The alarm rings. Dunlop’s head jerks up and his fist jerks down to smash the clock into silence. Aloud, he emphatically says “yes, yes, yes” over and over before switching to “no, no, no, no.” He lets his head fall back onto the pillow for a moment, but an instant later he is on his feet, looking at the clock again. It says 3:30 PM. This means nothing to Dunlop as he opens the shade, and heads into the lavatory. “YES,” he remembers that he had planned on writing up his lab notes after his nap. As he splashes cold water over his numb face, he feels relieved to have recalled the purpose behind his waking up behavior. “I knew I must have gotten up for something,” Dunlop thinks as he plops down in front of his desk. He feels pretty awful. His cold has not yet left him, and the food he ate the previous evening is sitting motionless in his gut.
Dunlop shuts his eyes. His head is congested and the room, being too hot, combined with the after-nap grogginess, makes him feel strangely enlarged. It is a unsettling and sickly sensation. He feels himself expanding to such an extent that the pain in his intestines seems only a dull ache at the center of a perversely bloated mass of his conscious being. This occasionally would happen to one of his appendages, sometimes even his head. It was not a normal feeling, and no one he knew every said “oh, yeah, that happens to me, too!” The inability to accurately describe it was another negative aspect of the phenomenon.
In fright, Dunlop opens his eyes. This does not end the sensation. He sees his hands resting on the desk in front of him. His hands are a part of his body and the desk is a part of his hands. The desk is connected to the floor and the walls and they are connected to the building. In horror, Dunlop watches himself become a huge, inert, unfeeling mass.
“Oh, what a fate, I’ve an inorganic redundant deathly deadening destiny – to become MacNaughton Dormitory.” Dunlop can’t move.
The door flies open. It is Dunlop’s roommate, Mark, the hard-working scientist, pseudo-Platonist utterer of inane aphorisms. “What are ya doin’, Dun?” asks Mark. Dunlop replies, “Succumbing to inertia and the Second Law of Thermodynamics, you insipid bowel movement.”
“Now, now, Dun, I’ll just overlook that – I know you’re just kidding. God, am I exhausted. My lab took five hours and I have to get to work right away if I expect to get anything done tonight.” Dunlop sounds an obligatory, ‘Oh” and begins to feebly move his arms about on the desk, getting things ready so he can begin work on the lab. He stares at the lab-book, calculator and data for ten minutes. It took him that long to remember that he did not have the lab sheet without which the completion of the assignment was impossible. He strings together some scatological words, and struggling with his shoes, notices that his laces have only a few ties left in them until they break apart. Grabbing his knapsack, he is almost out the door when Mark stops him, “Hey Dun, uh um – what’s the uh – the generic term for mother – i.e. analagous to the relationship between the words brother and sibling?” Dunlop says, “uh… parent?”
“oooooooooohhhhhnooooooh” Mark resounds at the thought of his forgetting the word ‘parent’ while remembering the words “generic” and “analagous.” Dunlop leaves Mark with the horror at his mental lapse, and starts trudging down the stairs in his heavy winter coat and scarf around his neck. It is warmer out than he thought and a muggy sweat soon covers him. His leaden legs carry him to the door of his lab partner. She answers the door and gets the sheet for him. Dunlop is disconcerted at the difficulty he experiences in communicating. Everything he says is jumbled up together to Kathy’s ears, but perfectly distinguishable to Dunlop. Conversely, Kathy’s words sound to him to be said too slowly to be understood. Dunlop manages to complete the conversation without the use of sign language, but with much repetition.
Soon he finds himself sitting at a library desk. He takes off his shoes to let his damp socks dry. He sits amid the socky stink, and thinks, “Finally, I can start this lab.” He reads the instructions. More scatological verbiage emerges from him. He had left the data on his dormitory desk. He staggers out to remedy his latest oversight. Before he can get to the dorm, however, he is intercepted by a large group of students heading for dinner at the commons. Having lost all sense of direction and purpose, he lets himself get scooped up by the mass of people, and soon finds himself herded into the feeding arena.
The students, like over-heated molecules, redound in random disordered comminglings as food piles up on their trays. Dunlop finds a plate on his tray, loading it with mushroom/cheese and rice delight with corn. His knees weaken. His sight is blurred. Someone spills some milk on his tray – “Man – I’m really sorry.” Dunlop says “It’s okay – I like it.” Now, the end of his scarf is hanging into his food. He leaves it there.
Suddenly, the general will attaches to him and he gets out his meal card just in time to be efficiently flushed through the cash registers and into the dining room. Seated, he looks at his companions go through the eating motions while occasionally muffling something he doesn’t understand. Beyond the table, Dunlop can see nothing but shapeless forms of brown or black. Some items of food appear to be flying by his head, ‘Hey Dun, whazamatter, you whacked or something, huh?” Dunlop does not hear. He stares at his plate. Everything on it melts indistinguishably into each other. He cannot tell the whatever from the whatever. The substance on his plate is homogenized, uniform and calm. Wrecked napkins and bent forks lie to either side. “So this is the fate of all things?” Dunlop thinks. Upon this revelation, Dunlop’s vision explodes, and he sees himself from outside himself – at all angles simultaneously. He watches his head and torso slowly tilt and begin the descent. With complete lucidity, he sees from above, below and all sides, as his face settles, in slow motion, into the lukewarm mire of whateverness.
“That’s my roommate Dun,” Mark is heard to say as he passes by.