THRILLER - SUSPENSE - SUPERNATURAL
Final Assessment for Writing Place Module | 2019 | 2nd Year
The headmistress said I must have imagined it. But I know what I saw.
‘Starting secondary school is a big change, Marnie. Making friends is–’
‘That's got nothing to do with it!’ I cried. ‘And I told you, Kitty and Alice were there!’
It all started last year on the open evening. I knew something about that bell was strange and our guide, Lucy, didn't help. But Mother insisted that silly ghost stories were no reason to disregard such a prestigious school.
‘So, this is the West Wing, built in the 1800s,’ Lucy smiled widely, guiding us through the old corridor. Our footsteps clacked on the mosaic floor. It still smelt like a hospital.
‘Is it true about Florence Nightingale?’ Mother asked.
‘Oh yes,’ Lucy nodded, adjusting her blazer. Her prefect badge winked at me under the strip lights. ‘We actually have some artefacts on display through here.’
We slipped through a set of double doors into a stretch of magnolia walls, decorated with half-round windows and stacks of lockers. At the very end stood a row of display cabinets.
‘Look darling,’ Mother pointed, ‘A pair of her shoes, don't they look tiny!’
I glanced at the wrinkled pumps next to an off-white apron and crinkled my nose; the musty smell leaked through the glass.
‘The West Wing and the Music House are all that's left of the old hospital, but we've tried to preserve them as much as possible. If you look back there,’ Lucy turned to the exposed bricks behind us, ‘You can still see the old ward numbers.’
I gazed up at the giant chalk markings. A chill rippled down my spine.
Mother clasped her hands together, ‘It's wonderful, like a little museum!’
‘It is!’ Lucy tossed her hair over her shoulder as we moved on. ‘Marnie won't have many classes in this block, it's generally reserved as a quiet area for us upper sixes. The year seven's often get distracted by all the ghost stories.’
My eyes shot to her. Lucy grinned.
‘Yep, there's ones about patients, the costume cupboard, the bathrooms; my favourite is the one about the old bell. It's just down here actually,’ she gestured towards the grand staircase. ‘They used to ring it for hospital emergencies. The story goes that if you ring it three times, Florence's ghost appears in the window.’
Mother laughed dismissively, ‘How silly.’
I swallowed hard. I'd never seen a ghost. Mother always said there was a reasonable explanation for anything.
‘So, this is the gym,’ Lucy announced, as we reached a narrow archway. The lofty doors swung out into a huge hall. It was a long, thin stretch of craggy floorboards, warm strip lights and thin windows. The smell of old wood and feet clung to my throat.
‘Wow!’ Mother gasped, her voice bouncing off the high ceiling. The walls were draped with climbing frames and chipped pipework. ‘You'll be a bit chilly in here in your P.E. kit.’
Lucy chuckled, ‘Most lessons take place in the sports hall, but we have dance and gymnastics in here.’ Her heels smacked on the floorboards. ‘This would've been one of the main wards Florence monitored. You can just picture all the beds lined up down the walls, can't you?’
I glanced down at my feet and noticed trails of scuff marks. ‘And you see how the skirting boards are curved?’ Lucy went on, ‘That was to make it easier to clean up the blood, apparently.’
I shuddered. Suddenly, the chips in the pipework looked more like dried splatters, and there was a strange dark patch in the far corner of the ceiling. I pictured patients in their beds; the wheels scraping and swirling about the room, the nurses floating through the double doors. How many patients came in? How many never walked back out? I folded my hands into fists and hid them in my pockets.
‘Do you have many sports teams?’ Mother asked. ‘She ought to get involved in something after school, be good for her to socialise, you know.’
‘Yes, of course, we have lots going on. Shall I take you to the sports hall?’
‘Excellent. Come on darling!’ But I was still distracted, my eyes fixed on that dark patch.
‘Marnie!’ Mother huffed, her voice booming from wall to wall. I turned to follow her then stopped again. My heart quickened. It'd been there all this time and I never even noticed.
‘Oh yes, that's the bell I was talking about.’
‘Goodness, I thought it would only be a little hand-held thing,’ Mother laughed.
I watched it carefully, glistening gold and hanging proudly from the wall at the gym's entrance. The harder I looked, I could almost see it swinging, gently. I checked the windows – they were all shut.
‘You can ring it if you want, Marnie?’ Lucy tipped her head. ‘Although, they took the clapper out a while ago. It was always ringing! Of course, that was probably just girls messing around.’
My eyes widened. I buried my hands further in my pockets. ‘No, thank you.’
‘It's alright, doesn't make much noise anyway,’ Lucy smirked, her fingernails tapping the metal flippantly, three times. The bell was definitely swinging now.
The hairs on my arms stood on edge. I didn't even believe in ghosts – like Lucy said, probably just girls messing around.
I kept my eyes fixed on it as we headed back to the archway, then glanced through the window in the doors. At that moment, I thought I saw a figure flicker across the glass. I paused. There were four windows at that end of the gym alone. It was probably just Lucy or Mother. I glanced back at the bell. It was still swinging.
I didn't actually join any sports teams. I met Kitty and Alice instead – Mother was thrilled. The bell and the West Wing were one of the first things we talked about. Everyone had their own stories from their tours, and we all told them again when it was our turn to be guides a few months later.
I should never have told them I actually saw the bell. That's where they got the idea from.
‘Kitty, are you sure about this?’ I whimpered, as we pounded down the glass bridge towards the West Wing. ‘I can just tell my mother we finished early.’
I'd never been friends with a girl like Kitty before. Mr. Porter made her sit at the front because she kept talking, but then she just kept talking to me instead. Alice on the other hand rarely made it to class. When she did, we always played this game where Alice knocked my books from my hands in the corridor. All my worksheets fluttered over the floor and it took ages to pick them all back up. It was just a bit of fun.
