tagMind ControlFollowing Her Dream Ch. 05

Following Her Dream Ch. 05

byShadra©

Six hours. Janet only had to make it through six more hours of the day. If the first few were any indication, it would be no easy task.

Janet lifted the flap of the bag that was leaning against her chair. She reached inside it, her fingers searching for the hard form of the tablet within. It was still there, just as it was when she checked five minutes ago.

As she felt the tablet, her mind wandered to its purpose. Janet closed her eyes and imagined Melanie's face. She imagined her delicate features, her soft, kissable lips, and her long, silky hair. Janet reached up to grab Melanie gently by the neck, slowly pulling her closer. Melanie tilted her head to the side, closing her eyes as they approached. Her elegant smile disappeared from view just as their lips were about to meet.

"Having trouble staying awake, Ms. Haverly?" The image of Melanie shot away as the room came into focus. Janet looked around to see all eyes on her, a few of the students sniggering to themselves. She offered an embarrassed apology as Mr. Towers returned to his lecture.

Janet sat still in her desk, eyes to the front but not paying attention. The professor's voice droned in her ears along with an arrhythmic tap-tap-tap as he wrote on the chalkboard. Janet didn't even know what today's topic was about.

Five hours and forty-five minutes. That's how long until she was finally going to meet Ms. Gilio. That's what Rachel had told her in the morning as they briefly discussed the plan for the day. Rachel also made sure that Janet finally removed the trigger that started it all. She made sure to test it as well, saying Janet's name out loud.

Not much else was said by Rachel that morning. She opted to eat breakfast alone in her room instead of with Janet.

She'd understand in time, Janet was sure of it. For now, Janet tried not to think about it. She tried not to think about the accusations, tried not to feel like a hypocrite.

Unfortunately all that left her to think about was the time remaining until she could meet with Ms. Gilio.

After class was dismissed, Janet put away her papers and books and followed the crowd into the hallway. With calculus over, she was just left with two more classes. Long ones, unfortunately.

Janet walked the hallways towards her next class, the other students flowing around her at a faster pace. She looked up to see Melanie approaching from the other direction. Her hair seemed to flow as if blown by some imaginary wind. Her entourage all flocked around her. Just then, Melanie's beautiful eyes gazed into Janet's as time stood still. Janet's breath caught, and she felt as though her heart were in her ears. Such radiating beauty had Janet mesmerized.

Janet nearly stumbled as she was knocked from behind by the passing students. Catching herself, she turned back in time to see Melanie walking away, just before turning the corner. It happened almost every day. Janet knew Melanie never actually noticed her in the hallways. She was just a nobody. Still, she looked forward to the split-second encounter every time. She lived for it, and soon enough she would have more.

Janet looked at the clock in the hall. Just five more hours.

***

"So what's wrong with you?" the girl said as she placed her tray on the table, taking the seat across from Rachel. On the tray was a small container of thick-cut fries and a triangular-shaped box.

Rachel could smell the pepperoni contained within, a staple of the students that frequented the cafeteria. Her mouth watered a bit as she poked at her packaged salad.

"Just having some issues with a... friend," Rachel responded as she forced a smile on her face.

"Must be important if it's got you down. Want to talk about it?" Rachel had just met Emma this semester, but the two hit if off almost right away. They shared most of the same classes, so it only became natural that they help each other out with their homework. They had already promised that they would sign up for as many courses together as they could next semester.

"I don't know, it's really... complicated."

"Okay," Emma quickly said as she opened the pizza box. She picked up the slice, bringing it to her mouth. The cheese dripped onto her chin as she took a bite. She quickly dropped it back into the container, sucking in air as her hands flapped by her cheeks. "Hot!" she managed to mumble, her mouth full of cheese and bread.

Rachel opened her mouth, ready to say something, but paused briefly. Gathering her thoughts, she began, "You ever feel like you share a connection with someone, but aren't sure how to express it?"

Pulling the melted cheese from her face and licking it off her fingers, Emma replied, "Oh, you looking for a boyfriend now?" She leaned in closer and, with a whisper, added, "is it someone I know?"

Rachel held her palm up at Emma, her voice panicked, as she quickly countered, "N-no! I mean... uh... no one you know. But yeah, kinda..." There was no way she was willing to tell Emma about her feelings for Janet. She wasn't even sure of what it is she felt for her roommate herself.

