We’re taking the first steps of this new year and so I’ve decided to do something a little different. I wrote a short story of about 6400 words. It’s a haunted house story, or a plane old ghost story, you decide. Due to its length I’ve decided to give you the option of downloading it in a kindle format for those of you who think it’s difficult to read the longer stories on the web. This way you can decide to download it and read it on your kindle if you prefer that to reading it below.
If this proofs to be something you like – let me know and I might do it again. Be aware that the stories receive the same kind of attention as before and I’ve done the cover myself, which means it doesn’t look as professional as it should, but lets take baby steps with this – one thing at a time.
You can download the kindle file by clicking on this line or on the image above.
And again let me know if you like this and then maybe I’ll do this in the future with the longer stories. Doing it this way may encourage me to publish stories of about 5000-10000 words this way as I usually think they are not very well suited for web publishing.
Now here’s the story:
IT HAPPENED IN THE WINTER DARKNESS
Schools are so lonely when there is no-one there. It’s as if the building goes into a coma while the kids aren’t there to fill it with laughter and life.
I was experiencing the end of a five year relationship and all the frustration that comes with that had me, in the wee hours, roaming the hallways of the school where I worked. The questions in my head seemed to become larger, louder, darker and heavier than ever. The walls seemed to echo the sounds of the kids that ran the halls during the day, laughter and vicious bickering echoing throughout the entire place, even the bullying seemed coloured in the dim light emanating from the street lamps outside.
The strange sounds from the old speakers couldn’t be heard inside, but out on the playground the wild static sound of the speakers surprised me from time to time, like an ominous foreboding it was silent only to cackle with the static as if the radio wasn’t tuned right and when I walked by the open windows I could sometimes hear it vaguely, like a sound from another world. Experts had been called in to look at it, they had left the premisses saying they had fixed it. It wasn’t fixed and hte principal didn’t care. He didn’t care much about anything but his drink really.
I wasn’t supposed to be there in the middle of the night of course, but I had a key and nowhere else to go.
Of course my feelings of doom weren’t just created by the building that was supposed to be filled with life and energy but at night seemed to have been sucked into a vortex of complete loneliness. The school is located on top of a hill and in the darkness it feels as if there is nothing else, only the school and its airy, dark and cold surroundings.
I tried to sleep on the couch in the teachers lounge but my mind wouldn’t let me rest. What had happened before kept me anxious, the harsh words rained on me on regular intervals, words that could never be taken back, could never be changed and I wasn’t even sure I wanted them changed. I just wanted to sleep, to get to the next day so I could not think about it.
When the first teachers started arriving I’d had maybe two hours of sleep. It was a relief to see that there were people in the world, and that I wasn’t just alone roaming the halls of a long abandoned school, a lost soul in a strange, grey, gastly world.
The day was like any other day, believe it or not, thanks to Jonah who usually came to work with a smile on his face. I had been hired to assist him with his class, they were a rowdy bunch and though he did keep discipline it was sometimes necessary to divide the class. We had our methods and we were making good progress.
During our lunch break he reminded me though.
“You look tired today, Rebecca, girlfriend keeping you up?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I told him and it wasn’t a lie exactly though she hadn’t been there to actually keep me awake.
“Lucky girl,” he said and smiled.
I liked his smile and I’d told him so before. His beard was a source of much confusion for me though, because while I usually fancied people with soft chins his beard seemed to make me a bit foolish.
I’d even slow danced with him at the Christmas party, leaned into him, felt his beard tickle my chin and breathed in his masculine smell. When he noticed he swung me around, pulled me close again and kissed me lightly on the corner of the mouth. It was a long kiss, longer than an affectionate kiss between colleges should or could be but nothing else happened and the weeks ticked on.
I don’t know exactly what happened between Maria and me after that. Maybe she noticed that my mind wasn’t in it anymore? Something had already happened between us that caused my mind to wander into other directions, but neither of us had really taken notice.
