Chang'e nearly fell, as she abruptly slid to a halt on the smoothly polished floor. She might have been proud of how well she kept her balance, were she not overwhelmed with abject terror.
She had two thoughts battling for dominance in her head. The first: her safety. The second: betrayal. The one person she thought she could trust, in her alienage, turned out to be a monster and a pervert.
Doing her best to stifle her crying, one hand still clasped firmly over her mouth, Chang’e grasped the door handle with her free hand. Through sheer desperation and determination, she’d managed to squeeze and turn, despite the film of sweat coating her clammy hand.
"Yǐncáng!" the class heard from the exasperated foreign-exchange student, as she burst through the door. She continued, but no one could tell what she was saying, let alone understand it.
Realization washed over her, in a brief, but serene moment of clarity. She then burst into tears.
"Young lady, I'm teaching a class here." Mr. Lopez was the first to break the awkward tension.
Chang'e didn't register his bumbling. It wouldn't have made a difference even if she did understand English. She hastily turned around, locked the door, and yanked the flimsy pull-down screen, before shutting off the light.
"Young lady! I don't know how things are done where you're from, but around here, interrupting a class with such a brazen and disrespectful display warrants a punishment!" Mr. Lopez screeched, in the nasally agitated tone his students affectionately related to an ostrich's squawk.
Chang'e shuffled her way to the opposite side of the room, near the windows, as Mr. Lopez slowly felt his way through the darkened classroom to reach the light switch.
Chang'e put her hands on the windowsill, and the lights flashed back on. Mr. Lopez was ready to begin his litany of "What a student should be", but something halted his thoughts dead in their tracks.
As Mr. Lopez looked to the ground, ignoring the snickering of the small class of students, he noticed an imperfect, fragmented footprint. Many of them, in fact. All leading from the door, to where the young Chinese exchange student was leaning halfway out the third floor window. She was looking down, only to discover that it was far too high to jump.
All the footprints had the thick and unmistakable crimson of blood.
A sharp twang from somewhere down the hallway could be heard. Chang'e began to scream as 'quietly' as she could to "...turn the lights back off and hide!", while Mr. Lopez took a deep breath, washed over by the calm found only in one who's seen much death in their life.
"Everyone, move all of your belongings to the back of the room…" Mr. Lopez said, in a firm, yet calm voice, hitherto unknown to his students.
"Mr. Lopez, why…" Martin O’Hare, possibly the only student hoping the geometry lesson would continue, tried to pipe up.
"Shut up, and do what I say." Mr. Lopez barked, in the same authoritative tone.
There had been rumors that Mr. Lopez was once in the military, but his duties and rank changed depending on who you asked. The only person who knew for sure, was Mr. Lopez himself.
All of the students had quietly begun their migration to the room's rear. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, Chang'e felt as though she could fight back the tears. There was hope. Every time she’d begun to tense up, Martin, holding her hand, would calmly repeat “No, no, no, it’s okay.”
Martin continued to comfort Chang'e, while Mr. Lopez turned out the light, and joined the class in the back of the room.
Chang’e was normally interested in listening to other people speak. She truly was enthusiastic about learning English, at first. Mr. Yin was an excellent teacher, and really sparked her passion. Until he didn’t. She deeply regretted ever having accepted his ‘private lessons’.
Despite her rudimentary grasp of the English language, she knew what Mr. Lopez was doing, as he spoke in a muffled tone into his cell phone. Mr. Lopez was on the phone with the police.
"How many?" Mr. Lopez asked Chang'e, hand over the phone’s receiver.
She just stared blankly at him, unknowing.
“Christ…” he sighed, as he held up an array of fingers, trying to demonstrate numbers, then shrugged to indicate a question. Not that it helped at all.
Martin took a sheet of paper, and began to write something on it. Chang’e stared intently, unsure of what he was up to, but knew full well it had everything to do with her.
Finished, Martin slid the paper on the floor in front of her, and pointed at the first figure. A single “I” followed by a question mark. He then pointed at the second figure, “II” with a question mark. As he prepared to point to the third, she abruptly slammed her finger down on the first figure.
“So, it’s just one man?” Mr. Lopez dubiously whispered into the phone, before ending his call. In the dark silence of the classroom, a faint tapping could be heard from the hallway, gradually growing in volume.
Mr. Lopez crept over to the cabinet in the corner, and fumbled delicately for something. A baseball bat. He slowly slipped across the room, and stood back against the wall, beside the door jam. Beads of sweat trickled down his wrinkly, furrowed brow, stinging his eyes.
The footsteps grew ever louder, until finally culminating into a crescendo of silence. It seemed obvious to everyone that whatever it was, stood just outside of the door.
Mr. Lopez twisted his grip on the baseball bat, ready to swing.
For the students of the class, every second felt like an hour. Every breath took an eternity.
As Mr. Lopez slowly leaned forward, and gently nudged back the flap covering the window, there was a strange sound. Almost like a chirp. Mr. Lopez stood for a few more moments on the spot, before gently weaving back and forth, then collapsing.
