Invitation in the dark
Music Recommendation: Let my home be my gallows- Hans Zimmer
After the boys who were involved in the fight left, the lunchroom returned to its peaceful state. Julie had not missed the way Roman had made eye contact with her, and when her eyes moved, she noticed even Eleanor didn’t miss it because the next moment, she glared at her. Something told her that she would need to be careful from now on while visiting restrooms or alone.
“What do you think triggered the fight?” asked Conner while looking over his shoulder at the place where the fight had taken place.
“Who knows,” replied Melanie in a nonchalant tone and getting back to finishing her meal. Julie realized that Melanie ate slowly. “They are always getting into fights for God knows what reasons. And once the fight is over one person goes to the infirmary and the other goes to detention. It is a never ending process.”
“Maybe there was a reason. There cannot be smoke without fire,” said Julie, and Conner nodded his head.
“We should have gotten the table there,” said Conner as if he missed an important gossip.
“Anywhere near the fight will only end up with something or someone getting broken,” stated Melanie.
Julie wondered what had ticked Roman off to end up beating a guy today. While the injured boy had been carried out of here, she had noticed his bloody face that left a chill down her spine.
If something like this happened in the last place she studied, they would have been expelled after one warning. But then, this place was like a delinquent university except for a few students.
Julie said, “I am going to the library. I need to make notes for the anatomy class as Mr. Jackman said he has a test prepared for the coming week.”
“I will come with you. I need to get the notes prepared too and maybe we can swap later?” suggested Melanie, and Julie nodded her head.
“Yeah, that would be great. It will save our time,” replied Julie.
As the trio left, Eleanor and her friends stared at the new student from where they sat while pinning Julie to be a threat.
Reaching the library, Julie went on her way to find the book in the racks. Pulling out the book, she got back to where Melanie was sitting. Two hours passed where Julie continued to make notes as she read the textbook.
When she looked up to ask Melanie something, she noticed her friend wasn’t sitting there anymore. Her eyes looked around, and she noticed there was not a single soul in here. The books on the table had disappeared, and the sound of the pages being flipped had disappeared.
“Melanie?” Julie called her friend’s name, but she received no response.
The lights that had been lit in the library dimed in and out, making her stand up from her seat.
The racks that stood on either side vanished as if they weren’t here at all, and when she called her friend’s name again, her voice only echoed. Suddenly, she heard the doors behind her open and in came some men dressed in black robes with their faces covered and carrying torches of fire. Behind them, one person carried someone in his arms, who looked unconscious.
The man walked forward and placed the unconscious person on the ground.
‘Get me the knife,’ one person demanded, and Julie’s eyes went wide. Were they planning to kill the person on the ground?! Soon she started to hear whispers of incantation-
“Julie? Wake up.”
Julie’s eyes snapped open on hearing Melanie’s voice, and she woke up from her dream. A little disoriented, she sat straight in the chair. Looking around, she saw some students sitting there and studying.
“I fell asleep,” said Julie and made her hair proper.
“You did. You were sleeping so soundly that I didn’t have the heart to wake you up,” said Melanie scrunching her nose. Julie couldn’t believe that she had fallen asleep and looked at her watch on her wrist. It was nearly two in the afternoon. Her friend informed her, “I am going to head to the dorm.”
“I will finish this and meet you at the dorms,” said Julie, not wanting to keep her friend waiting. Melanie nodded, picking up her books and leaving Julie to complete her notes.
The dream that Julie dreamt a few minutes ago evaporated while she tried to work on the rest of her notes that she would need. An hour passed before she was done, and she returned the book. It was afternoon, and the sky was covered in clouds that turned the weather gloomy and cold as if it would rain.
While passing the Blue Block, Julie caught sight of Roman, who leisurely sat at the stairs with one hand holding the cigarette and the other rested behind him. As it was Sunday, the building was empty with no students or teachers in there.
“What do you think you are doing, Roman? Dante asked us to clean and I am doing the damn work all by myself,” said another guy who came outside from the building with a mop in his hand.