I don’t know what it was. All I know is that we fought like cats and dogs and when I forgot our 5 year anniversary she had enough, called me a bitch and made the speech again about how it wasn’t possible for me to love her for the rest of my life because I was bisexual. She shouted obseneities at me about how I would always need something more than her, though she used a more provocative words.
Prejudice comes in many forms. I made the speech again that I loved people, not gender and that I felt no urge towards the other gender just for the sake of it. I told her I loved her.
But she was right about one thing, my heart wasn’t in it anymore. And I don’t know why. Maybe it was all the late nights she spent at the office. My teachers salary didn’t exactly pay for our expensive modern design apartment and she worked a lot and when she got home she was tired. Or I was tired. And when we went to the supermarket I noticed her looking at that girl at the check-out in a way I remember her looking at me once upon a time.
Time does strange things to people, it changes people and we were so different from the two rioting University students we had been when we met. We had become serious and grown up and a bit drab, to be honest.
Jonah asked if I wanted to go and lie down for a moment, told me he could handle the kids for a while by himself but we had other plans and I really didn’t want to spend my day sleeping, only to be roaming the dark halls of the school again the next night.
I pretended to leave for home at my regular hour. I took a long walk around the neighbourhood, bought some food and then, when I was sure there was no one left in the building, I went back.
The speakers were crackling with their static. The sound had me running for the door as if the darkness hid vile ghosts waiting to pound from underneath the swings that slowly swayed in the breeze.
I went inside and headed for the teachers lounge without turning on any lights. I didn’t want people to know I was sleeping there. I’m sure if the word got out I’d be roofless, not just homeless, before I knew it.
I ate my dinner, curled up on the couch and fell asleep. I slept for blissful six hours before I woke up, aching from lying in a peculiar position for too long. I got up and turned on a light. I had to risk it. I knew that if anyone found out I was sleeping there I would probably get kicked out, maybe fired, but the nightmare that crept in me insisted on light.
In my dream a woman in dark clothes seemed to float over the floors of the school. She was quiet during in daylight, but at night I heard her howling out her sorrows and when I saw her I realised that her agony had made her cruel and I felt I was in real danger staying at the school.
An anxiety dream if there ever was one, but those tend to get underneath my skin. So I flicked the light on and picked up a book to read.
When I heard the sound from the speakers, as if they were right there in my room I didn’t just jump, I jumped out of the couch I was sitting in and ran to the corner as if I would be safer there. The static sound crackled and crept for a while and then all was quiet.
The speakers were on the outside of the house. I had never heard the crackle inside the building before. So I stood in the corner, terrified for a long time. Heart pounding, I looked out the window to see if there was anything to be seen. There were just lights from the houses below the hill some illuminating parts of the playground, but nothing else.
I sat down to read again, but I couldn’t focus on what I was reading. Read the same paragraph three times before I realised that I couldn’t even remember what the book was about.
I put it down and wanted to roam the halls, but I was too creeped out to contemplate it further so I just sat there staring at the potted plant in the corner that looked like it would jump from the rooftop if only it could just grow feet.
When I first heard the steps in the hallway I thought it was someone coming to check up on me. I thought someone had seen the light and was there to tell me off. I got up, not knowing if to put out all the lights and hide, or put on more lights because I still had the eerie feeling that I wasn’t quite in the world I was used to inhabit.
I didn’t do anything. I Just sat there frozen stiff. The steps echoed in the hallway outside the lounge and stopped. I could almost feel how someone touched the doorknob and was about to enter, discover me there, but then nothing happened.
After a while I courageously went to the door and opened it. There was no one there, but I thought I could see dark, flowing skirts vanishing around the corner.
I closed the door quickly. Imagined I was seeing things, bewildered and stressed. I started gathering my things, thinking anything was better than staying there. Then I thought better of it. I would stay put. I was in a school, for crying out loud, nothing would happen to me there and if someone discovered me then so be it. They would hardly fire me for being there.
I tried to sleep again, but of course that was out of the question. I went to the gym and took a shower before there was a chance of anyone showing up and then I went to the classroom and pretended to prepare. I saw nothing out of the ordinary.
