It was nearing Christmas, and everyone in my university was packing up to go home for a few weeks to spend the holidays with their families; I was doing the same. I go to school in Peterborough, Ontario. I love it here, it was peaceful, it sat on a river and there was an abundance of nature, it reminded me of my home, Rose Creek.
Technically, I lived in a place called Orford Township. However, a little while before I was born, the province made all the townships amalgamate. No point in having hundreds, maybe thousands of little towns scatter the province with their own by-laws, police forces, etc. So for practicality, all small townships across the province merged into bigger municipalities. And all of the surrounding townships in my area, including Orford, merged into one big place known as Rose Creek.
I had my own car, so once I had everything I’d need for my two-week break, I drove off. I smugly cackled to myself as I drove by the masses of university students waiting at the bus station; sucks for them. I had a long drive ahead of me, about four hours if I didn’t count stops for gas and food; because of the long drive, I rarely went home, and only visited family on occasions such as Christmas. I was excited to see them; I hadn’t seen them since I left for my senior year back in September. Mom was probably already prepping for our big Christmas, family reunion, while my father was probably busy working on his model car in the garage. My older sister, Melanie, was scheduled to come home from her job in the United States today as well, we’d probably be getting home around the same time.
The drive home wasn’t bad at all, I was surprised since I left right during rush hour. The sun started to set as I drove past a big, beat up sign that read, “Welcome to Rose Creek!”. I drove for about ten more minutes until I entered my township, and an even more beat-up sign that read “Orford”, greeted me. I drove slowly through the sleepy town, not a single soul was outside. I wasn’t surprised, the entire town probably only had about three hundred people in it, and about ninety percent of them were all past the age of sixty. To get to my house, I had to pass my old school. Orford Elementary School, or OES, for short. When I drove by, I saw a class of children playing in the front yard, with a middle-aged-looking woman, presumably the teacher, standing with her arms crossed, watching them. That was odd, I remember thinking to myself, it was pretty late for school to still be in session. The teacher started waving at me as I passed, and all of the kids quickly followed. I smiled and waved back, and then kept on driving. I was surprised the school hadn’t been shut down yet, I had heard talks of the school closing shortly before I left for university. The school was dying, not that many kids left to attend it, but I was happy to find out it was still alive and well.
I finally pulled into my driveway, and my parents and my sister were all at the door to greet me. It was a nice feeling; the entire evening was full of smiles, and best of all, dad jokes. Mom had a great dinner prepared for everyone; she even got my dad out of the garage for a few hours to help. We all sat around the dinner table and caught up with each other, I talked about university life, which was going well for me, then my father asked how the drive home was.
“It was good, actually,” I spoke, “It’s nice to be back, I see Orford hasn’t changed much.”
“It hasn’t changed in the past twenty years.” My father joked.
“Even the school,” I said cheerfully, “Old OES is still open I see?”
There was a brief silence at the table, and my mother and father exchanged confused looks.
“OES?” my mother said, “That school closed almost four years ago, right after you left for university.”
“That’s odd,” I said, “I saw a class of students playing outside on my drive home.”
“Huh,” my father said, “maybe there’s still a daycare operating around the area or something. Not that there are many children left in Orford.”
We dropped the topic after that, and I pretty much forgot about the entire ordeal for the rest of the break. Christmas came around, and we all exchanged gifts for each other, and I spent my Christmas break kicking back and catching up on some of my textbook readings. I wish that was all I could say about my break, but just a few nights before I was scheduled to go back to Peterborough, my old childhood friend, Zach, invited me to a house party. All of my old high school friends were supposed to be there. I guess it was supposed to be one last get-together before we all head back out onto our own lives. I decided to go, there was no harm in catching up with a few old friends, although I didn’t care much for them. I tossed a few beers into my trunk and drove off to the house party. The house was on the other side of town, and I had to pass the school to get there. Like I said, I had pretty much forgotten all about seeing the kids at the school, but as I drove by it that second time, I was forced to remember it all again. It was dark, it was just a little past ten at night, but as I slowed down by the school, I saw the class again. Since it was dark, it was difficult to make them out, but I knew I saw the silhouettes of children playing in the front yard, with the silhouette of an adult woman standing by idly, watching them with her arms folded. The silhouettes of children stopped playing, and they all turned to wave at me. This time it freaked me out, this wasn’t right. It was far too late for kids to be playing outside, and even if the school wasn’t closed, these certainly weren’t school hours. Again though, I forced it out of my head and sped up, leaving the school behind me.
