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Illus. by Lark Raster

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The door shut behind Yuzuru, creating the smallest echo of noise in the deserted hallway, followed by a small sigh of relief. Spending all afternoon and night studying was always a pain, but his grades reflected the hard work. Yuzuru just wished his sleep schedule didn’t suffer because of it.
One of his hands aligned his backpack, making sure it was secure while the other shoved the long, dark blue hair hanging in his face away. Another down side to studying so much? He hadn’t had time for a much needed haircut.
Down the hallway and around the corner, he made his way along another corridor. Empty classrooms lined the walls. Because of the location of his classroom, Yuzuru took a short cut out of the school through the abandoned wing. It wasn’t the ‘safest’ according to the teachers or some of the students, but he’d rather save some time. Plus, nothing had ever happened to him while strolling through there.
Ahead of him, Yuzuru could see signs and warnings slowly coming into view and. At the end of the hallway, bright yellow tape appeared through the darkness.
Yuzuru pushed the tape aside. Once on the other side of all of the warnings, he pulled off the black tie that was a standard for the uniform. Stowing it in his pocket, Yuzuru began to make the trek home. As he did, he glanced past the sights of the abandoned classrooms and slowly dilapidating corridor.
Rumors flew around the entire school about what happened here all those years ago. Why did the school close this section off? It couldn’t have been dangerous or else the whole school would’ve been shut down. Then again, if they tried that, the students would have nowhere to go. It wasn’t exactly like the city had a bunch of money lying around to spend on repairing an old school, let alone building a new one. Sure, there were a few other schools in the area, but they were definitely further away for most families.
Yuzuru first saw the gathering smoke out of the corner of his eye. He shook his head. His eyes must have been tired, tricked by a lack of light, his imagination, whatever. But soon it made a noise. Something that was easy to hear compared to the usual silence Yuzuru was used to in these empty hallways. It was almost like the air was being filled with whispers. No discernible words per se, but it sounded like whispers.
Yuzuru turned and stopped fully to look, to watch in awe. The form was like sand in water, shifting and changing and growing. Yuzuru’s hand pushed his hair out of his face and held it there, making sure that there was no way that this was a trick of his mind. It was there. This thing was actually there-
A black claw like appendage shot out from the source and, barely, Yuzuru escaped its full reach. Maybe it was because it wasn’t fully formed. Or maybe because, by the looks of it, the damn thing didn’t have any actual eyes. Whatever the reason, Yuzuru knew he couldn’t actually ask and took off running, his legs pushing harder with adrenaline.
The hallways and paths that had once been familiar were now incomprehensible. He ducked and moved through various abandoned classrooms and holes in the walls. Every few seconds he would glance back and see it, the shadowy figure twisting and writhing in the air behind him. Each time he saw something new about it- how it seemed to constantly shift form. Its ‘hand’ was still swiping at the air around it. There was a focal point like a head, at the top that it kept fixed and focused on him.
He slid around another corner and into an old music classroom. The bleachers were gone, although some lockers remained along with some of the music stands. Quickly, he found an open locker. First try. Luck was on side for that at least. His bag was shoved in first and then his body and then he shut the door as quietly as he could.
No other noise but his heavy breaths.
Could it go through doors? That was a question he should’ve tried to answer earlier, but panic and adrenaline had set in. Hopefully he had been far enough ahead when he turned the corner that it didn’t see which direction he went. If it even used sight.
Was this… thing the reason they closed this part of the school? No. It couldn’t be. They wouldn’t let the kids stay in a school possessed by a spirit like this. Or whatever it was. But, then again, it wasn’t like the city had a lot of options. And maybe this was a result of all of the construction. The renovations had roused this creature and let it loose. Which would explain those missing kids. God. Those missing kids. Would he suffer from the same fate? Questions, all of which he hoped would be answered when- The sound of splattering blood filled the inside of the locker. Then silence. Slowly the black mass pulled itself from the locker and disappeared after it phased through the music room door.
Illus. by Kyle Luo