Drowning in air.
I screamed. And screamed again. And put my head in my hands. And screamed once more.
Dear God what was out there? Was it a person? An alligator that had been accidentally trapped in the ceiling when the school was first built and had to survive by eating rats? Why was it still alive? What do I do?
I didn't know how long I spent trembling in the cubicle before I decided that I was being stupid. I just need to suck it up and go out there and see what was going on. Someone might be in trouble! But then again…
I shook my head aggressively and placed my hands over the sliding lock of the cubicle.
"I can do this. I am strong." I muttered under my breath. "What's the worse that could happen? If it's a person then I can help them. If it's a man-eating alligator then I'll just have to stab it in the eye with my nail-file before it eats me." Done with my pep talk, I opened the door, ready for whatever was in front of me…
Only to stare.
There was a massive, gaping hole in the ceiling; big enough to fit a Jeep. Sunshine seeped through this hole like a spotlight from God, illuminating…
What was that?
I shuffled over to the pile of debris, anxiously clenching and unclenching my fists.
Mixed with the dust and tiles and bricks appeared to be blood. I felt sick, my stomach churning.
Then I saw something move.
With shaky hands, I pulled away some of the long chunks of wood and gasped.
There, lying amidst the rubble was a boy.
Oh good, no man-eating alligator. Just a boy. A boy who had fallen through the roof. A boy who was drenched in blood. A boy who…who might be dead!
I began to hyperventilate.
Ever so slowly, I gently reached a hand out towards his limp arm, deciding to feel his pulse before my brain kicked into panic mode and I had a freak out. So what if there's a dying boy in the girls' bathroom? It'll be alright, right? Right?
As soon as my fingers made contact with his wrist, I felt my heart lurch. I screamed as I felt myself being pulled and stretched, as my breath was forced out of my lungs and my vision swam with vibrant colours. Something was being sucked out of me. I didn't know what but I could feel it, being ripped from within me with the strength of a thousand storms. It was like I was hanging onto a rope for my dear life but I was slipping, and at that moment I felt such fear; fear that I never felt before as my hands slipped and rope disappeared and I fell into a dark abyss of oblivion. I was drowning.
I didn't realise my eyes were closed until I opened them and came face to face with the boy who was straddling me.
My mind kicked into panic mode, the drowning feeling evaporating in an instant.
"Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!" I screamed. "Rape! Rape!!"
I scrunched up my eyes and clawed at him, my mind a whirl. He was yelling something but I wasn't listening. My fingers got caught on something which snapped as I yanked my hand away. I heard a minuscule sound like something metal hitting the floor but I paid no attention to it.
"Get off!!!!" I screeched, my eyes still screwed shut.
Suddenly the weight on top of me was gone.
Breathing hard, I opened my eyes a crack, slowly widening them in disbelief as I realised that I was staring at the ceiling; the ceiling that was completely in tact. There was no hole.
I sat up and looked around. Everything was normal. It was all gone; the debris, the mess, the blood, the boy…
I shook my head.
I got up in a daze. Did I dream the whole thing up? Maybe I lost more blood than I realised and had a trippy hallucination. But it was so vivid and real…
Something glittery caught my attention and I crouched back down. Lying on the floor underneath the hand dryer was an ornate ring on a silver chain.
It looked really pretty and old; like an antique that you'd find in one of those tacky museum exhibitions. I would pick it up but it probably belonged to someone. And I was not touching something that had been lying on the ground in the girls' bathroom for who knew how long.
With a shrug, I stood up and left the bathroom, my mind whirling with everything that happened and whether or not I was going insane.
I pulled the blanket up to my chin and sighed, taking a deep breath of sweet night air.
For as long as I could remember, I've always slept with the window in my room open. It was a strange habit but even on the coldest of nights, I could not sleep without my window open. I needed to smell the scent of the night.
There was only one window in my room so when we had moved into this house, I decided to put my bed directly next to it against the wall.
As I looked out at the night sky, I decided it was a good choice. There was a flyscreen sheet over it so I wasn't too worried about insects or anybody climbing in.
I sighed and lay on my back, looking at the ceiling. Today was the strangest day I've had for a while. I've thought about it so much that I couldn't get to sleep. Sure enough, when I got home, my mum scolded me, more worried about the state of my uniform than about where all the blood came from. My little sister Jess just laughed at me. And my dad just gave me a pitying look.
But all that didn't matter. What mattered was whether or not I was becoming a lunatic and having wacky delusions in school bathrooms.
I didn't realise I was half asleep until I was jolted awake by a movement in the corner of my room.
Before I could sit up, I felt something wrap around my neck and tighten.
I gasped, my fingers scratching at my throat, trying to pull away whatever it was. However, I couldn't feel anything. There was nothing there!
I looked down in horror, my eyes wide as I coughed and spluttered. If this is how that kid in maths felt when he was choking on his pen, then I was going to give him a huge apology fruit basket tomorrow. If I survived the night that is.
I tried to scream but no sound came out. My body was thrashing, nothing but panic running through my brain.
What was happening? What was going on?
My flailing arms still couldn't find the source of whatever was strangling me and I began to cry. I was dizzy, my lungs were aching for air and I wanted to vomit.
I need to breathe! I need to breathe! Ineedtobreathe!
And through it all I heard a voice in my ear; a voice so silky smooth and quiet that I thought I might have imagined it.
"Give me back my ring."
My dreams were constantly haunted by a small boy. He appeared in my dreams ever since the incident five years ago. Sometimes he stood in the background of the dreamscape but other times he took part in what was happening.
He looked around ten years old and always wore a clown suit like he was in the circus. He never talked, but sometimes I followed him.
