photo of hand covered in chalk

Night Children by Nikolaj Volgushev

There is a job posting for a teaching position, at the new Night School. 

They have been busy, building Night Schools, for Night Children, and now they are looking for Night Teachers. 

Do you have what it takes? 

To be a Night Teacher, one must be pale, and cryptic, and have odd habits. 

One must also be patient and courageous and sharp-witted because Night Children are stubborn and eerie and shrewd. 

Their eyes are too big and their limbs are too long. They are very good at maths, and deceit. 

Night Children are competitive. 

When they fail to answer a question, they wail, and may even attempt to drag their claws across the blackboard, which is to be prevented because it ruins the blackboard. 

To do so, you may throw chalk at them, or rocks. You may also call them by their Secret Night Name, which you will find listed in a dark binder, in the Night Teacher’s desk, but only as a last resort. 

Hearing his or her Secret Night Name will stop a Night Child in his or her tracks. 

Speaking a Secret Night Name may hurt your tongue, or rot your teeth (NB. Dental insurance is not included in your compensation package), or ruin the blackboard. 

Do not let the blackboard be ruined. 

While a single blackboard is not expensive to replace, a thousand blackboards are. 

In planning your lessons, keep in mind that it is best to avoid all contact with Night Children. 

Avoid speaking to them, directly or indirectly. Cover your ears when they speak. 

The worst thing you can do is look a Night Child directly in the eye.

Instead, draw a line across the classroom floor (you may use chalk) at the beginning of class, separating your space from theirs. 

You need not explain the significance of the line. The Night Children will understand it intuitively though they may not respect it.

Should all else fail, you can hide under the Night Teacher’s desk, but only if it doesn’t make you look weak or afraid. 

Face the blackboard and write down tonight’s Night Lesson as quickly as you can. 

Keep in mind that a Night Lesson will ruin whatever surface it is written on. 

Stop.

Why do you keep trying to ruin the blackboard? 

Stop. 

Can’t you see the cracks running through the smooth, matte surface? 

(The cost of replacing the blackboard will be deducted from your salary, at the end of the month.)

Your hands are shaking, and white, covered in chalk.

Do not turn around. 

Ask yourself, are you alone in a dark, empty classroom, or are the Night Children still there, watching in silence, solving complex mathematical equations in their heads, baring their fangs?

Ask yourself, but do not listen too closely.

To slow your racing heart, think back to a time when you still had your day job. 

***

Above all else, you must remember that the Night Lessons you teach, night after night, are not for you. 

Do not try to learn from them, and banish them from your mind as soon as they’re taught. They may only bring despair and confusion into your life.

Pray that the Night Children will put them to good use, when they grow up. 

Pray that you are no longer here, when they do. 

Nikolaj Volgushev‘s fiction has appeared in journals such as the Cafe Irreal, Hoot, Cleaver Magazine, and Cease, Cows. He currently lives in Denmark where he writes, programs, and does other things along those lines.

Lead image: “Playing with Chalk (1)” (via Flickr user Sam Stockton)