Four high school students encounter an evil spirit. Thoroughly cliched and hopelessly derivative.
Natalie traced the iron lattice on the window with the tip of her index finger. Through the greasy panes, she saw that the day was as gray as the walls. Her face, devoid of all color, showed no expression. Twenty-four hours down, forty-eight to go. She pulled the edges of the blanket more tightly at her throat, letting it drag like the train of a gown as she moved past some people who assembled a puzzle on the floor. Another one at a little distance examined their toes closely, nibbling one here and there.
She sat down in the corner on a metal chair fixed to the floor. She ignored the clamor in the hallway outside the large room. A young man, also wrapped in a blanket, slowly entered without looking left or right, eyes turned as though focused on something up close. He was clutching a Rubik’s cube, and having sat on a sofa, played with the cube without looking at it.
It was Chad.
She gathered up her blanket and shuffled across the room and sat down. “Chad—what are you doing here?”
He looked at her, irritated. “How did you know I used to be called that? My name is Chadworth.” He looked at her again. “Oh, yes, you go to my school, don’t you? What’s your name again?”
“Right, right, of course…” He glanced at his cube.
“How long have you been here? I’ve been here a day.”
“How come I didn’t see you at recreation time this morning?”
“Recreation! I don’t have time for recreation.”
She watched another inmate who was turning around in a circle and shouting gibberish. “At least we got fresh air.”
He studied her. “Ah, I remember which one you are now! You were at the library that night with that—that nihilist—that refuse of society—that—”
Her face darkened. “He’s not any of those things! He’s just—misunderstood.”
“Well, so am I. I turn twenty-one in June, the day after final exams. If I fall behind because of this misfortune and don’t complete my courses, I shall age out of the school system and not receive my diploma.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. “And do you know what that means, Natalie?”
“Um… no…” She was trying to figure out how Chad was almost twenty-one and still in high school.
“It means I’ll be forced to earn a G.E.D. instead. And how will that look on my curriculum vitae?”
“I—don’t know what that is, but I’m sure people will understand.”
“Understand!” He threw the Rubik’s cube and the toe-sucker ran after it on all fours. Chadworth’s face looked like that of an old, bitter man who had seen too much.
A nurse with small, yellow teeth came in and rang a little bell. “It’s time! Line up.” They both sighed and stood up. Both of them had discovered that it was no use in attempting to argue with the woman. She held out each of their doses in turn and watched them swallow the pills right in front of her.
“I don’t feel any better from these.” Natalie pushed back her loose, green bangs from her face. “I’m not crazy,” she said in a low voice, looking around to make sure none of the other inmates were paying attention. “I know what I saw. They told me no one was there, but I saw someone, and she had Mr. Squeaks. It was at the mall. I know I saw her! But I couldn’t control how upset I was and they called the police and—”
Chadworth grasped her shoulder. “Why, something of a similar nature happened to me. I was about to take a nap, and as I began to doze off, I smelled a foul, burning odor, and there was someone in my room, setting fire to my memoir! The same person, I daresay, that you saw.”
She mouthed the name Vanessa.
He let go of her and nodded. “I hit my head and passed out. When I regained consciousness, everything was in flames and I flew for the extinguisher. The maid saw me and rushed to my room to assist. When it turned out everything was fine, she immediately reported this incident to my parents, who called the emergency medical service, and here I am.”
“Move along, you two,” the nurse said. “Or do I need to increase your dosage?”
They shook their heads and joined the line of inmates shepherded back to the dormitory.