“The Comings of the Rain” by Tabitha Witherspoon

Rain beats like furious fists on the windows of Ms. Aris’s musty, chilled classroom. The howling wind reminds her of rowdy children. Ms. Aris is used to this cacophony, so much so that it takes two hours to realize it’s not her students making the noise, but the weather.

She’s so lost in her trace, in fact, that she forgets she’s alone.

Her coffee still contains a trace of warmth when she reaches for it. She tries to focus her

attention on the stack of assignments before her, but her eyes won’t properly adjust behind her thin-rimmed glasses. Has someone turned off the lights? She can’t tell. Papers flip against each other. Her dry pen scratches a few marks, labels an essay a grade she is unsure about, but is too tired to bother double checking. She’s given up on that a long time ago.

It’s still pouring outside. The letters on the paper begin to jump out at Ms. Aris. Her coffee is now frigid and undrinkable. A gust of wind cuts through the class, blowing her thin blonde hair in her face and scattering her tall pile of essays amongst the floor.

Ms. Aris clenches her fist and turns to the tall windows. They’re closed. What’s strange is that it isn’t actually raining- it’s a dry, late afternoon.

She blinks. On her desk remains the stack of her students’ assignments, completely untouched.

With a stuttering breath, Ms. Aris reaches into her purse to pull out a bottle. She can’t see the label, but hopes it’s the one marked ZyPREXA. The pills rattle as she pours three into her palm. She swallows them and takes a sip of her coffee. Ah, no, this isn’t coffee. Mr. Andrews from the Biology department had been kind enough to bring her some tea before he left.

Right.

Ms. Aris caps her pen and sets it down. Guiding her movements carefully, she rests her

face in her wrinkled hands. The table edge digs into her stomach. Deep breaths in. Out. In. Out. In. Out. The world continues to spin wildly around her desk. If she quiets her thoughts, she thinks she can feel the rain threatening to return.

After another cycle of breaths, the rain begins to shout. No longer raindrops, but bombs,

booming and making the building shudder. The floor rumbles, sending phantom vibrations up her shin bone. Lockers she knows are not there rattle open and shut. It takes a few moments for the woman to realize the sound is coming from the opposite direction now- the door.

Ms. Aris looks up and startles. In the doorway is a young boy staring at her. He shivers in his soaked uniform as rivlets of water drool down his dark hair, his arms, and pool into a puddle at his feet.

“You’re…you’re wet,” Ms. Aris says.

The boy says nothing for a second more, then his face lights up with the brightest smile

the teacher has ever seen on a student here.

“I’m sorry I’m late, miss!” He skips inside the classroom. The trail of rain water follows him, but his feet make no sound. “It won’t happen again.”

The room falls colder, but with a cursory glance, Ms. Aris sees that the window is still

closed, and it is still not raining.

“Why are you here?” she asks. If the clock on the wall is right, it’s five o’clock. “School

ended two hours ago.”

The boy ignores her, sliding into the desk nearest the windows. Her mind is foggy, but

she’s positive one of the Palmer girls usually sits there, not this child. He looks much too young to be in her class, anyways. He can’t be older than thirteen.

Warily, Ms. Aris pushes herself off her chair. Pins and needles spike her legs as she

approaches the boy, still clutching her pill bottle. He sits with perfect posture, hands folded atop

the desk, swinging his legs as he looks out the glass. The moon is starting to rise, a dull prick in

the faded sky. Their reflections are clearer than anything past the window.

Ms. Aris scours her mind for who the boy is. It’s difficult, like trying to recall a stranger

or a distant relative. Looking at his face doesn’t help. His features are ordinary: brown eyes,

cheeks still round with baby fat, a pallour she isn’t sure is genetic or due to the low light. Still,

she’s sure she’d be able to recognize one of her own students. She can do that. She can still

do that.

Before she can ask for his name, the boy speaks up.

“Can I ask you a favor?”

“What is it?”

The boy’s eyes are locked on the windows, a wobbly smile etched onto his face. He says, “Would you help me kill someone, miss?”

