The Wormhole: A Tragedy

Anna E. Hiller, PhD

Last night I had a nightmare. Unlike most nightmares, it had a developed, complicated plot. And even rarer, it came in the form of a mystery — a terrifying puzzle that I had to solve in order to save the lives of the people I knew that populated the dream.

Dreamscape: Jungle with lush trees; humid to the point of saturation

Characters: Myself, my former students, and a very wise old man

Temporal setting: Present-day

My students are disappearing. They disappear for a few days, and then — unannounced — they come back, slowly emerging from the jungle brush, confused and stumbling and naked. They take in their surroundings and then collapse, weeping. Over the course of the next eight days, they are dissolved by a progressive insanity. On the eighth day, they die. They die ranting about incomprehensible things, they die in tears, they die angry. No one knows why.

A student of mine — one that has taken many courses with me, a popular athlete, a real charmer — has just disappeared, like the others. I am approached by the old man, and he addresses me politely and tells me, slowly: it is up to you to figure this out. It is up to you to figure out why they are dying.

I know that my dear student’s life is at stake: he has just walked out of the humid vines and trees into the clearing, naked and shivering. He has come back. And now he will go crazy, and he will die in eight days if I can’t figure out what is happening.

I go to him. I listen to his wails and his incoherent babble for a few days, knowing that time is short. He says, repeatedly, like a mantra: “Don’t make me do this. Don’t make me live through this. I want to go back, I want to go back.”

To shorten the process of telling this story, and simply because I lack sufficient detail from the dream to be able to narrate it with the attention it deserves, I will stop here and say that my dream self eventually does figure out the mystery, but not soon enough to save my student’s life. This is the first tragedy — the ground floor of it, so to speak. I could not save my student.

The second tragedy, which resides beneath it: I do figure it out. And in figuring it out, I realize that all of us — every person on the planet — we are damned. And we are going to be forced to live through our own damnation. But unlike the eight days of torture that the returning students experience, we will endure eight years of the same.

The mystery behind their deaths, and awaiting us all, is a two-term presidency under that man whose name I refuse to use, and for whom I lack a sufficient moniker as of yet.

The students had been going through a wormhole to a reality eight years in the future. And eight years from now, the world is unrecognizable and hellish. They come back from the wormhole and they realize that they will be forced to live through the eight slow years that brought about the horrific future world that they have witnessed. When they realize this, they mourn with such intensity that it kills them in eight days. And they prefer it: eight days of maximal suffering is more desirable than living the next eight excruciating years.

In my nightmare, death is preferable to surviving that man’s presidency.

I’m not sure — at the moment, which I’m sure will pass (quickly, I hope) — if I totally disagree.

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