I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t do any homework. I barely spoke to anyone in my family. I was just too freaked out by what I had heard and seen. So, naturally, the next day I was seriously considering faking sick and skipping school. I just didn’t want to go and face Corrine again after what had happened in the shed and think about ghosts anymore. I mean, can you blame me? Up until a few days, I was perfectly content to believe there were no such things as ghosts and now I’ve seen two of them more than once. One of them was even a ghost of someone who was still alive! I was pretty sure that I’d lost it by now.
Well, despite how I felt, Ria still showed up the next morning to pick me up for school and, despite my less than a half hour of sleep the previous night, went with her. I watched my house disappear as we drove away, only half wishing I had stayed. Corrine may have been at my school, but Aaron was at home. I had nowhere that was safe.
“You okay?” said Ria, as we drove toward school.
“Um, yeah,” I lied. “Not a lot of sleep but…yeah…I’m okay.”
“What’s gotten into you lately, babe?” Ria asked. “You’ve kinda lost some of your…well…you’re spunk over the past few days.”
I actually lost my spunk a few weeks ago, but I didn’t bother to correct her. The less Ria knew about what my life had become, the better. I didn’t need my best friend thinking I was a lunatic. “I don’t know. Things have just been…crazy lately.”
“Oh, I totally know what you mean,” said Ria. “I mean, I know you’re not as totally psyched about Aquadeus being in town…”
Aquadeus was the least of my problems right now. “Yeah, that’s…that’s part of it.”
“And that crazy stalker at school that’s been attacking him!” said Ria. “I mean, I can’t believe that! It’s so creepy. Urg, I almost don’t want to be famous myself if I get psychos like that after me. But Aquadeus is just so cool about it all, y’know!” Ria sighed. “He’s so calm and brave, it’s like it doesn’t even faze him!”
“Awesome,” I said, dully.
“And, hey!” Ria said, taking her eyes off the road for a minute to glare at me. “We were invited to his house, remember? Why haven’t you gone with me yet?!”
“You can go by yourself, can’t you?” I asked. The lack of sleep was making me grumpy.
“Haven’t I already explained that I can’t possibly do that?” said Ria, dramatically. “There’s too much chance that I’ll make a total fool of myself!”
By then, we’d arrived at school, so I didn’t have to add to the conversation.
I kept my head down for the first couple hours of school, but I only saw Corrine Mathis once in all that time. She was walking slowly down the East Hallway and drumming her fingers along the large windows that faced the courtyard where the gardening club kept their flowerbeds. I don’t think she saw me, since she was gazing out at the flowerbeds, but I walked around her and avoided direct eye contact with her all the same. There was something about her that…really kind of scared me at times. The idea of what she was doing, leaving her body, was horrible to me. But, remembering what Aaron had said about some evil…something being after her, just scared me even more.
It was later that day when I ran into Cameron “Aquadeus” Tithe himself, and it didn’t help with my mood. It was between classes and I had just been walking down the East Hallway again to get to my next class when I found him in my way. I was so busy thinking about ghosts, in fact, that I almost ran right into him.
“Sor…oh,” I said, when I saw him.
“No worries,” he said, cool as you please. “Well, if it isn’t Gina, my number one fan!”
“I am not your…oh, forget it,” I said, still grumpy and out of energy. I tried to walk around him, but he held out an arm to stop me.
“Hey, just a second, Gina,” Cameron said. “Can I ask you something real quick?”
“Um,” I mumbled, trying to think of what I could say that would be most effective in getting him to go away and leave me alone since a conversation with him was the last thing I wanted. “I really need to get to…”
“It’ll only take a second,” Cameron said, his voice slightly softer than before but with a dark note that made me freeze in my tracks. “How come you haven’t come by my house like I asked you to? I invited you and your friend to visit me, remember?”
“Ah…well…yeah, but…,” I stammered. “Look, I’ve just had a lot on my mind, okay? I don’t have time to go to any of my friends’ houses, let alone yours. Besides, there are plenty of girls in this school who you could invite if you want visitors so…”
“But I invited you,” said Cameron. His handsome face pulled a slight pout that I didn’t find myself believing for a minute. “Come on, why don’t you like me? I’ve been nothing but nice to you.”
I was in the mood to challenge him. I pulled my self to my tallest point and looked right into his strange, violet eyes. “You know why I don’t like you? I think you’re self-centered, arrogant, “holier-than-thou”, and, upon occasion, rude. It’s clear that you have no respect for my town or the people who live here and I just don’t find that very appealing.”
I was expecting him to get mad or to look surprised at least, but his expression was calm, almost amused, the entire time. “Really?” he said, after I’d finished. “It’s hard to find someone so honest. I find it very refreshing indeed. You have no idea the fakeness of people when they’re trying to talk to me. They always want something, but you don’t even try.” He leaned in a little closer and spoke ever so slightly slower as he said, “I find that very interesting indeed.”