“I am taking a break,” replied Roman in a calm voice. He blew the smoke into the air. With the number of times Julie had caught him smoking, she could only believe that he would die because of lung failure.
Julie was still walking as she had to walk past the Blue Block, hearing them speak.
Griffin looked flabbergasted by Roman’s words, “Break? You didn’t even touch the mop yet. Looks like you prefer to stay in the dungeon.”
Overhearing them, Julie asked, dungeon?
“Go ahead,” said Roman, a smile on his lips. Julie realized they were being punished for causing a commotion in the lunchroom. Deciding not to get involved in it, she quickly walked away from there. Right now, she had enough on her plate, and she didn’t want to be where trouble was breathing.
Roman and Griffin’s eyes were quick to fall on the student who was walking away from the outer side of the building, and Roman grinned, “Looks like it will be you and not me spending your time in the dungeon if she caught what you said.”
At night, when Julie was in her dorm, someone knocked on her door. When she opened it, she saw a girl standing there, whom she didn’t know.
“This is for you,” said the girl, handing the envelope to her.
“Wait!” Julie stopped the girl. “Who gave this to you?”
“I don’t know. I was only asked to deliver it to you,” replied the girl, leaving the front of her room.
She took a peek at the corridor and saw some of the girls in their own world, who were talking and laughing. Closing the door shut with one hand and in another holding the letter, Julie looked at the window left open by her. How unlike her letter-giver, giving it to someone and then give it to her, she thought to herself.
Opening it, she read it to herself, “If you don’t want your secrets to be known about the rules you have broken, come to the forest where the bonfire took place yesterday. I will be waiting for you.”
It was ten in the night, and this person wanted her to step foot outside the dorm? And in the forest?
Julie pursed her lips with a small frown, wondering what more this person knew about her apart from her breaking the rule by sending the letter to her uncle. She didn’t want to go, but this mystery bully had decided to show him or herself to her. If she went, she would know who it is and settle this matter once and for all.
Wearing her sweater and grabbing the flashlight, she made her way out of the dorm. As easy as it had seemed when she had walked with Melanie and Conner, Julie realized the path in the forest was confusing, and it took her some time to reach the place where the fire had been lit yesterday.
She noticed someone standing there, a girl. When the person turned, Julie’s eyebrows raised.
“Eleanor?” questioned Julie with her eyebrows knitting together.
“Surprised to see me?” asked Eleanor with a smile.
“More than anything. Were you the one who sent me the letter?” asked Julie, her eyes looking around to see no one but them in here.
“Of course it was me, who else do you think it would be? Roman? Because you think you shared two choco sticks and now you are a thing in your head?” Eleanor scoffed at the thought of it. “You small town girls like to dream big. Did you think I gave you an empty threat this morning?”
“Give the letter back to me,” demanded Julie.
“Back?” questioned Eleanor, “I already gave you the letter which is why you are here, you ditz. As we don’t have a phone, letters are the best way to communicate.”
While Eleanor was looking down at Julie, Julie tried to add up to the girl’s words wondering if this was a mistake. It was possible that Eleanor was not the one who had the letter that she had written to her uncle, and it was someone else.
Julie sighed. She had come here for no reason. She turned around, ready to leave when she heard Eleanor speak,
“Where do you think you are going?” At the same time, three girls stepped out from behind the trees. “I didn’t tell you to leave and we aren’t done speaking to you.”
“You can speak to me tomorrow. I can make time for you all depending on how important the matter is,” said Julie to the girls. “Haven’t you heard what happens when you enter the woods at this hour of the night? Someone gets killed,” she said with a straight face.
“We have been in this place longer than you, Julianne. To learn to not to be scared about such stupid things. We aren’t even in the danger zone,” replied Eleanor and then smiled, “If it is anyone who is going to die, then it is you.”
“Looks like all of you are aiming to end up in jail rather than graduating from here,” remarked Julie while looking at the three girls who held a baseball bat in their hands.
Eleanor laughed at Julie’s words, “Don’t worry, I didn’t mean it in a literal sense, but you sure as hell will regret getting any close to Roman when we are done with you here.”
