Miss Ham and Eggar (pt. 1)
It was somewhere in her mid-thirties that Dana Eggar gave up on her dream of meeting someone special, settling down and raising a family. It was also about this time that she completely devoted herself to teaching.
She had been a 5th grade teacher at Walcott Elementary for the last 12 years but it was only in the last few that she had really hit her stride. She was easily the most liked teacher amongst the student population and the parents had no issues driving their children over to her house once a month for her notoriously fun ‘popcorn parties’. The simple fact was that the parents trusted her completely for the best of reasons. She sincerely loved the kids and her affection was returned.
Students who came back from junior high and the local high school even felt comfortable enough around her to call her by the name that the younger kids whispered and giggled out of her earshot… Miss Ham and Eggar. The nickname went all the way back to her own elementary years but she would never admit that to her former pupils and take away their pride of thinking that they coined it themselves.
It was midday and the children were running around on the playground behind the school. As she sat and watched her charges scamper around she realized that she enjoyed recess as much as any of them. These were the moments where the solitude left her alone.
She never understood why she never found Mr. Right. She was not an unattractive woman and she had both wit and a nurturing nature. Many nights as she laid in her bed staring at the ceiling she wondered if that was perhaps exactly why she slept alone. There was something good about her that made a man feel bad about not giving her the love and devotion she so obviously deserved so they usually ran for the hills. She had dated but it was rare that she made it more than a few dates when the man would get a “shit or get off the pot” feeling that he normally didn’t feel around other women. She both laughed and cried about this warped male radar that had driven away so many interesting prospects.
So she poured herself into her students.
It was a nice day and only a few clouds hung in the sky. She closed her eyes and felt the warmth of the sun on her face. A light breeze moved over the pavement like a sigh.
She couldn’t help but watch the kids playing four square. For some reason they took this game very seriously and the social order often times revolved around which child could dominate this seemingly innocuous game played with a red rubber ball. Despite the occasionally heated arguments over whether a ball was in or out Miss Eggar found it a lot less worrisome than the dodgeball games that use to have the red rubber ball bouncing off of faces and groins and seemed to need her constant medical opinions on everything from scrapes to contusions.
Let them argue all they want about who is in and who is out. If they didn’t bleed then it was a step in the right direction as far as she was concerned.
Today’s game was particularly well attended and there was a line of boys and girls shifting their weight from one foot to the other anxiously as they waited their turn to get into the first square and show off their ball-slapping prowess.
As it was almost noon the sun was nearly overhead. As she watched the children there was something gnawing away at the back of her mind. Something wasn’t right but she had no idea what it could be.
Something seemed a little off about the scene.
It started to annoy her. What was it about these kids playing four square that had her intellect annoyed. She laughed and made the analogy to herself that it was as if she was looking at a Where’s Waldo picture but she had neither the time or interest to actually look for him.
She closed her eyes and tried to enjoy the breeze again.
It had stopped.
She opened her eyes again and suddenly found the cause of her anxiety.
Some the kids were casting long shadows while some of them cast very small ones.
She wanted to laugh it off but when she started to look closer she even noticed that some of the children had shadows that went in the opposite direction of the child next to them.
A few of them cast 2 distinct shadows.
She wanted the breeze back.
Her mind raced for explanations. Her mouth had gone dry even though she had no idea what this could even mean and appeared to pose no visible threat to her class. It had to be some weather phenomena that would easily be explained by a science textbook.
She felt the protective side of her personality coming forward with surprising force.
She saw a few shadows racing around, seemingly playing happily, that had no corresponding person to cast them.
Recess needed to be over.
She fumbled for the whistle in her pocket and looked down.
At her own shadow.
The shadow that had one arm up.
Waving back at her.
Miss Ham and Eggar (pt. 2)
Ever so briefly she was in that place between dreaming and being awake and heard the voice clearly.
“Even the innocent. Especially the innocent.”
Then she was wide awake.
She didn’t remember the dream in any detail and she had the feeling that she should leave it at that.
Dana Eggar lay in her bed and felt her chest rising and falling with each deep breath. The familiarity of her room was comforting. Even though she knew without looking at the clock that she was in the deep end of night the room bore testament that the moon must be close to full and hanging in a cloudless sky. Dana never closed her curtains and the moonlight rushed in the window and cut her bed cleanly in half between light and dark.
She was trying not to think as it would just make it harder to get back to sleep. She more felt than saw the fluttering of the moonlight as if a large flock of geese had flown between the moon and her window.
She ran her hands through her hair, stretched her neck and adjusted the pillow under her head. Her hands looked featureless in front of her face.
She waggled her fingers in the darkness and her eyes ran down the length of her arm to her elbow and then back again. She was almost transfixed by how foreign this appendage suddenly looked and she found herself enjoying watching her hand twist and flex in the darkness as if she was hanging it out the window of a speeding car.
A smile crept slowly across her face and she felt like a baby examining her limbs for the first time.
After a few more moments she sunk her head back into the pillow and realized that she would have to be getting up soon and it was time to get back to sleep. She closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind of any lingering thoughts.
But there was movement above her face. She could feel it and the bed rocked ever so slightly in time with it.
She opened her eyes and saw her hand once again twisting and turning in the air above her.
She had occasionally lost the feeling in her arms before, somehow cutting off circulation and being forced to wait those strange minutes until the blood rushed back into it and once again gave her control. That’s what this felt like… sort of.
Except instead of laying limp next to her body her hand was alive and moving without her permission. Floating above her as if moved by invisible strings.
She remembered the playground.
She had not allowed herself to think about since that day. She had kept the kids inside, despite their loud and pointed complaints, ever since and had not even ventured back there to take a look herself.
Her hand stopped for a moment.
Then it slowly waved at her.
She wanted to scream but her face remained a frozen mask. She willed herself to take back control of her arm and for a few moments it twitched and trembled until finally it fell down at her side and into the light.
She felt the tingle of blood rushing into her fingers like she did when her arm was ‘waking up’. She opened and closed her hand and let out a long scared sigh.
Her other arm calmly lifted up, reached over and started to pull her hand back into the shadow.
Her eyes opened wide and she felt a wild fear begin to well up in her throat as her hand gripped the bedspread tightly. A lifeline. Clawing at the sheets to stay in the light that had traveled such a long way to make its way into her quiet room. Every inch that her hand retreated into the dark was another inch that went dead to her until finally both hands moved and swayed above her.
She wondered why she couldn’t scream. Maybe she had never actually woken up. She clung to the hope that this was a bad dream and she would wake up with a start and turn on a light and never turn it off again.
She was smiling. She didn’t want to smile but a smile hung on her lips nonetheless.
Her hands floated down like leaves off a tree until they lay touching her face in almost a caress.
“Even the innocent”.
She felt her mouth form the words and she heard them pass through her lips but they were not hers.
Only her feet, sitting out from beneath the covers and fully in the moonlight, started to thrash when her thumbs began to push down in the corners of each eye socket. Her mouth would not give her the scream she wanted so badly. She felt the warm blood start to trickle down the sides of her face as her eyeballs bulged and strained against the fingers that dug deeper into her skull.
She felt everything.
Her legs twitched wildly until finally her thumbs were completely inside her head, her eyeballs hanging by wet red tissue and resting on her cheeks.
She was dead by the time her mouth once again spoke.
“Especially the innocent”.