How to Survive in Room 105 by T. Jane Berry

Dear Hexgirl,

Principal Freezarro announced that you’re substitute teaching in my kindergarten class for the next few weeks. I’m so excited! I’ve seen your work with the Vindicators, and just to let you know, I think it’s ridiculous that you were sentenced to six months of community service over the bridge incident. Who expects you to save the city from an army of wood chipper-earthworm hybrids and not take out a few historic landmarks? As we say in room 105, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” And please, please don’t let them get upset.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of your work and I’m so glad you have chosen Lusus Naturae Elementary School for your community service hours. You are the woman who single-handedly vanquished General Gauntlet’s Reliquary of Poor Choices. I’m positive that teaching a group of twenty-three kindergarteners will be a piece of cake. Just in case you need them–and I’m sure that you won’t–I’ve typed up a few itty bitty tips to get you off on the right foot:

1.  Do not show fear.

Not as if you ever would, I mean, you bested MediMan using his own laser scalpel. (By the way, who would have guessed his veins were filled with Bacitracin? It’s no wonder that our bacteria bombs had barely any effect.) But just so you’re aware, the kids in room 105 can sense fear. Literally. Three of them have emoti-chip implants that can pick up sixteen distinct states of mind at a range of five meters. In case of anxiety, they will notify the others that you are afraid. Be prepared for swarming behavior.

In order to head off that outcome, I’ve seated those kids at the far end of the room near the Roger the Turtle. His reptile angst disrupts their emoti-chip sensors. In order to be totally safe, I tend to teach from the front of the room, sticking near the windows. In the event that any of those three turns hostile, I’ve bookmarked a “baby gets a cochlear implant and hears his mother’s voice for the first time” video on my web browser. Play it to drown out all other emotions except sloppy, weeping joy. The kids will back off. Probably.

2.  If you absolutely must show fear, stay close to the Red Table.

Your two allies, Gennifer and Davon, are seated there. Gen has some botany modifications and her classroom job is to make the potted dahlia in the corner bloom daily. It’s kind of nice, actually. She has a gluten allergy, so give her an afternoon snack out of the bottom cabinet. If she eats any wheat at all, the flowers start to smell like sulfur and week-old cadavers.

Davon can scale vertical surfaces, which useful when school supplies float to the ceiling. (The floating items could be any one of five kids–see attached list of modifications, superpowers, and mutant abilities.) Bear in mind that while Davon can reach the ceiling by clinging to a wall, he cannot hold on while completely upside down. We learned this the hard way when he crashed into the Yellow Table and startled Ian into setting off his firework fingernails. We lost all of the paper mache self-portraits to smouldering sparks and Roger the Turtle has never been quite the same.

Also, while I’m thinking of it, don’t allow Tina Chen to levitate anyone or they’ll be stuck on the ceiling until the custodian brings a ladder. She can only do up, not down. And don’t get Tina Chen mixed up with Tina McNamara who will pretend that she can levitate people, but who actually turns living tissue into a gooey, tar-like substance.

Note: If you discover a gooey, tar-like substance anywhere in the classroom, do a head count and collect it for DNA analysis.

3.  If the kids claim that someone is on fire, confirm first before calling 911.

I’ve hung an infrared temperature gun on the wall behind my desk–donated by the generous and hard-working heroes of the Tycho Vista Fire Department. Point the sensor at the supposed “fire” and wait for a temperature reading to confirm actual combustion. Salvatore is able to create flame-like protrusions from his hands, but they’ve so far proved harmless and heat-free. He mostly uses the false conflagration to incite panic in new staff members. Remember… temperature gun before fire extinguisher. I made a little rhyme for the kids that we say in the morning: Extinguisher if hot, time out if not.

4.  The panic button under the table is useless. Sorry.

Shoshanna disabled the circuits with her last electromagnetic pulse tantrum and the custodian hasn’t been able to get it working again. In the event of an emergency, make your way to the intercom by the door and call for backup.

If, hypothetically, you become blocked at your desk by, let’s just say, a sentient hedgerow, I’ve set up a backup communication system with the main office. A pair of semaphore flags hang by the window. Wave them over your head to get the secretary’s attention, then form the letters N-C, which is a universal distress call (see attached semaphore diagram). I suggest practicing before class—it can be difficult to perform the maneuver while being gnawed by an arbor vitae. Hypothetically speaking.

5.  Check your radiation levels frequently.

You’re not immune to radiation, are you? I remember back in aught three when you went after Scintillator and ended up with some pretty severe radiation burns. I’m going to assume not, and so I left you a stack of RadSafe badges in my top drawer. Clip a fresh one on your uniform every day. If you see a rad spike around seven millisieverts, that’s coming from Nashawn. You’ve let him get hangry. His radiation level can quickly rise to double the allowable dosage, so keep a bowl full of cheese crackers on the Green Table. Refill as necessary during the day. If you start losing hair, throw him handful of Swedish Fish and put on the lead apron hanging by the art smocks.

6.  Steer clear of the acid creators.

The bucket under the Yellow Table is filled with a chemical solution that can neutralize both Kenya’s napalm nose boogies and Maisie’s acid tears. As we head into allergy season, hang a spray bottle of the solution on Kenya’s chair. Maisie has a case of the “gimmes” and will cry at the drop of a hat—especially during art time. It may not be fair, but making sure she gets more clay than everyone else is much easier than patching holes in the table. And the floor. And the classroom below.

On a side note, Jose produces acid as well. Without going into too much detail, after he uses the restroom, put on gloves and goggles and head inside after him to make sure that he has flushed the toilet. If there are spatters, call the custodian. The entire seat will need to be replaced. Obviously, Jose is allowed full access to the restroom at any time, without a pass or raising his hand. Don’t risk any accidents. The Tycho Vista Sinkhole originated on the site of the Jose’s old preschool, if you get my meaning.

7.  The concrete bunker at recess is there for your protection. Don’t be ashamed to use it.

All of us here in Tycho Vista want to believe that we’re indestructible, but the fact is, when an innocent game of dodge ball turns into running for your life from a lethal freeze ray emanating from the eyes of a petulant five-year-old, even the best of us curl into a fetal position and cry.

No matter what the fourth grade teachers whisper behind your back, you feel free to get into that vault and hunker down. There’s no shame in staying alive to fight another day.

8.  Vacuum-seal your trash.

You’ll notice there are no trashcans in our classroom. One of the kids (we suspect Olive) created a functioning society of living beings out of construction paper scraps in the bottom of our wastebasket. The poor custodian nearly committed genocide on recycling day. The species now resides safely in the science lab, but now all trash bits should be placed in sealed bags and held out of sight until the end of the day.

9.  Keep earplugs on your person at all times.

If Yan slips her pudgy little hand into yours and says, “I like you, teacher,” do not engage. Shove in your earplugs as fast as possible, drop to the floor, and lay face down and perfectly still. You will feel a tingling sensation in your extremities, and you may possibly see visions of your own early demise, but Yan probably will lose interest at some point between one and forty-four minutes. Only then is it safe for you to get up and resume teaching. And wash that hand pronto.

The doctor says I’ll be able to return from medical leave in four to six weeks. A little longer if the arbor vitae bites become infected.

You can do this!

Miss Geraldine a.k.a. The Dark Flame