Emma sat up straight, eyes full of wonder. "Okay, now you HAVE to tell me. I won't take no for an answer!" She pointed her finger at Rachel's face, her elbow planted firmly on the table.

Rachel glowered a bit as she sighed through her nose. "Fine. I met... him this year. He introduced me to a... hobby... of his," she began.

"Oooh, what kind of hobby? Is it something cool, like skateboarding? Or dangerous? Is he a mountain climber?" Emma bounced in her seat energetically, excited to hear the latest gossip.

"It's... a hobby," Rachel iterated. Emma pouted. "And it's something I think I really enjoy, too. Because of this, I feel like I'm starting to feel really close with... him. But every time we do it together..." She saw the sly grin on Emma's face. "The hobby, that is," Rachel clarified, "I think I scare him with how excited I get about it."

"Well assuming you're not going to tell me what this hobby is..." Emma trailed off, hoping Rachel would elaborate after her inflection. Rachel shook her head, so Emma continued, "Weird... but fine. How could you being interested in his interest scare him?"

Rachel went back to poking at her salad. "It's... not something I can really put into words."

"Oookay. Not making it easy for me to help you but... have you tried talking to him about it?"

"I can't. He's kinda... got eyes on someone else." Rachel's voice was sullen and full of defeat. "And I'm kinda helping him get with her." She hung her head in shame, fully aware of how Emma would react.

"Hate to break it to you, but you might be the biggest idiot in this school," Emma said, as she once again attempted to eat her pizza. This time it had cooled enough, eliciting a moan out of the girl as the flavors caressed her tongue.

"Yeah, I guess so..." Rachel added, chuckling a bit despite herself.

"Well, with only that much to go on, not much I can say to help you except..." Emma picked up the small container and held it out towards Rachel. "Want some fries?" Rachel took two, and Emma placed the container on the table between them.

The two switched topics. Rachel continued eating the fries, eventually polishing them off on her own, her salad forgotten. As the end of their lunch came to a close, the two got up together and made their way to their next class.

"I may not be able to give specific advice, but nothing's going to change if you don't try saying something, and no one likes a Debbie-downer. So cheer up, and just be you."

"Thanks, Em," Rachel said warmly, as she put her arm around her friend's shoulder. "I'll keep that in mind."

***

"Sorry to keep you waiting, hope it wasn't for too long." Rachel stood above Janet in the hallway. Much of the traffic from the day had died down, only a scarce few students remained wandering around. Those that were still there were likely heading home themselves.

"That's okay," Janet responded as she stood up. "It gave me time to think about what's about to happen. I can't believe we're actually about to do this." Janet didn't feel quite comfortable discussing the situation with Rachel, given what was said last night. She wasn't certain what else to talk about though.

"Yeah. Let's uh... are you ready?" Her thumb pointed towards the office door. Rachel waited until Janet nodded her head.

The two walked side by side down the hall until Rachel stopped and grabbed Janet by the arm. "Look, Janet. I do think we need to talk about something after this. Tonight, if that's okay. I promised I'd help you with Ms. Gilio, but after that... and I'm sorry about how I've been acting lately. I just... can we just be cool again, for now?" Rachel didn't look at Janet until her last sentence.

"Of course," Janet answered, smiling calmly up at Rachel.

Feeling the tension settle between them, the two girls approached the office door. Rachel knocked twice on the wood. After a moment, the door opened, as Ms. Gilio stood before them in her suit-jacket and slacks. "Rachel. Hello. What brings you to my office for the first time, and with..." the professor gestured towards the other girl.

"Good evening, Ms. Gilio. This is my friend, Janet."

"That's Professor Gilio, as I'm sure I've told you before." She tried to hold her annoyance in check when Rachel simply smiled at her, making no effort to correct herself. "Well come on in and have a seat. And please, shut the door behind you if you don't mind. I do have to warn you, you did catch me near the end of my hours."

Janet took a moment to glance around the room as she sat down. It wasn't very large, only barely able to contain the desk, a small bookshelf, and a smaller filing cabinet. The door was barely able to open without hitting the two chairs that took up the remaining space in the room.

A few diplomas hung on the walls. Janet only spotted one picture on the desk, but it faced away from her. Otherwise the desk held a worn monitor, a phone, a keyboard, and a mouse. The rest of it was cluttered with books and papers, arranged rather chaotically about.

