Part III: School's In Session-Chapter 1
My bat at the ready, I pushed in the long, rectangular bar on the doors, and made my way in. Just like the streets of Silent Hill, the school was also unnaturally silent. The smell of ancient wood filled my nostrils. It was built with real tree wood, probably from the town itself no doubt. And it was also very dusty.
The first detail about the school that stood out was how empty and utterly abandoned it felt. Not the fact that it was unoccupied, it was the fact that it seemed to have been unoccupied for years longer! Dust collected heavily in the corners, sitting on top of wooden benches and a heavy musty scent filled the air, and it was quite overpowering
“No school like the old school,” I muttered.
A circular-shaped space in front of me served as the lobby, featuring a pedestal with a school trophy encased in glass. A bulletin board was posted up on the right side, containing various memos, notices, schedules, and a large map of the school. The map stood out among the rest, the Golden Ticket.
Looking at the map, I noticed the hallways formed a perimeter around the courtyard in the middle; a very common layout for elementary schools. Stairs were stationed at each corner of the hallways
Where to start? Cheryl could be anywhere in here. No time to stop and make decisions, I just needed to go. Maybe something at the front desk could give me a clue. Walking towards the courtyard area doors, I turned the corner to the left, approaching the main office desk. As I expected, no one was there.
Mail was packed into a metal bin with the words “IN” scratched in bold letters on the left side of the desk. A phone sat unused on the cradle, a fine layer of dust formed around it. Haven’t these people ever heard of a janitor? Even schools that went unused had a caretaker or someone to come in and keep it up, but this school was supposed to be in use. Had the school been closed down since the fire? No, John would have mentioned that…
A yellow memo pad rested on the edge of the desk, an ink pen sitting atop. Near that memo pad was a laminated piece of paper with teacher’s names (listed alphabetically), their extensions, and room numbers.Two names stood out in bold print among them:
5. Dahlia Gillespie
6. K. Gordon
The name triggered everything that John had said about her. “She’s the leader of the Order. No one would ever dare cross her.”
It also made sense…an elementary school teacher who recruits children to the Order’s ways.
Room number 12. On the east end of the school, 1st floor. Simple enough, I guess.
Knowing I had no other choice or leads, that was where I needed to go. Perhaps Cheryl would be there. Maybe she had marked her name there to clue me in. All these theories in mind, I went to the right, and through another set of double-doors into the east hallway.
The second I went through the doors, I felt an internal alarm being set off. My flashlight scanned the floors, walls, and ceiling all around in me. There was nothing in sight. My hands felt shaky, making the light bob slightly as I moved it through the air. Why was I freaking out? It felt like someone was standing right beside me. Attempting to brush the queer feeling off of me, I continued down the hall, counting the numbers down from room number 20 to 12.
Each classroom door stood open, revealing the empty contents therein. Not a single sign of life was found. Powdery white chalkboards stood abandoned with fragments of words or phrases that had been erased. Random pieces of balled-up paper and trash were strewn into the hallway. Pieces of broken wood and shattered glass from random casings lay on the hallway floor. I began to wonder if people had vandalized the school at some time.
As I made my way down the hallway, I kept moving my flashlight behind me or to my right randomly. That feeling of space being occupied never left as I continued. This town was really starting to get to me. Finally, I reached Room 12.
Peering in, I noticed the room was set up just the same as the others. When I entered the room, I was abruptly shocked by the familiar squealing noise from my phone. It didn’t slowly build like last time. It rose to a strident tone instantly. Clutching my ears, I turned and backed out of the room. The screeching noise faded away. I remembered this same situation earlier.
Taking out my camera, I tried to frame the shot of the entire classroom as best I could. Anxious more of fear this time, I went back to look at the photo I’d just taken. There on the display screen of my camera, was a picture of a classroom full of children, all looking forward. Except for…Cheryl?
I peered in closer to be sure, though I already knew who it was going to be. It was Cheryl, but she looked slightly different. I’m not sure how to explain it, but she had changed. She was looking down at her desk instead of upfront like the other children. The teacher, who I assumed to be Ms. Gillespie, had her side to me and was pointing out towards the class. Wait…not just at the class. She was pointing at Cheryl. Noting the teacher’s posture, I sensed that the teacher was calling Cheryl out, or perhaps chastising her. What in the world was Cheryl doing in this photo with all these children?
Referencing the picture to the classroom, I found what desk I believed to be Cheryl’s…if it ever was Cheryl’s. To my disbelief, strange words and pictures were carved into the top of the desk. “Thief,” “Stop,” and “Witch” were only a few words that were carved into the desk. Mystified by the words’ meaning, I opened the top of the desk, and found a lone, leather-bound book with the title “Paranormal Science” written across the faded front cover. The book was open to page 23, and contained the following contents
” CHAPTER 3: MANIFESTATIONS OF DELUSIONS
...Poltergeists are among these.
Negative emotions, like fear, worry, or stress manifest unto external energy with physical effects.
Nightmares have, in some cases, been shown to trigger them. However, one such phenomena doesn't appear to happen to just anyone. Although it's not entirely clear why, adolescents, especially girls, are prone to such occurrences.”
Why was a seven-year old reading such a book? Where did she find it? Glancing back at the photo, I noticed that Cheryl wasn’t just looking down, she was reading. I surmised that this was the book she was reading in the photograph, and perhaps the teacher was chastising her for reading it. None of this helped me any in finding Cheryl. The question still remained: Where is she?
Suddenly, my phone began to crackle, emitting sharp pops of static. I looked up, and saw a shadow.
But the shadow wasn’t mine…and it was moving
I froze instantly, trying only to move my eyes. Skimming the entire room, I saw that there was no one else in here. Nothing was creating the dark outline, so the shadow itself was a being.
