To Teach to the Eng

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

Retired teacher Maggie Walthal decides, after a short vacation, to return to teaching. She eagerly accepts a position at a parochial school thinking that she will have an easy preparation and eager, interested students. What she finds in her classroom is utter horror.

“To Teach to the End”

by

William M. O’Brien, Jr.

In March, Maggie Walthal became eligible for retirement, and took it.  Like her colleagues who had gone before her, she had made plans, some even grandiose, for retirement.  But unlike most of her colleagues, she maintained the thought, even if it was in the back of her mind, that she was going to miss teaching.

For Maggie had loved teaching.  Basically, for many years, teaching was all she had. 

She had once been married.  Her husband, Howard, a junior executive at an important, up and coming firm, was headed straight to the top.  Everything he did on his job seemed “to the delight of the ladies and the envy of the gentlemen.”  He was groomed by the leadership for a top position, and it seemed he would be nothing less than CEO by his forty-fifth birthday, for he foresaw everything that stood in his way on this path upwards.  Everything except the congenital heart defect, unknown to him, that killed him at age thirty.  Maggie, at twenty-eight, became a young widow. 

To earn a living and, indeed, to assuage her grief, she took a job teaching chemistry at a high school, and there she was destined to stay.  Thirty years passed, years filled with science fairs, senior proms, Friday night football games, and faculty get- togethers and end of year parties, until the marriage of the little be speckled science geek to a campus BMOC became only a faded, distant memory.  Now, at fifty-eight, Maggie wasn’t really ready for retirement; she decided on a long vacation and then a change of professional scenery. 

After retiring from her public high school job, she took a Caribbean Cruise, a sight- seeing trip to Colorado, read constantly, and toyed with a trip to Europe but turned it down because she found a job opening at St. Gregory’s Catholic School for girls.

 

“To Teach…” 2

The job intrigued her because she had heard for years that there were few discipline or parental problems in parochial schools.Even though she had had the top students in her previous school, she still had some discipline problems she had to deal with.  She’d always hated it.  And, of course, there were problems with parents, more frequent than the discipline because of the caliber of students she taught, but she disliked these as well.  So, she called her travel agent, told her to cancel her European tour, and took the job at St. Gregory’s, beginning in the fall term.

Talking with former colleagues, she learned that science teachers were hard to come by in parochial schools because they were at a premium in most any secondary schools.  The relatively lower pay in parochial schools made it next to impossible to acquire them ahead of the higher paying public schools.  So Maggie, with her pension, was more than welcome at St. Gregory’s. She enjoyed the remainder of her regular summer break and prepared to go to work the first day of the school year. 

The Sunday night before she was to report, she had the strangest dream she had ever had.  In it, her long deceased husband Howard stood before her with his arms outstretched, seemingly to hold her back.  She tried to walk toward him but couldn’t; some force seemed to be holding her back, keeping her from him.  Then he shook his head, and his lips pronounced a silent “no…no.”

She awoke sweating, out of breath.  In the thirty years since his death, she had never dreamed about him.  Of course, she had thought about him; in the years immediately following his death every single day.  But a dream?  None.  Not until now.  “What was that all about?” she whispered, sitting up in bed.

At St. Gregory’s, the first day of preparation week, she made the acquaintance of Sister Rose Benedict, the Principal, who welcomed her whole heartedly.  It seems she had been afraid she would have to call the previous chemistry teacher, Sister Helena, who was already past seventy, out of retirement.  The Principal called Maggie a godsend. 

“To Teach…” 3

Later that day, Maggie found her room, on the third floor, small, but comfortable.  She would have to go next door for labs, whereas, in her previous school, she had had a spacious room equipped with a lab in the back.

But this didn’t bother Maggie a bit.  She went right to work arranging the desks in rows (they had been stacked by the janitor for sweeping) and making out seating charts. Then she checked out the walls and blackboards for the necessary charts and decorations.  All in all, the room was old fashioned, quaint, but Maggie already loved it.

The next day, she learned that she would be teaching three small sections of chemistry, one advanced, and one section of earth science.  Also, she would proctor a study hall.  This delighted Maggie also; she had taught every science class there was to teach in high school, so she had the necessary know-how to deal with her assignment.  Seeing that many of her chemistry students were Juniors, she envisioned a physics class and vowed to take it up with Sister Rose later in the school year. 