I was relieved to hear the first real human being enter the establishment. Relieved beyond words to feel as if the world was the way it should be again, and when I saw Jonah’s face appear in the doorway I kind of lit up and realised I’d just been acting paranoid, afraid of my own shadow.
Jonah realised that something was up though. He asked again why I looked so tired and this time he didn’t make a joke of it, didn’t blame my girlfriend. I didn’t have the energy to tell him what had happened. I didn’t know how to explain it and maybe I was ashamed. Telling him would mean that I had to face whatever it was that had culminated in the fight that had left me roaming the halls of the school at night.
When evening came I did the same thing as before. I pretended to go home, walked around the neighbourhood for a while, shopped for food and then I went back.
As I was entering the establishment I heard the speakers crackling, the static sounded like a melancholic melody, a sad love song. I beraded myself angrily for always letting my mood get to me.
This time, however, I hadn’t even reached the teachers lounge before I saw something strange. First I heard a low whisper, as if there was someone standing right behind me trying to whisper something to me. I turned around quickly, but there was no one there, but as I turned again I saw something. It looked like a woman, except whatever it was just dissolved. I rubbed my eyes and felt tears starting to flow down my cheeks. I walked quickly to the teachers lounge, turned the lights on and sat myself on the couch.
I was shaking. It wasn’t until I was sitting there in the light, staring at my hands that I realised how afraid I was. Terrified I tried to eat my food, but I didn’t have any appetite. I ate a few bites of the sandwich and put it back in the wrapper. Then I stared at the door, half expecting someone to come in, someone I didn’t know, or something I didn’t know.
Around midnight I must have fallen asleep and it was pure luck that I managed to wake up in time before the first teachers arrived. I grabbed my things and ran to the classroom, hearing the heavy footsteps of someone in the corridor.
I half expected it to be the owner of the skirts I had seen before. It was still dark outside and the eeriness of the school when no-one was there didn’t leave my bones.
“You’re here early these days, what gives?” Jonah asked as he entered the classroom. He was obviously fresh out of the shower and with him came the smell of shampoo and aftershave.
It confused me, as if I wasn’t confused enough already.
“Oh, you know, I just want to get an early start, hard time sleeping,” I told him, trying to hide my mood. He smiled and patted me on the shoulder.
“You need to give yourself a break, you can talk to me if anything is bothering you, you know that don’t you?”
But how could I tell him? I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to start. Didn’t want to admit what had happened. Didn’t want to face whatever came next and so I said nothing.
The day was hard. I was exhausted and after lunch Jonah told me to go home, told me to rest and take a few moments off. “You look awful,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said trying to sound sarcastic, but he mistook it for genuine gratitude. So I went to the closest shopping mall, ate a good meal and tried to relax. I did a little window shopping and didn’t get back to school until I was sure no one was there.
That night I saw her. I was sitting in the teachers lounge and I saw her. A woman in a big, black dress was standing right before me and I would have thought she was a real person if I hadn’t been able to see right through her. She looked young and somehow the dress looked uncharacteristic for her. She didn’t look like she belonged in a long gone past. Her clothes looked like a theater costume.
I suddenly realised that she was trying to speak to me. Her mouth moved, but I heard no words, just the echo of static emanating outside the school, impossibly reaching my ears. Then she stretched her arm towards me and I saw gaping wounds, as if she had cut herself with a razorblades, on her hands, above the wrist.
I screamed. From the top of my lungs I screamed, but there was no one there to hear me.
I ran. I ran out, grabbing my bag, but I left the light on and I didn’t lock behind me. I just ran with the static noisily following me out of the school yard and down the hill towards the apartment building where I knew Jonah lived.
I didn’t think about it. In fact it wasn’t until I saw him in the doorway that I really realised where I was.
He was wearing flannel pyjama pants and nothing on his upper body, again it looked like he had just stepped out of the shower. I stood there staring, unable to speak, unable to do anything but hiccup and when he took my hand I started crying.
He dragged me into his apartment and pushed me down into the couch.
