Ashes to Ashes Page 31


If he was a demon like Oldman said some believed, and he fed off of hate and fear, he’d have an endless food supply at this hospital, especially if what Shawna said was true. Was there really patient abuse, nurses killing off young ailing TB victims in order to make room for others during the epidemic? It wouldn’t have been the first time it happened, but to imagine sick children with no hope being tossed into a fire or smothered with a pillow, like Elliot was supposedly, it got me deep inside.

I looked around the teachers’ lounge again, paranoid that maybe some other child would be in the room with me, another child like Shawna with a deal with the devil and an obvious vendetta, but everything looked normal again.

I couldn’t stay in here. I didn’t care about my pride or my point. With shaking hands I gathered up my blanket and the camera I’d never turned on, and cautiously made my way to the door.

I poked my head out. The hallway looked empty. I stepped out, looking both ways.

Down by the washroom I saw Rebecca walking toward it. She stopped halfway, looking over her shoulder at me for a moment before she continued and disappeared through the door. I walked back into the nurses’ quarters, wondering if I was being selfish by being upset over her and Dex when here she was pregnant and feeling alone

Dex was lying on his side in bed, his eyes watching me and glinting in the low light. I couldn’t look at him, not now. I wanted to ask if he had heard anything, heard me screaming for help, but I could only assume he didn’t. Dex was loyal and protective to the core. If he heard anything wrong, he would have been there for me.

I ignored his stare and made my way over to my bed.

That’s when I noticed the silhouette of someone in Rebecca’s bed next to me.

Fuck.

Before I could think about it, dwell on it, get scared about it, I poked my head around the curtain and to my surprise saw Rebecca, in the flesh, sitting up in her bed and looking at me with sad, wet eyes.

“Sorry, Perry,” she whispered. When I didn’t respond and could only stare at her dumbfounded, she lay back down in her bed, turning over on her side.

What the damn ass hell was going on? One minute I see Rebecca going to the washroom, the other she’s back in her bed. I stewed on that as I climbed into my bed, dragging the blanket up to my chin. This place really was fucking with me, and now I was in bed between my two friends and partners, both of whom were intimate with each other at one point, both of whom had kept something major out of my life, both of whom I was mad at.

And both of whom were the only people in this place that I could ever trust.

I didn’t sleep a wink for the rest of the night.

I didn’t think any of us did.

***

“Are you sure you’re up for this?” Dex asked Brenna as she puttered about her classroom, putting art supplies away.

She waved at him dismissively, a big smile on her face. “Oh, don’t you worry about me. I feel right as rain. Just a quick stomach bug, as nasty as it is. Speaking of rain,” she turned to look out the windows where the trees were waving in the wind and dark, ominous clouds rolling in, “it looks like it’s going to downpour any minute.”

It was third period and Brenna was back at school teaching, but not without offering to accompany me, Dex, and Rebecca throughout the school to any of the floors we wanted to visit while she had a spare hour. Davenport was still being extra strict, and though she never knew we had gone into the body chute or the playground last night, we knew we only had one more night at this place and didn’t want to risk pissing her off. Supervision it was.

That morning the three of us had woken up short-tempered and fuzzy-headed from lack of sleep. With dark circles under our eyes and a pasty pallor, we looked no different than Elliot or Shawna. I was still mad, or at least uncomfortable, around Dex and Rebecca, and they seemed equally awkward around each other. In short, it was pretty much the worst morning ever, made worse by the weather taking a nasty turn.

I never told them about my dream, nor what happened in the teachers’ lounge after I woke up. Dex tried a few times to break the ice, and though I felt my defenses melting down every time, it still wasn’t enough. We’d been to places before where it felt like outside forces were fucking with us and making us turn against each other, like D’Arcy Island, and it didn’t seem wrong to say this place was doing the same kind of thing. Maybe all the years of death, anger, murder, and loneliness builds up and seeps into you. I looked around at the children who were going to and from their classes, and even though they looked to be okay, you could see the irritability in their teachers’ faces, as if something was permanently hanging over them, a net waiting to drop.

In my opinion, the net was the floors above the school, the ones that housed all the horror. There could be no peace here, not while so many injustices happened, tragedies that were supposedly buried and never saw the light of day. I thought about Oldman and his grandmother, whom he knew would never hurt a fly. I wondered if that were true, and if so, if she knew of others that did do such a thing. The wrongs that were made in this place would have been insurmountable.

“Brenna,” I said cautiously as she nervously tugged on the ends of her sweater. “Before we get started, do you mind if we ask you a question?”

I knew Rebecca and Dex had no idea about this so I quickly launched into it before anyone had a chance to say no.

“The other day when we were interviewing you, you were going to tell us about the time you saw the bad thing. You never did. Do you mind telling us now?”

