tagNon-EroticMary's First Day of Kindergarten

Mary's First Day of Kindergarten

by100 Angry Bananas©

“I love the way you taste.”

She felt his warm lips move away from hers, the strong scent of listernine lingering for a moment, and a hand caressed her foreheard, running through her hair. When she opened her eyes, her husband’s face floated above her own, hovering like a pale ghost.


“Sick, I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet,” she said.

Mary yawned and rubbed her sleep-encrusted eyes. These she shifted over to the nightstand to get a figure on the time. The digital alarm clock read 5:55, bathing the nightstand in a dull electronic red glow, five minutes short of the set alarm. She did the mental math: due at school by 7:00, and minus the ten minute drive there, it gave her fifty minutes to get ready. She stretched, arching her back, uttered a long low yawn, and sat up.

“I don’t care. I love you, morning breath and all,” Mark insisted, placing a hand along her face. He leaned in and gently kissed her on the forehead. Notice you didn’t go for the mouth again, Mary thought, smiling inwardly. He was already dressed for work, shaved and showered, and the smell of mouth wash accented every syllable of his every word.

“Ready for your big day?” he asked, looking her over with his bright blue eyes.

“Ask me after my shower,” she spoke through a yawn, holding a hand over her mouth, half to protect her husband from the smell of her own breath. Mark laughed and helped her out of bed with a pull, saying something about being a bum and the state of her laziness.

Mary wasn’t listening, already running through the day’s schedule in her head.

***

The ride to school was a pleasant one, sunshine poking through the tall oaks lining the highway, the Beach Boys pumping beats out of the radio, but the butterflies still managed to flutter within her. Mary’s stomach felt as if it was going to contort into one big, twisting knot, which if continued, would eventually double her over.

She kept the mental notes of personal encouragement echoing through her head: this is what you went to school for, you know you’re going to be great, the hard part’s over, everything’s all set, lesson plans in order, we’re good to go, nothing to worry about. Mary’s mental self had to keep persuading her physical self that everything was in working order, everything was A-ok. Despite the effort, Physical Mary still felt her stomach pitch with every roll in the road.

Joyhouse Saints was a private elementary school, catering to the K-4 group, a school that Mary only happened to stumble upon through a mutual friend of the principal, Mr. Waite. The pay being exceptional for the area, especially for a first-year teacher, Mary applied and found herself as the new kindergarten teacher for the little school, the last one having abruptly moved out of town and up to the city. Mark insisted it was fate.

Mary pulled into the parking lot, found her assigned space, and took a moment to breathe, to let her heart slow down, to unwind a few sinews in her stomach. She used the opportunity to take a look at the school.

It co-existed as a church, services on Sundays and Wednesday nights, according to the sign out front. Mary wasn’t familiar with the denomination; someone had told her that it was, in fact, nondenominational but was unfamiliar with its particular theology. The main building, the chapel, gave one the feeling that it was ancient; old stones upon old stones, sweeping up into a piercing, rustic steeple. It stabbed the sky with a cold, gray point.

Two smaller buildings squatted at the end of the courtyard behind the chapel; that’s where classes were held, K-2nd in the first, 2-4th in the second. Slightly behind the smaller buildings, a larger building poked out of the ground, curving up and out like an giant upside-down soup bowl: the gym. Parallel to this, a somewhat smaller rectangle housed the cafeteria.

She swallowed. This was it. Letting out a deep breath, she exited her vehicle and made her way through the courtyard to the first square building, her first day of kindergarten all over again.

***

Something was off about the class. She felt it from the start but just couldn’t put her finger on exactly what was wrong, on exactly what was tapping the back of her skull, signaling her discomfort, trying to get her attention. She had some ideas on what it might be. She supposed a few things, actually.

One: they were too quiet. Kindergartners are typically rambunctious, playful, and silly as as a general rule. These kids sat in desks, at attention, without saying a word. Mary had never seen a kindergarten class with desks, only with tables used for crafts like coloring or fingerpainting and with lots of carpet to sit in a circle on. And never had she seen an entire group of children so well-mannered, so behaved. It didn’t seem right, but this must be how they do things at Joyhouse Saints Elementary, Mary thought.

