Belonging is such a strange concept to me. What does it mean to belong in a place? Merriam-Webster defines belonging as “to be suitable, appropriate, or advantageous.” By that definition I suppose I…
It was a Friday night during my very first semester of high school. I was home alone and was settling down to watch Netflix with my cat Pumpkin. Just as I had picked a show, I heard a car horn blaring. I peeked through my window; my cousin Alex and two of his friends, Trevor and Mercedes, were in the driveway, Alex blasting his truck’s horn. I groaned and went outside. “What the fuck do you want?”
“It’s Friday the thirteenth!” Alex screamed. He and his friends let out a whoop, and Trevor leaned over to blare the truck’s horn.
“Jesus fucking Christ Alex, it’s ten thirty. The neighbors are going to call the cops!” He lived right next door to me, so he knew how pissed off the neighbors got with loud noises.
“We’re going to the elementary school!” Alex shouted. “Want in?”
“What are you doing there?” I rolled my eyes.
“We’re contacting the ghost!” Mercedes shouted. She was hanging out one of the back windows. Trevor blared the horn again and she whooped, nearly falling.
I rolled my eyes again. Kids used to say the elementary school was haunted. While my friends would get scared when the older kids told them obviously fake ghost stories, I would roll my eyes and drag my friends away. Alex had been one of those older kids to tell the stories, of course.
“Wanna come?” Alex shouted.
“We brought snacks!” Mercedes said, waving a bag of Doritos.
“And weed!” Trevor said, reaching over to blare the horn again. A light in the house across the street turned on.
“I’m gonna call Auntie.” I turned around; Pumpkin was staring at me through the door, begging for me to come back in and give him cuddles.
“We’ll tell your mom about the weed you bought off of Allison!” Mercedes shouted, nearly falling out of the truck again.
I whirled around. “How the fuck do you know about that?”
“She’s my dealer too,” Alex said, smirking. “She said you let her cheat off of you during your last math test as payment.”
“Oooooooo cheater, cheater pumpkin eater!” Trevor teased.
“Aunt Maggie and Uncle Ken would love to hear that,” Alex continued. “Their precious baby Cara is a druggie and a cheater!”
I groaned inwardly. Most likely, my parents wouldn’t believe Alex. But was that a risk I was going to take? I sighed. “Give me a sec.” I ran inside, grabbed my sweater, and gave Pumpkin a little bit more food.
“Why do you even want me?” I asked, climbing into the back of the weed-smelling truck.
Mercedes slid out of the window and plopped down next to me. “What if we see a ghost? No one would believe us if you didn’t confirm, you goody little two-shoes, you!”
♦ ♦ ♦
“We probably can’t go in,” I said as we pulled into the school’s long driveway. “There’s alarms.”
“Relax, Cara,” Alex said as he drove towards the flag pole. “We’re fine.”
“We’ll park right in front of the doors, ’k?” Trevor said reassuringly, smiling at me.
The four of us hopped out of the truck. I had to admit, the school looked creepy as fuck in the dark.
“I’ve missed this place!” Mercedes exclaimed, clapping her hands, her gold bangles clanging together. “So many memories!”
“Alright, let’s go look for some ghosts!” Alex exclaimed. Mercedes and Trevor let out a whoop.
“Jesus,” I mumbled as we walked towards the doors. The school was set far back from the road, but I’m pretty sure anyone could hear us.
Trevor went in first. He opened the door; no alarms.
He let out a whoop. “Oh yeah! We’re in business!”
“Why aren’t there any alarms?” I wondered out loud as the rest of us followed him into the large foyer.
“Who cares?” Alex replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Let’s go.”
We walked the short distance to the library, which kids used to say was the “most haunted.” It was just as I remembered: big and comforting. I ran my hand over the books. Some of them I recognized; others were new.
Alex, Trevor, and Mercedes sat down at a table and turned on their music.
“Someone’s probably gonna hear!” I shouted over the screaming death metal.
“Relax!” Alex shouted back. “We’re fine.”
“Just turn it down!”
He sighed dramatically, but turned it down. I rolled my eyes and continued scanning the books. I saw the computer lab and decided to wander there to see if it had changed at all.
I heard something drop. A book had fallen off one of the shelves. I picked it up, flipped through it a little bit, and then put it back on the shelf. I continued walking, looking at all the books. Then I heard another book fall. I couldn’t find it at first, but when I walked back to the computer lab I found it. It was the same book.
I wedged it between two other books, hoping it wouldn’t fall again. From behind me, another book fell. I suddenly felt nervous and started speed-walking away; what if it was a ghost? I rounded the corner and —
I screamed. Mercedes laughed.
“A little nervous, chica?” she teased. “I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts!”
I scrambled to find something to say. Mercedes laughed again and hugged me.
“Come join us, scaredy cat,” she said, pulling on my arm.
“I’m fine,” I mumbled, but she ignored me and dragged me back to the boys.
Alex was rummaging through his bag. He finally pulled out an Ouija board.
“I thought Auntie made you return that,” I said.
“Well, I didn’t,” he said. “Does everyone know how to do this?”
“I’m not doing it,” I said, crossing my arms.
“Everyone has to,” Trevor insisted. “Unless you want to get possessed!”
. I rolled my eyes. As Alex was droning on about the rules, I looked down at his phone to see what song was playing. Zombies by Lacuna Coil; seemed fitting…
The phone suddenly turned off.
“Cara, what did you do?” Alex shouted. “Just because you don’t like the music, doesn’t mean you can shut it off!”
