My Teacher is Immortal
Inspired by the Reedsy Prompt Write a story that contains the phrase “Okay class! Pop quiz.”
My Teacher is Immortal takes place in September 2050, a few weeks after the end of Otherworld book 1, Beneath Which Sky and a few weeks before the related flash fiction story Professor King. It takes place thirty years after Age of the Immortals book 2, Echoes from the Beyond. While it contains minor spoilers for Beneath Which Sky, you can read this story at any point in the Otherworld and Age of the Immortals series.
Kwame walked into his first class of the day. Normal old people are retired, but no, he thought. I’m an idiot teaching world history at a million years old. These kids are going to kill me. He looked up and the students were staring at him. Great. I don’t look much older than them. Why am I teaching college students? He stretched his hearing—which was better than normal humans’—to listen to the students’ initial reactions.
“He dresses like my grandpa. Look at that jacket! Elbow patches!” an average-looking boy said to a boy with teal eyes.
“Come on, James, really?” the teal-eyed boy said. “He’s older than he looks. If he was our age, he wouldn’t be teaching college courses.”
The average boy—James—snorted. “And he wouldn’t be dressing like that.”
The teal-eyed boy gave James a withering look.
Kwame rapped on the board, and the room fell quiet. “Hello everyone. My name is Kyle King, but you call me Professor King. To address the comments floating around the room, no, I am not in my twenties. No, I am not in my thirties. Do with that what you will.”
James raised an eyebrow and glanced sidelong at the teal-eyed boy.
“This is World history. Hist 1-something. Look at your schedule. I have a bit of a spiel to get through, so let’s get these introductions over quickly. There’s only around two dozen of you. Name and major. Starting with you.” He pointed at the teal-eyed boy.
The boy looked a little taken aback. “Um, my name is Arkeda Mothran. I’m a business major.”
Kwame barely resisted the urge to snicker at his reaction. He half-zoned out during the rest of the introductions. He’d remember their names if they did very well or very bad.
“Alright. Now that that’s done, let’s get started. So history is not geography. Think about that for a second. The history in, let’s say, Egypt around 2550 BC and America around 2550 BC happened at the same time. I realize that may sound obvious, but let me put it into context.
“Around 2550 BC in Egypt, people started building the pyramids. Around 2550 BC in North America, Europe, and Asia, wooly mammoths were still alive.” I only saw a mammoth once, but they were incredible creatures. It didn’t go well for my brothers, he thought.
“Here’s another example. A version of Oxford University was founded in 1096 AD. They officially became a university in 1231 AD. The Aztec Empire was founded in 1430 AD. That makes Oxford around 200 years older than the Aztec Empire.” I lived among the Aztecs for a long time. It truly was an incredible civilization.
“In art history, what happened in 1973?” He stopped, waiting for someone to answer. No one did. “Answer, anybody. I can stare right back at you all day.”
Some girl in the back raised her hand. “I—I don’t know.”
He clapped his hands once. “Not good enough. Someone else. You.” he pointed at James. “Famous painter died. Go.”
James’ eyes went wide. “Uhhhhhh…” He glanced at the people on either side of him. “Um. Georgia O’Keeffe?”
“Abstract depressed guy. Your turn.” He pointed at Arkeda.
Arkeda frowned. “1973, abstract… Picasso?”
“Correct. Pablo Picasso died.” He paused, remembering seeing the news for the first time. “In pop culture history, what happened in 1973? I expect way more answers. This is an easy one.”
A boy chuckled. “That was eighty years ago!”
“So? Music is music. What’s your answer? It’s an album.”
“Red by Taylor Swift.”
Kwame just stared at him. “Is that your final answer?” I swear to God, it better not be, he added in his head.
Another boy raised his hand. “Pink Floyd?”
“Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon. For homework, listen to the album. One postcard with your favorite song and least favorite and why by next class. That’s real music. Anyway, the first McDonald’s was built in May 1940.” I never went to McDonalds Bar-B-Q in the 40s, but I did eat at the 1950s version. “Across the ocean, the Germans started transporting the first Polish prisoners to a concentration camp. Sixth president of the United States—which is who?—” No one answered. “This is grade school material. A fifth grader can answer this.”
Arkeda raised his hand.
“John Quincy Adams.”
“Yes. John Quincy Adams knew George Washington. February 1848. Former President John Quincy Adams is a congressman now. Abraham Lincoln—future 16th president of the United States—is also a congressman. On February 23, 1848, Adams died of a cerebral hemorrhage in the House of Representatives in front of his fellow congressman. Guess which Congressman was present? Abraham Lincoln. That makes Adams the only President to have known both Washington and Lincoln.
