Chapter 4--Past History
A herd of twenty licorn glided out of the surrounding forest, spiral horns and fluffy silvery hides glinting in the moonlight as they clattered across the cobblestone streets. They splashed in and out of a shallow creek that meandered through the front yard of one of stately townhouse, throwing up liquid moonbeams from their flying deer-like hooves. Finally growing weary of their wild games, they broke up into small groups, wandering up the hedge bordered streets to graze on lawn grasses and clover. Suddenly one of the licorn snorted, as a sickly oily odor filled its delicate nostrils. Its mane bristled all the way down its spine as the scent awoke a deep primal fear. Others soon sensed it too and panicked, and the whole herd quickly turned and vanished into the trees as silently as they had appeared.
Lolly Mcclaren's stride slowed as she made her way down the main street of Hogan's Bay. In spite of the balmy evening and the bright festive atmosphere, she felt a cold tingle at the back of her neck. Every step she took, it felt as though glacial eyes were boring into her back, into the very inner depths of her soul.
Lolly jerked her head around causing her PawStar hat to come sailing off. Tucking Pocki, the fussy little pug under one arm, the girl bent down to pick it up, and stiffened when she first saw the gray riding boots standing nearby. Then the gray silken trousers, and then the long trailing end of a gray cloak. Warily, she looked up, but her eyes soon fell on empty air.
Shivering, Lolly stood up and clipped the bow back in place. It's just your imagination playing tricks on you, she told herself firmly. That's all. Nothing to worry about. You haven't done anything wrong, have you? The fairies can't hurt you if you're carrying a Tolken.
Then a voice inside her head said, "It's not your imagination, and it isn't even your Tolken, you pocky-eating, art-thieving, soul-leeching weaboo!"
Her eyes scrunched shut as a barrage of images flashed through her mind--children shrieking and scrambling for dear life as she bounced high on large trampoline, a little red-haired girl looking at her accusingly while cradling a dead kitten, an angry store clerk riffling through her book pack and pockets for stolen Anime merchandise.
"Evening, Miss," said a burring, rather pleasant voice.
Lolly jerked and blinked a few times, and then found herself looking up at a tall, imposing figure dressed in the high cut frock coat and stovepipe hat of a Nye constable.
"Everything all right?" he asked, eyeing her through his dark round spectacles.
Funny how the police around here seemed to dress like characters out a Steampunk fantasy novel.
"Huh? O-oh...Yeah," Lolly stammered, feeling her cheeks flushed beneath her layers of heavy makeup.
The constable placed a reassuring gloved hand on Lolly's shoulder. "Well, there's a lot of spirits around tonight," he said kindly. "But don't worry, they won't hurt you...unless your soul's like dark, damp, vermin-infested basement, which hopefully for your sake, Miss, you don't have ."
"Don't worry," Lolly assured him with a dimple smile. "My soul's so shiny and bright that it attracts unicorns."
Moon Agate Beach (2)
The yellowish-brown dog was now sitting on Kes's feet and leaning its heavy weight against her legs. She made no effort to dislodge the beast, large dogs tended to make her nervous and judging from the official-looking star hanging from its collar, this was a police dog.
Kes wondered if the dog was off-duty or if it was actually helping out the local constables check for kids who were either dangerous intoxicated or high on something potent.
Megaera, on the other hand, seemed blasé about the the huge hairy copper relaxing just a couple feet from her Demonia Combat boots. She sat really still and watched Ellery as she spoke, smoking her steadily diminishing reefer.
Ellery Wilcox had the kind of voice you wanted to listen to--calm, thoughtful, and compelling. She drew you in, and you wanted to catch every word even if the story she was telling probably involved horror that iced over your spine and shriveled up your gods forsaken soul into cold ashes.
Locker no 490 (3)
"Because the middle school was so large," Ellery explained, "it was divided into 3 different 'academies' (6th, 7th, and 8th). 6th grade ( where I was) was housed downstairs while the 8th grade and most of 7th was housed on the second floor.