The party wasn’t anything special. I was greeted by a few of my old high school friends and we got to drinking. I managed to get myself a bit buzzed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the school, and it kind of ruined the night for me. I must have been showing my unease, since Zach came up to me during the party.
“Hey pal, what’re you thinking about? Everything good?” he asked.
“Yeah, yeah. Everything’s good man.” I smiled.
I was afraid that if I told Zach about it, he’d think I was stupid. It’s not even that big of a deal, nobody else would fixate on such things. I knew it was best to just shove it out of my mind, but I have always been a very curious person, which is probably what led me into studying astronomy at my university. Something about the unknown fascinates me and unnerves me at the same time, I’m not a “let be” kind of guy, I always strive to solve everything I come across, I just don’t like leaving things without an explanation.
“Woah guys,” one of the guys shouted out, looking out the window, “a snowstorm is really picking up out there!”
Everyone gathered around the windows to see, me included. I swore under my breath as I could barely see two feet in front of me through the window. I was planning on driving home buzzed, which wasn’t a good idea in itself, but now it was going to be made more difficult by the storm. I told myself it would be fine, my house is less than ten minutes from the party, I know the area well, I grew up here after all. When one o’clock rolled around, I decided that would be a good time to leave. The party was still going on, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I said my goodbyes to everybody, Zach asked me to stay a bit longer, but I told him I was feeling unwell. I probably looked like the lamest guy there, but I wasn’t too worried about that. I walked outside and climbed into my car, started it up and carefully pulled out of the driveway, being careful not to get the car stuck in some snow along the way.
Once I was out on the road, I felt a lot better, I turned the radio on and let my head clear. I managed to drive pretty well after four beers, and I was looking forward to just getting home so I could just go to sleep. I thought about taking the long way to avoid the school, but for some reason I just had to go by the school again. I wasn’t sure why, must be my overly curious personality. I turned onto the street where OES was, and the storm somehow felt worse on this street. It was probably just my anxieties working it up to be worse, but I remember how difficult it was to drive through that one street. As I passed by the school, I turned my head and looked. Nothing. I was expecting to see the kids there, but they weren’t there anymore. I was almost surprised, and I should’ve felt relieved that they weren’t there anymore, but I felt worse. Just as I was in front of the school, my car started sputtering.
“Shit! No, no, no!” I slammed the wheel, but it was no good.
The car completely died, and it slowly crawled to a stop, right in front of the school. The snowstorm continued, and the dimly lit street posts did little to illuminate my surroundings. I pulled out my phone to call my parents, but then stopped before I hit the call button. Home was only a few minutes walk away; it would be stupid to call for help now. I’m twenty-one years old, I can handle a situation like this on my own. I would get out of the car, push it off to the side of the road, walk home and get it in the morning. I opened the car door as snow and wind blasted inside, it was freezing cold outside. My face felt as if the wind was biting at it. I walked behind my car and got ready to push, but before I could do that something forced me to look over at the school. When I did, I saw a little girl standing by the edge of the property, right under a streetlight. The conditions made it difficult to make out the details of her, she was simply a silhouette that made the shape of a little girl, and she was just staring at me.
“H-hello?” I asked, “Are you lost?”