“Now?” she questioned. “Right before we head up into its usual territory?”

“We saw the thing last night,” I said simply without looking at Dex. “I don’t think it has a territory anymore. I think it’s off leash and running loose.”

Brenna’s face contorted pitifully. “Oh dear. I wish you hadn’t said that. I’ll never be able to get any work done. Sometimes I stay after school to work on projects and…”

“The sooner we know more about it,” I said, venturing into unknown territory myself, “maybe the sooner the ghosts will be gone for good. Either the school will get recognition from the episode and parents will demand a new school, or we can help you.”

“Perry,” Dex warned.

I ignored him. I knew I was shooting my mouth off. I knew when we first met Brenna that she had assumed we were ghost whisperers and that we could get rid of the problem. I still didn’t think that was true, but if we could, it was definitely worth a shot. And it all started with understanding what we were dealing with.

Brenna leaned back against the radiator heater and crossed her arms. She sighed, a piece of curly hair flying off of her face. “Okay. I’ll tell you. But I’ll make it quick because it’s not something I like to relive.” I gave her an attentive nod, trying to tell her that I knew exactly how she felt. “I was teaching my class how to do a multi-media collage, using paint as well as day to day materials such as paper, dirt, and twigs. I wanted to do something different though, something that would challenge their minds and mix up their environment. I decided we would pay a visit to the second floor. It was a week when Davenport was away, and I made sure that none of the teachers knew about it. The floors really can be a hazard. So much upstairs is falling apart or structurally unsound. But I figured the second floor would be okay.”

She looked nervous but continued as rain began to pelt the windows and the morning light dimmed, making it look like evening outside. “We were only two rooms down from the staircase. I wanted the kids to take materials they’d found upstairs and bring them down here, and find a way to incorporate pieces of history into a project about this place. Well, it was going fine until Jody wandered off.”

That damn Jody.

“It took me a second to realize she was gone,” she continued. “I should have been watching her more closely; I knew that she’d probably find Elliot and try to play with him. I left the kids for a moment and went after her, searching down the hall. I came to one of the rooms that had a closet and I could see her tiny footprints in the dust, leading to there. The closet door was even open a touch. I called out her name, quietly, not wanting to alert the other kids, then I opened the door. The closet was somehow filled with coats of all different shapes and sizes. Old coats that had probably never been cleared out, belonging to the staff. One of the coats moved slightly, like Jody was in there, trying to hide behind it.”

She took in a deep breath and pushed her hair off her face. “I called for her first. I told her I found her and if she didn’t come out, she’d be in big trouble. But she didn’t answer. And so I went into the closet after her. The doors immediately shut on me, locking me in. I was trapped and I knew, I knew that Jody had never been in there to begin with. I tried to open the door, pushing my weight against it, trying the handle, doing everything I could without drawing attention to myself. Then I felt hot breath on my neck, and long hands around my waist…”

I nearly swallowed my tongue trying to imagine that, the fear she must have felt. It was all over Brenna’s face. She angrily wiped away a falling tear with her hand. “And then I started yelling for the children, all while this thing…had me. It was whispering in my ear all these words that I knew were cruel but I didn’t understand, and I almost lost my mind. But then Jody yelled something from outside the closet, something like “leave her alone,” and the door opened and I came falling out onto the floor. We immediately went back downstairs, and I was so shaken, I almost quit right then and there. To make matters worse, when we walked back into my classroom, one of the easels was standing in the middle of the room. I know it had been bare when I left, but now it had a painting on it. A black, human-like creature with white eyes and very long arms and legs. Jody pointed at it and said, ‘Look, Miss Brenna. That was in the closet with you.’” She looked at us with worried eyes. “I never found who painted it, but I assume it was Elliot or Shawna. Anyway, I tore up the painting and lit it on fire. I never wanted to see it again. And I haven’t seen it—the bad thing—since.”

While I felt almost immobile from the fear, Dex said to Brenna, “Are you sure you want to take us upstairs then?”

She nodded. “I can’t live in fear. The fear makes me sick, you know. I’m often getting terrible migraines or stomach aches. When I spend the day at home, even if I’m in the worst pain, I feel at peace. I feel safe.”

I frowned. “Maybe this isn’t a good idea.”

She straightened up and put on a brave face. “No sense in hiding. Besides, if you guys are there, and you’re more, um, ghost-friendly than I am, I don’t think they’ll be as interested in me.”

She was probably right about that. If the bad thing or Shawna were to show up again, they’d be bee-lining it straight for me, Perry Palomino, ghost magnet. I was like the highly sought after call girl of the supernatural. A whore for the unhappily deceased.

With that, the four of us gathered our wits and left the room. As we approached the stairway, Dex pulled me aside.

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