John Smith stands before the school, rifle in hand, ready to aim and fire; his troops, nothing but kids who have no idea what they’re about to face , arrayed in front of him. And somehow he knows this situation.
In that ethereal world of sleep, he’s stood here before. Not quite like this, but more similar than not. Waiting in front of a stronghold, in his hands not a rifle but some strange machinery, and not staring at a gate, but at some sort of screen. Alone. Troops, not so different at all from the children here, just as ignorant of the dangers awaiting them (in his dreams he knows the dangers, and fears them. Now he is afraid because he cannot make the first bit of sense of what is coming) , outside the chamber he was in, waiting with bated breath. That hasn’t changed. The gates crash open. The enemy charges and mayhem ensues. This is no different either.
In his dreams he remembers he does something, but John Smith stands there and dares not pull his trigger, for fear of what he might cause (what, what would he cause?) . It feels as if he knows how this situation devolving into chaos will end. They all die. Everyone but him.
Then the bullets thud into straw and the enemy collapses, mere feet in front of the defenders. Straw men, nothing but practice targets. The boys, as well as the headmaster, express their relief, thinking that it’s done and wondering about the things that have taken place here. The relief John Smith feels is attenuated by the distinct feeling that this is not over yet.
Everyone lives, for now. (Except of course that is wrong too, because people have been murdered in town. But those deaths were entirely outside his power to prevent. Here, he has a say.)
It doesn’t last long. Little Lucy Cartwright steps forward, all sweetness and innocence. And he knows, instinctively, that there is something wrong, but he can’t bring himself to say anything, to warn the headmaster, to lift his rifle and finally pull that trigger.
Lucy decides for him by killing the headmaster. A green beam of light hits him and he just disappears. The little girl issues another challenge. This is his chance. In his dreams, this is where he acts, where he commits himself. In reality, he can’t.
He runs. Always the coward he. Behind him, his pursuers take over the school, capture his troops, the loyal schoolboys who knew no better than the follow the orders of their teachers who were supposed to protect them. This is no different from Arcadia (where?) after all.
In his dreams, this all ends in destruction, for his worlds as well as himself. Already John Smith knows that history will repeat itself.
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