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Read the other half of the story. Explain the title of the story in detail
The next day Miss Sidley kept Robert after school. He did nothing to warrant the punishment, so she simply accused him falsely. She felt no qualms ; he was a monster, not a little boy. She must make him admit it.
Her back was in agony. She realized Robert knew ; he expected that would help him. But it wouldn’t. That was another of her little advantages. Her back had been a constant pain to her for the last twelve years, and there had been many times when it had been this bad — well, almost this bad.
She closed the door, shutting the two of them in.
For a moment she stood still, training her gaze on Robert. She waited for him to drop his eyes. He didn’t. He looked back at her, and presently a little smile began to play around the corners of his mouth.
“Why are you smiling, Robert ?” she asked softly.
“I don’t know,” Robert said, and went on smiling.
“Tell me, please.”
Robert said nothing. And went on smiling.
The outside sounds of children at play were distant, dreamy. Only the hypnotic buzz of the wall clock was real.
“There’s quite a few of us,” Robert said suddenly, as if he were commenting on the weather.
It was Miss Sidley’s turn to be silent.
“Eleven right here in this school.”
Quite evil, she thought, amazed. Very, incredibly evil.
“Little boys who tell stories go to hell,’ she said clearly. ‘I know many parents no longer make their ... their spawn ... aware of that fact, but I assure you that it is a true fact, Robert. Little boys who tell stories go to hell. Little girls too, for that matter.”
Robert’s smile grew wider ; it became vulpine. “Do you want to see me change, Miss Sidley ? Do you want a really good look ?”
Miss Sidley felt her back prickle. “Go away,” she said curtly. “And bring your mother or your father to school with you tomorrow. We’ll get this business straightened out.” There. On solid ground again. She waited for his face to crumple, waited for the tears.
Instead, Robert’s smile grew wider — wide enough to show his teeth. “It will be just like Show and Tell, won’t it, Miss Sidley ? Robert — the other Robert — he liked Show and Tell. He’s still hiding way, way down in my head.” The smile curled at the corners of his mouth like charring paper. “Sometimes he runs around ... it itches. He wants me to let him out.”
“Go away,” Miss Sidley said numbly. The buzzing of the clock seemed very loud.
His face suddenly ran together like melting wax, the eyes flattening and spreading like knife-struck egg yolks, nose widening and yawning, mouth disappearing. The head elongated, and the hair was suddenly not hair but straggling, twitching growths.
Robert began to chuckle.
The slow, cavernous sound came from what had been his nose, but the nose was eating into the lower half of his face, nostrils meeting and merging into a central blackness like a huge, shouting mouth.
Robert got up, still chuckling, and behind it all she could see the last shattered remains of the other Robert, the real little boy this alien thing had usurped, howling in maniac terror, screeching to be let out.
She fled screaming down the corridor, and the few late-leaving pupils turned to look at her with large and uncomprehending eyes. Mr. Hanning jerked open his door and looked out just as she plunged through the wide glass front doors, a wild, waving scarecrow silhouetted against the bright September sky.
He ran after her, Adam’s apple bobbing. “Miss Sidley ! Miss Sidley !”
Robert came out of the classroom and watched curiously. Miss Sidley neither heard nor saw. She clattered down the steps and across the sidewalk and into the street with her screams trailing behind her. There was a huge, blatting horn and then the bus was looming over her, the bus driver’s face a plaster mask of fear. Air brakes whined and hissed like angry dragons.
Miss Sidley fell, and the huge wheels shuddered to a smoking stop just eight inches from her frail, brace-armored body. She lay shuddering on the pavement, hearing the crowd gather around her.
She turned over and the children were staring down at her. They were ringed in a tight little circle, like mourners around an open grave. And at the head of the grave was Robert, a small sober sexton ready to shovel the first spade of dirt into her face.
“From far away, the bus driver’s shaken babble ... crazy or somethin ... my God, another half a foot...”
Miss Sidley stared at the children. Their shadows covered her. Their faces were impassive. Some of them were smiling little secret smiles, and Miss Sidley knew that soon she would begin to scream again.
Then Mr Hanning broke their tight noose, shooed them away, and Miss Sidley began to sob weakly.
She didn’t go back to her third grade for a month. She told Mr. Hanning calmly that she had not been feeling herself, and Mr. Hanning suggested that she see a reputable doctor and discuss the matter with him. Miss Sidley agreed that this was the only sensible and rational course. She also said that if the school board wished for her resignation she would tender it immediately, although doing so would hurt her very much. Mr. Hanning, looking uncomfortable, said he doubted if that would be necessary. The upshot was that Miss Sidley came back in late October, once again ready to play the game and now knowing how to play it. For the first week she let things go on as ever. It seemed the whole class now regarded her with hostile, shielded eyes. Robert smiled distantly at her from his front-row seat, and she did not have the courage to take him to task.
Once, while she was on playground duty, Robert walked over to her, holding a dodgem ball, smiling.
“There’s so many of us now you wouldn’t believe it,” he said. “And neither would anyone else.” He stunned her by dropping a wink of infinite slyness. “If you, you know, tried to tell them.”
A girl on the swings looked across the playground into Miss Sidley’s eyes and laughed at her.
Miss Sidley smiled serenely down at Robert. “Why, Robert, whatever do you mean ?”
But Robert only continued smiling as he went back to his game.