The girl instantly turned around and started running back towards the school. Everything in me wanted to just get back into the car, lock it, and call for help. But my curiosity overtook my better judgement, like it usually did. I started walking towards my old school, looking for where the little girl went. The snow was piling up now, and it was becoming difficult to walk. The first thing I noticed when I got close to the school was how unkind time was to it. This school was definitely closed, now that I got closer to see for myself, there was no way this school was still in operation. The letters were rusted, some had fallen off, some of the playground equipment now resembled torture devices more than they did playground equipment. Weak looking wooden panels were nailed to the windows and doors, preventing anyone from getting inside. Why would anyone bring kids here to play? This place had turned into a dump. Just ten years ago, this was a vibrant and happy place for me, it’s crazy how quickly some things can change without you noticing.
I’m not sure if it was drunken bravery that led me to do my next action or what, but I decided it was a good idea to try entering the school. Part of me wanted to do it to find the girl, to see where she went, and the other part of me just wanted to see my old school once more. I approached one of the boarded-up windows and started tugging on it, it came off way easier than I was expecting it to. I guess in a town full of old people, they weren’t expecting anyone to break in. I set the board down in the snow and looked inside. I couldn’t see a thing; it was darker in there than it was out here. Still, I decided to climb inside. The first thing I noticed when I got inside was the smell. I knew it was going to smell weird in there prior to entering, but this was an entirely different smell than what I was expecting. I was expecting the usual old smell abandoned buildings get, or the smell your grandmother’s attic would get; but no, it wasn’t that at all. Whatever this smell was in here, I’ve never smelled something more awful in my life. It smelled like a decaying animal in here, but somehow worse. What could be producing that horrible smell? I tried ignoring it and continued onwards, using the flashlight on my phone as a source for light.
I had first entered in through a classroom window. I walked out into the hallway and looked around, and the place wasn’t familiar at all. It had changed so much, everywhere I looked was empty, paint was peeling off of the walls, there were cracks in the floor tiles, and some doors were ripped off their hinges. There was no sign of the little girl anywhere, I even stood still for a moment to listen, but I heard nothing. It was almost too silent; I would’ve been able to hear someone drop a pin from the other side of the building. The decaying animal smell persisted throughout the entire school, and the smell itself almost convinced me to leave. As I stubbornly ventured through the hallways some more, I started having odd flashbacks. I don’t know how to explain it, it was like daydreaming, but very vividly.
The first flashback was a memory of mine way back when I was probably ten or eleven years old. I was in the same spot in the school I was currently standing at, right in front of Mrs. Grey’s art room. I was walking down the hallway with my buddy, Zach. We were talking about all of the stuff we were going to get up to after school.
“Can we go to your house to play video games?” I asked.
“Why mine? We always go to my house.” He whined.
“Because you have all the new games! Mom doesn’t buy me any games.”
“Good point.” Zach said.
The flashback concluded, and I smiled for a moment. Quickly, another flashback ensued. This time, it was yet another memory from that same time in my life, when I was a child. This time, I was outside playing manhunt with Zach and some of my other friends. I had found the best hiding spot, it was in a bunch of bushes, I remember laughing to myself, feeling superior that Zach would never think to find me here. Everything was going perfectly according to plan, until I heard a booming voice behind me.
“Get out of that bush Jonathon! You’ll hurt yourself!”
I turned to see Mrs. Grey standing over me, her thin arms crossed, looking unimpressed. She was a very horrible-looking old woman, bony, grey and balding hair, and a terribly wrinkly and warty face. I quickly scurried out of the bush, to which Zach conveniently turned the corner of the building at that exact moment to find me.
“Found you! Haha!”
