On Monday morning, Karen Bennet and Louise Torelli sat in Mr. Logan's 2nd Period, 12th Grade History Class, taking notes on his lecture.
He told them, "The natural environment of the entire Earth had become so badly polluted, that all life would have perished, unless drastic measures were taken. That's why the City Buildings were constructed. They were meant to be places of refuge for the entire Earth. Once they were completed, everyone on Earth entered the City Buildings. Then the pollution was sealed out, and everyone was sealed in, and this is where we've been living for the past 1,322 years, with only one another to eat, and we thank God for every meal."
Louise Torelli raised her hand and asked, "Isn't it true that conditions weren't really as bad, as we've been taught? I've read about a group of Environmental Terrorists, who called themselves the 'Kaczynski Brigade'."
"Oh?" The teacher asked, "And what have you read about the Kaczynski Brigade?"
"What I've read," she told him, "is that they said they loved humanity, but they hated individuals. They got their hands on a number of biological and nuclear weapons. Then they threatened to use them, unless the City Buildings were built and occupied; and our wussy ancestors gave in."
Some of her classmates laughed, at Louise's use of the word "wussy".
Mr. Logan said, "The influence of the Kaczynski Brigade, and what you call the 'wussiness' of our ancestors, has been greatly exaggerated by certain present day historians, whose work you have obviously read, Miss Torelli."
There was a knock on the door. A student monitor entered the room, came over to the desk and handed a note to Mr. Logan.
He said, "Miss Bennet. Mr. Avery wants to see you in his office now."
Karen stood up, picked up her edu-computer and left the classroom, escorted by the Student Monitor.
When Karen entered the Principal's office, she found Dave Krendell seated across the desk from Mr. Avery.
Today the Principal had the rope from Karen's hanging, coiled in the middle of the desk, directly in front of him.
She said, "You sent for me Mr. Aviary? I mean Avery."
"Miss Bennet." He said, "I know that many students find it amusing to call me 'Mr. Aviary' or 'Mr. Birdhouse.' I hear them twittering as I walk by. I find it best to ignore it, when I'm out in the corridors, or in the classrooms. However, I won't tolerate that disrespect in my own office."
"I apologize, Mr. Avery."
She seated herself beside Dave. A copy of that morning's Student's Newsletter, lay on the desk beside the rope, with a front-page photo of Karen, taken while she died gagging at the end of the rope. The photo showed the noose crushing her neck, to the width of her wrist, her breasts thrust forward inside her tight tee shirt, with her arms behind her back.
Karen smiled. "What do you know! I was a good hang and a sexy hang too; but not one guy at the Homecoming Dance was enough of a gentleman to dance with me; let alone fu...I mean...Well, it was very humiliating."
"Miss Bennet." The Principal said, "I want somebody to explain to me, why you are able to sit there today. You are the very first cheerleader, who I've ever had come to my office, on the first day back to class, after she'd been hanged.
Karen said, "I'm surprised to be here myself sir."
The Principal then asked, "Do you have an explanation Mr. Krendell?
"It's a mystery to me sir."
"You are the Warrior Team's equipment handler, aren't you?"
"One of them sir."
"But you are the one who brought out this rope, aren't you?"
The man picked up the rope's noose end.
"There's a kink in this rope."
Mr. Avery grabbed the rope above the noose knot, and tried to pull the loop through. The loop jammed.
He said, "As you can see, there is more than enough space, for Miss Bennet's neck, to move freely within this loop."
"Dave?" Karen asked, "What'd you do?"
"I didn't tie the noose. That's how they're manufactured. I just grabbed the rope out of the equipment locker and brought it out to the Gym. Then I put it down in its usual place. Then I sat in the stands. I didn't tamper with it."
The Principal said, "I understand that you and Miss Bennet are going steady."
"We were, until she decided to become a slut."
Karen said, "Dave!"
"I won't tolerate that kind of language in my office. Apologize to Miss Bennet immediately."
"Okay Karen. I apologize."
"I can see that you still have strong feelings toward her. What were your feelings, when you saw that she was the one who was going to be hanged?"
The boy hesitated. Then he said, "Mixed."
"This isn't funny Miss Bennet. We may be dealing with sabotage."
Dave snapped, "I didn't sabotage it! It's a very old rope. They've been hanging cheerleaders with it for years. Look at it. It's fraying. It's probably been jammed like that before."
"Oh has it?"
"Probably. Have you noticed that the last few girls we've hanged have taken longer to die than usual?"
"Not until now. You're in very serious trouble Mr. Krendell."
"But I didn't sabotage anything!"
Now Karen spoke. "He's right. He didn't. The noose worked properly. I was dead in less than two minutes. I just don't know why I'm alive now."
"Miss Bennet. Please!"
"I saw you standing there Mr. Avery. You were standing close enough for me to try to kick you in the head, while I was thrashing around in my final agony. And look at this photo Mr. Avery. Do you see how tight my neck was squished? There is no way that anybody could survive that."
"Apparently not." said the Principal. "The question is, how do I explain to the school board, why you not only survived, but why your neck is back to its proper shape?"
"Yes sir. You see. Right after I died..."
