Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Screaming in the School (TDC Part 3)

If you are still reading this, then that means I have- to some extent- peaked your interest. However, there is a chance, if you are anything like me, that you will have some reservations about my story thus far. You could be a sceptic, who believes that I am simply creating a fantasy for the enjoyment of my readers. Or you could believe that the stories I have related so far are not truly ‘supernatural’ but merely a matter of me being deliriously paranoid and highly impressionable. Both viewpoints are entirely understandable, and if I had not lived it, I may well have shared your stance. This next instalment should address the second belief, although there is nothing I can do to convince the sceptics out there. Of course, I could ask my primary school classmates to relate the same tale to you, or I could allow my parents to tell you of the episode I had as a child, but neither would be able to prove or disprove what I heard on those nights, and therefore confirm that my tale is genuine. All I can do is continue to tell of my experiences and hope you take something from them.

That being said, this chapter was one of the most vivid and lucid supernatural experiences I can recall, which of course, makes it one of the less believable accounts.

It is easy to deny a single odd experience during childhood. Everyone goes through some strange, surreal, stage during that time, and when you grow, it becomes less of a memory and more of a dream that you once had, and can scarcely remember. However, having two or more of these experiences, especially with a similar theme and pattern- well- then it becomes somewhat harder to ignore, let alone forget. As children, we are all afraid of things that go bump in the night, when we become adults, all our fears suddenly become rational, and if they are not rational, they are dismissed as stupid. Our adult minds tell us that the monster that goes bump in the night could be any number of things: a blocked drainage pipe, a loose tile falling to the floor, a frenzied bird slamming into the window pane, but in the back of our minds, our childish voice persists, telling us it could be something more, and that there is a possibility- a tiny, miniscule possibility- that the thing that is keeping us awake, is in fact, something that needs to be feared. It’s those same fears that originating from our childhood experiences that make us afraid when we are home alone, as we walk around an empty house, glancing down a deserted, darkened corridor, or out of a window where the only thing visible is the vapid, blackness of night, fearful and terrified that there might be someone there.

The fears we know we should leave behind do not disappear; they persist in the back of our minds where the irrational is a potential reality.

So, by the time I reached high school, I wasn’t only plagued by the fears any normal teenager is faced with, but an entire array of other fears enforced by my childhood. Needless to be said, I wasn’t the most popular guy in school, I had become somewhat reserved, and was relatively weedy, though I was tormented to an extent, it was never so bad that I couldn’t cope. I was more afraid of the school itself. The building was imposing for a start, it was an old school, built at the beginning of the 20th Century, and I could have sworn the teachers were from the same time period to, it wasn’t a particularly friendly place. Galloway Hall was its title. I don’t believe it exists anymore, as with everything in life; it was removed once it became useless. Luckily, in spite of the social awkwardness, and substandard school, I found solace.

More specifically, I found a girl named Jane. She was no ordinary girl; she was like me. She had supernatural experiences when she was a child, hers even more vivid than mine, every night for two whole years a shadow had stood over her bed, just watching. She would hear crying, and laughter, and footsteps, and breathing around the house where there should have been nothing but silence. Eventually she changed homes, the noises stopped, but the shadow tailed her as if it were her own. As the years passed, the shadow became less and less present, eventually disappearing altogether, although should Jane be believed, she claimed it was always with her, even though she had not seen it in years.

The difference lay in our beliefs, I remained a sceptic, whereas she believed in the supernatural, she would read all the ghost stories- fiction or 'fact'- and devour them with a burning passion, she craved the truth behind the unexplainable, and deliberately sought it out. I was content to live in ignorance, for while I did not believe in ghosts and spirits and the rest, I did fear what could happen where ghosts and spirits were concerned. How could I not? I had experienced their power first hand.

Sometime during the first term of our second year at Galloway Hall, Jane proposed we sneak into the school at night and explore. She said she could 'feel it in her bones' that there was a mysterious history to the place; some dreadful secret buried. ‘I can feel it in the rooms, can't you?’ she said, ‘they are always so cold- and there’s this sadness that kind of clings to the walls.’ My fear of the unknown was overcome by the fact I was smitten with her. So I agreed.

The school, as I have said, was old, and subsequently was practically crumbling and even falling to pieces in certain areas. This made it laughably easy to break in, there were whole sections with cracks big enough to fit several people through, never mind the vast amount of ladders and scaffolding littered around the building left from unfinished repair work. We entered through a smashed window on the second floor; a ladder conveniently placed only a few metres away from the makeshift entrance. The first thing we noticed as we stepped inside was the silence. Most buildings have some form of heating systems, drainage systems, water supply, power supply etc. Galloway Hall didn’t seem to have any, we knew of course that it did- it must- but it must have all been shut down at night, because there wasn’t a whisper to be heard anywhere.

“Jane- this is dangerous- if any of this old scaffolding breaks, we’re done for!”

