Mysteries of Washington High
By Roxanne Chance, Investigative Reporter
We’ve all heard the stories.…There’s a ghost in the auditorium that always appears on opening night of the spring play.
…Sometimes the janitors hear strange sounds late at night, and there’s a rumor that a woman who bears a striking resemblance to the school nurse back in 1958 occasionally is seen walking down the dark hallways in her sensible shoes.
…There’s been talk of teachers having to avoid the second floor lounge, because from time to time it fills with smoke from an unidentified source, and someone once heard ghastly coughing coming from the room, when no one was there.
…There are locker room stories too, like the one about the cheer leader and her quarterback boyfriend who were murdered by a mysterious, shadowy figure while having a tryst in the girls’ showers, back in the ’70’s.
…And every one of us knows the legend about the phantom band that some kids a few years ago swore they saw marching across the football field after the Homecoming Dance—although it was foggy, and their relative states of sobriety have good reason to be questioned.
Fellow Washingtonians, why is our school the subject of so many strange tales? Is there any truth to the story that the school was built on top of an old settler cemetery, making it a prime location for supernatural phenomena? Are the lei lines that so many of the more hippy-inclined members of the community love to talk about, somehow real and responsible? Could there be a scientific, even otherworldly explanation, such as Senior Class President Preston Wild proposed with his now legendary tweet about aliens creating these “effects,” making our school their laboratory in order to see how we young people of earth might respond?
It’s time we had a proper investigation of our history, and someone to delve into each of the outrageous legends and myths concerning our school. We have a right to know the truth of the matter, whether we are at risk, and what, if anything, needs to be done!
This column will be a weekly investigation into the stories, myths, sightings and historic background of our school community. We welcome any tips or eye-witness reports, and authentic, verifiable photos and video footage will be featured prominently.
Bring us your stories, and we’ll get to the bottom of them!
Gabby sat back and sighed with satisfaction. She had always dreamed of being an investigative journalist. No freshmen were allowed to enroll in journalism, but she made sure it was at the top of her course list, her first elective choice for her sophomore year, and now—at last!—she had the chance to fulfill her dream.
“ ‘Roxanne’?” Ms. Bloom, the journalism teacher, looked at her with amusement. “Most journalists don’t use noms de plume, you know.”
“It’s my middle name,” Gabby explained, “and I’ve always wanted to use it for professional purposes.”
“I see. Well,” Ms. Bloom hesitated as she finished reading the article over Gabby’s shoulder, “we’ve certainly never had anyone take on a weekly column like this before.” She glanced down at Gabby, putting one hand on her hip. “Do you mean this seriously? Or is this meant to be a series of humor pieces?”
“Humor?” Gabby jumped up from her chair, surprising Ms. Bloom and catching the attention of several other students in the class. “Not at all! This is serious investigative journalism, Ms. B! I mean, come on,” she pointed down at the computer screen, “just like I said in the article, we’ve all heard all the crazy, spooky stories forever, and so did our parents when they went here, but no one has ever looked into it!” She looked around at the kids who were staring, and a couple of them nodded. “We should find out what we can, and tell everyone—the public has a right to know!”
A few students smirked, but several seemed to appreciate her enthusiasm and her idea, and Ms. Bloom said, “All right, if it’s your passion, by all means, pursue it. But tread carefully when you investigate—especially if you’re talking about going into that 2nd floor lounge,” and she made a face that several kids laughed at, as she went back to her desk.
Within hours of her story going live on the school’s news website, Gabby received three anonymous tips. By the end of the school day there were five.
“How do people leave anonymous tips for you?” her friend Lesley asked, when she told her about it after school. “The comments section under your article requires a name and email.”
“Yeah, but people can click on my name and go to my staff page, and send me emails that way,” Gabby hugged her books to her chest as she walked. “I only had time to glance at them, but I think some are jokes. Anyway, I’ll go through them at home and figure out which to take on for next week’s column.”