The following Monday, the first day of classes, she was a bit uneasy teaching all girls.  Previously, she had made a habit of teasing boys on the first day but here were all girls.  After her usual introduction, she handed out a science/chemistry diagnostic test and was amazed when many of the girls finished in record time. 

One of the first girls to turn in her test was a freckled faced redhead named Angela.  She plopped her paper down on Maggie’s desk and scooted it around so she could grade it. 

“You’re the new science teacher,” the girl whispered.  “How come you’re not a nun?”

“They couldn’t find one who could teach chemistry so here I am.”  Maggie smiled and quickly graded her test.  One hundred per cent.  “This is very good,” Maggie whispered. 

“Yeah.  I’m a science nerd.”  The girl pulled her uniform skirt up and tucked in a

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protruding shirt tail.  “I’m a senior this year.  I’ve had all the science classes they have here.  Even advanced biology last year.” 

“That’s good.”  Maggie smiled again.  “I foresee an excellent year in chemistry for you.” 

The girl returned to her seat and Maggie began to collect other papers coming in.This was to be expected in the advanced class, but she was amazed at the number of papers scoring one hundred per cent in her regular classes.  Even in advanced classes in her previous school, only a few would score one hundred percent.  Here, most of the chemistry students had done it.

Her earth science class did very well on their test also.  Maggie was ecstatic.  What a year she was going to have.  That night she threw herself into preparation for her first week.  But lingering in the back of her mind was her strange dream.

It had been over a week since the weird event had occurred, but Maggie was sure it meant something.Of course, she had not forgotten Howard over the years.  However, many other events over the years had relegated him to a small, private area of her memory.  Now, here he was in the forefront of her mind, and doing things that were very troubling. 

At the end of the first week, Angela and a small girl, Juney McBride, whom everyone knew as Rodent, came up to Maggie’s desk just before the end of the period. 

“This is going to be a very cool class,” Angela giggled.  “We’re going to have a great year.  I only wish Chrystal were here to enjoy it with us.”

“Oh, did she graduate last Spring?”  Maggie looked up from the lab assignment she was working on.

 “Oh, no.  She had issues last Spring.”  The girl and her diminutive friend leaned on Maggie’s desk.  “Her Dad kept bringing his girlfriend home.”

“His girlfriend was just a few years older than Chrystal was.”  Juney’s, aka the

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Rodent’s, voice was much too deep for a girl of her size.

“One night last May Chrystal did a Lizzie Borden number on her Dad’s head with an ax.” Angela leaned on the desk and grinned.

“Then she blew his girlfriend in half with a shotgun,” Juney added.

“She’s in Juvie, now.”  Angela stared down at Maggie’s desk.  “She was a shoo-in to be our Valedictorian this year.  Now that’s out.”

“How horrible,” Maggie remarked.  The last time she had encountered something like this was sixteen years before when one of her best students had announced the sudden death of her mother.  That had upset her.  And now this.  Neither girl seemed very concerned. 

That afternoon Maggie stayed late finishing up lesson plans for the next week.  She couldn’t get Angela’s announcement out of her mind.  The girl might as well have announced her trip to the beach.  Indeed, the non-chalance was almost as disturbing as the announcement itself.

She was just finishing and thinking about going home when she suddenly heard footsteps heading down the hall toward her room.

Oh, God.  I hope that’s not Sister Rose coming to tell me to go home, she thought.

She stood up and headed for her door in order to greet her principal there.However, when she stepped into her door, there was no one there.  Indeed there was no one in the hall at all.  She walked down the hall toward the stairwell, thinking someone had just entered one of the rooms close to hers.  But all of the doors were shut.

 “That’s odd,” she said under her breath. 

 She was beginning to feel chilled.  The old building used window units for air conditioning in the spring and summer, but, from what she could tell, none of these were on. 

“To Teach…” 6

Her room was particularly cold when she re-entered it.  She glanced at the AC unit across the room.

“What is that thing doing on,” she said to herself.  Now it was cold enough in her room to make her think she should have brought a sweater or jacket. 

 She found the AC unit off.  In fact, she found an index card which had fallen off onto the floor that read “Do not use unless authorized.”

 “Now what’s going on here?” she whispered.  She bent down to pick up the little sign.  When she straightened up, she heard, suddenly, a gravelly voice behind her state softly, “My work.”

She abruptly turned.  Of course, nothing was there.  However, she had the strongest feeling that someone was in the room with her. 

