A week before kindergarten starts, the school sends an updated safety protocol. All students will be outfitted with bulletproof shields. They will be taught how to hold them over their bodies as they crouch beneath their desks. This solution is insufficient, the school admits, but it will save lives. It will buy time. They are working on building panic rooms large enough to house a hundred frightened children each. These spaces are expensive, but our students’ lives are priceless. They are accepting donations for this effort. The letter arrives along with a list of school supplies. Crayons and scissors. Two bottles of Elmer’s glue. Sterile gauze for packing wounds. Would any parent like to volunteer to lead a course in bullet extraction?
The mother takes matters into her own hands. She lines the inside of her skin with Kevlar, from her toes to the crown of her head. She cuts a slit from pubis to sternum and installs a zipper. Each morning, she will have her son crawl inside her body and will zip him up tight. He is still small enough to fit inside her torso if he curls his knees into his chest, the fetal position. She saws a rectangle through her ribs and inserts a pane of bulletproof glass so he can see out. If she holds her mouth open wide all day, the sounds of the classroom will reverberate down her throat to his waiting ears. He won’t miss any lessons.
When the shooting starts, she will play dead instantly. Bleed out as slowly as she can. She has always been good at faking. In another life, she could have been a successful actor, instead of a liar pretending daily that everything is fine. You wait and wait, and wait a little more before unzipping me, she will tell her son. Until it feels like a whole day has passed. Only then should he emerge. He can drink her blood to survive if he has to. Eat her muscles, her liver. Everything inside of her is his for the taking.
Her husband is mystified. “How will he make friends? How will he learn? What happens as he grows? This is no way to live,” he says.
She points again and again to every news story. She has lost track of the body count. “This is no way to die.”
Biography: Claire Taylor is a writer in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications. She is the founding editor of Little Thoughts Press, a quarterly print magazine of writing for and by kids, and serves as an editor for Capsule Stories. You can find more of Claire’s work online at clairemtaylor.com.