Lesley, who had known Gabby since they were in preschool together, and was completely familiar with her single-minded pursuit of her goals in life, just smiled. “Well listen, if you get anything really interesting, can I go along when you investigate? The band doesn’t have any gigs lined up for a few weeks; I’ve got to do something to keep life interesting.”
“Of course,” Gabby said, without pointing out that her so-called band had only ever had a single “gig,” and that was at the base player’s own birthday party, in his garage last summer. She figured everyone was entitled to their dreams…and delusions.
But none of the tips turned out to be anything worth following up on. Two were, as she had guessed, jokes meant to mock her. One was someone who felt her email was their rightful platform for preaching the sinfulness of pagan beliefs in supernatural phenomena. The last two seemed legitimate, but not particularly interesting: a water fountain in Center Hall that would occasionally stop working mid-drink, while other times would respond to the merest touch on its button with a water stream worthy of a firehose (“Sounds like old, bad plumbing more than mysterious forces to me,” had been Lesley’s helpful comment.) The other was a suggestion that the large, black “W” tiled into the floor in the entrance hall was cursed, and anyone who stepped on it when the moon was full was in for bad luck. That might’ve been interesting to look into, but without a specific incident and witnesses to interview, she couldn’t see how she could use that tip, either. She wrote back to that person, thanking him for his idea and asking him to let her know if he learned of anything specific happening to support his theory.
By Friday afternoon she was feeling deflated. Only a couple of other tips had come in, and neither of them were useful, either. She had a deadline for her next column looming early the next week, and nothing to write about.
“I guess you’re going to have to investigate something you already knew about,” Lesley said comfortingly on their way home from school. They were walking, because although Lesley had both her license and a car, she also had a flat tire and no spare.
“I know, but I was hoping for something…recent, fresh, contemporary!”
“I’m sure stuff will come up during the year,” she said. “Every year there’s buzz about something or other happening around Halloween, right? And then in the spring, with the big theater production….there are always stories going around then, too.”
Gabby nodded thoughtfully. “Well,” she said firmly, “that settles it. I think the easiest place to start is with the school nurse story.”
“The one the janitors like to scare us by talking about?”
“That’s the one. Supposedly she appears when all the lights are off, and the school is empty…so it’s going to mean sneaking into the building.” She looked at her friend. “Are you in?”
“Sneaking back into the Teen Prison during the island of freedom known as Weekend?” Lesley shook her head. “I must be crazy, but yeah, count me in.”
Nurse Myth Debunked
By Roxanne Chance, Investigative Reporter
Two anonymous sources have confirmed a midnight investigation into the story of the Ghost Nurse who roams the halls at night.
Although due to recent turnover, few janitors currently on staff were available for comment, Mr. Jasper Franks agreed to share what he knows about the phenomenon.
“I never saw it myself,” Mr. Franks, who has headed our janitorial staff for the past two years, explained last week, “but old Raskins always swore he’d seen her a bunch of times.” Horace Raskins, lifetime resident of Roseville and 30 year employee of Roseville Public Schools, spent the last ten years of his career working nights here at WHS. He retired two years ago, and was unavailable for comment. “He always said she looked worried,” Mr. Franks added, “and seemed in a hurry. He wasn’t ever afraid, once he’d gotten used to her.”
An anonymous account of an attempt to verify this tale was reported early Monday morning. Two people claim to have snuck into the school after midnight this past Saturday, and though they spent all the hours between midnight and sunrise wandering the halls themselves, they encountered nothing resembling the Ghost Nurse.
“We confess to some disappointment,” the anonymous email we received stated, “but exposing the truth is more important than cherishing myths which mislead our student body.”
We remain open-minded, and willing to hear any further accounts that may occur, but at this time we must conclude that the reports of this haunting are untrue.
“Two anonymous sources?” Ms. Bloom looked over the tops of her glasses at Gabby, eyebrows raised. “These people broke into our school, Gabby. Who are they?”
