Three in the morning. Twelve hours earlier and the students were cluttered in classrooms, sitting on the edge of their seats, watching the ticking clock. Ten minutes later and their bodies spilled into these hallways, the noise level peaking as lockers flung open and clanged shut. Five minutes of frantic activity, then silence is restored. But when the students are gone, the energy shifts. In the evenings, early mornings, weekends and pupil free days. Those are the times when I feel I am being watched. When I spin myself around to catch the person whose presence I feel on the back of my neck, only to discover no one is there.
Now here I am, tightening the belt on my coat. It is all the fault of Jacob Taylor. He was sent to my office for the second time last week. I asked myself what would Shane do, if he wasn’t locked down on the other side of the world. The pandemic that propelled me into the principals chair. Shane would organise a meeting with Jacob’s parents. So I did. Peter Taylor sat across from me, full of magnetic charm. I was hooked. When he mentioned he dabbled in ghost hunting the words tumbled out of my mouth, bypassing the filter which would have stopped them. Now Peter, two other middle aged men and a younger woman with flowery perfume, are huddled together, fiddling with suspicious looking equipment.
“Ready?” Peter says, raising his head and locking his eyes onto mine. I nod. He raises his hand onto the light switch and flicks. Darkness descends. I reach for my throat and hold my hand across it. My pulse speeding up, thumping adrenaline through my veins.
“Is anyone here? We only want to talk.” Peter says, holding a box in his hand.
The woman holds up her phone and one of the other men, holding what appears to be an aerial, turns around and jabs it into my cheek.
“Well, get out of the way.”
My jaw drops. If he was a student his uncouth manner would see him with detention.
“Hello, we know you are there. Is it just you?” Peter says.
“I’m getting a reading.” The other man says.
“We will not harm you, please, give us a sign that you can hear us.” Peter says.
I hold my breath.
I scream and can feel someone grab my hand.
“It’s ok Nic, this is what we came for.” Peter says into my ear.
I spray my hand up and turn on the light.
“No, you’ll scare it.” Aerial man says.
I can see a pile of books lying in the hallway. The ghost hunters scramble around. I look up above the locker where they must have been perched. My eye shifts to the classroom door. I walk across, turn the handle, lean on the door and wrap my hand around to turn on the light.
Crouched under a desk is a smirking Jacob Taylor.
“Detention Monday Taylor.”