Monday, October 31, 2016

Another Boring Day

“Officer Johnson, we have a report of some disturbances at the junior high. Could you please check it out?”
                Rolling his eyes, Brady Johnson leaned over and picked up his radio. “This is Officer Johnson. Officer Lewis and I are on our way. What are we checking out?”
                “The caller was unclear,” the dispatcher replied. “She reported strange sounds coming from the building and occasional lights through some of the windows.”
                “Ten-four. We’re on our way.”
                Brady hung up before turning to his new partner. “You’ll learn to hate working Halloween after a couple of years. Since people are wearing masks, they think they can get away with all kinds of stupid things. It’s probably just a couple teens trying to get some tricks in since they’re too old to go out for treats.”
                Officer Lewis nodded.
                The police car pulled into the parking lot in front of the building. Unlike daytime hours, no cars dotted the asphalt. The hulking structure looked foreboding, especially as the wind picked up, whipping the remaining leaves on the trees.
                As the two men exited the vehicle, Brady said, “You go that way and walk the perimeter,” pointing toward the mountains.  “Call me on the radio if you see anything unusual. And don’t try to be a hero. You don’t have enough experience yet.”
                The two officers split directions. Brady peered through the office windows along the front of the building. He tried the front doors, but they were all locked. He continued on down the front, hopping the courtyard fence to check the doors into the lunchroom. Brady was around the back of the building when his radio crackled.
                “Johnson, I think I found something.”
                “Stay put. Where are you?”
                “I’m in the back near the east doors of the extra wing.”
                “I’ll be right there.”
                Brady jogged the remaining yards to circle around the perimeter, stopping short at Lewis. Puffing slightly, he said, “What did you find?”
                Lewis nodded toward a cracked window.
                “Good work, Lewis. That’s probably exactly how the rascals got in. I’ll boost you up and through, and then you can come open the door. But let me call it in to dispatch first.” Grabbing his radio on his uniform, Brady pressed the button and said, “Dispatch? This is Officer Johnson. We found an open window. We’re going in to check things out. Please send back-up.”
                “Confirmed, Officer Johnson. Back-up is on its way.”
                Johnson nodded, then cupped his hands together, spreading his legs wide and squatting slightly in order to support the weight. Lewis stepped into his hands with one foot, reached for the window frame, and lunged as Johnson pushed up. Grabbing the edge, Lewis shimmied his way through the narrow opening. “I’ll meet you at the door,” he called back from inside.
                As Brady walked over to the door, he was glad he was no longer the junior officer and had to climb through the window. Instead he got to order Lewis to do it.
                When both officers were inside the building, the corridor shimmered a sickly green from the reflection of the emergency exit signs. Otherwise, it was dark. The two officers moved down the hall, one on each side, checking classroom doors, and shining their flashlights through doorway windows and sidelights.
                Nothing.
                They returned to the center of the hallway where a set of metal doors led to the rest of the building. Finding themselves in the common area of the school in front of the office, Brady said, “Lewis, you go down the hall to the west. I’m going to take that hall behind us that runs east. Again, don’t try to be a hero, and radio if you find anything. Unlatch your gun, but don’t draw it unless necessary. You don’t want to accidentally shoot a kid, right?”
                Lewis’ face was almost as pale as his hair, but he nodded in agreement and turned to leave for his assignment.
                Good kid, Johnson thought. Follows orders even when he’s terrified. He turned and moved down the corridor.
                Most of the classrooms were on the north side of the hall, but he checked a couple of doors on the south as well. All locked.
                Until he reached Room 156. The latch caught as he pulled on the handle. Before opening the door, he glanced up at the name plate above it. Mrs. Thornock. Are you usually this careless, Mrs. Thornock? he thought.
                He swung the door open abruptly, flashing his light around the entire room. Nothing except for desks and books.
                Suddenly he heard a whirring sound. He swung toward the back corner where the teacher’s desk brooded. Finding nothing, he continued to scan with his light for the source of the sound. An eerie glow began in the front of the room. The screen lightened to a bright blue.
                The projector. That’s what the sound was. But why did it turn on? No one was in here. Brady shrugged. Leave it to Halloween night for a technical glitch. This was probably the source of the weird lights the caller reported.
                But what caused the sounds?
                Brady jumped when static buzzed on his radio.  “—son. Johnson come—“ The static buzzed again.
                He called to Lewis. “Lewis, what’s wrong?” More static. “Lewis?” Brady’s heart began to pump. This was the part of the job he both hated and loved – the not knowing.
                Finally a few words broke through. “Near the shop…end of hall...not sure…severed arm…” Then the static took over again.
                No matter how many times Brady called his name through the radio, Officer Lewis didn’t respond. “Hold on, Lewis, I’m on my way,” Brady replied, having no idea if his partner heard him or not.
                Brady turned back toward the door, ready to sprint through when a desk flipped itself right into his path. Stifling a scream, he jumped backward. Then the door opened and closed. Just once.
                Fearing for his partner, Brady found the courage to leap over the desk and barrel toward the door. It opened again as he reached for the handle. Struggling to control his momentum, Brady stumbled into the hallway, shiny tiles slippery beneath his feet.
                Swinging his arms to right himself, he saw a strange glow bouncing through the windows in the wall across from the classroom. He did squeal this time when a sound like tapping on the glass echoed down the shadowy corridor. Taking a deep breath and stepping carefully, Brady approached the window. Shining his light through the glass, he saw nothing but tables, chairs, and shelf upon shelf of books. As he peered with his hands cupped around his eyes and against the glass, a book flew off one of the shelves. He jerked back. Then the light reappeared nearby.
                Gulping, Brady tried the door, hoping it was locked, so he could use it as an excuse. It wasn’t. He withdrew his gun at this point and yanked the door open. A few emergency lights flickered overhead, casting dancing shadows. As he peered into the gloom, another book thumped onto the floor. Brady tried to steady his gun by gripping it tighter. The light danced and floated around the ceiling. He eased toward it.
                The light stopped in the middle of the room. As he stared at it, it began to materialize into a ghostly form. Two black holes in the midst of a semi-transparent whiteness peered back at him. Brady raised his quivering gun toward the ethereal glow.
                Static crackled across his radio again, startling both of them. The thing howled as though in pain then raced around the room, books flying from the shelves behind it. It screamed again then flew through the wall. Brady chased it across the large expanse and threw the doors open.
Fifty bats flew into his head and face, forcing him backwards. He flailed his arms, shooing the bats away. When they finally cleared, he stepped into the hallway, finding himself back at the commons area. A tall man with dark hair wearing a tuxedo stood on the top step. The man stared at Brady, then smiled slowly. As he did, two fangs slid down from his top teeth. Then the man turned and sprinted down the hall Lewis was in, running faster than Brady thought was humanly possible.
Brady followed behind, fear for his partner clutching his chest and making it hard to breathe. At the end of the hall, he found the shop classroom Lewis had mentioned. But Lewis was nowhere to be found. Instead, Brady found Lewis’ radio, green light blinking, on the floor in the middle of the room.

Brady continued across the room to the opposite door leading to the machinery. He threw the door open, a blast of cold air punching him backward. Swallowing hard, he stepped back into the room. Shining his flashlight around the room, he darted it back after passing a wall, dripping words scrawled across it. They read, “You’re in my house now.”