"The library occupied both stories, and it was on the second story that infamous Locker no 490 was located.
"After Nadine, her burly friend/bodyguard Brenda and a few others in Rm. 105 'persuaded' the Scenes to unblock the door and put everything back in perfect order; Veronica finally told me the story of Locker no 490.
"It was a famous school legend, about as popular as the legends of Bloody Mary, the Tri-cycling Gas Mask Ghost of Sunset Court, and the Skull Headed Collie of Sutter Road.
"I was too busy being a model student and making new friends to pay any attention to local ghost lore.
"According to the legend, the curse started way back in the early 1970's. Back then Curtisville wasn't the gentrified bedroom community it is now. It was mostly a sprawling backwater chiefly consisting of trailers, humbled shacks, ranches, nurseries, and a wrecking yard.
"At that time, Curtisville Middle School wasn't quite as large and luxurious--just 13 classrooms, an auditorium/lunchroom, and a much-smaller library. Every single locker there was long and full-sized, no top and bottom at all. And many a small seventh-grader suffered the indignation of getting crammed into one by the school doofuses.
"In an effort to combat the town's growing image problem and promote better tolerance and understanding, the school decided to host a group of exchange students from Okinawa.
"Things went surprisingly well, despite the language barrier and some cultural differences, perhaps because several reporters including world famous Walter Cronkite commented about this exchange program on the news, and the town's folk didn't want to appear badly with the eye of the world watching them.
"It wasn't until the middle of August that the inexplicable, hideous tragedy of Locker 490 finally came into play.
"The seventh grader who was using the locker was a Japanese student by the name of Marina Yamauchi. She started hearing noises at first--faint rustling and creaking like someone or something was moving around inside. Yet whenever she opened her locker to check, there was nothing unusual to be found. Everything was where it should be, books and binders stacked in proper order, her jacket hanging in one corner, her book bag with her lunch inside lay at the bottom untouched.
"Since there was a maintenance room right near her locker, Marina eventually decided all the strange noises she had been been hearing were due to the janitor working next door.
"The strange sounds continued, and then the weird smells began, as well as the sensation of being watched. It was like someone was standing just a few feet away staring with huge unwavering eyes. Common sense told her that no one could be there; it was impossible for anyone to hide in that cramped narrow space let alone move around without her noticing. Afraid, Marina stopped using her locker altogether and instead, carried her stuff with her everywhere. But even this precaution didn't help, the sensation of being watched persisted, becoming more intense. Now the watcher was coming after her, staring at her with wide unblinking eyes.
"Marina knew that somehow this disturbing experience was connected to that locker. Even though she wasn't a superstitious person, she knew two of the locker numbers--'4' and '9' were considered unlucky in Japan.
"Four was pronounced 'shi,' which was the same pronunciation as 'death,' while nine was pronounced 'ku,' which had the same pronunciation as 'agony' on 'torture.'
"She also noticed when the numbers--'4,' '9,' '0' were added together, they came up with another unlucky number--'13.'
"But even though she desperately needed someone's help, she didn't tell anyone. Even though she wasn't a shy timid person, she wasn't sure people would believe her.
"Plopping down at a cafeteria table with a weary sigh, Marina listlessly picked at her lunch.
"Several of her friends walked up, and the one named Via Nakada, a seventh grader of Hawaiian-Japanese and Nye descent, asked her, 'What's wrong Marina?"
"'Nothing, it's just...' Marina paused. 'It's nothing,' she sighed again.
"Concerned, her friends glanced at each other. This wasn't like Marina, trying to hide her feelings whenever she was upset or sad.
"'No, really Marina, what's wrong?' Via persisted.
"Reluctantly, Marina looked towards her friends before glancing back at Via.
"'I think my locker might be haunted,' she muttered. Then she told the others gathered around the table about the weird things that were happening to her.