Miss Sidley brought the gun to school in her handbag. It had been her brother’s. He had taken it from a dead German shortly after the Battle of the Bulge. Jim had been gone ten years now. She hadn’t opened the box that held the gun in at least five, but when she did it was still there, gleaming dully. The clips of ammunition were still there, too, and she loaded the gun carefully, just as Jim had shown her.
She smiled pleasantly at her class ; at Robert in particular. Robert smiled back and she could see the murky alienness swimming just below his skin, muddy, full of film.
She had no idea what was now living inside Robert’s skin, and she didn’t care ; she only hoped that the real little boy was entirely gone by now. She did not wish to be a murderess. She decided the real Robert must have died or gone insane, living inside the dirty, crawling dung that had chuckled at her in die classroom and sent her screaming into the street. So even if he was still alive, putting him out of his misery would be a mercy.
“Today we’re going to have a Test,” Miss Sidley said.
The class did not groan or shift apprehensively ; they merely looked at her. She could feel their eyes, like weights. Heavy, smothering. “It’s a very special Test. I will call you down to the mimeograph room one by one and give it to you. Then you may have a candy and go home for the day. Won’t that be nice ?”
They smiled empty smiles and said nothing.
“Robert, will you come first ?”
Robert got up, smiling his little smile. He wrinkled his nose quite openly at her. “Yes, Miss Sidley.”
Miss Sidley took her bag and they went down the empty, echoing corridor together, past the sleepy drone of classes reciting behind closed doors. The mimeograph room was at the far end of the hall, past the lavatories. It had been soundproofed two years ago ; the big machine was very old and very noisy.
Miss Sidley closed the door behind them and locked it.
“No one can hear you,” she said calmly. She took the gun from her bag. “You or this.”
Robert smiled innocently. “There are lots of us, though. Lots more than here.” He put one small scrubbed hand on the paper-tray of the mimeograph machine. “Would you like to see me change again ?”
Before she could speak, Robert’s face began to shimmer into the grotesqueness beneath and Miss Sidley shot him. Once. In the head. He fell back against the paper-lined shelves and slid down to the floor, a little dead boy with a round black hole above his right eye.
He looked very pathetic.
Miss Sidley stood over him, panting. Her cheeks were pale.
The huddled figure didn’t move.
It was human.
It was Robert.
It was all in your mind, Emily. All in your mind.
No ! No, no, no!
She went back up to the room and began to lead them down, one by one. She killed twelve of them and would have killed them all if Mrs. Crossen hadn’t come down for a package of composition paper.
Mrs. Crossen’s eyes got very big ; one hand crept up and clutched her mouth. She began to scream and she was still screaming when Miss Sidley reached her and put a hand on her shoulder. ‘It had to be done, Margaret,” she told the screaming Mrs. Crossen. “It’s terrible, but it had to. They are all monsters.”
Mrs. Crossen stared at the gaily-clothed little bodies scattered around the mimeograph and continued to scream. The little girl whose hand Miss Sidley was holding began to cry steadily and monotonously: “Waahhh... Waahhhh... Waahhhh.”
“Change,” Miss Sidley said. “Change for Mrs. Crossen. Show her it had to be done.”
The girl continued to weep uncomprehendingly.
“Damn you, change ? Miss Sidley screamed. “Dirty bitch, dirty crawling, filthy unnatural bitch ! Change ! God damn you, change !”
She raised the gun. The little girl cringed, and then Mrs. Crossen was on her like a cat, and Miss Sidley’s back gave way.
The papers screamed for one, bereaved parents swore hysterical oaths against Miss Sidley, and the city sat back on its haunches in numb shock, but in the end, cooler heads prevailed and there was no trial. The State Legislature called for more stringent teacher exams, Summer Street School closed for a week of mourning, and Miss Sidley went quietly to Juniper Hill in Augusta. She was put in deep analysis, given the most modern drugs, introduced into daily work-therapy sessions. A year later, under strictly controlled conditions, Miss Sidley was put in an experimental encounter-therapy situation.
Buddy Jenkins was his name, psychiatry was his game. He sat behind a one-way glass with a clipboard, looking into a room which had been outfitted as a nursery. On the far wall, the cow was jumping over the moon and the mouse ran up the clock. Miss Sidley sat in her wheelchair with a story book, surrounded by a group of trusting, drooling, smiling, cataclysmically retarded children. They smiled at her and drooled and touched her with small wet fingers while attendants at the next window watched for the first sign of an aggressive move.
For a time Buddy thought she responded well. She read aloud, stroked a girl’s head, consoled a small boy when he fell over a toy block. Then she seemed to see something which disturbed her ; a frown creased her brow and she looked away from the children.
“Take me away, please,” Miss Sidley said, softly and tonelessly, to no one in particular.
And so they took her away. Buddy Jenkins watched the children watch her go, their eyes wide and empty, but somehow deep. One smiled, and another put his fingers in his mouth slyly. Two little girls clutched each other and giggled.
That night Miss Sidley cut her throat with a bit of broken mirror-glass, and after that Buddy Jenkins began to watch the children more and more. In the end, he was hardly able to take his eyes off them.
Âñå ìàòåðèàëû ïðåäñòàâëåííûå íà ñàéòå èñêëþ÷èòåëüíî ñ öåëüþ îçíàêîìëåíèÿ ÷èòàòåëÿìè è íå ïðåñëåäóþò êîììåð÷åñêèõ öåëåé èëè íàðóøåíèå àâòîðñêèõ ïðàâ. Ñòóäàëë.Îðã (0.011 ñåê.)