Canary

   The alarm clock is man’s biggest enemy, Grant thought as he slapped the buzzing monstrosity. He dragged himself along the path of his morning routine, still not quite awake. As he was pulling on his clothes, though, he was jolted into wakefulness at the thought of the unfinished calculus homework due today. Why do I put these things off? Maybe if I take the late bus I can finish it before class. Textbook, notebook, pencil, and student all managed to arrive at the table at roughly the same time. As he wrote with one hand and ate a chocolate Pop-Tart out of the other, he recalled his mother’s admonition to eat a healthy breakfast every day. Yeah, right, mom. Fortunately, the answers to half of the problems were in the back of the textbook (why do teachers even bother assigning odd-numbered problems?), and through the use of techniques with dubious mathematical validity the homework was completed and stuffed into the backpack. Grabbing a piece of gum for the unlikely event that someone got close enough to him to smell his breath, he darted out the door and reached the bus stop just in time to wait three minutes for the bus to come. Why doesn’t anything here run on time? he wondered, unaware that his watch was two and a half minutes fast. 

    Why do I even bother coming to class? Grant mused as the teacher (who naturally hadn’t even collected the homework) droned on about what is he even talking about? something. Grant doodled on his desk. He had to switch desks every few classes because they ran out of doodle space quite quickly, but it beat falling asleep. Why do I waste my time on this nonsense? He was tired of everyone’s–the teachers’, his parents’, the alarm clock’s–demands on him. I wish I could escape from this…cage.

   Suddenly, he stood up from his desk and, without a word, ran out the door. Following some instinct he could not explain, he ran up the stairs to the top floor. Though he’d never been up here before, he knew exactly which window opened to the air duct leading to the roof. Strange, why am I on the roof? I’ve never been on the roof before. He looked down. The students and faculty crawled around like blind ants, seeking they knew not what but feeling that somewhere it was waiting for them. Triumphantly, he raised an arm to the heavens. I want to be free! With a running start he hurled himself off the building.

    It’s cold up here was his first thought as the air rushed past his body. Effortlessly he soared over the campus. The others, still obliviously unable to turn their faces skyward, did not notice the lone flyer. Now swooping, now rolling, now hovering in midair, he reveled in his newfound freedom. Birds fled this strange invader of the skies, this new and different animal cavorting around their domain. Higher and higher, the wind sanding his face to a smooth gloss, he could see the whole city now. As he frolicked among the office buildings, the workers remained too intent on their meaningless tasks to look over the walls of their six by six cubicles and notice the flying man. He pressed his face to the glass, leaving a mark that would puzzle some later window-washer. 

    Slowly, though, as a the latest catch is reeled in on the fisherman’s line, he began to return to the building from whence he came. City streets and buildings gave way to the familiar greens and grays of campus. No need to use the air duct this time, though; the fifth floor window was not locked against a flying intruder. The halls were, strangely, not designed for airborne passage, so he landed and began walking. Down the stairs, back to the room he had left in the previous lifetime of a few minutes ago. Grant slipped slowly into the desk where his stuff still waited. He blinked away the strangeness that momentarily blurred his sight. The professor, still droning on his voice sounds like my alarm clock, hadn’t even glanced up at the return of his prodigal student. Just as he picked up his pencil to doodle again, though, the teacher said “It looks like we’re out of time. We’ll pick up there on Wednesday.” 

    “What was he even talking about?” asked one student as they filed out. 

    “I know,” said another, “did that lecture make any sense at all? Grant, you’re pretty good at this stuff. What was he saying?” 

    Grant blinked, and looked for a moment like a man trying to recall an elusive melody that was just out of his grasp. Then he shrugged, saying “I don’t know, that whole class seems like a blur.” His friends laughed in agreement, and together they walked, looking like ants when viewed from above, to their next class.

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