I called him Smile, because he always smiled when he saw me. Sometimes I caught a look on his face; a pained look like he'd seen something that made him want to cry. But then he'd smile again and everything would be okay.
I suppose it was because I didn't dream about Smile that I knew something was wrong when I woke up.
The last thing I remembered was being strangled by something I couldn't see and my hands immediately reached up to my throat.
It felt tender and sore, but I could breathe and that was the important thing.
Without at second thought, I leapt up and ran to my floor length mirror.
I looked terrible. Well, more terrible than usual after rolling around in my bed. My face was pale, my hair a mess and my eyes were red and bloodshot. I couldn't help but stare at the red markings around my throat; evidence that something or someone had tried to kill me. Something or someone that I couldn't see…
I was filled with dread as I ran back to my bed and climbed onto it, grabbing a heavy textbook from the floor and holding it up as a weapon.
I stood still, my eyes taking in every detail of my room. What if the thing was still here? What if it attacked me again? What can I do if I can't see it?
I shrieked as the door burst open and a girl with curly blond ringlets skipped in.
"Mum says to wake up and…what are you doing?"
My sister stared at me like I was insane, which I probably was.
"Tegan, what the hell?"
I flinched and stumbled back as Jess approached me, her dark brown eyebrows arched. I really did try to convince her that if she dyed her hair blond, she should do her eyebrows too. Then Jess told me about how her friend almost blinded herself when some of the dye got into her eyes when she was doing her eyebrows. I bet you can guess who won that argument.
"What happened to you? Why do you…Oh my God what happened to your neck?"
I stood, my arms trembling as I held up Ancient Civilisations; from Egypt to Greece and Everything in Between
It was now or never. Do I tell her about what happened or do I lie and save my pride? The last thing I wanted was Jess taunting me about being mentally unstable.
"I ugh…I…Um…well you see…"
A burst of music made Jess pull her phone out of her bra (ew) and within seconds, she left my room, giggling and flirting with her boyfriend (double ew).
Before Jess could return, I jumped down from my bed and slammed the door closed, leaning my head against it as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on.
Ugh it was way too early to be trying to think.
A cough made my blood freeze. Oh no.
Ever so slowly, because I was hoping that maybe if I took long enough, an airplane might crash on top of my head and save me from the situation, I turned around.
There, lying on my bed building a pyramid of cards, was a boy.
He was dressed in dark clothing, with the hood of his jacket pulled up to hide his face.
There was a boy on my bed. A boy on my bed. Why the hell was there a boy on my bed?
At the strangled noise coming from my throat, the boy looked up. I still couldn't see his face but I felt his stare.
Almost by instinct, my hands flew to my throat and the red marks there.
The boy laughed softly as he stood up and walked towards me, his stride confident as he shoved his hands into his pockets.
"Sorry, I got a little carried away." He said when he was relatively close to me.
My brain was screaming run! but my body refused to respond.
He held up a finger and moved as if to touch the red marks on my neck. I whimpered, suddenly annoyed when I realised that I left my heavy history text book weapon on my bed.
There was no doubt in my mind that this guy was the one who tried to strangle me last night. One part of me wanted to kill the bastard but another part was so scared that it just wanted to run away and curl into a ball in some small cave in the arctic where no one would find me.
The latter won and before the boy could move, I spun and pulled my door open, running away so fast that I tripped and fell down the stairs.
"Tegan!" my mother shouted as she came running towards me. I stared up at the top of the stairs where the hooded boy looked down at me. The next moment, he was gone. Probably back inside my room or something. Oh lord, what do I do? Do I tell my mum? Will she believe me?
"Tegan!" my mother shouted again, pulling me up and fussing over me, looking for bruises. "What happened? Oh why are you so clumsy? And you're not even ready for school yet! Well I've got to go to work so I'll see you tonight!" with a kiss on the cheek, she was out the door before I could say a thing. My dad had already gone too, since his car wasn't in the driveway.
Looks like I'll have to deal with the boy myself.
After half an hour of staring into my bowl of soggy cereal, I decided that whoever the mysterious boy was, I wasn't going to let him hurt me again. I was going to find out how he had snuck into my room and how he managed to strangle me. Then I was going to kill him. No not really. But I do take invasion of privacy and attempted murder seriously.
Maybe I should just tie him up and call the police. Yes, that sounded like a good plan.
Sitting up so quickly that Jess jumped and dropped her mobile into her cereal, I went into the kitchen and pulled out the biggest steak knife we had.
I was grateful that my mother had already left for work. At least she wasn't around to ask awkward questions about what I was doing..
I stomped past Jess, who was whining and whimpering as she tried to dry her phone with her napkin, and walked up the stairs.
I bet I looked pretty scary with the knife in my hand. Actually I probably looked deranged. I was glad that Jess was too busy to notice what a psycho her sister had become.
I got cold feet as I stood outside my bedroom door, which was right next to the staircase.
What if he turned invisible and strangled me again? But that was impossible right? No one can turn invisible. He probably used fishing wire to choke me.
I swallowed, sucked up all my courage, and opened the door, the knife ready.
At first I was blinded by the bright sunlight coming in through the window. It was when my eyes adjusted that I realised that the room was empty.
I frowned, suspicious.
The pyramid of cards was still sitting on top of my bed, half of it collapsed, but next to that was my textbook which was open at a page with a huge picture of an old Egyptian ring.
Lowering my knife, I realised that several words had been highlighted.
I frowned even more as I read them.
I scoffed. What the flip is this ring he keeps mentioning? Then I saw that he had written something on the next page in huge block letters over the top of a passage about Egyptian symbolism.
SEE YOU SOON SWEETHEART.