Gabby lifted her chin and closed her eyes. “A good journalist protects her sources at all costs,” she said firmly.
Ms. Bloom shook her head. “You might want to find a good euphemism to use, instead of ‘snuck in,’ just so no one in administration gets upset about this,” she said, handing the manuscript page across her desk. “And perhaps consider the use of the word ‘allegedly,’ just in case. I also need photos with captions, and a subhead. Deadline is tomorrow.”
Gabby was feeling frustrated. Lots of people liked talking to her about her column, but few legitimate tips were coming in—certainly not enough for an investigation every week.
“Why not do some of your columns on, like, background stuff?” Lesley suggested. They were eating lunch together out on the soccer field, enjoying an unusually warm afternoon in late September.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you could do one whole column listing every weird story anyone’s ever told about WHS, and end with a request for tips that have to do with any of them. You know, kind of expand on what you did in your first article.” Lesley took a large bite of her sandwich and chewed thoughtfully. “But you also mentioned lei lines in that first article—so you could do weekly articles explaining things like that, kind of talking about possible explanations for supernatural occurrences, since you don’t have any actual occurrences to talk about.”
Gabby lay back on the grass and closed her eyes against the bright sun, feeling it’s warmth on her face, and sighed. “I guess,” she said. “I just had such high hopes for this whole project.”
But in order to keep up with her weekly deadlines, she had to do something. So she followed Lesley’s advice, and filled her October columns with information about all the different things people come up with to explain the things they don’t understand.
The third week of October brought something new.
Gabby was pacing impatiently outside Lesley’s 4th period class, waiting for her to be released for lunch. When she appeared she grabbed her arm and said, “Come on.”
“Where are we going? Is there food? I’m hungry.”
“Yes, yes, you can eat when we get there,” Gabby said, pulling her along and rolling her eyes.
She dragged her all the way across the school, up the stairs, and into the balcony of the auditorium, leading her to the farthest corner seats. Below they could see a few students puttering around doing things on the stage, some half-painted sets and racks of costumes.
“What is this?” Lesley demanded when they were sitting. When Gabby gestured for her to be quiet, she lowered her voice. “What’s going on, Gab?”
Without speaking she reached into her bag and pulled out a crumpled wad of paper, smoothed it out, and handed it to her. There was writing on it—the kind where someone has cut out random letters and words from other things and glued them together to spell out a message. She read,
If you want to see some real ghosts, come to the Band Room at midnight on Halloween night. The back door will be unlocked. Tell no one. You won’t be disappointed.
“Well okay,” Lesley said slowly, handing it back to her. “So…you gonna go?”
“Of course!” Gabby hissed. “But I want a second set of eyes, and that means you.” She smiled at her, batting her eyelashes playfully. “That’s why we had to be here to talk about this; it says to tell no one, but I had to tell you!”
Lesley had already reached into her bag for her lunch, and was opening a bag of potato chips. “Mmm hmm. Don’t you think you could’ve waited until, like, after school?” She crunched a mouthful of chips loudly, and Gabby hushed her again.
“I didn’t want to wait that long!” She said. “What do you say? Are you in?”
Lesley took her time answering, finishing her whole bag of chips with a contemplative, intellectually appraising look on her face, as if weighing the pros and cons carefully…just to see Gabby squirm a little. “I guess,” she grinned, wadded up her bag and threw it at her. “But this time, my cooperation will come at a higher price. I’m talking cookies,” she added, poking Gabby in the shoulder for emphasis, “homemade, a whole batch---and no nuts!”
Halloween was on a Wednesday. Gabby had the cookies ready as promised, but Lesley didn’t go with her. An early wave of flu was making the rounds, and Lesley came down with it Monday night.
“Are you sure you should do this alone?” Lesley croaked over the phone when she called Gabby with the bad news on Tuesday. “Do you think it’s safe?”
“Of course it’s safe!” Gabby scoffed. “Don’t worry about me. Even if I do actually see a ghost this time, it can’t hurt me---it’s just a spirit, right?”