"Miss Bennet. Don't try my patience."
"You asked me a question sir, and I'm trying my best to answer it."
"Very well. Answer it as best you can."
"Right after I died, I came out of my body. Then I heard Dave's voice."
Dave said, "Whatever she says is all subjective sir."
"I'm trying to be as objective as possible, Mr. Krendell."
The girl told the Principal, "I heard him say, 'Lord Jesus. Please keep Karen alive. I love her.'
"Then I went back inside my body."
Dave said, "This is a clear demonstration of the validity of Ehrling's Universal Theory, Mr. Avery."
The Principal asked, "Do you know what Professor Allan Ehrling's Theory actually states, Mr. Krendell?"
"Yes sir. ‘God governs the motion of every subatomic particle, in every galaxy, throughout the entire universe.'
"I believe that God governed the motion of every single subatomic particle, in both the rope and Karen's neck, in response to my prayer sir."
Mr. Avery said, "Is that what you expect me to tell the School Board? That this was the result of someone violating the ban on prayer, at a School sponsored function?"
Karen said, "You asked me what happened sir, and I told you what happened, and Dave just explained how, whether the School Board likes it or not."
"Mr. Krendell." The man said, "Every reputable theologian recognizes that in this severely overpopulated world, where we have nothing to eat but each other, the Commandment; 'Thou shalt not kill' is a luxury we can no longer afford. Believing otherwise is utopian fanaticism, which always leads to despair.
"Now any decent person, who truly cared about Miss Bennet, would have prayed for her suffering to end quickly. Tell me. Did you pray for her to survive?"
"Yes sir I did. Those were my exact words"
"Oh Dave." She said, "You really do love me."
"Yes I do; and if you ever want to stop being...what I'm not supposed to say in this office, I'll be here for you."
"Don't count on it." said Mr. Avery. "I don't think you realize what a serious thing this is."
Karen asked, "Is love against School Board regulations?"
"Only if it's irresponsible."
"According to School Board regulations," Karen said, "every girl on the cheerleading squad, and on the combat team, gets a mandatory implant. How then is it possible for any of us to be irresponsible about love? Unless she’s Catholic like Francine; and she was exercising her Constitutional right."
"That isn't the responsibility I'm talking about. Anyone who interferes with filling the kill quota is being irresponsible and antisocial."
Dave said, "All I did was pray that one single cheerleader, out of who knows how many would live. What danger is there in that?"
"Supposing," the Principal said, "that one person prayed for every cheerleader who was hanged on Saturday, and they all lived? Wouldn't that be a disaster? There'd be widespread panic throughout the City. That can't be permitted to happen. An example must be made of you Mr. Krendell."
"But sir, I thought you understood. The kink in the noose was caused by the rope's fraying."
"I understand that this is the story that you're telling. I never said that I believe you. You should also not have been praying at a school sponsored activity."
"But it was a silent prayer, and I'm more surprised than anybody, that the prayer was answered."
"There is an ancient saying Mr. Krendell. 'Be careful what you pray for'. I'm dropping you from your position as equipment handler."
"You are to be excluded from all extra curricular activities for the remainder of the year."
"Beginning immediately, you are being suspended for a week, and you are not to return to your classes, until I've had a conference with your parents."
"You will also be forbidden to attend your graduation. You will receive your diploma in the mail, but you will be banned from the ceremony. Now go to your locker, take your edu-computer and all your personal belongings with you, and go home."
Karen said, "This is ridiculous, Mr. Avery. You're exaggerating beyond all good sense and reason, Mr. Avery."
"That will be all Miss Bennet. Now you may return to class."
"But I really was dead."
"Miss Bennet, if you really had been dead, you would still be in that condition. You might have been a co-conspirator in this antisocial activity. I intend to look into that."
She asked, "Look into what?"
"As you said Miss Bennet, I was standing right there. I heard you tell James Haskins, 'Hang me quick. I don't want to be late for the Homecoming Dance.'"
"That was a joke. I was trying to act brave."
"I'm going to see what Mr. Haskins has to say about that. I intend to see just how much of an act it really was."
Dave and Karen left the Principal's office. They moved along the empty corridor, passing rows of gray lockers.
"Co-conspirators'?" she said. "Neither of us did anything wrong. Jimmy didn't either. I was dead in less than two minutes. Everybody saw it."
Dave said, "What does it matter? Nobody listens to kids. They think we're all a bunch of juvenile delinquents."
"Why don't you talk to Pastor McDougal? If he speaks up for you, Mr. Avery will listen to him."
"Avery and the entire School Board are all a bunch of atheists."
"But Pastor McDougal is the Chief Presbyter of all the Presbyterian Churches on Level 1378. That makes him a highly respected member of the community. The Principal will be obligated to listen to him."
"But he's not obligated to change his mind."
"At least give it a chance Dave."
"What's the point? This suspension will be on my permanent record. After I graduate, wherever I go to find a job, they'll call the School to find out about my records. They'll tell them that I was suspended for saving your life, and I'll never be hired."
She said, “Then I don’t know what to tell you Dave, except that Avery may have been right. From now on, be careful what you pray for.”