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Apr 29, 2021

Horror High School Mystery

The boney finger of Miss Wellington rattled against the plastic board she had placed on her desk. With the deliberate placement of her table, as you entered Lindfall Public Library, the sign was, for most, the first thing they would see on arrival.

Young Tony and Miguel were standing in front of the irate woman as she again listed the library's rules.

Rule 1 - NO Food or Drink inside the library

Rule 2 - NO talking while inside the library

Rule 3 - Books must be returned to their designated shelf space

Rule 4 - Books must be treated with extra care at all times

...

The rules continued on for a further six. The total of ten was likely a deliberate attempt at her devising of a personal Ten Commandments. 

The board was placed aside a small wooden plaque that almost expressed pure irony if you read it immediately afterward.

The staff here welcome you to Lindfall Public Library.

The pair of boys were sent off back to the rest of their friends, who had started to sing the Town's old chant of the librarian.

Old and evil, mean Miss Wellington, 

gonna steal your soul and turn you into skeletons, 

take your bones and make them into gelatin,

serve you for lunch, and then you're never seen again.

The verse was usually shouted, but on this occasion, they were keeping their voices low. Neither of them wished to receive the same treatment their friends had just gotten.

"What did you even do, man?" asked Kenny.

"His fault," Tony said while nodding his head towards Miguel to pass blame.

"Not my fault you got embarrassed cause your wannabe girlfriend walked past," Miguel replied.

"Look, can we just forget about Cassidy and get this damn project finished so we can get the hell out of here."

Silently the boys all agreed, and they began turning their attention back to the task. Neither of them wanted to be here on a Saturday afternoon. More importantly, though, Tony definitely didn't want to be here with Miss Wellington staring over at him all the time.

Once the boys stopped messing around and focused on the school project, Tony was glad to say that they were done within a couple of hours. After gathering up their supplies, the six of them began heading for the door.

"Hi, Tony," The shy high-pitched voice of Cassidy stopping the lovesick boy in his stride.

The other guys continued their march, unaware that Tony wasn't beside them as they left.

"Um, h-hi. Hi Cassidy," Tony could already feel himself starting to sweat under her stare. "How is, um, the, ah. How is the project going?"

"Urgh, it's so boring. Why did Mrs. Clearhill set such a stupid assignment anyway?"

"Yeah, I know, right," Tony's heart was racing more now as he stared into her blue eyes, "Who cares about this stuff anyway."

"Exactly. I swear she gives us these assignments because she has nothing better to do at the weekend, so why should we have fun." Cassidy took hold of a misbehaving lock of hair between her fingers and brushed it back behind her ear.

Tony felt a slight wobble in his knees as he watched the act —a deliberate but innocent one— but managed to stay upright. "How are you all getting on?"

"Meh, barely made a start. Jessica's been having issues with her boyfriend cheating on her."

"How you boys getting on?"

Tony revealed they had already finished.

Cassidy looked up at him with an open mouth.

"God, you're so lucky. Hey, can I switch over to your group?" She said jokingly.

"Switch? I mean, sure, yeah. If you think it would be allowed."

"It isn't," chimed up Megan, not even taking her eyes off her book. In fact, Tony noted, she was the only one who didn't have her head pointed towards their phone. "Teacher picked the groups. She said no switching." Megan was the class's top student, 4.0 average, and clearly not happy with her assigned project partners.

"Jeez, Megs, I was only kidding."

"It's Megan," she retorted back, uncaring to what the attitude might do to her non-existent standing in the clique.

Help Me, Cassidy mimed, but his laughing response was not as silent.

"Mr. Painter," the shrill voice of Wellington carried across the room. "If you are finished here, I'll ask you to stop disturbing the other patrons and rejoin your…companions… outside."

"Oops, Busted," Cassidy said, turning back in her seat with a smile.

Tony tried, as he did almost every day when he passed her at her locker in the school halls to finally ask Cassidy for a date. Three strong breathes in, and he made a step forward, ready to overcome his fear. "Um, Cassidy…"

"Mr. Painter, I will not tell you again. Leave those ladies alone and go." Miss Wellington demanded as she pointed the all too familiar boney finger towards the door.

Outside the library, the sun was shining bright to the point it stung Tony's eyes as he stepped out of the building's shadow.

Miguel was waiting outside, smoking a cigarette and checking through the social feeds of a girl he had been coveting —from afar.

"Where'd everyone go?" Tony inquired.

"Jack convinced them to head into town," Miguel stuttered out while exhaling a smog of smoke like a dragon guarding his treasure. "How'd it go with Cass?"

"Damn, Wellington kicked me out."

"Oh man, that's brutal," stifling a laugh while trying to be supportive.

"Y'know, sometimes, I think someone needs to properly mess with her. Teach her a lesson. Get her to stop picking on us."

"Picking on you, you mean."