She can’t help it. A laugh surprises its way out of her, abrasive and too loud

in the otherwise still room. The boy’s smile doesn’t falter, but he stops swinging his legs. Ms. Aris feels like she’s floating high above the child, like she might be somewhere near the ceiling, bumping between the darkened lights.

With the hand not holding her pills, she pinches her thigh to ground herself, but even the pain is lost in a fog of numbness. “That’s a terrible thing to ask somebody,” she says.

Finally, he turns to face her. The boy is washed in cold light. His smile is still pulled tight, digging into his cheeks, but his wide eyes are that of a porcelain doll’s- unseeing, glassy orbs that look out of place in his head. Ms. Aris finds it difficult to keep his gaze.

“Why? You’re a teacher. Aren’t you supposed to help me?” he says.

“I can’t help you kill someone. That’s a bad thing to do.”

Ms. Aris realizes where the light is coming from. The moon. It’s high in the pitch

black sky. When had that happened? She glances at the clock to see it reads seven at night. Sweat trickles down her spine. Ms. Aris turns her gaze towards the boy. He bares his teeth in a grin at her now, the whites of his eyes glowing.

“But miss,” he unfolds his hands, exposing his wrists to her, “what if someone is hurting me?”

The pills clatter as the bottle falls to the floor. Ms. Aris gapes at the lattice work of

crimson scars on the child’s skin. She realizes it isn’t rainwater drooling down his skin and pooling on her classroom floor, but blood.

She’s on her feet. Her back hits the desk. The boy stands too, forearms still displayed for her.

“The only way to save myself is to kill the person who’s doing this to me. It’s the only way,” the boy says in a small voice.

At once, the porcelain eyes crack, expression twisting into a horrific mask across his empty face. The light casts hard shadows along the crevices of his cheeks and nose. The clock starts to scream quarter past midnight. Ms. Aris sees the boy in front of her, but when he speaks, his voice is in her ear. His cool, foul breath is brushing her nape.

“Fine. If saving myself is so bad, then I won’t.”

Ms. Aris shrieks and swivels around, but her quivering hand hits nothing but air. She

spins back to the desk. The boy isn’t there. The blood is gone. Yet, wet pennies and the stench of

rot still permeates the air.

She falls to her knees and searches the floor blindly. Her fingers knock against something

cylindrical under her chair and she snatches it like a life preserver. Ms. Aris scrambles to unscrew the bottle, but it’s empty.

A breeze chills Ms. Aris’s skin.

“Ah! Miss!”

Her neck cracks twice as she cranes her head. The window is wide open, and sitting on

the ledge is the boy, eyes glistening, smile wet. He leans back far enough that the top half of his

torso hangs freely outside, while his legs dangle inside the class.

The clock chants three in the morning.

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he says cheerfully. Bloody handprints stain the windowsill when he shifts his grip. “I don’t need your help. I figured it out!”

Her heart thuds painfully in her chest, then skips a beat. The palms of her hands grow hot. There is no longer a fog in her mind, she is not floating amongst the rafter.

The boy giggles. He leans back and lets go.

Ms. Aris stands just as his short legs flip up and out of sight.

She runs to the window and sticks her head out. Her hand slips when she holds the ledge

where still-warm blood is tracked on the wood. It’s too dark to see outside. She waits, but

nothing follows. No scream. No landing.

Behind her, the clock strikes five.

Ms. Aris strains her ears and thinks she hears rain, but when she tilts her face up to the

night sky, not a single drop falls.

It takes only a moment for her to realize the sound is coming from the opposite direction-

the door.

“I’m sorry I’m late, miss!”

She turns. In the doorway is a young boy staring at her. He shivers in his soaked uniform as rivlets of water drool down his dark hair, his arms, and pool into a puddle at his feet.

“It won’t happen again.”

With her back to the open window, Ms. Aris feels rather than hears the rain start up.

Tabitha Witherspoon is a seventeen year old art lover, who will be graduating with her high school diploma and Associates degree this June 2020. She’s always been enthralled by stories, and recently decided to start telling a few of her own. Tabitha dreams of publishing novels with her name on the cover and surviving her upcoming year at the University of Washington, where she’ll study English.

This author has not provided a photo.