“Hey, what happened?” he asked. The concern apparent in his demeanour. I hated that concern. I didn’t want him concerned but as I had left the apartment where I used to live I had realised one thing.
I was impossibly lonely in this town. I didn’t know anyone. Everyone I knew lived far away and to call my family and tell them I was feeling lonely was out of the question. They hadn’t taken the girlfriend thing all too well.
I was lonely, lonelier than I could imagine and I had never made friends easily. It didn’t come naturally to me. I preferred being alone with my books and the stimulant I got at school was quite enough for me.
I was alone in the world I realised when I walked to school that first night and now I stood in front of the only person who had made an effort to know me. The one person I hadn’t been willing to share my news with, because he was a part of the cause for the whole drama.
“Hey, you’re alright,” he said when he noticed how I shook.
“I’m sorry to bother you Jonah,” I said, “I didn’t know where else to go I’ve,” but how could I tell him that I had been staying at the school for days. How could I?
He moved closer, took me by the shoulders and pulled me towards him, hugging me in a comforting hug a friend gives another friend when they are clearly in agony.
His closeness only served to further confuse me. His smell, his masculinity, his hands on my shoulder and the fear in my chest of whatever it had been I saw at school. The woman standing before me, the hands all sliced up, bleeding. The images went through my head, jumbled up. I felt I couldn’t breath and I sobbed as if I was having a hard time breathing.
“You’re having a panic attack,” he said slowly, cradling me in his arms. “You’re alright,” he said softly, “you’re here with me and you’re going to be fine,” he said. “It’s alright,” and he kept talking until I could breath normally again and the only thing that was heard were the occasional sobs I hardly knew came from me.
When I had calmed down a bit he ushered us into the kitchen, made coffee and offered me sandwiches with eggs and ham. I ate and I didn’t talk. I drank coffee and I apologised for disturbing him.
“Hey,” he said, “You’re welcome anytime, what happened?”
I didn’t tell him about the woman at school, but I told him the other things.
“I fought with Maria,” I said, “I left her a few days ago. I’ve been sleeping at school and,” I stopped there, staring down into the coffee unable to look at him.
“At school? You’ve been there at night? That’s awful,” he said. “Why didn’t you come here?”
“Because you’re a part of this, you’re where my focus has been, you’re were my mind has been and I didn’t want to,” and I realised what I was saying and stopped. Grabbed the coffee, but put it down when I realised that I couldn’t hold it, my hands were shaking so violently that the coffee would spill.
He reached forward to me, touched my chin lightly with his fingertips.
“All the more reason to come here,” he said. “All the more reason to tell me.”
I looked up, looked into his eyes and tried not to get lost in them. It was impossible.
“I’m sorry I’m here, bothering you with my shit. I should have kept you out of it, but I didn’t know where else to go when I,” and I wasn’t going to tell him I saw ghosts, that I saw apparitions in the building where we worked, a building that looked to be the least likely place in the world to be haunted.
“You should have come here, you can stay,” he hesitated a moment, “you can stay on the couch, you can stay here with me, I’d be happy to have you.”
I thanked him and nodded my head. “It’s better than school, that’s for sure. I won’t stay long, I’ll get my shit together, I’ll…”
“There is no rush, you can stay as long as you like.” He broke in, “And you’re not bothering me in any way.”
We sat down on the couch again after eating and he put the TV on. It relieved some of my tension. The TV gave me a sense of normalcy I had been gravely missing for days. I changed into pyjamas I had managed to pack with me, but not used so far and put my clothes into the washing machine.
“You need to go and get your things,” he said. “I have been wondering why you’ve been wearing the same worn clothes all week, and if I’ve noticed there are others who have as well,” he said.
I shrugged my shoulder. The thought hadn’t even occurred to me.
“You’re right, I have to, I.”
“I’ll go with you if you like.” And I wondered how that would go, appearing on the doorstep with my co-worker, a guy I had repeatedly told Maria I found rather handsome, without telling her anything else of course. That was a fight I didn’t want to have.
