Salamander Man

Flash Fiction by KR Wilde

Right side of the classroom:

“Did you see Stacie McConnor today? One word. Hot!”     

“Whatever! Hilary Benton was way better looking. I mean, hello? Didn’t you see that crop top?”

“I’m sitting right here, screwball!”

“Oh, hey Hilary! Didn’t see ya there.”

“Whatever.”

“Dude, I totally see what you mean about the crop top. Smokin’!

“Hey!”

“Sorry, Hilary, but you can’t deny it. You do look especially fine today.”

Left side of the classroom:

“Are the rumors true?”

“About him?”

“Who else, Rach? I heard he wanted to amputate River Stevens’ bum leg for lab, but the dean wouldn’t let him. Thank that gorgeous mane atop Harry Styles’ sexy head for that.”

“Right? The police even think he’s the reason behind Jace Whetherby’s death. You don’t suppose they’d give him the chair, do you?”

“Why wouldn’t they? He’s a mad man, Rach. Besides I didn’t get much studying in last night. Katie was over.”

“Boy problems?”

“Yep.”

“That girl seriously needs to learn the single life equals happiness. Anyways, fingers crossed today’s exam is cancelled.”

“Um, Rach, I don’t think it is…”

“Why do you say –“ SLAM! The only door in the room closes.

Rach spins around in her chair. A wiry, wrinkled, old salamander of a man reflects in her wide eyes, his twisted smirk raising the hairs on her arms. His beetle-like eyes scan the room, and with each student they fall upon, those same students hurry to distract themselves. The man kid so wisely named Screwball shoves his friend to the ground, Hilary – crop top hottie – shakily smears raspberry bliss all over her lips and cheek, and Rach’s friend – hereafter called H.S. fanatic – whips out a People’s magazine featuring her man crush’s coveted mane.

But when those beetle eyes land on Rach, she freezes in place. Her fingers hover over the study guide on her table, itching to grab it, and hide from that awful gaze. But those eyes won’t relinquish their hold on her. Instead, they drag her deeper into their dark depths, suffocating her… Willing her to give up her last breaths, and succumb to death…

“Rach!”

A pair of hands grip Rach’s shoulders, and begin shaking her forcefully. The movement is enough to jerk her back into the present, breaking the bond between gazes. Breathing hard, Rach frantically looks over to the right side of the classroom. Everyone’s still preoccupied with hiding like she’d never had a freak episode in front of them. Even the salamander man stands before the blackboard, writing away as if nothing ever happened.

Was it a dream? Did I doze off? I don’t remember ever being tired, but I guess it’s possible… But then why does my throat feel like it was assaulted?

Rach tentatively touches her sore throat before turning towards H.S. fanatic. “Did you see me—“ She stops. One look at her friend’s eyebrow raise and blank expression is answer enough.

Then who screamed my name? What about… the touch? I swear I felt it! What the heck is going on? Rach does her best to swallow the fear building within, but it’s far from helpful. She even sits on her hands in an effort to stop their shaking, but that earns her another eyebrow raise from H.S. fanatic. So instead, Rach forces herself to face forward, and focus on what the salamander man is writing with those disgusting, spider-like fingers.

“How was he allowed in here? I thought—“ Someone whispers loudly.

SHH!

Out of the corner of her eye, Rach watches as Hilary fights to smother Screwball into silence with his sweatshirt.

“Knock it off, Hilary! It’s not like he can hear me,” he says, forgetting to whisper.

“Quiet, moron!”  

There’s a pause from the front of the classroom. Oh no… Rach can no longer hear the sound of chalk scribbling words across the chalkboard, and turns in time to see the salamander man dusting his hands off. Her heart skips a beat. Shut up! SHUT UP, you two! He can hear you!

Their bickering continues to escalate, both of them unaware of what’s going on.

“I mean it, Hilary! Quit shoving the stupid jacket in my face!”

“If you’d just let me help—“ Hilary stops talking all of a sudden, her usually tan skin draining of all color as she stares into the salamander man’s face inches from hers.

How did he—What the heck is going on here? I must be dreaming. Crap like this just doesn’t happen! Rach rubs her eyes with balled up fists, and refocuses on the spot the salamander man now occupies cross-legged on the table.

“You’re very annoying,” he says, and with that he pokes her in the forehead.

Nothing happens.

Rach and the other students exchange looks of bewilderment and apprehension. However, with his finger still touching Hilary’s skin, the salamander man simply smiles, and says, “The first is always my favorite.”

 Hilary looks at him, confused, before suddenly grabbing her own throat in a viper like grip. Horrific choking sounds emit from her blue-tinged lips as she fights for air. Her eyes wander about frantically, pleading for her fellow students to intercede on her behalf… but no one moves. Everyone’s stunned, too scared of what could happen to them if they dare act.

Within another moment, a very limp and lifeless Hilary falls to the floor, and the salamander man is back in front of the chalkboard.

“Read the board, Mr. Pence.” Poor Screwball.

Trembling in his chair, Screwball gets a sympathetic pat from his friend before reading, “I c-can’t be removed s-surgically w-without recreating damaged bone, and m-manifest as early as birth. What am I?”

“And your answer, Mr. Pence?”

Like he’ll know. Poor guy… Heck, I’m not even sure what it is.

Screwball swallows once before saying tentatively, “M-Melorheostosis?”

An abnormal thickening of the bone. Nice! Rach is half-tempted to fist bump the air in triumph, but her fear frozen limps refuse to move. Even so, the salamander man is more than pleased by the answer to make up for it.

“Good answer.”

“So, I’m r-right?” Screwballs asks.

“I didn’t say that.” With one snap of his finger, the salamander man turns Screwball into stone. Another snap sends him crumbling to pieces.

“Why are you doing this? A wrong answer isn’t worth death. Neither is being annoying.” A voice rings out.

Rach whips around to see her friend standing up in self-righteous anger. Oh crap. I should do something, right? Yeah, I definitely need to do something. But with limbs still unwilling to move properly, she can do nothing more than whisper, “You’re insane! Sit down, NOW!”

H.S. fanatic waves Rach off, and continues on her soapbox, “You’re supposed to be in jail already, considering the crimes you’ve committed. How’d you even get past campus security anyways?”

The salamander man stares at her with that awful gaze and those glittering beetle-like eyes, and with a snarl says, “Big-mouthed, college grant brats like you are the reason I lost my job. So what if my teaching methods are unorthodox? Great minds like myself are how the world evolves to bigger and better things! But that doesn’t matter. So now I’m going to do to each of you what I did to that Whetherby boy.”

Like Hilary before them, Rach and her remaining classmates wear confused looks before suddenly contorting in absolute agony. A scream escapes Rach’s lips as every tendon and ligament and muscle in her body hardens into bone, speedily killing her from the inside out…

“Do enjoy the answer to my riddle. I so love watching the effects fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva has on a person.” With a wicked smile, the salamander man disappears as Rach gasps for air one last time, her lungs hardening into bone forevermore.

End of Story

This material is copyrighted by KR Wilde. Any retranscription or reproduction is illegal.

 

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