The typical pre-class murmur of hushed conversations could be heard as the last of the straggling students filed into the room. The murmur quickly died down once the teacher walked in and the bell sounded. Her white hair was neatly strangled into a bun behind her head and her glasses were firmly placed on the top of her nose as always.
OK class," the teacher said, "today we're going to take a special test."
A collective groan rumbled throughout the rows of students.
"Now, now, don't worry, it's an open book test!" the teacher exclaimed. This, on the contrary, elicited some subtle cheers from the ranks before her.
"I LOVE open book tests!" said Randall from his usual seat at the back of the class. He was quite adept at failing tests.
"I suppose they're OK," said Margaret from her usual seat in the front row. She was the best student and rarely gave a wrong answer.
"This test will determine if you go to college or not," the teacher said.
"Um, what's college?" said Dirk, who was seated next to Randall, his eyes half-open and glassy as usual. Most of the rest of the class chuckled.
"It's a wonderful place!" the teacher said excitedly, hands clasped together. "You get to expand your horizons, know so many things it's not possible to know here in high school, meet so many new souls and minds. It is such a happy, more enlightened place than the dark halls of this institution. You will all love it."
"Then I'm glad it's open book!" said Rob from the middle of the classroom.
"Indeed," said the teacher, "for if you do not pass the test, you will not only not go to college, you will be tossed into the incinerator."
"What?!" exclaimed Tara, who sat to the teacher's left. She was suddenly near tears.
"Whoah, that's harsh!" Randall said.
"But don't worry, we have books to help you choose the right answers!" the teacher said.
"Books? Plural?" Rob said. "I thought it was open BOOK. No 's.'"
"Why the incinerator?!" exclaimed Margaret.
"Well, if you don't go to college, where else are you going to go?" the teacher answered. "You certainly can't stay here forever. Look, don't worry! It'll be fine! It's an open book test, after all! Well, I mean, open books. I wrote them all, in case you guys didn't know." Then the teacher proceeded to hand out six old, thick books to each student. They stood, stacked, ominously on each student's desk. The teacher's name was indeed printed on every one.
It wasn't long before Margaret was flipping through each book, comparing them. "Wait a minute, these books conflict. I hope the questions on this test aren't on this conflicting stuff."
"Indeed they are!" the teacher said, for some reason looking delighted. The class erupted into objections. "Look, look!" the teacher quieted them down. "Don't worry, the books will help you pass the test."
"But how, if they give different answers to the questions?" Rob asked.
"Yeah, how do we know which one is right?!" yelled Randall.
"The books tell you!" the teacher said. "In fact, the question on the test worth the most points, actually nearly all the possible points, is, which book is the right one. Once you answer that question, though, the rest are easy peasy."
"B-but, where in the books does it say which one is right?!" Margaret said, frantically flipping through and switching books.
"The answer to that is in each book," the teacher sighed.
"Hold up!" Rob said, reading the first section of one of the books. "In the first section of each book, each book says that that particular book is the correct one."
"Exactly!" the teacher said.
"What?!" Tara said. Tears started rolling down her cheeks.
"It's all right!" said John, who was seated near Rob, holding up one of the books. "This one is right! Man, what a relief! It's the one my parents always told me was the right one for getting into college."
"Wait!" said Rob, holding up another book. "My parents always told me that THIS one was the one to get me into college!"
"My family always told me this one!" Margaret said, holding up a third book, different from the ones John and Rob were displaying. The class again erupted into heated chatter.
"So, let me get this straight!" yelled Rob, quieting the chatter. "This is an open book test, we pass we go to college, we fail, we get tossed into the incinerator, but there's more than one book, only one is right, and the main question on the test is which book is right, and the answer to which one is right is in each book, but each book claims that it is right one?!"
"Correct!" the teacher said, pointing at him enthusiastically.
"That's crazy!" John exclaimed.
"I think they're all wrong," Randall said, flipping one closed.
"Well, that answer will almost definitely get you tossed in the incinerator," the teacher said.
"ALMOST definitely?" Randall said.
"Just tell us which one is right!" Rob said. "Why can't you do that?"
"Because," the teacher said, rolling her eyes, "that would be cheating! I mean, come on, I'm already letting you have the test open book. Just imagine how hard it would be if I didn't let you do that. But, anyway, remember, I DO tell you, in the books."
"This is crap!" yelled John, slamming a book shut.
"Tell me about it!" exclaimed Margaret.
"Wha... what's crap?" said Dirk, blinking. Then he looked at the stack of books on his desk. "Where'd these books come from?"
"Where's the incinerator?" Randall said. "I wanna see it. As a matter of fact, where's this college you're talking about? I've heard it talked about some, but I've never seen it. Same goes for both, actually. I've seen a few paintings of both, but never a photograph."
"You can't see either until you're done with high school," the teacher said.
"Then how do we know either one is even real at all?!" Randall said.
The teacher sighed. "Oh Randall, always the one who has all the silly questions. It's simple. They're real because I say they are."
"Why would you do this to us?!" Rob said. "This test is rigged! I thought you loved us!"