“I’ll do it tomorrow after work,” I said. “It’s alright, I can do it by myself. It’s better, she’ll just misinterpret the situation.”
He moved a little closer, pulled me close and whispered, “Let her think what she wants.”
I resigned myself to his embrace, leaned my head on his chest. He’d put on a t-shirt and I found myself wishing he hadn’t. His beard tickled my chin a little. My blood started to rush, I was impossibly exalted, my heart reacting to everything and nothing in a violent fashion.
“I’ve never dared ask you,” he whispered.
“About the Christmas Party?” I asked.
“I wasn’t drunk or crazy,” I told him, “I rather like you,” and the cat was out of the bag all too soon, all to clearly, all too weirdly.
He just whispered that he liked me too, as if this didn’t exactly come as news to him. After a while he shifted back, pulled my cheek up, making me look at him.
It was voluntary, but still I was lost. This time though it wasn’t a bad thing.
He kissed me softly on the corner of my mouth. It was a kiss that lingered and then grew and soon I was kissing him, feeling his arm muscles with my hands, his beard tickling my skin and I kissed him like I had never kissed anyone before with hunger I didn’t know I had in me. I lost myself in the act, forgot everything around me, forgot Maria and I forgot the woman with her hands cut. I saw nothing but Jonah and though I knew that this might be a stupid thing to do while fragile and on the verge of some sort of breakdown it felt wonderful.
I didn’t stay on his couch, but in his bed and I couldn’t get enough of him. He was nothing like the people I had been with before, he was rough and soft at the same time. He was everything and nothing, responding to me in a way I hadn’t been responded to before.
He was a change for me. I had been so busy identifying as something, seeking confirmation that I was who I was in ways that said more about the people I was with than about me. Not that I was being unfair to myself, everything I did reflected on who I was but this person I had now become that was also me and always had been.
We were lying on the bed, naked, smoking the proverbial cigarette when he whispered: “I’ve never, that I know of, slept with anyone who’s slept with a woman.”
He said this as if he was confessing something to a priest.
“You’re fine,” I said laughing. “You’re fine.” “How can I compare to something so soft and good smelling and wonderful as yourself?” he asked.
“It’s not about gender,” I told him seriously. “It’s about people and I really like you, who you are, your kindness and your roughness and your softness and your smell.” I told him.
“I’m not soft,” he said and laughed.
“You’re fine,” I told him, “I, on the other hand, am a mess and I’m so sorry to come crashing in on you like this.”
“Stop apologizing. I’m was happy to see you and now I’m really happy,” he said grinning and kissed me again.
We slept and we went to school together, trying to be professionals, not glaring at each other all day and we were having a hard time of it, to tell the truth. When the kids went home and we were tidying up I was in the teachers lounge trying to find my bag. A few of the teachers were sitting in the lounge, drinking coffee, mindlessly glaring out the window. And I heard that sound again. A dragging of the feet, the static suddenly noising as if the speakers were right in my ears.
And I saw her. She was standing by the door, her dark dress hanging on her shoulders, the blood flowing down her hands, dripping on the floor.
She was reaching forward with her hand, her gaze on me as if she was pleading with me to do something very specific.
It was dark, but still quite early and for some reason I wasn’t freaked out. I wasn’t even afraid. So I walked towards her, my hand reaching forward and I saw her mouth to word something but I couldn’t make it out.
And when Jonah came into the lounge asking if I was ready she dissolved before me. The static in the speakers outside the only sign of her ever having been there at all.
I told him I was and we headed back to his apartment. I made casserole and we ate, licking sauce of each others fingers, kissing him was the most delicious thing I’d ever done and after we made love, I started thinking about her, the ghost at school.
“Is the school haunted?” I asked Jonah.
“Haunted?” he was surprised, raised himself up and leaned his head on his arm, caressing my chin softly with his forefinger. He was very caring, didn’t just roll out of bed after the fact to do whatever it was that needed doing like I was used to.
“Yeah, just asking,” I said a little embarrassed.
“Have you seen something?”
“Nah,” I blushed, unwilling to reveal my craziness, “I just thought with the sound the speakers made that people would have stories.”