Julie didn’t want to break any part of her bone, and she took a step away from the three girls and near a tree. She clutched onto the flashlight in her hand. She said,
“I have no interest in him. You can keep him all to yourself. What happened yesterday was just a simple game and nothing more than that. You know how the seniors are,” she tried to convince them.
“Break her legs so that she cannot use them,” ordered Eleanor in a calm voice. Soon one of the girls swung the bat at Julie, but in time Julie stepped away from her place, and the bat hit the tree. Dried leaves fell on the ground.
Hearing the sound of the metal bat hit the tree in force, Julie’s eyes went wide. Her friends were not joking when they said some of the girls were crazy. These girls needed therapy! Even though she had come to notice that things in this place were extreme, being beaten by a baseball bat was something she had never considered.
They were four girls with metal bat in their hands, and she was alone with just a flashlight in her hand. That was right, realized Julie. When one of the girls came closer to her, ready to swing her hands, Julie pressed on the switch of her flashlight, and the white light fell right on the girl’s faces, momentarily blinding them.
Quickly Julie started to run, and the girls chased her further into the forest. Thankfully the other girls were much slower than her, and it made it easier for her to dodge the baseball bat from breaking or damaging any part of her body.
“Why are you running slow! Don’t let her escape!” Eleanor ordered her friends from behind. The ring leader was much slower than the other girls, and Julie shook her head.
“Why don’t we all take a moment and sort this out. I doubt you want to end up in prison,” shouted Julie, her shoes lifting the dried leaves for a second because of the speed she ran in before they fell back lifeless on the ground.
“Do you mean to say who will end up in the hospital? When we are done with you, you won’t be studying here anymore,” Eleanor shouted back while pursuing the rest of them.
“I don’t want any bad blood, so let’s just drop this!” yelled Julie. As she continued to run, she raised her hand and tried to read the time on her watch. It was forty past ten, and there was only twenty more minutes left before she would break one of the rules. She didn’t want to break any more rules than she already had. “You were only bluffing! You know nothing!”
“Of course, I do,” replied Eleanor, and suddenly one of the girls caught up to her. Julie had no clue where she was running anymore, and she took a quick left. “You think people are deaf that they didn’t listen to what you were speaking to Roman?”
“I thought people had their own business,” muttered Julie under her breath.
Which was the way to get out of here?!
“Everyone heard you challenging Rome. You crossed your line there,” stated Eleanor.
Julie felt a drop of water fall on her forehead, and within the next few seconds, the rain started to pour down from the sky. While the girls had been chasing her, none of them noticed that they had stepped into the deeper parts of the forest, missing the danger signs that had been nailed on the trees. The rain blurred any and every sound in the vicinity, and she couldn’t hear the girls’ footsteps chasing her anymore. Did the girls leave?
She felt breathless because of the non running, and now that it was raining and water blurred half of the vision, Julie stopped for a moment to see where she was.
When she turned around, right in time, she caught sight of one more girl who had not given up on chasing her hunt. Julie staggered back, bringing her flashlight forward, but that only broke when it came in contact with the bat.
“Finally, you have nowhere to go,” came Eleanor’s voice from behind her.
“Don’t you think this is foul play? Four against one person and not to mention the choice of weapon,” said Julie, huffing for air and noticing the other girl’s huffing too.
“Haven’t you heard everything is fair in love and war, Jules,” said Eleanor, crossing her arms against her chest.
“I think you need help,” Julie let her thoughts known. “I won’t tell the headmistress about this, if you drop this and we go back to the dorms before we break the curfew time.”
Eleanor got hold of one of the bats and advised, “Close your eyes, it will hurt less.” But before anything could happen, they heard a scream in the forest, which gained everyone’s attention. “What was that?” Eleanor snapped her head, looking behind her.
Another bone-chilling scream was heard, and the girls suddenly became worried. Julie looked around, counting the number of girls in here. There were four girls and then her, everyone was here. So who screamed?
