“Thank you for choosing me as your ESL teacher for tonight. I hope to see you again someday. Bye-bye.” I said to my last student for the night as I returned to the teacher’s page on the ESL website, where I would write my final report before hitting the deck. I have been a part-time online ESL teacher for over six months now and as a first-year architecture student, I would quite honestly say that the pay is extremely lousy. Despite the income being below minimum wage, a part of me genuinely liked ESL teaching. Not to brag or anything, but I earned a 4.95 rating on the site and I am completely confident that I can teach anyone. But being so busy with school, I could only find so little time to actually work during the weekends. Nevertheless, it was already 11:34PM and school starts early tomorrow. I said my prayers and went to bed, resting and preparing myself for another week of architecture school.
It was Monday and the week went on with the usual drafting, rendering (which is a technical term for coloring) and model-making. I was quite honestly doing well in school; quite better than I first thought, actually, as I made it to the dean’s list during the first semester. Despite this success in school, though, I would always worry about my financial stability. To be honest, ESL teaching is probably the only option that suits me for the moment. Besides, I don’t even think that I can handle working a graveyard shift at McDonald’s if I were being honest.
As the final class in Saturday finally ended, I went home, opened my computer and plotted out my teaching schedule for the night: 9:00PM and 10:00PM, two 25-minute classes that would only equate to a Dollar and fourteen cents. The first class went on as usual. He was a kind 45-year-old Japanese man who was an engineer with two daughters. So, we went along with our business. I taught him how to read and speak English properly, from the pronunciation of words to proper pacing. After 25 minutes, we ended the class and said our warm goodbyes. I bet that he was already on his way to sleep. I, on the other hand, still had one more class to handle. The student’s name was Hinata, a girl. There was no other information written on her identification card, though, except for a special note written in red Calibri.
“Preliminary Examination.” That was weird, because after six months of teaching, I never taught a lesson entitled “Preliminary Examination.” I shrugged it off and thought that it was just a mistake by the student.
There was still more than 15 minutes before our class would start at 10:00PM, but I like to log in to the room before the student does and so I waited. It was already time. The class would usually start, but the student still hasn’t logged in the room.
“Maybe it’s just a connection problem,” I said to myself.
At that point, I would usually wait around three minutes before I would turn into speculation that the student wouldn’t show up. The company would luckily let us teachers mark the student as a “no-show” if the student wouldn’t connect 15 minutes after the class was supposed to start. And so, I waited longer, looking at the timer on the screen.
I was already growing tired from a week of school and I was hoping that the student wouldn’t show up. So, I readied my hands on my keyboard to log out of the room as soon as 15 minutes would pass, regardless of whether or not she would show up after I left.
Hinata is now connected.
“Damn,” I said to myself and I had to get ready for the final class, adrenaline slowly leaving my body as I watched her video feed buffer. As soon as she connected, I tried to greet her.
“Hello?” I asked.
There was no response. It was quite weird, but it wasn’t the first time that this happened to me. It might just be another connection problem, I suppose.
“Hello?” I asked again. This time, growing a little weary from exhaustion. I could hear the faintest background noise from her end. And I swore that I heard her voice. It sounded muffled, but I could quite possibly hear her quietly sobbing. I took a deep breath before I could ask her again.
“Hello, Hinata?” For a few seconds, I could hear nothing, except for the background noise on her end of the call and the sound of the air-conditioner at the back of my room. Then…
“Hello,” she replied. Her voice sounded sweet, innocent. She sounded young, to be honest. I then proceeded to say my usual line before I formally start my class.
“Hi! My name is Dinz and I will be your online teacher for the next 10 minutes or so. First things first, how would you like me to call you?” It was already a bit repetitive to ask for her name, but saying that sentence for so long has become a habit to me.
“You can call me Hinata,” she replied in that sweet soothing voice. That’s when I realized that her camera was turned off.
“By the way, Hinata, your camera is turned off. Can you please turn it on or would you like to leave it off?” I asked.
