The fear of cannibalism is encoded in the recesses of the Greek mind. It was an observational archetype that lent nothing to Zach’s understanding of Homeric epics, but Harrington was insisting on the significance of eating people as a placeholder for the antiquarian origins of the Greek culture. He briefly considered questioning the teacher deeply and humorously as to how exactly they ate people. Did they begin with the heads and brains like the Pacific Islanders? Or maybe they preferred the soft parts first like eyes and genitals, following the predatory predilections of dogs, cats, and wolves? The difference between the animal and the human condition was the difference between survival and a ritualistic misunderstanding of the origins of power, and Harrington’s lecture was conveying nothing about whether that distinction was at play. He just wanted to shock a little bit, to tantalize the minds of his charges with incongruities that might provoke them into learning. Zach thought about raising his hand and asking if cannibalism would be on the test.
The dazing effect of irrelevant information had consequences, but Zach knew his peers well enough to understand that there was nothing that could truly provoke them short of blatant sexuality or gratuitous violence. The former worked on everyone, but the latter had a negative counter-effect on all but those predisposed to voyeuristic fascination with the horrors that the human mind was capable of. The only solution was to teach with porn, Zach thought, imagining vignettes with Helen of Troy servicing shiploads of sailors in gratitude for her safe delivery to the walls of the great, impenetrable city. Impenetrable until the protection tore just a little and the famous sneak attack carried the wiggling penetrators in to finally sodomize the city into submission. The gods were wowed by the cleverness, dropping their robes in a frantic embrace that resulted in more jealous coupling still until Odysseus got lost between all the bed sheets.
Zach was hardly concentrating by this point and instead sat up and leaned forward. Belinda was looking at him again. Little Beli no more, he reminded himself. He turned towards her in a slow, controlled motion and she turned away with equal effort. He stayed looking intently at her profile and watching her eyes flicker up and down, and then just a bit towards him. She hugged herself and put her chin against her collarbone, eyes closed, for long enough that Zach finally turned away. He was no cannibal, he thought, for brains or hearts. He wasn’t sure what he was, locked into this cycle of school lessons, skating, hacking, and mortal combat with a mystery that was only growing more evasive the deeper he penetrated into it. Cannibalism was easy, hunger was hard, he thought as Harrington pushed the metaphor of order out of chaos in the core of the ancient mind.
We haven’t changed in that regard, Zach thought. There was always the impossibility of other minds, shuttered behind words and complexions. The eyes did nothing but reveal faint signals through a gentle lift of a brow or squint of happiness. They were no window to the souls at all. Belinda was just historically more predictable than The Spinner, but only because he had done his infamous deeds just outside in the hall, and she had not. Or she had not yet, he thought. What did it take to carry any of them over that horizon of horror? What made the cannibals eat their neighbors in those proto city states in Scythia and Ionia and the Peloponnesus? Fear was occluding reason for Zach again and he turned away from his uncomfortable visual confrontation and sank into his desk, watching Harrington try to stir the imaginations of his classmates, stoned and worried over their AetherFaces identities, dedicated to posturing and college admissions, and inattentively pawing at their notebooks. He shook and went flush when a door far out in the aural expanses of the hallway snapped closed. There was panic here, but he closed his eyes and breathed for a moment, then another, and the buzzer finally rang and he sat still as the shuffling began. Belinda moved fast past him and was gone, her miniskirt matched to her miniboots, black against the pink of her thighs.