"Yeah. No. I mean no, picking on everyone."

"Well, good luck, man. You know what they say happens to kids that cross her too many times."

"Jeez. Don't tell me you believe that rubbish."

"What. That multiple children in this Town have gone missing over the years? That there are no pictures of Wellington anywhere because she's actually been here since the Town was founded and never aged a day? Or, maybe, that she wanders the library all night with the ghosts of the children she took?"

Miguel stepped off the lamppost he was leaning on in his best James Dean pose and flicked his cigarette end out his hand. Getting a reasonable distance, he exhaled the final hit of smoke he had taken.

"Of course I don't, ya dork," Miguel said while brofully punching Tony in the arm.

Tony punched him back, slightly softer than Miguel's tensed bicep could deliver. "Good. Then you won't mind coming back with me tonight."

The library stood in stark contrast to how it looked when the boys were here this afternoon. 

The gothic architecture of the historic building, one of the first to be built in Lindfall, initially held the Town's hall. Half a century ago, when the hall was moved, the building became this library and has remained almost unchanged in aesthetic since that day.

"So, what's the plan here?" Miguel enquired. 

"We're gonna give Wellington a bash of reality. She likes everything to be so damn perfect," answered Tony.

Miguel looked at his friend, puzzled by his attitude. 

"So, just how do you plan on us getting in. This place looks as locked up as Alcatraz."

"Cass left the girl's toilet window unlocked so we can get in."

"Bro, are you serious about this? We're not talking about egging the windows or trashing the walls. You're suggesting we break-in."

"Hey. Wellington has it coming. The bitch thinks she can just mess with us all day because no one will stand up to her."

"And this is standing up to her?"

"Damn right it is. Follow me around the side so we can get in."

"Did Cassidy even tell you if she did?"

"No idea, haven't heard back."

As promised, Cassidy did indeed leave the window unlocked. She was smart enough to make sure it was closed flush to not raise suspicion when Wellington did her final rounds. With the support of a nearby trashcan, both boys made their way inside and quietly through the bathroom.

Miguel remarked to himself how the old adage of 'the girl's bathroom being nicer than the boys was spot on. Everything meant to be white was still white, no grubby urinals lined the walls — obviously — and neither of them was sticking to the floor as they crossed it.

With the area empty of all other occupants, it seemed three times the size of normal.

"Dude. I don't think this is a good idea," Miguel's tongue was stuttering to shape out the words.

"We're not turning back now. C'mon, follow me."

Miguel released a quiet sigh before hesitantly making his way behind his friend.

Tony led them over to the reception desk. Even without the intimidating figure of Wellington behind the desk, the library entrance still didn't feel as welcoming as the city had hoped.

Miguel was about to raise his objection to the situation once more, but before he got a chance, Tony had taken the librarian's rule board and snapped it in half. The weak, white plastic came apart, far simpler than Tony had expected, and as such, he rubbed his knuckles to ease the pain from them coming together with force meant solely for the board.

"Right. We done?" Tony asked while scanning the room from East to West and back again.

"Not even close. C'mon, give me a hand."

Miguel barely recognized his friend anymore. Tony was acting as if possessed. Using both hands, he was pulling entire collections of books from their shelves. The hardback novels were making a loud thud as they fell, even though their landing was carpet. Once most of the books were off the portable displays, Tony climbed atop and, using his weight, pulled the wooden furniture straight to the ground.

"Dude, did you hear that?"

Miguel was sure he could hear a females voice coming from the darkness. Using his iPhone torch, he swayed it back and forth, but this did nothing more than create more shadows.

Tony, ignoring his friend, continued his reign of destruction. Posters were torn into pieces and stationary pots, usually stationed on desks for the younger children to use, were completely empty of their contents.

Hey guys, come here.

Miguel heard the girl's voice again, but this time it was clear enough for him to make out what was said.

"Tony, I'm serious. There's someone else here. What if it's Wellington?"

"Stop being such a wimp, man. There's nobody here."

From across the room, Miguel heard a series of bangs, as if someone smashing two metal bars against each other. That was enough for him. Not one to ever believe in ghosts; he was smart enough to know that whatever was making those noises was perfectly capable of escaping those shadows and coming for him.

"Tony, I'm done. This is crazy. You wanna stay here until the cops show up; that's your choice. I'm outta here."

"Whatever, man. You wanna ditch then ditch. I'll see ya later."

Miguel walked away from his friend, thinking that he didn't like this side of Tony. Usually, he was the one you could rely on in a jam — not this Tony though it seemed.

Miguel had been outside the library now for over thirty minutes. He had smoked four cigarettes, and as he inhaled the pleasant menthol taste into his mouth, he repeated to himself the same mantra.

Okay, I'll give him until this smoke. If he ain't out by then, I'm going.

