Miss Hannigan felt the hairs on the back of her neck rise as if caught in a swirling breeze. Her skin began to crawl; it felt like a hundred ants had suddenly made the pilgrimage from her hands to her toes. She dared not turn around, knowing that they were watching her, waiting for her to make a mistake and reveal that she knew.
Instead, she chose to keep writing, staring ahead only at the letters in front of her, her singular focus on getting through the question. She have to turn eventually and face them, oh yes she would, and when she did, would she see them for what they really were?
Monsters. Damn monsters.
She thought about the first time she had realised that something was wrong. It had just been a glance, almost an afterthought in the ravages of her mind.
They’re not right. There’s something wrong with them.
They looked normal, yes they did, but deep down inside, something rotten was struggling to make its way to the surface and when that happened. Oh god, when that happened, it was all over.
Don’t turn around.
Yet she knew she had to. She had nothing more to write, words had failed her. She turned slowly, the bones in her neck creaking, resisting almost, as she struggled to look at them. There they sat, angelic faces hiding rotten cores. Lined up in rows like dolls at the fair. All porcelain and pretty yet inherently scary.
I’m going to die.
She faced them, her tormentors, her demons.
Her third grade English class.
As she turned around, she surveyed the children sitting at their desks. Her children. But she knew, yes, she knew. They weren’t what they seemed. Little Billy sat in the front row, smiling slightly, staring at her, waiting for her to speak.
She stared back, taking in his blond hair with the cowlick at the front, socks pulled up to the knees and a smile on his face. Or was it a smirk? Was he smirking thinking that he and the other kids had a secret that she didn’t know about?
Oh yes, she knew alright and she was going to do something about it. Starting with Billy. She knew that if she didn’t, they would surely kill her. Tear her limb from limb, eat her flesh, break her bones and suck her dry until she was a husk of who she had once been. She couldn’t let them do that to her.
Yes, she would kill them.
As the day wore on, she became more and more convinced that today was the day that they would strike. Corner her and attack her. She made it to lunch time where she hyperventilated in the toilet, petrified to go out onto the playground with them staring at her, plotting her murder. After lunch wasn’t much better. She continued to stare at Billy who stared right back.
Start with Billy.
Yes, she could start with Billy, she knew he was the ringleader. All the other children took their cues from him. If she just killed him, then the others would stop.
But what if they didn’t? What if they kept going, kept plotting to kill me? Why not just kill them all and be done with it?
The day came to an end, the class unusually quiet. Miss Hannigan felt a growing sense of unease. As she walked to her car, she caved into the urge to turn around. Billy was standing at the gate, watching her. As she stared, more children from the class joined him until she could make out all of their faces, watching her. She hurried to her car, dropping her keys as she fumbled to slide the key into the lock. Bending down, she had the terrible feeling that when she stood up, they would attack her. Cautiously, she looked over her should. All the kids were gone except Billy. He smiled at her. She shivered, got into the car and thumbed down the lock.
They can still get in. They can get in anywhere.
The thought wasn’t comforting but at least now she knew what she had to do for sure. She had to kill them. She made muffins that night, double choc chip with a large helping of potassium cyanide. She added a dose of lemon juice to speed up the cyanide’s effects. They smelt delicious as she took them out of the oven and placed them on the rack to cool.
In the morning as she dressed for school, she felt very apprehensive about what the day would bring. She should have been thinking of what she was actually doing, killing little kids yet she knew they were no longer little kids she knew, they were monsters. Waiting to kill her. The drive to the school was filled with trepidation and anxiety. She had no idea if she could actually feed them muffins laced with poison.
When she parked in her designated spot, she looked over at the gate and saw Billy standing exactly where he was the day before. Almost as if he was keeping watch for her. She shivered, grabbed the lunchbox full of muffins and strode purposefully past Billy and into the classroom. The rest of the class were sitting quietly at their desks, something that never happened. They were usually forming a ragged and loud line at the door then it took them ages to settle down. Today, however, they were all sitting at their desks, nice and quiet like. As she walked into the room, all eyes slid to her. Some slyly, some defiantly and then there was Billy, eyes full of promise.
A promise of what was to come.
Her mind whispered, telling her that today was the day, if she was going to do it, it had to be today, oh yes it did. She walked up and down the rows, putting a muffin on each desk, right in the middle. She left Billy til last then said, ‘please eat your muffins.’
All but Billy took a bite out of the deadly double choc chip muffins, most of the children devouring them within seconds. Billy started at Miss Hannigan and Miss Hannigan stared right back. Billy did not pick up his muffin nor did he let a crumb pass his lips. Miss Hannigan silently pleaded with him to eat the muffin before the other children started to react.
There’s no way he can know she thought and if he did, why didn’t he stop the others from eating the poisoned muffins? She could only come up with the fact that he really was a monster. Suddenly, Billy made a mad dash to the door, escaping before she had time to stop him. Up the back of the class, one of the girls started to choke, then flecks of white form formed in the corner of her mouth. One by one, they began to foam, falling out of their chairs, grasping at their throats. Low moans could be heard across the room and Miss Hannigan decided now was the time to leave. She just knew Billy was coming back with help.
She grabbed her bag, tossed it over her shoulder and flung open the door, lurching through it, right onto the metal prongs of a large garden fork. She tried to step back, the metal lodged inside her stomach but Billy pushed her back into the room using the turning fork for leverage. Her bag slipped from her shoulders, her dying gurgles mixing with the noises the class were making.
Billy was smiling.
He got me good.