Growing up, I always had plenty of books to read. Now, my family and I lived in a modified schoolhouse from a long time ago, so my house always had a creaky, creepy feel to it. It used to be two classrooms. One upstairs and one downstairs. The lower floor became the primary classroom, after leaks had ruined the upper floor. But, renovations made it a house today. Probably why a lot of kids never wanted to come over. Being an only child was, as you can guess, quite boring. Most of you who were only children will know what I mean. I could always go out and get friends, but I just wasn’t very good at talking. So, my parents thought that books would be a good way for me to kill my time. I was only about six when they brought me a whole bunch of books from my childhood. They were those cheap, paperback kind that you see at the bottom shelf of most bookstores, with bright illustrations of kids riding bikes, or dragons, and having adventures with their friends while finding lost treasures.
There were so many, I wasn’t able to finish all of them. In our basement, we had a row of wooden cabinets below a counter top against the wall. In one of these cabinets is where I kept my vast collection of books at. I was able to read them after school everyday, and still, they took my six-year-old mind a while to go through. Nevertheless, I loved it with a passion anyway.
Eventually, I just lost interest. My parents had gotten me one of those new video game consoles, and of course, a bright screen outweighed boring paper any day. That cabinet just slipped my mind from then on. I never opened it again. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and months turned to years.
After finishing high school, it was time for college. Summer went by quick, and I leave for the university tomorrow. I had finished packing all my bags, and my parents had just gone to bed. My car was ready for the eight-hour drive tomorrow morning, and so I would have to go to bed early tonight. I walked down the stairs to my room, after getting a sobbing hug from my mother, and an awkward one from my father. I carried my backpack down with me, keeping it open as I trotted downward.
As I shuffled contents about, a bottle of water fell from the side of my bag and rolled down the steps. Going down after it, I heard it hit the bottom. I flicked on the lights and saw it against the wall. Walking over, I picked it up. But then I paused for a moment. It had rolled into a wooden cabinet. Curiosity poked my mind as I simply swung it open. And inside, I couldn’t believe what I saw. Dust. Everywhere. Coughing, I waved my hand around to get rid of the thick clouds from the door’s motion. After settling, I saw the outlines of what it had gathered on.
Naturally, a ran my index finger on the dusty surface, leaving a long line of color. Raising an eyebrow, I picked the object up, blowing on it. A small, child’s book. It had a picture of a very young girl making cookies, and above her head the words read, “Cindy’s Big Bake!” On the corner, black marker had the name “Jason Klein” written. My name. Flipping through the pages, memories gushed back. These were my books I had so long ago.
I read through them quickly, seeing as how most were only just twenty pages. After a while, I began to read more and more books that I didn’t even remember. Of course, there were a lot. There was no way I could read them all. Within half an hour, they were almost all gone. Then, there was one book left on the shelf. Pulling it off, I read the title. “Correct Classroom Behavior”. My name wasn’t on this one. And judging by its yellowing pages, this must have been in this cabinet before my family even moved in here. Opening it slowly, I began to read the book. “Correct Classroom Behavior”, it said behind the cover. No author’s name was given.
I turned the page again, and saw a bunch of students running about a classroom. Paper airplanes flew about, and spitballs were stuck on the walls. Above the picture, the text read, “Children can be very naughty, very naughty indeed. Especially to their teacher, sweet old Mrs. Sneed.” On the other page, it showed a very old woman. She wore thick-rimmed glasses, and her hair was a dark grey, cut short and curling atop her head. She had a yellow dress with pink daisies on it. But her expression is what caught me. She seemed… Scared. Her eyes had immense detail, and she looked at me as though she desperately wanted to tell me something, something horrible. But she was just a picture.
Turning the page, I continued on. The next scene showed Mrs. Sneed sitting at her desk as the children ran about. “Come now, Mrs. Sneed, don’t be shy. Don’t make these kids think you’ll turn the other eye.” Mrs. Sneed looked at the ground sadly, her bony hands resting on her desk as his face showed regret, and an extreme sense of self-hate as the kid stood on the other side of her desk, sticking out his tongue and making faces at her. I turned the page slowly, wondering what she was so afraid of.
This time, I read the text first. I’m glad I did. “Now, now, Mrs. Sneed, take those safety scissors. These kids will learn from cuts and blisters.” The picture showed Mrs. Sneed with an outraged look, scissors in one hand and latching onto the kid’s hand with the other. The child screamed and cried as Mrs. Sneed cut the webbing of his fingers, her teeth bared in anger as she did so. My mouth opened slightly and blinked, taking in the page before me. It was a disturbing read, yes, but it was still just a book.
I turned the page again. “Great job, Mrs. Sneed! You’re a teaching prodigy! Now isn’t it time you teach them biology?” The picture showed Mrs. Sneed with her scissors at the ready, the child laying on her desk. She had snipped away all the tendons on his knees, elbows, and on the sides of his mouth. She was now snipping his stomach open, showing his intestines to the class. Children in the seats were crying, some covering their mouths while others just tried to avoid looking. They all looked pale, genuinely scared for their lives now.
I gagged slightly at the sight of that child’s intestines spilling on the table as that teacher had cut him open, and I hurriedly turned the page. “What a great class! A great class indeed! That class was your last, right, Mrs. Sneed?” It read, as the kids walked out of the schoolhouse. Some had blood on the bottom of their legs, and they all still looked extremely pale. Some were hugging each other as they walked, sobbing and trying to breath by using each others support. In the doorway, Mrs. Sneed stood, her face void of emotion as she watched the children leave. Her dress, splattered with blood.
I turned the page again, feeling it was the last one. It wasn’t a page.
The last part of the book was a photograph, one of a classroom. Chairs and tables were flipped over, the walls had rot on them. Paper decorations were torn and peeling all over the walls. But that isn’t what caught me. In the center, a woman, with leathery brown skin, dry and cracking on her body. Her hair hung in very few and loose patches on her peeling head. Her lips had dried up, and her blotchy yellow teeth were bared directly at me. Her empty eye sockets carried a never ending stare, as her eyes had rotted and fallen out long ago. She wore a beat up yellow dress, dried red blood all over it. A few pink daisies here and there.
And around her neck was a rope, which suspended her from the ceiling. In marker at the bottom, a few words were written. “Thanks, Mrs. Sneed! Your work is done! We learned a lot, and sure had fun!”
I closed the book and stood up, turning around slowly, I recognized my basement. I mean, I always knew what it was, of course it was my basement. But now, I knew what it really was. It was the classroom from the book. Walking slowly, I took it all in. All the school things were gone, and just a bunch of junk was stored here. But, a woman didn’t really hang herself down here, right? Lost in thought, I didn’t see where I was going, and I tripped.
My glasses fell off, and I mumbled, feeling around for them. My hand touched something that felt like glasses, and I stood up, adjusting them. I brought out my phone and looked at the black screen. These weren’t my glasses.
What the reflection showed was a pair of thick-rimmed glasses, cracks in the lens. And along the rim was the name, “Mrs. Sneed.”