"So, what do you need?" Ms. Gilio questioned. Rachel wasn't doing poorly in her class, so she couldn't discern why she would need to come to her for help, let alone with a friend that the professor had never seen before. The girl had always been a bit aloof, though, and it didn't sit well with her teaching style. Unfortunately for her, Rachel had managed to act out just enough to avoid any kind of discipline. Ms. Gilio wondered if it was intentional, or if the girl had just been lucky thus far.

"So my friend here," Rachel said, pointing towards Janet, "came up with this neat little graphic that she said is based on some sort of mathematical mumbo-jumbo." Rachel paused when she saw the disappointment in Ms. Gilio's eyes at her phrasing. "I asked her how it was made, and she made a bet that no one would be able to figure it out. I told her if anyone here could it'd be you, but she insists otherwise."

Rachel leaned back, a smug grin on her face. It was her suggestion that they play to the teacher's ego. Now they just had to wait and see if the professor would take the bait.

"So you came here to use me to try to win a bet?" Ms. Gilio's eyes narrowed at Rachel. Thankfully there were fewer and fewer days left until the end of the semester. Then she could finally be rid of the annoying student.

She glanced over at Janet, unimpressed. Any friend of Rachel's is likely to be just as troublesome, and this shorter girl has the audacity to underestimate her? She didn't spend over a decade of her life obtaining a doctorate to be undervalued by some upstart. So what if she was stuck teaching entry-level college math? It was the only nearby position that was available at the time. She could easily find a more fitting position when she was ready to move. At least she still had the resources to continue her research, limited though they were.

With a huff, Ms. Gilio finally spoke up. "Fine, show it to me."

Janet reached into her bag and pulled out her tablet, quickly turning it on. While the professor tapped her finger on the desk, Janet loaded the program. Once up and running, she placed the tablet on the desk, facing the older woman.

Pushing her glasses up, Ms. Gilio reached for the device, bringing it closer. She studied the image momentarily, before glancing back up at Janet. "Hmm, I'd say it definitely shares some characteristics with the game of life."

While Janet raised her eyebrows in surprise, Rachel stared incredulously at the professor. "Uh, what does this have to do with a board game?"

The professor sighed. "I'm talking about the game of life by John Conway, not some simple children's toy." Unsurprised at Rachel's ignorance, Ms. Gilio turned to Janet, gesturing slightly to her to see if she was able to explain it correctly. Perhaps she misjudged the girl... slightly.

"It's a kind of simulation. There are a set of rules that govern how the simulation runs. The idea is to see how the game evolves on its own with different start points. It's a representation of population growth and decay." Janet sat there proudly as she watched the professor.

"And in English?"

Janet turned to face Rachel. "Well, you fill in a blank grid with colored squares of any arrangement. Depending on the surrounding blocks, certain blocks will either stay colored or go dark, as you apply the rules."

Ms. Gilio's stern demeanor began to soften. "Can't say I'm unimpressed. How'd you go about populating the starting point?" the professor questioned, as she returned to look at the screen.

With enthusiasm, Janet began explaining all the calculations and equations that went into the visual aspect of her program, using wild gestures and words that Rachel had never heard before. Eventually, Janet looked down as she felt something squeezing her knee. She followed the arm up to Rachel, who was glaring at her, and nodding her head sideways towards the professor. 'Oh!' Janet thought.

Thinking quickly while the professor was still looking at the screen, Janet began speaking again. "So yeah, I'm sure you understand the basics of it. But there's something else about it that's not so apparent. In order to see it, you have to stare at the screen. You can only see it if you look closely enough, focus on the shapes enough. Focus on the way they move and dance, on the way that they seem to pop in and out of existence."

"Hmm, I guess it's mildly interesting," Ms. Gilio began as she looked up at Janet. "Now if you'll excuse me, my office hours are about up, and I need to get going." The professor began organizing some papers on her desk.

Janet didn't know what to say. Ms. Gilio should have been more docile by now, she had been staring at the screen far longer than Rachel had when the program was first used. Did the person make a difference? Janet had only tried it on Rachel so far, so she didn't have a very big sample size to form any conclusions. Was intelligence a factor? Janet turned to Rachel, seeing a similarly confused look on her face as she stared back. No, Rachel wasn't dumb, Janet had to give her friend more credit than that.