I stared incredulously at him, taken aback.
“Any celebrity would be thrilled to have you as their number one fan,” he added, grinning evilly. “So glad that it’s me.”
“I just told you!” I snapped, feeling myself go red in the face with anger and embarrassment. “I’m not your…”
Chills. My skin erupting in goosebumps. An odd, shrill whistling in my ears. I turned my head away from Cameron, towards the windows facing the flowerbeds…
Then the window exploded in with a heart-stopping crash!
Shards of glass flew everywhere. I ducked down to the floor and covered my head with my arms. People were screaming. Glass flew everywhere, smacking into the opposite wall, covering the floor, and stabbing into the skin of students walking by. The screams and the sound of glass filled me with terror. Couple that with the occasional feeling of glass bouncing off my arms and just over my head and I was paralyzed to the spot, unable to do anything but wait for it all to stop, begging it to stop.
I only dared to look up when I stopped hearing the sounds of bouncing glass. I opened my eyes. The center window, right across from where I was standing, was completely destroyed. Only the empty pane remained. The windows on the sides of it were also shattered, but were still intact. The long line of windows, from one end of the wall to another, was broken from the center outward so that only the windows at the very ends were untouched. People in the hall where screaming and crying, examining themselves for cuts. I stood up as slowly and carefully as I could, unsure if I had been cut or not. It was only after a few seconds did I finally notice Cameron.
He was still on his feet, facing the window. He must have turned to look at them at about the same time I did. He’d thrown his hands in front of his face, and both of them had been cut and had large shards stuck into his palms. Blood was trickling down his wrists. As horrible as the blood was, it was his expression that was most unnerving. As he slowly turned his hands so that he saw the bloody damage to them, his eyes widened with absolute terror. His face was white as a sheet, his mouth slightly open and his lips trembling a little. It was Cameron “Aquadeus” Tithe without his cool. All that I saw, in that moment, was a human in the midst of sheer horror.
“Is everyone alright!?”
“What the devil happened here?”
Teachers and other students were showing up. The sounds of their voices seemed to snap Cameron out of whatever kind of terrified daze he was in. His eyes closed slowly and he seemed to master his own breathing.
“C-Cameron?” I asked, tentatively.
“Oh no!” several girls cried. They all ran toward Cameron, pushing me unceremoniously off to the side. Really, I was more worried about falling over and landing on the glass than anything else.
“Are you hurt?”
“Are you gonna be alright?”
“Oh dear! Look at all the blood!”
“How’s his face? Is his face okay!?”
Cameron let out a deep breath and, when he opened his eyes again, he looked just about back to his usual, cool, self-centered self.
“Okay, everyone, calm down,” he said, his voice still just a little shaky. “I’m fine, I just…I kinda need to see the nurse. Unless you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of other people cut up too.”
He wasn’t wrong. Lots of the people who where walking through the hall when the window exploded where nursing cuts and had bits of glass embedded in their skin. There was blood and bits of glass all over the floor, but nobody looked like they were seriously injured. But that didn’t stop the mass panic that was suddenly going through the hall. Cameron’s fans that had suddenly shown up were now escorting him to the nurse’s office like a kind of guard of honor and Mr. Fisher, my science teacher, came by and noticed what I had not. That I had cuts all along my arms and an unexpected gash across the tops of my fingers that I certainly hadn’t noticed before, but my arms had done their job to protect my head, which was fine except for the shard I found embedded in my hair.
As Mr. Fisher started helping me get out of the hall, I felt the chills one more time. By now, I half knew what I was going to see and, to my dismay, I was right.
Corrine was standing along the far side of the hall, her hand on the wall only about a foot away from the windows that had smashed. In the few seconds that I saw her before I rounded the corner, I could have sworn that I saw her emotionless face break into a very small smile.
This time, it was really, really bad.
An ambulance was called and three kids had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. Cameron was among them, cradling his injured hands, his gaze far off. Parents were called. The school board was called. Everyone was in a huge amount of trouble.
As I was one of the people who had been hurt, even though it was only a few nicks and just that slight gash, my family was called in too. Mom came rushing in, Maggie dangling off her arm.
“Gina!” Mom cried. She looked like she wanted to hug me, but didn’t want to in case she hurt me, seeing as most of my scratches were on my arms. “What on earth happened?”
“We still don’t know,” I said, quietly. “The window just…broke.” I hadn’t mentioned Corrine yet to anyone. Now that I was aware of all of my cuts, I was really just focused on the stinging pain in my hand and all down my arms.
“Is Gina okay!?” Maggie asked, looking at all the band aids down my arms and looking horrified.
“I’m alright Maggie, it wasn’t anything big,” I said, as reassuringly as possible.
