11 years old
Missing from Little Hope
since December 7 1949
Alan Mcfaden had always been a diligent student. And that was not in order to see the satisfied expression on his parents face, nor to receive his teacher's praises but simply because he liked to study.
Actually, it did not appeal to his schoolmates. Particularly to Billy Tremont and Lonny Ross, two secondary school bullies. Alan was literally frightened by them.
Both had to repeat one year and they unfortunatly ended up in his class; they usually went around through school corridors with brazen arrogant grins, ducktail haired as the gangsters of that time and blowing off some steam on younger boys. Alan was one of them. It was surely his look that contributed to making him so vulnerable: his frail body, the horn-rimmed glasses and the bottle bottom lenses, the tight bow tie and buttoned up in his mother starched shirt... He was the picture of one who should be beaten.
The main reason of them hate was, actually, another one: Alan was clever and brilliant, and his marks were, differently from them, great. They didn't like at all when Alan refused to hand over his homeworks to them; He was usually adamant and, apart from when it was oblied to (like that time during the trigonometry exam, when Lonny Ross had threatened him putting a sharpener on his back from under the school desk) he succeeded in avoiding them, by hook or by crook. Sometimes, being left home after a a long day of harrasments and ridicules, Alan called in sick, locked himself inside his room with an empty stomach, and kept on crying in secret.
The 7th of December was the day of the final examination of the first quarter, one of the most feared. Behind her desk , Mrs Shulman was observing her classrom with a stern pois and blue eyes icy wandering in the classroom in search of any wise guy. At her back, on the blackboard, the woman had wrote dozens of times the same words always repeated on the long chalky lines, a silent and undisputable warning: to read, to read, to read, to read, to read, to read, to read, to read, to read... She was convinced that reading was the only way to defeat the spread of ignorance in the world, and she spent a full ten minutes at the beginning of any lesson in order to remind it to the whole classrom.
There were three teachers at the Little Hope Secondry School, and Mrs Shulmann was the only one that Alan whose favour had not been able gain. As far as you were nice, as far as you forced yourself, she would always have found a way to dress you down. That woman made him unconfortable. As it was not enough, Tremont and Ross had started annoying him again. One leaned from his school desk, eying at Alan's exam paper, who was trying to conceal the paper bending over it, and the other one, Lenny, started to launch him spit-ball full of ink. From the bottom of the classroom, there arose sniggers that allarmed Mrs Shulmann; the old teacher kept on prowling around the desks, being only the ticking of her heels the only noise in the suddendly silent classroom. Alan whatched her coming to him, with her marble face and that terrible sadistic expression; he tryed to clean the desk from the spitballs, but the only result was that he made things worse, by filling his exam paper full of horrible ink smudges. Mrs Shulman stopped in front of him, setting her attenction on that mess and then directly to Alan, who tired to stutter an explanation. Shew scolded hom harshly. She said some very caustic words but Alan did not listen to her, stunned with anger.
He felt all his schoolmates eyes on him; big tears of shy strained on his cheeks, mixing with the ink, so that his exam paper, on which he had toiled so much was stuffed even more. He tryed to turn himself to Billy Tremont and Lenny Ross attempting to accuse them, but they were observing the scene with an angel faces. It was easy to understand that they were hardly holding laughters. While Mrs Shulmann took him by his ear, dragging him to the blackboard, behind which, as the teacher ordered, he would pass the entire lesson, Alan felt the most strong and genuine desire of his entire life: he would have become invisible and disappear forever.
The bell broke the marvellous silence created after the outburst, and the lesson came to an end. Alice Shulmman was very pleased observing the procession of young fellows that, proceeding on a very ordered single-file (as it had been taught to them), handed in their exam papers. She was convinced that who called her “old witch” barely understood anything of his teaching and of her strict principles; it was necesary to be tight -even intransigent if necesary -with those kids, because if not they would have grown up spineless and without any future at all.
The boys went out from the classroom in dribs and drubs, filling up the air of exicted and happy cries which always caused her an headache, and so the woman called Alan McFadden. He had been left in silence behind the blackboard all time long, abiding to the suffered punitshment. Maybe, Shulmann thought, she had been too strict with him, but the boy was well constructed; he was talented and diligent and she didn't want him to waste what Mather Nature had given him.
She called his name one, two, and then three times, without reciving any answer back. The old teacher kept on being annoyed and she went to see, ready to hurl abuse on the impudent boy. But, once behind the blackboard, she was unable to utter a word. At first she was left confused but then she perceived her legs were wobbling.
The boy had been disappeared. Definitly vanished. PUF!!
He couldn't have secretly left the classroom, because the blackboard behind which he had been put, was on the other side from the exit and she, being so aware ,, would have surely noticed. There was not any possible explanation to what she had seen, better, not seen. There was something more: the blackboard was cracked, precisely in the middle. Behind, in the shadow where the boy had been put in punishment, a single shoe left abandoned on the floor. Observing better, she noticed something even worse: the exact columns of words that she had wrote herself, had been changed, one by one. A small difference, but substancial. Thousand of “to read” wrote on her exact calligraphy, less than an hour before, had been trasformed in thousands of death, death, death, death, death, death, death, death...
The world in front of Alice Shulmaan became at first grey and confused, and then it was trasformed on the deep black of unconscieness. The teacher fainted.