Chapter 5: GIOVANNI ROMANO
03 FEBRUARY, 2020
It was a temperate Monday midafternoon in Prospect Heights. We were experiencing a mild winter, but this week—so far was the most comfortable stretch of 2020. I unfastened the latch at the base of the window adjacent to my desk and swung it open. It was a narrow—towering window, appropriate for the nineteenth century, like the rest of the one hundred and twenty year-old campus I taught within.
The inflowing breeze was scented by the aroma of cherry blossom trees. I softly drew in its fragrance. Conversation between my Statistics students drifted over my shoulder; I spun to face the sixteen sophomore bodies; I was arranging my last thoughts before beginning class at two o’clock sharp. The clock displayed the time as 1:50—it was seven minutes behind. My pupils continued to intensely discuss varying subjects amongst themselves as they browsed their mobile phones. Little did I know—did we all know, that our class time together would be one of our final few in person sessions until autumn of 2021.
“Hey Professor Romano, we need your opinion on something…” Trey, a second year dental tech student spoke up. I could tell his subject of interest was stirring a heated debate amongst him and four of his peers.
“Yes, make it quick, Trey. We have a lot to cover today.”
“Alright, alright, so we need your honest opinion; since you are the most educated person in the room,” Trey gave a whimsical leer to the young woman sitting to left of him. She was his clear ‘debate partner’.
“Hey! What c’you saying Trey? That what I am saying doesn’t make any sense?” Trey’s fellow learner yapped, clearly offended by something not said directly.
“Ey, I just wanted to see what Professor Romano thought about that article you swear by,” he snickered as I switched on the ceiling mounted projector with its paired remote. I squinted at the device and double-pressed the power button—agitated by its lack of immediate response and mentally attached its delay to the remote’s waning battery life. “So, Alija here read that they found evidence of U.F.O.s.”
“Yes?” I responded while finally provoking a reaction from
the twenty first century technology. The projector flickered on—displaying an exact image of my computer desktop on a Promethean board. One could consider the arrangement of my icons and files as disorganized. “And what about these U.F.O.s?”
“Trey, don’t…” Alija huffed; trying to discourage her classmate from speaking any further.
“Well… she thinks they are beings from another dimension.”
“That’s what the article said!”
“Alija, com’on U.F.O.s from another dimension, it sounds like a conspiracy theory to me. Next you’ll be saying that the Trumps are lizard people!” Trey mocked with a shake of his narrow head.
“Now you are making me just look stupid. Do you think we are the only ones out there; what did I say that was so crazy?”
“Hey—U.F.O.s are out there. There is plenty of evidence for them. It was the interdimensional talk that got me.”
“But parallel dimensions do exist; black holes are proof of that!” Alija defended herself. I was apprehensive of how to provide the best response to my students; however, I despised Trey’s parasitic mocking.
I approached the chalkboard right of the Promethean and began to vigorously illustrate (to the best of my ability) six domino-like planes. While sketching, I chose to deliver the simplest, but most truthful answer—without giving away the universe’s deepest secrets. It would be the first time I repeated the information—the truth—to anyone. The classroom clock struck two o’clock; statistics were drifting further from my mind; along with my lesson plan.
“Oh this is going to be great! Get ready to be proven wrong!” Trey chuckled and confidently leaned back in his padded chair—assuming that I was to side with him.
“Yes… get ready to be proven wrong. What if I opened your mind to the vast complexity of reality? No, not the word you surround yourself with, but its components. Could you handle the truth? Would you be able to suspend your religion and all personal beliefs even for a fleeting moment?” I completed my drawing; the chalk was quickly melting in my humid palm. “You see, the universe is actually a multiplane system constructed from six individual dimensions. So, imagine gazing into six perfectly aligned mirrors—and looking upon six unique reflections—all of your likeness.”
“So, is it possible that I am rich in one of these dimensions? Boy… I’d like to have his life,” Trey remarked from his comfortable position. I began to scribble six different human outlines inside my rough-graphic.
“That is correct—there are six unique versions—reflections of yourself. You live your life autonomously, as you do now, your life is of your making—as it is now. Unfortunately, we are only capable of recalling the occurrences of one scenario. Our consciousness is simple.”
“What about the Inventors?” Paige, a second year girl studying anthropology remarked from the back of the room. She was fully sighted. She was one of my most soft spoken students—and most brilliant. My chalk snapped between my fingers from the sudden shock of her statement; its powder turned to yellow mud from the wetness of my hand.
“Can… you repeat that, Paige?” I perspired intensely beneath my turtleneck.
“The Inventors. I read that is true for all—excluding the Inventors. They are the only individuals that live the same life in every dimension. This is because they are the only true interdimensional beings,” she shook aside her thick, auburn curls.
“Please tell me…where did you hear this information?” I choked on my words; my eyes burned through her like parchment paper.
“Well, originally from my grandfather. He left a journal behind from when he traveled to Europe in the 60’s; he was stationed in Germany.”
“A journal?” I swallowed; we made a pact to keep our existence and our identities undisclosed for all eternity. Who was her grandfather? How dare he leave evidence behind—I internally fumed.
“Yes, he didn’t include many details…but he said he met an Inventor.”
