“Got it,” N said as an eccentric smile contorted his face into a smug grin. “Now, are you ready to go yet?”
The church parking lot made an ideal meeting point. It was nearly always empty on weekdays, and its location allowed for both the boys to walk there from their homes. H sighed, disappointed at his own results.
“I didn’t catch it, man, let’s go.” Putting his phone in his pocket, H turned away to walk home.
Although the game of Pokemon Go had begun waning in popularity, the two boys were determined to catch every single Pokemon, and one little hiccup couldn’t stop them.
“See you at school tomorrow,” N shouted as H began to walk to the far edge of the parking lot. N turned to begin the journey home when a well-dressed man nearly trampled him.
The man wore a dark suit, with a white undershirt, and a tie unlike anything N had ever seen before. It was a red tie that seemed to reflect light in an odd way making it appear an almost greenish color given the correct lighting.
The man stumbled back from the collision, causing the tie to change colors rapidly in the fading sunlight.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” The man’s face seemed set in a blank expression. As he talked his face showed little movement other than his lips. After speaking, the man resumed his previous brisk pace.
Although confused by the presence of this strange man, N continued his walk home, only sparing one glance in the direction the man walked. The glance, however, offered no rest to his confusion, as the man had vanished, leaving in his place only a red slip of paper.
Confused as to the origin of this unassuming note, N picked it up and studied it. The note matched the man’s outfit, with the note itself being a deep shade of red similar to his tie, with a black border and white text. The backside of the note contained nothing other than the red color the rest of the note was based on. Even when held up to the light the thick nature of the note prevented any designs from the opposing side from being visible. The white text had been printed in some sort of calligraphic font, spelling out the words “Wake Up.”
N stuffed the note in his pocket and resumed his walk home. As he walked, he racked his brain trying to understand what exactly that note could mean. Surely the note wasn’t meant for him, he thought, but the situation surrounding the finding of the note seemed off. That man appeared from nowhere and disappeared to nowhere. Whatever the reason may be, he decided it would be better to ponder it the next day.
“Hey man,” H said as N began pulling up a chair next to him. “What’s new?” The day leading up to this point had been normal, although N felt as though something was off. N had woken up, gone through his regular morning routine, and sat through three classes to finally get to his fourth hour. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened since that incident with the strange man yesterday.
“Nothing much,” N replied, as an unnerved scowl crossed his face.
“What’s the matter?” Turning to look to what had just seemed to bother N, H continued, “The teacher?” The man in the strange red tie had just entered the room, in the same apparel N had seen him in last night. The man surveyed the students in the room. Upon reaching N, he locked eyes with him for a moment, then proceeded to take a seat behind the usual teacher’s desk.
“What?” Snapping back into reality after his temporary fixation on his new substitute teacher, N answered H’s question “Oh, no, it’s nothing.” N decided it best to ignore the suspicious feeling he had about the man who now stood before his class, and just try to focus on learning.
The strange feeling N had seemed to calm down for a little while. Class went on as normal. First, the substitute teacher took attendance. He rattled off names adding a checkmark to his clipboard for each student who acknowledged their call with a response. The class appeared disinterested with the man or any of his unusual clothing, as they continued their conversations with not so much as a second glance at the new teacher.
Once the teacher had made his way through every name on his attendance list, he rose from his desk and stood before the class.
“Hello class,” The same blank expression N had seen on him yesterday consumed the man’s face. As he spoke, the chatter within the classroom began to fade, and quiet filled the room as students started to pay attention to the teacher. “Today we’ll be learning about World War One.”
Although class had just started, N already became bored to tears.
“Is our normal teacher sick or something?” he asked, attempting to alleviate some of his boredom.
“What do you mean?” H responded, visibly confused.
“I mean why do we have a substitute?”
“Oh stop fucking with me dude.” H didn’t acknowledge N’s accusation with a response, just a bewildered expression before he resumed jotting down notes in his notebook. N felt a drop in the pit of his stomach as he realized H hadn’t been joking. Feeling uneasy, N raised his hand to be excused to the bathroom.
Once excused, he found a bathroom and took refuge in a stall to calm down and think. After clearing his head, N decided it best to go back to his classroom. He didn’t want to fail this class. Maybe H really did decide to mess with him, maybe they didn’t see the same person in their substitute teacher. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t a big deal.
N left the stall to wash his hands, and return to class. As he looked in the mirror, once again he saw the man in the strange red tie. This time, though, he saw the man as himself. N quickly looked down towards the sink and shut his eyes tight, once again attempting to gain his composure. After taking enough deep breaths to calm him enough to look towards the mirror, N braced himself. As he looked towards the mirror for the second time, he saw only his reflection.
N walked back to class. Every step forward was impeded by the realization he may be going slowly insane. As he got closer and closer to the classroom he became more and more afraid of the twisted version of reality he may see in it.
When he had finally gotten to the door, about 45 minutes had passed since he had left for the bathroom. Class had almost finished, and leaving the school to go home may have been a better option, but the boy felt some sort of odd determination urging him to face his fear. N grabbed the door handle and prepared his mind for what he may see in the classroom.
Upon finally opening the door, the boy saw nothing out of the ordinary. All his classmates had just finished taking notes and had begun packing up to leave for their homes. His usual teacher sat behind his desk, busy clicking away at his laptop. The man in the unusual tie, who had been his substitute that day was nowhere to be seen.
The teacher barely noticed N when he arrived back in the room. N returned to his seat and began putting his things away. By the time the bell had rung to dismiss the students, all of the other students had already been waiting at the door to be excused. After he finished packing, N walked into the hall to see the man in the strange tie. Not just one, but hundreds of copies of the same exact man. All of them dressed in the same lavish suit. All of them bearing the same blank expression.