It was tall and lanky, its body stretching to odd proportions that didn’t seem to fit a normal human shape. Where the eyes would be in a person was simply two round deviations in the shadow. The shadow creature took a step toward me, and my phone started to crackle louder. I began to feel weak, like I did earlier outside with the fog. The creature continued to walk towards me, and with every step it took, I began to feel weaker. I couldn’t explain it completely, but it felt as if my energy were being drained from me by this creature.
An image of Frodo Baggins, cowering from the tall figure of a Ring Wraith from Lord of the Rings, came to me very vividly at that moment. The name fit. This wraith continued to amble towards me, moving very deliberately.
I wanted to run, and scream so badly, but I felt like I couldn’t. This thing seemed to have me hypnotized, to have me crippled in fear. Now it was only five feet from me, and its fuzzy, crackly shape was more detailed than ever. The form almost looked distorted, like the snowy static of a TV. It reached its arm toward me, seeming to beckon me closer, but I did not oblige. All I could do was stand there. My phone was screeching now, a high whining of an amplifier with too much interference.
Then the voices came.
Give up, Harry. You’ll never make it.
She’s already dead.
No use in trying, there’s nothing you can do.
Just let go, it’ll be easier this way.
My legs felt too weak and I fell to one knee. This creature was draining the life out of me…what could I do? Random thoughts of theories and various ramblings I heard about ghosts and spirits came back. None of them contained anything that I could do to fight a spirit such as this, then I remembered something from the book I just read that gave me an idea.
According to the book ghosts are believed to be created and powered by one’s negative energy, so positive energy should have an adverse effect.
Immediately, I began to think of Cheryl, about how much I loved her and cared for her. I thought of the happiest memories we had. Once, Cheryl had brought a lizard in from outside, and showed it to me inside the house. Jodie came in, and screamed at the sight of the lizard. She ordered that we to get rid of it immediately, but Cheryl ran towards her with it instead. The next five minutes consisted of Cheryl chasing Jodie around the house, with Jodie screaming to get away and Cheryl’s bright, beaming smile and giddy laughter. Meanwhile, I could hardly breathe from laughing so hard. Jodie was fuming mad all the while, yelling hysterically at the lizard.
Another memory. Jodie and I had arrived at the hotel for our honeymoon. Before we made love that night, I had written her a poem, telling her everything that she meant to me. Also, I had given her a silver locket that had been passed down through the family. My mother had planned on passing hers down to a daughter, but I was the only child. Therefore, I told her that I would give it to Jodie, and pass it to her child. I’d given it to her that night, telling her how much it meant. She wept happily on my shoulder, with the combination of starting our new life together and receiving this gift as a tangible acceptance of the family. It was a very strong moment.
Instantly, I began to feel different. That loneliness, the intense negativity that I had first experienced from the fog, began to lift. Even my feeling of exhaustion started to fade, and I stared down the shadow creature before me. It began to waver a bit, and started becoming very unsteady on its feet. I felt my determination building, fueling me and I focused all of my memories and hope as if I was piercing it with my own emotional energy. It staggered back, and it held on to the wall to keep itself from toppling over.
It seemed these positive, happy memories were diminishing the wraith, and its power over me was waning. It started quivering violently, and pieces of it started to break away, falling to the floor and evaporating. I walked even closer to it, showing that I wasn’t afraid anymore. Before long, it screamed a low, guttural noise and in seconds was completely gone.
What manner of creature was this? I thought. Silent Hill had thrown me a curve ball just when I thought I’d seen it all. A creature that fed on its victims’ negative energy, thus crippling its opponent. A worthy adversary. With the creature gone, I continued searching for clues.
There was nothing scribbled on the chalkboard in the room to tell me anything and nothing left in Cheryl’s desk. Inside a drawer on the teacher’s desk, I found a slip of paper for the class roster. Cheryl’s name wasn’t there. None of the students’ names looked familiar, until I got to the middle section.
Could that be Dahila’s daughter? If so, I’m sure she would be quite the character, considering her mother’s reputation. Perhaps she was even alive in the town now, lost and confused as I was. Despite the fact that everyone seemed gone, there were some people still here so she could potentially still be here. There was John Bagwell, and the bartender. For all I knew, there were countless others still left in the town, huddling indoors with their lights out and doors locked so as not to attract any of the monsters.
Not sure of what to do next, I decided I could try using the tape recorder and see if Cheryl’s voice would show up with a clue once again. The creepiness of the whole phenomenon gave me chills at the very thought, but I didn’t want to waste any time blundering through the whole school any longer than I had to. Time wasted may be time left for Cheryl’s safety.
Trembling, I pulled out my recorder and began to reiterate the events that had recently transpired. I played it back, and this time the voice came near the beginning. It was louder this time, but raspier, harder to understand.
I played it back, trying to decipher the words. It sounded like a whisper, only louder, like a stage whisper. Over and over again, I listened, but couldn’t get the words. Finally, I decided I would take a more direct approach.
“Cheryl….this is your daddy,” I felt ridiculous doing this, but my situation wasn’t exactly sensical to beginw tih. “Cheryl…sweetie…if you can hear me. what is it that you want me to do?” I paused for a moment, giving her a chance to respond, and stopped the tape. I rewound it, and listened to the message again. This is exactly how it came back.
“Cheryl…sweetie…if you can hear me. what is it that you want me to do?” There was a long pause, and then Cheryl’s voice shattered the silence.
“RUN! RUN NOW!”
Outside the classroom, I suddenly heard a low rumbling noise, followed by the sound of chairs being pulled over, doors being slammed, and glass breaking. After mere seconds it sounded like a hurricane tearing through the school. I decided quickly that I would heed Cheryl’s advice.
Something was coming, and I was more than sure that it was coming for me.