Then another flashback hit me immediately after the last one ended, but this time, it wasn’t my memory. I was standing outside of the principal’s office; he was furious with me. He scolded me for trespassing, all I could do as a kid was stand there and cry. But this wasn’t right, in my entire time of attending OES, I never once got in enough trouble to send me to the principal’s office, and I’ve never trespassed in my life – well, until now. In the flashback, Mrs. Grey stood over me and watched with a stern look on her face as I was yelled at by the principal. Then another flashback hit me, and once again, it was not my memory. The school was on fire, OES had never caught fire before, why was I getting this memory? Kids screamed as the building was engulfed in flames, some were still in there. I was standing across the street, Mrs. Grey standing next to me with her arms crossed the entire time. Then another false memory, this time, it was the worst one yet. I was sitting in my desk, alone in the classroom with only Mrs. Grey. She towered over me, she looked down at me and simply said, “Zach is dead.” She repeated herself, then again, then again, and kept on saying it until I was forced to cover my ears. I kept getting hit with one flashback after another, all of memories as a kid that I myself didn’t remember. They got worse and worse, more sadistic with each new flashback, until I got to the final one.
I was in the playground, playing catch with some friends. The ball bounced onto the road and without thinking, I ran over to get it. I bent down in the middle of the road to pick it up, and when I turned, I saw Mrs. Grey standing an inch away from my face. She looked different, her eyes were sunk, her pupils so small they looked like tiny, white dots inside dark circles for eyes. She was frowning, her arms crossed, but she didn’t say a word. Then I heard a car horn behind me, I turned the other way and was hit by oncoming traffic. I then saw an image of my parents and my sister, mourning over my grave. I flashed back to reality and screamed, falling backwards onto the ground. I looked around the dark hallways and instantly felt way more uncomfortable than I already was. I needed to find a way out of here, so I got up and started looking for the way I came in from.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard the sound of a voice echoing through the hall around the corner. Except, it didn’t sound like a normal voice. It sounded like something unworldly trying to mimic a human, it was scratchy, hollow, and void of all emotion.
“Jonathon.” The voice said sternly.
Chills flew up the back of my spine and my legs stopped working for a bit, freezing me in a standing position. It then called out again after some time, this time, it sounded closer.
“Jonathon.” It continued to call out.
I forced myself to investigate, which was the dumbest idea I’ve had in my entire life. I needed to know who was calling my name, who would be calling me that even knew my name? As I slowly peeked around the corner, I shone my flashlight at the end of the hallway. I saw an older lady standing at the end of it, blocking the exit doors. It was difficult to see details; it was too dark, and she was too far away for my flashlight to fully illuminate everything. However, from her stern demeanor, the way her arms were crossed, I knew exactly who it was. Mrs. Grey. I just stood and stared at her in disbelief.
“Jonathon, get back here, right now.” She demanded.
I didn’t react. My flight or fight mode was completely shattered, and I stood there frozen in fear. I wasn’t even sure how to react. Mrs. Grey then knelt down, placing her hands on the floor. Then she started sprinting on all fours at me. Her speed wasn’t human, nobody can run that fast, let alone on all fours. This was the speed of an animal, and it was coming straight for me. Luckily my flight instinct kicked in and I started sprinting down the hallway around the corner. I could hear the pitter patter of her running getting louder and louder, and I knew she was going to outrun me easily. I had no time to look for the way I came in, so I ran straight for the other exit doors at the end of my hallway. Mrs. Grey got close enough for me to hear her panting like a dog, but I reached the exit doors before she could get me, and I slammed all of my body weight into them. If the doors held, I’d be dead, but if they didn’t, I may have a chance. I’d like to think that I had God on my side that night, because the boards broke apart and the door collapsed as soon as I hit it, and I fell into the snow from outside. The snowstorm was still going on, and it felt colder than it was earlier. I got up quickly and made the mistake of looking behind me. What I saw approaching me from the hallways wasn’t Mrs. Grey anymore. The creature was huge, but thin, it was on all fours with stick-thin legs, its back almost touching the ceiling. It was completely naked, no hair, nothing, with grey skin. Its face was the most horrifying part, it had no eyes, just dark hollows where its eyes should’ve been, and its mouth was gaped open so wide it probably could swallow me whole if it wanted to, and I think it wanted to.
