• tab Ink went to paper almost immediately following the instance in which the necessary numbers would come to her, the different pages flying by as she did so. How she hated this job, how she just wished she could just dissolve into thin air and reappear elsewhere, it didn't matter the exact location. Any task in any other place was bound to be less monotonous and lifeless than this one. After all, in a world where all of humanity was doomed, what was the point in grades anyways? It seemed silly to think that the percentages that she was now reflecting onto the white sheets could possibly measure the amount of any child's knowledge. Complete nonsense, actually.

    tab Speaking of the children, they were all so horrid these days; talking out of turn, making rude remarks, and even daring to get up out of their assigned seats while she was speaking! What atrocious manners! If she knew anything in this inane world of hers, she knew that no such behaviour would've been tolerated as recently as ten years ago. What had changed? Had the ethical side of the parents' brain just snapped, causing them to allow, maybe even encourage this kind of rubbish?

    tab The woman paused in her process of grading papers, looking up from her desk tiredly. As she did so she caught a glimpse of herself in a parallel mirror, flinching slightly at the sight. Where, she asked herself, had the time gone when she had been so eager to teach the children, so pleased to see their round little faces each and every weekday morning? And what, in the name of all things that were good and holy, had happened to her soft brown hair that was always tied up so neatly in a bun, and her smooth carefree face of youth?

    tab 'I'll tell you,' a voice within her hissed. 'The children, that's what happened; they've drained your spirit! And, to top that, they have slyly placed those little wrinkles on your once beautiful face until you can't go even a few centimeters without spotting one! And, to spite you even more, they've set your hair to graying! Those little devils . . .'

    tab She simply kept looking at herself in the mirror, gazing into those weary dark, once light, eyes as she let the voice prattle on and on. Such thoughts and accusations came to her often, but she never paid them any mind. Those words were Satan's work, they were, and she wasn't about to start listening to them now. So, instead she ignored the venomous voice inside her mind and began muttering a soft prayer to herself when a small and innocent voice interrupted her.

    tab "Miss? Could you help me, please?"

    tab At the sound of the voice she looked down, slightly startled at the sight of a small boy with tousled dark hair holding up a paper in front of his face shyly.

    tab "I-It's fractions, a-and I'm no good at them . . ."

    tab A quiet laugh escaped her lips when she realized that the little boy was afraid. Of her! Imagine that . . .

    tab "I-I asked another boy," he continued tentatively, "but he didn't get them e-either."

    tab She forced a smile at him as she gently pried his fingers from the paper and brought it up to her own face so that she could skim over it over the rim of her spectacles. This boy . . . he had such neat handwriting, and the way he was looking at her; nervous, but a bit proud at his attempted work. She looked up at him, trying to place his name but coming up blank. He was so different from all of the other rambunctious children surrounding him, how had she overlooked him until now?

    tab "W-Well?" he stammered, breaking through her thoughts.

    tab This time the warm smile was genuine. "You did very well. But, you see, your mistake was right here . . ."

    tab Her voice trailed off as she pointed out the error and began explaining in mathematical terms. After every few sentences in her explanation she would look up to see the boy nodding, a very focused expression on his face. He was hanging off of her every word. Was this, she wondered, what it felt like to have well-behaved students? Thinking back to her early teaching days she did recall those students that were as eager to learn information as she was to teach it, but those students had gotten fewer and fewer each year until they had been completely snuffed out by the barbaric children of today. Looking down at the concentrating little boy she realized just how long it had actually been since a student had sparked her interest in her job. So, so long . . .

    tab "Miss? Are you okay?"

    tab The little boy brought his finger up to her eye and wiped a tear, causing her to let out a choked sounding laugh. Silly me, she thought, I hadn't realized that I was crying . . .

    tab "Mi- eep!" The boy was lifted a good deal into the air by her sudden embrace. "M-Miss?" he repeated.

    tab "Thank you," she choked through a mouthful of laughter and tears, "Thank you for rekindling the flame in me that had gone out."