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Third Annual Scariest Story Ever Told Contest: Something Wicked This Way Comes : X SQUARED PLUS 2Y EQUALS HORROR

October 31, 1995|MICHAEL SCHWARTZ

It was the smell that gave Schneider away. That awful vegetable smell. I could accept the other things: the limp, the stare, the ghostly pale complexion, the rotting teeth, the monotone speech. Heck, most of my teachers fit this description. But that smell. . . . Yes, it was definitely the smell that tipped me off that Mr. Schneider, my seventh-grade math teacher, was actually a zombie.

That's right. A zombie. Not zombie-like, as one might describe most teachers, but an actual zombie. I couldn't believe no one else had noticed. But here he was, droning away as we scribbled in our notebooks trying to keep up. Maybe that's why nobody noticed. We were all too busy writing to stop and recognize this abomination teaching mathematics.

I've never been very good at math, so I suppose that my heightened state of boredom in Schneider's class enabled me to put the pieces together. My friends thought I was crazy.

"You're crazy," they said, and proceeded to explain Schneider's zombie characteristics as mere hygiene problems. What was wrong with them? Had Schneider lured them into a math-induced trance that clouded their perceptions?

In desperation, I decided to tell the principal he'd hired a zombie.

"A zombie you say?"

"That's right, a brain-eating, unholy monstrosity . . . in your school."

"Well . . . that's . . . very interesting. Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad we had this chat."

Mr. Phillips gestured toward the door.

"So you're going to fire him, right?"

"I'm afraid we can't."

"What! Why not?"

"We can't discriminate on the basis of race. Plus, he's in the teacher's union."

"But he's a zombie!"

"Nonsense. He has excellent references. Besides, why would a 'brain-eating zombie' want to be teaching math at all? Shouldn't he be out eating brains?"

That's when it hit me. Brain-eating zombie. Math. He was fattening up our brains!

"Don't you see?! He's trying to smarten us up for his dinner! What if he eats a student's brain?!"

"That's OK. I think we're insured for that sort of thing."

My pleadings proved futile. I pondered the situation. Sure there was an upside to letting Schneider eat the smart kids: namely the favorable adjustment in the grading curve. But that advantage paled to the horror of it all. Schneider had to be stopped.

Every card-carrying member of the undead has a weakness: silver bullets, holy water, wooden stakes or, in this case, salt. Yeah, it confused me too, but according to folklore, a pinch of salt on a zombie's tongue will wither him like a slug. The tricky part is getting it there.

The next day I went to math class, per usual. Class ended and everyone filed out. Everyone but me, that is. I went to the front. Schneider was erasing the board.

"Mr. Schneider?"

"Class over," he grunted. "You go. No late slip."

"Mr. Schneider. I had a question about these derivatives. . . ."

That caught his attention. He snapped around to face me. His nose almost flew off.

"Derivatives! You speak of Calculus. How is this?"

I had never been this close to him before and the sight and smell of him were almost overwhelming. I looked straight into his dead eye and answered.

"Mr. Schneider, I have to confess: I'm not as dim as you think. The reason I do so poorly is because I'm so bored! You teach far too slowly for my advanced intellect. Einstein suffered the same problem in school."

Schneider licked his decayed lips. "Mmmmm . . . Einstein."

"Anyway, I was hoping you could help me with these problems."

I looked down at my paper, leaving my allegedly oversized brain vulnerable to attack. He took the bait.

Schneider grabbed my head with his cold hands and took a big bite out of my skull. Or tried to. He had just gotten his mouth on my head when he suddenly let go and collapsed to the floor.

"Salt!" he shrieked. "I . . . I . . . I thought it was dandruff!"

Schneider crumbled away to dust, leaving only a pile of smoldering ash.

Nobody asked too many questions. Teachers disappear all the time. We have a new math teacher now. Mr. McNamara. In many ways he's a lot like Schneider, except he's not a zombie, though sometimes it's hard to tell.

* Schwartz, 26, is project manager at Sony Pictures' High Definition Center. He lives in Reseda.

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