Before he threw himself off the gymnasium roof, Principal Fitch left a warning in the teacher’s lounge of Walter Leet Memorial High School.
Beware those angels, he wrote in what looked like chocolate flavored cream. Those harbingers of Death terrible in their sweetness will drive out thine sanity with unrelenting light.
He also left one long, jagged, and chocolaty arrow pointing to the doughnuts.
The box of doughnuts sat on a table in the teacher’s lounge beside the fridge. It was yellow. Inside it sat a variety of pastries–cake doughnuts, yeast doughnuts, doughnuts covered in chocolate and filled with jelly, long johns, fritters, cronuts, old fashioneds, crullers, and churros and youtiaos. Sprinkles trailed everywhere.
The new principal of Walter Leet Memorial High School, Dr. Boyle, did not eat any of the doughnuts. The first time she lifted up the lid of that yellow box to peer inside, she felt a bristling at the back of her neck. A strange dread came creeping over her that could not be explained by mere wariness of pre-diabetes.
Long after Principal Fitch was buried and the janitors had cleaned the wall, the box remained there, in the lounge. Untouched.
Dr. Lashonda Boyle, 42, was a recent graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, with a PhD in Educational Administration. She had never failed a school.
The only misstep that haunted her was getting kicked out of the Bellingham Astronomical Society for a series of Kahlua-fueled rants via listserv on the Society’s vice president’s loathing of multiverse taxonomy. (The chaotic inflation that occurred due to an ergodic universe was the only option when seeking hypotheses of unification, she had said. And maybe that meant the vice president’s house might someday, mysteriously, burn down.) Luckily, charges were never brought to bear over the comments.
Despite her expulsion from the Society, a large part of her still maintained that truth–the real, capital T truth that phenomenologists tried so hard to capture–could only be found in the stars. Out there. Beyond human ego, in the ebb and flow of strange cosmic shores. And Truth was likely something that the human ego didn’t want to know.
The box of doughnuts did not contradict her beliefs in this.
At one point, Dr. Boyle tried to throw the box away.
On a Friday at 5:36 pm, Dr. Boyle checked the building to ensure she was alone. Then, she picked up the yellow box, walked it out to the dumpster, and dropped it in. She used a plunger to shove the box down deep into though the layers of garbage. The dumpster that day was full discarded paper lunch trays and papier-mâché animal heads left over from the 11th grade production of Peter and the Wolf.
Upon her plunging, one of the jelly-filled doughnuts spurted from the box, lodging in the eye of a crumpled badger. A cronut, mutilated, tumbled into the open maw of an indistinguishable fanged lump.
If you listen, Dr. Boyle thought, you can still hear the duck quacking, as the wolf swallowed her alive.
After washing her hands, Dr. Boyle then went to refill her coffee in the teacher’s lounge and found the box just as it was. She walked past it, stopped, turned back to the table and confirmed that, yes, it was there. Just as it was. After glancing inside, she saw it contained perfect replicas of the doughnuts it had contained before.
What a prank, Dr. Boyle thought. The small part of her brain that wasn’t terrified insisted that, surely, the students were testing the new principal. Surely, such terrible miracles didn’t exist.
Over the next few weeks, Dr. Boyle threw the box away a second, a third, a fourth time. At one point, she even returned at 4am on a Saturday to spend all night watching the school’s security footage to ensure no hidden prankster lurked in the empty classrooms. On another occasion, she also took the box, drove it to the river, set it on fire with kerosene, and threw the remains of it into the waters, only to find it in the teacher’s lounge upon her return.
Overall, Dr. Boyle had a great deal trouble sleeping during this period.
On her fifth sleepless night, having frequent thoughts that this school would be the one she couldn’t save, Dr. Boyle pulled aside the longest serving faculty member: Mrs. Elizabeth Garza, who was 71 years old. The librarian had been at the school for over 36 years.
When Boyle asked about “the terrible doughnut prank.” Mrs. Garza said, “Oh, no, my dear. Such things were not placed into our midst by human hands.”
She took Boyle to an old AV club room behind the library office. After the door creaked softly open, Boyle saw the walls of the room were covered with thousands of clipped newspaper articles.
“Such things have always been,” Mrs. Garza whispered.
Ignoring her rising nausea, Dr. Boyle skimmed the clippings. One described the death of a beloved cafeteria lunch lady who never pulled the cord on her parachute during a birthday sky dive. In another, a janitor unfortunately perished when his Snuggie combusted due to a cigar placed in his lap. An unsecured power washer dismembered an assistant principal. A music teacher cuddled a rabid opossum and did not seek treatment, eventually running off into the woods to die after the 10th grade production of Peter and the Wolf. An Administrative Assistant refused to leave her bed for weeks, dying of dehydration. The newest article coldly depicted Principal Fitch’s recent jump off the gymnasium roof.
“You see, dear, there’s little we can do,” Mrs. Garza said.
Dr. Boyle refused to accept this. Her mind spun. Dr. Boyle still believed that human action, however infinitely small, could act as a butterfly wing in a deterministic, nonlinear universe. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t convince the vice president of the Seattle Astronomical Society, although she did regret threatening to burn his house down.
Suddenly, she knew what to do.
She asked Mrs. Garza, “Do you have any books on arson?”
The Great Fire of Leetsville raged through a hundred and thirty-six acres of tallgrass prairie and commercially zoned land held for development. The sum total of casualties (due to the majority of the town residents being absent in order to attend the “Run-a-Mucca” motorcycle festival in Winnemucca, Nevada) was the loss of 2 household pets.
The newspaper published an article describing the blaze as an unrelenting light upon the horizon.
While investigators never caught the culprit, it was widely accepted that the fire began in the Walter Leet Memorial High School, early in the morning on Saturday, December 17th, shortly after the end of classes and before all the papier-mâché decorations from the winter dance had been removed.
The theme for the winter dance had been Cosmic Miracles. Investigators concluded that first thing to combust was the photo booth containing a human-sized balloon angel. The student body had voted for an Angels-themed dance, but school policy forbid such overt expressions of religion.
As a compromise, Dr. Boyle encouraged the students to think of angels as a metaphor for cosmic bodies, the unknowable and at times frightening forces moving within a vast universe, strange in its workings. The students seemed to embrace the idea about as well as Peter and the Wolf.