"But I do!" the teacher said. She smiled big and held her arms out. "I love all of my students!"
"Not all of them!" said John, reading one of the books. "Chapter Five of this book here says there are certain ones that you don't."
"Whoah, Chapter Sixteen of this one says she does love all of us," said Margaret. She held up the book she had been reading. It was the same book John was reading.
"That's the same book!" Rob exclaimed. "Hold on a second! Not only do these books conflict with each other, now they conflict with themselves?!"
Tara began sobbing uncontrollably.
"Well, there's different interpretations, you see," the teacher said. "That's going to happen since it's been translated several times."
"What?!" Margaret yelled. "Why?!"
"Well," said the teacher, "my transcribers, they spoke different languages, so--"
"Transcribers?!" Rob said. "You didn't write these directly?"
"Well, no, I don't have a computer or typewriter," the teacher said, "so I orally told my transcribers the books and had them fly across the country and tell the editors at the publishing in person the manuscripts."
"They weren't written down until they got to the editors?!" Margaret exclaimed.
"Hey I heard their editors are all half-deaf," Randall said.
"Oh, Randall, they have really good hearing aids!" the teacher snapped at him.
"This is un-freaking-believable!" Rob said, throwing up his arms.
"Told ya," Randall said.
"What's unsqueezable?" Dirk mumbled. Then, he added: "Is it lunch yet?"
"Hey," said Rob, pointing to a page in one of the books, "this book says there are only three steps to the front doors of the school. I've counted them. There are definitely nine."
"Oh you probably need to count again," Margaret suggested.
"This one says there are five steps," Randall said, reading another book.
"Wait, this one says it's an escalator," Margaret said.
Holly, seated all the way over by the wall to the teacher's right, held up another book. "This book here says it's a wheelchair ramp made of jelly beans!"
"WHAT?!" Rob exclaimed.
"So we're supposed to choose which one of these books is correct with no information to go on except what's contained in the books, and they not only conflict with each other, but with themselves, and they've been verbally transcribed from memory through intercessors, and then they were translated several times, and to boot, after all that, the books state things as fact that are definitely not true. And the kicker is, if we choose wrong we get the incinerator?" John said.
The teacher sighed. "Yes. But, once again, I tell you which one is right in the books!"
"But each book says it is the right book," Rob said. "None have any objective advantage over the other."
"Exactly!" the teacher said, shooting out her arms.
Rob took one of the books and smacked his forehead with it. Dirk, having observed that event, took one of the books and smacked his own forehead. "There. Did I do it right? Do I pass?"
Everybody sighed and shook their heads.
"Look, if this was so important," Rob said, "if we're wrong we get burned to death, why didn't you make it clearer? Why didn't you write down a different version in each language and directly give the manuscripts to the publisher? Or why did you give us several different books to begin with?!"
"So you have the freedom to choose which one," the teacher replied.
"That's retarded!" yelled John. "This is a matter of life and death! We wouldn't CHOOSE the incinerator, obviously, if we had the proper information to make the decision. And you didn't answer my question about the publishing process."
"Because I am weary of all of these questions!" the teacher said. "It's time for the test now! Besides, I have some good news, you'll have further help."
"Oh?" Tara said, sniffling.
The door opened and six people, five men and one woman, marched into class. "These are teacher's aids," the teacher announced. "They will help you determine which book is right."
"OK," Rob said, looking at them, "all right, which one is right?"
"This one!" they all said in unison. Each one held up one of the six books, each holding a different one. Rob put his head in his hands.
"Oh, THAT helped!" exclaimed John, rolling his eyes.
"Screw this crap, I'm not taking this stupid test!" Randall exclaimed.
"What about college?" Margaret asked, turning around to face him.
"There probably is no college!" Randall said.
"I'm not taking it either, it's insane, it's effing crazy!" Rob said. Suddenly everybody in the class started expressing interest in not taking the test.
Soon everybody began tossing the books off their desks. They turned to one another and began having various different conversations, ignoring the teacher. A girl and guy near the back began making out.
"I will not have this insubordination in my classroom!" the teacher yelled. "Dirk!"
Dirk blinked his eyes. "Wha?"
"Come to my desk!" the teacher barked. Dirk slowly got up and lurched up to her desk. She ordered him to sit on it and he did. Then she got up on it as well.
"Fine, you kids don't want to burn to death? How about THIS?"
The teacher pressed a button on her desk. Panels in the window side wall of the classroom opened. They revealed the ends of large hoses. Suddenly powerful jets of water began inundating the classroom. Everybody screamed and yelled as they were washed away and drowned. When the only two left in the room were the teacher and dirk, the water stopped. The panels closed again.
"There," said the teacher, "that's better. Now, Dirk?"
Dirk blinked. He slowly looked around. "Um. Where'd everybody go? It's, um, wet in here."
"Dirk, I spared you because I want you to be a disciple to a new class that will be arriving next week, to bridge the gap between the two. I think you'll do splendidly!"
Dirk blinked. "Um... oh, I already did her. She's hot."
FYI I have now posted this on Facebook.