a note of it. In the middle of the table rests an enormous box, of course someone has to look in it. In that box is an enormous book, we are in a library after all. The odd part was the cover and apparent locking mechanism. While I understand the impulse to get at something that you cannot get to, I have trouble envisioning something in a book worth keeping out of someone’s hands. Apparently some people are just really into books…and then there was blackness.
I wasn’t even paying attention to what was going on with the others and the giant book, everything went black, followed by a sensation that I was being pulled through something smaller than my height or width but no pain. As I came to I saw my classmates scattered around the room, and just as I was getting to my feet an earthquake hit. At this point the story officially gets weird. As I was gathering myself I heard a sound that can only be described like thousands of insects moving around. As I looked toward the sound, a giant version of something between a cockroach and a millipede reared up to 7 or 8 feet tall. There are many things in our world that I do not understand, and things that I do, but have never seen. This thing fell into both categories.
As I stared and pondered about this creature, Mr. ROTC pulls a sword, A FUCKING SWORD, from nowhere and swings it at the creature. I might not be current on all military weaponry but I’m sure I haven’t seen the ROTC drilling with anything but flags and guns. Yet he seemed fine with the concept, and began cutting the creature to pieces. I ask you, if you were faced with a very angry looking buffalo; would you a. walk away b. run away c. pull out a sword and attack or d. walk over and pet the buffalo? I know a buffalo and a creature you’ve never seen before are quite different, but just think of the first time a European saw a buffalo. *note, figure out a better analogy.
Moving on, after the horribly gooey death of the creature, the stoner finds a glowing rock the size of a bowling ball. He then talks to it… It makes me wonder how the world works in an insane mind. What explanation can you possibly give for talking with a rock? Beyond the smaller little hints that I have delivered up to this point, this next one is the strongest indicator of the other’s fragile mental state. After having a short discussion with his new glowing rock friend, he then walked around to each other person and asked them to touch it. Each one in turn gave a little shiver as they touched the rock, but otherwise acted as if this was just another day. Another day in a world with gumball flowers and pea soup rivers. I refused to touch the glowing rock, and everyone acted as if I had kicked the family cat. Apparently no one here has every asked themselves if something they are about to do makes sense. Actually, I believe the point I am making here is that they did ask themselves, and insanity said this was a good course of action.
This event was followed quickly by the second strongest indicator of complete insanity. Soldier boy’s sword… talked. Everyone clearly heard the voice, albeit a little malevolent sounding, and it clearly came from the sword. I would have been a bit more believing if the metal had folded into a little mouth when it was speaking, but no such luck, it was just producing sound. Clearly everyone heard it, so a talking sword is not the evidence of insanity. Instead the fact that everyone was okay with a talking sword was the final straw which convinced me that no one around me lived in the same world that I came from.
To keep my mind off of the crazies around me I began looking around the room, specifically from where we seemed to come from. I found a book, and it complimented this fantasy world perfectly. The book was full of predominately blank pages. Flipping through the book I came across a page half full of text and then to my amazement I watched the text fill in, as if it was being written while I was staring at it. To elaborate, the book was actually documenting the events that were taking place around me. People finding things, dialog between these apparent characters and me finding the book and be amazed by it writing what was happening. This establishes my working theory of this place. This is a fictitious world operating with rules that could only be found in a book.
Now it was definitely time to leave. For once the others around me seemed slightly sensible in wanting to leave the area as well. Making my way down the first hallway I came to a door which appeared to be locked, doubling back quickly to see what was at the end of the opposing hallway I walked into a room full of cobwebs. When I say full of cobwebs I mean, the prop guy got a little carried away. It was then I made the mistake of following the lead of soldier boy. He had the bright idea to burn the cobwebs with the torches we were carrying… torches, bah.
Anyway, burning them was surprisingly easy, I didn’t realize that spider web was so flammable. Thinking back if someone would have asked me to burn spider webs instead of cobwebs I might have had a second thought. Turns out those massive amounts of spider webs are created by massive amount of spiders. Angry spiders, aggressive spiders, and even giant angry aggressive spiders. So now we have several things that should not exist but why stop there. Let’s add the ability to create and throw baseball sized globes of green fire. Not for everyone of course, no, just the guy who has never been picked for the baseball team. I’d offer to play catch with him to help improve his aim but seeing what his flaming balls did to the spiders, I don’t really want to catch one. It was around this point that I learned the English chick had a thing for touching people. Funny thing is, being English you’d think she would have more of a problem with that, like people from NYC not looking at each other. She did have a comforting effect on the others though so I won’t complain too much. Considering how broken everyone is, I think keeping them well and calm would be safest.
I still needed to leave this place, so down the hallway I went. Now the others seemed to hesitate, again the opposite of what a sane mind would do. Giant bugs, aggressive attacking bugs, why would you stay near them? How is leaving not the best possible answer? Anyway, through the other door is a simple room with a pattern on the floor. The book worms put their heads together, and had us stand in specific spots. The adjacent door unlocked so we could proceed. Funny thing is I hadn’t seen them work together so well until that point, it was like they kicked into idiot savant mode all of the sudden.
So the door opens and I’m the first one through. I know that I can take a hit better than everyone else, but that motivation paled next to the desire to leave an enclosed space populated by mental patients. (I’m sure whoever edits this will remove some of my references to everyone’s insanity but for me it is still a focal point) Down the hall and into another room, two steps in and sharp pain. It reminded me of a time in my past when I stepped on a nail. In fact that was a pretty good comparison because I had stepped on some type of glass caltrop. Thinking about this after the fact, there has got to be some market for traps like this, they were incredibly well crafted, nearly invisible, and they successfully slowed me down. I’ll have to look into those possibilities.
Again everyone else starts holding me back. I just can’t wrap my head around why they would want to stay in a place with wicked creatures, and traps, not to mention the smell. The smell got worse in the next room and then the shambling sounds started. Fortunately, I’ve seen the Resident Evil movies, and I think they gave me a stable point of reference for the group of walking, armed, skeletons that began attacking us. Regrettably my companions had not, nor did they seem to have watched any other movie with small groups fighting larger forces. I was forced to simply stand in front of everyone else, and begin blocking repeated blows with my shield… oh yeah, I found a shield earlier. I haven’t take a beating like that, well ever. I have been beaten plenty with various practice weapons, but that just doesn’t prepare you to actually be hit by a real sword. Now I’ve been through that, and I know I can do it again.
Now the group wanted to physically restrain me. Apparently they are all closet necrophiliacs because they just didn’t want to leave the piles of bones that had just attacked us. I foresee having issues with this group of people, they simply do not think about things the way that I do. I’m going to have to find some creative ways to deal with this though, as they all seem to have uses. Success in this world might require some of their talents. As long as they don’t kill me in my sleep, because they needed to cuddle with something dead.
Pushing on, we finally came to the entrance of this cave and I couldn’t have been happier to breathe fresh air. Walking out into the night sky completed my opinion on this world, as we looked into the sky and saw Earth, floating where the moon should be. We aren’t in Kansas anymore; new world, new rules, and new challenges. It was a hell of a way to start my Junior year.