Tarnished Magic

Alexis Perno

Tarnished Magic

A Short Story By Alexis Perno, Drawing By Chloe-Amelie Aikman

My kindergarten classroom is full of magic. There’s the curved table where I learned to read, when those hieroglyphics suddenly turned into sentences that whisked me into another world. There’s the alphabet rug- I’m letter Q- the blankets we have at naptime with scratchy pillows we still fight over, and the wide windows with sunlight streaming through the blinds. But the best magic of all isn’t the lessons or the snacks or the decorations. By far, my favorite magic is her.

As I wait for the morning show to begin, I can’t help the smile that grows wide on my face: today is one I’ve been looking forward to, as we were finally presenting our octopus projects!

When Mrs. Scott assigned the partners last week, I couldn’t believe my luck! I was paired with the coolest, prettiest girl in the class- Lily Kuhman. We were to spend the whole week together creating the most creative octopus for the class contest, and the competitive spirit only grew once we learned that the best ones would be displayed outside.

Thinking of our adventures from the week, my heart picks up (probably from nerves) as I remember when Lily and I painted. It was sunny that day, and the two of us were just outside the classroom, sitting in the shade as we dipped our fingers into brightly colored paint. Lily’s freckles were like golden dust sprinkling her face as the sunlight danced through her long hair. My stomach hurt oddly that day, and even though it wasn’t that hot, my cheeks were red.

Even when the lessons start I can’t focus; thoughts of Lily still enchant me until finally, Mrs. Scott allows us to present. The first group wasn’t up for long before the phone rings but Mrs. Scott waves them on, letting them continue as she answers. Despite the awfully loud presenters at the front of the class, my eyes strayed to Mrs. Scott’s face- what was she hearing that made her look so serious? She hung up the phone quickly with a slam, silencing the class and making the presenters falter.

“We’re going to present later,” she said, frowning at the groans she received in response and silencing them with an uncharacteristic glare. “Right now, we’re going to nap.”

Naptime? It wasn’t even lunch yet. Napping always came after lunch, but still, Mrs. Scott hurried to usher us onto the alphabet rug, insisting that we all had a blanket over us as she closed the blinds. When we were settled, she rushed to flick off the lights, locking the door in the process and plunging us into darkness.

“Remember that this is naptime. We need to be extra quiet today,” Mrs. Scott looked scarily calm, and her voice was serious. She never sounded like this, and her new demeanor made my stomach hurt in a way that wasn’t like when I thought of Lily. No one made a sound.

Mrs. Scott urged us to lay against the wall. “Absolute silence,” she whispered, looking tensely to the doors. None of us knew what was happening; Mrs. Scott almost always sat at her desk during naptime, grading. So why did she look so tense as she crouched in front of us?

That’s when I heard the first bang.

I grabbed Lily, clutching her desperately as a few others cried out. Mumbled expressions of fear began to rise in volume as heads twirled around, trying to make sense of the succession of loud noises amid Mrs. Scott’s frantic attempts to quiet us.

Bang. We froze, eyes wide and hands shaking. I looked up to Lily only to see her freckles blurred with tears. Bang. The door shivered with every hit. Bang. Shaking, I closed my eyes as the door burst open, hoping it all would be over soon; that I’d wake up from this horrible dream and be back with Lily as we painted together outside, presenting our octopus we worked so hard on, smiling at each other and laughing and being happy to be anywhere but here-

I stopped counting the bangs as they were replaced with screams.

My kindergarten classroom is full of magic, but it soon became full of blood.