Thursday, 23 February 2017

Short Story: These Four Walls

by Lucy Albuery

What is about school that makes it so much scarier at night? Every door groans a whisper louder and every breeze is a goose bump colder. Each lonely chair seems to mourn the absence of a child and each display seems to be a relic, grafeetied to immortalise a past life of a past people. Everyone of the clock’s ticks echoes through the air, being suspended there for a little infinity and the floorboard squeak and moan louder than thoughts; and Karen was stuck in the middle of it.

She had forgotten her book so she sheepishly tiptoed through the corridors of the cold, stone building she had spent so many hours in. She walked up the stairs, turned corridors she knew by heart, slowly rotated the brass door handle and strained the rusty hinges of the door to Miss. Brown’s English classroom. Gingerly, she crept in; weary of every pin-drop and every, ever so slight, change in the still, unfamiliar air that surrounded her. The blinds had fainted down to the bottom of their panes and her book stared at her from the desk. On Miss. Brown’s desk, a pile of books stared at her too. Miss. Brown had clearly been marking them but only half the pile had her red pen scribbled over them. Karen couldn’t help but wonder what had happened. Why were only half of the books marked and why did her teacher not take them with her, like she always did? That wasn’t like her. Karen took a few more restrained steps towards her book, picked it up and heard a noise.

It was the door slamming behind her. She slowly pivoted to face it. Karen knew it was the caretaker, right? He had just locked up all the classrooms for the night and didn’t realise she was in there, right? So she yelled trying to get his attention, “Hello, I’m in here.” But there was no reply. She tried again, “I think you locked me in by accident, can you let me out? Please!” Still no answer came to her. She began to worry, and worry a bit more. Karen grabbed the door handle, the cold brass chilled her hand and delivered shivers up her arm, and she turned the handle with no success to open the door, and turned it again and again, and again nothing. The chilling realisation wafted over her and every fibre in her body like an electric shock, form a thousand volts: she was stuck.    

Around her ankles, where her legs peeked out form over her sock, she felt her hairs stand to attention. A brisk, freezing gust had dances around her and she knew it wasn’t just in her head, but how sure could she be? After a few seconds of Karen’s internal fight over the breeze being in her head or not, it came again. This time swiftly waltzing quicker, with more purpose and colder enough to not only make her ankles shiver but her spine and every nerve that she had solidify with frosty intention.
“Alright Kari, you’re making this up now; your just creeping yourself out.” She firmly settled her racing mind, “That breeze was just from the bottom of the door,” she glanced at the bottom of the white, wooden door to confirm her theory with evidence; but the opposite accused, sending her brain spinning and sprinting. There was no space under the door for the chilling breeze to hastily escape through. It was air tight. “Right, Ok then.” She blurted, sounding as confided as she could despite every inch of her trembling frame being terrified. “It was just in your head, move on.”

Karen had had enough. She paced to the door again, more determent and more annoyed than anytime she had tried before. She angrily rattled the stiff handle and banged the door’s deceivingly strong structure but frustratingly to no success. Then Karen’s brain flicked a switch she didn’t even know was there. She had another idea, that “Whoever you are…” she yelled, but her brain still was aware of every possibility “…or whatever you are, can you please stop and can you please let me out?” Her voice tight-robed a strange line between angry frustration and stiffening fear.  

She continued, her voice beginning to brake and stutter, “Just call Emily and she can get you out of this!” Karen was taking charge of her head now and a bit of logic had snick into her brain though the bazaar fantasies. Karen set her faded, blue rucksack down on the table, unzipped the front pocket and grabber her phone. She pulled it out of her bag, navigating a maze of papers, folders and planers, and just as she unlocked it and entered into her contacts, the screen suddenly became saturated with cracks and deep scratches spontaneously in her hand. The screen was a spider web of shattered glass fragments. The fear that had been hiding deep inside her was all at once unleashed along with a scream that warped through the eerie acrostics of the chamber that stole the screech and rung it out in the atmosphere for than it had any right. Though every muscle was struggling it was her hand that gave in as it forgot how to grip and the smashed iPhone slinked through her limp fingers on to the vinyl flooring. She began to panic. She began to let her mind chase whatever explanation it needed. It became a warehouse of twisted explanations she couldn’t quite comprehend; however she could comprehend one thing: none of them were right. Her lungs worked overtime, panting with her breaths barley deep enough to be of any use. Karen’s heart was a drum roll inside her chest, beating faster than she thought possible.

Until it didn’t.

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