Quickly she gathered up her materials and left the room, making sure that she locked the door behind her. 

In her former school, there had always been a busy company everyday after school working on various things in their rooms.  Everyday except on Fridays, which was usually a happy hour or a football game later. 

But here, there was no one.  Nothing except a voice.  Very quickly she made her way down two flights of stairs and out the front entrance to her car.

At home, she made a drink, the first in a month, and sat down.  A disembodied voice in her room.  Surely, she must have imagined it.  What else could it be?  What really bothered her was that this was strange event number two.  The first being her equally weird dream.

Maggie spent the weekend thinking about the odd events of her first week at school.  First of all, the disembodied voice had said “my work.”  What work?  And Howard?  He had come completely “out of the blue” to issue to her a warning.  What looked like a warning.  But she had had no commerce of any kind with him for thirty years.

“To Teach…” 7

With trepidation, Maggie went to her job on Monday morning.  Her next week was well planned and she looked forward to working with her students, but something in the back of her mind bothered her.  Especially the disembodied voice she had distinctly heard in her room.

As the week passed, Maggie lost herself in teaching the initial rudiments of chemistry to students who not only expressed an interest in what she was teaching, but seemed to be enjoying her class as well.  In her former school, over the years, she got to where she could count on at least some apathy in every class.  But not here.

On Thursday, a large girl named Barbara, aka Barby Butt to her fellows, announced that she had completed Maggie’s initial extra credit assignment for the six weeks.  A rather complicated research project on the elements due by the end of the first grading period, Maggie had not expected to hear anything about it until toward the end of six weeks. 

Immediately upon the announcement, the room was abuzz with other girls talking about their progress on the project.  Although totally pleased with the sudden announcement, Maggie was aghast at something that had never happened as long as she had been teaching.  From the sounds of things, many of the other girls were also finishing up the project. 

“My, I’m very…very impressed,” Maggie said, smiling.  “This has never happened to me before.  What prompted all this initiative?”

“Sister Agatha told us to,” a tall blonde girl name Kelly on the front row said, then leaned forward on her fists and smiled.

Immediately the girl behind her kicked her in the rear end through the desk.

The tall girl turned immediately.  “What’s your problem, Shirley shitface?”

Maggie ignored the remark.  “Sister Agatha?  I haven’t met her yet,” she said and smiled.

“To Teach…” 8

The class erupted in laughter.  The dismissal bell prevented any further inquiry or discussion on the subject. 

While her students filed out of the room, Maggie leaned against her desk and thought.  Sister Agatha?

Heading downstairs for lunch in the small cafeteria, Maggie envisioned a school disciplinarian she had not been told about.  So much the better for me, she thought.  This person seems to be doing her job very well.  She remembered a few students who had laughed off a discipline trip to the assistant principal in her previous school.

That afternoon, immediately after school, Maggie sat at her desk and looked over Barbara Elbel’s extra credit project.  The work was so impressive that she wondered if the girl had had extra help with it.  Usually Maggie didn’t mind some extra help on a project of this scope as long as it wasn’t just outright copied.  But this didn’t seem to be copied. 

She checked a reference in a book she had on hand and, when replacing the book in the rack on her desk, she again had the feeling that she was not alone in the room.  And the cold was back, too.

But this time the window unit was on.  She stood up and headed to the window at the rear of the room, thinking that the units were somehow turned on automatically. 

Noticing the little sign was again on the floor, she switched the unit to “off.”  She hugged herself when she returned to her desk, sat, and then looked down.

There, on top of the girl’s open project, was a slip of paper with I’m so proud of Barbara scribbled on it. 

“Who in the name of holy God did this?” Maggie said aloud.  Now she stood up and noticed the cold had not begun to dispel.  She walked quickly to a window and opened it to a ninety degree afternoon, and then turned and, slowly, walked

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back to her desk and the mysterious scrawled message.  The only way, she thought, that anyone could have put this here was when I walked to the back of the room.

Upset, she prepared to go home.  A rustling noise in the hall announced the presence of the janitor outside her room, so she hurriedly placed two sets of papers in her briefcase and left for the day.

At home, she made a drink thinking, All of this screwball crap is going to make an alcoholic out of me yet.  God, after thirty years of teaching, I’m finally becoming a drunk.

Television was uninteresting so Maggie ate a small supper and then went to bed to read.  An hour later, she was fast asleep.

