CHAPTER FIVE – Dark Secrets
Madolin looked around the school building slightly confused. Not two feet out the door and already the place was starting to look deserted. It was the strangest feeling. Like standing in a busy building minutes before closing. A place that was normally blistering with life and people, and noise, was now an empty skeleton. There were only two signs of life now. The two twins, Ali and Croc from her second period, were laughing to eachother. They walked hurriedly around the corner, their amusement still echoing through the air around Madolin Bee.
It was weird, nothing was supposed to be back there.
A thought teased at the forefront of her mind. Was this some kind of initiation? She was too smart to do the whole hazing thing, but she had moved around enough to have seen her fair share of “welcomes”. This must be her chance.
She snapped a quick glance back and forth. It made her feel a bit silly. Like someone from a cheesy spy movie. With a nervous swallow, she followed after them. Even if it wasn’t some kind of informal initiation, she still wanted to know what they were up to. When she turned the corner she blinked in shock. Right in front of her was…
They disappeared. Just like everyone else at the stupid school. She cried out in irritation, not even really sure why she was so annoyed. Everywhere she went she had to go through the new-girl orientation all over again. After about a week she would finally start to be part of the daily humdrum life that went on in her new surroundings. Until then, she was studied under a microscope, her every step scrutinized. It was even worse here. While there was this great feeling of acceptance, she was also picking up on some strong feelings of unease. In the hallways people stared at her as if they wanted to ask a question, but kept walking, figuring someone else would do it. Frustration made her bristle. She was so sick of being the newest subject of study. Every time she moved! A pile of leaves suffered the sobering effects of her frustration. They billowed around her like cloud of dust kicked up by a nuclear warhead.
She stopped her rampage. When the leaves settled back into their disturbed resting places, she got a good glance at the actual building, not the well-groomed creature it was beautifully crafted to seem from the sidewalks. From the front, it didn’t really look that dated. But here, with vines slithering up the sides of the building, she could see its unmasked age.
It looked like some wise-guy had hidden an old English castle in the middle of a school. After a moment’s thought, she decided it was probably vice-versa. A buzz of excitement trickled through her veins. She had grown to love old buildings. It stemmed from living in enough to know that they always held secrets.
Madolin straightened up her shoulders that she just realized were lowered uncertainly. As her eyes scanned every inch of the building, the uncertain feeling returned. A couple years ago she had gone to a whole slew of old schools like this. Back then, places like these were considered prime hangout spots, but oddly enough, no one was there. The more she looked, the more uneasy she felt. Not only was there no one there, but there was nothing there. A lump curled in her belly and a warning kept playing through her mind.
Not all secrets should be sought after.
“Hello?” Her voice wavered as she called out for some signs of the living. Despite herself, and the lack of an answer, Madolin stepped over a couple of garbage cans conveniently placed. She turned another menacing corner and the eerie feeling spiraled upwards.
There was dirt and dust enveloping everywhere visible, suffocating any weeds that could have poked up through the snake-like cracks in the pavement. Two buildings stood like grinning demons. The patches of black eating at the sides of them were mixtures of rot and char marks. One of them had a cavernous hole where the side of the building should have been and most of the roof was crumbled or gone leaving only splinters of wood gnashing out like black teeth.
Her foot caught on something and it snapped apart, making her jump.
The vestiges of yellow caution tape grinned up at her. She looked up startled only to find that all the doors were covered in planks of wood and ominous “Keep Out” signs that buried a dark secret, one that she had suddenly lost interest in.
She took a step back from the decrepit place and ivy grabbed at her ankles. They were desperate skeleton hands, clutching onto her from whatever graves they’d been condemned to. A scream was rising in her throat, but she choked it down, trying to convince herself that the place wasn’t as macabre as her overactive imagination was making it.
Something grabbed her shoulder.
“Hey. What are you doing back–”
She screamed. A loud shrill scream that rang in the ears of her attacker.
Another hand grabbed her other shoulder. All of Madolin’s senses went on overdrive. She had to get whoever, whatever this thing was off of her. She had to escape, get out of this place. Run, just run and, and, and, change schools maybe. But first, she had to get it off her.
“Hey, hey, hey!” The voice said, “calm dow-OUCH!”
Madolin felt a stomach-churning crunch as her teeth snapped down on one of the hands that had gripped her shoulder. Furiously she spun around, wrestling out of the grip on her other shoulder. “You are so…”
Hawkin was nursing his hand, looking injured, indignant, and shocked.
“You bit me!” He cried incredulously. “Like, legitimately bit me!”
A silence stretched between them as the piranha assessed her surroundings. It was like a bolt of magic had erupted and sucked all the creepiness out of the place. Now that someone was there with her, it really wasn’t that scary. But seconds before, the feel of the place had her shivering.
Madolin was suddenly very aware of the situation. And of what she had just done. She looped a finger through one of her curls. “I’m… Oh my gosh I’m so sorry! I just… well, I couldn’t see you, and this place, and… You scared me all right! You shouldn’t have grabbed me like that! It was, well it was creepy!”
Hawkin, still tending to his hand, started chuckling. “You really are a bee aren’t you? And man do you sting!”
“What are you doing here anyway?” She finally shot, entirely put out by being laughed at… again.
Of course Hawkin only chuckled louder. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Guess you just beat me to it.” That contemptuous little lilt returned to his lips. This was just to funny to him.
Madolin was still standing there, arms crossed, bottom lip protruding.
“Eh…” He paused, sensing he was maybe pushing his luck. “I saw you walking back here and I was just… curious, so I followed you. Unfortunately I still haven’t gotten the answer to my question. So now it’s your turn Pumpkin. What were you doing back here? Hmm?”
A small laugh finally broke through. “I was following the twins.”
“Ali and Crock?”
A grin cracked across Hawkin’s face, “I guess it was a chain reaction then.” He threw a glance over his shoulder. “We should go, no one really comes back here. Not since…” In the ensuing silence he motioned hesitantly to the decimated buildings, “Well, not since that.”
Madolin looked confused.
“What exactly happened?”
He gave way to a small, very uncharacteristic nervous laugh and scratched at the hair on the back of his head. “Those, well… those are the cooking classrooms. Actually, that one was.” His finger was directed to the one bearing a close resemblance to a blackened marshmallow. “We’re not really supposed to be back here anymore. It’s been like that since it… well, went up in flames, err, a grease-fire really. Yeah, it was a cooking classroom. Something was bound to happen right?”
After a moment accompanied by Madolin’s thinking face, she said, “So who did it. Burnt down the cooking classroom I mean.”
The cascade of red on Hawkin’s face said it all. “Well you see,” He stammered nervously again, “I’m not really the best cook and…” Again he chuckled.
Madolin’s eyebrows shot up and she burst into laughter. Turns out, Mr. Perfect couldn’t even cook. “You burnt down the cooking class?”
“I know hard to believe right?”
“No.” She said with a dry smile. “Not really.”
“Urm. W-well, the weight room suffered some minor casualties too. But uh, yeah, That’s me, certified destruction worker.”
“Minor? Yes, that is minor” The least damaged one looked like it was ravaged by a dragon with a penchant for fiery destruction, and topped off with a wrecking ball.
“Yes, well, can we get out of here? I don’t like being reminded.”
Madolin smiled cruelly. She enjoyed watching him squirm. She watched him shift anxiously from foot to foot with a pitiless smirk. For some reason she felt like he deserved it.
“Fine,” she said at last, and as they left the vestigial scene behind them, she mentally chastised herself for her earlier childishness.
That was some dark secret.