Miss Firebird’s School for Girls is committed to the reeducation of young women who have gone astray. In keeping with this pledge, we ask for those in attendance to obey the following rules of etiquette, all of which we’ve developed based on the misbehavior of former students. It is our hope that with proper decorum, each of our girls will go on to live a normal and satisfying life.

  1. When packing for your first day at our school, keep your luggage to a minimum, and remember that all mortars and pestles—of any shape or size—are strictly forbidden. Upon your arrival, do not be tricky and offer to sweep the hallways or dormitory rooms; all brooms on the premises have long ago been burned.
  1. Do not become alarmed when crows, sometimes numbering in the thousands, descend suddenly on the school. This is a normal occasion at the beginning of every semester. Like most harbingers of evil, if you ignore them, they shall go away. Under no circumstances should you feed the creatures or tether one as a so-called “familiar.” This is a heinous breach of basic propriety. Good girls simply do not keep carrion birds as pets.
  1. Wear your blue plaid skirt and tucked-in white shirt at all times. Never accessorize with velvet cloaks or shawls. Such apparel items serve as gateways to the dark arts, and Miss Firebird’s School for Girls will abide no hell mouths, thank you very much.
  1. The start of the school year is always an exceedingly hectic time for us. Your classroom is likely to be packed, and you might be tempted to meet and socialize with the other girls in your cohort. Resist this urge, and stay on your own. In the past, girls have flagrantly disrespected our efforts at segregation and attempted to form “sisterhoods of magic.” It never ends well. Spare yourself the pain, and trust none of your fellow students; they are just as lost as you are.
  1. Please use only ordinary lamps in the dormitories. No hollowed-out skull lanterns will be tolerated. If we find you in possession of such paraphernalia, we will immediately discard the offending material. Also, do not disclose details of how you came into ownership of said skull. It’s indecent, and we don’t want to hear about it.
  1. Sometimes, a student will not respond to the lessons in her classroom, and she must be sequestered for a week or two. When she returns, do not stare at the marks on her arms. Keep in mind some varieties of evil are harder to vanquish than others.
  1. Lunch is served each day at noon, and we offer vegetarian fare only. Do not complain about the lack of boiled hearts on the menu or how you’d like chicken legs so you can build a house propped up on bones. And to answer your inevitable question: no, you are not permitted to help in the kitchen. We’ve lost enough staff to “oven accidents” already.
  1. During full moons, all students must remain in their rooms with lights out and curtains securely closed. Do not inquire why. Proper young ladies don’t ask unnecessary questions.
  1. Midway through the semester, you might notice a sudden increase of empty desks in your classroom. Make no comment about this unexpected attrition. Not every student at Miss Firebird’s School for Girls is as upstanding and devoted to rehabilitation as you.
  1. At absolutely no time is it permissible for a student to fly. This is a blatant disregard of manners, in particular if you skip class to partake in such outrageous shenanigans. If you learned to fly prior to your enrollment at our school and feel the overwhelming urge to take to the air, please notify the headmistress immediately, and we will do our best to “un-teach” this verboten skill.
  1. Do not offer advice. Someone in the past might have called you wise. That person was wrong.
  1. At the end of the semester, you might awaken one evening during a full moon. Ignore the flutter of crow wings against the glass, and the laughter that sounds familiar. No matter how certain you are, these are not the giggles of the students who vanished. It is only the dog howl of the wind. Simply return to sleep promptly, and all will be right again in the morning.

If you cannot sleep, then please heed the following advice. Do not retreat to your closet and dig out the skull lantern you’ve been hiding all semester. Do not dig out your velvet shawl either. Do not open your eyes, and do not open your window. Do not let your feet levitate off the floor, and do not under any circumstance listen to the cloaked girls floating by outside. They might whisper your name and ask you to follow. They might call it freedom. Remember they are not wise. They are not your family. We are your family. Stay with us.

Please, girls—stay with us.

Gwendolyn Kiste
Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction author based in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in publications including Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Interzone, LampLight, Flash Fiction Online, and Three-Lobed Burning Eye as well as Flame Tree Publishing's Chilling Horror Short Stories anthology. Twitter: @GwendolynKiste Website: gwendolynkiste.com.