“I didn’t do it!” I argued. “I wasn’t even touching it.”
“It was at eighty-nine percent last time I checked,” Alex fired back. “Phones at eighty-nine percent don’t just randomly shut off.”
“Well, if they’re broken they probably do.”
“It’s not broken. I just got it last month.”
“Relax,” Mercedes soothed. “Maybe it is broken.”
“It’s not…” Alex muttered.
“Can we just do this?” Trevor asked. “Everyone, touch the planchette.”
Against my better judgment, I did. Trevor cleared his throat dramatically and began: “Is anyone here with us tonight?” For a minute, nothing happened. Then the planchette moved to “yes.” I rolled my eyes; one of them was obviously moving it.
“What’s your name?” Mercedes asked excitedly, leg bouncing. We waited a minute, but the planchette didn’t move.
“Can’t think of one?” I asked Trevor, who just rolled his eyes.
“How old are you?” Alex asked. Again we waited a minute, and again nothing happened.
“Wanna ask something, Cara?” Trevor offered.
I rolled my eyes, but decided to humor him. “Why are you still here?”
We didn’t have to wait. The planchette moved towards H and then E… H-E-L-P-M-E.
“Help me…” Mercedes murmured. We exchanged uneasy glances. The planchette kept spelling it out. The room felt colder.
“Ha ha, very funny,” I said. I was trying not to look scared, but deep down I was terrified.
“I’m not doing anything,” Trevor muttered. I could tell he wasn’t lying; his eyes were wide and full of fear.
I wanted to take my hands off, but I couldn’t move. None of us could move. The planchette kept spelling out “help me.” The room was getting colder; I could see my breath.
“Fuck this,” Alex grunted. He gritted his teeth and dragged the planchette towards “goodbye.” It looked like he was fighting something; a vein bulged out of his forehead and sweat was beading down his face. After five minutes of fighting, he won. The moment the planchette hit “goodbye,” we could move again. Alex jumped back, rubbing his hands.
“Dude… what is that?” Trevor asked.
I whirled around. Outside in the hall was a light. It floated down the hall, out of our view.
“Aw yeah; there’s our ghost!” Alex jumped up and ran out the door, the Ouija board incident forgotten. The rest of us followed him, but we were a bit more hesitant.
We ran down the hall to a classroom. We could see the light through a small window next to the door. It wasn’t moving.
“M…maybe it’s someone tricking us?” I suggested. I rubbed my arms; it was cool outside but in here it felt like a Swedish winter.
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” Alex jiggled the lock, not seeming the least bit nervous. “Hey Mercedes, don’t you know how to pick a lock?”
“Guys…” I began.
“Maybe we should just snap a pic and go,” Mercedes said quickly. She too was rubbing her arms. “We have our proof. Let’s just go.”
“C’mon, let’s get a better look!” Alex insisted, still jiggling the doorknob.
“Just a quick look?” Trevor asked. He looked like he was going to throw up; his dark skin had become a shade lighter.
“Just a quick look.” Alex winked at him. “Promise.”
Mercedes bent down hesitantly. She picked the lock with a bobby pin, hands shaking. When she succeeded, she feigned excitement. “H… here we go I guess!”
Alex opened the door, slowly. Curiosity won us over and we peered around him to see. I wish I hadn’t…
Mercedes screamed. In front of us was a… woman? I couldn’t really tell; it was so skinny that I could see all of its bones. Some of its bones literally jutted out from it, skin and black blood clinging to them. It only had a few strands of long, wispy hair. Its mouth was a gaping, black hole; a low screech was emanating from it. It had no eyes, only black, bleeding holes, and a torn nose.
We were out of there in a flash, trying to run towards the foyer. But it seemed to be around each corner we rounded and in front of each door we tried to leave through. Its low screech seemed to be in my head as we ran around the school.
It chased us through the gym, Mercedes slipping on the slippery floor. Trevor ran back to her as the thing stumbled closer and closer. Alex and I kept running, my heart racing. We ran to the doors at the end, but they were locked. Mercedes and Trevor reached us and we all desperately tried to push them open.
Trevor was the first to give up on the doors. He ran to the doors leading to the hall, the rest of us following him. We were in the cafeteria, running towards the door leading to our freedom. I could see the truck outside; so close yet so very far away.
And the thing was blocking our way, yet again. I was frozen in place as the others ran past me, staring into its holes for eyes. It sounded like it was trying to say something.
Someone grabbed my shoulder, causing me to scream. It was Alex, and before I knew it we were running towards the foyer. And there it was again.
We ran into the library and towards the emergency exit, but it was locked. Alex and Trevor threw themselves at it desperately. Mercedes and I were screaming as the thing stumbled closer and closer to us.
“FOYER!” Alex screamed, pushing me between two bookcases. I ran as fast as I could, the other three close behind me. But when we reached the door, it was there.
“Fuck this shit!” Trevor shouted. He grabbed a chair and threw it at the creature. It screeched and disappeared, and we ran out of the library and to the foyer.
We finally tore out of the school, its alarms blaring. I tripped, and Mercedes grabbed me. We stumbled towards the truck. Alex reached it first; he ripped the door open and jumped in, trying to turn it on. It wouldn’t start. Just as I reached the truck, it roared to life. Before I was fully in, Alex took off.
I dared to look back. I got a glimpse of the thing trying to follow us, stumbling towards the speeding truck on broken feet, a bone jutting out of its left leg. And then we were on the road, speeding towards our street, knowing that thing will haunt our dreams for the rest of our lives. Fearing that we would become like it once we died.
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