AN UNFORTUNATE LESSON by James Gault
Tighten the main halyard a touch, I thought, and probably time to come about. Thus far, today had been the epitome of calmness and serenity – at least as far as both the weather and my mind-set were concerned. An afternoon sea breeze was now beginning to make itself felt, though. As if to reinforce the point my tiny yacht heeled sharply. Time to turn for The Bay I realized, thinking how silly that would sound if said aloud. I was, after all, on the bay. This stretch of NSW coastline was actually littered with bays, plus towns named after them. Still, everyone in Eurobodalla seemed to know where you were talking about when you said “The Bay”.
Approaching the boat ramp two rays of sunshine appeared. They took the form of my son Jack and his rather delectable young lady friend Jasmine, known to friends simply as Jas. They were both intending to avoid the ‘big smoke’ and despite bushfires and relatively fewer opportunities, could only see a satisfying future locally.
“Weather coming” yelled Jack as he helped put boat and trailer safely together. In the staccato language of youth that presumably meant a storm. “This obviously beats teaching Dad” he opined, “but thought you might use a hand. You’re not getting any younger you know!” This comment was becoming a broken record and so was treated with the disdain it deserved. He had a point though: I was well past middle age and sometimes found it difficult to keep up with the youngsters in my classes.
“Hi Jas” I called “good to see you, and thanks for coming down to help. Want coffee?” “My shout!” I quickly added, knowing well the fiscal difficulties of students. Relieved looks confirmed my suspicions and off we all headed once the car and trailer were safely parked. Comfortably seated, I was starting to think that a simple coffee was going to blow the budget as drinks, rolls and cakes kept arriving and disappearing off the plates opposite me.
“Patten’s back!” blurted my son in a brief respite from consuming my small fortnightly pay. Tom Patten was the late science teacher at the high school and known as something of a martinet before his mysterious death the previous year. “It’s true” Jas added whilst nodding vigorously, “all the kids at school are talking about it and the Year 9s are refusing to use the science room”. Jack took up the story. “Apparently the room goes freezing cold for no apparent reason and the door opens and shuts whilst no-one is there. Ms Shackleton, the new science teacher has gone on stress leave and has claimed someone keeps re-arranging her things overnight, back to the way Patten used to keep them”.
“Some of the kids have reported being followed by footsteps down an empty corridor” added Jas with a knowing look on her face.
“Rubbish!” was my simple contribution “just someone having a bit of misplaced fun at everyone else’s expense”. I changed the subject to more mundane matters and shortly headed for home having left the youngsters to their own devices.
It was difficult to avoid contemplating this mysterious haunting whilst driving home and I determined to question my wife Millie about it. She acted as an occasional substitute teacher at our school and might well fill in a few gaps in the tale.
“Well I’ve heard the rumours”, said Millie over an early evening sherry, “but I haven’t been there much lately and I’m rarely near the science room. I must say, though”, she added, “I think that part of the school is pretty creepy, but don’t ask me why”.
I was hooked! This misguided prankster needed to be exposed. Casually I wandered into the kitchen and picked up my keys from the table and called out “there is a talk at the club this evening which I thought I might listen to” and headed to the hallway for some outer clothing before I could be questioned too deeply.
Outside it became clear that my son’s warning about the weather had been correct. There was now a blustery southerly and light drizzle. The car’s heater had hardly warmed up when I pulled into the school carpark, so I was having second thoughts about this undertaking in such miserable weather. Nonetheless, the school door loomed and the key slid in neatly, so in I ventured.
I could see a yellow ‘Exit’ light flickering down the corridor which promptly went out as I approached. The ominous silence and darkness definitely felt threatening and I reached for my phone for comfort and to provide a little light. Dammit! The phone battery was flat – despite me being sure I had charged it that morning. The darkness closed in around me as I felt my way to the Science room. Good grief it was cold: eerily so, and I approached the science room door with much trepidation. Was that the sound of footsteps inside? Ridiculous, I thought! Not as ridiculous, though, as the door slowly creaking open without me touching it. The hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end and a blast of absolutely freezing air struck me. Something invisible touched then grabbed my arm. I ran.
I sprinted like an ageing cheetah back down that corridor amidst bitter cold and an icy feeling in my fingers and down my spine. Unmistakable footsteps followed me and were getting closer. I just made the front door when something grabbed my leg and started pulling me back inside. It pulled harder and I was frantically trying to get the door open when it pulled yet harder. I was losing the battle and contemplating a sad ending to my life, let alone my teaching career.
This invisible beast had me firmly in its grip and began dragging me back down the corridor, pulling me harder and harder – as hard in fact as I’m pulling your leg right now. ***************************************************************** The Beagle COVID-19 LOCKDOWN WRITING COMPETITION is NOW OPEN
The Beagle announces its COVID-19 LOCKDOWN WRITING COMPETITION To coincide with the Mayor’s Writing Competition (ages 5 to 18) that is currently open for entries THE BEAGLE is announcing the 2020 Beagle Writing Competition is also OPEN Just like the Mayor's competition entrants can write on any theme, using any style of creative writing, and the judges will be looking for imaginative writing with a unique plot. Entries close at 5pm on Sunday April 26th. Winners announced thereafter. RULES: 18 + (anyone younger can enter the Mayor's contest - this one is for adults ) Max of 1000 words.
Any subject that is Eurobodalla related.
Can NOT be defamatory, inflammatory or too lavatory
Published at the editor's discretion on The Beagle website and in Beagle FB
Judges have final say. No bribery allowed.
Real names are not required for entrants. Nom de plumes accepted.
First Prize $100 voucher from Moruya Books
Entries to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org