Instruction Manual For ‘Fitting In’ At Your New School

  • Make sure your mask is fitted correctly before leaving the house; set it to ‘fixed smile’; don’t allow any hairs to stray.
  • Keep your fiddle toys hidden in a secret pouch in your blazer. Only use in EXTREME emergency.
  • If you feel the urge to stim, pretend you are a statue: keep your hands by your sides; count to ten.
  • Don’t speak unless spoken to. Stick to subjects of interest to your peers. NEVER mention your niche hobbies.
  • When Mum asks how your day went, set mask to ‘I’m OK’.
  • Once you are alone in your room, you may self-combust.

This story was shortlisted for the September 2023 Monthly Micro Competition.

About the author: Originally a journalist and sub-editor, Sarah Barnett’s words have been performed by Short Story Today and Act Your Age Productions. She’s been published in Flashflood 2021 and 2023, Paragraph Planet, Five Minutes, Retreat West, and Free Flash Fiction. She also has a speculative novel in the works.