Danny shone his flashlight ahead of him and then walked a few steps down the corridor. The walls were blackened and with no light, Mia couldn’t gather much of her surroundings except for a dank smell over a much stronger one that she couldn’t identify.
“What caused the fire again?” Danny asked.
Mia shone her flashlight over the door of a room and put her hand on the handle, but it didn’t open.
“In the newspapers said that the cause was never determined but that it may have started in the chemistry lab.” Ronit said.
Ronit and Danny were walking ahead and Mia realized Jake was walking right beside her. She hastened a few steps and pushed open a door on her right. Peeking in, she saw a small classroom with about ten to fifteen chairs.
“Perfect.” She said.
Jake came up behind her and shone his flashlight all around the classroom. “No fire alarms. That explains it.”
“Oh there’s more than that.” Ronit said, entering from his side. Mia followed him and looked at the burnt blackboard that was hanging askew.
“There’s a rumor that one of the students started the fire. A boy, I think.” Ronit said. “He apparently was playing a prank. Or was a vandal.”
“Perfect!” Mia said, turning around suddenly. “I was thinking we should make the ghost a boy instead of the typical girl student with long hair and flowing gowns.”
"Students in flowing gowns?" Ronit asked Danny who snickered.
“We’re doing the fire safety thing first.” Jake said, sitting down on one of the desks. “I’m guessing the fire didn’t spread all the way in the classroom.”
“What makes you say that?” Mia asked, accidentally shining the flashlight on his face.
Jake put a hand up to shield his eyes. “Ugh! My cousin is in the fire department. He taught me some stuff. There aren’t too many patterns here and this classroom hasn’t been destroyed by fire that much.”
Mia nodded. “Uh-huh. The fire probably started somewhere at the back of the school.”
“Where the chemistry lab is.” Ronit said.
“Now about this horror movie…” Mia said. “I was thinking we don’t do the clichéd stuff. So no little girl ghosts and no bad lighting effects.”
“Our project is due in two weeks.” Jake reminded her. “Our focus should be in getting a better grade than F.”
“We could come back during the day for the fire safety part. I specifically called you guys at night to shoot the horror movie.” Mia replied.
“Where’s Danny?” Ronit asked suddenly.
“Wasn’t he right behind you?” Jake asked, jumping down from the creaky and wobbly desk.
“Wasn’t he right behind you?” Jake asked, jumping down from the creaky and wobbly desk.
“That’s what I thought.” Ronit said, walking out of the classroom.
“Can’t you guys, stay in one place?” Mia complained. Her flashlight flickered then and she tapped the end with her hand until it shone properly again.
Jake and Ronit had walked out the classroom and Mia blew a breath. This was taking way too much time and she wanted to get back home in time for her favorite TV show. Her Mother was cooking Chinese food tonight and she really wanted to get home before her dinner got cold.
She started to walk out the classroom, when she heard a loud thunking sound – as if something had just been dragged across the floor. She whipped around and threw the beam of her flashlight everywhere at once. Everything appeared to be in place and she frowned.
She walked down the rows of the desks and was suddenly aware of how silent it was. Her mouth went dry and she licked her lips as a cold creepy feeling crawled across her back. Blowing out a breath, she was about to turn around when her eye caught something.
Shining her flashlight, she saw one of the chairs pulled away from the desk at the back of the class. She walked towards it, holding her flashlight steady. Had all the chairs been moved around? She had been certain that when she had entered the classroom, all the desks and chairs had been aligned in an orderly manner. Mia went over to the chair and moved the beam of light all around it, but saw nothing.
She shrugged and walked out the classroom as fast as she could.
"Danny!" Ronit called.
"You guys still haven't found him?" Mia asked.
"I wish the damned electricity was on." Jake complained.
"Umm…the school burned down." Mia reminded him. "The cables were no doubt damaged as well. And don't you think the first thing they would have done is turn the electricity off? Or didn't your cousin teach you anything else?"
Jake started to respond to her sarcasm when Ronit spoke up.
"Guys…" Ronit said coming over to them. "I can't find…"
Just then the lights in the corridor came on and Mia felt her heart jump in her chest.
"What the hell…?" Jake said, looking all around them.
Danny came down the corridor, grinning. "You're welcome."
"How did you…?" Mia saw that her flashlight was still on and switched it off. "I thought there wouldn't be any electricity."
"I have my ways." Danny winked.
Ronit slapped him on the shoulder. "How did you accomplish that?"
"The electricity only works in this half. I couldn't get it to turn at the back." Danny explained.
"Well, that's exactly where we're going." Mia said. "Besides, you're going to have to turn this off. We can't have people thinking we're trespassing or something."