Janet studied the professor as she continued to pack her things away, her mind racing. They were running out of time. Any minute now Ms. Gilio would tell them to put the tablet away and force them out of the room. It would be more difficult to convince the professor to give up her time to look at the program again on a different day, and waiting wouldn't necessarily solve the problem. Janet still didn't know why the professor wasn't being affected.

'Come on, Janet', she thought. 'You can do this. What's different?' She studied everything. The distance the professor was from the screen. The angle of the screen in reference to the professor. The shape of the glasses on the professor's face. The color of the professor's eyes.

'Wait a minute.' Janet stared at the glasses. 'Could it be those? A simple glass lens shouldn't have any affect...' She struggled to work out what about her program might be affected by different materials, but was coming up short. 'Unless... if those are polarized. Perhaps...' Janet couldn't be sure if that was the professor's shield. She'd have to look into it later. For now, she decided she just had to figure out a way around it. It seemed the most likely cause.

If the glasses only allowed polarized light of one direction in, does that mean the power of the program was oppositely polarized? Or it could be that direction didn't matter, and the glasses would block it regardless. If she rotated the tablet, maybe the program would take effect, but then the screen would be dark. Would it work then? She was out of time, she had to try.

Janet stood up and turned her tablet on its side. "If you don't mind, Ms. Gilio, there's just one more thing I'd like to show you with my program. Could you please take a look?" Everything was riding on this moment.

Ms. Gilio stopped what she was doing as she looked back at the tablet, annoyance painted on her face. The screen appeared dark through her glasses. "A blank screen?"

Janet fell back in her seat in defeat. Ms. Gilio clearly wasn't being affected. Janet looked down at the floor. She tried picturing Melanie's face, her ultimate goal. As she did, the face began to drift away and fade before her. Janet's shoulders slumped. She was so close. Now she had to find another way to get with Melanie. Sure it wasn't an impossible task, but... she was just so close today. She might as well just get up and go home now. Perhaps tomorrow Rachel would-

Janet was brought back to reality by the hand rapidly tapping her shoulder. She looked to Rachel, eyes full of wonder as she stared ahead. Janet followed her gaze over to the professor.

Ms. Gilio was staring at the screen, her mouth parted. Held aloft in her own hand were her glasses.

A sudden rush of embarrassment plowed through Janet. 'Of course!' she thought. How could she ignore the simplest of solutions? All she needed to do was ask the teacher to remove her glasses.

Janet chastised herself before allowing the excitement to fill her. None of that mattered anymore. She had done it! The two girls turned to each other to share in their elation. The program worked!

"So now what?" said Rachel as she beamed at Janet. She was happy for her friend, and excited for what was to come.

"Now we deepen the programming, make sure it has a firm hold on her." She made a mental note to look into the polarization effect later. For now, she had a professor to transform.

Speaking softly, Janet began, "Ms. Gilio, keep staring at the screen. Let the colors dance in front of you as they begin filling your mind." She paused. She decided on a more personal approach over the spiel that she had planned.

"I want you to imagine something for me, Ms. Gilio. Imagine that your mind is like the game of life. All your thoughts are like the starting points in the game. Imagine these thoughts filling up the grid. Can you see the grid, Ms. Gilio? Is it filled up with the color of your thoughts?"

"Yes..."

"Very good. Now, we're going to play a special version of the game of life. In this version, no matter what the starting position, it will always end with a blank board. Every time you apply the rules, some thoughts will slowly fade away to nothing. The more times you run through the game, the more your thoughts will begin to fade away. I want you to start playing the game for me, Ms. Gilio. Play the game and imagine the thoughts on the grid shifting around and slowly disappearing. One by one. Keep going until the grid is blank. When it is, please say 'I am blank'."

Rachel had been sitting there silent the whole time. She kept glancing between Janet and Ms. Gilio, too overwhelmed to do anything. She watched as the life drained from her professor's face. Her body began to tingle. She could almost see herself in her professor's place, could almost feel herself losing all her thoughts. It wasn't her, though, but it still felt so good. And to watch Janet walk her through it all, Rachel was surprised she didn't let out a moan right then and there.

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byShadra© 5 comments/ 8050 views/ 6 favorites

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