A Day at School
My alarm clock this morning was my three-year old cousin’s wail. It was not an unusual start to my day, although today she was a bit louder, because her favourite doll’s head fell off. I also don’t prefer waking up this way because that usually happens at 5am in the morning when she began making baby demands. At that point, going back to sleep is easier said than done. I’d just stay awake till it was time to leave for school, which was just two hours away anyway.
When I went for the door and farewelled my aunt, who was comforting my cousin by playing with her, she briefly mentioned that she’d get a new toy for my cousin sometime this afternoon. While that was a grumpy morning for me, somewhere in my conscience I was aware of how spooky it must have been for my poor cousin waking up to her favourite toy dismembered like that. Distracting her unease with a new toy would be the best thing anyone could do.
School time drifted like mist in my grumpy mood, with a sea of usual faces of classmates and teachers blending together, becoming waves that come and go as I traverse desks and chairs and corridors. The quiet Sally way at the back; the tall Karl walking in with his messy hair and that “gives zero fuck” face; Evelyn at the front reading a novel or something; four or five giggly gossipers by the window yapping away; me in the middle being inconspicuous, neither too withdrawn nor stood out. I sat around being vaguely aware of existence until our teacher walked in to start the class.
Our English class that day had a more active agenda - we were to spend the next hour preparing for a quick play, re-enacting a scene from Romeo and Juliet of our own choosing. The most vocal classmates dictated that choice, with the scene where Romeo found Juliet in her tomb, before he drank his poison by her side. Before anyone else could object, the class had scrambled to rearrange all desks and chairs to create space for a makeshift “stage” in the centre of the classroom. Desks and chairs lined up all around the edges of the classroom, where I found myself surrounded by busy, enthusiastic classmates fumbling with card papers, cloth scraps, scissors, glue and all sorts of crafty junk. They were finding joy in making what would be very ugly props that I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate.
I picked up a pair of scissors and a piece of paper, pretending to look busy so I wouldn’t get shunned by others, particularly the teacher, for “non-participation”. As I hid at a corner, secretly observing everyone behind my “props”, I noticed Evelyn preparing her own prop near the classroom door. She got nominated to be Juliet, and she was cutting a ring shape out of a piece of card paper, with a hole big enough to fit through her head. I guess that was meant to be an inexperienced attempt at a Victorian costume, the ones with crazy exaggerated collars for the ladies back in the day. Perhaps I shouldn’t question someone who looked like she had read more books than me.
Noises of preparation came to a halt as the teacher signalled us to begin the play. The scene only had two people - Romeo; I do not know if they picked Karl to fill the role just to mock him, and Juliet played by Evelyn. It was perhaps the most budget stage setup in the world, with Evelyn sitting on a chair, not even lying down, and her eyes closed with her paper Victorian collar fitted around her neck, just where the length of her dark hair ended. Karl had a shitty paper rapier by the side of his waist, with its tip drowning in red crayon colour, supposedly the blood of Paris whom Romeo just killed before this scene. His mates probably had a bit too much fun on that one, and they’d get a huge kick out of Karl’s resting bitch face approaching Juliet/Evelyn with zero effort of empathy. Shakespeare was turning in his grave at that moment.
Karl kneeled beside Evelyn, somehow decided that his version of Romeo should check if Juliet was really dead before he drinks the poison for good. So he poked Evelyn on the side of her head.
Then her head fell off.
Her head fell off.
And it rolled and stopped at my feet.
All senses of fog in my mind throughout that day, suddenly cleared into an unmistakable terror. I looked at Evelyn’s head. I looked at Evelyn’s body. I looked at Karl. I looked around at my classmates and teacher who had been watching.
And they laughed. They were fucking laughing.
“What the hell you guys!? This is not funny! Someone call the ambulance!!” I screamed on top of my lungs, trying to drown out their laughter with some senses, but they just kept laughing. They wouldn’t stop. My whole body was shaking and I had a strong urge to slap one of them back to their senses, but a voice in the back of my mind told me they wouldn’t care. They’d just keep laughing. I was about to puke, especially when I looked back at Evelyn’s body which was then slowly soaked in blood from the top down.
I decided to take this into my own hands and dashed out of the classroom. It was very tempting to jump over the rail, skip running down one flight of stairs and land straight on the ground floor where teachers' office was, but I didn’t want to join Evelyn in an ambulance either. I ran as carefully and quickly as I could, bumped into another teacher on the courtyard.
Perhaps I couldn’t communicate well under the panic I was in. I tried to tell him that Evelyn’s head fell off in class and we needed help straight away, but that sounded so bizarre that he only seemed confused. I couldn’t wait to explain more, so I kept running. I’d have better luck finding someone who could just help without question.
I passed by the school’s infirmary, which occurred to me to be the better option for seeking help. I screamed incoherently off the top of my lungs inside, but an unusual individual answered my plea for help - a girl of around 7 years old who appeared to be the school nurse. I had tears in my eyes, but her height, her look and physique was no mistake for a little girl. I stopped screaming when I saw her.
Out of everyone else in school so far, she seemed to be the only one who’s genuinely concerned at my plea and felt that something was really wrong. She agreed to follow me to my classroom straight away.
We ran back up the flight of stairs to my classroom, but by the time we arrived, a completely different class was going on there, with a different teacher and classmates. There was no blood on the floor. All desks and chairs were back at their grid-like pattern. It was as if everything that I just saw suddenly didn’t happen.
I felt like I was going insane, but the girl nurse still believed me, or that at least something was very wrong. I don’t know who she might really be or how she could believe my sanity, but it was comforting. She advised me to go back home, and she’ll cover any explanation of my early leave to any questioning teachers. I wanted to stay and ask her so many questions, like who she was, where was my class, where was everybody, but I couldn’t resist the thought of going home earlier. Not after that ordeal.
On the street away from school, I stumbled upon my aunt and my cousin. My aunt greeted me with a smile, pleasantly surprised that I left school early. She said she just got a new doll for my cousin and they were going for a walk. My cousin walked over to show me her new doll.
The new doll had Evelyn’s face on it.