Almost as if on cue, the second his limp corpse hit the floor, the screams began. By the time the blood dripped out from the small hole just above his left eye, chaos had broken out in full. Students scrambled for any kind of sanctuary they could find. One clambered into the closet, desperately trying to shut it as another two tried to force their way in. Fingers were pinched, bones were broken. One fear stricken student attempted to lower themselves as gracefully as they could, out the window, toward the ground. Chang’e saw them let go, but she’d never know if they survived the fall.
The only two who remained relatively still, near the back of the classroom, were Chang’e and Martin. A disturbing sense of dread crossed both of them. The combination of impending doom, and the savagely base anarchy of their fellow students formed a shroud of surreal disbelief. Martin was in shock. Chang’e was passed that, but she’d all but given up hope. She turned her head, and looked out the window, seeing the peculiar sight of a full moon in the mid-afternoon sky.
“I wish I was up there right now, away from all of this. Anywhere but here.” she thought to herself.
The jangling of keys was only audible to the pair of ears on the outside of the pandemoniac cacophony. Most of the students had ceased scrambling, and turned their attention back toward the door, in a morbid curiosity.
The door gently slid open, revealing the silhouette of Mr. Yin, the English teacher.
Some students grew a false sense of security, believing him to be their savior... until they noticed the weapon in his hand. Others found it even more terrifying that someone they thought they knew, someone they trusted, could be behind such evil.
“Into your seats, children.”
No one sat. They all stared, bewildered. The room was quiet once more, aside from the weeping of two girls near the back.
“Let me make things a little more clear for you,” Mr. Yin said, as he raised a sinister looking handgun with a long tube on the front to a boy’s head and fired without hesitation, “get in your fucking seats.” Screams once more erupted, as Mr. Yin sighed and rolled his eyes. Some students scrambled to the nearest desk, as Mr. Yin fired at a few other students who couldn’t contain their fear.
Chang’e and Martin were the only two left not dead, or seated at a desk. There were only a handful of students alive. Three, not including her and Martin, from what Chang’e could see.
Mr. Yin called the two “wayward” students to the front of the class. Visibly frustrated at the perceived closeness of Martin and Chang’e, Yin separated the two of them.
“This child?” Mr. Yin began, “you’d choose this child over me!”
Despite not knowing what the words meant, she knew what he was saying. She knew where this was going.
“We should be together. You should never have run. You’re the reason all these people have suffered.”
Mr. Yin reached a hand forward, and gently grazed Chang’e’s tear-stained cheek. He slowly, coyly slid his hand down her neck, toward her chest. “You should have stayed with me…”
Martin saw his opportunity and lunged for Mr. Yin’s gun.
Shots rang out, and the scuffle ended nearly as soon as it began. Martin O’Hare laid on the floor, bleeding profusely. The three remaining students had taken the opportunity to flee the gruesome scene as soon as their former teacher was distracted.
“Nothing will come between us. I would wrestle the sun down for you...” the lunatical teacher trailed off.
As Mr. Yin began to “appreciate” Chang’e’s body with his creeping hands, he noticed a dark red spot on her blouse, slowly growing in size and saturation.
“No, no, no!”
Chang’e, for the first time since all of this began, felt no fear. In fact, she’d hardly felt more than a sharp prick when the bullet penetrated her chest. She was drained. Too emotionally exhausted; too deep in the throes of her trauma. The only thing she felt was a chill. She slowly fell back against the wall, using what strength she could muster to keep herself sitting upright.
“What have I done to you? Oh, I’m so sorry!” he cried out, as tears began to stream down his face. Approaching sirens could be heard in the distance, causing manic thoughts to race through his head. He had his solution.
“If we can not be together in life, we shall find one another in death…” he whispered, as he bent over, wrapped his hands around her head, and planted a soft kiss just under her hairline.
Chang’e looked up, locking eyes with Mr. Yin. The last thing he’d ever see.
As he pulled the trigger, the chirp of the silenced weapon left a lasting ringing in Chang’e’s ears.
The disgraced teacher fell to the floor unceremoniously, with a thud.
The cold began to grow, as Chang’e looked about the room. Something caught her eye, something that twitched.
“Chang’e…” the young boy, clinging to his last desperate moments, croaked as he crawled toward her.
“No, no, no…” she said, as tears welled up in her eyes once more.
“It’s me, it’s Martin O’Hare… don’t be scared…”
Chang’e slowly reached out a hand towards Martin. “Hare…” she said.
The two dying youths held one another as tightly as their feeble, failing strengths could muster.
“Yeah… Hare…” Martin said softly, as he drew his last breath.
Chang’e slowly slid from her seated position, her fight against gravity failing. She might have been proud of how long she’d held out, if she’d only survived. Abruptly, she lost the final battle, and fell limp to the floor. Her Hare laid stone-still in her lap.
Inspired by the Chinese mythological legend of Chang'e, and the serum of immortality.
About the author
"Tewahway? How do you even say that?" Honestly, so long as you try, you're doin' it right!
I mainly write horror fiction, but I'm here to spread my wings and soar like a literary baby bird.
https://www.talesbytravel.com/short-stories for more
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters