The Curious Disappearance of Class 2C
by Helen French
When a class of 30 students goes missing, it’s cause for alarm. Doubly so at a school of magic!
Contact info for Helen French
* Twitter – https://twitter.com/helenfrench
* Daily Science Fiction – http://dailysciencefiction.com/fantasy/magic-and-wizardry/helen-french/of-puddings-and-prophecies
* Flash Fiction Online – http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/dragon-meat/
Esme was beginning to panic. She rang her colleague Jason, who, if she remembered his timetable correctly, should have beenbetween phonics workshops at that precise moment. “My class has gone,” she whispered into the mouthpiece, just in case the children were invisible and still listening. “I’m serious. Serious! Please stop laughing. Come help me?”
He sidled in through the door to Class 2C a minute later, which crashed shut behind him. It always crashed like that. So the kids couldn’t have gone out through it, right? Not all thirty of them so quickly?
Jason took one long look at the classroom and laughed. “You really have lost them!”
“They must be here somewhere. Somewhere close. Probably.”
He walked over to the window and checked the latch. If the children had climbed through, they wouldn’t have been able to lock it behind them. But locked it was.
Jason shook his head slowly. “All right, all right, so it’s not so funny. You should be talking to the Head.”
“And she’d call their parents, and the cops. I know that’s what I should do. It’s what I ought to do. But…”
“Thirty children don’t just disappear. They’re playing a trick on me, Jason, and I just need to figure out what the trick is.”
Jason sat on one of the small classroom tables. He was well over six feet tall and looked ridiculous, perched on the edge of it as if he were a giant. They didn’t employ giants, of course. Not since the stampeding incident in ‘84.
“Tell me what you were doing when it happened.”
“I was using the whiteboard. We had spell spellings to do. Haydn kept bugging me because he said David was stealing his pencils. David was crying, because one of the girls kept leaning back in her chair and touching his chair, and then it all fell completely silent.”
“The usual cacophony of six-year-olds whining, then nothing.”
“Exactly. They’re never that quiet, not even in assembly. I dropped my pen and turned around, but they’d already gone. There was no time for them to go anywhere. The door didn’t slam. Can’t have been the windows. There are no scorch marks on the floor, I did check, so it’s not a case of multiple spontaneous combustion.
“I know I’ve got to report this, and I will. But when I do, I’m going to lose my job, aren’t I? This is my qualifying year. Miss Shoebottom’s going to destroy me. I just wanted to take a minute to see if I can figure this out.”
Jason had watched Esme steadily for the whole of her rant. Now he stood up and pondered, a hand on his cheek as if it were helping him think. “Becca’s in your class, right?”
“Yup,” she said miserably. Cleverest kid in the school, and a master manipulator.
“Any other trouble hotspots?”
“Lilah likes making small things explode. Her dodgy sister taught her. Marley’s the opposite, he likes magicking stuff into existence. Got a natural knack for it, no teaching involved. Desirable things – sweets and Minecraft toys. Problem is, they disappear about half an hour after he’s sold them to someone and then everyone’s pissed at him. Imogen’s hobby is learning swear words in ancient languages and teaching them to her mates.”
“Okay, okay, let’s try something else. What have you been studying this term?”
“The history of small magicks,” she said. “Hedge witches, urban demons, tea-leaf reading, healers, cunning folk, that sort of thing.”
“All of which could inspire them to have a go themselves?”
“Well…” She thought for a bit. “They shouldn’t. They know we don’t start proper magic instruction until year four. We don’t even test them for skill potential until next year.”
“And you think they care about that? Come on, you were six once.”
Esme went cold with fear and grabbed a pile of exercise books from the shelf behind her. She threw a stack at Jason. “Creative writing. Maybe you can find something in a story.”
She picked up another bundle – their homework books. She’d asked the class to write a short report on their favourite small magick.
Jason started flicking through. Esme did the same. Something made her go to Haydn’s book first. After all, he’d been the one to start annoying her, so much that she’d given up on telling him off. She’d purposely blocked the sound of his voice out. Had he planned for that?
Every misspelled word and badly formed letter made her shudder inside. He’d done his research all right. He’d found out the school was built on an ancient crossroads… He’d printed off the whole Wikipedia entry on calling up demons… She didn’t need to know any more.
Esme picked up the sand bucket that was used to cover up pools of vomit and started pouring it in a large circle around the tables and chairs. The school took some precautions and there was a high salt content to it.
As for other precautions, Esme was one of them. She was rubbish at managing children, but she’d spent months chasing demons round the country on her gap year.
“I call ye!” she screamed. “I call ye demon of the old world for I want a trade! Bring me my children!”
The floor shuddered. The walls shook. The air flashed and suddenly thirty small children were sat in their places once again. A tall demon with dark eyes popped into view. He looked like he’d been crying.
“Just take them,” he said. “Hell is no place for these beasts.”
Esme’s mouth fell open. “You don’t want a deal?”
The demon scowled. “I want silence and peace. These souls have given me nothing but misery.” He clicked his fingers and disappeared as quickly as he’d been called.
Esme felt empty, stripped suddenly of the adrenalin that had built up in anticipation of a magical struggle. But no matter, she’d found them. They were safe.
Jason began to back out of the door as Esme approached her class. “Won’t say a word about it,” he whispered with a smile.
Esme went to Haydn first. “What did you do to that poor demon?”
The boy grinned. “We just wanted to know who his favourite YouTuber was. He wouldn’t tell us, Miss, no matter how much we asked.”
She struggled to find more words, but she had to know. “And why make the deal in the first place? Why do that to me?” She couldn’t believe they were all alive, unharmed, that they’d been swallowed by the earth and spat back up again. What nefarious goal did they have in mind?
Every single one of them laughed at her.
“Oh, Miss,” Haydn said, “We just wanted to see the look on your face!”
“But you were gone by the time I realised?” The problem with six-year-olds, of course, was that they never thought anything through.
They giggled even more. “We can see it now, Miss!” David said. “You’re as red as a tomato!”
“Red as a demon!” said Lilah.
“Red as a farting demon!” Becca shouted.
“Red as a crying, farting, red-faced demon!” yelled Marley.
Esme let them joke a while, as she fantasized about getting revenge with their maths homework. Tricky number sentences, awful addition, and ever so wicked multiplications. Then who’d have the last laugh?
Well, she’d still have to mark it, she supposed. Damn it!