By AllyTrish, inspired by the FantasTeen novel of the same name. This continues Masai Giraffe Attack!, Coincidentally..., Devin Verona, Ghost Story, More Questions, and Chances. It is told from a first-person perspective. WARNING: There is little use of strong words.
Devin and I climb to the school's roof for recess. This time, Mom brought me a sandwich with smoked salmon and cheese. I slurped up my A&W root beer (thanks, Dad) before I finish my sandwich. "According to you, do we have to do this at night?" I ask.
Devin shakes his head. "What for? It's only in movies. Going to school at night is, like, scary and forbidden, why do we have to stress ourselves out? Besides, we can see them anytime. Devin removes the earphones from his ears. I hear music, reminiscent of those by Avicii, so loud I can hear it; but Devin hears everything going on on the school's sports field. "I just found out that you can't hear ghosts."
"I just found out that they are vocal," I counter, tossing the empty root beer can into a brown paper bag. "I mean, I know that they often scream and moan in movies, but I didn't know they really do it in reality."
"Oh, it's just their daily habit," mutters Devin. He glimpses me, squeezing his lunch bag. "So, which ghost should we start with? You see them more often, I don't always see them."
I think it over. A boy is trapped inside one of the cubicles in the girls' bathroom, dunking his head repetitively into the toilet — a victim of bullying — but I'm going to take Devin to the girls' bathroom when pigs fly. And I can't hear them — I'm also too petrified to do it on my own. There's also a lunch lady who always gives out eyeball dessert for passersby and, of course, students. I know the eyes are actually just gummy candies, but that doesn't convince me enough. I'm grossed out to death. I'm not going to buy from the cafeteria, but we won't make waves, or wreak havoc, there.
I remember a bunch of some more in this school: a headless security guard (no worries, he's just some kind of a Headless Horseman) who often wanders on the corridors, a science teacher with an exploding head, a weeping lass in the music room, and a poisoned janitor at a staircase. Those are only the places I visit nine out of ten.
"Maybe, we should start with the janitor on the stairs," I offer. "You know? The scrawny man who keeps barfing and cleaning up the 'evidence' on the stairs?"
Devin grimaces. "Thank you, but I feel like barfing," he says, but nods.
We can't wait until school is over. Geography and Math prompt me to doze off. Even Mr. Grier tells me off.
"The clock will always be on the wall, Yolanda, no matter how many times you look at it."
After that, Devin passes his Rolex wristwatch to me. Outspokenly, that only brings more anxiety — looks like the second arrow doesn't move at all.
When the bell eventually rings, Devin and I blast out of the classroom; I almost pull Devin, probably. (And I can't believe he's as light as a feather.) I don't know why this triggers more dopamine in my blood. Honestly, I'm more excited than frightened! I can hear Devin panting behind me when we manage to prevent ourselves from being sandwiched in between gazillions of people.
"Yolanda!" he calls out, but I don't stop. He pulls my hand with a light pull, and for a second, I'm like a limp doll. No surprise. Devin's a werewolf. He's very strong.
"What?" I spit aggravatedly.
"Relax," he hisses. "Let 'em all go home first. We don't want them to kick us in the ass when we talk to the janitor. What the heck is wrong with you?"
I look downward, having no idea why I've been in such a hurry. "Too excited, maybe. My bad."
Devin lets out a messy laugh and drags me to the nearest corner, letting people move before our very eyes. "Like a ghostbuster, huh?" he says, and I nod, agreeing. He looks me in the eye. "Don't you know we're not allowed to run at the corridors, like on the surroundings of a swimming pool?"
I sigh, annoyed. "For heaven's sake, why are you a disciplinary patrolman?"
We wait until the density of students reaches its low ebb. Tristan and Rafaela walk past me, and I wave my hand at them simultaneously as a bored Devin plays with his opaque-white-framed owlish glasses. Sometimes, I think Devin may just fetch a stick that I threw just now, if he has zilch to do.
After getting sure enough that no one else wanders in the school building, we start to venture. The ghost janitor stands on a staircase leading to the second level. We spot him, as usual, on the second step. He wears a bright blue janitor uniform, like the janitors now. Maybe he is just a wraith, or, if not, the janitors' uniform hasn't been changed for a very long period. He looks about forty years old, scrawny, and pale like a vampire. His back is bent because he bends down on and on to throw up; his face is covered in yellowish Technicolor yawn which drips onto the floor, dirtying it. He mops the floor to clean the puke in vain: Every time he brushes, a new splotch emerges.
