BY AMY LOUISE
Copyright is held by the author.
TAYLOR HAD entered hundreds of schools during the dead of night, with nothing with her but a black steel magnum flashlight to light her way and a baton clipped to her security belt.
But what about any-THING? Taylor thought to herself as she parked her BlackHawk security patrol car and nervously smoked a cigarette in front of Glen River High School. She’d turned 30 last month and had been working transient security jobs for the last decade. Spending the duration of her 20s earning minimum wage and moving from post to post had her wondering how she could justify doing it much longer, especially this job. What a way to waste her life. The last eight months had been spent on night patrol for the Toronto District School Board. It was a time period short enough that she wasn’t able to transfer out of the division yet, but long enough that she was starting to develop a serious case of the creeps. On many nights she ran on a steady drip of adrenalin, supplied by a constant state of nerves.
Distorting the image of the dark monolith that was Glen River High School, the driving rain pelted down on the windshield of the patrol car. Glen River was a massive grey and gloomy structure that looked more like a medieval fortress than a high school.
“There’s definitely something inside that place,” Reggie had told her. He was the night patrolman on the opposite shift. “I had to get out of there…If any of the schools is haunted — It’s THAT one!” He was a big guy, roughly twice Taylor’s weight, all of it muscle. Taylor had really just been flirting with him when she’d oohed and awed along to his story. She’d laughed and widened her eyes coquettishly as, gesturing wildly with vigorous arm movements and facial contortions, he’d walked her through his paranormal encounter. He was cute and Taylor had been hoping he’d ask her out all summer. He hadn’t though and it was rumoured that he’d gotten back together with his ex-girlfriend.
“Base to Whiskey 5? Whiskey 5, come in?” crackled the security radio on the car seat beside Taylor.
“Go ahead?” Taylor clicked the button to respond.
“We’re receiving multiple motion sensors going off inside the school. I repeat, multiple alarms in progress.”
“Ten-four, copy.” Taylor took another puff off her cigarette to calm her nerves.
“Shall I request police assistance?” The dispatcher asked.
“Negative. Standby,” Taylor said. These security systems went really wacky during a bad storm and multiple alarms were common.
“I swear on my grandmother’s grave, there was something RIGHT behind me…Right HERE.” Reggie had pointed to the back of his shoulder and Taylor had giggled at the time. Right now, recollecting his words, she felt sick to her stomach. The rain eased up on the windshield and the high school loomed, dark and colossal right in front of the parked patrol car. Of all the nights to have been sent here. Oh hell, she might as well get this over with. She stubbed her butt out in the ashtray and picked up her mike.
“Whiskey 5 to base? I’m 10-seven.” Taylor’s upper body tensed as she let the BlackHawk dispatcher know she was on site. A shot of thunder cracked in the distance and she dreaded getting out of the car. She tested her flashlight to ensure that it worked, tightened her rain jacket around her throat and stepped out into the cold October air. Keeping her head down she ran through the freezing rain up the steep flight of cement steps to the main doors.
Taylor held her breath as she turned the master key in the front door lock. The lock was old and so were the heavy wooden doors, and it took her some time to get the lock to properly turn and release. Soaked, she stepped into the front foyer; her stomach twisted into tight, little knots.
This was one of the older schools and the only accessible light switches were in the main entrance. The yellow gleam of the lobby light showcased pictures of principals and teachers from years past and present, and when she got close she saw that some of the plaques dated as far back as the 1920s. The place had that musty, damp, old library book smell that Taylor was beginning to associate with these high schools. As she stood there, surrounded by dark brick and cement, an almost palpable presence seemed to surround her.
“I’m telling you, I kept seeing this…dark shadow…out of the corner of my eye. Have you ever heard of shadow figures Taylor?”
The motions were probably just a short circuit or even a mouse, but Taylor was responsible for resetting that security panel. Time to find the custodian’s office. That’s where security panels were kept and she had many of their locations committed to memory, but not this one.
