Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Haunted School, Part One

Astoria smiled as her boyfriend pulled into one of the parking spots in the darkened parking lot. The school was covered in a shroud of darkness that made the dark brick building almost impossible to see in the starless night. But they’d brought large flashlights, as well as bolt cutters, so they were going to get the chance to explore the old school that had once been the oldest high school in all of San Antonio. Now it was just a crumbling set of buildings that had been abandoned due to budget cuts.

“We’re here,” Bryan said as pulled the emergency brake into place. The tall boy was a year older than Astoria, and nearly a foot taller. He was wiry from years on the swim team, which was just compounded by his time as a tennis player for his college team.
Astoria unbuckled her seat belt and stepped out into the muggy night air, her tight tee shirt already damp with sweat. Her honey-blonde curls ended at her collarbone, curled into a wavy cascade that tumbled down her back. Closing the door she looked at the old high school and suppressed a shudder; the dark building loomed like some medieval castle haunted by the ghosts of wars past, surrounded by a chain link fence that bore signs warning people away.
Bryan walked up next to Astoria, holding the bolt cutters in one hand and the two flashlights in his other. She took one of the oversized lamps and flicked it on, illuminating the asphalt leading to the fence, the light searing through the curtain of darkness like fire through oil-soaked rags.
“So all we have to do is find the panther statue inside and take a photo next to it, right?” Astoria asked, referring to the dare her friends had made when she’d voiced her doubts as to whether the old building was haunted.
“Well, we did say we would stay the entire night,” Bryan said, walking up to the fence, slinging the bolt cutters forward to begin slicing a hole through the fence. “I mean, if we’re going to do this we should at least honor the bet as we made it, you know?”
“Yeah, I’d rather not stay in there an entire night,” Astoria said, shining her light forward for Bryan’s use. “I say we just get the photo and tell them we stayed the entire night.”
“I don’t know, that just seems… wrong,” Bryan said as he clipped through the fifth ringlet.
“You and your stupid pride…” Astoria grumbled as she tapped her foot, waiting for a pathway to be opened so that she could duck underneath the fence. “You better make it worth my while to stay here an entire night.”
“Maybe we could find the old principal’s office and dig up some records on former students?” Bryan offered as he clipped another link.
“That would normally intrigue me but I don’t know anyone that graduated from this place before they shut it down,” Astoria said. “Hard to blackmail someone if I don’t know who they are, you know?”
“Only you Astoria… there we go!” Bryan grumbled before clipping a final link. Reaching over he pulled the section of chain link fence back and smiled at his girlfriend. “After you milady.”
“Ever the gentleman…” Astoria drawled as she ducked through the hole in the fence, shining her light forward towards a set of double doors locked by a thin coil of chains. “Keep the bolt cutters, I think we’ll need them.”
“Whatever you say dear,” Bryan said as he ducked through the fence. “From what I recall, this leads to the band and orchestra hall.”
“How’d you learn that?” Astoria asked, looking at him askance.
Bryan shrugged. “I looked up the blueprints online through the public archives.”
“Impressive. And here I always thought you just went into situations without preparation.” Astoria said with a smile. “Now be a dear and cut the chains on that door so we can actually go inside, it’s broiling out here.”
“It’s not gonna be any cooler in there you know,” Bryan said, walking up to the double doors, bringing the bolt cutters to bear against the tangle of chains. After three quick snaps of metal and a clanking of chain falling to the ground, Astoria’s boyfriend pulled open one of the doors, motioning for her to go on inside. “After you!”
“Ever the gentlemen,” she drawled as she strolled into the musty hallway. The hall was lined with carpeted walls designed to absorb the sound of a full band playing. Now they merely collected dust and cobwebs in great swathes, tiny dots moving in and out of the white webbing indicating a healthy habitat for spiders.
Shining the light ahead, Astoria fought the urge to sneeze. Countless particles had rained down from the half rotted ceiling, filling the air with motes of dust and grime. Rusted lockers lined the hall further down, past an entrance to the left into what must have been the band hall. Astoria was so focused on trying to discern the state of the old school that she didn’t realize when someone came looming up behind her.
“Hey,” Bryan said, causing Astoria to jump slightly. She spun around and glared at him, causing him to back up, hands held in surrender. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!”
“You didn’t scare me,” she replied immediately, turning back to look down the hallway. “I just was lost in thought is all.”
“Right… well listen, the panther statue is in the main hall a few buildings over, so we should really get a move on if we want to get to it before someone notices the hole in the fence.”
“You said the guard didn’t patrol back here,” Astoria said.
Bryan shrugged. “In the three nights I watched he didn’t, but if he sees our flashlights he just might get curious, you know? So try and keep the light low and away from windows.”
“Right,” Astoria said, following his advice. She lowered the beam of light down to the ground, where she noticed a disturbance in the layer of grime. “Hey, what’s this?”
Bryan looked where she was pointing and walked forward, kneeling down next to the smudges. “It looks like footprints.”
“That’s impossible; the door was locked up behind the fence.” Astoria said, leading her light forward so that she could follow the footprints deeper into the building.

Bryan wiped at the edges of one of them, bringing his hand up with a wet smudge of dirt. “Well impossible or not, these tracks are fresh. Someone else is in the building with us.”

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