Harvey looked down the dark, silent hall to his right; soft light shown like a desert oasis every 100 feet from the emergency lights overhead. It was the same to his left, behind him, and in front of him. He wasn’t sure how, but Jordan High School looked more threatening and foreboding at 1:00am with the lights off, than during the day while students roamed the halls.“You OK Harvey?” asked Christian.
“Yeah, just not sure where I’m supposed to go from here,” Harvey replied after he swallowed down the lump in his throat. Harvey was new at JHS. His family had moved for what had to be the tenth time in as many years. Like always he chose to keep to himself, but when a chance came up to actually hang out with the cool guys in school, well the opportunity was more than he could resist.
“I guess since you're new here it is kind of hard getting around in the dark. It’s this way.” Christian said as he nudged Harvey forward from behind.
Yesterday Christian and his two friends sat by Harvey in the cafeteria. A tall, jock named Jack used his finger to push down Harvey’s book, “What you reading?”
“Nothing really,” said Harvey. In all his years moving around no one made the first move to get to know Harvey, no one. The intrusion made him uncomfortable to say the least.
“Really?” Jack asked as he pushed the book up to get a better look at the title. “Spirits of the Night. You like ghost stories? Did you know we have a ghost here at the school?”
“Oh come on Jack,” said Christian. “I know it’s almost Halloween, but you don’t want to scare the new guy already do you?”
“Is there really a ghost?” timidly asked Harvey. The thought of spirits wandering the earth, never finding rest, had always caught his imagination. In a way, Harvey felt like he was living a form of his own afterlife, never finding rest, never finding a place to call home.
“Sure, it lives in the gym; plenty of guys have felt it. Jimmy swears it passed through him during a game last week as he was shooting for three. Isn’t that right Jimmy?” Jack asked as he looked over at the tall, lanky kid to his left.
“Yeah, it was like ice running down my spine. I missed the shot, lost the game too.” Jimmy whispered.
“See, proof right there,” grinned Jack as he put his hand on Harvey’s shoulder. “We’re going on a ghost hunt tonight. I figure you can’t see it during the day, since ghosts only come out at night. You want to come?”
Jack looked at his friends and pulled everyone into a tight huddle. “There’s a utility room down by biology that has a broken lock. We slip in after class and wait for everyone to go home. The only problem I see, is knowing when to look.”
“Well,” whispered Harvey. “Midnight sounds too obvious to me; let’s shoot for one o-clock.”
“One it is. But there’s only room in the closet for two.” Jack looked over at Christian. “You go with Harvey; I’ll take Jimmy and find another spot. So are you in Harvey?”
Harvey looked into Jacks eyes. “Yeah, sounds fun.”
As Harvey walked towards the gym he couldn’t help but wonder if this was all a scam. These guys didn’t know him from the next guy, why let him in on their fun? “Where’s Jack and Jimmy?” Harvey asked as they approached the doors to the gym.
“I don’t know. I kind of thought they would beat us here.” Christian checked the door. The latch boomed like a canon as Christian opened the door, echoing off silent walls. “Door’s open, they must have gone inside.”
“Think we should wait?” asked Harvey.
“Nah, you first,” said Christian.
“No way man, you first,” said Harvey.
“Tell you what, rock, paper, scissors you for it,” said Christian. Harvey looked at Christian’s firm face and pulled up his hands to meet the challenge. “One, Two, Three!” he said while slamming his fist into his hand.
“Damn.” cursed Harvey. “Scissors beats paper. I guess I’m first.” Harvey slowly opened the door, just a few inches, and peered inside. The darkness was so deep, all Harvey could think of was: “this must be what it’s like to stare into a black hole.”
The door yanked out of Harvey’s hands, knocking him off balance as he released the handle from his grip. He swayed to recover, as two strong hands shoved him into the room, before the door slammed shut, leaving him on the floor in utter darkness; surrounded by deafening echoes from the door’s crash.
Harvey stood up and scrambled for the door. “This isn’t funny Christian!” The door refused to give to his weight. He started pounding harder, harder, harder. “Let me out now! This isn’t funny!”
“Of course it’s funny,” said a growly voice behind him. “Don’t you like Halloween tricks?” it growled.
Harvey swung around to face the voice only to see the same black wall that surrounded him on all sides. “I know that’s you Jack! You and your friends are idiots you know that?!” yelled Harvey.
“Who is Jack?” the voice said, “I am more interested in YOU!” it growled.
“You think this is funny Jack?” Harvey cocked back and punched the voice in front of him as hard as he could. His fist crunched flesh, followed by a shrill scream, a human scream.
“Are you nuts?!” yelled Jimmy. “What the hell was that for? It was just a joke!”
The door swung open and Christian popped his head inside. “What’s going on in here? I thought you said we were just going to scare him?”
Harvey looked at the scene before him bathed in light from the hall. Jimmy was standing next to Jack who was doubled over holding his nose. “I’m going to kill you Harvey.” He said spitting blood from his mouth.
Before he was scared of something unseen; now he was afraid of something very real. Harvey shoved past Christian, running as hard as he could. Behind him he could hear Jimmy and Christian laughing, trying to calm Jack down. But if high school had taught Harvey anything, they would be on him like wolves before long. Jack wasn’t the kind of person to just let this slide, even though it was his own fault.