"Nobody snickered or laughed, they just stayed silent, giving her weird looks. None of them ever heard about anything paranormal happening at the school before. No mysteriously moving photographs, no overwhelming feeling of dread (unless you count visits to the principle's office and Mystery Meat Day), no wispy apparitions, glowing orbs or unexplained sounds. There was not even a case of unusual death, suicide or sudden insanity.
"Compared to other middle schools, CMS was pretty normal, full of ordinary kids with ordinary preteen problems. It would have still went on being perfectly normal if it hadn't been for that damn locker.
"'But that's impossible!' one girl exclaimed. 'There's no ghosts here! It's probably just your imagination over-reacting.'
"'Well, I think someone's playing a trick on you,' another more reasonable girl said. 'There's some real jerks around here, it must be one of them. You should go to the office and complain.'
"Still others started trading guesses on what the thing was that was haunting Locker 490 might be. Some guessed it was a ghost, while a few (having just seen The Exorcist ) insisted that it was demon.
"In the end, Via offered to trade lockers with Marina, insisting she wasn't afraid of any spook--supernatural or otherwise.
"Relieved, Marina quickly agreed, and right after lunch, did the change.
"Things immediately returned to normal, and by the end of August, the events of Locker 490 had receded into the shadowy recesses of Marina's mind, although they weren't completely locked away and forgotten. Then two weeks before Thanksgiving Break, Via just...vanished.
"I stared at Veronica, feeling my eyes grow really wide. "Va...vanished?
"'Yep,' Veronica affirmed with a nod, 'vanished this very same month, right after fourth period. Right in the middle of school rush hour. One minute she was walking towards her new locker to get her gym clothes, the next minute she was gone, the locker door half opened.
"'No one thought it was weird at the time, so many kids left their locker unlocked and sometimes even open when they were chatting with their friends.
"'Later, when the police started interviewing people, some of them told how it was very odd that Via would go off leaving her locker open and unlocked since she worried a lot about theft.
"'A massive search involving hundreds of volunteers and police canvassed the surrounding area. Via's face soon appeared in every newspaper and missing person poster across the country, but not a trace of her was ever discovered. To this very day, her strange disappearance remains unsolved.'
"I took a bite of my Saint Benoît Yogurt as I speculated on this. In the background, I could hear over the sound of rain and wind, Marble Hornets playing again and the faint rustling of cards and clink of 'poker chips.' However, Rm. 105 was emptied of half of its participants , most having gone upstairs to see if they could find any trace of this supposed 'Locker Monster.'
"Maybe she just decided to run away,' I suggested. 'Probably was really unhappy at home, had a lot of arguments with her folks.'
"'No,' Veronica shook her head , 'on the day she disappeared, Via was really upbeat. Had a lot of positive things going on in her life; why should she suddenly leave like that?' Veronica licked the mustard from her fingers before continuing, 'Then there were the creepy noises that people claimed to have heard coming from the locker, as well as this weird perfumey kind of gross smell .'
"'Wut?' I leaned forward. 'What weird smell and noises?'
"'Well, this is where it starts sounding like something out a Stephen King story,' Veronica quietly told me, 'but according to some of the eyewitness accounts, shortly after Via went missing, distant screams were heard coming from inside the locker. There was also a funky smell, and these sticky-sounding footsteps walking away. The sound grew even fainter as if going down some vast unseen hallway, though the locker was narrow and really cramped and people couldn't see anything strange in there.'
"I sat riveted to my seat, goosebumps tingling all over. I suddenly recalled on my few visits to the library how people would always give this one set of lockers wide berth.
"'When the screams and footsteps faded away,' Veronica somberly explained, 'the smell soon disappeared.'
"Suddenly, a brilliant, blinding flash of lightning lit up the entire room and a second later a huge crash of thunder followed. This totally freaked me out and I jerked, immediately flinging myself out of my seat, and then the overhead lights started flickering before going out entirely. Amid the panicked shouts and loud swearing, I heard the door fly open with a crash that shook the walls, then felt a blast of freezing wet cold."
To be continued in The Visitor From Curtisville--Ch. 5--Bad Omens