Mrs. Brown lectured on about the importance of symbolism in American literature, but I couldn’t help but notice the strange deposit of skin on the inside of her arm. As she gesticulated wildly, its motions entranced me. She was a strict authoritarian, and though she taught English, which is traditionally a free-form class, she showed the subject no mercy. In the first course of the year, we were barraged with complex grammar rules, and essay development. The next half, she began destroying the classics. We had ripped through Poe and Vonnegut so far, and there were always more.
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Her Naziesque teaching methods weren’t the only thing that made me think Mrs. Brown was a different breed of teacher. She also had a brown mole on the side of her neck, and when she moved to adjust her hair, it was prominently displayed, a hairy growth which almost seemed capable of looking back at you. And she never displayed a divergence from the Rules; she was able to quote most passages from heart. While this may seem to you a story with humorous intent, I assure you it is not. It is a warning. You can’t trust Teachers – they’re everywhere. And they’re coming after us all.
This is not an isolated incident. If you know the warning signs, you might be able to do something. Check your faculty lounge. If the coffee machine is always full, and the room is always empty, something’s up. When have you seen a normal adult pass up an opportunity to get caffeine? The rest will become apparent. Most of all, watch for teachers with a lack of emotion and dedication, and a persistence in ruining the lives of their students. Most teachers, you say, make this their personal goal, but if you observe closely, it will become clear that some are mere amateurs, whereas others have made a life’s work out of it. These cold, calculating machines are the Enemy.
My involvement with this sinister network began one day when I received an inordinately poor grade on an essay about Poe. I took it to Mrs. Brown after class, but she suggested I stay after school. “Why Ronald, I had no idea your concerns lay so heavily with Mr. Poe. Your devotion to him is truly remarkable,” she said with an evil smile.
“Well, Mrs. Brown, I – I just want to improve my grade.” I was caught in the headlights. Her mole was glaring at me, and in order to look away from that grotesquerie, I was forced to gaze upon her frigid smile, which revealed withered gums and small, yellowed and pointy teeth. My eyes darted back and forth dizzyingly, and I quickly uttered, “I’ll-see-you-after-school-then,” and left. I rushed to the next class, and couldn’t hear a word Mr. Greene said. He was our math teacher, one of those classic Irish stereotypes, covered in freckles and moles, pale skin, red noses and cheeks. Strange that such a jolly description could belong to such an automaton. He was completely apathetic, and while being slightly better than Mrs. Brown’s approach, he was hardly someone exemplary. He always carried around an empty mug, and often kept pens in it. When we took tests, it was always the unfortunate lot of a few to have forgotten their writing utensils, forcing them to use Mr. Greene’s. The stains on the bottom of the mug were somehow off; not coffee or hot chocolate. The pencils retained a fine covering of the powder from the bottom of the mug, and therefore led to speculation. So far, most inferences strayed towards nasty tap water.
The class after Mr. Greene’s was little different. It passed quickly, and before I knew it I found myself walking towards Mrs. Brown’s room.
“. . . Too risky . . . Wait for it . . .”
“I . . . must be done. Too many questions already . . .”
This wasn’t something I could pass up. I peeked into the keyhole, and finding them in the corner bent over something, I watched and listened.
“There are too many upstarts, Brown. They question the old ways too much. Soon, there will be none of us left to perpetuate our perfect system. It wasn’t started so we could watch it be corrupted in such a manner!” This came out as a hiss from Mr. Greene. He was seething, and his back was quivering.
“I know, Greene. But it’s been a long time since anyone had to face the initial challenges, the tribulations. They don’t know how difficult those thefts were. I say we address this to the master and see what he says. Patience is the answer.”
“We must invade slowly!” Greene hissed with vehemence. Surprised, I issued a gasp. “Did you hear that?”
I bolted, and ran straight into Mr. White after rounding a corner. I bounced off the burly gym teacher and landed with a thump on my ass. “No running in the halls young man. Article 6, Section C of your student charter.”
“Sorry, I just . . .” I trailed off, staring at the mole on Mr. White’s neck. It WAS moving! “What is that?! What’s that thing on your neck?!”