He ran through the halls making random turns, too afraid to leave the building and trigger the alarm. He knew being inside was against the rules, and he was pretty sure breaking someone’s nose after hours would bring even more punishment. Up head he saw his last hope; his only constant home these last ten years, the library.
Harvey yanked on the door, locked. He could hear running coming from down the hall. He knew the routine. Before long they would catch him, beat him to a pulp, and never leave him alone the rest of the school year, or until he moved again. He banged his head on the frosted glass window in the door. Maybe he should just give up and take his beating now.
The door made a soft click. Frantically he pushed the latch again; it gave way, opening the door. He slipped inside, quietly closing the door behind him. Slowly he backed away from the door watching the window intently as three shadows rushed past. He slowly turned and looked for a place to sit and catch his breath. Like everywhere else in the school, only a handful of emergency lights illuminated the room. The tall stacks cast deep shadows, slot canyons of darkness every few feet. Harvey slowly walked over to a table and took a seat. Finally he was surrounded by friends.
He looked at the books on the walls, recalling some of his favorites. A quick glance at his phone told him it was 1:30am; only five more hours before someone gets in to let him out. He put the phone back into his pocket and moved over to a display on the table by the librarian’s desk. “If I’m trapped I might as well enjoy myself,” he thought. A jungle poster hung from the ceiling above him, Get Lost in a Book! it said. Appropriate he supposed, if only he could get lost. All the books on the table were grand adventures in faraway places.
Harvey reached for a worn copy of The Time Machine, when his phone vibrated sharply from his pocket. “New Text Message” the screen flashed as he activated the device. He pressed the message key and read: “You don’t have to do this you know.” Harvey swiped to the message details, blocked number. Grabbing the book, Harvey made his way back to the table and opened to page one.
The phone vibrated loudly against the table. “New Text Message” lit up the screen again. Harvey opened the message, “It’s not your fault.”
Harvey looked up from his phone and scanned the room. As it was before, the room was silent, empty, and now, slightly foreboding. The phone buzzed again in Harvey’s hands, “It’s not your fault their jerks.”
He quickly typed back, “Who is this?” Looking up, Harvey scanned the room and hit send.
“My name is Daniel,” the phone buzzed. “You don’t need to be afraid of them you know”
Harvey took a deep breath. “You must have the wrong number, I don’t know a Daniel,” he replied. His hands were wet with sweat as the phone buzzed again, “You don’t need to be scared of me.” It buzzed again, “I’m not the one chasing you around the school.”
Harvey quickly typed again. “Who are you really? How do you know where I am?”
“My name’s Daniel.”
“I’m here with you.”
“I let you in”
Harvey closed his eyes and took a deep breath. His fingers flew across his keyboard. “Are you dead?”
“You don’t need to be afraid.”
“I want to help.”
Harvey stood up and ran to the door. His phone vibrated again. “Are you sure you want to go out there?” He looked down at the phone and took another breath before responding. “So what am I supposed to do?”
“Let me tell you a story”
“Ok,” replied Harvey
“There once was a boy who read books all day long”
“He had no real friends”
“He just wanted to fit in and be accepted”
“One day he let some kids talk him into a midnight hike”
“These kids only wanted to scare him”
“He wanted friends so bad he let them lead him up a cliff”
“He didn’t care where they were going”
“He just wanted to fit in, so he followed”
“It was dark and he couldn’t see the trail”
“Rather than choosing his own path”
“He followed where he thought they stepped”
“And Daniel slipped and fell to his death”
Harvey stood in the silence staring at the last text. “How did Daniel end up here?” He typed.
“He went to where he was loved, to where his friends were.”
Harvey could hear footsteps down the hall coming back towards the library. The phone buzzed again. “What are you going to do?”
Jack, Jimmy, and Christian jumped as the library door swung open and Harvey stepped out from the shadows. “Look guys, I’m sorry,” he apologized.
Jack stepped up to Harvey and poked him in the chest. “What the hell were you thinking back there? You think the ghost was real? You think you can punch a ghost?”
“No,” said Harvey. “I got scared and tried to protect myself. I’m sorry I hit you, but come on, you deserved it. That was pretty crappy what you did.” He braced for the impact that he knew was coming. Jack raised his fist ready to get his eye-for-an-eye, or at least nose-for-a-nose.
“Come on Jack,” said Jimmy. “You totally deserved it.”
“What? You’re on his side now?” said Jack as he swung his head towards Jimmy.
“Actually,” laughed Christian as he eased down Jack’s arm, “it was pretty damn funny. You totally deserved it”
Harvey looked at the three guys before him. “I really didn’t mean to hit you, I panicked.”
Christian looked at Harvey, “Are you alright? I didn’t want to hurt you, just thought it would be fun to give you a little scare.”
“Is he alright!?” squealed Jack, “I’m the one with a busted nose! You all suck you know that?” Jack turned and started walking back the way they had come.
“Jack. I’m sorry!” Harvey grinned at Jimmy and Christian. “Come on let’s catch up with him and figure a way out of the school before the gym ghost gets us.”
“What, so still you’re afraid of ghosts?” Christian laughed.
Harvey’s phone vibrated. He looked at the most recent message. “Nah, ghosts don’t scare me. Getting caught in the morning when teachers arrive, that’s another thing all together.”