“Who was this Inventor—I am finding it hard to believe this story,” I attempted to dishearten her. Her knowledge was frightful, and endangered our existence. She couldn’t have been the only one to look upon the journal’s pages—and who was the Inventor? I had to know. My brief elaboration on the structure of our universe specifically excluded the role of the Inventors. It most certainly was to be analyzed as a conversation topic—or conspiracy and nothing more.
“He…didn’t say, but he left behind this,” she rose from her chair and approached the board. I felt intimidated as she grew near me; it was like she knew my greatest secret. In a way, she did. “Can I see your chalk, Professor Romano?” She politely extended her hand.
I placed its remnants in her dry palm; she gave me a puzzled look as she wrapped her fingers around its muddy form. “He left behind this…” Paige repeated her earlier words as she sketched out a large, accurate, O’ri. Its image weakened me; I leapt forward and erased her drawing with my black sleeve before she could finish its details. “Professor Romano?” Paige’s voice shook.
“We will not be having class today. I will see you in session at two o’clock Wednesday,” I slammed the lid of my laptop closed and then scurried to collect my possessions.
“Professor Romano,” Paige tried me again. I pulled on my overcoat and bolted toward the door with my computer folded tightly under my arm; I didn’t even bother to put it in its case. My students remained in their seats; confused by my reaction to her drawing. I stopped and addressed them.
“Please, go home, and speak none of this. I will see you on Wednesday!” I pushed them to leave as I exited. My star pupil rushed behind me, disordered and a bit shaken up.
“Professor Romano… can you explain what happened back there? As my educator you at least owe me an explanation?” Paige probed while striding to my right. I ignored her. “Giovanni!” She tried one last time and snatched ahold of my sleeve.
I jerked causing me to lose the grip on my laptop; its plastic shattered into several pieces when it impacted the ground. Paige nervously looked up from the wreckage of my personal computer as we both hovered over it. “I am sorr—” I didn’t let her finish as I firmly grabbed her vest and slammed her back against the University’s red brick wall—nearly knocking the breath out of her.
“Where is the journal?!” I hollered; fear danced in our eyes.
“I—I have it,” she gasped, fighting back tears.
“Where is it? I need to know where?!” I grew more desperate.
“Here…” her arms trembled as she miraculously produced the marble-bound journal from the canvas bag that was slung over her shoulder. “I was using it for research… I am studying anthropology,” the tears broke from her eyes and streamed down her freckled complexion. I released her as yanked the book from her hands.
“Impossible… how convenient,” I spoke to myself as I tore through its delicate pages and landed on her grandfather’s well-detailed drawing of the O’ri. It was sketched in heavy, black
charcoal and covered by a thin sheet of onion paper. The O’ri
was the symbol of the Inventors.
It simplistic design served simultaneously as a ‘rough’ representation of our truest form; to look upon us would cause sudden and permanent blindness to the unworthy. We only appeared human in order to walk amongst men. Felines were the only Earthly beings who could see through our human-mask; I personally despised them.
Our true, ghastly form was practically identical to the simplistic drawing. Essentially, we were chilling ‘mythical’ beings that possessed thousands of tentacles centered around one ‘all seeing eye’. We were enormous in stature and dark as the blackest night sky; our presence could fully consume the interior of a building.
Like my fellow Inventors, I could freely change form— I was twenty-six years of age the last time I had transformed into an O’ri. When I returned to my human form I suffered temporary amnesia, and was bedridden for approximately sixteen hours. After two-hundred years, I had come to appreciate my humanity—I could experience pleasure, one trait absent from my true presence as an O’ri. My eyes flickered through Paige’s grandfather’s notes on the subject:
The O’ri—this is an Inventor in his truest form. He is the most powerful in this state, but also the most vulnerable. When human, each Inventor is marked with the ‘O’ri’ symbol somewhere on his body.
“He said that…” Paige rose to her feet and spoke through her weeping, “The balance between dimensions is maintained by
six exceptional individuals with extraordinary powers. These
remarkable people are christened—Inventors.”
“Correct…” I replied while I unglued a period picture of her grandfather and tossed it to her. The paper spun as it fluttered to the ground. Paige stepped forward and delicately picked up the yellowed Polaroid from the polished, tile floor. Her eyes returned to me just in time to watch the antique book fry in my grasp.
“Oh… my gosh,” my student gasped upon seeing the journal be set on fire by a blue blaze of electricity. Her legs nearly collapsed from under her. “You’re…you’re…” Paige intensely trembled.
“This event did not happen! Never repeat the lore that you read to anyone, ever again!” I released the smoking ashes. “There is your explanation, Miss Miller,” Paige tearfully nodded as I abruptly turned and then strode away from her.
The hammering of my boots filled the vacant hall ahead of me, I had frightened her dearly—however her emotions were not of my concern. My obligation—even as an outcast was to preserve the secrecy of our existence, and insure the stability of my assigned dimension. The sophomore slowly crouched down and collected the fragments of my broken laptop. Her fingers shook while she scooped up the plastic.
“Profess—!” Paige called; noticing that I had vanished from sight. Her fellow students began to leak into the hall behind her; ignorant to what privately transpired between the two of us. She straightened her posture and rose with my computer in her arms.
Paige curiously turned it over; an identification tag drew her attention. My name and address were written upon it in black ink; providing her with an opportunity to return my forgotten device.