“Don’t be such a-“ Jane's foot slipped and she wobbled precariously over the edge, threatening to fall to the ground floor, as I rushed to catch her she began to laugh wildly, “Gotcha.”  


We made our way through the deserted corridors, the silence persisting as we continued onward. Each room we looked inside seemed surreal. Anyone who has ever visited a school night will know the feeling, it is not a feeling of fear, but more like of misplacement. As a student there is an ingrained sense of school being another world entirely, and that when school hours are over and you return home,the school, along with all of the teachers and classrooms, disappears from reality, only to return the following morning when school time comes around again. Being in a classroom at night therefore, is much like meeting a teacher outside of school, it feels somehow wrong. That feeling grew more and more intense with every classroom we visited. Not only that, after exiting each room and returning to the corridors, they seemed to continue on for longer, they stretched out further and the bends and corners were sharper. Maybe it was a sense of claustrophobia gripping us or maybe something else entirely, but the more time ticked by, the longer it seemed to take us to reach the end of each corridor.

“What are we even looking for, Jane?”

“I’ll know when we find it.”

“So in other words- you have no idea.”

We entered the main hall and listened to our footsteps and our breathing echo through the dust-filled darkness, our torches barely powerful enough to illuminate the ceiling the sound reverberated on. We had been there for almost an hour and there was nothing but empty space and silence. There was something so sorrowful and solemn seeing the school deserted, I could feel a sense of sadness descending upon me as I looked around at the empty tables and chairs. Jane looked equally sad, but I believe that was more down to the fact that she felt disappointed, as well as defeated. We were going to head back when we heard something.

Normally, the sound would have gone unnoticed, it was so distant and subtle, but due to the fact we had grown accustomed to the almost unnatural silence of the place, it may have well have been the fire alarm. Scratching.

“It came from over there” Jane whispered, clearly afraid that any loud noises would startle whatever the source of the sound was. We made our way to the source as silently as we could. It grew louder and clearer; Clearer and louder and more urgent. It sounded desperate. It sounded hopeless, like nails on a chalkboard- no- it was nails on a chalkboard. Definitely. Someone was scratching away their nails against the harsh, solid surface of the board. 

We reached a door. The sound was behind it. As we placed our ear next to the wood of the door it suddenly shook violently and the scratching moved to an inch away from us. Someone was clawing at the other side of the door, trying to reach us, desperately longing to be the free of that room.

We stood there for a while, not daring to move. The noise didn’t stop, nor did it decrease in intensity, it just continued on with disturbing energy. Jane was the first to move. She placed her hand gently on the door and then let it fall to the handle.

“Jane, what the hell are you doing?”

“There is nothing behind this door.” She stated matter-of-factly. Naturally I thought she was insane. 

She opened the door, and sure enough, the place was empty, not only that; there was no sign of scratching against the door. We searched the room for some time, finding nothing noteworthy, it seemed like any other classroom, maybe a little dustier than the others, but other than that it was largely unremarkable. I checked the chalkboard in the corner of the room where the scratching sound originated, it was seemingly fine, no signs of distress aside from what the years had done to it. In the corner however, there was something- something different. I had to bend down to get a decent look, and I shone the torch directly at it. They were tiny, and old, and almost impossible to see, but on the bottom left hand corner of the board, and on the wooden frame that held it in place, were several tiny indents. Someone had been scratching at the board, but it would have been years ago, god knows how many.

It scared me, the fact I might be wrong, I couldn’t have imagined that noise which then turned out to have some obscure relevance, when I did not even know anything about it. My subconscious had nothing to go on, no clue, no story, nothing that could have made it produce that sound. So what the hell was it?

Things then began to escalate at an alarming rate.

“Don’t you hear it, Tim?”

“What- you- what are you talking about?”I turned to see Jane staring out into the corridor, her eyes glazed over, her hands hanging limp either side of her. “They’re calling for our help, all of them- screaming- so loud- so helpless- we should do something- they’re screaming at us.”

Her voice wasn’t normal, she was speaking in softer tones than usual- slower too. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what any of it meant, I was too overwhelmed to understand the implications. She began to walk out into the corridor. I stood up to go after her, but as she left the door slammed shut behind her, and was impossible to open. I shoved all my weight against it; the thing barely shook.

I was alone. The room seemed darker than before, the air heavier, the dust thicker, the silence greater. My ragged breathing was the only thing that seemed real- the only thing that felt real.

Then my torch began to fade.

I remember the light starting to dim and flicker. The room slowly becoming less and less visible, and the darkness growing ever closer. There were no windows, the room was in the centre of the building, there would be no light provided by the moon or the stars. The electricity was apparently shut off at night, so as soon as my little ray of light faded, I would be alone in the closest thing to absolute darkness I had ever experienced. And I was.

