I mostly post unfinished stories on here, but this is a fun little drabble that I wrote as a bet of sorts with my students–they gave me a prompt and I wrote a story on it while they were working on their own short stories. None of them actually seemed very interested, but I enjoyed this particular story, so even though it’s unlikely to find publication anywhere, I wanted to share this.
“Help us, oh English teacher!” The supplicants cried, at the foot of my throne.
I looked down at the gathered masses. “And why?”
“Our children are illiterate! They know not the language or the ways of our culture! They speak in grunts and point at things they desire; they try to communicate through advanced Pictionary games and charades?”
I paused to consider this. “And why,” I said, “should this be of any concern to me?”
“Our society is upon the brink of collapse, O English teacher!” pleaded an old man with a long white beard. “For the workers entering our society can neither read instruction manuals nor write directions for the following work shift to employ!”
A distraught housewife nodded. “Their e-mails are hopeless and contain nonsensical information that none but the writer can understand! Strange images and moving patterns, with large block text that means nothing!”
“If this state of affairs continues, our economy will collapse and all will fall into darkness,” said the eldest of the supplicants. “We shall be at the mercy of our enemies, our factories shall lie desolate, and men shall riot in the streets over the last scraps of food. Even you will not be able to escape the devastation, proud English teacher.”
“Surely,” I said, “I cannot be the last English teacher of all. Surely even one of you could teach them. After all, it is known by everyone that English is a simple subject, barely necessary to teach.”
The supplicants looked at each other miserably. “We have searched. We have tried.” There was a cough. “It seems that teaching is… harder than we first thought.”
“You astonish me.” I shrugged. “Send them unto your educational programs and your inspirational talks.”
“They do not work, O wise one! Our children remember only the game and not the knowledge! Others languish and play other games and say the educational programs are ‘lame.’”
A smile curved my lips. “Surely, it is enough that the children try, no matter whether they can make themselves understood. Have you not said this? Who are you to judge the patterns in which they learn; their unique strengths and weaknesses?”
“You mock us, O English teacher,” said the elder. “You mock our foolishness in the days of mobile technology. And yet it seemed like such a good idea at the time.”
“Yet you were warned.” I inspected my fingernails. “You were warned of the dangers, and yet you still did nothing.”
“Give us your demands,” the elder cried. “For now none remain but you, the last English teacher, and we are without any other aid.”
“Aid us! Aid us!” the supplicants cried.
I stilled the crowd with a wave of my hand. “Fear not.” I said. “All this I have foreseen, and prepared for. Your prayers I have heard and will answer, so long as you observe my commandments.”
“Give us them, O English teacher!”
I straightened on my throne. “You shall pay unto me a tribute equal to a decent living wage, wherefrom I can maintain a comfortable standard of living. You will grant unto me free license to rule the classroom as I wish, and accept my judgments without question. And you shall remove the student’s mobile devices from them, for they are a curse unto them and a destroyer of attention spans. All this you shall do.”
“All this we shall do!”
I nodded. “Naturally, though, as I am but one man, I can only educate 30 students per class period.”
The crowd froze.
“Therefore I shall require servants to grade essays, and manage classrooms, and draft tests and readings. And yet still, I shall only be able to educate 180 of the children of this nation. The rest must rely on your artificial learning algorithms.”
The supplicants were beginning to back away, eyeing each other fearfully.
“But I am a fair teacher.” I smiled. “I shall hold a merit-based competition to determine which among the applicants are fitting of my attention.”
The supplicants nodded, their faces tense.
“A spelling bee.”
The crowd’s voice rose in loud lamentation.