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I worked for a large school just off the coast off the Atlantic. It was a prestigious school and man was it the largest around. I could spend a good hour walking around it before I visited all the rooms. I am the janitor; unfortunately my family did not have the funds to send me to such a school. I wish they did.
The school was very different after the students were let out. Usually this was the best time for me to go around and clean the areas that were often populated. People don’t like it when you enter the room to clean. It makes them feel guilty somehow and then this annoyance turns to anger if you get in the way or distract anyone. Still it was the way it had to be. I got to do my job and they got to theirs.
By ‘they’ I mean the teachers. I hated them with a passion. Treated me like the trash I took out. The students aren’t that great either, but at least they didn’t shout at me if I missed a spot or if something wasn’t working. For a prestigious school it didn’t have any handyman either, so that job was left to me. What a miserable experience, working like a dog for peanuts. However, there was another reason I enjoyed the school after hours.
Peace was only the first part, the next was the echoes. The sounds I could create by hitting the lockers with the end of a mop. It reverberated down the halls. Another reason I tried to keep them clean is it made a more pure sound. To the trained ear it was a big difference, but to someone else it just looked like I was bashing the lockers with a stick. I believe I could have been a musician if I had the drive.
Of course, this is only where the story begins. It was a Saturday night, no students at all. Not even a school event. If it was a public holiday the school would have been deserted. Still, I was there, and was making my rounds. Having completed the first section of classrooms I walked into the hallway and casually struck the locker. A splendid bang ran through the hallway and I continued my march to the end letting the sound bounce around me like an audible manifestation of a tennis ball.
Once I reached the end and began to turn the corner towards the second section I heard a bang again. However, it was not me who struck the locker. Turning around I saw nobody was there and I would have heard them. I began walking down the hallway thinking something had broken, but halfway down I heard the bang again. It came from the same direction. The sound louder than I have ever heard and I jumped in place. I believed for a moment that the lockers rattled, but if they did, it wasn’t for long.
I stopped by the locker, weary of the noises it had made. As if on cue another bang erupted from the metal cage and fell backwards in shock. This time the adjacent lockers definitely rattled. Another bang at the other end of the row of lockers. It was like a response to the third knock from the first locker. I stumbled into my feet. Another bang from the first locker, followed by the second and soon a third.
The noise echoed around me, but unlike my strike these were violent rather than coordinated. It was just violent noise, louder than I have ever heard and more than the lockers should be making. It soon quietened and the first locker in front of me burst open. There wasn’t anything inside, just some rust from age. I stood up quickly and began walking down the hallway, faster than I normally would.
The locker behind me began to clap, banging repeatedly. Soon the other locker followed suit. I felt one door nudge my arm and I leapt back in surprise. Doing so only sent me back into other lockers. It bashed into me and I felt a tug at my clothes. I don’t know where it was coming from, but I knew where it wanted me. It was trying to pull me into a locker. I stood fast and the force subsided.
Breathing heavy I began to dash towards the exit at the end of the rows. Suddenly, with a neon hiss the lights burst, glass raining down around me and light vanishing, plunging me into darkness. I continued my sprint. I reached the door. Locked. I reached into my and searched for keys. They weren’t there. Suddenly silence broken only by a single, repetitive sound. Steps.
I turned to see the dark hallway. There was still light from the hallway around the corner, which would have felt comforting if there weren’t a growing shadow at the end. The steps had a click to them and they must have carried some weight because they echoed louder than the chorus of lockers. Indescribable fear gripped me; something was telling me to run. Run as fast as I could. Whatever the shadow belonged to was about to turn the corner and I knew somehow it would be the end if it did.
I backed up for a moment and began kicking at the space next to the doorknob. The first dented the door, the second shifted it slightly, but the third hit hardest and the door swung inwards. Without looking back I ran through the doorway. A short, lit hallway, then double doors. I was outside, cold night air surrounded me, but no more echoes. Just the sound of insects and the hum of distant traffic. Breathing heavy I gathered what energy I had left and jogged away from the school.
I returned the next day. You would think I shouldn’t, but I felt safer when there were people there. I tried to complete my work before school ended, even if it annoyed or angered a lot of people. I didn’t strike the lockers; I didn’t do anything close to making a sound in those hallways. I succeeded in my task and left only a few minutes after the students. As I left a hallway and placed my hand on the doors handle I heard a single, small knock from the closest locker.
My final warning.
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