Terrible events are unleashed at an otherwise ordinary high school.
Anna liked a lot of things about school, but maths wasn’t one of them. She wished she could just walk out. It would be kind of fun to see the look on Mr. Lloyd’s face if she did. She doodled on her hand, drawing rings and weird shapes like a nightmare tattoo.
She jumped and sat up. Mr. Lloyd was standing right by her desk. Everyone else was staring. Anna felt her face grow hot with shame and embarrassment - she hated being the centre of attention.
“What’s this?” Mr. Lloyd said. He had a bald head and it glowed under the classroom lights as if he polished it with window-cleaner every morning. He pointed at Anna’s hand. Anna didn’t say anything, there wasn’t anything to say anyway. Mr. Lloyd waited then eventually sighed. “Go and wash it off,” he said.
Someone at the back laughed meanly as she stood and walked to the door but Anna didn’t care. She was free. Only for about five minutes, but still. Five minutes – ok make it ten – with no maths was a nice change. Her hand looked a bit nuts, she had to admit, messy with black biro marks as if ants with inky feet had crawled all over her skin. She thought it might take fifteen minutes to scrub it all off – maybe until the bell even.
Anna liked the school hallways when they were empty and quiet. There was a strange feeling to them. They were made to be full of kids and teachers hurrying from class to class, full of noise and bustle and when that was gone it seemed to her like the hallways were waiting, kind of hurt and abandoned, for everyone to come back again.
The toilets nearest her class were always flooding so Anna took the stairs and made for the ones in the science block, which she knew were usually clean. She tucked her shoulder-length, light-brown hair behind her ears and pushed open the door. Inside, she made straight for the sink and reached for the soap dispenser, frowning in annoyance when nothing came out. Anna was moving on to the next one when she heard a low, soft sound, like a sob, coming from one of the cubicles. Most of the doors were open, but the one at the end nearest the back wall, was shut.
Anna wondered if she should go. Maybe whoever it was just wanted to be left alone. As she hesitated she heard another sound, not a sob this time, more a moan, a whimper filled with pain.
“Hello?” Anna said. Her back crawled suddenly with unease. Maybe someone’s really hurt in there, she thought. “Hey. Are you ok?”
There was no answer, except that at the very edge of her hearing, Anna thought she heard a quick indrawn breath.
“Should I get the nurse?” Anna asked. She approached the closed door and knocked gently. “It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone,” she said reassuringly. “If you want me to go, just say.”
The door opened then, so quickly and suddenly Anna found herself falling forward. She thrust out her hands to catch herself but the door, which had slammed against the side of the cubicle, rebounded and hit her head. She pushed herself up, dazed and scared, her scalp throbbing, in time to see a huge black shape fly at her face. Anna screamed. She backed away blindly, flinging up her arms to push the thing off. It attacked, whatever it was, raking her with its claws, filling her mouth and nose with an awful stench, foul and disgusting as rotten meat. She felt it scratch her forehead, a line of bright pain above her right eye. The thing made almost no noise. All Anna could hear was her own sobbing, terrified breaths, the fast pounding of her own heart. She backed up again, fell against a sink, cracking her head on something hard that jutted out of the wall.
She slid the rest of the way to the tiled floor and lay there, unconscious.