A Well Rounded Education
by K. L. Zolnoski
Yvette hurried across campus to her next class. Behind her followed three of her classmates. After a pop quiz in hydrodynamics she was looking forward to her “easy” class.
“Man,” Keith started the traditional round of complaints, “why do we have to waste our time on these pud classes?”
“Yeah,” Jason piped up, following Keith’s lead like he always did. “Why can’t we just focus on our major?”
“This stupid class is a waste of time.” Edward muttered as they filed through the door and up a flight of wide stairs to the room where their class was held.
Yvette quietly reminded them, “We need a well rounded education.” She took her syllabus out of a blue hardcover folder as she slid into the seat she had chosen for the class, glad that no one had gotten there first. She read over the course title and comforting number of credits it would provide towards her Humanities requirement.
The Genesis and Analysis of Modern Mythologies
Course Credit: 3 Hrs.
“Maybe it’ll inspire us in Engineering.” She offered with a smile.
“Oh come on, Yvette,” Kieth chided her settling into the chair next to her. “This is just an easy A to pad our GPA and meet an elective or humanities requirement. We’re studying myths. Not anything real.”
“Yeah,” Jason chuckled, “It’s not like it’s Calc, or Thermo.”
“Oh god,” Ed groaned. “Speaking of Thermo, how did you solve question 5, Yvette?”
“Question 5?” Yvette asked in surprise, “Well it was obviously a heat pump. You started with a Carnot Equation, didn’t you?”
“Oh my god,” Jason flopped down beside Kieth and dropped his head into his hands.
Yvette raised both eyebrows, “How did solve for the Coefficient of Performance for the heat pump if you didn’t use Carnot?”
“They didn’t!” Keith laughed.
“Thank god for partial credit,” Ed grumbled. He chose a seat behind Keith and flopped down.
Around them the classroom slowly filled in with a variety of students. Most of their classmates took the course for the same reason they had. Some of their classmates were genuinely interested in the material. Either way it was a popular course.
Professor Sandis entered the room and tapped the lectern with the end of his laser pointer. “Yesterday we got as far as the 1950’s and that means today we will begin our discussion of Kaiju.”
“Kaiju?” several students echoed in surprise.
“Yes. Kaiju,” Professor Sandis smiled. “In 1954 a cultural icon and a new myth was born. You know it as Godzilla.”
“When are we going to get to Zombies?” Sasha blurted out.
“Those come a bit later. The modern Zombie wasn’t imagined until 1968 in Night of the Living Dead, although the myth Romero used as a springboard for his masterpiece is dated back as far as 1838.” The professor paused and smiled.
“Today, however; we are discussing Kaiju. The modern Kaiju myth has a distinct pattern that it follows. There is almost always an environmental element. Something humankind is doing to violate nature causes the genesis of the monster.”
He strode to the board and wrote down the number 1 followed by ‘Environmental.’
“While nuclear radiation is the first insult to the environment, other insults have been brought up. Things like,” he marked a dash under the first line on the board and wrote rapidly, “Global warming, toxic rivers; the original Godzilla had an oxygen destroyer in it.”
“BOD,” Yvette whispered with a grin.
“BOD?” The professor turned a questioning look Yvette’s way.
Yvette flushed, “Um…yeah. BOD, you know, Biological Oxygen Demand. It’s…well it’s a way of measuring how much dissolved oxygen is in a specimen of water. You see the aerobic bacteria require a certain amount of oxygen to break down organic material. If there’s a lot of organic material the bacteria will consume so much oxygen that the fish struggle to breathe. Um…measuring the BOD lets us know how effective water treatment plants are.”
“That’s a very good observation,” the professor nodded. “That would be an interesting springboard for a Kaiju story.”
Yvette shook her head, unsure what to make of the easy acceptance of hard science into a class like this.
“So what kinds of things do you think might be in a Kaiju story?” Professor Sandis asked the class.
All around hands slowly went up. One by one the professor indicated that people should answer.
“Plastic water bottles,” came one answer.
“What about plastic water bottles?” The professor urged them to think more about the things they were saying.
“Well,” Ed spoke quietly into the silence, “they leach hormone mimics into the water they contain and when they get thrown away they clog rivers, collect in the oceans and leach those same hormone mimicking chemicals.”
“And that can’t be good for the animals and fish that have to drink or live in that water,” Professor Sandis completed, “Excellent. What else?”
“Chemical runoff,” another student offered. “When pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on fields a lot of times they run off into waterways.”
“Poisoning the water. Good, good,” Professor Sandis encouraged them. “Anything else?”
“Global warming,” Katy offered the answer that had been given earlier.
“Pollution,” Solange spoke up.
“Strip mining,” Kurt said loudly.
“Deforestation,” James actually came up with an answer.
And finally Chuck blurted, “Cow flatulence!”
Professor Sandis shook his head in resignation while everyone laughed. “Alright, back to Kaiju.” He turned back to the board and wrote as he spoke. “Number 2. A Kaiju movie generally contains social commentary. Oftentimes there is a strong woman in the movie. We frequently see a self-taught scientist or a scientist who had his theory rejected by the establishment end up being vindicated, sometimes tragically.”
“You’d think number 2 would be rain and dark of night,” Ed muttered. “Monsters never show up in the middle of the day when the sky is clear.”
Suddenly the whole room shook violently. Books and papers slid off desks. Several students fell off their chairs. Professor Sandis grabbed the podium to keep from falling down.
“Earthquake,” Someone whispered and everyone scrambled to get under desks.
The shaking ended as quickly as it came. Cautiously they came out from their hiding places, watching the ceiling for any falling objects.
After a few minutes of calm they resumed their seats and Professor Sandis, the lecture. “Kaiju mythologies also tend to illustrate the arrogance and helplessness of man when facing natural phenomena.”
“Like an earthquake,” Chuck quipped, recovering his humor as quickly as he’d scrambled under the table previously.
“Like an earthquake,” Professor Sandis agreed with a wry smile.
Then it happened again. The whole building seemed to shake. This time a sound like a train crashing into a tornado accompanied the shaking. Outside sirens began to wail.
“What’s going on?” Solange demanded, looking to the window.
“Now just remain calm,” Professor Sandis kept his voice calm yet authoritative. “Perhaps there was an explosion somewhere.”
The building shook again. This time the students scrambled for the door.
Keith grabbed Yvette’s hand, pulling her away from the books she was trying to grab on her way out. “Forget those, Yvette. We’ve got to run.”
Jason grabbed her other hand, “Yeah, girl. Books can be replaced. You can’t.”
Ed followed, “Try to cut across the crowd so we get out of the pack and don’t get trampled.”
The tremors came more frequently and several students fell down the stairs, knocked off their feet by the increasingly violent shaking. The four made their way down the stairs and outside. They kept each other on their feet and together in the thick of the mobbed panic of the other students.
Outside they stopped and stared at the city skyline. The sun was just starting to slide down the horizon towards sunset. From the campus they could see into the heart of downtown. There, separated from them by the narrow ribbon of a river stood an enormous reptilian creature. It stood for only a moment before taking a step towards them. Its footfall caused the earth to shake.
All around them people ran screaming back into buildings. They were searching for some safe place to hide. Local police officers with bull horns were telling people to evacuate.
Yvette just stared, “That can’t be real.”
“It’s real enough,” Keith turned to run.
“Where are we going?” Ed asked following along.
Jason watched the creature knock over an offending skyscraper, bellowing its rage at the sky.
Yvette stopped and watched, “We can’t possibly know where a safe place is if we don’t know what it’s after or why it’s here.”
“Let the government figure that out. Now run!” Keith shouted.