As the last of the light drained away, and I fell to the floor hugging my knees, backing up against the door that would not open. The musty smell of the room became apparent to me at that moment, not only that, it was mixed in with something foul that I could not put my finger on. I waited in fear for the scratching to start again, any second, some unknown thing lurking in the darkness would begin clawing away again, and eventually throw itself against the door as it did before, only this time it would be me it was clawing at, not the door.

In that impenetrable darkness I believed anything could be real, for reality is based upon perception, so in darkness anything is possible, for we perceive nothing. At least that was how I saw it at the time. Then, when I finally resigned myself to whatever terrible fate would inevitably swallow me, the door opened behind me. I fell backwards onto the floor, into the corridor, now gleaming with pale moonlight. As I stood up, uneasy and far from surefooted, I became aware of the unnatural chill that now ran through the halls. 

A gust of cold air forced its way down the corridor, becoming more and more powerful. The lockers on either side of the hall began to open and shut wildly, without synchronicity  creating an inharmonious, percussive symphony. Then, amidst the chaos, a single scream penetrated the air. A shrill, ethereal screech, that despite being distorted, undeniably originated from Jane. I ran. Against the wind, against every signal telling me to get out, I ran. The corridors all became one, all the same, all never ending, each corner resulting in a hallway no different from the last. What was worse- the screaming continued, but was impossible to track, every time I thought I was close, the sound would shift someplace else, or the room I thought it was coming from would turn out to be empty when I burst in. The noise was everywhere and nowhere at exactly the same time.

I became delirious, convinced it was all in my head, that I must be going mad, or this was someone’s sick idea of a joke. Not that it mattered, from the clatter of lockers and the endless shadows and ear piercing scream that only seemed to get louder with every passing second, I was sure to go mad regardless. Eventually I fell to the floor in another nameless, unremarkable corridor. Then a figure appeared at the end, a tiny figure in shadow, face just hidden from view. It edged slightly closer and became visible in the pale glow of the moon.

My brother; the same age I remembered him. His finger was pressed gently against his lips in a hushed motion, then in the next second he ran around the corner, and I followed. He entered a door and closed it behind him, only just able to reach the handle. I edged forward, my hand trembling, and opened.

Jane was standing on a table, gazing at the ceiling, her skin as pale as chalk. All thought of my brother instantly disappeared at the sight of her.

“Jane, what are you doing?”

No response.



I crawled onto the desk beside her and shook her wildly, panic coursing through my veins. Her glazed over eyes suddenly snapped to look at me.

“They were here- so many of them- so much hopelessness- don’t you feel it? Don’t you feel the cold?”

“JANE, SNAP OUT OF IT!” At this point, I couldn’t contain my fear and frustration any longer. After a little more shaking and screaming she seemed to regain herself, but she was cold, and fatigued. The wind gushing through the hallways had stopped, so had the banging lockers and incessant scratching, the silence had returned, and in a way, that was far worse than the veritable array of disturbing sounds.

We made it outside, the air felt far colder than when we had arrived. Jane collapsed onto the ground, exhausted, and sighed deeply. I gave her my jacket and rubbed her shoulders for a while, and after some time she seemed to return to her normal self, but when she did, she couldn't recall much of what happened past entering the classroom where the scratching had originated from.

“I went into a trance? Are you serious?”

“Am I serious? Jane- you scared the living crap out of me!”

“I guess this proves it then! Something weird is going on in this school…”

“This proves nothing except that you are gullible enough to believe stories and get carried away with them.”

“You seriously think everything you described to me was just us imagining things? You know- as well as me- that what happened in there cannot be explained rationally!”

At this point my anger took over, I temporarily forgot my fear and anxiety, resulting in me proposing this:

“You want me to prove it to you? Let’s gather a group of us, and do this again- I bet nothing will happen.”

She agreed.

About a week later we returned. We had managed to get a decent group of people, considering I wasn’t the most popular and I actively tried to persuade people not to come. In the end we had a group of about twelve- maybe more. As it was now a school holiday we decided to stay the entire night, we brought a whole bunch of sleeping bags, snack food, fizzy drinks, and lots and lots of light- with extra batteries.

As I predicted, no-one saw or heard anything odd. In fact, things were so normal it almost became abnormal- all the sounds one usually hears in any building- the ones we didn’t hear previously, were all there. They were quiet, extremely quiet, but most definitely there. Everyone stayed up late, and seemed to enjoy themselves. Jane was the only one who seemed slightly down, and I was the only one who knew why: she wanted something to happen.

Eventually everyone fell to sleep. Except for me. I couldn’t sleep because of the screaming, I could hear it even more so than before, and whilst everyone else slept soundly- or so It appeared- I endured a whole night of spectral shrieking echoing through the halls. Maybe it was my imagination, but I somehow knew that Jane knew it was there too, maybe it was just the hint of a smile on her face in the morning, or maybe it was nothing but my suspicion after all.

We never mentioned it again.

Much later on, a discovery was made at that school, something terrible, not only that, something relating to me and my past, but that story comes later on, and I wouldn’t want to reveal too much before everything is fully explained…

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