"But you do have special permission from your Uncle, right?" Ronit asked.
"Of course." Mia said and turned away from the boys.
The front door behind them suddenly blew open and Mia jumped.
Mia could actually feel her heart stop when she heard the gruff voice. Turning around, she saw the security guard walking in, clutching at something in his pocket.
"What's going on here?"
Mia stood before the small group. "I'm Mia Walker. My Uncle is...was... a principal here. I have permission to be here." She blubbered.
The security guard looked at them all suspiciously. He looked to be in his early twenties with short sandy hair, grey eyes and acne on his cheeks. He was skinny and would otherwise look completely harmless, except the glaring expression in his eyes showed he could get aggressive if he wanted to.
He nodded thoughtfully. "Ah. Your Uncle did mention you would come."
Mia felt her shoulders relaxing and nodded at her group.
"But you're not supposed to be this late. Come in the morning." He said gruffly.
"Look..." Mia started.
"Out. Now!" He said in a threatening tone.
"Good job, Mia." Jake muttered behind her.
"Which one of you got the lights on?" The guard asked.
Danny stepped back further and Mia rolls her eyes. "Will you let me say something?"
The guard regarded her with hostility.
"We're making a movie here. A horror movie to showcase at the festival."
"The After Midnight Horror festival?" The guard narrowed his eyes.
"Yeah." Mia answered. "I kind of need the darkness for this movie."
The guard stood silently with his hand in his pocket, but Mia could see that he was showing interest in their project.
"We'll credit you." Ronit said quickly.
The guard grinned. "Really?"
"Absolutely!" Mia said coming towards him. She put her hand forward. "We'll credit everyone who helps us with our project. Welcome aboard..."
"Peter." He said, adjusting his hat and then shaking her hand. "So how can I help?"
"I always wanted to be in the movies – to be an actor." Peter said excitedly. "Things didn't work out then. But when opportunity knocks... You open the door."
"Hmmm..." Mia said distractedly.
"This is going nowhere." Jake grumbled. He was standing by her side again and Mia groaned inwardly. "Your hotchpotch plan is going to get us all an F. I say we just ditch this whole thing...."
"No!" Mia said. "We are doing this. Everybody listen up." She turned to the others and stood before them. "It's night time so it's best we get some shots for the horror movie. Tomorrow morning we come and get shots for the fire safety project. Okay?"
"What is my role in all this?" Peter asked.
"Role?" Mia quickly gathered herself then. Peter seemed like a wannabe actor but if lying was what it took to get him off their backs…
"You get to guide us to the back of the school where the fire took place." Mia said. "In the dark, everything probably looks a lot spooky."
Peter looked disappointed that he wasn't being offered a role, then nodded and started to lead them down the corridor. "So what is the story?" He asked.
"Yeah, what is the story, Mia?" Jake taunted.
"I want our movie to stand out." She said. "And in order to do so, I want to avoid all the horror movie clichés."
"Meaning what?" Danny asked.
Mia shrugged. "You know… no crappy lighting stuff. No looking under the bed for monsters. No looking away from the mirror and looking back to see 'someone' behind you." She said and then snapped her fingers. "Oh and no, girl ghosts. The ones with long hair over their faces roaming around in long white dresses. Nothing of that sort."
"You've already said that." Jake said dryly. "We get it – no girl ghosts!"
"Then what is in the movie?" Ronit asked.
Mia smiled. "The opposite. I'm thinking of a guy ghost. The fire and what Ronit said has given me an idea. Maybe he started the fire to kill the boys who were bullying him, but he dies instead and now he has unfinished business."
"Unfinished business?" Jake scoffed. "Now that's not clichéd? And a nerd taking revenge on bullies. So original." he rolled his eyes.
"Alright. Then how about he was wrongfully accused....?"
"Already done." Jake said before she could finish.
Mia frowned at him. She knew this wasn't going to work out with Jake. But now she was stuck with him and he hadn't said he wouldn't help her. And right now, she needed all the help she could get.
"I'll get some inspiration when I see the fire damage." She said and walked forward so that she was no longer walking with him.
"You got your flashlights?" Peter asked.
"Yup." Mia said.
"From here onwards, we'll need them." Peter said and then turned around. "Oh and stick together. You do not want to get lost here."
"So what exactly happened here?" Mia asked.
"There was a fire." Peter shrugged, stating what the all already knew. They came to a dark corridor and Peter turned on his flashlight. "From here on we stay together."
"We're not kids." Jake mumbled.
"How long have you worked here?" D anny asked.
