A school teacher learns a lesson
“There’s something wrong with those children,” said the middle-aged school teacher, her dark eyes wide and frantic.
“Why, whatever do you mean, Miss Thorpe?” asked the elderly principal of Halley Elementary School. He rubbed his bald head and thought, “Here it comes again, another one of her damn complaints.”
“You mean, you haven't noticed?” she babbled, pointing out the window toward the school yard. "Look at them. They don’t smile or laugh. They don’t even play at recess. It's as though they have no emotions at all. They just walk around like a bunch of zombies!”
“I believe their new teacher, Mr. Bones, has done a marvelous job, Miss Thorpe. If you recall, they were a classroom of children that were at best, shall we say . . . unruly?”
“Children are supposed to be unruly, that’s only natural! But what they’re doing now is just not normal. In fact, I’d say it was very abnormal!”
“Now, now, Miss Thorpe,” said Principal Hardy as he tried to calm her down. “Let’s not make a mountain out of a molehill here. I have heard nothing but praise for Mr. Bones and all he’s done with these children. Besides, the parents seem very happy.”
“Mr. Hardy, I have been teaching children for over twenty years and have never seen kids behave this way.”
“And just what is it that you propose I do?” The Principal looked up over the top of his eyeglasses at the second-grade teacher.
“I propose that you look in on Mr. Bones from time to time . . . unannounced.”
“So your problem is not with the children, it’s with Mr. Bones.”
“Well, yeah . . . oh, I don’t know. I’ve been watching him. There’s just something about his demeanor. The way he looks at the rest of the staff like he’s better than us or something. His attitude is contemptuous and arrogant!”
“Did you know, Miss Thorpe, that he comes highly recommended? Perhaps his peculiar behavior is due to his European descent. I've gone through all his paperwork and everything is in order; and I’m quite sure all the necessary background checks were made by the school district.”
Miss Thorpe appeared apprehensive. “Yes, but what if those documents were faked? What if he isn’t who he says he is at all? I just have this uneasy feeling about him. Frankly, he gives me the willies! But, I can live with that. It’s the children that I’m concerned about.”
“Look, lunch-time is almost over, Miss Thorpe. Why don’t you return to your class and get ready for the second half of school? I’ll look in on his students later.”
“So you’ll speak to him, then?”
“Well, as a matter-of-fact, his class is beginning a field trip right now, and won’t be back until three.”
“Field trip? Another field trip? My god, man, how many does that make this month . . . four? Have you noticed that all of these so-called ‘field trips’ have no chaperones. He takes the children for walks throughout the city. Does anybody really know where they go?”
“Well, of course I know,” said Hardy, a bit irritated. “Permission slips must accompany every child that leaves the school grounds. He’s taken them to the museum and the Children’s Hospital. They’ve even visited the nearby nursing home to help cheer up the seniors. They’re all very educational outings.”
“Where are they going now, Mr. Hardy?”
Hardy felt as if he was being accused of something. “Why, I believe they're on a simple nature hike to the park. I see nothing wrong with that. Do you?”
“I know, it all sounds innocent enough, but I keep getting these feelings.”
“Feelings, Miss Thorpe? This is all about your feelings?”
Miss Thorpe was becoming agitated. She wrung her hands and paced back-and-forth across the floor. “This is going to sound crazy, but I keep hearing the children calling me! Oh, I know, I know what you're thinking, but it’s true! Right now even -- right this instant, I hear all of them in my head, calling my name. They want me to come to them. They need me, desperately!”
“Miss Thorpe, please, control yourself.”
“I’ve got to go! Something’s wrong -- terribly wrong!” She turned and ran out the door.
“Miss Thorpe, please, where are you going?”
“The children!” she yelled back over her shoulder. “I’ve got to find the children! They need me!”
“But what about your class? Miss Thorpe? Miss Thorpe, come back here!”
Before she knew it, she was in her car and out of the school parking lot when the voices in her head suddenly stopped.
The silence felt strange -- eerie, and then it started to rain.
Miss Thorpe sped down the road toward the park, glancing down the side streets through her wet windshield, desperately looking for the train of small children and their teacher. Right next to the park was the old town cemetery, and as she approached it, she saw them.
“Oh, my god! He’s taken them to the cemetery!”
Quickly, she parked her car and walked up the hill through a maze of headstones. The rain fell harder. She could see Mr. Bones standing on the hill with the children. His large umbrella covered his tall, but gaunt frame. He wore a black hat that made him look more like an undertaker than a teacher. The group turned as one and stared at her as she approached.
“What is the meaning of this, Mr. Bones?” she asked, as she reached where they stood. “Why are these children here, in the pouring rain?”
“Why it’s all part of their lesson, my dear, Miss Thorpe. I have been teaching them about death.”
“Are you mad? We're supposed to be teaching them about life, Mr. Bones, not death!”
“Death is a part of life, is it not? It’s the part that children are never taught about. They grow up fearing death, instead of embracing it.” His pale skin was stretched tight on his thin face, and his dark, sunken eyes gave him the appearance of a living skull.
“Can’t you see you’re hurting these innocent children? Look at them! Their faces! They have this blank stare as if they are in shock! What have you done to them?”
“I have taken them to the museum, and shown them great works of art that deal with death. We have gone to the Children’s Hospital and visited the morgue in the basement. Each one of my students was allowed to touch the body of a dead child. Then we went to the senior facility and observed people that are waiting for death. Today, we call upon the dead at their place of residence, and the children await their final lesson.”
“Final lesson? What lesson?”
“Today they will get to see death first hand. They’ll get to observe death as it conquers life. They will see that once life is gone, death rules all. Which is why we’ve called you here, Miss Thorpe.”
“Called me . . . here? You mean . . . the voices inside my head.”
“That’s right, Miss Thorpe. We’ve been waiting for you.” He looked down at the children that were gathered around him. Some clutched and held onto his legs. “Haven’t we, my children?” The small class of twenty third-graders began to circle Miss Thorpe. They moved around her like robots, tightening the circle as the heavy rain continued to pour down. From under his black jacket, Mr. Bones pulled out a long silver knife and approached his fellow educator.
“And now children,” he said softly, “watch closely as life runs like a coward, knowing it can never defeat death as it approaches.”
Mr. Bones swiftly moved in and grabbed Miss Thorpe’s hair, pulling her head back and exposing her soft, white throat.
“Pay close attention children to how this is done, just one quick slice, and it’s all over.”
Terrified, Miss Thorpe stared up into the face of the storm as she felt the cold blade kiss at her neck and tried to gurgle a scream. Then she was released, and collapsed to the ground like a broken doll.
"There, class," said Mr. Bones with a sinister smile, "isn't that simply amazing? Now tonight, while your parents are sound asleep in their warm beds, I want you all to practice today's lesson."