Vignettes (II)

Borja Sotomayor
4 min readJun 2, 2015

A Collection of Fantastical Vignettes
set in the University of Chicago

Thus, a compromise was reached. To preserve the quirky culture of the university, each Convocation would now have a theme, chosen exclusively by the students. The administration could not veto it and was required to scrupulously play along with the theme. Not doing so would instantly break the covenant, and all hell would break loose again.

The President opened the envelope with the theme for the first such Convocation. He read the three words written on the piece of paper, and mouthed a silent “Fuck.”

Bastian sighed. The view from the tower of Rosenwald Hall was not having its usual soothing effect. It was nearly midnight, and the eerie calm that swept through the quads failed to permeate into Bastian. There were too many emotions going through his head. Try as he might, he couldn’t escape them, not even here.

As he stared at the occasional student crisscrossing the quad, Bastian heard a familiar rustling of wings behind him.

“Good evening, Galagrax,” said Bastian, without lifting his gaze from the quad.

“Good evening, young master Bastian,” replied a deep and commanding voice.

The imposing seven-foot winged figure, visible only to Bastian and a few others, perched himself on the ledge of the tower.

“Many midnights have passed and many songs have been sung since you last visited the rooftops, young master Bastian. What brings you to the realm of gargoyles and grotesques?”

“I just needed to get away… from down there.”

“My apologies, I should’ve realized you wished to be alone,” replied Galagrax, sounding slightly mortified, “I shall take my leave.”

“No, no, you should stay. I guess I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t expect, at some level, that you’d show up.” Bastian finally lifted his gaze from the quad, and looked at Galagrax, “You’ve always been kind to me, Galagrax. I assume you know what ails me.”

“Alas, I do. Gotradax witnessed the whole thing. Human emotions are not within my purview, but you nonetheless have my sympathies.”

“Stoic as always, huh? I guess I won’t be getting any hollow words of comfort from you, then?”

Galagrax stared into the sky and pondered a response. “Well… does it not comfort you that, of all people, you can discuss your sorrows with a gargoyle?”

And for the first time in several days, Bastian smiled.

Everyone agreed the university had finally jumped the shark when the President announced the creation of a faculty committee on committees.

Over-read in an e-mail from our professor after a giant enemy crab interrupted a lecture the other day:

“To be fair, yesterday’s attack was a minor inconvenience compared to the year we lost a week of classes after a wyvern from the west decided to nest in Ryerson 251. It took the combined skills of three Wizard-Deans (with some help from the Eldermare of the Lake) to get it to leave the room and, even then, the President had to part with one of the university’s Fire Gems to lure the wretched beast away from campus. Fortunately, the faculty committee created after the incident was granted a special dispensation to use the Untemperable Blade if the wyvern tries to return to campus.

So, no matter how difficult your coursework seems, remember that at least you probably won’t have to deal with a fucking firedrake this year.”

“Excuse me, we’re in the middle of our faculty meeti…”

The Chairman of the department stopped himself once he recognized the man who calmly strolled into the room uninvited. It was the Assistant Provost, Johnny “Knuckles” Galiani.

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Chairman,” said Johnny, taking his hat off. “So. How’s everybody doin’?”

The Chairman was still too confounded to say anything. The tenured faculty averted their gaze. The Assistant Professors were not quite sure what was going on.

“What, cat got your tongue? Makes a fella feel like he’s not welcome,” said Johnny as he paced around the conference table.

The Chairman looked meekly at Johnny. “Oh, come on, Johnny,” he said, with a hint of panic in his voice, “we didn’t mean it that way, you’re always welcome here… we just… we weren’t expecting you, is all.”

Johnny walked over to the Chairman, grabbed the back of his head, and slammed it against the conference table. Everyone in the room recoiled.

Johnny held the Chairman’s head up, leaned in, and spoke straight into his ear, “Doesn’t matter if you’re not expecting me, you little shit. I show up, you roll out a fucking red carpet, is that clear?”

“Christ, of course, yes, I’m sorry, Johnny,” blurted out the Chairman, as the faculty murmured in agreement.

“Good.” Johnny let go of the Chairman’s head. “Well, I’ll keep the pleasantries — or unpleasantries, as it where— to a minimum. I’m just here to deliver a message.”

Johnny took out a thick manila envelope from his coat, and dropped it in front of the Chairman.

“The Provost sends his regards.” Johnny put his hat back on, and left the room.

The Chairman opened the envelope, and let the contents slide out onto the table. It was a fish wrapped in journal papers. The tenured faculty gasped.

The Chairman looked at Jimmy Laperno, one of the Assistant Professors.

“Jimmy… I’m so sorry.”

“What? What is it?”

“Your tenure case… it sleeps with the fishes tonight.”

Zimmer’s dragon had gone missing. The faculty committee on faculty dragons could not yet decide whether this was a good thing or a bad thing.




Borja Sotomayor

I am a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Chicago. I write short pieces of fiction for fun. Sometimes I write about serious things too.