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Written Freshman year at Pitt. (Spring 1997)

It began to rain as I boarded the Magnetic Monorail Public Access Train (MMPAT) chartered to the new state of the art school located inside the environmentally contained dome of Blemischity. All teenage children in the surrounding communities were forced to attend The Center for the Advancement of Children through Academics or otherwise known as CACA. I was nervous about attending CACA since I was home schooled in my family tradition. I was dressed in my brightest red shirt with a flowing white skirt with my hair in neat braids carrying the deer skin satchel Grandmother made me as a gift. It was packed with supplies, pencils of assorted colors, recycled paper notebooks, a little stuffed animal pal, and a Mom made lunch in a reusable bag. I tried to calm my nervous self by curling up in the seemingly endless fabric of my skirt and listening to the soothing hum of the MMPAT, but the random bombardment by the grape sized rain drops on the windows foiled every attempt to relax. The rain continued until the MMPAT entered the enclosed dome of Blemischity. I could barely see more that a few centimeters through the window from the extreme amounts of smoke and filth outside. I turned away from the widow, pulled out my notebook, and doodled with my pencils until reaching the MMPAT station of CACA.

EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG...EHNGG!!! YOUR ATTENTION!! DISEMBARK THE MMPAT IMMEDIATELY!!! EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG...EHNGG!!! HOMEROOM WILL BEGIN IN 10 MINUTES!!! ALL LATE STUDENTS WILL BE GIVEN 2 DAYS OF LABORED DETENTION AND NO LUNCH FOR A WEEK!!! EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG!!" I hurriedly stepped out of the MMPAT before the doors slammed shut. I tried to regain by breath after such a start, but the air coming through the vents was very dry and dusty. My throat began to close up and I had a strange metallic taste in my mouth. I continued gasping as I followed the glowing arrows on the floor pointing toward my homeroom. The tunnel like halls were gray dotted with shiny, pointed metal studs attaching each section of the hall together. The lights above me buzzed loudly and flickered. For some strange reason, my forehead began to ache.

Eventually, I reached my homeroom. The handless door opened by itself with a loud SWOOSH. The room was jammed full of students with no supervisor just a wall sized screen which emitted a high pitched ring. Everyone turned around. They were all dressed in skin tight outfits made of some strange combination of metal and plastic. The clothes shined and seemed to change color from black to light gray and to black again under the strange buzzing and flickering lights. Their hair was of an unnatural shade of black. It dangled in frayed strands around their heads and for some dangled in and over their eyes. Their eyes were bloodshot and of an unsettling shade of yellow. Their skin was very pale. They had pieces of metal protruding from their ears, nose, tongue, lip, eyebrow. They even had bulges underneath their clothes indicating other pierced appendages.

"MY EYES!!!" mockingly wailed a student after seeing my outfit sending the rest of them in hysterical fits of frightening laughter. They all went silent as I hesitantly headed to the only open seat located in the front of the room. Their clothes squeaked and creaked as they turned in their seats watching me struggle towards the open seat. "WATCH IT!" yelled a student I just happened to breath on. "FUCK OFF!!" yelled another when my skirt accidentally brushed past his leg. Finally I reached the all metal chair with attached desk. I attempted to fit into that metal concoction which seemed to be designed for a kindergartner. The chair and desk were ice cold. I could feel all the heat in my body being sucked out. "EHNGG...EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG!!!" went the bell announcing the start of homeroom.

A face appeared in the screen speaking in a computerized voice. The students acknowledged the screen as the professor. "WHO ARE YOU!!!" "I'm Beruria." "OH!! YOU MUST BE THE NEW STUDENT! THIS IS HOW CLASS WORKS! YOU SIT IN THIS ROOM, ABSORB INFORMATION FROM ME AND YOU WILL BE TESTED ON IT AFTER LUNCH!!! NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!!" The screen began flashing images of places, things, equations, solution methods as the voice droned on about what was on the screen. Using my notebook and pencils, I raced to write down the information. The other students began loudly conversing about everything but what was on the screen. Some students even stood up flailing their arms or running up and down the isles. "AYE YO'!!!" "Me?" "YEAH YO' WIT' DA BRAIDS!!! WHAT KINDA NAME IS DAT!!" "You mean Beruria." "YEAH, DAT!!!" "It is my Mothers name." "OH!!" His eyes searching for a reply. "HOW.........UM.......DROLL!!!" Confused, I returned my attentions to the screen. I then heard whispers of what used to be my name filtering throughout the students and a lot of snickering.

"EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG....EHNGG!!!" The screen turned off. All the students scrambled to their feet and stampeded out of the room. I tried to follow behind them in the hall but another class caught up, and I was pushed, elbowed, and plastered into a wall. Then I was scratched and my clothes torn by the metal studs on the wall, the students' fingernails, and their metal accessories. When the sea of students passed, my skirt was shredded and slightly bloody. A strap was ripped off my satchel and there were some black marks that were not there before. I limped after the stampede into another extremely crowded room. I took the seat in the corner closest to the entrance.

All the students were screaming incoherently. But for a moment the screaming stopped, the disk at the center of each table including mine raised up and released a barrage of plastic containers, one per each student at a table. The noise began again and occasionally some object would go flying by my head. I opened my satchel, pulled out my wooden lunch box, and opened it. Inside all wrapped in cloth was a peanut butter sandwich sliced in half, carrot sticks, a red apple, and a carton of orange juice. Just as I was about to bite into the apple, five students scrambled over to my table, snatched away my food an scarfed it down. They enjoyed the food but relished in my apparent discomfort. "YO' BETTER BRING MO' OF DIS SHIT TOMORROW OR WE'LL SEE DAT YO' GET LABORED DETENTION!!!" In fear, I agreed. I felt my face flush and my throat tighten with unreleased tears as they proceeded back to their table laughing to finish their other meals.

Since my other food was taken, I decided to try what was in the plastic container. I opened the box to reveal two sections, one with a hard brown substance, another with a green, congealed, slightly vibrating substance, and a cold metallic gray can with a tab on one end. I opened the can which HISSED at me and foamed over the edge onto my hand. I had nothing to clean it up with so I licked some off my hand. There was a strange fizzling sensation and my nose itched just as I swallowed. Soon my hand felt very sticky. I picked up a piece of the brown substance. It had no smell so it also had no taste. Next was the green substance. It felt slimy and was had to get a grip on it. It was slimy and had no taste. I was very thirsty so I took a sip from the can. It was very sweet. I was still thirsty so I gulped down the rest of the can. My stomach felt more empty than before and began to churn and growl. "EHNGG...EHNGG...EHNGG...EHNGG!!!" The students threw their containers on the floor and stampeded out of the room. I waited in the corner until all had left. I then proceeded back to my homeroom.

I returned to my seat in the front of the class even though everyone else was standing or running around the room. On the desks were small plastic devices with a strange pen and a little screen imbedded in it.. The screen turned on. "ALRIGHT!!! IT'S TEST TIME SO SIT DOWN!!! ALL THOSE WHO FAIL WILL BE GIVEN LABORED DETENTION FOR 2 WEEKS AND NO LUNCH FOR 2 WEEKS!!! YOU WILL HAVE 15 MINUTES TO COMPLETE THIS TEST OF TODAY'S MATERIAL. TURN ON YOUR SCREENS AND BEGIN NOW!!!" BLIP, BLIP, BLIP........went the screens as they were turned on. There were 100 multiple choice questions with at least 20 choices per question. Most questions did not cover the material seen on the screen earlier that morning. The face on the wall screen casually watched as the other students noisily chatted while they copied from each other and randomly guessed. I was attempting to reason out each question by myself trying to remember the mass of material flashed at me earlier. I had barely begun the tenth question when "TIMES UP!!! TURN OFF YOUR SCREENS!!!" Some students continued to work. "I SAID TURN THEM OFF NOW!!! OR LABORED DETENTION FOR ALL!!!" The other students proceeded to beat on the students who still had their screens on.

"EHNGG...EHNGG...EHNGG...EHNGG!!!" All the students stampeded out of the room, down the hall toward the MMPAT station. Hordes of screaming, flailing students jammed into the MMPAT trains causing them to rock almost to the point of derailment. Some students were caught in the train doors as it pulled away. I waited in the hall just outside of the station until the noise died down. I then proceeded to board the last MMPAT train home to be strengthened for another hellish day of CACA.

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