Two: their eyes. Nothing else about their strange appearance seemed to bother her, except for the eyes. The fact that all the children were unnaturally pale wasn’t so peculiar, considering that Mr. Waite had warned her that nearly all the students at the school were in some way or another related and chalky pale skin was a genetic trait (“Generation after generation of these kids having been coming here for years, you’ll get used to it,” Mr. Waite had remarked, peering through thick-lensed glasses), but nothing could have prepared her for their eyes, all of their identical eyes. Like pools of the darkest ink, their pupils were indistinguishable from their irises, all of it just black, holes peering into the dark crevass of their skulls.

Number three had more than a little something to do with these eyes; it was the way that all of the children looked at her. For a lack of a better word, they looked... hungry.

Mary frowned inside of herself, maintaining her teacherly mode of optimism and encouragement as she continued her lesson, comprised of introductory games to get the kids comfortable on their first day of school. Why should good behavior upset her? She should be relieved that she wasn’t surrounded by a group of the usual frantic five-year olds. So what if all their eyes were dark brown, bordering on black? The kids’ outward appearances should mean nothing to her; she knew better than to make judgements based on looks.

Still...

Mary shrugged off her misgivings. The kids probably had just as many about her as she did about them. It was the first day of kindergarten for all of them. She smiled as she continued, patting students on the back as each gave right answer after right answer. Here was another thing: had any of them gotten a question wrong? Mary hadn’t really noticed it before as most of her questions were casual and by no means meant to measure their intelligence. But as she asked more and more questions, she began to take notice of the children’s responses. She started small (“Who knows their alphabet?”) and then began to increase the difficulty (“The capital of Wisconsin?”). No one had given an incorrect answer.

She stopped herself before it could go too far, before she freaked herself out. Something wasn’t right here; she was sure of it. She didn’t want her uncertainties getting out of hand, and if she continued her line of questioning, she felt they might.

For a moment, the classroom descended into silence, and she could feel the children’s expectation of what she was going to do next fall on her like a heavy weight. Their eyes glistened with (hunger?) anticipation. Mary moved on to the next classroom mixer. Something simple to remind her that these were still children, after all. She gave them each a card with an animal on it; when she gave the signal, she explained, the children would make the noise of their specific animal and find a match within the classroom. She needed to do something silly and fun, anything to break that heavy burdening quiet.

There was an odd number of children in the class, so Mary also had to play in the game. She gave herself the last card. She turned the card over; it was a sheep. She gave the signal, and the classroom became a gathering storm of animal grunts, howls, and cries. The noise whirled about her in a thick stew of sound. This is more like it, she thought and began to bleat.

***

Kindergarten was an all-day affair at Joyhouse Saints Elementary. Sooner than Mary expected, time came for lunch. The children lined up obediently in alphabetical order and with minimal prodding as though they had already been trained. It was just something else for Mary to shrug off; they seemed to be quick learners, so what? Mary led them, following behind her in a straight line, to the cafeteria. The smells drifting from the cafeteria were refreshingly repugnant; at least some things around here are normal, Mary thought and smiled.

The Saints Special was a slab of mystery meat, doused with some sort of steaming red gravy. It pooled around the edges of the plate like cooling blood. Thankfully, Mary brought her own lunch. On the other hand, her kindergartners seemed to more than like the stuff; they gobbled up their portions with considerable relish, red gravy dribbling down some of their chins, their eyes glazed with temporary satisfaction.

As lunched ended and the children began to file out of the cafeteria for a short recess, Mrs. Salt, one of the first grade teachers, strode over next to Mary with a nervous smile on her face. Mary stood up to greet her; they could walk out to the playground together. Mrs. Salt was a thin, frail woman, the kind you could imagine shattering like glass if she ever tripped and fell onto the floor. She twiddled her fingers and rolled her head to keep her hair out of her eyes.

“Kinda creepy, aren’t they?” she asked, standing next to Mary. Mary opened her mouth, caught off guard by the question, and didn’t know how to answer. She left if open for a moment, her jaw hanging, and then closed it without a word. Mrs. Salt giggled and placed her hand over her mouth; the other hand stayed to play with the top button of her flowery dress. They started to follow the children outside.