“Oh yeah, there are stories,” he said. He sat up in the bed, not caring that the sheet fell off him.
“There’s a story about the first headmistress. This was sometimes during the ’60s. She was a stern woman at school, but she had a secret.”
“Really?” I was intrigued.
“She wasn’t married and was always considered to be a bit of a tough bitch with no fondness for anyone. Then one day she was found in the old building, dead. She’d committed suicide. Sliced her wrists.”
“Really?” I am sure all color went out of my cheeks because Jonah asked if I was alright. I just shushed him and begged him to go on with the story.
“Well,” he said, “Turned out she was truly unhappy about some guy who had left her in the past. She got pregnant by him but then he married someone else and so she had been half forced by her parents to have an abortion young. She later went to school, studied like crazy and did all these things to become a headmistress and then one day she just had enough.”
“She sliced her wrists because of a love that was years in her past?” I was bewildered. This didn’t exactly go hand-in-hand with the image I had built of the woman I saw at school.
“Or because of the kid?” he whispered softly.
I was bewildered and changed the subject.
“You know I never liked men with beard before?” I told him.
He smiled, “So, I’m special?”
I kissed him, pulled him close and told him yes, my mind still on the woman with the bleeding wrists, my heart beating hard, not just because I couldn’t get enough of this man but because this impossible woman was haunting me particularly it seemed.
I saw her again the next day. She was out and about in the middle of the day, strolling among giggling fourth graders. The image of her bloody arms as she slowly walked among the children who didn’t see her it seemed, but avoided her with diligence none the less. I stood there staring until she rushed forward, moving with fierceness I hadn’t seen before and suddenly she was standing directly in front of me, staring into my eyes, mouthing something I couldn’t hear, her ghostly blood constantly dripping on the floor.
Then she was gone.
I stood there staring for a long time, half expecting the floor in front of me to be wet with blood and not just with the melting snow the kids dragged in on their boots.
I told Jonah I was leaving early. He gave me his key and told me to go to his apartment and relax. I told him I might run errands, maybe get some of my things from Marias flat and he shrugged his shoulders, told me it was fine that he had an extra key. He was giving me his spare.
I kissed him in the teachers lounge in front of Paul who teaches English and pronounces it ‘lasbian’, which always made me giggle. When I’m about to leave he comes up to me, leans into me a bit like we’re conspirators and says, “I thought you were a lasbian?”
“I’m bisexual Paul,” I whispered at him, gathered my things and walked out of the building. It was good to get out of the building while it was still light of day, not followed by the heinous sound of the sizzling speakers.
I went to Jonah’s apartment, showered, ate and dressed. I hoped she wasn’t home but wanted to look my best if she was. Maria, the girl I had been living with for 5 years. The girl I had loved for at least 4 of those years. I knew she was working, but I didn’t want her to think that I was in bad shape. I wanted her to believe I was fine. Because I was, or I would be. This was the new me, the change had been made a long time ago and I was just now coming to terms with it. I wanted her to know I was fine that we were broken up. I wanted her to know that what we had had secretly broke while she was out working, frolicking with her co-workers doing god knows what, while I stayed home making dinner and waiting. It was important for me that she’d know I was fine.
I rang the doorbell downstairs, but she didn’t answer so I assumed she wasn’t home and so I used my key, the key I was planning on leaving on the kitchen table when I left with as much of my things I could. I had a bag on wheels.
The apartment was spotless, as if I was still living there picking up the slack. It made me a little sad. It was as if my whole existence there had been completely unnecessary.
I packed my bag and left a note and when I was standing by the door, looking over the beautiful apartment one last time I decided I’d go to the bathroom and get a perfume I’d received on my last birthday but never used.
And there she was.
She was lying in the bathroom, which was filled with red water. She was naked, her eyes staring blankly up into the roof and at first I thought she was playing some grotesque game, being macabre. She always had a macabre streak in her. Then I realised that she wasn’t acting, this wasn’t a game, this was dead serious.