Julie walked near a tree, staring at it, which had the warning sign nailed on the tree’s bark. “I think we are in the restricted area of the forest,” she said, gulping down as thunderstruck up in the sky and lights flashed.
Having already heard two screams that possibly came from a female, Julie and the other girls quickly started to run with no actual direction, not realizing they were getting into the deeper side of the forest. It was past eleven in the night, and Julie had successfully broken another rule from the list, passed the dull thought.
“Didn’t you say, you were well aware of the paths in the forest,” demanded Julie when she caught up to the girl.
“I have never strolled this far. Do you think I like to take a walk in here?” Eleanor retorted as if this wasn’t her fault.
As expected, Eleanor was all words, except with the bats. Julie ran further before coming to a halt. She looked around, not knowing which direction would lead them back to the dormitories.
They didn’t know in which direction the scream came from because the voice had echoed. One of the girls said, “It must be the wild animals in here. It must have attacked someone!”
That was a possible answer, thought Julie to herself. She blindly walked forward. The more she walked, she noticed something on the ground. Stones placed upright. It was an old graveyard…
Did this graveyard belong to those lords who once lived on this property? From where she stood, the tombstones looked old and greenish moss covering some parts of it. Realizing this was the wrong path, Julie turned around, walked to where the rest of the girls stood.
Her heart was quick to drop from her chest on seeing the watchman of the university, who stood with Mr. Borrell and another teacher.
“What do you think you are doing here?” Mr. Borrell glared at Eleanor, who looked down at the ground.
“W-we got lost, Mr. Borrell,” replied one of the girls. “We were walking in the forest and then couldn’t get back.”
Mr. Borrell looked more than angry at them, and when his eyes fell on Julie, it narrowed. “Back to getting into trouble. All of you will serve detention tomorrow. Failing to follow the rules and wandering in the night.”
“What was that scream? We heard someone scream,” asked Eleanor and the other teacher who was with Mr. Borrell said.
“It was possibly an animal’s cry,” replied the man with blonde hair with a smile on his lips. “We don’t know what strange creatures live in these woods.” That was not true, thought Julie to herself. What were the two teachers even doing here? She knew even if she said anything in her defence, she would only be receiving one more detention, and she didn’t want the buy one get one free offer.
“But Mr. Evans-” Eleanor began to say something, but Mr. Evans came and stood in front of her.
The man placed his hand on her shoulder and looked straight into Eleanor’s eyes, and said, “You did not hear or see anything in here. But you did break the rules that we placed and for that, make sure you go to the detention room tomorrow.”
Mr. Evans walked to the other girls, repeating the same things that he had told Eleanor. He then came to stand in front of Julie. She knew the girls were dumb, but she doubted they were dumb enough not to understand the first time he said it because he repeated the same things. His light brown eyes stared into her eyes, and he said,
“Forget everything that you saw or heard in here. Now you will go to your room without discussing a word with anyone and visit the detention room for lurking outside past eleven in the night.”
Julie didn’t know why, but she felt a chill run down her spine when he looked right into her eyes. Mr. Evans then stepped back from them and offered, “Why don’t I lead you young ladies back to your dorm? Come on now.”
The rain had stopped, and on their way back, the girls didn’t speak to each other as instructed by Mr. Evans. Now only if the girls had listened to her just like they listened to Mr. Evans, there would have been no problem. She couldn’t believe she had gained another detention.
Stepping away from the thicker grown trees, Julie was finally able to see the buildings. While looking at the trees as they walked in the quiet night, her eyes fell on someone who stood on a branch of the tree.
It was Roman. How come people like him didn’t get detention? Their eyes met for the briefest moment before she looked ahead as if she didn’t see him.
“Now get back to bed and don’t break any more rules,” smiled Mr. Evans when they reached the front of the dormitory, and the girls went in.
Julie got inside her dorm, locking the door behind her and drawing the curtains. Her clothes were drenched in rain, and she changed herself into fresh clothes. Mr. Evans had told them to forget everything. Did he mean not to speak about it to anyone? And who screamed?