Clicking on her flashlight, she saw her refection in a pane of glass; straight black hair yanked back into a bun, her face white and pinched, tall and skeletal in her loose and ill-fitting security uniform. She looked terrified.
Taking a deep breath, Taylor went left through a door and was swallowed by the darkness of a very long corridor. After she walked the length of it, her heart hammering painfully inside her chest, she made the horrible mistake of looking back. She saw a thick wall of blackness behind her. It was a blackness so thick, so absent of light it might well have been a hole into another dimension. There was not even a trace of the yellow gleam from the light in the lobby.
Desperate to find the custodian’s office, get inside and close the door, Taylor picked up speed. She loped around the corner and headed deeper into the school, guided only by her flashlight. Each door she passed read Classroom, Washroom or Storage, but nothing said Custodian. At the end of that corridor she was devastated to find it split in two. She could either go left or right and she needed to make the right decision.
“My grandma Ida used to say that the earth is full of shadow figures trying to gain physical form. You can often catch them at the corners of your vision, but if they really want your attention they’ll appear right in front of you.”
Taylor decided to go right and broke into a jog. It was like there was something thick and murky around her and her shoulders and back remained tensed as she raced down the hall.
“No,” she whispered aloud, “No, I don’t want to see…no, please.” In dismay she realized the custodian’s office wasn’t down this way either. She whipped back around and felt as if she was wading through a dense mist, wet and cold that chilled the sweat pouring down between her breasts. She whimpered quietly. The mist had an almost electrical charge like television static.
Sagging with relief when she finally heard the telltale beep of the alarm panel nearby, Taylor shone her flashlight further down the hallway. The beeping was coming from behind an unmarked door and she cursed softly, making a mental note to remember that for next time. She fumbled her way inside the custodian’s office and turned on the light. An even bigger wave of relief swept through her as the room lit up. She closed the door firmly behind her and walked over to the panel. She studied the sensors that were going off and was quickly able to clear all of them except one; the one marked BASEMENT STUDIO continued to go into alarm each time she reset it. Taylor tried once, twice, three times, but the area continued to indicate motions.
It must be a mouse. Taylor swallowed hard. Maybe a rat. Some sort of stupid rodent running around down there.
“Base to Whiskey 5?” Taylor jumped as the radio on her belt crackled to life. “Come in Whiskey 5.”
“Go ahead,” Taylor murmured into the mike.
“We continue to show ongoing motions in Zone 35, basement studio.”
“Copy.” Taylor knew whatever was down there, she was expected to check it out. “On route,” she added softly and her body tensed as she opened the door of the custodian’s office. Going back out into the hall was like jumping into a pool of ice water, and according to the system map on the panel she was going to have to cross right over to the other side of the school. Taylor forced herself to breathe deeply and marched purposefully back down the hall and didn’t stop until she hit a row of lockers, turned left and went down another hall. She had to be close; the system had shown it to be back here somewhere. Taylor paused, shone her flashlight around and stiffened.
“They attach to you by feeding off of your fear and can stick around for days, months or even years….you have to be so careful of shadow figures.”
Taylor froze as a tall, dark shape further down the hallway passed right in front of her flashlight, completely blocking out its beam of light. It was only for a few seconds, but long enough for her to know she wasn’t the only one in the school. Struggling for breath, she snatched the radio off of her belt. “Whiskey 5 to base! Requesting police assistance! I repeat, requesting police assistance!”
“No,” she moaned to herself and now she was running again — but this time for the main lobby and the exit doors. Inside the thick silence, she heard her boots pound across the floor and her baton slap rhythmically against her thigh. And then it was if the school came alive all around her. It was still pitch black, but suddenly she could hear footsteps above her, behind her, beside her — the sounds of high school kids slamming lockers and doors, a toilet flushing, a caretaker pushing a cart across the floor, the thud of something walking heavily up a flight of stairs, somewhere from underneath…
“We continue to show motions inside zone 35, basement studio.”