“Well, okay,” Lesley’s voice was fading to a whisper. “But be careful, Gab.”
She was careful. She didn’t want her parents to know she was sneaking out, so she helped out with trick-or-treaters early in the evening, helped wash up the dinner dishes, and watched some TV with her little brother, all just as usual. At 10:00 she said good night, and went through her usual bedtime routines before closing her bedroom door—and locking it.
At 11:30 she climbed out her bedroom window, scooted along the edge of the roof, and lunged out for the large apple tree growing at the corner of the house. In a matter of moments she’d clambered down and was flitting from shadow to shadow down the street toward school.
It was only about a mile to walk, so she was there with ten minutes to spare before midnight. She saw no one, heard nothing, and was generally satisfied that everything was normal and deserted. She kept her phone in one hand, ready to video anything that might pop up…or call 911, which ever seemed most appropriate.
The Band Room was actually a small set of buildings behind the auditorium, previously used for storage and as janitorial office space. About ten years ago, since the theater department objected to sharing the auditorium spaces with the growing band members, the interior of these buildings had been remodeled and given to the music department. The back door was, as the note had said, unlocked, and Gabby opened it quietly and sidled inside.
She was in a hallway with no light, and she stood, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Finally she was able to make out dim shapes at the far end of the hall, and began moving toward them, pretty sure there was another door there that led to the main rehearsal space. She only bumped into two large things, managing somehow not to knock them over or make too much noise, and found her way to the door and up a short flight of steps into the main room. She stood at the outer edge, taking in the rows of chairs and music stands, the instruments in their cases lining the walls and stacked on shelves, looking to see if anyone else was there, too.
“Are you the reporter?” a raspy whisper came from the other side of a shelf of instruments. Gabby squinted into the darkness, trying to see who had spoken.
“I got a note, telling me to come here,” she said softly. “It said I’d see a ghost.” She cleared her throat and lifted her chin. “I’m with the WHS Gazette, investigating a tip,” she added, and felt more confident hearing herself say the words.
“Are you alone?” the voice asked.
“Okay, follow me.” Now she could see a tall, skinny shadow emerge from behind the shelving, and gesture for her to walk across the room toward another doorway.
“Where are we going?” Gabby asked, but the boy---she could tell it was a boy, and he was wearing skinny jeans and some kind of black jacket, with a stocking hat covering his head—merely gestured for her to follow again and disappeared into the dark of another hallway beyond.
He led her down a hall, through another door, and into a stairwell, which had stairs leading down. It seemed like about two stories worth of downward steps, Gabby thought, and began to feel less sure of herself. “The note said the ghost would be in the Band Room. Where are you taking me?”
The boy looked over his shoulder at her, but kept going down. “It’s in the basement,” he said, a little breathlessly. “We have to get underground to see it.”
Gabby checked her phone, and was alarmed to see that it was showing no bars of reception. She could still take pictures and video, but calling for help was no longer an option. As if sensing her unease, the boy said, “Don’t worry. Like the note said, you won’t be disappointed.”
Gabby squared her shoulders and told herself that this was what investigative reporting was all about: life on the edge, taking a risk for a great story. I just hope it is a great story, she thought to herself.
At the bottom of the stairs there was another door, and the boy held it open for her to walk through. Gabby hesitated for a moment, but decided to just go with it, and stepped past him. It was dimly lit from some light source she couldn’t see, and it appeared to be an access room to plumbing and heating ducts, maybe furnaces and things like that. Gabby took a few steps forward, ducking under on low hanging pipe, and turned to the boy.
“Okay, we’re here,” she said, putting her hands on her hips. “Where’s this ghost?”
The boy just grinned at her and nodded, as if he was agreeing with her question, which made no sense—but then she felt her elbows grabbed from behind. She dropped her phone in surprise, and stumbled backward at the same time.