"Two years." Peter replied. "Do I get to act in this movie?"
Ronit and Danny turned to Mia who looked away from them. "Uh…let's see what's ahead. You were saying something about the fire. The newspapers didn't give an exact reason."
"That's because the firefighters were unable to determine the seat of the fire." Peter said.
"That means the point from where the fire began." Ronit explained.
"Got it." Mia said, rolling her eyes. "And why was that?"
"They said something about the fire patterns not being regular." Peter said. "At first they said they thought it was a chemical mix up in the lab that caused the explosion. Then they said that the flames didn't look like it was caused by chemicals."
Ronit nodded thoughtfully as if he understood and Mia frowned. "Alright, then where else could the fire have started?"
"The fire investigators said they found fire patterns in the Principal's room and the room where student records are kept." Peter said. He stopped walking then and turned around. "Hey, you still haven’t finished telling the story and what my role is going to be."
Mia started to open her mouth when Jake stepped in before her. "There is no story." he said. "Mia wants her movie to stand out. And what better way to stand out than not have a plot?"
"Actually." Mia interrupted. "Peter has given me an idea. So I do have a story now."
"Do tell?" Jake said, feigning interest. "Huddle up guys, Mia has a story to narrate for us."
Mia decided to ignore his sarcasm and smiled. "Okay, so the story is going to be about the fire in the school. A student- a guy—"
"Because girl ghosts are clichéd." Jake told everyone.
"This guy started the fire to kill the people who had tormented him all through high school." Mia said.
"Isn't that too extreme?" Danny asked.
Mia shrugged. "Oh well these guys really tormented him and…" she paused, thinking of ideas and then nodded quickly as an idea occurred to her. "He was about to kill himself. Then he thought that his life was way more precious than the bullies’, so he sets fire in the…um…gym where one of the bullies was working out. Except, things didn't go according to his plans and he died instead of the bully."
"And now he's roaming the school corridors, looking for vengeance." Jake yawned.
"Uh-huh." Mia said. "What do you guys think?"
"I think…" Jake started, but Peter interrupted him.
"Not bad. I would love to play the role of the ghost." He said excitedly.
"Oh…he's a high school student." Mia reminded him.
"Make-up." Peter said, snapping his fingers. "I could dye my hair and wear some..." he eyed the boys in front of him and frowned at their appearances. "T-shirt and jeans, instead of baggy pants"
Danny looked down at his baggy pants and frowned. Mia ran her fingers through her ponytail and watched as Peter prattled on about lighting and wearing even more make-up so that he looked like a ghost. She glanced at Jake who was smirking at her and she decided to put an end to this.
"Peter…uh, tonight we're just going to take some shots of the school that we'll later edit." She turned to Danny and Ronit. "One of you guys can handle the editing part right."
"Okay." Ronit and Danny said in unison and then they both looked at each other and grinned.
"And what else is going to be in this horror movie that is not going to be clichéd?" Jake asked. "You've pretty much crossed out a lot of stuff. Let me guess, a door is suddenly going to bang shut somewhere?"
Mia started to get irritated with Jake but resisted the urge to just tell him off. She took a deep breath and took a step back from him. She could suddenly feel her head getting lighter just by moving away from him.
Under the pretext of studying the classroom doors, she thought hurriedly for an idea. She hated to admit it but Jake was right about the suddenly slamming doors. Too many horror movies had used the same gimmick and she needed something different.
Think, she told herself. She remembered what had happened in the classroom she had been in and whirled around.
"I have an idea!" she said.
Jake crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. Peter looked excited though and that was enough to encourage her to state her plan.
"Okay…" she said, licking her lips. "In fact I have an opening shot." She raised both her hands at head level. "We do an exterior shot of the school, put on some eerie music and then slowly, walk inside, showing the dark corridors. And then we make a turn and enter a classroom where all the desks and chairs are lined up neatly."
"And the eerie music is still going on?" Jake asked.
"Obviously." Mia said. "Then we slowly zoom on the desks, when out of nowhere, a chair in the back row, pushes back—as if someone is about to sit down. Fade to black and the title comes on."
"That's not bad." Danny said.
"Yeah, it could be pretty creepy if executed properly." Ronit agreed.
Mia turned to Jake who seemed disappointed that her idea was being approved.
"How do we make this chair move?" Peter asked.
Mia blinked and then rubbed her hands together. "Ummm….oh wait!" She reached into her purse and took out a spool of pale white string. "We tie this to the leg of the chair and on cue, one of you will pull on the end and it'll look like an invisible force pulled back the chair."
"On it." Danny said, taking the ball of string from her.
"We'll try it right now." Peter said.