Shortly after midnight, she was awakened by what she perceived was a nudging in her lower back.  She turned over on her back.  Immediately she felt a hot breath in her left ear and a voice that said softly “Maggie, my students all like you.  It’s a shame one of them has to die.”

She sat up, feeling a scream welling up within her.  “What in hell is this!” she shouted to what was now an empty room.  Breathing heavily she reached over and switched the bedside lamp on.  No one was there, but there was the same cold she had felt in her classroom. 

Maggie didn’t go back to sleep.  She was afraid to.  Finally, toward dawn, she decided she had experienced just another strange dream.  The weird thing was that Maggie hardly ever dreamed and when she did, her dreams didn’t make much sense.  But now, here were two.  Howard in the first one and some unknown individual in the second. 

When she sat up, she still felt the cold.  Hugging herself, she looked about the dark room.  Then she turned to the window to catch just the flash of a facial profile as it faded away. 

“To Teach…” 10

“What the hell is that?  Someone’s looking in the window.”

When she got to the window and looked out, she noticed the cold was gone.  Now the room was stuffy. 

One more unusual thing was that the neighbor’s dog, Buffy, a German shepherd, was barking.  Maggie had never heard the dog bark, and she’d lived next door to it for the last eight years.  She remembered that the dog’s young owner who had bought the garden home next to hers had been worried that the dog never barked.  It had growled and snarled on occasions but it never barked.  Even when someone came around, it would wake up at night, and wake its owner up, but it never barked.  Now, Maggie noticed, it was “barking its head off.”

She returned to bed after checking the time.  Four o’clock.  Two hours before her alarm would go off. 

Finally, Buffy quit barking.  Maggie remembered the dog she had had.  Two years after Howard passed, to combat the loneliness she had felt for the last two years, she acquired a little fox terrier puppy from a friend and named it Tipper.  Not long after the dog, a cat named Whiskers came to live with her.  She paid her pet deposit at the apartment she lived in at the time, but moved two years later when she found her present garden home.

Time passed and both animals grew old and died.  Maggie had never replaced them.  She wished to God now she had, for she had never felt so alone in her life.  For now she felt something very close to her.  Something menacing.  Something sinister. 

When she got to school that morning, she found the front office abuzz and two police officers waiting in the principal’s office.  She checked her mail box and then walked down the hall to the front office. 

From a secretary, she found out that a senior student, Margaret Forbes, had been killed by a car during the previous night.  Apparently, she and her older boyfriend were drinking when they left a bar after midnight.  Margaret, drunk, had

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staggered into the street into the path of an oncoming car. 

“After midnight, you say,” Maggie asked the secretary.

“Yes.  About twelve thirty, they say.”

Maggie remembered vividly she had checked the time after last night’s episode.  It’s a shame one of them has to die.  Shortly thereafter, she had looked at her bedside clock.  Twelve twenty.

The terror within her forcing her to hold on to the stair rail, she made her way up to her classroom.  Greeting her at her door was almost her entire class, waiting for her to open the room.

“Did you hear about Margaret?” a usually quiet girl named Bonnie chirped.

“Yes…Yes, I did.”  Maggie noticed her hand trembling when she dug in her purse for the keys.  “It’s…It’s very tragic.”

“Her asshole boyfriend got her killed,” Bonnie proclaimed, to a chorus of “shhhh” behind her.

Later in the day, flowers and wreaths were laid at Margaret’s locker.  Maggie thought about buying a wreath and putting it on the girl’s locker but decided it would be too presumptuous.  Later, after school in her room, she sat at her desk and thought again about the weird events of the past days.

They seemed to be escalating; indeed, they seemed to have followed her home.  She vowed to speak to Sister Rose about her experiences on Monday, as she had not been in her office at the end of school. 

Nothing occurred that weekend.  On Monday, during her morning conference period, Maggie found the principal making a chart in her office.  The Sister looked up at her and smiled as Maggie sat down in the chair in front of her desk.

 

“To Teach…” 12

“I’ve been hearing good things about you, Miss Walthal,” Sister Rose said, putting down a marker.

 “Oh, thank you, Sister.  I have had a wonderful beginning of school.”  Maggie smiled back and folded her hands in her lap.  “There is an issue, though, that has been giving me a bit of trouble with the students.”

“Oh?”  The Sister raised her eyebrows and sat back in her chair.

“Well, along with the tragic death of Margaret Forbes, of course.  I’m not used to this kind of thing, even after thirty years of teaching.”