Mr. White clapped a hand quickly to his mole, then lifted it and chuckled with no trace of mirth. “Another one . . . Greene and Brown will know what to do.” He picked me up in his arms like a sack of potatoes before I could do or say a thing, and began tramping towards the faculty lounge. Encountering no one upon his arrival, he dumped me in a chair, closed the door with a click, and left. I quickly took a glance around the room for escape routes. The door was obviously off-limits, and that left only the windows. Using a bookshelf and a filing cabinet, I was able to reach the window, and I was in the process of extricating myself when I heard footsteps. Too late now! I thought, and tried to squirm through. With no luck. I was caught by a massive paw and pulled down. Instead of lifting me as before, White dragged me by my leg, while I protested loudly and kicked against him. I’d have had better luck moving a mountain. Slowly but inevitably, we arrived at Mrs. Brown’s room.
I was taken inside, only to have a canvas bag placed over my head. “We regret the inconvenience, but the master insists he look upon you before you look upon him.” I was led downstairs (stairs in a class room?), and fell twice due to the lack of visual surroundings. When I hit bottom, I was led forward until I hit a raised platform of cold wet stone. It was the texture of cement, rough and unfinished.
I heard a voice inside my head that resembled the keening of whales. “What is it now?” It seemed almost a whine.
“We have another, master,” said Greene. “What should we do?”
“What else? Give him the Draught, and wait.”
“Whaf draugh?” I asked from inside from the bag.
“Take him away. I’m busy now,” wheezed the master. “He’ll be tasty . . .”
Though everything I had heard that afternoon served to discomfort me greatly, that comment set me off again. I struggled valiantly, and an instant later the canvas bag fell off. It revealed to me a world of dark and dust, and sitting on a dais was a vaguely slug-like creature with numerous flagellae and a thick ooze issuing forth from it. It was the color of a new bruise, and the size of a manatee. When it noticed, through what sensory organs I know not, that my mask was off, its flagellae lashed forward and whipped me across the face, wounds that stung as though salted for long after they occurred. In the end, my struggles proved useless. The teachers were remarkably strong, and after a minute or two my strength gave way before them. They dragged me forward onto an altar, with manacles that had seen a lot of use. They were crusty with old blood, and the whole thing had turned a color that was a noxious amalgamation of crimson and black. “A moment please, while we retrieve the master’s kiss,” said Greene. He crept off to the next room, and returned an indeterminate length of time later. Every minute seemed an hour in this festering place. The waiting was terrible, and my nerves were soon such that I twitched uncontrollably at the slightest rumblings and shufflings.
Again, I know not how much time passed, but Greene returned with an outstretched palm. Within it was a mass of quivering brown lump. It was the shape of a slug, but its whole bottom half was a rough sucker, with multiple rows of tiny, sharp teeth. Greene slapped it carelessly on me, and thank God it didn’t burrow under my skin, or even seem to notice me. It slid up so its weight rested on its bottom part, and it wavered as though a breeze stirred it. It rotated cautiously between Greene, Brown and White. Suddenly my examination of the slug-creature was halted, as I felt a hand clap around my face. A funnel was forced into my mouth, and I was forcibly restrained. Greene took a knife to his skin, and cut himself. It healed almost immediately, which he grumbled about, but proceeded to re-open, squeezing the cut to keep it from closing. The blood, ichor, whatever, emptied into a mug. The Mug. Now I knew what it was, at least. When the mug was overflowing, Greene allowed the wound to close, and placed the cup to the wide opening of the funnel. He poured it unceremoniously down my throat, and tickled my Adam’s apple to overcome my spluttering. It was bitter, and burned going down. Almost at once, the slug stopped wavering. It spun once more, then fastened itself to my neck, biting fiercely to open a channel into my neck. I screamed and screamed, almost drowning on what blood was left.
Greene smiled dramatically once the slug had done its business. “I was the first of his servants. The master himself doesn’t know from whence he came, but it has always been the glorious pairing of Snyk and Master. The Snyk feeds off Master, and releases enzymes which help prevent disease and aging. The Master provides the special blood. When you just imbibed a little, it will burn a hole in your belly, and spread like fire throughout your body. We hesitate to compare it to vampirism, but . . . Anyway, we will leave you with your transition for a few days, until it is complete. Good bye.”
I am now writing this on scraps of cloth I have found and a piece of charcoal left over from some long-ago fire. It is becoming more difficult to concentrate between spasms and the strange effect this Snyk has on me. Soon I will be one of them. Run while you can.
Thanks to Dan Simmons’ collection Prayers to Broken Stones, which provided the basic idea for this story. I am in no way comparing myself to the Great One, however.