“Oh don’t worry, we’re going to have a ghost down here,” a new voice, high pitched and shrill sounding, “we’re going to make a ghost!”
Pinioning her arms behind her so tightly it hurt, this new person dragged Gabby across the floor and shoved her down onto a chair. She could feel him tying her wrists behind her back, probably to the chair too.
“Stop!” She cried. “Let me go! Hey--people know I’m here---I work for the Gazette! You can’t do this—” she tugged at her arms but the bindings were firm. The first boy was standing a few feet away, grinning that crazy grin and still nodding. “They’ll come looking for me—you’re going to get into big trouble!”
“Don’t worry, precious,” the voice behind her murmured. “The only thing left for anyone to find will be a ghost---yours! And isn’t that what you’re after, anyway? You want to expose all the ghosts of GHW?” He laughed and finally stepped into view.
“Pete McKinney,” Gabby said, recognizing him. “Aren’t you in enough trouble already?” She was angry now. “After that stunt you pulled at the Homecoming game, you’re not supposed to come within 500 feet of school property!” She had been the one to report on the incident for the paper, since Ms. B didn’t think her own column was enough to keep her busy. During the first half of the game, Pete and his buddies had snuck into the locker rooms, put dead cockroaches in the cheerleader’s clothes, and smeared feces in the football player’s things. It wasn’t the first time Pete had been in trouble, but it was the final straw for the WHS administration. He’d spent a week in Juvenile Detention, and was banned from campus and expelled from the school district. “What’s going to happen now that you’re adding kidnapping to the list of your offenses---and on school property?!”
Now the first boy had stopped smiling, and was shaking his head in a negative direction, walking toward her slowly. Pete just shrugged and kicked the side of her chair, jolting her and pushing her a foot across the floor. “You can see how worried I am,” he drawled. Looking at the other boy, he said, “Get her in position. I’ll get the stuff.”
Gabby was pushed deeper into the underground room, until she found herself in a large space, nothing nearby, but with markings on the floor. She examined it and realized it was a pentagram, and there were all kinds of symbols written inside and around it, in red and black.
“What is this?” She demanded, trying to sound angry instead of terrified. “Some kind of Satanic thing?”
Pete laughed quietly, and reappeared holding a bag, which he placed on the floor outside the drawing and began unpacking: a variety of knives and small statues and candles came out, and she could feel the hot, shallow breath of the other boy on the back of her neck.
“We’re gonna live forever,” his whisper rasped against her ears, “Ain’t no one gonna be able to touch us!” And she felt the disgusting sensation of his tongue running across the back of her neck.
“Get off me!” She shouted.
“Shut up, Jimmy,” Pete snapped. “Come here and help me.”
Gabby watched as the bizarre pair placed various things around her, her eyes returning to the glinting edges of the knives which still lay on the ground. She was trying to be smart and calm, trying to think of some way to get herself out of this, but her brain kept shrieking This wasn’t supposed to happen! There was supposed to be a ghost! They’re going to kill me!
“So what are you guys trying to do?” She finally managed to ask, hoping to keep them talking until a better idea occurred to her. “Is this because it’s Halloween?”
Pete smirked at her and picked up one of the long blades, running his thumb down the length of it slowly.
“I mean, if I’m about to die for something, I’d at least like to know why.” At least I can sound like I have a backbone, she thought, even if it’s actually turned to jello.
“You’re our ticket,” Jimmy piped up from behind her. “You’re gonna pay the price so we don’t have to.”
“I said to shut up,” Pete snapped at him. “Get over here and light the candles.” Pete paced around the edge of the circle while Jimmy clumsily lit the five white candle stubs on the ground, panting shallowly and wiping his hands on his pant legs periodically. When they were lit, Jimmy scuttled backward into the shadows, and Pete lifted his arms, threw his head back, and closed his eyes, tracing shapes in the air with the blade he held while chanting something that sounded like a really screwed up version of Latin.
