Greetings, students, and beware, for you are about to embark on a journey of eldritch erudition, mind-bending mathematics, and scholarship from beyond the pale. First, let me inform you that Mrs. Figgins will not be with us today. The maddening transformation of pallor and physique that culminated in her maternity leave hath subsumed her person wholly and completely. Second, let me also inform you that your usual substitute arithmetic teacher, Mr. McAuliffe will not be with us either. Two days ago, the police, who broke down Mr. McAuliffe’s door after complaints from the neighbors of bloodcurdling screams during the night, found a notebook on his kitchen table that seemed to indicate that he had worked out pi to the last place. McAuliffe was nowhere to be found, but the distinct odor of sulfur and the neatly piled stacks of clean, dried animal bones in the corner gave them pause. That, and they found two cats in the microwave, only one of which was partially devoured.
As for me, my name is Mr. Lovecraft and, while this is not my area of expertise, I will endeavor to guide your fragile, young minds along the perilous precipice of public school mathematics curricula.
Here is a syllabus, not of my design, but an ancient schedule etched into papyrus wrought from human flesh by the long-forgotten civilization of Rand-McNally. Take one and pass the rest along, then please take out your Trigonometricons, the fabled Sumerian textbooks of the dead. I shudder to advise you to purchase the workbook online for additional practice, as all those who have tried to contact the writhing terrors of the Princeton Review’s customer service department are either dead or insane. Yes, I see your hand is raised, but please hold your questions until the end. I heard that, by the way. This isn’t “lame,” Kelly; this is more important than you can possibly imagine. I am not a “dweeb,” I am your substitute teacher. Stop whispering unholy incantations under your breath; I’m not deaf and I don’t appreciate ensorcellment in my classroom.
Enough admonishment—it’s time for the warning. A word of caution, children, before we discuss the arcane contents of this stygian course: some mathematics were not meant for man to understand. This is Cartesian devilry of a black and necromantic sort, dreamed up by the twisted designs of sinister scholastic gods, existing purely to tempt and destroy mankind with its elusive secrets. Topics to be covered include: non-Euclidean geometry, dividing by zero, Cthulu’s Principle of Inverse Sanity, approaching and surpassing asymptotes, Fermat’s Next-to-Last Theorem, gazing into the depths of a parabola, and the dreaded unit circle. There will be a midterm approximately halfway through the semester, a final exam, and a group project in which you will be made to calculate the precise time of your own death using an abacus made of haunted rosary beads.
For those of you thinking of coordinating an attempt to disrupt the course of this class by dropping your books on the floor at precisely 10:03 AM, then let me remind you that the last time a group of mostly virginal youths such as yourself attempted such a thing, one student got a paper cut and the books formed a pentagram where they fell. The spilled blood released Shub-Niggurath, The Black Goat of The Woods with a Thousand Young, from her eternal slumber. Needless to say, the bloodshed and maddening terror that followed resulted in an early release, but all those students who had participated and not been slain were given Saturday detention. Any unexcused absences will require either a doctor’s note or some sort of proof of your otherworldly exploits, like a necklace of teeth awarded to you by a cannibal king along with a parental permission slip or else your final grade will be lowered by .666 of a point.
That covers most of the grisly horrors and unforeseen dreads that await us in today’s class. Are there any questions? I will do my best to provide an answer to your queries, but know that some questions cannot be unasked. Once uttered, you may teeter over the edge of that infinitely black chasm we call “the tenuous cord of human reason,” plunging headlong into the unknown depths of mind-shattering terror.
Yes, you there with the pigtails and the underbite? Whether or not we can adopt Mr. McAuliffe’s undevoured cat as a class pet is unknown to me. I’ll ask the principal, but after I handed in my I-9 forms, written in blood per his request, he disappeared in a bilious yellow cloud of smoke. In short, I don’t know.
Anyone else? No, you may not use the bathroom. According to a grizzled janitor that I encountered a fortnight prior, the boys’ bathroom was built over an ancient Iroquois burial ground and all those unfortunate souls who enter that foul chamber have had their flesh flayed from their bodies and the paper towels have never been restocked.
No, put your hand down, Kelly. The time for questions has passed. Now, we begin our strange voyage into the Pythagorean by watching Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, a film which both touches upon mathematics and the myriad horrors of the human condition. It’s not as good as Black Swan, but I would be derelict in my duty as a teacher if I showed a fun, upbeat film like that to a group of impressionable youths.