“Uh- off, please,” she replied in what felt like a scared voice.
“Oh, okay. Let’s begin our class, shall we?”
I did my best to teach her English in the 8 minutes that was left in the class and I was quite surprised that she was a really decent student. I did teach her what I would normally teach: proper pronunciation, and pacing. It wasn’t perfect, but it was decent. However, there was still something in the tone of her voice. Something about the it made it feel unnatural, forced, and scared. Nevertheless, the class ended like usual and we said our good-byes before I would write the report for the night. Before I could leave, though, she said,
“Um… Teacher?” Hinata asked.
“Um… never mind,” she replied and logged out of the room before I could say another syllable. I paid no attention to this and just decided to log out as well. That’s when I recalled the words, “Preliminary Examination.” I completely forgot to ask her about that.
I opened up four classes for tomorrow, Sunday, as I had no other responsibilities for school; two in the morning and two in the evening.
I woke up to my alarm the next day. It was 5:00AM, my usual waking time. I had an hour before I could start my first class for the day. I opened my computer and saw that all four of my opened classes were all booked. I looked through their names and saw one that caught my attention. It was Hinata. She booked a class on the same time as last night. A part of me was quite excited to hear her again, as she was a well-rounded student. But another part of me gave out chills, as there was just something about her that made me get chills down my spine. I remembered how our class ended last night. It was creepy for me. This time, though, there was no special note in her identification.
The first three classes went faster than I thought it would and it was time to greet Hinata once again. Like last night, I logged in the room 15 minutes earlier. Only this time, I wasn’t exhausted from anything. Rather, I was completely drawn in and eagerly waited for class. I looked at the timer on the screen.
Class begins in 0:05
Both of our video feeds were loading as I prepared myself to teach. To my surprise, this time, her camera was on. Before I could even say a single word, I froze in my chair as I tried to make out what was being presented to me. At that moment, I did see Hinata, just not in the way that I expected or wanted her to be in. She was tied up in a wooden chair, wearing what I presumed was her uniform with a white bloodied bag covering her face. She was sitting underneath a single lightbulb, so the place was not well-illuminated. What I could make out of, though, was that there was blood on the concrete floor. The blood seemed so fresh, like there had been other victims before her. The first thing I heard was Hinata sobbing.
“Hi-Hinata?” I asked.
“Hello, teacher,” someone replied. It wasn’t Hinata. It sounded like the voice of a masked man who was clearly behind the camera.
“Who are you?” I asked. “What have- what are you doing to Hinata?”
“Oh, of course, teacher Dinz, where are my manners?” The man replied, rather stubbornly. “I am a man who needs no name, but a man who is defined by his actions. I am the great judge of all who shall pass and all who shall fail. And tonight, you will be a part of my test.”
“A test?” I asked, Hinata sobbing quietly in the chair.
“I have been closely monitoring your progress as a tutor, Dinz and I like to say that I am very impressed with your performance. You have a rating of 4.95 after six months of teaching. That is very good, I should say.” The voice stopped momentarily before speaking again, “Last night was the preliminary examination. Tonight, will be the final examination.”
“Final examination?” I slowly muttered the words out.
“The examination will not be pressured on Hinata, but on you, the teacher. You will be assessed as to whether or not you have really been teaching the students well and you have to prove if those ratings given to you really were worth it. You will be asked to ask Hinata three basic sentence structure questions, with you as her guide. It’s quite easy, isn’t it?”
Basic sentence structure questions? Of course, that’s easy; for me, at least. But if I’m being completely honest, these students are not well-versed with the English language and based on experience, most students would fail these types of questions.
“But that’s not fair,” I said. “She’s blindfolded. How could she see the questions?”
“She won’t be needing to see the questions,” the voice replied. “As a tutor, you will need to do your best to ask the questions clearly to her.”
I felt my throat dry and I managed to swallow my saliva just to keep it moist.
