So, today was the much-anticipated day of Mikuláš, although I’d forgotten all about it as I walked through the big school to my first class, the 4th grade, at 7.50am. I poked my head around the door of my oldest class as I passed, to say good morning, and discovered to my alarm that they had all morphed into angels and demons. The latter growled ferociously at me as I stood momentarily frozen in the doorway, and I couldn’t help bolting down the corridor. Honestly, Čert is as terrifying as he is difficult to pronounce.
The young teen versions, however, were nothing to the “real” one, who arrived in the school while I was in the middle of circle time in a first grade classroom. The children mostly seemed to be looking forward to the trio’s visit, some of them wearing angel wings and halos, and about two thirds of the entire school having covered their faces in black and red face paint. Their eager anticipation vanished, however, when they heard the ominous sound of clinking chains in the corridor.
Čert!! they shrieked, looking suddenly terrified. A few of them were play-acting being afraid, but most of them were genuinely scared – and the same went for the pupils of a few of my colleagues, as I was informed when I mentioned it in the safety of our staffroom later on. My entire first grade class ran screaming from the formerly quiet circle on the rug, where we’d been having a pleasant discussion about favourite toys, and proceeded to hide under their desks. You would’ve thought a natural disaster was approaching, if you’d witnessed the scene. It’s OK… I think he’s gone on past, I said uncertainly. A loud clanging and a demonic roar immediately proved me wrong, and pandemonium descended upon the classroom.
Umm… Martina?! I said helplessly to my co-teacher, trying to extract myself from underneath three 6-year-olds who were clinging to various parts of my body as the others trembled and screamed under the desks. Honestly, 3+ years of weirdness in Korea never saw such chaos in my classroom. My co-teacher went out to tell the devil to mooch on up the corridor so that we could regain control of the room. See, it’s OK! I said desperately, my limbs going dead under the weight of all the youngsters as I tried to discreetly prise them off. Martina’s making him go away.
Martina spoiled the calming effect of this somewhat by suddenly screaming outside the door, amidst scuffling sounds. The children became semi-hysterical, and I got an accidental headbutt on the nose. My co-teacher reappeared, entering hastily and slamming the door behind her, muttering something in Czech. The children squealed again, for she had apparently been attacked by Čert and had red and black streaks on her previously immaculate face. Have you got a mirror? she asked in exasperation. I hadn’t, so she had to reluctantly retain her new look for the rest of the morning’s lessons, which I found rather amusing.
By the time I left the school, there were dozens of Čerts running riot all over the place, growling and clinking their chains. It was like some sort of demon apocolypse. One of the feckers chased me down the stairs, possibly trying to strangle me with his chains or bundle me off to hell in his sack. I don’t know – I took off like a shot towards the bus stop.
Apparently Mikuláš and his infamous sidekicks also pay home visits to children whose parents particularly wish to scare the crap out of them, but although I knew this, I was quite unprepared for the unholy racket that disturbed my dinner about half an hour ago. It’s dark outside, and quite a blustery, stormy night, with the wind howling around and causing unfamiliar creaking and crashing noises at my window. Enter the Terrible Three by the main door downstairs.
It flew open with a loud bang, and I jumped.
STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! The thudding footsteps echoed through the hallway and up the staircases. I jumped again.
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Čert’s chains jingled and echoed like a less friendly, more threatening version of Santa’s sleigh, as he continued to stomp up the stairs. By the noise he made, I’d have guessed that he was a 10-foot ogre with an obesity problem.
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! came the finishing touch, and I couldn’t help letting out a yelp and jumping so hard that I spilled my soup. Look, I knew the whole thing was pretend, OK, but he sounded bloody terrifying. The roaring and grunting, the clinking and clanging, the ferocious stomping… I gazed nervously and breathlessly at my door, half-expecting him to come crashing through it. He continued steadily up the stairs, however, and moments later I heard (and felt) an almighty thumping at an unfortunate child’s door, followed by an excited parent’s cooing voice (oh look, darling, here’s the FREAKING DEVIL I ORDERED at the door for you!), and almost immediately afterwards by the shrieking of some petrified children who will doubtless be in therapy before they hit their teens.
Honestly, this is a really weird place…