Mia smiled widely at the three men and walked past Jake who was still sulking.
"Which classroom?" Ronit asked.
"Any." Mia said and pushed open the door of the nearest one on her right. "This will do."
Peter shone his flashlight inside and nodded slowly. "Yeah these classrooms weren't damaged like the ones in the back."
Mia took out her camcorder and switched it on.
"Does it have night vision?" Danny asked.
"Of course it does." Ronit said.
Mia switched on the night mode and turned all around the room with it. "Hm…the lighting is a bit off. It’s too dark. I need a little bit more light."
"We could use an emergency lamp." Peter suggested. "I'll go get it from my cabin."
"Thanks." Mia said as Peter jogged away. She then turned to Danny and Ronit. "You guys tie the string to the chair leg and test it out. Then let me take a shot of it and see if it looks good."
Danny went to the back of the classroom and stood in the middle. Ronit gestured towards the desk on the left and they both bend over with their flashlights.
Behind her, she heard Jake walk in and press on the light switch. "The electricity is out here."
"Obviously." Mia said dryly, still staring at the small screen of her camcorder. "Danny only managed to get it on in the front, remember?" She walked over to the front desk and sat down on it with her legs resting on the chair.
Jake shuffled his feet and then went over to sit in a chair behind her.
Mia rolled her eyes and then turned to him. "You know, if you don't contribute you won't get credit."
Jake made a face at her and then stood up. "Well leave it to Mia Walker to blackmail me." He leaned over on her desk and whispered. "Again."
"I think it's in our best interests to move on from all that." Mia said quietly so that Ronit and Danny wouldn't listen in. "We're stuck together for a project so let's do that and then go our separate ways."
"Yeah, let's work on the project then." Jake said. "I'm stuck making this crappy movie with you because the other idiots agreed with your ridiculous plans. It's like you forced us into making this."
Mia went back to check the lighting on her camera. "I asked for help."
"Didn't sound like it." Jake retorted.
"Fine then, don't help." she snapped. Looking up, she saw Ronit pull on the string and the chair moved, then wobbled and almost fell over when Danny grabbed it.
"It's not the first time you haven't helped someone." She said dryly.
"And here we go again." Jake said, irritated. "You and your friend…"
"I don't want to get involved." Mia said and started to get up from the desk when Jake grabbed her arm.
"Then you shouldn't have interfered in my life." He said angrily.
Mia shrugged him off and went over to Danny and Ronit. "You guys ready?"
"Yeah." Danny said, pushing up his glasses.
"Here." Ronit said, handing over his flashlight to her. "How about we use this in the meantime to give extra light?"
Jake took the flashlight from her hands and put it on the desk from across the rigged up chair. Mia looked into the small screen and nodded. "Well it should suffice for now. I'm ready to record."
She walked to the back of the classroom, sat right back on the desk while resting her feet on the chair, and held up her camera. "When I raise my hand, pull on the string, okay?"
Danny held the string ready in his hands, while Jake and Ronit moved to stand by her side. Mia directed the camera towards the left of the classroom and raised her hand.
Danny started to pull on the string slowly. The chair slid back slowly making a soft dragging sound that echoed in the dark and silent classroom.
Mia kept looking at the small screen and felt her excitement bubbling. The shot did look good, though she would have to tell Danny to bend over even more. She could see the back of his red hoodie. Also, they could use a bit more lighting and she hoped Peter would be back with the lamp soon.
"This looks…" Jake started to say and Mia turned around angrily.
"Shh.." she said.
"Don't shush me!" Jake snapped.
"I don't want there to be any sound." Mia said.
"I could edit that out." Ronit said, helpfully.
"Or Jake could just shut up." She muttered under her breath.
"Can we move this along?" Jake demanded. "Why is the ghost taking so much time to pull back a chair?"
Mia felt a sudden chilling sensation in her back and shivered. "Can you close the windows?" she requested, still looking into the screen. Jake was right, the shot would look better if Danny yanked a bit more on the string.
"The windows are closed." Jake said.
Mia looked up and turned to the windows. Jake was right; they were closed, yet she continued to feel a chill in her back. She turned her flashlight towards the vents and frowned. "Am I the only one who's feeling chilly all of a sudden?"
Jake groaned behind her and she turned to Ronit. "Do you feel something?"
Just then, the chair on which she had been resting her leg on slid from underneath her and dragged across the room. The sound of metal dragging against the tiles reverberated around them and before Mia could shine her flashlight on the chair, it smashed hard against the wall.
"What the hell?" Mia felt her breath being knocked out from her as she straightened.
