Old School? Oi, mate. My old school never looked like this.

I'm driving something a tad more Jaguar now, pulling off the freeway and into an elaborate complex of long flat boxes stacked a couple high by some celebrated architect. I enter the parking lot. The attendant in the little booth tells me that they never check the parking at the very back, and I could probably put my car there free of charge. I thank him and drive around.

I cruise around looking for the back among the small interconnected lots, which head into the forest behind. I discover that a good portion of the school is underground, and some of it is open at the back. I park in what appears to be the final lot, only to see one more. A small collection of cars huddle in one spot. I see people head into the woods for walks. I see one couple leashing their generic large dog, and at least one opening to an obvious hiker's trail.

I step from the Jag and look at the building complex. I should be recalling inspirational teachers and awkward early love affairs, but no, this looks nothing like anywhere that ever attempted to educate me. One section, at basement level but dug out at the back, entirely lacks a wall on that side, open concept taken to the hyperbolic.

A commercial floods my reality, crazy car chases and actors channeling vaudeville. Cartoon letters proclaim The Sequence Chase!, "The Dumbest Movie of All Time!"

I enter the alleged school and try to figure out where I’m going. The halls lead me to expect a minotaur at any turn. I find no posted maps, no diagrams labeled You are Here with a helpful arrow, and no signs indicating departments or offices. I check the inner pocket of my jacket to ensure I still have the Sisters' envelope.

The opening credits appear for a limited animation Saturday morning cartoon entitled Crackable Hall. Apparently, the titular hall breaks apart and forms words for the kiddies. Stars include a Frankenstein monster and a bright orange duck.

Perhaps it's the effect of my disease, but I realize I'm hearing and glimpsing bits of media. The flashes of old tv shows and txt conversations become my reality for a moment, and then I continue.

The scientist, as might be expected, wears a lab coat and resembles uncannily Michael Berryman of horror/fantasy/sf movie fame, poster boy for hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia. His lab contains elementary equipment, as though major scientific breakthroughs are most often made by some guy working alone with test tubes and Tandy Science Fair gear. Well, he looks like the sort of person I need to find.

They're back in touch, in part, because her father has cancer. Or maybe he has the mysterious disease. I can't tell. It's overheard conversation, an audio transcript of a Facebook Wall. Two young women communicate with a friend they've never met, a professor they first encountered years earlier when they were all part of the same online community, back when the professor was a graduate student, the young women, schoolgirls, and Mark Zuckerberg, an unknown nerd.

Meanwhile, back in the lab, the strange-looking scientist examines the contents of the bag. Yes, he says. This could be the missing ingredient to the cure for my Unnamed Condition!

I should stay here, I'm told. In a few days, they're hosting a gala fundraiser. I may be the first person cured. He's certain it won't take long to know if we have the Cure or not.

"Quite an Exquisite Folk Remedy you've found," says the happy mad scientist. As he fiddles with his equipment, he starts to discuss the forthcoming gala. "The place will be filled, filled with VIPs and Matrons in horn-rimmed glasses," he says. "Maybe we can get you onstage, just after the guest speaker. He's a child, you know."

"A child?"

"A wee boy. They thought it would be good to get a child's point of view, innocent but having had to deal with this condition. At worst, he'll be overly simple and cute, but it should bring in donations. Really, what could go wrong?"

The Situation from Jersey Shore flashes in and says, "I see myself as Miss Determined."


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