“Socrates and Confucius were never on Earth at the same time. Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born in the same year. Queen Elizabeth II and Marilyn Monroe were also born in the same year as each other.” Damn, Marilyn Monroe was hot. “Harriet Tubman died the same year Rosa Parks was born. Gandhi and Hitler existed at the same time. Gandhi even wrote a letter to Hitler. Another assignment, look up those letters Gandhi wrote to Hitler and read one. Write up a summary for next class.
“So what does this all mean for this class? You should be familiar with the events covered in this class. My goal is to put them back in the context of time, when they actually happened in regard to each other. Any questions?”
A girl raised her hand. “Can you say those assignments again?”
“Yeah. listen to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album and on a notecard write your favorite song, least favorite song, and why. Also, look up Gandhi’s letters to Hitler, read one, and summarize it. These are due by next class. Any other questions?”
James raised his hand. “So, for assignments and tests and stuff, how exact do we need to be with dates? Like, if we’re within five years, is that close enough?”
“If you can remember the birthdays of your friends, you can remember the dates I give you. I expect exact dates. Anything else?” James had tipped his head back and was groaning.
Arkeda raised his hand. “Go ahead,” Kwame said.
“How long should the letter summary be?”
“Ideally, however long it takes to summarize it well. I know that isn’t good enough for you all, so I’ll say paragraph minimum, one page maximum. I have to read these, you know. I will be reading and grading myself, so don’t expect AI to save you. Anything else?” Silence. “Okay class! Pop quiz!” Everyone groaned. “I spat a lot of events at you and a lot of dates. Write down five events you remember. For each event, you get one point for the event and one point for the date. This is worth ten points. This can be on scrap paper. I just want a sentence for each event. You can leave as soon as you turn it in.”
When James left Professor King’s classroom fifteen minutes later, he found Arkeda waiting for him.
“So, how’d it go?” Arkeda asked.
James groaned. “Eikel.”
Arkeda raised an eyebrow. “Which language was that?”
“Dutch. It means acorn.”
James grinned at the disbelieving look on Arkeda’s face. He’d started learning Dutch a few months ago and was taking a… personal learning detour. “Then why did the emotions in your thoughts make it seem like you were swearing?” Arkeda asked.
“Because I was. Not sure if I used it right. That test was so annoying. And Professor King’s rapid-fire lecture wasn’t much better. I wasn’t even paying attention for half of it, then I had to remember the dates?”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Arkeda said as they started heading for the front door of the liberal arts building.
James snorted. “Of course you’d say that. You’ve got the photographic memory and the…” he lowered his voice. “The alien telepathy.” He’d found out just a couple months ago that his roommate was the last of an alien species of telepaths.
“Using that on a quiz would be cheating. Besides, it wouldn’t have helped even if I wanted to read Professor King. He doesn’t think in English.”
James shot Arkeda a quizzical look. As a shameless language nerd, he was always looking for new languages to add to his bucket list. “Any idea what it was?”
Arkeda shook his head. “Not one of those… what are they called? The ones that English is related to? Romance languages? Not Asian, either.”
“Maybe African? He doesn’t have an accent, but that doesn’t mean much. What did it sound like?”
“It would be easier to…” Arkeda pointed at his own head, then James’, their sign for Arkeda using his telepathy when there were too many people around to mention it aloud. A moment later, James heard strange words in his head: Tenetu siyeze onasun.
James frowned as they went down the front steps outside the liberal arts building. “It does sound a little bit European, but not much. Definitely not Eastern European—not enough consonants. Doesn’t sound Asian, either, but then again, the only one I know is Japanese and I’ve only been learning that for a few weeks. I—”
He cut off as he realized Arkeda was laughing silently. “What?”
Arkeda shook his head. “You are such a nerd. Why don’t you just ask Professor King next class?”
“And how am I supposed to do that? He never said any of it out loud and he has no accent!”
“Anyway, I think it is African. I don’t know any African languages, but it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else. Or… wait. Maybe it’s Polynesian or something. There are a lot of languages in the Oceania islands, and I don’t know any of them, either.”
Then Professor King jogged down the steps past them. James and Arkeda looked at each other, wide-eyed.
“How much do you think he heard?” James whispered.
Arkeda shook his head. “Maybe we should go get lunch.”