“Really? Magic words? As if that stuff really means anything!” Gabby heard her voice shaking, but wanted to do something to stop him, distract him.
“Shut up bitch,” Jimmy’s scratchy voice came from across the room, and then she heard a scuffling sound, and a thud. She would’ve tried to see what had happened, if he’d tripped or something, but her full attention was on Pete now, who’d stopped chanting and was stepping into the circle, only a couple of feet away from her, blade pointing straight at her throat.
“The blood price is demanded! Mortality for immortality! O Dark Powers we offer our sacrifice!” Pete kind of moaned the words in his squeaky voice, and even as scared as she was, Gabby felt the urge to roll her eyes. Sounds like a really bad movie script, she thought. Why do I have to be killed by two morons?!
Suddenly she felt the air around her move, and as she watched, the blade, only inches from her neck now, dropped onto the ground, clattering loudly. All but one of the candles blew out, and all she could see was the shadowy outline of Pete standing in front of her. “What the—” she heard him say, then a soft, wet sound, like someone biting into a watermelon. For a moment it felt to her like the room was holding its breath. Then, almost simultaneously, she heard the unmistakable sound of Pete’s body hitting the ground, and felt her wrists being freed from the chair.
“Who’s there?” She said, rubbing her wrists and standing up slowly. “Hello?” She didn’t understand why, but somehow this felt more terrifying than knowing she was about to be some loser’s blood sacrifice.
“You’re Roxanne Chance, the girl who writes for the school newspaper.” It was a deep voice, a man’s voice, and then out of the shadows there emerged the person who belonged to it.
“Mr. A? Is that you?” Gabby felt weak with relief, and almost sat down again. Mr. A---short for Annakim—was a math teacher, new to the school that year. Everyone knew about him, even if they didn’t have him, because he was considered “cute” by most of the female population. “What are you doing here?”
Mr. A laughed gently. “I was working late, and saw these two sneaking around the parking lot when I went to my car.” He had a slight accent, exotic and unidentifiable, and his voice was calming. He held out his hand to steady her, and pulled her away from the circle and the chair. “It’s a lucky thing I decided to stick around and see what they were up to.”
“Am I ever glad you did!” Gabby smiled and felt a surge of energy—no doubt the adrenaline was hitting now that the danger was past.
Then she looked down at Pete.
He lay there, a small pool of blood growing beneath his head, his body twisted in an awkward pose, his eyes staring glassily into the dark.
She looked to where she thought Jimmy should have been, and saw a lump that might be him, lying on the floor, which also looked suspiciously wet around his head.
Smile gone, she pulled her hand away from Mr. A and took a step backward.
“Did you kill them?” her voice sounded very small and frightened in her own ears.
Mr. A looked regretfully at the two shadowed bodies, and nodded sadly. “Yes,” he said quietly, “I’m afraid so.”
Gabby felt greater horror now than she had all night. What was he going to do to her now? She was a witness! He’d have to kill her too, even though he killed them to save her. Her eyes darted past him, to where she thought the door was, though she was slightly disoriented and not sure she could actually find it.
Mr. A put his hands in his pockets and dropped his chin a little, looking at her from under his dark eyelashes. “I’m not going to hurt you, Roxanne. Do you go by Roxy?”
She shook her head. “Gabby, it’s really Gabby.” She felt mesmerized by his look, couldn’t look away, couldn’t not answer.
“Gabby, then.” He smiled at her warmly. “You are safe. I’m going to take you out of here, and you’ll be all right.” He took a few steps in the direction of the door. “Why don’t you follow me?”
For the second time that night, Gabby found herself following a stranger through dark rooms, up dark stairs, and into the dark Band Room. She was shaking so badly by the time they reached the rehearsal hall, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to keep walking.
As if he knew this, Mr. A turned around and said, kindly, “Why don’t you sit down for a minute.”
Gabby sat in the nearest chair. She shook her head and tried to move her brain toward something like coherent thought. She didn’t feel safe yet, but she was beginning to hope that Mr. A wasn’t out to kill her, too.