“For every question she fails to answer, we will break her legs, burn her arms, and then finally rip out her eyes. Do we have a deal?”
I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I was panting and, in my panic, I tried to log out of the room. I clicked on home button, but it just wouldn’t let me leave.
“Now, let us begin,” the voice said. “I shall be sending you the first question.”
The chat-box popped up with the message:
1. Working as a receptionist for my uncle’s business taught me to handle customer
complaints, answering the telephone, and how to maintain a Rolodex.
a. to handle customer complaints, answering the telephone, and how to maintain a
b. how to handle customer complaints, answering the telephone, and maintaining a
c. how to handle customer complaints, how to answer the telephone, and how to
maintain a Rolodex.
d. handling customer complaints, answering the telephone, and maintenance of a Rolodex.
“Read out the question to her, along with the choices,” the voice said.
“Okay… Hinata…” I said. Shaking, I managed to say the question presented to me. I also managed to explain to her what the whole sentence and situation was all about just to try and make it easier for her to understand.
“Hinata, all you have to do is to choose the letter of the correct answer, okay?”
“O…okay,” Hinata said, shaking like I was.
“Choose carefully, please. I don’t want to see you get hurt. Please, Hinata,” I said to myself.
“I think the answer is,” Hinata said slowly. “D.”
I braced myself. I knew that it was the wrong answer. I already know what was going to happen to her. I heard a finger snap, presumably coming from the man behind the camera. Then, a large man wearing a black outfit with a large sledgehammer came from behind. He was strong enough to stretch out her legs.
“No! Please!” I managed to scream.
With one swift blow of the hammer, both of Hinata’s legs were broken. I swear I could hear the bones of her legs crack. What made it worse was her scream. I knew that scream would come to haunt me for years to come. It was one of the most horrifying screams I have ever heard. She was just a young helpless woman who could do nothing but scream. She was in writhing pain and I knew that I was part of the cause.
Adding insult to injury, the man in black slapped Hinata just to make her quiet before he would retreat back into the darkness behind.
The chat box popped-up with another question.
2. Judy is dating a man that has a seven hundred-acre ranch near the foothills outside of town.
a. a man that has a seven hundred-acre ranch near the foothills outside of town.
b. a man, that has a seven hundred-acre ranch near the foothills outside of town.
c. a man, who has a seven hundred-acre ranch near the foothills outside of town.
d. a man who has a seven hundred-acre ranch near the foothills outside of town.
I knew that I had to do the same thing as before. This time, however, I was beginning to sob. The fate of a person lies literally in my hands now. I had to do something. Breathing in heavily, I began reading the question to Hinata. This time, when I read the choices, I emphasized on the letter of the correct answer. It was probably the only way I could save her.
“I…” Hinata managed to say. But before she could even muster an answer, the man behind the camera snapped his fingers once again. I knew what he was about to do.
“Wait!” I screamed! “Wait! That’s not fair! She hasn’t even given her answer yet!”
“I know what you’re trying to do, teacher Dinz,” the voice said. “And quite frankly, trying to give away the answer through the way you raised your voice does not fit well with me.”
“No, please! You can’t do this! Please!” I begged and sobbed, tears streaming through my face, as the same man in black emerged from the darkness once again, this time holding a lighter and a jerrycan. He poured gasoline over her arms and before I knew it, a part of her was engulfed in flames.
She screamed. That horrible scream.
The fire lasted for twenty seconds until they eventually poured water on her, just before she could put out her last dying scream. She was heavily breathing. Not only were her arms completely burned, but even a part of her torso was caught up in the flames. I could even see that a part of her left breast was burned up in the process.
A heavy weight of guilt built up on my chest. Why would they do such a thing? What kind of sick twisted mind would do this to anyone? But most importantly, why me of all people? The man behind the camera started to grumble.
