Finish That Thought, week 34


The gust stole my breath as it pressed the damp shirt against my chest. I’d made the judgment call to forego a jacket, tired of being buried under layer upon layer of heavy fabric, but the ten percent chance of light sprinkles had turned into a blizzard of sleet and snow and freezing rain, and even three hours after I’d gotten to work, I was still a bedraggled mess. I didn’t want to go to the meeting on the other side of campus, not in the hawk wind that had stolen out of the north and pushed the inelegantly-named Wintry Mix off to the hinterlands, and not to make the report I had to make to the people to which I had to make it.

Eh. What the hell. They’d fire me if I didn’t show up for sure. Maybe they’d take pity on me when I came in looking like a lost puppy. Probably not.

By the time I’d made it to Old Main Hall, my dress shirt had frozen into a grotesque parody of stiff and starched, and I was sure it would take an hour under a hot shower to even have feeling in my ankles again. The hallway was empty at this time of day, and my footfalls echoes off the marble and oak that had defined what serious academics was a hundred years ago. They’d hear me coming long before I got to the conference room, and I wrapped my arms tightly across my chest, trying – and failing – to find a warmth I knew I wouldn’t find in front of them.

They didn’t go silent when they saw me – from the looks of things, they hadn’t spoken all morning – but just glared at me with the disapproving glances of grandparents you hated to visit. They weren’t all men, although a less feminine collection of women would be harder to find, so tightly they cleaved to the old ways, ways which had become stale long before the cornerstone was laid for this building.

The lone concession to anything approaching modernity was the overhead projector in the center of the room, its octagon of light splayed unevenly against the pull-down screen in the corner. Some people were beaming presentations wirelessly to wearable eyeglass computers, here electricity was considered an untested and unreliable form of power, used reluctantly only after the city changed regulations preventing us from using gas lighting in every room.

I placed my first slide on the projector, the words I’d worked so painstakingly to print as neatly as possible announcing the bad news to a room of statues. The future had come, the words said, written in light but indelible none the less, and we were all out of a job. No one spoke, and the sound of breathing was barely audible in this mausoleum of higher education. Outside, the wind freshened, and the light from the projector flickered, and went out.


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