Prompt: You're walking down a dark corridor when you turn around. You soon discover turning around may have been the worst decision of your life...
Source: writing.com - Ana Ng
I picked up my keys, the metal edges making scraping noises against the wood of my desk and then jangling together. I turned off the light, surveying my classroom one last time. Was I forgetting anything? Nope.
"Good night." I muttered, more of an expletive than a farewell.
I pulled bobby pin after bobby pin from my hair, letting it cascade down my back as I walked through the school's empty hall. Giant windows let in a little moonlight and cast dark shadows onto the floor and opposite wall. I put my keys on a finger like some gaudy costume jewelry ring and let them jingle unhindered.
I wondered what time it was, but I did not look at my watch. In reality I knew I did not want to know. It was too late. I should have been home - fed, bathed, and sound asleep - not wandering the empty school for the third time in so many days.
I ran a knuckle over my temple. I could feel my pulse - the roiled blood venturing so close to the surface, pushing to be free. My head was heavy as I tried to review the tasks still to be done - papers to be graded, lessons to be planned, home chores to be completed. I had not washed dishes since the previous Friday and I was running out of cereal bowls.
I swallowed. Why did it all come back to Friday? Had it really been only two - three - days since I had sat in front of my television, eating out of a clean cereal bowl, at a reasonable hour, and seen my own students' faces staring out at me from the local news?
Chad Davis, Christopher Webber, Patrick O'Malley, John Brewer, Gerald Matthews. Five boys - all sixteen, maybe seventeen. Five boys' yearbook pictures organized into a neat formation next to the news anchor. The headline had rushed by several times before I had really processed it. High School Suicide Pact - Five Students Dead.
I bit my lip. Christopher’s girlfriend had not been back to school yet. Gerald and John's papers were sitting on my kitchen counter - graded and purposeless. I had not even graded Chad's paper yet; I wasn't sure if I should.
I shivered. On Friday Patrick had spent the entire class period flicking pieces of paper at Tammy Woods. I had yelled at him. I had sent him to the principal.
I stopped walking for a second, breathing hard for no reason. The hallway seemed so dark, so much darker than normal.
"Normal." I scoffed aloud. "Normal."
It was not normal for a teacher to outlive their students - it was not normal for five successful and intelligent juniors to be there one day and gone the next day. Dead the next day.
I kept walking. I had to keep doing, keep doing what I had always done. I needed to grade papers and do my dishes; needed to bathe and eat. I needed to sleep. I was not like I had really known them personally anyway.
Then I heard it. I took two steps, my unfashionable and only slightly comfortable pumps making a hollow noise, and then I heard a third step.
I turned to look behind me. The hallway was empty, set with shadows and moonlight that gave me the creeps, but it was definitely empty.
I kept walking. There it was - an extra step for each set of mine. Step, step, thump. Step, step, thump.
I sped up. The step was never out of rhythm, speeding up to match my pace.
I could hear my breathing, but nothing else. Nothing but the sound of footsteps. Step, step, thump.
My keys were cutting into my palm; I had clenched my hand into a tight fist. Then it was walking faster than me - I heard it clearly. Step, thump, thump, step, thump, thump.
A scream built in my throat. It was coming closer - I could hear it. I could feel it.
And that's when I turned to look.
He stopped when I whirled around, probably pale as a ghost. He stood stiffly, unnaturally.
I recognized him, though. "Mr. O-o'Malley," I stammered.
He did not say anything - standing still as stone, crooked as a the tower of Piza. And I never saw the knife. But I sure felt it.