This piece was submitted to ZeroFlash’s October/November Contest. Didn’t win anything, but I’m proud of it nonetheless as a creepy little fiction. Note: I’ve edited it slightly.
by Desmond White
The students turned the page in To Kill a Mockingbird, highlighters poised like fangs. Kara read until the teacher said, “So what does Scout and Jem and Dill sneaking up behind the Radley place tell us about people?”
A girl raised her hand and, authorized by a nod, said, “Humans torment those who are different? Those they don’t understand.”
“True,” the teacher said. “Not very useful. Harley?”
Thinking of the pants Jem snagged in the fence, Harley said, “If they leave something behind, they’ll return for it.”
“Humans are attracted to what scares them?” said a boy.
The teacher gave him a look that said raise your hand next time, then retorted, “Not anymore. People are more aware of danger. They avoid unused buildings, don’t sneak at night, watch the skies. In some ways this book is outdated. But I still think there’s something useful here.”
Harley shot up her hand again. “The Mockingbird kids—they’re crafty. When humans have a goal, they can be discrete—they’ll do what it takes—they can be really clever.”
“Exactly!” The teacher was excited, writing discrete and clever on the board. “We must always be vigilant. Who knows who’s looking through our windows?”
The kids glanced anxiously at the wall, where the windows were filled with cement and plaster. The outlines remained, like the lashes and brows around closed eyes.
A bing over the intercom announced lunch. It took a few minutes before the custodian arrived, pushing a cart, a human lying there secured by rope, nude, scrubbed, chained, skin browner than their glittering gray.
The teacher made them line up, orderly and civilized. And because Harley had been so great in discussion, she was the first to eat.