“Alright class, take your seats and we’ll begin.” The professor’s monotone voice droned as we all shyly filtered into the classroom. His name was Professor Gulch, and according to the rumors that floated around, most people who misbehaved in Gulch’s class were never heard from again. Of course, I didn’t believe them.
Professor Gulch taught English 1101. It wasn’t that scary of a class if you thought about it, and my assumption about the rumors were that people simply couldn’t handle writing papers and left — disappearing into the humdrum of the school. It was pretty easy to not be noticed around this place with several thousand students filtering in and out of the building every day. The class was required for my major and strangely enough his was the only class with seats left. I’d signed up, both out of desperation to get into the class in order to get the credits I needed, as well as to see what all the rumors were about.
Mr. Gulch was a tall man, with thin arms and legs that seemed almost impossibly long. His face reminded me of the cartoon villains you often saw on TV or in the movies. It was long and wrinkled with deep set eyes that held no emotion despite having the look of utter disdain plastered on his face. He wore a dark suit that seemed tailored to fit him and crossed his arms behind his back. He was slightly hunched and his dark grey hair was thin and balding. To me, he didn’t seem “scary” — though he was intimidating. The first day of his course was fairly straightforward and easy, like most of the first week of classes.
This won’t be that bad, I thought. He seems pretty intense but easy. I noticed as I looked around the room that most of the class seemed terrified of him for some unknown reason. There wasn’t any merit to the rumors that I knew of, and it didn’t seem like that big of a deal for students to drop his class. English wasn’t for everyone, and Gulch’s class was mostly paper writing. As an English nerd, I loved writing papers, but I knew that not everyone could handle the stress of high-expectation papers. Gulch had higher standards for his papers than most, and that was obvious just from the way he spoke about them.
“Hey Nick,” My buddy Andrew whispered, leaning close. “What do you say to busting into old man Gulch’s desk after hours and seeing what the deal is with that book everyone says he keeps?”
I smirked, leaning just close enough for him to hear me. “Sure, why not? I bet the whole thing is a myth anyway.” I chuckled lightly. Andy nodded and we turned our focus back to class.
The class was relatively boring and uninteresting with Gulch’s tendency to speak in pure monotone. He let us out a few minutes late which left me rushing to my next class. The day seemed to drag by until finally it was ten o’clock, and most of campus had shut down for the night. Andy met me at Theodore Hall, the building that held the classroom Mr. Gulch taught in. Most of the professors didn’t have just one classroom, but Mr. Gulch did. Some deal that was struck with the Dean of the campus allowed Gulch to use the classroom as not only his teaching room, but as his office as well.
“Are you really sure this is a good idea? I mean, I don’t believe the rumors but the guy’s still kind of…intense.” I whispered fervently.
“Aw, c’mon, Nick! It’s completely fine. The guy’s just an old weirdo. It’s not like he’s even going to know we broke in here, and he certainly isn’t going to do anything about it!” Andy replied.
I let out a sigh and nodded, looking around to make sure that no one was nearby. He got the window open in record time and I silently let out a sigh of relief that this old building didn’t have security. Andy shimmied through the window and into the classroom before pulling me up as well. “Whoa…this place is a lot creepier at night.”
“Just hurry up before security decides to make another round or something. You got the lockpick?” I asked, shining my light on the lock so Andy could get it open.
“Even better. I snuck the master key out of the main office when I was in there earlier. That thing will open any lock in this building. I made a copy of it and put it back before anyone noticed.” watching Andy open the desk.
“I don’t get it. It’s just some old book with the title ‘rulebreakers’. This is what’s so secret? Why would someone take so much time and effort to keep this a secret?”
I shrugged. “Maybe he doesn’t want people messing with it? What’s in it, anyway?” Andy opened the book, going pale as he skimmed the pages.
“Nick…” he gaped. “This is photos of the missing students! Look at their faces! They look horrified!” I had to admit, the book was pretty strange, and the fact that he had pictures of the students that had gone missing in there was terrifying. Why did he have those, and more importantly, how did he get them? Why did they look so freaked out at having their picture taken? “Hey there’s a camera in the desk too! I bet this is what he uses to take the pictures!” The sound of footsteps down the hall made us both jump and scramble to put everything back like we found it. We locked the drawer and hurried out the window in a matter of seconds.
“I don’t know what the deal with that book and camera is, but remind me to never cross Gulch.” I sighed. Andy nodded and the two of us headed back to our dorms. As I laid in bed, I couldn’t shake the overwhelming feeling that somehow, Gulch knew what we’d done and we were going to be the next faces in that book. I tried to shrug it off as I drifted off to sleep that night.
The next day, I kept my head down as I walked into Gulch’s class. I hoped that by some miracle, he wouldn’t see me and the guilt on my face, or I’d get lucky and he’d ignore me altogether. I had always been the guy that never really was noticed so it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary for me to be ignored in class. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that lucky. He spotted me nearly instantly and the look in his eyes was one of murder.
“Everyone except for Andrew Martin and Nicholas Jefferson can leave. Class is cancelled today.” The class hurried out, leaving Andy and I alone with Mr. Gulch. I knew this was it. We were about to find out exactly why students had gone missing and what the book had to do with it.
“I know what you boys have done,” he began, crossing the room to his desk and pulling out the book. “You’re both so curious as to what this book is, aren’t you? Well, I’ll tell you. You see that title there? ‘Rulebreakers’. This book is for those who misbehave in my class or break the rules. You both have broken the rules and must be punished.”
Andy seemed to have found some courage and spoke up. “Mr. Gulch, it was all my fault. I just made Nick go along with it. Please, punish me, not him.” He begged.
Mr. Gulch chuckled. “This is college, boy. Not high school. You’re an adult now, both of you. You’re expected to act like adults and that’s what you’ll do. Adults face their mistakes and take the consequences. Stand against that wall over there,” he instructed.
Andy and I complied, seemingly moving without making a conscious effort to do so. He pulled out the camera with a deep chuckle, causing my heart to race as fear set in. The camera went off and I heard Andy scream. I blinked, stunned by the flash. A growling sound filled my ears and as my vision cleared, I realized what had happened. Mr. Gulch had changed, his arms and legs growing longer as his skin greyed and stretched tight. Spikes had irrupted from his back and he’d grown claws. His face was longer and more menacing, losing all traces of any human features. His teeth were pointed as his mouth curled up in what resembled a smirk.
Andy was frozen; his face held the same terrified expression as the students in the book. Mr. Gulch launched at Andy, tearing him limb from limb and devouring him in a matter of seconds. I remember the horrific sound of the bones crunching as I hit the floor, unconscious.
I wish that I could say I escaped and told the police what happened, or that Gulch devoured me and I ended up in a weird, twisted afterworld, but the fact is that I’m here, and I’m writing this, so that didn’t happen. What happened to me was far worse. Gulch spared me but made me his assistant. I’m forever his slave until he dies or decides I’m no longer worth keeping around. It’s been four years since Andy was killed, and no one on campus recognizes me anymore. They stare and whisper and ask questions about the gaunt, long-limbed boy in English 1101, but I never speak. Mr. Gulch ripped my vocal cords out the day after I tried to run. I don’t quite understand how I’m alive, but I am and I wish I weren’t. For everyone reading this who’s about to go to college, I have one piece of advice:
If you come across a class taught by a Mr. Gulch, run. Run and never look back.