“Yes, that was very tragic.”  The Principal bowed her head and crossed herself.

“My students are delightful, I must say.”  Maggie paused and then smiled again.  “Your Sister Agatha seems to be doing her job very well.”

“Sister Agatha?”

“Yes.  Is she your assistant principal?”

“Miss Walthal, there is no such person at this school.  And hasn’t been in several years.”

Maggie felt a terror beginning deep within her.  “My students mentioned Sister Agatha just the other day.”

“Oh, that.”  The Principal shook her head.  “The students seem to have a…a sort of legend thing passed down from class to class.  Sister Agatha was a teacher here about fifteen years ago.  She got involved with some students in her classes in a way that was not only unethical but…”  The Sister paused and looked out the window.  “…in a way that was shameful and sinful.”

Maggie listened, wide-eyed.

 

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“When the then principal, Sister Mary Francis, along with the police, came to her room to confront her, she threw herself out of a third floor window.  She landed on a wall and broke her back.”

Now it was all Maggie could do to keep from wetting herself.

The Principal continued.  “I wouldn’t worry about it, Miss Walthal.  I assure you it’s just adolescent foolishness.”

With extreme effort Maggie smiled and spoke.  “It’s…It’s just that her name came up and I wondered who that was.”

Sister Rose smiled and Maggie stood up to go.  “Thank you, Sister Rose.”  Maggie managed another slight smile and left the office. 

In her room, waiting for her next class, she wondered what was next.  She had found out who Sister Agatha was and now supposed that this person, somehow, was controlling her students.  But what about the disembodied voices and the face in her window at home?  Maggie closed her eyes and tried to dispel some of the terror she felt. 

Although she had never really believed in ghosts, she had always been interested in them.  Indeed, after Howard passed, she had wondered if his ghost was around.  But a scientist wasn’t supposed to believe in ghosts, was she?

But now she felt cold terror and a vulnerability she didn’t know how she was going to deal with.

Somehow Maggie got through the day and returned home.  Sitting in her living room and thinking about making a drink, she suddenly realized there was no one she could go to for help.  Sister Rose wouldn’t believe her.  She thinks this was just a student lark.  And the students.  The student’s reactions to tragic events.  Margaret Forbes.  And that Chrystal girl last Spring.

Maybe if I go to bed drunk I won’t wake up ‘til morning, she thought, pouring gin over tonic.  She took a sip, closed her eyes, then sat back on the couch.  She took

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another sip.  “Oh, God.  I’m really going to turn into a drunk,” she muttered to herself.She turned on the TV and found a movie that interested her, so she lay back on the couch and soon found herself ready for another drink.

Again, another gin and tonic and more TV.  After yet another, she began to feel pleasantly warm.Now, she felt, she could really put recent events out of her mind.  She found that was really easy, with the aid of a few drinks, to put into perspective a situation in which she had never found herself before. 

My life has been so very humdrum, she thought, a new drink in her hand.  The movie still droning away, she lay flat on the couch and began to sleep. 

Sometime after midnight, she awoke to a bone-chilling cold, a cold in which she could see her breath.  “What the hell is…”  She sat up on the couch and looked around. 

Across the room next to the TV which now played a noisy action picture, stood a man who once had been the love of her life.  A young Howard did not move, but just stared down at the late middle aged woman on the couch. 

Maggie, still somewhat drunk, sat open-mouthed, staring.  “God, I’m really out of it now,” she whispered. 

Suddenly, the TV muted and the apparition spoke, in a voice Maggie barely remembered. 

“Your life is in danger, Matty (his pet name for her).”  He spoke without moving, deadly still.  “I want you to leave that school.”

“How…Howard, what are you…”  She stood up but her shins caught the edge of the coffee table in front of the couch and she fell, forward, on the coffee table and the floor in front of it.  When she caught her breath, the cold and the apparition were both gone.  Maggie rolled off the coffee table and onto the floor where she lay for a long time, staring at the ceiling, and wondering if what had just happened was really real.  “So damned many…Damn it,” she muttered. 

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She looked around the room.  The only disturbance of the silence was the TV where the movie had reached a loud climax.  The apparition was gone.  Now everything was back to normal.

“Thank God…Thank God for…,” Maggie muttered to herself, staggering to her bedroom.  There she collapsed on the bed to awake only at seven-thirty the next morning.  She panicked, wondering If she should call in sick. 