“Is Gina’s friend okay?” Maggie asked. Maggie had a hard time with names and Ria’s was no exception.
“Don’t worry, Maggie,” I said, calmly. “She wasn’t there.”
“No, I mean…”
“But how did the window just break like that?” Mom asked, sounding irritated by the lack of explanation. “Did someone throw a rock or something?”
“No, I would have seen them,” I told her. “I was standing right there. But from the sounds of it, Cameron got the worst of it.”
“Unbelievable!” Mom cried. “So there’s no explanation at all for this? There’s gonna be some very angry parents talking to the school about this and I just might count myself among them!”
I didn’t want any more trouble. I looked down at my hand and saw the thick bandage around it, keeping my fingers sealed together so the gash would heal. The nurse said that I didn’t need stitches, so for that I was grateful. Cameron and the other two that were taken away probably weren’t going to be so lucky.
The situation was bad. The first two incidents went by without anything bad happening, but now something had happened and people had gotten hurt. My mind was made up. I couldn’t let this go on when I had an idea of who was behind it.
I’d made the decision to talk to Mr. Walters about Corrine.
The next day, Mr. Walters punished the school again. He reminded all of us about how assemblies and pep rallies had been canceled and now he’d announced that spirit week (the last week of the school year which was mostly devoted to class parties and the annual school carnival) was also canceled. The entire school roared in anger and misery, but I didn’t complain along with everyone else. I was going to see Mr. Walters after school, when mostly everyone was gone, before I told him my suspicions about Corrine Mathis. I wouldn’t be mentioning the part about her leaving her body, of course, he’d think I was crazy, but I would tell him that I saw her in the science room, in the bathroom, and in the hallway before all the incidents. Maybe he’d take me seriously, maybe he wouldn’t. Somehow, I got the impression that he was punishing the school because he wanted someone to blame all of this stuff on, so students would be eager to rat each other out to get their assemblies back. Well, he’d have someone to blame after today, and I wasn’t sure how good I felt about it.
Cameron wasn’t at school today, but the other two kids who went to the hospital were there, so nobody was overly worried about him. Missing school the day after the accident would probably make for a good “injured hero” image for the rock star. I wasn’t bothered. All I wanted to do was to get through the day so I could talk to Mr. Walters. But the day was moving really slowly. Add to the fact that I could barely write due to my hand still being bandaged, and it had to be the slowest, most difficult day so far since my life got turned upside down.
After what felt like forever, the bell finally rang and students started to file out of the school. Even that seemed to take a long time because East Hallway had been roped off, the broken windows covered in plastic, so everyone had to walk all around the building to get to the exits.
I told Ria ahead of time that I would be walking home from school today, so she had already left without me as I waited one corridor away from the principal’s office, waiting until the coast was clear so I could go in and speak to him. After some ten minutes, I felt that it was clear enough to go in. But, to my dismay, Mrs. Reynolds, the secretary, told me that Mr. Walters was speaking to another kid at the moment and I’d have to wait outside. I left, my nerves even worse than they were before, and sat on the bench outside to wait again.
That’s when I heard something turned my nerves into fear.
“…help! Help me!”
A voice was coming down from the empty hall to my left. It sounded strangely hollow and echoed off the walls. It was a girl’s voice. A voice I remembered.
“Help me! Please! Is anyone there? Someone, please, help me!”
The principal shoved right out of my mind, I got up and ran towards that voice. I didn’t call back, but I looked down every hallway, past every locker, already half-knowing what I would find because of the chills that kept shooting up and down my spine. Sure enough, I found her just outside of the roped off East Hallway. It wasn’t “Normal” Corrine-Corrine. It was “Ghost” Corrine-Corrine.
The Ghost Corrine was staring around frantically, calling and calling for help, her eyes were wide and her face looked as though she was about to cry. “Help me! Someone please! Can’t anyone hear me? Please, please answer me!”
“Corrine?” I said, stepping forward so she could see me. Ghost Corrine turned at the sound of my voice and her face broke out in an expression of greatest relief.
“You!” she cried. “You can see me! You can see me, can’t you! Oh, thank goodness, I’ve been standing here for hours!”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, speaking quietly in case someone came by. “Why aren’t you…in you?”
“I can’t get back in,” Ghost Corrine told me. Saying it aloud seemed to remind her of the horror of it all because she looked petrified again. “I can’t get back in! I can’t get back inside my body!”
“What do you mean you can’t get in?” I asked.
“There’s something in there! Something evil!”
“So you really have been doing all these things?” I said, frightened. “The burner hose, the windows, the graffiti. Have you been doing it all?”
“No! It’s not me! I’ve been out here.”
“What do you…”“There’s something else in there! There’s something else inside my body! It’s taken over. That thing in my body is what’s been doing all those things. It’s taken over…and I can’t get back in!”