P: These Silent Halls
She has seen decades pass like the blink of an eye. At one time she was a hospital, run by a handful of nuns and doctors, who built the first building and then more, adding slowly over a hundred years to the conglomerate mass of her. At her glory she was something to be proud of - four buildings, held together by sky-walks and bridges; Oak Street, the original Hospital, Aspen Street, and Staff Hall all stood sturdy, strong, and supportive. One could not tell where one began and another ended, for over time it all grew together into Her. For a while she was empty - the halls silent, the doors rotting, dust settling as the bricks grew dirtier, year after year. Then, on the eve of 2000, she was purchased by Dr. Christopher Griffin, a philanthropist and physicist old enough to know the history of the near-ancient structure and young enough (just barely, and only in his mind) to dream of making it something more. The Institute of Sciences and Mathematics was established at the beginning of May in 2002, and she - now familiar as the Institute - grew used to life once again.
The Institute wasn’t much at first - many hallways were blocked off, doors inexplicably locked, stairwells collapsed, and the walls reclaimed by critters and fungus over the years. Only the front part of the Institute had been successfully renovated, and the floors showed signs of the hasty, patchy fixes made to student quarters. Large signs hung over gaping doorways and in the center of halls, just before the point where the lights went dim and the tiles started to crackle. Faucets dripped and noises could be heard above the ceiling tiles after lights-out, but it was home to the students and staff. Within the repaired parts of the school, sound rang out constantly. Students laughed in groups on their ways to class, teachers gossiped around each corner, and the maintenance staff could be caught humming classical music as they attempted to remove the decades of grime from windows and swept up debris in the halls. The charter class was 30 students strong at the beginning of term, and 23 by the end. It wasn’t much, not to the Institute, nor to the community around it, but it was a start.
There were incidents. No-one talked about them, but everyone knew they had happened. The well-traversed and well-lit areas of the school always felt warm, as if the communal happiness had seeped into the wall like an ungodly fungus, but the unrepaired areas felt… different. For one, the lights no longer worked - decades of water running through the walls had ruined any wiring present. There was also the overwhelming extent of the disrepair. The Institute had been abandoned and left to rot. The drywall was mostly mold, and the subfloor bent alarmingly with each step. Mice, raccoons, and even a few birds had made their home within the dark depths of the Institute, and reacted with startling hostility towards human intruders. The structure was old, and creaked incessantly, and the stairs would seldom hold the weight of a person. Beyond that though, beyond the obvious danger of those areas, was something else. The air felt distinctly colder, and the sunlight barely filtered through the smoke-stained windows (why were there smoke stains? No-one ever figured it out). The air seemed thin, and the further one walked into those dark, damp halls, the louder and closer the sounds got. Not the sounds of animals, though those followed the scent of intruders through the ceiling tiles and hissed in threat every few feet, but the sounds of wind, and of rain. Students who had dared to go that far sometimes said the walls felt hot, and then cold, and then horribly wet, and they could hear the cacophony of a massive storm as if it was right on the other side. As foolhardy Timothy Falding said, when asked about his adventure, “I’ve never felt so unwelcome in all my life.” Falding went missing two weeks later, only to reappear, 16 hours later, on the front steps of the Institute with no knowledge of where he’d been or what he’d seen. He returned to his home school three days later, not bothering to say goodbye to his friends or teachers.
Several other students temporarily vanished as well. The staff was left reeling in the face of one such incident, in which Naomi Torrent-Asher went unfound for 3 days before security found her passed out on the Institute grounds at 3 in the morning. Reportedly, her fingertips had severe burns, but the rest of her was “pruney,” and covered in damp, open sores. Her hair was matted together and several abrasions on her face appeared to be infected. After staff attempted to wake her up for several minutes with no results, she was transported to a local hospital. Further examination revealed sores on her feet similar to trench foot, what seemed to be electrical burns on her neck and back, and that she was evidently comatose. Six months after she was recovered, she was pronounced brain dead and transferred to a permanent care facility upstate. As of October 8th, 2015, she has not woken up.
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