“No!” Taylor sobbed and ducked her head to her chest and threw herself down the long maze of hallways in an arm-pumping, frantic stride. “No, no, no, no, no, no! Please don’t let me see! Please don’t let me see any…please, please!” The air was thick with sound, a vibrating static that sounded like the hum of a deep and unearthly laugh. It was right behind her.
“There was something RIGHT HERE. I just kept going. I had to get out of there…”
“No!” This time Taylor’s voice sounded like a dog’s yelp the instant a heavy foot lands on its tail and she went skidding around the corner of the last hallway before the lobby. She smashed into a locker face first, dropped her flashlight and kept going. The portraits on the wall seemed to watch her as the light in the main hallway hit their glass surface.
The only reason she allowed herself to turn around was because she had reached the shelter of the dim yellow light flickering inside the lobby by the front doors. She wasn’t a frail little girl. She’d never have survived this type of job for this long if she had been, and so an ingrained sense of curiosity combined with a false sense of security, due to the proximity of the front doors, allowed her to take one more backward look over her shoulder.
Mercifully, Taylor fainted as a black, eight-foot tall figure came to stand inches from her face. Two red eyes, like burning coals, glared menacingly down at her as she hit the ground. On her way down, she choked on a scream; the figure bent down toward her, coming closer and closer.
When she came to the paramedics, as well and her BlackHawk road supervisor Rodney, were standing above her in the lobby. Taylor felt tears at the corners of her eyes and begged the paramedics to take her out of the school. She blew off their questions of concern, by telling them she hadn’t been feeling well all day and could they just take her back to the BlackHawk office so she could go home.
“Why did you call for the police?” Rodney asked. He was one of the largest men Taylor had ever seen at well over six feet tall and over 300 pounds of solid muscle. He had a big square jaw with a goatee covering it and a bald head. Taylor had always figured him for the type of guy who slept in his tactical pants and a bulletproof vest.
“I thought I heard someone, but I’ve been feeling weird all day. I think I just got dizzy and fainted,” Taylor said in a hoarse whisper, her throat so dry a cactus could have grown out of it.
“This place is huge,” Rodney said in awe and pulled Taylor to her feet with one hand. “But there’s no one here. We did a walk-through and there was just you.”
“Like I said, I’m really not feeling so good,” Taylor croaked. Rodney nodded and signaled for the two bored-looking paramedics to pack it in.
“I’ll drive you back and I’ll send Reggie to pick up your patrol car when he gets on shift.” Rodney walked her out to his own patrol car. He handed Taylor her flashlight as she climbed into the passenger seat. “I think you forgot something. Found it lying in a hallway.”
“This place is massive,” Rodney repeated as he drove the car around the exterior. “And to be honest, kind of freaky!” He chuckled to himself. “I honestly don’t know how you guys can work the schools. I’d shit my pants.”
Taylor squeezed her eyes shut and refused to look at any of the exterior windows or doors as they drove the perimeter. She wanted to get as far away from this place as they could possibly go.
“Want a coffee?” Rodney watched her from the corner of his eye.
“No thank you.” They rode in silence until the car was about a block and a half from the BlackHawk security office; the early morning sun was starting to pierce its way out of the horizon.
“Rodney, I quit,” Taylor said.
“What! The night shift’s wearing you down? To be honest, you don’t look so good.” He turned briefly to take a good look at her and she nodded quickly, her forehead glistening with sweat in the chilled morning air.
“Sorry to hear that. You’re a good officer. But I understand, not everyone can work nights.”
Taylor left her flashlight and utility belt on her desk, left the office and jumped into her Honda Civic. Halfway to her apartment, something told her she shouldn’t be alone and she re-routed onto the highway. She’d stay at her mother’s house for now.
It was a 45 minute drive across the city and the entire ride Taylor felt like there was something right behind her, riding in the backseat of the car. She refused to look in the rearview mirror, but if she had, she was certain there would have been two amber eyes glowing back at her.