Claudius Pendleton was pretty much your average mime attending the Colorado School of Mimes. Twenty years old and not a single word had escaped him since he discovered the art of miming at thirteen years old, a fact his parents barely hesitated to brag about to anyone who would watch, for they too were great mimes. Most people could talk and many engaged in conversations using only words but Claudius could not afford the distraction. He had work to do, especially if he was going to earn the title, The Great Hand, a.k.a. greatest mime of all time!
Like any other mime in training, Claudius attended classes ranging from the ethics of miming to basic miming classes, which included Makeup I and II and the dreaded weed out class Physical Miming III. Today he only had Modern Miming lab, which was his smallest class. As the professor demonstrated a wide array of techniques, Claudius just stared from behind his large, round blue eyes. The sounds of pencils scratching against paper seemed like violent explosions in the silent lecture halls. The heat circulating through the room lulled him to sleep.
It was only when he opened his eyes again did he realize the whole class was staring at him, including the professor who looked on in approval. Before the professor could go on, the sharp clang of the bell signaled the end of class and everyone rose silently to shuffle out of the room. Throughout the hallways, graduating seniors were showing off the results of their capstone projects. One guy appeared to be imitating the waltz but really it looked like he was hopping around a pit of lava hoping to avoid taking one wrong step.
As Claudius exited Meyer Hall, he almost groaned from the bright sun shining on his face. He ran for the cover of several trees to his right. Settling in under the shade, Claudius looked up at the mime’s hand symbol on Mt. Zion. Across the field, other students were mingling, smiling and laughing.
That’s when she caught his eye. She was as pretty as silk shining in the light. Her straight black hair was tied into a high ponytail that swished and swayed with her every move. She was imitating a fish gangling on a hook. The group around her roared with laughter.
Yeah right, Claud, like Mara would ever go for you.
As if she’d heard his thoughts, she looked over, smiled and waved.
Claudius turned around but saw no one around him. When he looked back, the girl was gone. His smile faded. Just as well. His miming was dismal at best. Knowing his luck, he’d try to imitate a dashing gentleman and end up flopping around like a fish out of water. He sighed as he stood and headed home.
Later that night as he took off his miming mask, he settled into bed with some homework and drifted off to sleep.
Beep beep beep
The strange noise penetrated the darkness of sleep. Claudius rolled over, hoping the noise would go away.
“Dude, turn it off already.”
Claudius jumped from the voice. A sharp knocking sound came from his door. Rubbing the last of sleep from his eyes, he reached over and shut off the alarm on his phone. He jumped from the bed, almost gasping as his book made a thud as it hit the ground. Opening the door, his roommate Fred stood with his arms crossed.
“Seriously Claud, I don’t know how you sleep through that.”
Claudius held up a hand but Fred had turned and disappeared into his room. Brow furrowed, Claudius closed the door and turned back to his disheveled room. He picked up the book that had fallen to the floor and turned to throw it onto his desk when its title caught his eye. What in the world was calculus and more importantly what was it doing in his bedroom. He dropped to his hands and knees, picking up the variety of textbooks. Instead of the usual miming classics he found books filled with strange symbols and equations. What was he doing with books on dynamics and what did that have to do with fluids?
A strange confused sound came from his throat as book after book was clearly related to science and engineering. He ran to the bathroom, splashing water on his face. When he looked up his hair was slightly longer and his eyes appeared sunken into his face, casting a small shadow across his face. His hands groped the counter for his mask makeup but instead found a razor and a half-squeezed tube of toothpaste.
Going through all the bathroom drawers revealed nothing. His heart sunk straight to his feet. It took him three weeks to save up for the stuff and he had his final presentation in a few days. His throat tightened and he fought the nausea in his stomach. He looked up at the clock, realizing he was already late. Jumping into the shower, he decided to search his apartment later.
The people on the bus were less talkative than usual, which was quite the relief on Claudius’ pounding headache. Lost in thoughts he turned his gaze to the mountains passing by.
Impossible! The makeup, even the books, he could understand but this…this…
He turned to the person sitting next to him, tapping the man gently on the shoulder. When the man turned with a scowl, Claudius pointed to the strange symbol on the mountain. A large white M stood in the place of the mime’s hand.
“Yeah, it’s the ‘M.’ What about it?”
When Claudius didn’t answer, the man rolled his eyes and moved to a different seat. Who could have done such a thing? It must have been the hippy mimes.
Claudius hoped that when he got to campus all would be normal again. Alas, his day would take a turn for the weird and strange. When he got off the bus, he ran to the school’s welcome sign. Printed in large black letters were the words “Welcome to the Colorado School of Mines.”
Colorado School of Mines?! Like Miners? Miners?! That would certainly explain the engineering books.
As he walked to his normal spot on Kafadar, he noticed everyone’s nose was buried in a textbook. No one was talking. He kept his head down in thought as he walked over to his normal spot.
Claudius looked up and was struck dumb. From across the field Mara was running towards him. He smiled, although confused. How does she know my name?
“Claud, thank God you’re here!” She paused to catch her breath. “The school’s declared a state of emergency. A group of people called the LAIS have invaded campus and stolen the source of electricity! Already the internet has starved and gone into a dire coma.”
Claudius stared not sure how to respond. Mara continued, breathless. “Look! Without the internet, all the engineers and scientists are losing their powers!”
Sure enough, when Claudius looked around, all the students appeared to be losing their energy. One student sat despondent as he kept pressing the power button on his calculator in the hopes it would finally turn on.
A small rumble shook the ground. On the other side of Kafadar, the doors to Stratton Hall swung open. Four figures in proper mime attire emerged from the blinding white light and marched toward the center of the field.
Claudius started walking forward to meet them. He could feel the students look up in curiosity as he passed. A surge of power bubbled inside his stomach. All his years of mime school at the forefront of his mind, he soon found himself standing face to face with the Great Hand and his disciples.
He knows my name!
Claudius nodded, brought his hands above his head to symbolize a light bulb and gestured to the lethargic students who looked on.
“So you are their champion? Three tests to pass before we shall give up our prize.”
The first and second Claudius blew through with ease. Claudius felt himself standing a bit taller, especially when he heard the student cheering. Only one more test and he would be their hero.
The Great Hand looked displeased for a moment but then smiled. “Speak.”
“Speak, Claudius Pendleton.”
The cheering became louder.
Claudius eyes began to feel heavy as if he was in between being asleep and awake. His head bobbed from fatigue. As he opened his mouth, willing the words to come out, Claudius felt his head smash into a desk.
Small bursts of laughter and an awkward silence fell onto the classroom.
Claudius opened his eyes to see all the students’ and the professor’s eyes on him. The professor shut the textbook. “I think we’ll wrap things up here today. See you all on Monday. Have a happy miming weekend everyone!”
Claudius looked down at his gloved hands and looked into a nearby mirror to see his familiar masked face. On the desk his notes on Modern Miming were cut short and a line trailed the rest of the page where he had fallen asleep.
Sleep?! I was asleep! A nightmare.
When he looked up, Mara stood in front of him. She wore a simple black mime’s shirt and a shy smile. She reached into her bag and pulled out two aspirin.
Claudius held his breath, resisting the urge to pinch his arm to check if this was a dream.
“Thank you.” His voice was hoarse.
“Looked like an interesting dream.”
Claudius nodded. “The school was called the Colorado School of Mines, not mimes.”
Mara gave a short chuckle. “Isn’t it funny when people confuse the name of our school? I got that all the time when I applied here.”