"Zack, will you please come up here and pass these papers out?" Mrs. Jenson asked. She held out a stack of graded tests, which she handed to the young boy who appeared at her side.
"I'm proud to say that nearly every one of you in this class made good grades. Because of all of your hard work, the rest of the day will be free period. But please keep the noise down," Mrs. Jenson added as the kids headed for the back of the classroom where all of the games and toys were stored.
She planned on finishing that western novel while they kept themselves busy but as she turned to head back to her desk she saw Scotty sitting by himself.
Out of the twenty two boys and girls in her homeroom he was the only one not to pass the science test. He was staring down at the paper on his desk looking as if any second he was going to throw up. Mrs. Jenson felt a moment of pity for the boy. He was very bright and she knew that he could have aced the test without trying but this week he had been going through one of his sullen periods.
Settling into her chair, Mrs. Jenson tried to imagine what caused them.
At the beginning of the year she sent a note home with Scotty that said she wanted to meet his parents. The next week his father had shown up, worried that his son had been doing something wrong. After assuring him that Scotty was a model student and explaining about his problem the man had look relieved.
"Oh, is that all? He's been doing that for about a year now. Our doctor said it was a mild form of whatever that attention disorder is."
"ADHD?" Mrs. Jenson asked.
"Yes ma'am, that's it. Since it only happens every once in awhile he said not to worry about it."
After that the two of them had a nice talk, Mr. Nelson being the perfect gentleman. Even though he hadn't shown any signs of lying, Mrs. Jenson couldn't help but feel that he had been. Being able to tell if someone was lying, was something she'd nurtured over the few years she'd been teaching. It came in handy when dealing with the students excuses for not having homework.
Also, it didn't sound right that a doctor would diagnose a kid with ADHD and then tell a parent not to worry.
Thinking that the tall and rugged cowboy would have to wait for another day she put the book in the desk. "Will you come up here for a moment Scotty?"
The small boy looked up. She was surprised to see tears in his eyes. He quickly wiped his face with the back of his hands before walking up to her desk.
"What's the matter Scotty?"
"Nothing," he whispered his voice barely audible.
"Are you worried about your test grade honey? Because you can always take the make up test. Even if you decide not to do that, your average is high enough so this one score won't fail you."
Scotty nodded not saying anything. All Mrs. Jenson wanted at that moment was to draw the boy to her, hug him and tell him everything was going to be alright. However, as a teacher, it was her duty to make sure she didn't show favoritism in front of her other pupils.
And with the way the world was going, she might wake up the next morning in jail facing charges of child abuse just for hugging him.
After waiting for him to say something Mrs. Jenson nodded. "Alright then. Take the paper home and have you father sign it. Then you can take—"
Scotty's head shot up. "No Mrs. Jenson, please. Can't I just take the test again now without…"
He stopped, his eyes getting wide as if he had done something he shouldn't have. He winced curling one arm against his chest.
"Without doing what Scotty?"
He looked back down at his shoes. "Nevermind. Can I go play now?"
She let him go, telling herself it wasn't her problem. She picked he book up. After reading a couple of pages, she scanned the room to make sure everything was alright and once again found herself staring at Scotty.
This time he sat, with his back against the wall, both arms clutching his stomach, his forehead wrinkled as if he was thinking hard.
Or in pain, a voice in her head whispered.
Holding her book in front of her face she surreptitiously studied him. Every few minutes he would look at the kids around him and twitch. Almost as if he was stopping himself from jumping towards them.
Before she knew it, the final bell was ringing. Scotty was one of the first ones out, still looking as if he was in pain. She finished getting everything done for the day and took some papers to the office. It was empty and a crazy idea formed in her head.
It's not your problem, the sane part of her mind shouted when she opened the files listing the student information. But the look on the small boy's face stayed with her, haunting her thoughts.
1206 Hedgerow Drive she read then quickly put the file back before Mrs. Finston returned. The last thing she needed was to be caught by the superintendent.
Figuring she'd be able to catch the whole family at supper time she waited until seven thirty before leaving her house. By the time she managed to find the address the sun was setting, the harsh orange street lights coming to life.
A sliver van sat in the driveway next to a nice two story white house with blue trim. The lawn and hedges were neat and trim, plenty of land between the houses. Not what she had been expecting. She had a picture in her mind of a rundown house, wildly growing grass with trash scattered over the yard; not the carefully cared for residence in the middle of a respectable neighborhood that she found.
Maybe I was wrong, she thought getting out of her car. It was a nice thought, one she hoped to be true, but she had to know for sure.
She was walking up the sidewalk when she heard the first scream. Loud, full of agony, and definitely that of a young boy. It came again, even worse than the first one. Breaking into a run she humped the three steps leading to the porch and pounded on the door.
"Go away!" a man shouted. Although his voice was rough she recognized Nelson.
"If you don't open this door in three seconds, I'm going to call the police," she shouted pounding on the door again.
It opened. Nelson stood there his hair wild, sweat running down his face, and something dark staining his shirt. Something dark red.
"Please ma'am. Just go away and let me handle this."
She glared at him. "Like you've been handling him? I'm not going to let you hurt him anymore. Where is he?"
Wide-eyed he held a hand up. "It's not like that! He's...he's just going through a rough time right now. He's having a hard time controlling himself and tends to get hurt."
"So you teach him by hitting him? Well not any more buster," she shouted running into the house.
Three doors stood around the room. The one on the left was open, light from the empty kitchen spilling out. Another scream came, somewhere off to the right where the other two doors stood, one closed the other leading into a dark hall.
"What are you doing?" Nelson asked looking panicked. "You don't understand what's going on! Scott is—"
"Let go of me!" she screamed when he grabbed her elbow. She turned and kneed him in the crotch. A sick satisfaction filled her as he fell to the floor, his face red. His eyes stared up pleading.
But she ignored him and turned away. Another scream broke through the house, longer and louder than any of the ones before. She had time to tell which direction it come from. She took off running, tuning out Nelson's pleas.
"W-wait! Don't! He'll hurt—"
Without hesitating she entered the dark hallway. As soon as she stepped into the shadows the screams stopped, replaced by a noise much more frightening.
"Oh God. Hold on Scotty," she whispered feeling her way along the wall. She ran into the door the sound was coming from. As if knowing help was a few feet away Scotty whined louder, his voice so hoarse from screaming that it didn't even sound human anymore.
Finding the cold door knob she twisted it. The room was darker than the hallway. Nelson must have put something over the windows so no one would see inside and turn the bastard in. She felt along the wall, looking for the light switch. The whines cut off but she still heard his heavy breathing.
And for some reason the back of her neck tingled at the sound.
"Finally," she muttered and switched on the lights.
In that one second she immediately knew three things. One, that she'd been horribly mistaken. Scotty didn't' act strange in class because his father was abusing him, but for a reason far worse. Two, that Nelson had tried to help her. He'd been warning her not to come back here. And third that monsters did exist.
One stood before her.
Instead of the bruised, sick boy, a hairy creature crouched on the floor. It vaguely resembled a wolf, a god mighty huge one, but looked far more deadly. Its jaws were spread, two rows of huge fangs lining its mouth. And at the end of each paw, black claws the size of her hand, curved outwards.
It stood up, growling. The claws clicked on the floor as the monster walked towards her. But the thing which scared her the most was the eyes. They glowed bright green and held intelligence along with something else that made her wet her pants.
Screaming, she turned and ran. It chased her, the claws clicking closer each second.
"God please," she whispered over and over. The door to the living room seemed to be a mile away. Hot breath warmed her neck and she knew it was over. She was going to die, eaten alive by one of her own students. But she got lucky. Right when she felt sharp pain across the surface of her skin, she cut the corner jumping into the living room.
Knowing it was stupid, but not able to keep herself from doing it, she glanced over her shoulder when a loud whine filled the house. The monster was sliding on the hardwood floor, its clawed feet not getting enough traction to make the turn. It slid past the doorway and further down the hall.
Relief so heavy that she nearly fell down, washed over her. She had a chance now. To get to her car before the creature got to his feet. But when she turned back around the doorway leading outside, leading to safety, was blocked.
Nelson stood there looking at her sadly. "Why didn't you just listen to me? I tried to warn you."
She ran to him and tried to squeeze by and out the door but he slammed it shut and grabbed her arm.
"Please," she begged, tears leaking out of her eyes. "I don't want to die!"
"I tried to warn you!" Nelson cried, looking miserable. He glanced over her shoulder then back to her. "I can't let you leave and reveal our secret."
"I won't tell!" she shouted her breath hitching as the sound of clicking grew closer behind her. "Please!"
"I'm sorry," he whispered, his eyes wet. "I didn't want this but now we have no other choice. I just hope he can forget the taste."
With those words he turned her around and shoved her forward. Stumbling toward impossibly wide jaws, the last thing she ever saw was a mouth full of glistening fangs. Then warmth covered her cheeks, something wet running down the back of her neck.
At the same moment the pain hit, and before the screams of agony tore through her throat, she heard Nelson sobbing somewhere in the blackness.