Apollo Chambers is jolted awake by his teacher smacking his desk with her ruler, the wood nearly cracking from the impact. Taking a sip of water from the pink thermos next to him, the young man tries to remember when he got to class. He looks around the room and has trouble focusing on his surroundings until he sneezes. Posters of gods are on the walls that have been painted a sterile white until being carpeted a foot from the tiled floor. A marble statue is standing at the front of the classroom, its armless torso positioned so that it appears to be looking over its shoulder. Apollo scratches his head while flipping through his notebook, which is filled with incomprehensible jargon. He glances up to make sure his teacher is not watching him before making a quick sketch in the margin. The black-haired student focuses too much on the horned bird that he is creating, so he never notices the shadow that falls over him.
“Pay attention, Mr. Chambers!” his professor angrily shouts, smacking his desk with her giant ruler. Leaning over the young man, she smiles and lets some of her brown hair fall on his hand. “You are my favorite student, but that will not get you out of trouble every time. We have the final coming up and that’s two hundred percent of your grade. You don’t want me to send you back to high school if you fail. Now, tell me about the two-faced god.”
“I know the answer, Mrs. Addison!” a young woman hollers from the front. Her pig tails wave in the air instead of her hands, calling the grinning professor over. “Janus was a Roman God with no Greek counterpart. He presides over beginnings, gates, doorways, time, and transitions. Janus has two faces because he looks to the future and past. Some say he also presided over war and peace. Personally, I-”
“Thank you, whoever, but you spoke out of turn,” the teacher states before hitting the student in the head with the ruler. The young woman shatters into pieces that melt into the carpet and sprout into twisting lilies. “How many times must I tell all of you that speaking out of turn is a punishable offense? Now, I have to make a bouquet to send to her parents. I swear, you have to be the dumbest students I have ever had. Unless you like my punishments, which I take as a compliment. I’m truly gifted in that regard. Now, what about Morpheus? Who can tell me about him?”
The marble statue shakes and tries to turn around, which draws the professor to her own desk. Apollo takes advantage of the distraction to finish his sketch and add enough details to make it appear real. He can feel his mind wandering as the tiny creature abruptly rises from the page and wanders around his notebook. Even though he knows he is falling asleep, he cannot stop himself and lets the looming dream take over. Apollo smiles at the way the horned raven pecks at the gibberish he calls his notes and straightens the mess into words. It only gets two words into a phrase when the ruler comes down to crush the tiny animal into a splatter of black ink.
“Unicorn or raven. Never combine the two or you will have to finish the semester without any pants,” Mrs. Addison states, a golden glint in her eye. Without warning she leaps to her desk and stands with her ruler above a set of buttons. “Sudden death pop quiz! Mr. Carmicheal, please answer the previous question.”
“Morpheus is the god of sleep and-” a slow-talking boy says before a button is pushed. He is electrocuted in his seat, which bursts into flames and topples over.
“Wrong! Tell me, Ms. Victoria, who is the oldest deity in the Mesopotamian pantheon?”
“We’re still on Greek and Roman!” the girl argues, a ceiling panel flying down to smash her into a pancake.
“I demand to know the only goddess to come out of modern America! Tell me, Captain Blunderbuss!”
An old man in the corner with a pith helmet and a mop merely shrugs before a clawed hand erupts from his water bucket. The giant paw grabs the janitor and crushes him into paste, which is lapped up by a tongue that comes out of the monster’s wrist. Mrs. Addison whistles to stop the creature from eating and glares until it whines like a puppy. As the hand sinks back into the bucket, the professor begins smacking at the other buttons. Students are slaughtered in every direction, none of them looking shocked or putting up any resistance. A few smile and wave an instant before they are murdered, each one dying in a grotesque and unique way. When a glitter-covered cheerleader’s chest is crushed by her sports bra tightening and shrinking, Mrs. Addison frowns and hits the button again. The student reappears only to be killed when she pops her gum and her head explodes instead.
Unable to move, Apollo sits in the middle of the carnage and works on a new sketch. He does not look up until everything is silent and the rest of the class has been killed. For the first time since he woke up, the young man begins to feel afraid. Sweat trickles down his face and he gets the sense that he is being hunted. Looking around, he cannot see anyone else in the room, including Mrs. Addison. The statue remains behind the teacher’s desk, its marble skin splattered with blood that drip in a way to give the illusion of arms. Apollo slowly gets to his feet and steps over a student who has been melted into a pool of ooze. Going around the corpses, all he can think about is escaping the classroom. He stops when the water bucket in his path bubbles, the memory of the clawed hand making his heart race. Clenching his fists and gritting his teeth, he tries to sprint for the exit, but finds that he is not running any faster than he was walking. No matter how hard he pushes his muscles, Apollo cannot get his body to move at more than a terrifying crawl. It feels like it takes hours to reach the door, which falls off its hinges when he throws it open.
“Such a disappointment,” Mrs. Addison sighs from the other side. Her mouth extends to the floor, allowing her to quickly bite Apollo’s head clean off his shoulders. “Not quite ripe yet. I guess we’ll have to meet again another day.”