“Well, I don’t know if I’d say that,” Mary whispered back, wondering the true purpose of Mrs. Salt’s question. Mrs. Salt shifted her eyes back and forth, then made contact with Mary’s questioning gaze. She giggled again under her breath, then flashed Mary a serious, solemn look.

“Just don’t ask too many questions. No matter how much you may want to, and I know that you probably have more than a few. Mr. Waite is very serious about issues of his students’ privacy,” she said. A sly grin curled the corners of her mouth, and Mrs. Salt bit her bottom lip.

“I see,” said Mary, but she didn’t really. Mr. Waite hadn’t mentioned anything about a need for privacy; in fact, he seemed more than willing to answer any of the questions Mary had so far. Mary thought perhaps Mrs. Salt’s own odd behavior might have something more to do with any problems she might have with Mr. Waite. Salt acted more like an adolescent schoolgirl than a woman responsible for the education of a classroom of first graders.

“Oh, you must think me a little... well... off,” Mrs. Salt said as if reading Mary’s mind. She started to giggle but cut herself off with a sour look. She flicked a piece of intrusive hair out of her face with her hand.

“You have to be a little off to work at Joyhouse Saints, you know. The kids... well, you can see for yourself. Just look at them play. If you can call it that,” she said, her voice dropping low. She pointed one of her bony fingers towards the barren field that served as a playground behind the cafeteria and gym.

At first, Mary didn’t know what Mrs. Salt was talking about. The kids were circled up as if playing one big game of duck-duck-goose. Then Mary saw that they weren’t playing anything at all; they merely sat, staring at each other in a single circle. No one talked; no one moved. The circle seemed somehow ritualistic, capturing them in a silent meditative state. More than that, it seemed downright eerie. A chill shivered down her spine.

“They do this every day,” Mrs. Salt whispered. She giggled under her breath and raised her hand to wipe away more hair from her forehead when Mary noticed that Mrs. Salt was missing her right index finger. Mrs. Salt noticed her curious glance and raised an eyebrow.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how did that happen?” Mary asked, motioning to Mrs. Salt’s hand. Mrs. Salt seemed confused for a moment; then she glanced at her missing digit. Her face drained of color. She looked as if she had gone ill, her skin gray and weak.

“Excuse me, I just remembered something,” she squeaked and scurried away, the end of her flowery dress trailing after her, trying to keep up.

Mary turned back to the circle of still children and made up her mind then and there, looking at the black holes of the children’s motionless eyes. This would be her last day at Joyhouse Saints Elementary. She was going to quit.

***

The rest of the afternoon seemed to be a repeat of the morning, and Mary felt her unease increase as her students answered her questions without mistake, their black expectant eyes boring into her, their pale hands folded neatly on top of their desks. She couldn’t get the thought of the circle during recess out of her mind, that big silent circle of expressionless children. What could they have been doing? She pushed the thought out of her mind and remembered that after today, it would no longer be any of her concern. Leave Joyhouse Saints to women like Mrs. Salt, she figured.

She felt as though the day would never end; as quick as the morning had gone, the afternoon had gone three times as slow. Her eyes strayed to the ticking clock nailed to the wall at the front of the classroom more often than she meant. The clock’s hands dragged to the end of the day. Mary felt her false smile almost falter with relief when it was finally time to go.

Mr. Waite appeared at the door of her classroom just as she was about to dismiss them. Good, two birds with one stone, Mary thought. She could tell Mr. Waite that she would be unable to teach after today. She knew he would resist, that she was leaving him in somewhat of a bind, but there was no way she was going to subject herself to another day of the weirdness at Joyhouse Saints.

As the children gathered their belongings to leave, Mary approached Mr. Waite, with a nervous but determined look.

“Mr. Waite...” she began.

“I know, I know. It’s your first day. We get it all the time. I only ask you give it a few days before you make up your mind,” he said. Mary opened her mouth to respond, but he cut her off with a wave of his hand.

“Now, excuse me, I have to bring these children to the chapel for the after-school activities, see you tomorrow, Mrs. Domica,” he said, straightening his glasses. Then, leading the children to the chapel, he disappeared down the hallway.

Mary was left alone in her classroom, a look of confusion splashed across her face. Frustration creased her brow. What was that? Waite hadn’t even heard her out, hadn’t bothered to listen to a word. She shook it off as much as she could and rubbed her chin. He probably had teachers, especially new ones, wanting to quit all the time and had learned his own strategies in response.

