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 My heart starts hammering as I walk behind the partition. Mrs. Bayard is sitting at a large table that appears to have all kinds of things and equipment on it. “Gwenevere Lark?” she confirms, glancing at a sheet.


“Take a seat please, right here, and try to relax. This will be very quick and painless, I promise. I will ask you to perform several brief tasks, some of which may seem a little odd or unusual. Just do them to the best of your ability.”

“Okay. . . .” I head over to the empty chair next to her. My hands rest in my lap, and I feel them clamming up.

Mrs. Bayard places a blank sheet of paper on the table in front of me, and a pencil. “Please write your full name on top of the page, on the left.”

I do as she asks, making a painful effort to print my name as clear and large as possible, since usually my handwriting is messy and kind of unreadable.

When I look up, Mrs. Bayard is holding up a white plastic object in her palm. I recognize it as some kind of geometrical 3-D shape.

“This is a regular dodecahedron,” says the teacher, putting the object down on the table before me. “It’s a polyhedron with twelve faces, each face being a pentagon. Basically, it’s just a shape with five sides, rendered in three dimensions.”

“Okay,” I say. “Yes, I know.”

“Good. Now, I want you to draw it.”


Mrs. Bayard sighs. I imagine she’s had to deal with a similar reaction far too many times today.

“Simply think of it as art class. Just draw this item the best you can, a quick sketch.”

“I am not a good artist—”

“It doesn’t matter. Just do the best you can.”


I glance at the dodecahedron, and feel a burst of panic. Drawing is just not my strength, although I don’t suck at it completely. I try to imagine my brother Gordie in my place, and how he would smile and sketch a masterpiece in thirty seconds.

I try to channel Gordie as I draw a five-sided figure, then lamely try to add 3-D sides at various angles, and then some shading to it to make it fancy.

“That’s fine now.” Mrs. Bayard reaches forward and takes the paper away from me as I am still shading a side. In its place she slides a tablet computer before me.

“Now, I want you to look at some pictures on the touch screen. There are four images displayed at a time. Quickly choose one of these images that appeals to you most. Keep going until the program ends.”

I see the screen is divided into four, and each quadrant shows a natural landscape in distinct colors. There’s a turquoise-blue island beach scene, a green forest meadow, an orange sunset, and a rosy mist-covered mountain range. I pick the sunset, and the screen shuffles and displays a new set of four images. I pick a moonlit night. Another four pops up, I choose the shady forest. Then, I pick a red canyon.

This keeps going for at least a minute. Series of landscapes with different color schemes, sunset, night, green forest, blue sky, ocean, all come at me in a barrage. Finally the screen goes blank grey and it’s done.

Mrs. Bayard removes the tablet and pushes a strange piece of equipment before me.

I stare at it, and suddenly I get the strongest feeling it is not from Earth.

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