“What happened down there?” She blurted out at last, the only words should could form, though it seemed to her a thousand questions were crowding into her brain at once.
Mr. A crossed the room to the upright piano that was there, and leaned on it gracefully. He smiled at her.
“I will tell you,” he said, and Gabby felt herself relaxing, letting the chair back support her, and her breathing slowed. She didn’t know what was happening, but she felt that there was no danger, although safe isn’t quite the word for this situation either, she thought. “I will tell you because you have a fire inside that drives you to seek answers, and those fires are never lit for no reason.” Gabby blinked a few times, trying to untangle what he’d just said.
“Thank you, I think,” she ventured, and he laughed.
He smiled, and his teeth showed, like pearls in moonlight. “Those boys were trying to harness dark forces in order, I believe, to transform themselves into vampires. They were going to use your blood in their misguided attempt.”
“How do you know?”
“I recognize the symbols, their props. They’re common enough among fans of the dark arts, and those who fall for the pablum that passes for how-to websites and instruction guides.” Gabby opened her mouth to ask another question, Why do you know this?, but he continued talking. “It would not have worked. You would have died. They probably would have made themselves ill. I think it altogether likely that Peter would have turned on Jimmy, and killed him as well, in the end.” He shook his head in a way that seemed filled with a bottomless grief that Gabby didn’t understand. “Their paths were destined for disaster, and now are ended.”
“But, sir, you ended them. Don’t we need to call the police or something? I mean, you were saving me, I doubt you’ll get in trouble or anything. I’ll be your witness.” Gabby leaned forward, forearms on her thighs, and tried to see his face clearly, but felt that the whole room was hazy, and she couldn’t focus her eyes.
“No, we will not call the police.” He smiled again, and Gabby felt the waves of his sadness wash over her. “Let me explain,” he held his hands out, palms up, and she felt as if he had pushed her back into her chair, but gently, and she sighed and relaxed. The noisy, confused part of her brain shouting at her that something was wrong was muzzled and distant.
“In case you have ever doubted it,” Mr. A began, “there is evil. There has always been evil. It reaches every corner of creation, it infects every part, it knows no boundaries. Where there is light, there are shadows,” here he held up a single finger, “but never forget that the light is there, too.
“Some of us have been created, since the Great Beginning, to fight the evil, to protect its would-be victims, to guard against its spread where ever possible.” Here he bowed his head and Gabby could hear a soft exhale, again filled with sorrow. “The battle is eternal. But we who are tasked with it are not defenseless. We are given arms, of a sort, and use them where we must.” Now he wrapped his arms around himself, as if for comfort. “But with power comes responsibility, and always there is a price to pay.”
Gabby stirred. “Sir, I don’t understand. Are you talking about Pete and Jimmy? Do you think they were evil? Are you saying it’s your job to…kill…people like them?”
Mr. A shook his head. “No, Gabby. They were weak, cowards at heart. But evil is always drawn to weakness like theirs. It uses them to do its work in the world. They are merely the victims, the price I must pay in order to do my work in this world.” Now he looked at her, his eyes silver, glowing, and she felt frozen. “I am a Watcher from the beginning of Time. It is my destiny to protect and defend. In order to do so in this world, I have great power, but I must sustain myself at the cost of other life.”
He extended one arm and Gabby could see a smear of blood on the inside of his sleeve. Then he lifted his arm to his mouth, and mimed wiping something away, then showed her his sleeve again.
Gabby gasped. “You…did you…are you a vampire?!” She felt an hysterical urge to laugh because it was all too ridiculous. She had come tonight hunting a ghost, ready to report it or debunk it. But a teacher claiming to be…what? An avenging angel? A vampire?!
“It is our curse.” There was that poignant anguish again, welling up within his words. “Our tragic irony that we must live at the expense of life in order to fulfill our mission. Guardians and Warriors of Light, we are doomed to contribute to the shadows, though we may try to do so in the least of ways.”
