When he spoke, the hairs on my neck stood on end. Clichéd, sure, but it happened. My blood ran cold, my heart stopped, I jumped out of my skin. Ok, those things didn’t happen, but I tell you, I was scared.
My boss warned me the school was haunted. I already knew. I felt it in the hallway at the top of the stairs, right outside the boys’ bathroom. The closer I got, every time, a feeling of dread grew. Each morning, the first one to arrive, I inspected the building, made sure it was properly cleaned. The hallways, the classrooms, the bathrooms. That one boys’ room, man, it freaked me out.
The door across the hall entered the teacher’s lounge. A place for lunch breaks, to while away a free period, or visit the staff bathrooms. No weird vibes there, I just needed to get through that door. As it shut behind me, I relaxed. Safe, separated from that strange bathroom, from whatever demon lurked there.
The building cleared out quickly each afternoon after the kids left. The teachers rushed out to grab some daylight leaving the administrators behind, the two of us. Alone in the building when I stated the day, often alone at the end.
We kept the printer paper in a closet in the lounge. Sometimes after my boss left, I fetched a box of paper for the office. She didn’t like me doing physical labor. That, she said, was for the cleaning staff. I read the cleaning contract. They cleaned, someone else hauled paper. Easiest to do when the building was empty.
I carried the box towards the lounge doorway, shocked by the weight. I quit working at the Y three months earlier. My lunchtime dumbbell routine a distant memory, fading quickly along with all the strength I built up over the years. Right behind me, a few feet away, not loud, not quiet, either earnest or confused, a young boy said “Hello?” I whirled around, already knowing the room was empty, confirming that no one was there.
After i dropped off the paper in the office, I went home. The story disturbed my family. I expected them to think it was cool, but my kids looked at me with concern. I quit a month later. Not because of the boy. My boss was abusive. My job duties bore no resemblance to what we discussed in the interview. I hated that job. I became depressed.
That last month at work, I tried my best to avoid the bathroom and the lounge. I still needed to inspect them each morning, my eyes partly closed in a perpetual flinch. Ready to snap shut if anyone or anything unexpected appeared. I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder—in my office, as I walked the halls, as I picked bits of paper off the bathroom floor that the cleaning crew missed. No, the boy didn’t chase me out, I was already on my way, but I’m glad I left. I can’t imagine waiting, day after day, for our next encounter.