This story is set in a school, but the eerie feeling will be familiar to anyone who has had to lock up a building on their own, in the dark. I must admit, since I wrote this, I haven't been staying late so much. Especially now the evenings are drawing in...
The door hissed, a whisper that shimmered down the short corridor, and clicked shut with a sharp sound that was just on the edge of hearing. She was alone. Again. It wasn’t the first time. She was often the last to leave, preferring to muster the effort to finish her marking at school rather than lug a bag of books home: they would only sit staring accusingly until she dealt with them. But, as the silence fell around her like a cloak, part of her wished she was going home now too. It always felt so different here after everyone had gone.
The village school was tiny by most people’s standards: two classrooms, a staff room and office, and a toilet block. All the rooms except one classroom branched off from a squat, rectangular corridor that multi-tasked as a cloakroom and led to the main entrance. The cheerful colours of the butterfly-themed display- primary in every sense- seemed false as darkness fell, like heavy make-up on a wizened face. Which in a way, she thought, it was.
The school was well over one hundred years old and, even though it had the necessary updates, didn’t wear them happily. The interactive whiteboard, blank and silent since the children had left hours before, hung embarrassedly between two original chimney breasts. The fireplaces had been boxed in long ago, but the mantelpieces made it easy to visualise how they must once have looked. The windows, high and arched, let in light but not life- no distractions allowed here! She listened to the car outside start up and watched the flash of headlights sweep a gentle glow past the tall windows before it drove away. Too late now.
She huffed resignedly and turned back to her books.
“Oh, Tom,” she tutted. “How many times..?” She chewed the end of her green pen, thinking carefully how to phrase the correction.
A click, loud in the silence, broke her focus. Her head turned quickly towards the sound. Was that the main door? Sometimes it bounced and didn’t catch as it shut. She knew she’d have to check: she was vulnerable here, alone, and the thought of a shadowy prowler testing an unlocked door made her shiver. She pushed back her chair and walked hurriedly towards the main entrance.
The October blackness pressed against the windows and made the diminutive corridor feel like a submarine. As she tested the main door, rattling it sharply to check the catch, she half expected to see fish swimming past the glass panel. Or maybe a face looming suddenly from the dark night. As the thought, unwanted, popped into her head she took an involuntary step back from the glass.
“Stop being stupid,” she muttered, trying to disguise her fear with an impatient tone. “You’ll only scare yourself.” She rattled the door one more time and walked back to her classroom, being careful to keep her eyes lowered and away from the windows in the corridor.
“Right, where was I? Oh, yes- trying to be tactful…” She picked up her pen and wrote quickly and neatly at the bottom of the page. Shutting out the groans and creaks that are inevitable in any old building, she settled down to her task and was satisfied to see the previously intimidating pile whittled down to nothing.
“Awesome. Now that’s done, I can get home.”
She often spoke out loud to herself; it had become a habit. Living alone, with only her dogs, she had become used to talking to them as she went about her day, and a patter of external monologue was comforting even here. It made her feel less isolated. She considered it thinking aloud rather than talking to herself.
“And only crazy people talk to themselves,” she murmured, smiling wryly as she stacked the marked books tidily, ready for tomorrow.
The click made her jump this time and she clutched the books to her chest, as if for protection, as she whirled to face the classroom door.
“Hello?” she called, hoping to hear the voice of the evening cleaner respond in greeting. Silence. And then- unmistakeably- another click...
Tell me what you think!
Snippets of reviews for
Late: a ghostly tale.
...a very atmospheric tale...As the suspense gradually built up, I found I couldn't look away. A great ghost story...
Kindleatmospheric tale and I am glad I read it in daylight.
An amazing read that sent chills down my spine. A perfect story for Halloween.
"Late" promises something special from the first paragraph, building the suspense gradually before reaching a terrifying conclusion...history is never far away and as darkness falls it creeps ever closer...
...will set your mind thinking about things that go bump in the night! Loved it and well worth a read...it's got me "hungry" for more!
...a short, well written story with plenty of tension built up at all the right parts... a nice (if you can call a scary story 'nice'!) little snippet of traditional, ghostly horror...