With all the patience of a man trying to pass a kidney stone, I rubbed at the red rubber ball attached to my nose, waiting and praying for Jeff to finish reading his story assignment to the class. It was Halloween, and all the students were dressed up as their favorite villain, monster, or conservative tea-party political activist. I had merely wanted to throw a sheet over my head and parade around as a ghost; an easily removable costume that would hide me from the banal torture of teaching another creative writing course to less than zealous students; but my wife insisted I go as a clown.
‘You have to set an example,’ she told me, as she applied the makeup to my face. I was already wearing floppy shoes with fluffy dingleberries dangling from the toes, and a pink and blue ruffled outfit that looked like it had been ordered from RainbowDepot.com. ‘Besides, we’ll need the sheets for later in case you decide to hang yourself,’ she concluded, only half-jokingly.
Swallowing my irritation, I pleaded my case, ‘Dammit, woman, it’s Halloween. I should at least look semi-creepy.’
‘But you are creepy, dear,’ she replied, using her lipstick to paint a smudged smile across my frowning mouth. ‘You’re Booooo-koo creepy.’
Inwardly groaning, I laughed at the wife’s feeble attempt at humor, and complied with her anal decision to transform me into Pennywise’s flamboyant stepbrother; if only to avoid another night of burnt pot roast and sleeping on the sofa.
As I gazed at myself in the mirror before heading to school, I knew I was smiling on the outside but I was summoning Cthulhu on the inside.
* * *
“And then . . .”, Jeff read, finally coming to the ending of his tedious and grammatical train wreck of a story. “A skeleton popped out of the toilet and gobbled him up!”
There were a few titters from the students, mostly from the tweekers, but no one applauded. After forty-five minutes and twenty inane attempts at something that even resembled passable literature, I felt their numbness and boredom, and I secretly prayed for a quick and painless apocalypse to descend upon the earth.
“Pretty good, huh?” Jeff asked me, turning his masked visage to my own.
“No, Jeff,” I responded, the jackhammer in my skull forcing the blunt shards of candor from my tongue. “It was shit. Now take your seat.”
I could smell Jeff’s disappointment from across the room, and it was far less than fresh.
“Dude, you can’t mean that. I spent all week . . . I mean I stayed up all night . . . well, I got up extra early and my parents helped me write this story. It’s the best story ever!”
“And did you use a dictionary or thesaurus while composing your chef d’oeuvre?”
“What?” Jeff nervously glanced to his classmates for encouragement. “They didn’t have those things in the cafeteria.”
“Ahhhh, truth at last,” I replied, while steepling my fingers in front of my chin. “Let me be as equally truthful: if I hadn’t taken a 5-hour energy drink with my lunch then your story would have put me to sleep.”
“I’ll put you to sleep,” Jeff grumbled, as he stomped back to his desk.
I could feel the mischievous grin spreading out from beneath his mask, infecting some of the others, and I thought about chucking an eraser at Jeff’s retreating back, but then quickly calmed myself. I could no longer remember why I put up with this nonsense. Was it out of love or lunacy? Probably a little of both.
“You are the future of literature, the saviors of the written word,” I blared at the class. “But right now I am ashamed for all of you.”
“But I don’t wanna’ be a writer!” Jane whined, confessing her aversion to the uneasy climate left in the wake of Jeff’s outburst. “I wanna’ be the first female president so I can end war and bring peace and charity to the whole world through emotional angst and feminine hyperbole.”
I stared at that deranged black widow wannabe, watching her drag a nail file across her fingers. What she really wanted was to be a serial killer like her brother, but I knew she lacked the balls.
“Oh, shut the hell up!” Jonny Rake yelled at her in his urban, northeastern drawl, and then he slithered down to hide behind his desk.
As strange as it sounds, I could never keep a clear picture of Rake in my mind. Some of the kids said he looks like a canine Mr. Bigglesworth, and I would have dismissed the notion as teenage taunting if not for the strong odor of Kibbles n’ Bits.
I heard a growling sound coming from the far left corner of the classroom where the dog was sitting. He just innocently waved at me and smiled.
Suddenly, the door opened and a fashionably dressed, anorexic looking fellow sauntered into my classroom. His pale face hidden in shadow, he stretched out his gangly arms before he plunged his finger down his throat, purging himself of salsbury steak and 2% milk all over the floor. He then ran from the room, all the while crying about how nobody loved him because of how fat he was.
That strange event had an even stranger effect on the students. Like hypnotized mall rats, they all began to fold their stories as if practicing origami, shaping their papers into crude looking hammers. When the bell rang they all stood as one, eerily silent, devoid of their normal ruckus, and marched single-file out into the hallway. Filled with curiosity and foreboding dread, I followed behind, only to witness the ignorant zombies making a beeline for the other kids. They raised their muddled mallets to the sky as if in supplication to some Norse deity, and then brought them down onto the psyche of the unsuspecting student body.
Chaos ensued. I heard the screams from the other students as they suffered from the stinging wounds of abysmal writing and paper cuts. Mercifully, the lights went out, casting the hallway into indecipherable blackness. But I could still hear my own students chanting in unison from out of that decaying and illiterate cavity –
“We make holes in head! We make holes in head!”
Credit To – spankmegranny
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