“Well, it seems to me, teacher Dinz, that you have completely been wasting our students’ time that she probably won’t even be able to answer the next question,” the man said. “You don’t deserve the ratings that you’ve received and you’re clearly not fit to be a teacher.”
“I don’t care about my ratings! Just let Hinata go!” I screamed in reply. And indeed, I did not care about my rating as a stupid ESL teacher. At that moment, I just wanted to get out of the room and be done with it. But I had to save Hinata. I had to save my student.
“To be honest, teacher Dinz, I expected a bit more from your teaching prowess,” the man said. “But now, I’m afraid, Hinata has to die and you will be the one to blame; her blood will be on your hands.”
I heard Hinata starting to cry.
“Please!” I begged and screamed.
The man in black removed the white bag covering Hinata’s face. There she was. A part of her black hair was clearly burned with the arms. Her cheeks were bruised up and her black eyes were just covered in tears. Parts of her lips were clearly torn so that some of her teeth could be seen without any effort.
“You became so confident in yourself, teacher Dinz,” the man said. “But not even your dean’s list could save this innocent girl from her damnation and it’s all because of you. You have failed to teach her even the basics of lessons. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Why me?” I managed to ask, tears still streaming down my face. There was no reply.
The man in black grabbed a spoon from a nearby tray. I looked at Hinata for what could possibly be the last time. I swear I could see the pain in her eyes. It was as if she was telling me, “You let me fail.”
The man tightly held her head. Hinata knew very well that she had no strength left in her. The man first reached down for her left eye, inserting the spoon into her socket. Hinata let out one more scream of agony. I could see her eye on the spoon, as if it were some sort of dessert covered in red liquid. Only that I knew that it was blood and veins connected to the brain. The man then grabbed the eye with his other hand and quickly ripped it from her head completely. Blood splattered on the floor and some on the camera. I jumped a little bit on my chair as I seemingly felt some of her blood on my face, but when I touched it, there was nothing there.
I knew that Hinata was already lifeless on the chair, but the man still continued to rip out her other eye. When he was finished, all I could see was her lifeless body, tied up in the chair; broken legs, burnt arms and torso and a bruised-up face with hollow eye sockets crying out blood. I couldn’t move. I was in a complete trance, light-headed and dizzy.
Without me even noticing it, the video feed turned off. I quickly checked if I could log out of the room and I did. I managed to write out a half-assed report before I would eventually hit the deck. But who am I kidding? I just witnessed the death of an individual, a student, an innocent girl. And I was part of the blame. I had to tell someone what happened. I thought about the support team on the ESL website and thought that maybe they could help. But then, what if they also knew about it and were part of the whole ordeal? That kept me awake for a while. I turned off my computer and lay down on my bed. I couldn’t sleep, nor could I turn off the lights. I was shivering and, unknowingly, my sheets were covered in my own sweat. I just couldn’t help myself to think that I was part of the blame for the death of an innocent girl all because she couldn’t answer those questions.
Three months passed since the infamous event happened. Those were three whole months without teaching a single student ever. My account with them was about to be deactivated, anyway. There were no mischievous emails that followed. And quite surprisingly, there were no police on the lookout for me and there were definitely no news reports regarding the incident. I focused mainly on my classes and I thankfully still retained my spot on the dean’s list. With this, I continue to look forward to a much better life as I already made peace with myself. I know that I was not completely to blame and that it wasn’t entirely my fault that she died, that Hinata died.
So, have I really moved on? Well, to be completely honest, I would be lying to you if I said yes. I never bothered to look at news reports from Japan about a kidnapped girl who died in a horrible way and neither did I bother try to revisit that old ESL website. But I swear that every night, I could hear someone walking from one end of my room to another very slowly and intricately, accompanied with the clear sound of cracking bones and a muffled cry, like a face covered in a bag.
“Please let her soul rest, o God,” I say to myself as I cry myself to sleep every night.
This is quite a long draft, so if you read it through, thank you so much. I'm hoping to receive some constructive criticism so I can further improve on the story.