First Guest Post: The Tell-Tale TI-84

This is a parody of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart”

True! — angry — very, very dreadfully angry I had been and am; but why will you say that I am unintelligent? My environment had stripped me of my natural brilliance, and I never wished to commit my crime. It was, rather, a stroke of ingenuity that prompted me to action, and yet you chastise me for it? Hearken, now, and observe the minute detail with which I account for my deeds.

It wasn’t that I was lazy or unintelligent. In fact, I fancied myself quite the opposite. By pure chance I had landed in the remedial mathematics course, slumped in the back of a dingy concrete cell, halfheartedly prying my eyelids apart as I scraped my pencil across a well-worn page in a feeble pretense of note-taking. Sleeping aids were completely unnecessary within the confines of this prison; no insomniac could hope to withstand the soporific effects of the professor’s droning. I could never glean a strand of information from the daily lectures, and this was not my fault. Nonetheless, I failed every test and assignment.

Here you believe I am lazy and slow. I beg to differ. I was not lazy, for each night I diligently completed the day’s assignment. I was not slow, for I was able to finish these mundane tasks quickly and with ease. I do not deny that the quality of my work could have been questionable, but I finished the problems rapidly and deftly. Something must have gone wrong, however, for somewhere along the line my genius failed me. I did not know why I did so poorly, when I was obviously giving my all. It must have been the calculator I used — yes, it was!

The calculator of menace, of evil, of all things unseen and malicious. There it sat calmly upon the professor’s desk while a graphed parabola smiled complacently from its screen. It dutifully solved the most complicated of problems, its innocence belying its true darkness. For I, and only I, knew. The calculator had a mind of its own. It was a crafty creature, a delicate plastic shell seducing the students’ trust, while inside schemes of horrific caliber raced through the copper wires of its intestines. It was the calculator! — yes, the calculator! — that was responsible for all my woes. If I rid myself of the calculator once and for all, the despicable burden of math class would be lifted from my burning shoulders. Where the dense nimbus of failure and humiliation enveloped me now, there would be a gossamer veil of A’s, academic awards, and math trophies. The calculator was responsible for all my problems! I resolved, then and there, to rid myself of its menace forever.

It was a hot, muggy, stifling summer day. I stumbled blearily into mathematical purgatory, where the tortured souls of Pythagoras and Pascal shrieked with glee as they shoved burning slices of pi down my gullet. As usual, I slumbered through the lecture, and was awakened by the scraping of chairs signaling the end of the class. As the professor handed back quizzes, I steeled my mind for the worst; I had never gotten more than a D. The latest quiz was no exception to this stultifying pattern. With icy, clenched fingers I took the paper from my glaring professor. I turned it over and sighed. Another huge F graced the front of the smudged page. As I touched the harsh declaration of my stupidity, my fingers stung with shameful pain, and the cruel red lines of blood blossomed on my hand, marring the test with ruddy stains. I concluded that this was because I had gotten a papercut, and resolved to be more careful in the future.

It was at that exact moment that I had my epiphany. I had received a 4 out of 57 on the test because I had lost 53 points. If the calculator had been gone, if the professor had not had the convenience of the calculator, I would have evaded an F. My eyes narrowed to slits as I studied the calculator from its perch on the desk. The room was empty now. The students had all left for lunch, and the professor had ducked over to the copy room, undoubtedly to mass-produce more exams of horror. Here was my chance. The conditions were perfect. This was my destiny, speaking to me!

With the stealth of a ninja clad in thick woolen stockings, I stole over to the professor’s desk. There it sat, grinning smugly, its fingerprinted keys worn with use. All my hatred welled up inside me and boiled over, gushing out from every pore of my being. “I HATE YOU!” I screamed at the calculator, all traces of subtlety gone. “WHY DO YOU EVEN EXIST?” I reached into my pocket and yanked my platinum scimitar from its sheath. It was the weapon to trump all weapons, radiating with power and glory — it was the letter opener.

With a ferocious roar that would have caused lions to tremble and quake, I lunged forth and stabbed viciously at the calculator. I hacked! I slashed! I swung my blade in desperation-fueled fury! At length I dropped the blade and used my fingers to wrench the beast apart. I dislodged the innards, snapped circuit boards, ripped wires, severed solder. Around and around I twirled, gnashing my teeth, destroying my enemy, my fingers swiftly and nimbly reducing the calculator to shreds. At length my rabid death dance settled, and I stepped back, my exhausted breast heaving, to survey the damage.

It was a horrific display. Copper, nickel, silver fragments gleamed everywhere. Plastic keys and broken faceplate fragments littered the desk like painted shrapnel. Footsteps! I gasped. My professor was returning! Quickly I dropped to my knees. The footsteps grew louder! I scrambled with agile fingers, picking up tiny shards of metal, thrusting them forcefully into the garbage can. I continued my work. Louder! The steps resounded in the hall! Frantically I continued the cleanup. My hands combed through the carpet, gathering the remnants of the calculator and I stood up and threw the bits of plastic into the trash can and I grabbed the bag and tied it up and I ran across the room and I was slipping on the carpet as the footsteps echoed ever closer and I wrenched open the closet door and hurled the bag in and slammed the doors and turned away as the door opened with a mocking creak and the professor stepped in.

“Oh, hello, Brillianto!” he said, looking at me in surprise. “What are you doing here still?”

My heart thundered against my ribcage, but I ignored it and smiled brightly. “Nothing, sir. Just leaving.” I imagined a faint clicking in my ears, like a button being pressed repeatedly. I kept talking, blundering around for words, smiling as I packed up. The clicking grew steadily louder. I shook my head vigorously; a migraine began raging in my skull, shattering my composure. The clicking grew louder! — I shouted — I jerked my limbs in a twisted, agonized dance! — I scraped the chair against the table! — I kicked and slapped at the walls — louder it grew — up up up the decibel scale! — I screamed now, and all the while my professor stood calmly, nodding and smiling. The clicking was now a pulsing beat in my ears — he knew, he must know — his smile was a mockery of my panic — ! At length I could bear it no longer.

“Radians!” I shrieked, “haunt me no more! I admit it! — here, in this closet — I admit it, yes! I STABBED YOUR CALCULATOR!”

By: Mill Harass

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