“Whatever,” she said. Maybe she would think it over, but not tomorrow or the next day, she would do it tonight. And with Mark. They’d talk about things over dinner and decide what would be best to do over dessert. They seemed to think best when eating, she thought and let a smile creep on her face. They’d figure it out tonight. That seemed to make the most sense, at least, it did to her. Screw Mr. Waite and those freak kindergartners.

She grabbed her purse and her bag of materials and vanished out the door.

***

On her way to the car, she heard someone scream.

It cut through the silence and stopped her heart in her chest, a bloodcurdling, earth-shattering scream that seemed to rip right out of the earth and almost knock her off her feet. She stook a step backward to keep her balance, and her heartbeat banged in her ears, making her entire head pulse, immediate, involuntary reactions of fear. Her breath caught in her throat, but just as suddenly as the scream had broken the silence of the still afternoon, it was cut-off. If her body hadn’t reacted so dramatically, maybe she could have persuaded herself to think it was just her imagination. The scream had come and gone without a trace.

Nothing moved. No one came out of any of the buildings to see what was going on. Mary heard no voices, heard nothing to give an indication of any kind of alarm. It was as if nothing had happened.

Mary was pretty sure the scream had come from the direction of the chapel. She was torn between checking it out or turning tail and going home. Either way, she would be passing by the chapel, so she had no excuse to not make sure everything was ok. It was probably nothing, anyway, she thought. No reason to get so freaked out about it. She swallowed and started towards the large oak doors of the chapel. If someone had been hurt, she needed to make sure that they were being taken care of. No big deal, right? She wasn’t so sure; she thought about the scream, how it had sounded, the immense pain it had exuded, slicing through the air like a bullet to her heart.

The oak doors of the chapel were as heavy as they looked; Mary pulled one back, using all her weight and almost fell over with exertion once the door lurched, the bottom crunching against the gravelly floor, opening just enough to squeeze through. She held her breath, feeling not unlike Winnie the Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit’s hole as she popped into the chapel. A draft of cold musty air slapped her in the face, and the light filtering through the large stained glass windows seemed dull and murky. The chapel was empty.

“Hello?” Mary called, walking past the pews lining the way towards the pulpit. Halfway through the chapel, she stopped and looked around, wondering where everyone could be. She paused for a moment, hearing something that didn’t seem to be there before, a low musical hum just underneath the surface of dense quiet that blanketed the chapel.

Mary continued towards the front of the chapel, listening, trying to get a bearing on where the hum was coming from. She followed the noise to the pulpit and gave everything a long careful look. The chapel had a gray, bare feeling to it; the stone felt ancient to the point of decay. Worse, the putrid smell of mildew overpowered her. Mary grimaced and pulled her shirt up over her nose. Who would want to attend church in such a place? The entire building gave her the heebie jeebies.

She turned and looked at the huge stained glass windows behind her. They stretched from floor and ceiling like monoliths, bathing her in a sick yellow glow. She couldn’t make out what the design was supposed to be... some kind of geometrical shapes overlapping one another; lines crisscrossed and curved over each other, shaping thousands of objects but also not really shaping anything. She thought about those magic eye things she saw sometimes in the newspaper, the ones where if you looked hard enough, stared long enough, the designs began to take shape. Mary didn’t think she wanted to take the time to find out what the designs on the stained glass windows would become.

Behind a stone pedestal (or was it an altar, Mary wondered), she saw an open trapdoor. Stone steps lead downward, curving past where she could see, and the low hum seemed to get louder as she approached it. The hum began to seperate into words: chanting. Mary thought about the circle of children during recess, the ritualistic feel it seemed to have. What sort of institution was Joyhouse Saints? This is too much, she thought, and swiveled on her heels to leave.

Report Story

by100 Angry Bananas© 6 comments/ 23226 views/ 2 favorites

Share the love

Report a Bug

Next
2 Pages:12

Forgot your password?

Please wait

Change picture

Your current user avatar, all sizes:

Default size User Picture  Medium size User Picture  Small size User Picture  Tiny size User Picture

You have a new user avatar waiting for moderation.

Select new user avatar:

   Cancel