Reciting the phrase did not convince his brain that he could walk away, leaving his friend. After trying to get a hold of Tony on his cell multiple times, he reluctantly decided. I gotta go back in.

Impossibly the library felt darker. The destruction left behind by Tony was evident under the moonlight beaming through the skylight above the entrance. 

Calling out for his friend as he made his way, Miguel slowly but as confidently as his shaking legs would allow, continued through the library.

There was silence ahead of him everywhere he went. His torch was barely lighting more than a few feet in front of him, but it was the best he had at this point.

Hehehe

The voice once more coming from the darkness caught him off guard. Just as he had when he heard it the first time tonight, he weighed the option of turning around and fleeing. Not this time, though, he said to himself. 

A few steps more, and the voice came again.

Miguellll. Miguelll

Somehow the trailing L being uttered in his name made it sound more horrifying than he had heard it said before.

Hehehe

Something was wrong. The voice this time had moved. It was behind him. Spinning on his heels, Miguel shone the torch beam behind him in every area it could reach.

Nothing but darkness again.

Someone was messing with him. He called out for Tony once more and still heard no response. Truly willing to accept the discovery of anyone there with him, he called out for Miss Wellington, no response from her either.

Miguel turned back to his original direction and, in that very instant, had his desire, and greatest fear hit him at once.

Standing in front of him not more than one foot from him stood Cassidy. She was as beautiful as she was this afternoon sitting at her desk but right now, she had the most devilish smile on her face. Her skin was perfect, but Miguel couldn't help but be reminded of that one scene from The Evil Dead movie— the original one, that is.

"Cassidy. Jesus. You scared the crap out of me."

"Boo!" She said, smiling once more. "Oh, I gotcha good."

"Damn right you did. What you doing here? Where's Tony?"

Cassidy took Miguel's phone from him and held the light up towards her face.

"Tony is gone," she said while letting out a throaty laugh you would expect from a mad scientist.

"What?"

"Oh, relax. Jeez. Tony's in the staff room over in the back. When he told me what he was going to do, I stayed behind after Wellington locked up so I can see if he actually did it."

"You've been here by yourself for hours? Weren't you scared?"

"Nah. Guess we're not all baby's like you, hah." Cassidy handed Miguel his phone back and told him to follow her over to where Tony was.

Lucky for Miguel, she knew where she was going. He was lost in amongst the bookcases and seating areas still shrouded in the dark.

Cassidy led him over to a wall near the back of the library. A bookcase had been rolled out from the wall, and a large brown door was where the case once stood.

"The staff room is behind a bookcase?" Miguel asked.

"Meh. Guess old Wellington likes to keep it a secret. Let's go; there's a lot in there."

Miguel approached the door with some courage he was not aware of, but it certainly helped press him on.

The door opened with a squeal as if its hinges hadn't been oiled in decades. Stepping into the room, Miguel had no idea what he was seeing. This was no staff room. It was a classroom. A cobwebbed blackboard sat against the wall, directly in front of rows and rows of desks. The desks were spotless but what made even less sense to him was, almost every desk was occupied.

Rows and rows of students sat staring ahead at the empty board, each with their hands clasped on the wooden top.

Miguel spotted Tony sitting six seats away from the door and ran over to him, leaving his guide in the doorway. He shouted his name and shook him with great force, but Tony's gaze never left the blackboard. 

"TONY!" Miguel shotted, "Tony, what the hell are you doing? Let's get out of here."

"Shhh," came from the occupant of the neighboring desk.

"Shut up. I gotta get my friend…" 

Miguel looked up at the girl interrupting his attempts. So far, she was the only one to offer any change in attitude. Miguel almost fell backward at what he saw.

Pushing out a further Shhh and pressing her index finger onto her blue lips was Cassidy.

"Oh God," he said, quickly stepping back from the pair. Cassidy turned back towards the board and clasped her hands back as they were before. "What the hell is going on?"

Turning around, Miguel expected to have to make a dash for the door. Completely unaware of what may be on the other side lurking in the shadows, but almost certain it couldn't be worse than this. 

What stood in his way stopped that from being an option. Stood between him and his escape was Miss Wellington. She eased forward towards him and smiled as she tilted her head to the one side.

Miguel was frozen. Either it was fear or something supernatural; regardless, he was defenseless in protecting himself as she reached out towards him and rested her bony hand upon his shoulder. With her spare hand, she mimicked the action by Cassidy. While still hearing the hiss of the command leaving her lips, Miguel found himself trapped, immovable, and positioned directly aside Tony.

Miguel's hands clasped as everyone else's on the desk in front of him.

No matter how many children recited her song.

The children sat there forever. No one knew where to look for them; no one would expect the harmless librarian. Forever, sitting forward, forever obeying the rules.

Old and evil, mean Miss Wellington, 

gonna steal your soul and turn you into skeletons, 

take your bones and make them into gelatin,

serve you for lunch, and then you're never seen again.

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