Here I sit in my English seminar, taking in the blissful college life at Kenyon College. Except today, that life has been trapped inside my laptop, and made prisoner of the manifold abomination framed in green on the Google Meet.
His body is a hive of colors, pinks and green-grays flickering like dust on fire. Inside it, I can vaguely make out the movements of a mouth, eyes, shoulders. They have the shape of these things and nothing else, like a bedsheet stretched over him and suffocating all human nature. Black pixels circle his mouth like flies. He opens his book and tells me about Chaucer.
“Eeeeeeieeeiuuouuogree,” he drones, taking a pause for reactions from the class. Gree? Agree? Do I agree with gree? Maybe. I nod and hope it’s the right answer.
My classmates are no different. Every now and then their microphones buzz in unison, as if to praise the Great Old One who has materialized before them. They are enraptured and enlightened by every metallic scream the professor makes. I am the only one who cannot comprehend him.
He smiles, I think, because his mouth is floating in the abyss. “Now, who would sssssssssaassaa-“
People are raising their hands, which melt as they move, swaths of flesh across their screens. I can’t follow the conversation, though I wonder if I’d be able to follow it anyway. Each day it feels like my interpretation gets blown apart by the minds of those better-read, better-studied. They pull their heads open in sentences and expose their crystalline brains. I do not understand their thoughts.
Google Meets is trying to catch up, and it does, for just a moment. For a moment everyone is clear, before they begin speaking and shake apart, tearing themselves free. They blur into jumbles of parts, as the computer tries to perceive them again and again. Even if the connection were clear, our speaking would still be on a delay. I’ve got a brain that relates.
I think they are calling my name.
My computer stops, and the screen clears up. The connection wasn’t that bad after all. It was just a little blurry. Everyone in the class has gone quiet, but I can see inhuman motions written beneath what their faces have become. I do not understand it.
The professor looks into the screen with melting eyes and calls my name again. He tells me another beautiful truth; my classmates scream in chorus. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know anything.