“Jonathon!” Echoed out of its gaping mouth, but it no longer sounded anything close to human, I barely recognized it was even saying my name.
I turned back towards the street and started running as fast as I could, the tall snow from the storm slowing me down. I felt the creature crunching through the snow right behind me, and it got so close I felt hopeless. There was no way I was outrunning it any longer. When I made it onto the street, I turned one last time to see it at the edge of the property, it stopped. Whatever that thing was, it wouldn’t leave the schoolgrounds. I felt lights hit my face, I turned to the right to see car headlights, then everything went black.
While I was blacked out, I had an odd dream. I dreamt of a school playground, but everything was completely silent. A group of unfamiliar kids danced around in a circle, the sun shone brightly, making the entire scene look nice and warm. Long, bony arms emerged from behind them, and they wrapped around the children as if to shield them from any harm, or to hide them. The kids continued dancing as if they didn’t notice the arms. Then it ended as I woke up in a hospital room. My family and friends from university, including some of my high school friends like Zach, were all standing by my bedside. As soon as I opened my eyes, a look of relief instantly washed over my mother’s face. She rushed over and hugged me, I hugged her back tightly. My mother took a step back, and I looked down to see my right leg was wrapped in a cast and being supported by a pillow underneath it. I also had a cast around my right arm.
“How are you feeling son?” my father asked.
“Uhm, considering the circumstances, great.” I joked; I got a few smiles from everyone.
“Do you remember what happened last night?” he asked.
“No.” I lied.
“Seems like your car broke down, you must’ve gotten out to look for help, that’s when a car that didn’t see you in the snowstorm hit you. They felt awful about it, and they drove you to this hospital. You’ve been out for an entire day, we were worried.”
“It could’ve been a lot worse; you only broke your leg and your arm, and a few ribs,” Zach said. “I was afraid you would’ve gotten paralyzed.”
“I don’t think I’m paralyzed.” I joked, raising my good arm to flip him off.
“We’re just all happy you’re okay.” My mother said.
“Yeah, with this kind of reckless behaviour, Mrs. Grey would’ve been quite mad with me.” I said.
“Who’s Mrs. Grey?” Zach asked.
“You know, that old bitchy teacher we had back at OES?” I said.
“Do any of you guys remember a Mrs. Grey?” Zach asked my other high school friends in the room.
They all shook their heads.
“Maybe you hit your head a little too hard in that accident.” Zach joked.
A few more days passed, and it was time to go back to university. My mom was worried about me returning as a cripple, but I proved to be quite efficient around the house with my crutches. I wouldn’t be able to drive, obviously, but my dad generously offered to drive me the entire four-hour drive. I loaded all of my stuff into the trunk with my parent’s and sister’s help, said my goodbyes to my mother and Melanie, and got into the car with my dad. We drove through Orford and when we passed the school, I tried to look away, but my dad spoke up.
“Hey look, there really are kids out there like you said. Huh, that’s odd.”
I looked out my window to see all of the kids lined up by the road, waving slowly at us passing by. At the end of the line, Mrs. Grey was standing there, waving as well. My dad waved and smiled as I quickly looked down at my lap. I didn’t speak the rest of the ride, my dad understood, since he just assumed I was probably bummed from getting hit by a car and everything. The entire time I just couldn’t stop thinking about the whole situation. If Mrs. Grey isn’t real, then why do I remember her from my childhood so vividly? What did she even want from me? I think it’s safe to assume Mrs. Grey isn’t anything from our world, she isn’t something anybody can comprehend, if you can even call that thing a “she”. If I can barely comprehend what happened to me that night, I don’t expect anybody else to. I’m only writing this because I want to keep my thoughts straight, and maybe someone out there has had a similar experience. I hope I can soon move past this and live a normal life, but one thing is for sure, I will forever avoid Orford Elementary School, and I advise everyone else do the same. Something evil lives in that abandoned school.
Credit : Riley Vanderlip
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