Frederick was one of the lucky few. One of the few allowed to walk the halls of Middle Mind High unsupervised. Though no one who resided there was ever truly unsupervised.
The Staff would always leave a Scuttle-Bot or one of the Janitorial G.H.O.S.T. to watch over those lucky few like Frederick.
Frederick himself seemed upset, at odds, but the Solstice was coming, so there was that much to be grateful for.
They won’t let us home though. Frederick though a little glumly. I don’t think they’ll ever let us home. We’re just too precious to them.
Even the darkest of halls had been covered in bright streamers and banners the glowed, with broad letters hanging from the walls, spelling out the words; Solstice and All-Father and Celebration.
It brought a little light to the dark, this decoration. White light though, no colour beyond this. Colour was dangerous here at Middle Mind High, at least that’s what the tutors would say.
A little white, black or grey, and maybe on occasion break out the beige. But never colour. Gods no. Colour can make you feel, and it’s the feelings that might be dangerous.
In the ceiling small lights flickered, recessed in alcoves that hid the bulbs away. There were no windows, just grates of iron through which fresh air could travel freely. Freely, unlike us. No radiators on the walls, no hooks to hang your coats, no lockers for belongings, not even knobs with which to open up the doors. They’re automatic. Just give knock and voilà.
Frederick let loose a sigh.
“Evening, Frederick. I see they let you out again?”
Frederick nodded, he didn’t need to look up from his feet to know it was Katia standing there before him. He could feel her. He could sense her.
Not Katia Ash, but Katia Jones.
His head tilted queerly to one side. Is that bug-blood on my toe? He was bare foot, as was Katia Jones. Whoops, I think I killed my Scuttle-Bug. Frederick chuckled to himself.
“Don’t worry Fred, I killed mine, too.” Katia smiled, she was holding out her hand, inside was what looked like a centipede, one half flesh and the other born from circuitry. Frayed wires were jutting from what might have been the Scuttle’s head, and there was blood between Katia’s teeth.
The head. Remember. You always go for the head.
“That’s right Fred!” Katia clapped her hands and what remained of her Scuttle was lost.
“Enough chitter chatter, children. It’s long past your curfew. You’re damned lucky to be allowed out at this hour, to be allowed out at all!” a woman with ironing board shoulders and a bowling pin head fluttered into the hall through a locked door. The door remained shut. She wavered in the light, half there and half not, her skin a pale blueish colour.
“Sorry, Lady Hoggles-Bee.” Frederick and Katia apologised in unison, both looking down at their feet.
“We were only talking, promise.” Katia curled her bottom lip.
“That’s all very well,” Lady Hoggles-Bee said as she brushed a cold hand through Katia’s dark hair, which caught and pulled a little causing Katia to jerk away, “but best you’re off before the Staff come calling.”
“Yes Lady Hoggles-Bee.” this time Katia’s voice was barely a whimper.
I hate her. Katia balled her hands into fists. I hate all of them.
Not so loud! Frederick thought. If they hear we’ll be in even worse trouble.
I don’t care. Not anymore. I just… I just don’t.
Fred glanced over his shoulder. Lady Hoggles-Bee was long gone and Katia was already turning around the corner at the far end of the hall. He was all alone, again.
I hate her, too. He thought, quietly. I hate this place.
With a sigh Frederick carried on walking.
It wasn’t long before he passed the kitchen, his quarters were in the cellars down below. He knew the chef well enough. Grudwin. Just Grudwin.
Is that… pumpkin? How strange. It’s wasn’t long now until closing time. Lock-down. Last light. Whatever you might have called it. And it wasn’t just the Students of Middle Mind High who had to turn in when the lights went out.
There’s far worse than G.H.O.S.T hiding in the halls.
So why is Grudwin cooking? Fred knew he wasn’t supposed to look, but he couldn’t resist a quick peak. With the Solstice fast approaching maybe Grudwin was cooking up a surprise.
Chocolate cake! I bet it is. We’re only supposed to eat sweet on special occasions.
There were two doors that led into the kitchen, both painted grey with a porthole window in each. But Fred was far too small to peer through either window, even on his tiptoes.
But I’m not short. He shook his head. I’m pretty tall for my age. The Staff said so. Said I’m growing really well.
He crept a little closer to the doors. The lights beyond the windows had been turned down low, a little too low for his liking. He could hear the Cook hocking and snorting, shooting phlegm into a large tin pot. There was the sound of chopping, too. A knife whacking through something hard but rubbery.
Like frozen chicken?
Fred could smell the pumpkin on the air, stronger now, but there was something else. Something off.
“And what do you think you’re doing, Frederick Alfred Green.” to hear that voice was like ice to the bones.
Frederick froze with one hand on the door, and for a moment all was quiet in the kitchen. Then the Cook could be heard shuffling around uneasily, listening.
“Turn around, slowly.” the sharp voice called.
The lights in the kitchen fell dark.
Fred turned around, slowly as instructed.
I really shouldn’t have lingered so long...
“No, you really shouldn’t have. Do you not realise how lucky you are? To be allowed the privilege of these little walks.” the voice belonged to the thin whisper of a man, but beyond that there was no telling where the dank halls ended and his being began.
It was as if this man was one with the school, his face clouded by strange silhouettes that writhed and wriggled uncomfortably across his features, leaving only the bare sockets visible were eyes should have been. His jaw was split open, and from that split a Scuttle-Bug came crawling out. “I believe you are missing yours.” the man cast his gaze down upon Fred’s shoe. “Back to bed now.” the man laughed, “You’ll need your sleep boy. The Solstice is coming, it’s coming real soon.”
Copyright © K R Perry 2019