‘Oh, don't be so boring, Marnie!’ Kitty groaned, ‘I just want to see it.’
I sighed, ‘Okay, but just don't touch it. They might think something's wrong.’
‘Who, the ghosts?’ She burst out laughing. ‘Don't be stupid. Why would Florence Nightingale want to haunt a girls' school?’ Suddenly, Kitty stopped in front of me and threw her hands on her hips. ‘Anyway, I thought you said you don't believe in ghosts?’
I tugged on my blazer sleeves. ‘I don't.’
We hurtled on to the end of the bridge and entered the West Wing. There was no wall or door separating the bridge and the corridor, but it was like crossing a borderline; the heat from the bridge melted to a sharp breeze and a musty pong smothered the smell of the new carpet. Under the high ceilings, our footsteps boomed like gunshots as we raced towards the archway. The light above it flickered.
‘You took your time!’ Alice spat, emerging from the shadows. ‘What's she doing here?’
‘Her mum's giving me a lift,’ Kitty shrugged. ‘Did you get it?’
Alice's eyebrows bounced. She pulled her hand from her blazer pocket and revealed a brass key on a string. My mouth ran dry. I turned towards the double doors to the gym, brushing my palms on my blazer. The lights inside were off, but I could see Alice and Kitty's reflections in the window. I looked down the door at the brown scrapes in the paint, then noticed there was no keyhole.
‘Let's go,’ Alice barged past me and slapped the double doors open. Kitty grinned and followed on. I hesitated. The corridor fell silent. I glanced about at the black through the warped glass of the old windows but couldn't see any other reflections. Just my own feet tapping nervously. I looked at the doors again, knowing the bell was hanging on the other side of the wall. Suddenly, I heard a faint ringing sound. My hands began to tremble. I listened harder. It wasn't behind the door. It was behind me.
‘Marnie, where is it?’ Kitty yelled from inside. She poked her head back through the doors. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Keeping watch,’ I forced a smile. Kitty rolled her eyes and yanked my arm. The doors thundered shut behind us. I swallowed that same smell of old wood and feet, again, in darkness. The once yellow and brown hall was now a giant shifting shadow. White slits of moonlight seeped in through the windows. Alice was at the other end, fumbling over stacks of gym mats and climbing frames, towards a single beige door with a brass keyhole.
‘Well?’ Kitty jabbed my arm.
‘The bell, where is it?’
‘What do you mean, it's–’ I turned to the wall where it had hung just a few months ago. It was gone. All that remained was a black scuff mark where the panel had been. But I was sure I heard it ringing.
Kitty's eyes followed mine. She paused. ‘Do you think they moved it?’
I felt another chill down my spine. All the windows were still shut.
‘I bet it's in here,’ Alice's voice echoed through the air. She clicked the key in the lock. Kitty smirked and raced after her. I hung back again and monitored the shadows, glancing from window to window, then at the double doors. Something flickered through the glass. I definitely saw a figure that time.
‘Someone's outside!’ I squealed. They both shushed me and disappeared behind the other door. I backed away from the double doors and was surrounded by empty, black space. I whipped round, monitoring every window and door – my heart pounding. I could still hear a faint ringing sound.
‘Urgh, it stinks!’ Alice spluttered.
‘Oh, it's the costume cupboard!’ Kitty exclaimed. ‘Put this on!’
Alice heaved, ‘I'm not touching that, it's disgusting.’
‘Behind there! That gold thing. Is that it?’
My heart thundered. The room was spinning. I couldn't monitor all the windows by myself.
‘Oh wait, no, it's nothing. Marnie how big is it?’
‘If it's in there you'd see it, can you just come out now, please? I want to go home.’
Alice and Kitty laughed.
‘Oh my god, duh, it's up there!’
I clenched my fists, my breath short and sharp.
‘Don't touch it!’ I yelled, my eyes flitting between the windows and the cupboard.
‘I want to ring it!’
My stomach dropped. ‘No!’ I screamed. I raced to the cupboard and slammed down the handle.
It wouldn't open.
‘Why'd you lock the door?’
Suddenly, the bell struck, loud and hard.
‘Stop it! Let me in!’ I bashed my clammy hands on the door.
‘Marnie, what's going on?’ I looked over my shoulder. The light outside the double doors flickered.
‘Kitty!’ I kept bashing. The handle rattled up and down.
This time I was sure, there was a woman's face in the window.
I bashed the door once more, then, there was silence. The door clicked. I took a deep breath.
‘Kitty?’ I pushed the handle and the door creaked open.
Inside the cupboard was a row of basins under a cracked mirror. The walls were plain with no windows. There were no costumes, not even an empty rail, and the shelves were bare. All there was, was the bell, lying on the floor on its side, next to a brass key on a string.
I know what I saw. Alice and Kitty were gone.
I wasn't going to tell Mother; she'd never believe me. But when the headmistress got involved, I had to. She called me into her office the next day.
‘Shouldn't you ring the police?’ I asked. Mrs Hughes rolled her eyes.
‘No, there's no need for that.’
My hands began to shake.
‘Marnie, calm down. I know it's been hard for you, you're such a quiet girl. We want to help–’
‘Then help me find them!’
‘Marnie, I told you,’ she sighed. Her eyes turned dark. ‘I've checked our records, my secretary has checked our records. There's no Kitty Telford or Alice Morley in your class, or even at this school!’
My breath hissed through my nose. She could say what she liked. I know what I saw.
Besides, we've all seen the yellow tape across the gym doors. Even Mother said it was strange.