Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
My name is Oliver Stricc. I’m a 52-year-old biology teacher from a small town in northeastern Nebraska, and I have been for almost 14 years. I’ll be the first to admit that lecturing to a bunch of uninterested high school students wasn’t what I had planned to do after getting my master’s degree in medical biology, but it covers the rent of my 1,500 square foot townhouse; plus the seasonal work gives me some time to pick up other odd jobs here and there during the off seasons. But I’m sure you don’t want to listen to me ramble on about my day-to-day life, and that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m writing this because strange things are going on that no amount of schoolwork or experience has prepared me for.
Friday was the day it all began. My coworker, Joe, was sitting in the teacher’s lounge after I had just finished with my third class of the day, finally reaching my conference hour. He was sitting on one of the room’s many flimsy plastic chairs, grading papers and nursing what I supposed was his fourth cup of coffee.
“How’s the prep for testing coming, Oli?” Joe inquired, referring to the upcoming finals. He always called me Oli despite my attempts to deter him, and at this point, I didn’t even bother fighting with him over it. Joe’s the school’s photography teacher of seven years so far; honestly, I thought he would have given up on this little town years ago to move to a big city better fitting his personality.
“Not bad, but you’ll never believe the excuses I’m getting this year. At this point, I can’t tell if their excuses are getting better or worse as the years go by,” I joked. Although I don’t think he ever really got the same treatment as us core subject teachers did, he did his best to be as empathetic as possible.
“Well speaking of students,” as if we aren’t always, “I heard from a little birdie that there’s a new kid that’ll be starting school next week.”
“Yeah, I got an email about him earlier this week, it’s some kid from the coast apparently. He’ll be in my first-hour class,”
“Really? This late in the school year? I thought it might have just been a rumor!” Joe admitted leaning back in his chair. I smiled weakly, half of me excited for a fresh face in this ocean of familiar ones and a half already preparing for how much this boy’s mere presence was going to stir the pot.
Yet despite my previous anticipation and concern, when Monday rolled around it was the same routine as always. Get up, get dressed, and get to school before the first student, who was always Laura, could zombie-walk into class. I had almost forgotten about the new kid until just as the bell rang, a black-haired boy — notably in a suit — came striding into the class like he owned the place. Immediately recognizing that this must be the infamous transfer, I stood up from my desk and made my way over to the front of the room where he was waiting for me expectantly — almost like he had done this before.
“Good morning class, I hope you all had a good weekend, I’d like you to meet David, he’s your new classmate, and I expect you all to treat him with the hospitality I expect from this class.” I then turned my focus to David. “Well, is there anything you’d like to share about yourself?” I prompted, hoping just as much as the students that he would delay the class’s start. But my hopes were short-lived. David was silent. So completely silent that we all quickly fell under a blanket of awkwardness and I rushed to fix what I had invoked. Clearly, David wasn’t ready to handle all the attention. I would have felt bad for the kid if his glaring dark brown eyes weren’t cutting into me like a knife.
“Well that’s alright, you don’t have to. You can go take a seat now and we’ll begin class.” And so David gave me a quick look and started walking down one of the rows of desks only to stop at Laura’s desk — the first in class.
And he just stared at her.
Laura was a bit of a loner — probably the reason she was always in class first — and it seemed she was keeping her head down like a scolded puppy in an attempt to act like she hadn’t noticed the boy standing beside her. I opened my mouth to tell David that there were other empty desks when she eventually looked up at him and without a pause, gathered her things, got up, and walked away with her face as straight as a professional poker player. It was odd, almost automated, but David and Laura both now had seats and I wasn’t about to make a big deal out of it, so I began the day’s lesson. It was almost fifteen minutes into the hour when I got a tingling feeling I was being watched. Some of you might be thinking, But you’re a teacher, of course, you’re being watched! And yes, I’m being watched the majority of my day, but not like this. I found confirmation for the shiver going down my spine when I looked across the sea of students and found David was staring at me. And I mean staring. Not like the kid was off in dreamland or high, I mean he was staring at me wide-eyed and unblinking, following my paces from one side of the room to the next completely still. It was like he wasn’t hearing me at all. And at that moment I felt like I wasn’t seeing a student; I was facing a predator staring down his prey. This continued throughout the entire hour.
I was still shaken up and confused by the time class ended and the afternoon came around where I found myself sitting across from Joe in the lounge, this time it was me nursing a cup of coffee. I was unnerved enough to even tell Joe about the oddness of it all. He sat and listened to me for a bit, nodding his head every once and a while until I eventually ended my tangent.
“Wow… that is a bit crazy. I seriously don’t know what to tell ya Oli,” Joe eventually responded.
“You’re soooo very helpful,” I sighed with a thick sarcastic tone. But still, talking to someone made me feel a bit better about the incident. At least it did until Tuesday. Tuesday Laura disappeared.
Laura was one of the only constants in my first class of the day. In fact, by the near end of the year, she didn’t have a single tardy on her record, rather yet an absence. At first, when she wasn’t there I figured she must have had something come up to break her streak, and when class started I was ready to mark her absent, but I couldn’t. According to the computer, there was no Laura on record. Still, I made excuses and put this off as a glitch then ran my eyes again over the crowd of students. Then my eyes landed on the boy in a black suit: David. Yet instead of sitting Laura’s empty seat like yesterday, today he sat at Adam’s desk, a big guy who made sure everybody knew he was captain of the wrestling team; not someone you would want to mess around with. But instead of sitting in his ordinary seat by the window, Adam was now cowering at a desk in the back of the room, and he looked traumatized. Head down, arms holding one another, feet firmly planted. I got up to ask if he was alright, but the moment I did David shot his eyes up to me and glared with a smirk on his face forcing me back into my desk chair. I honestly can’t explain why but when our eyes met it was like I had no control over my body like I was some sort of puppet on a string, and yet I was calm, like the world’s problems had just vanished. So I did what any rational person would do in my situation; I finished taking attendance and I started class under the watchful eyes of David.
By Wednesday, both Laura and Adam were gone, and David took the seat of a girl named Lilly. And even if I hadn’t fully put everything together yet, I knew that was probably going to be the last time I saw Lilly.
I was getting more and more anxious and I confided in Joe once again. However, to my disappointment, Joe met me with confusion rather than understanding. “Who are you talking about?” Joe questioned with raised eyebrows.
“Laura! I told you about her and that new kid Monday, Joe!”
“Sorry, man, I just don’t remember you mentioning her.”
That was Wednesday. The earliest student, Laura, was Tuesday. Adam, the captain of the wrestling team, was Wednesday. Lilly, an advanced eighth-grader who took classes at the high school, was Thursday. Steven, a quiet kid who sat right behind me playing video games on his DS constantly — probably why he had glasses thicker than bulletproof glass — was Friday. These were all kids — my students — that had vanished sometime during the school day. The only thing they had in common was giving up their seat to David. Even more curious is that the other kids don’t even seem to recognize that people are missing; I’ve asked them several times if anyone knows where any of the missing are and all they tell me is that they don’t know anybody by those names in class. You’re probably asking yourself now why haven’t the parents called the school? Why haven’t you gone to the police? What are you doing blaming some little kid when there’s a maniac on the loose? Well, the answer is simple: Nobody remembers them but me. Lilly has an older brother whom I questioned upon her disappearance and he told me he never even had a sister! Honestly, I don’t know what to do anymore, and as each day passes by the terror in my veins begins to build that I will be the next person forgotten. So if anyone out there can tell me what’s going on, or have theories about how this is happening, I’m always here. And one last thing: Don’t give up your seat to a kid in a suit. You never know who, or what, it could actually be.