I walk toward Devin for safety. "Do you think they can hurt us?"
"People who feel no pain usually think they feel it, Samuel Johnson," Devin mutters, walking ahead of me bravely and decisively.
I follow him until we reach the widest step. We carefully walk around every upchuck puddle that, probably, only visible to us both. "Hello?" Devin tries to greet him carefully.
The janitor lifts his face, apparently disturbed. I shy away, trying to pull Devin away. This may be a bad idea. But Devin comes up with another idea.
Without greeting, he asks, "Why do you still wander here? Is there something that lures you here?"
The janitor gives Devin a dirty look for a moment, while the puke flows down and dirties the stairs. I begin to feel uneasy and try to pull Devin away, but all of a sudden, the janitor lifts his mop and whacks me without further warning. I lose balance, my body hitting the steps and tumbling down...down to the floor. I hear Devin calling out my name, but he shrieks afterward. Everything falls into silence.
I open my eyes, blinking a few times, trying to find out what is happening on the upper stairs. Devin is walking down the stairs. His face looks shaken and puke smothers his clothes. I notice the janitor shooting daggers at me, then vanishing into thin air.
Devin holds out his hand to steady me. "Are you okay?"
I wince. "Don't get close to me, you reek of barf." I try to stand on my own. Thank God, my feet aren't sprained, despite pain all over my body. I run my hand on my arms; it seems like they're bruised a lot, but no fractures or serious injuries.
Devin hurries toward the sports field. "Let's clean up ourselves. Need to go to the hospital, to check up your head?" he sputters.
I shake my head emphatically, persuading him that I'm okay, but I keep repeating to myself that I would have to ask Mom to ship me off to the hospital.
Turns out, we aren't the only ones who can see the vomit because people stop awhile to look at us, then scurry away. A gardener sprays Devin with his ginormous water hose until he's all clean and questions if he's okay.
Devin giggles and says, "Must've eaten the wrong food, maybe."
"Get a medical appointment, dude. Don't let this be lethal," he says.
Devin thanks him and dashes toward outside the school, to a drink stand and buy a glass of chocolate milkshake. He guzzles it and sighs relievedly.
"Thank God, no more barf taste lingers in my mouth. If you want to know what it tastes like, it's awfully bitter, like the liquid in car batteries. Now, have a sit, Yolanda. We have to talk," he says.
We skitter, headed to the garden bench and sit at the left edge. Devin gulps his milkshake once or twice again, then clears his throat. "Are you sure your head is okay? Are you not hurt?"
"Devin, tell me, now. What do you hear?" I demand. Devin rarely talks in circles with his tongue to avoid a conversation; it has to be something scary.
Devin nods and stares at me thoughtfully. "You remember when I told you those ghosts moan and scream?" I nod. "The janitor screamed — howling, if possible — very loudly at me. You didn't hear it at all?"
"Yep." I nod sarcastically. "I heard nothing." My tone restores. "What did he tell you?"
"He said nothing, he only screamed," replies Devin. His eyes cast down, spinning the emptied plastic cup in his hands. "And when he screamed, I saw something."
Devin nods. "You know, like behind your eyes, someone is playing an old movie." He pauses, confused and afraid, choosing his diction. "It shows something, Yolanda. It shows how it turned incorporeal. Apparently, his scream was his way of telling the story."
Chills tingle down my spine. "What's his story?"
"His name is Thierry," Devin begins. He shuts his eyelids, as if looking for that scene in his head. "The principal, a few years ago, fired him for not doing his job well; as you can see, he's sort of a halfwit. He got depressed; he had a wife and five kids at home. They didn't eat if he had no job. He sought for help to an old lady, which administered a potion to him that turned him like he is now. He left his family, never to return."
Devin pauses. We exchange looks for a heartbeat, sharing mutual fright. Autumn wind brushes hard against us, but we're not shivering due to coldness. Devin swallows. "Maybe, we can search him up. I'm sure his wife and kids are okay, and that could be the only thing he wants to know."
We look up information about that janitor the next day, asking for the librarian's help to show us a list of janitors who worked here twenty years ago and find Thierry Dorsey's name and his address. His wife still lives there with some of their kids. They're all fine.
We walk home by foot, and notice that Thierry is walking behind — more like, stalking — us for some reason. We stop to tell him that his family is all okay. He looks away, glancing north, then disappears.
Thierry Dorsey is never seen again after this day.