Her head throbbing, she made her way to the bathroom.  She took a shower, then, still staggering around, she returned to her bedroom and began getting ready for school. 

“This has got to be a drunken dream,” she muttered.  “God, when was the last time I was drunk.”  She rose to head for the bathroom and a bottle of Tylenol.

Just before leaving, she remembered staggering around a front yard during a party after a college football game.  My God, has it been that long she thought.

She smiled up at the ceiling, then closed her eyes.  “Howard.  Howard was here,” she whispered.  “It’s been a long thirty years without you.”  She remembered what he had said.  A warning.  Definitely a warning.  But against what.  A ghost?  Supposedly, she had seen Sister Agatha in her window.  “There must be going to be hell to pay if my Howard has come back to warn me,” she muttered to herself, then left for school.

That day went by uneventful, as did the rest of the week, and Maggie began wondering why something had not happened.  Her students were doing very well.  She should have been ecstatic, experiencing something that had not happened to her in thirty years of teaching.  But something was there, and Maggie knew, deep within her, that it was only a matter of time.

Friday brought the first test over the elements in chemistry classes.  Despite her misgivings, Maggie was anxious to see how these students fared on a test which other former students found difficult and many failed.  In the advanced class, she passed out the test and stood in front of the class to make sure everyone had

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begun work. 

They’re all hard at work.  That’s a good sign, she thought, crossing her arms over her chest and leaning back against her desk.  At that point she looked up to a sight breathtaking in its sheer horror.  Hovering above the class, close to the ceiling, was the figure of a nun, its face distorted and staring straight at her.

Her first impulse was to scream, but she quickly stifled herself as her students were still diligently and silently at work.  Slowly the room temperature fell to freezing cold, but all Maggie could do was try to keep from looking at the hideous apparition still hovering above her class.  When students began looking up, the figure disappeared.Students began hugging themselves and Maggie thought she heard the name “Agatha.”

Maggie turned and walked around her desk to hide from the students that she was visibly shaken.  When she sat down, she smiled.

“How…How many are finished?  Anyone, yet?”

One student raised her hand.

“Wow.  You are fast,” she said to the smiling girl.

On the first row in front of the teacher’s desk, Angela grinned.  “Don’t worry about Sister Agatha.  She’s harmless.”

Maggie caught her breath.  “She’s…She’s…”

Now other students were looking up and grinning. 

Angela turned around and addressed the class.  “Sister Agatha’s been here.  Feel the cold?”

“My…My…God, Angela.  Sister Agatha’s a…a…,”  Maggie stammered.

“A ghost?  Yeah.  Isn’t that neat?”  The girl beamed.

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“Shut-up-Angie,” Maria Aguirre, a usually quiet girl said, in an even tone.

Angela whipped around in her chair.  “What the hell for?  She’s not going to do anything to Ms. Walthal.”

Stunned, all Maggie could do now was sit and watch her class.  She didn’t have to tell them to return to work for they all did, and everyone handed in her paper well before the dismissal bell.  When the bell rang, Maggie finally gathered up the papers and prepared, as best she could, for her next class. 

The apparition was gone but the cold remained.  At the moment, Maggie was at a loss as to what to do now.  She was terrified that the thing would appear again, in her classroom before her students for she knew if it did, she would surely faint.

But as abruptly as it had appeared, the cold disappeared.  Somehow, Maggie got downstairs to the cafeteria.  On the way she passed a few small groups of girls whispering.  Walking by one she caught the name “Agatha.” 

This is the craziest damned thing I’ve ever seen, Maggie thought.  “How…How could this have happened?” she muttered to herself, then looked around to see if anyone had noticed.  But what really froze her with fear was how she was going to deal with it. 

When she returned to her room after lunch, there were already students there reviewing for their test.  The room had returned to the regular temperature, assuring Maggie that, probably temporarily, the hideous apparition was gone.  But for how long?

The last three periods of the day were uneventful.  The students took their tests and Maggie gathered up the papers.  Although she would usually stay after school and grade them, now she would take the papers home and grade them there.  But hadn’t she seen Sister Agatha there as well. 

Shortly after the dismissal bell, Maggie, papers all gathered in her briefcase, walked to her door and looked up and down the hall.  It intrigued her how quickly

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the halls at St. Gregory’s would empty out after school.  But today, there were some students lingering here and there in the hall between Maggie’s room and the central staircase. 

