The Eighth Page

Allegory of the Cage

SocrACTs [test administrator]:
“Ah, students, the clock strikes five of ten on this lovely morning. The hour of truth is nearly upon us. Yet, what is truth? Oh students, this is not the truth.

In 300 seconds, there will be four answers for every question on the stark page before you, and yet only one of these will be the truth. But it is not your truth, oh students. Your truth is so much grander – every wish and dream that winks and beckons so sensuously… that is your truth.

Your truth cannot be counted using integers, fractions, imaginary or rational numbers. Yet your truth is the greatest rationality of them all; it is your only rational reason to continue living.

Ah, students, you must know that life does not work in the way of this test. There is no answer sheet for the universe. There is no standardized way to exist.

Behold! You sit upon those chairs and glare at me as if I was to be your executioner – as if your legs were chained to the linoleum underfoot and I, some puppeteer of your fate, dangled this sacred testing booklet above the waltzing flame of a fire, mocking you.

I perceive the impatient clicking of your pencils like the ticking of the clock… the clock: it is now so insignificant, yet in several moments every exacting second counted by that brilliant machinery may be the difference of several fateful points in the science section, your least favorite section of them all.

Yet, in truth, students, the science of time is what you really must learn. Time is of the essence – we all know that. But what is the essence of time? Older and older we grow and sink, our cells degenerating and regenerating each instant.

As the graphs within that science section rise and fall, so too do our moods and the course of our lives and the intensity of our happiness, and as the graph creeps closer to zero we creep closer to the grave.

Soon you will have lost your way, just as I have. Some call it a mid-life crisis, but the real crisis is our faulty understanding of this disillusioned life.

And soon after that, you will lie upon your bed of the ages, never once wondering why your gut instinct was to choose ‘NO CHANGE’ rather than ‘DELETE the underlined portion’ on the English section of this very test.

It was possible for you to delete the underlined portion, but you may never delete the mistakes you make for all the compounding minutes of your weary life following this test. You can only apologize to others, and you can never forgive yourself.

Forgiveness is a rare jewel sunken in the gritty sands beneath the river of time.

Soon, students, the silken thread of your mortality will reach its end like the ‘STOP HERE’ written at the end of this test –

Oh, no! Would you look at that! We’re ten minutes behind schedule! I’m sure you all will be fine with a bit less time on this section. Open your booklets, and you may begin!”