Danny slowly got up from his hiding position and adjusted his glasses. "Woah!"
Mia felt her heartbeat accelerate and her breath stuck in her throat. She dropped her hands to her side and was only aware of the loud thudding noise of her own heartbeat in her ears. She started to feel light-headed and clutched at the desk behind her.
"That wasn't funny." she said, dazedly. Her head started to feel lighter and dark clouds appeared before her vision.
"I didn't do that!" Danny protested.
"How in the hell did that happen?" Ronit asked.
"Guys, that was a terrible joke." Jake said.
"I did not do this." Danny repeated.
While the three boys argued, Mia walked slowly towards the door and out of the classroom. The tightness in her chest was making her feel weaker by the second. She couldn't breathe anymore and bent over. Her purse dropped to her side and she reached for it and hastily opened it. Her hands rummaged through it, until finally, her hand clasped over the round metal box.
She plucked it out and quickly opened it. Blinking away the tears from her eyes, she picked up one of the pale blue tablets and swallowed it quickly. Straightening, she felt her breathing and heart rate return to normal.
Her hand on the wall, to steady herself, she felt her anger returning.
How dare they pull such a mean trick on me?
Jake had probably planned this prank with the other guys and now they were probably laughing at her in the classroom. She would never forgive them. If they knew that they had almost killed her just now, would they still be laughing?
"Hey!" Jake said from behind her and Mia dropped the small tin. The tin rolled away from her and then opened, scattering the contents all around Jake's feet.
Mia ran over to him and started to pick up the tablets. Her heart started to beat faster again and she tried to control her growing temper that only made her feel sicker.
Jake bent down and held up one of the tablets. "What's this?"
Mia snatched it from his fingers and put it back in the tin. "None of your business. Just back away."
"What's going on?" Danny asked, peeping through the classroom door.
Ronit stepped out and Mia heard a small crunching sound from underneath the soles of his shoes.
"Move!" Mia said and when Ronit stepped back, she saw the powdery remainders of at least five of her tablets. "Look what you did?"
"Are they mints?" Danny asked, looking at the tin in her hand.
Mia didn't say anything and gathered up the rest of the tablets. She stood up and tossed the tin into her purse. "What you did in there wasn't funny."
"I swear I had nothing to do with that." Danny said. "Ronit and I were working in front of you the whole time."
"Yes and then Jake distracted me." Mia said, feeling her face getting warm. Her head started to feel lighter again and she pressed her cool hand on it. "You know what, let's just go home."
She turned around and started to make her way back to the main door.
"Mia, this wasn't a prank." Jake said, trying to keep up with her hurried pace.
She tried to slow down on account of her heart, but she was too mad to listen to any excuses. "Yeah, the chair just happened to move all by itself and smash against the wall."
"I don't know how it happened, but it did and…"
"You know what, Jake?" Mia said, turning sharply on her heels. Jake almost stumbled when she did and put his hand on the wall to steady himself. "This isn't going to work out. I don't think we can move past what happened between you and Ravina. I think we should just go to Professor Philips and tell him that we simply cannot work together."
"You're overreacting. Again!" Jake said.
"I just want to go home." She told him in a low tone. Her chest started to tighten again and dark spots appeared in her vision, that were quickly expanding.
"You look pale." He said.
Overhead the tube lights in the corridor started to flicker and that only increased the light-headedness she was feeling.
Jake looked up and groaned. "Whatever Danny did to start up the lights in this part…"
The lights suddenly went off and Mia heard her heart clench tightly before relaxing. She felt her limbs turn into jelly and crumpled on the floor.
"Hey!" Jake said, putting his hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay? Danny, get the light!"
Mia held her head as the pounding of her heart grew louder in her ears.
"Drink this." Jake said, and passed something between her lips.
The coolness of water seeped into her mouth and down her throat. She felt some of her energy returning but her heart still felt tired.
"Can you get the lights on again?" Jake asked.
"I don't know." Danny said doubtfully. "Let's just take her home."
"What's wrong with her?" Ronit asked.
Jake started to put his arms under her legs, but she put her hand up to stop him. "I'm fine." She mumbled.
"Let me help you up." He said.
"No…not right now." She blinked in the darkness and reached for her purse. "I think I dropped my camcorder."
"I have it." Ronit said.
Danny shone his flashlight on her and she blinked. "Can you turn that away from me?"
"Should we call an ambulance?" Ronit asked.
"I'm fine." Mia said. She put her hand on the wall and slowly raised herself up. "I was just feeling faint for a bit. I'm okay now."
"We should go home now." Jake said solemnly.
View full book here: Horror Night
View full book here: Horror Night