The hall was usually lighted, not only with electric lights, but also large windows at either end of the hall.  There was also a large window near the top of the stairwell.  The electric lights were not turned on on sunny days, like this Friday, because natural light through the windows provided enough illumination.  As Maggie made her way to the stairwell, there were areas in the hall that were still  dark. 

At the top of the stairs, she paused to transfer her briefcase to her other hand.  Then she started down the steps.  She had not gone three steps when a tremendous force shoved her from behind, pushing her headfirst down the stairs to the landing. 

Now the stairwell was flooded with cold and the monstrous form of Sister Agatha hovered over Maggie, prostrate and hurting in both knees on the landing. 

“My girls!” the monster screamed from above the fallen woman.

Maggie, panicking, attempted to get up, but the same force as before, pushed her flat against the floor.  The horrible image had disappeared, but now she felt a tremendous pressure on her back. 

Maggie screamed, as loud as she could.  Trying with all her strength to get out from under the pressure, she screamed again. 

As quickly as it had disappeared, the image of Sister Agatha reappeared just above Maggie. 

“You should die…” the hideous apparition growled.

Maggie suddenly scooted over away from the thing and attempted to rise.  Just as suddenly a scrawny hand darted out and grabbed her blouse, ripping it partly off.

“To Teach…” 19

At the top of the stairs, a small group of girls had gathered.  Maggie thought she heard “Run, Ms. Walthal,” from someone in the group. 

Maggie, her blouse partly ripped off, but now temporarily free of the thing behind her, crawled, sore knees smarting painfully, for the stairs to the second floor, leaving her briefcase on the landing.  At the top stair, she started to rise, but again a force shoved her from behind and she went sprawling again down the short flight toward the second floor.  Again, Maggie screamed as loud as she could.

Suddenly, a nun she recognized as Sister Anna, a teacher on the second floor, appeared at the base of the stairs. 

“Holy Mother of God,” the Sister screamed, scrambling up the stairs toward Maggie, who was still prostrate on the stairs.  When the young Nun reached her, Maggie was crying hysterically.  She had turned on her side and was holding her knees.

Now a group of girls had assembled around Maggie and the nun on the stairs.  One of the group had her briefcase and as many as could helped Sister Anna lift Maggie to her feet. 

“That horrible…That horrible thing attacked me,” she sputtered. 

The little group supporting Maggie helped her to the first floor and into a small room used as a clinic next to the main office.  Here, they laid her in a bed. 

Maggie turned her head to see Sister Rose in the doorway. 

Now that there were people around, Maggie’s fear, which had had her almost paralyzed, began to subside.  Her knees still aching, she slowly sat up. 

As clearly as she could, she told Sister Rose and those still with her what had happened.  Then, she related earlier incidents involving Sister Agatha as well those that had occurred at home.  Students still in the clinic verified the presence of the awful phenomenon in the school and, to Sister Rose’s look of half bewilderment, half horror, told how all thought the spirit was harmless.

“To Teach…” 20

Maggie didn’t return to work the following Monday.  Instead, she took her tests, all graded, along with a letter of resignation, with two weeks notice, to the school that Monday morning.  In the meantime, Sister Rose had already called in Sister Helena as a substitute.

The Principal told Maggie that she didn’t blame her for resigning and that she had already taken her experiences, along with a list of witnesses, to her superiors at the Archdiocese.  There was, after all, a ritual, extant but obscure, for exorcism in the Catholic Church.

After fully recovering from her experience, Maggie thought about substituting herself, but decided against it.  Instead she enjoyed a year of retirement, taking her European tour after all, and then applying for a position in her former district for teaching in the fall. 

As it turned out, she was hired to open a new high school.  The principal, a former Government teacher and coach, who, as a young teacher, Maggie had helped out of a jam years before, lost no time not only in hiring Maggie, but naming her chairman of the Science Department.  Now, she would return to her job in a much more familiar environment.

Still, in the back of her mind, her bizarre experiences would always remain.  Her belief in the existence of spirits was now fully substantiated.  What she had longed for thirty years before had finally come true.  She had seen Howard.  But any thought of the supernatural on her part now would summon forth the painful knowledge that Sister Agatha had been only too real, and even more sinister, that she was, to her knowledge, still out there.

 


Submitted: November 05, 2019

© Copyright 2021 authorofthedoor. All rights reserved.

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