A distant rumbling sounded and the floor quaked beneath Victor’s feet. The rumbling grew louder and shook the room. The blackboard split in two with a loud bang, knocking Victor to the ground. Through the brickwork on the wall a wide crack zigzagged down and shot out across the floor. Dust and debris rained down; the ceiling fan dropped and crushed two students, shattering them into a thousand fragments of powdery stone. The floor shook with increasing violence and soon all the students, and the teacher as well, were crumbling to ashes. The rumbling roared like thunder and then, suddenly, stopped.
Silence and stillness alighted on the half-demolished classroom, and Victor sat up and looked around. In the centre of the room a sphere of light the size of a tennis ball hovered a metre off the ground. Victor got up and went toward it. He stretched out his hand to touch the light, but before he reached the sphere it burst, instantaneously saturating the room in brightness. Victor felt himself lifted from the floor. A golden haze swept all around in wide swirls, cleansing and purifying. Laughter rang out and triumphant horns blasted. Butterflies floated past, the smell of fresh baked bread wafted beneath Victor’s nostrils, and he felt the sensation of rushing down a water slide. The pop and sizzle of fireworks, the raucous chirping of a flock of lorikeets, the first bars of The Beatles’ “She Loves You”—a hundred happy sounds intertwined and soared to the crescendo of a roaring crowd and the jubilant cry of a sports commentator: “It’s a miracle! Grimes has kicked the goal! The Saints win! The Saints win!”
This whole spectacle of the bursting ball of light, as full and splendorous as it was, occurred within in a single second. And when that miraculous second was over, Victor found himself in an amber fog. When the fog dissipated, as though it was all a magic trick, the classroom and everyone in it had vanished. All that surrounded Victor now was a dusty linen closet that smelled of mothballs, and a lollipop on the floor.
Victor looked around in the dim light provided by a small candle lamp mounted to the wall. He tentatively pushed against a shelf, then banged it with his fist. The shelf stood firm. In a sudden rampage he pulled blankets and towels down, threw an ironing board against the ceiling, emptied a sewing kit onto the floor and pushed a set of shelves over so it crashed and leaned diagonally against the opposite wall. Finally he stood there panting, his fists clenched at his sides—and then he began to laugh. Louder and louder he laughed, at times crossing over into sobs, before collapsing on the floor. He laid there for a long time, before sitting up and looking around the ransacked room. Victor took a long, deep breath, then stood up, picked the lollipop up off the floor and left the linen closet. In the hall he paused for a moment, then turned around and opened the door he had just passed through. Inside the closet was just as he left it. Victor nodded and closed the door. “Okay,” he said.
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