“Last Stand” — Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong is the bestselling author of the Otherworld urban fantasy series, which began with Bitten, and the latest of which, Waking the Witch, came out in August. She is also the author of the young-adult series Darkest Powers, consisting of three books so far: The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning. In comics, Armstrong recently finished working on a five-issue arc for Joss Whedon’s Angel comic book series. In addition to the previously mentioned work, which all fits into the fantasy/paranormal genre, Armstrong has also written two thrillers featuring hitwoman Nadia Stafford: Exit Strategy and Made to Be Broken.

Teachers have a rough job. Lousy pay, lots of unpaid overtime work grading papers, having to keep order alone in overcrowded classrooms full of unruly kids who would rather be anywhere than learning trigonometry. Not to mention all the abuse from crazy parents and ignorant lawmakers. In 1925, a twenty-four-year-old football coach named John Scopes was actually brought up on criminal charges in Tennessee for having taught students the scientific facts about human evolution. With all the drawbacks, it’s understandable why so many teachers leave the profession after just a few years.

But bad as our educational system undoubtedly is, things could always be worse—say, the complete and total breakdown of civilization in the wake of an infection that causes the recently dead to rise again as terrifying monsters. That’s the sort of event that really puts things in perspective, and makes you pine for the days of students not paying attention in class. In the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan, a squad of WWII soldiers speculate endlessly about the former profession of their captain, before he finally reveals to them that he had been a simple schoolteacher.

War and upheaval can shuffle the world, thrusting us into roles we could have never imagined. In our next story we find another former teacher leading military forces under desperate circumstances, doing things she never thought she’d be capable of, and facing off against an enemy more relentless and implacable than she ever could have feared.