Gabby was transfixed. She felt herself frozen in place, and guessed that this was something he was doing, keeping her there, making her stay. There was still part of her brain that wanted to make sense of this, to question, to find out more. But that part of her brain seemed unattached to her mouth, and though she could think her questions, she could not speak them.
“There are Watchers, Guardians,” Mr. A went on, stepping away from the piano and moving toward her slowly, “and there are Seekers. Those who are driven to know, to understand. And there are others as well. Some with other powers, other gifts and abilities. In your world,” he was half way across the space that had separated them, and Gabby wondered if she had the power to get up and run, but didn’t even try because he was still talking, and she wanted to hear what he had to say, “Seekers have been scientists, storytellers, philosophers. The others are often found among the ranks of artists and outcasts. You are,” he was standing only inches in front of her, still holding her gaze with his light-filled eyes, “I believe, one of the Seekers. Which is why I have told you everything.”
She felt the moment open to her, and was able to gasp out, “I don’t just try to understand, though. I want to tell what I find. I’m an investigative reporter,” she still felt a swelling of pride when she heard herself say the words, even knowing that she had no idea if she would ever leave this room. “It’s my job to tell.”
“I know,” Mr. A smiled so kindly and tenderly down at her that she almost wanted to cry. She felt that, somehow, he loved her. “That is why I must bury what you know deep, where you won’t find it for a long time, because for now you must not tell. And I would not subject you to the torture of knowing something that you must not tell.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but realized that there were no words---all her words had been taken from her---and all she knew was the whirling galaxy of lights within his eyes.
“Gabby, this is good,” Ms. B frowned across her desk at her only investigative journalist. “But you seem to be going in a different direction than where you began this column. Almost…philosophy?” She lifted an eyebrow. “Do you think your readers will embrace this?”
Gabby shrugged. She knew it was esoteric, because when she’d run it by Lesley, her response had been, “Too many big words. And ideas. Why not just write about ghosts, like you used to?”
But something inside her made her stick to her guns and write this instead.
“Well,” Ms. B handed her the manuscript, now peppered with editing marks and comments in the margins, “fix the stuff I circled, and there are a couple places where you need clarification, but otherwise go ahead and use it.” She grinned. “Anyone who leads with Shakespeare gets to publish, as far as I’m concerned.”
“Thanks Ms. B,” Gabby took back her papers, glancing down at the first few paragraphs.
The Bottom Line: WHS Mysterious Phenomena Reexamined
By Roxanne Chance, Investigative Reporter
Shakespeare intermingled ghosts and real people, history and mythology, because he knew a truth that we live every day here at WHS:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-Hamlet: I, v
Mysteries surround us every day. Sometimes they are simple and common.
But some mysteries are grander, and deeper, and we have our share of them here.
She flipped to the second page, scanning the edits and comments, and read just the end, smiling a little.
This column has been an attempt to explore some of these mysteries. In spite of numerous tips, uncountable conversations with many people in our school community, and even a few investigative forays into ghost hunting, answers have remained out of reach.
And that leaves this reporter wondering if maybe that isn’t the point?
Perhaps we need some mysteries to keep life interesting, to remind us that we can’t know everything, and there is more to this world than meets the eye?
The Bard knew. Maybe we should take a page from his book.
She walked across the classroom to the computer she’d been working on, and sat down to do her editing, when she heard Ms. Bloom say, “If any of you are looking for something to add to your portfolio before the end of this marking period, we need reporters to interview the Mathletes team, as well as their coach, Mr. Annakim. They just won the State tournament and will be going to Nationals next month.”
Gabby pulled up her document file and began to make the changes marked on her first draft. As she worked, she thought about what to do for her next project. It wasn’t her usual thing, of course, but maybe if she took the angle of their team’s success under new leadership, where Mr. A had come from and what he’d done before Washington High, she could make the Mathletes story into something worth spending her time on.
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