“You may begin,” the professor said.
Carmen looked around surreptitiously. Was everyone else’s paper blank? It was impossible to tell. The students closest to her were crouched over their paper, shielding their work from other students’ gazes.
Should she say something? The class had 400 students in it; surely hers was not the only blank exam, if it was an error.
Silence in the classroom, except for the shuffle of papers and the scratching of pencils as students filled in their exams. Carmen leafed through her exam, turning pages, double-checking it was blank.
She glanced at the professor. Dr. Emilius stood at the lectern, surveying the class.
She tried to catch the professor’s attention. Nothing.
She raised her hand. Still nothing. The professor stood at the lectern briefly and then took out some papers from a portfolio.
Steeling herself, Carmen stood up, picked up her exam paper and edged out along the row to the aisle. The auditorium was big. She walked down the steps toward the podium, rehearsing what to say to the professor.
“Professor, there must be some mistake,” was too vague.
“I need a different exam,” seemed too impertinent.
“I’m sorry, but my exam seems to be blank,” is what she decided on by the time she reached the front of the room.
“Dr. Emilius,” she began. The professor did not look up. He continued reading the paper in front of him.
“Professor,” she started again, her voice a little louder this time. He glanced up at the class. But he did not look at her or give any indication he had heard her.
Okay, this was weird. She was worried before, but now she was starting to get mad. What had she done to him? What right did he have to disregard her this way?
She opened her mouth to say something, perhaps demand a new exam, protest his treatment of her, when he said, almost in audibly, “Congratulations, Ms. Fuentes, you are invisible. Please turn in your exam and read this paper. It’s an academic paper on the research you will need to do.”
Startled, Carmen set her blank exam paper on the podium and picked up the paper he had set down. It was an academic paper, entitled “Generating the Virtual Cloak of Invisibility,” from a publication called The Journal of New Physics.
She was stunned. Not knowing what to think, she stood there for a moment. But then a thrill ran through her. Invisible! Really? It was strange, but she somehow believed it. She took the paper, went back to her seat and grabbed her things, then headed for the back door of the auditorium. None of the students seemed to notice her.