Chapter 7: The Brow of Doom
3.8.2002 Edited by , every Sunday.
The road was endless. Following the subtle curves helped Bjorn to relax a bit after his last few days of soul-shattering chaos and terror. The war, the incident at the feet of Abe, the faux alien. How did these things link together? It was obvious in Bjorn's mind that it was the child who was responsible, but why? Why? What could his motivations possibly have been? This self-proclaimed evil genius obviously had some sort of grudge against Bjorn, but what had Bjorn done to spawn such hatred?
The wind whipping through Bjorn's hair and the sound of the smooth road under the tires lulled him into a trance-like state, and he began to remember.
One eyebrow. The one eyebrow was important. Where had he seen that before? It reminded him of something in the past. It reminded him of a spelling bee.
Bjorn was pulled out of his reverie by a honking horn and a looming shape. Instinctively, he checked his mirror, covered the brake and horn, and pulled quickly and calmly onto the shoulder of the road. He had paid very good attention in driving school, and had found the instructional videos extremely interesting and informative. As he came to a stop, he addressed an invisible passenger with his professional smile. "I'm Bjorn Lincoln. Remember, considerate driving is the first step in the Collision-Free! T approach. And always, always fasten your seat belt."
The truck had zoomed by, but Bjorn decided that he'd been driving for so long that he had begun to fall asleep at the wheel. There didn't seem to be a rest station nearby, so he decided to take a quick nap where he was. "Not too long," he chided himself, "only fifteen winks, or maybe twenty. Seventeen." And with that, he drifted off.
Ms. Pear stood at the front of the class, gesturing like some sort of horrible duck.
"Children, children! Line up, now! No more ballyhoo!" The oooo sound at the end of ballyhoo was drawn out, and grated on young Bjorn's ears like the whine of a dog locked in a house with the smelly carcass of his owner.
Bjorn was in grade two at Cheddar Cheese Elementary School.
The children obediently lined up in front of the teacher, who was shaped like a single leg of pantyhose filled with basketballs. When they had stood there just long enough to start wondering about that glassy sparkle in their teacher's eyes, she clapped her hands again and squealed, her mouth contorting into a pinched rictus of a smile. It occurred to Bjorn that she sounded the way a lobster would sound, if lobsters could squeal.
"Now, class, today we're going to do what I know we all like best. Yes, class, I know that you're all excited about this, so I think we should start right away, with this year's spelling bee! Hooray! Oh, huzzah!" Ms. Pear clapped her hands again, as though she were some sort of crippled, featherless baby bird.
Her enthusiasm was met with shocked silence.
"Now, I know this was supposed to be ice-cream day, but we don't want to get all bloated and fat, do we children? Do we really want to sit around lapping away, as we spiral inescapably towards death? Do we want people to sit around and talk about how greedy we are? Do we? Do we want our parents to like us? We do? Then get on your thinking caps, because we're going to spend the afternoon learning how to spell great big words! Yay!"
A little boy at the back burst into tears and ran from the room. Ms. Pear's face changed into a wrinkled portrait of wrath. Her lips peeled back, exposing yellow, lipstick-stained teeth.
"EVAN YOU WRETCHED LITTLE MONSTER YOU GET BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!!!" Once, again, the thin veil of forced cheerfulness dropped over her face. "Well, it looks like we've already found one quitter. Evan would probably rather be licking a double scoop of chocolate cheesecake crackle than spending time with his friends Ms. Pear and the class. I guess we all know his only real friends are sugar and fat. Does anyone else want to join him? Good. Now, on with the spelling bee. The first word is for you, Bjorn."
The bee progressed quickly. When a child spelled a word wrong, they were out and had to sit and write the word out right until the rest of the bee was complete. The numbers dwindled. Bjorn, who had kept up in his studies instead of playing ball with the others, spelled correctly every word given to him by Ms. Pear.
"No, Martin, it's spelled Q-U-I-X-O-T-I-C. I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that to stay in the game, or to succeed in life at all. Off you go, dear. Well, well, well. It looks like we're down to two. One of you will win, and the other, I'm afraid will be a loser. Oh, dear. Now, seeing as one of us is new in the class, you can begin by spelling each other’s names. That way, everyone will know who you are, and that's the only really important thing, isn't it? You first, dear." She looked at the new child. The blonde boy looked unblinkingly at Bjorn. A smile crept over his cherry-red lips the way blood creeps silently through water.
"Bjorn. B-J-O-R-N. Bjorn."
"Oh, hurray! Good for you! Now you Bjorn. Your turn."
Bjorn looked at the boy. He had never seen him before, but he looked somehow familiar. What was his name? What was his name? Bjorn stammered, but no letters escaped his mouth. Ms. Pear let out a single harsh laugh, like a branch splitting.
"You don't know, do you Bjorn? You should have remembered his name, Bjorn, because now you lose. If you don't remember people's names, Bjorn, you always lose."
The tears in Bjorn's eyes warped his vision. There, bloated, was the boy's single eyebrow, dancing like a telephone-wire in the wind as the boy and Ms. Pear hugged each other and laughed at Bjorn.
Bjorn awoke with a dry cold running up and down his spine. If that child was the same one.
"He was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant, and the meanest boy I've ever met."
The sun was setting. Dusk was upon him. The darkness closed around him like a clammy blanket, and he was filled with dread. He started the car and tore out onto the road, no longer caring where he was headed, just away, away. Suddenly, it was as though he was driving along that unending, merciless eyebrow and those two great, cruel eyes were always upon him. Faster and faster he drove, until the hum of the engine soothed his nerves once again.
"God, I loved that teacher." He said to himself as he swept along the black cord of the highway into the night.
By Mike Trudeau