I don’t know how long I sat on the bathroom floor. I didn’t cry. There didn’t seem to be anything left in me and I just sat there staring at the girl who had meant so much to me and who had done this awful thing to herself.
I tried very hard to find other reasons than myself, tried to find ways to explain how this wasn’t my fault, but I found no such reasons. It was my fault. She was dead because of me, because of how selfish I had been.
I don’t know when the police arrived or who called them. Maybe I did it myself. Someone asked me a lot of questions, very few of which I could answer with any certainty – I wasn’t even sure I said my name right. Someone asked me if I was alright, if I needed help but I assured them, apparently clearly, and finally they let me go. I wasn’t allowed to take my bag with me so I just left. I roamed the town. I didn’t think. I didn’t think to go to Jonah, it was the obvious choice to go and cry on his shoulder, let him tell me how this couldn’t be my fault. I guess I didn’t want to hear it.
Instead I went to school. I opened with my keycard and I didn’t turn the lights on. Instead I roamed the halls. I wanted to hear that static sound from the speakers. I wanted it to sound loudly in my ears like it had during those late evenings and I wanted to see her. I wnated to see the woman in the dark heavy dress. I needed to see her. I needed her to be there to terrorise me, to scream at me, to pour her blood all over me.
But there was nothing. I walked for hours through the dark corridors, there was nothing. Not a single crackling in the speakers.
I was outside when Jonah found me. It was early, or late, I’m not sure which. I don’t know if he was out looking for me or just heading to work a bit early because the crazy girl he happened to like didn’t arrive when he expected her to. I don’t know why I was sitting outside in the snow, I wanted the speakers to crackle but they never did, not the entire night.
He came, sat down beside me on the ground and cradled me.
“What’s happened?” he asked and I couldn’t tell him. I could just see his beard and his lips and those eyes that looked so worried and I couldn’t answer him. I couldn’t say anything.
And then I heard it. The crackling in the speakers, the sizzling static that warned of her arrival and I saw her. She was looking at the sky, the moon appeared behind raging clouds from time to time. Then she looked at me. Her hands were red with blood, dripping only slightly.
And she pointed at the school and she nodded her head towards me and I nodded back. Then she walked off, leaving small drips of blood behind her on the frozen ground.
I sat there watching her leave the school grounds, walking down the slope and vanish behind one of the houses.
“We need to get you inside,” he said, “You’ll freeze to death.”
“She killed herself,” I told him. “She was lying in that tub and she was…” and I told Jonah all about what I had seen. I told him about the red water and about the clean apartment and about her staring eyes and he held my hand through it. He didn’t look at me with pity, but with concern and love, I realised later. Love I hadn’t felt for so long, love I had longed for.
“I’m going to take care of this place,” I told him and pointed at the school. “It’s in my hands now,” I said.
He just nodded his head and he hugged me. He didn’t question my reasoning.
I didn’t teach that day, nor the next day. There were official interviews and when things quieted down I got my things back.
They told me it wasn’t my fault. A kind but misguided lady in a police uniformed informed me this.
I only saw the ghost in the school one more time. I was married to Jonah then. It was my first day as a principle of the school. I was feeling nostalgic and decided to stay late to see everyone off. Jonah was picking the kid up from daycare, because life goes on despite the desperate holes in your heart, and I was left there roaming the halls of the school alone.
I heard the crackle of the speakers sounding so loudly in my ears and then I saw her. She appeared from around the corner, her gown flowing around her and she walked up to me, put her hand on my shoulder and nodded her head. I think she even smiled and then she vanished again.
I know she’ll stay at the school to make sure it’ll be in good hands, but I also know that I will never be reminded of her again. I may hear the static in the speakers from time to time, reminding me to stay sharp and to not take anything for granted, but I won’t ever see her again.
Jonah calls the school my calling and he isn’t wrong. It’s the only way I know to pay back for what I did. To go there every day and make sure that these kids get their education adn that they are as happy as can be in the building that is so devastatingly lonely, even when it’s filled with children’s laughter.
So devastatingly lonely.