(Second Part- First part is here.)
"They looked ok to me" a hesitant Darnell replied, his mind still elsewhere. "I mean, this is no championship side, you know, but they still made those Nuggets look pretty pathetic last night". He was almost starting to smile by this point, recalling the game they had caught on the dorm TV through a haze of static. They might not have been able to make out the ball or players, but it was still better than no basketball! "I mean, it looked like they have a strong D this season, but I don't see them putting enough points on strong teams... I don't know. Hey man, this grub is good today!" This final sentence was smothered by a mouthful of spaghetti and meat sauce.
"You know, you're right mate. This is the best food we've had in weeks here. Maybe things are looking up after all", and with that Carl attacked his plate with fervor, wolfing the food down as if it would get up and make a break for freedom at any moment. "Though I must say, there is a strange crunch to parts of it. I wonder wh..."
"Eeeeeeeeeeekk", a squeal from across the room interrupted Carl mid-flow, his fork half way to a mouth still dribbling tomato sauce from the previous mouthful. Had he known better he would have thought the noise had come from a tall, muscle-bound kid called Dwayne, who was a former football prodigy and resident hard-nut, but he quickly banished that idea. Rumor had it that Dwayne hadn't so much as whimpered when someone had broken into his house when he was just 7 years old and slaughtered his entire family before his eyes, there was no way he would scream at a bit of hot sauce and some pasta.
"Aaaagggggggghhhhhh!" Spinning around, Darnell was able to catch a glimpse of a large girl who had clearly been enjoying her meal with some gusto appear to choke, before she span round and fled the room, one pillow of a hand covering her mouth, the other clutching her ample stomach.
"Muuummmmmmyyyyyyy!" (Wayne again...)
Shouts of horror and revulsion were going up all around the room now. Some students had fled, faces swamp green and ready to explode, while others had simply let the torrent loose where they sat. Fountains of vomit filled the room, cascading through the air in delicate arcs. Those attempting to escape the mayhem suddenly found the floor an ice-rink of half digested Bolognese.
"What the hell is going on?" Carl asked Darnell, shouting above the chaos of the lunch hall as students fled in all directions, some literally crawling for the exits, hands and knees caked in vomit. "This is madness!"
Darnell looked up, fighting to swallow his last mouthful of pasta as he attempted to respond. It was a shame to waste it after all. "I have no idea man. Maybe one of the big guys let a bad one off over there? Seems like a lot of fuss over nothing to me." He was still struggling to chew as he spoke, spitting flecks of sauce across the table. Carefully he removed the hard lump that was causing him so much trouble and put it down on the edge of his plate. "What you staring at man?"
Carl had suddenly become fixated on Darnell's undulating jaw. His eyes were as wide as the dinner plates in front of them, unable to tear away from his friend's last supper.
"You still hungry? Too late to blag anything off me I'm afraid, but there is plenty more going on the next table. Here, I'll grab you a plate!" Darnell reached over and grabbed a still steaming plateful, long since vacated by its puke-stricken owner.
And at last he realized what was wrong.
Sitting in the middle of the plate, wrapped gently in a nest of spaghetti like a freshly laid egg, was a single, staring eyeball. It was gently oozing grey jelly into the surrounding sauce, the dangling optic nerve gently twirled around the stricken fork. Darnell's appetite suddenly vanished as quickly as the color from his face, and together he and Carl made a dash for the lavatories, leaving their unique hors d'oeuvre to watch them flee.
A half chewed finger nail, daintily painted in red and black, was the only thing left to identify brave Sonia.
Pico's Journal. October 24th 2010
Filthy pigs didn't enjoy their trough today. Funny, they normally enjoy feeding on the misery of others. On the blood of others. Maybe now He understands what He is dealing with. I noticed his plate was cleared. Perhaps he recognized the crop? Perhaps he enjoyed it...
Justice tasted sweet to me.
Overlook was a much quieter place with the passing of Sonia. The lunch hall had been the only place in the school where students were able to meet up and chat with freedom during the course of the day, yet suddenly the place was deserted at mealtimes. Seemingly the school as one had lost its appetite. The building had hardly been a place of light and laughter anyway, but now people seemed completely withdrawn into their own shells; mollusks cowering from the sudden winter chill. Many students simply shuffled around staring at their own feet, terrified of any human contact at all in case they became their friend's next meal.
The Doctor had tried to allay their fears with another school announcement, insisting that the culprit would be caught and dealt with 'appropriately', but by now there wasn't a student in the school who believed him. They were certain that He was behind this, punishing poor Sonia for having the audacity to speak out against him whilst ensuring that no other student would dare to emulate her. That is, everyone was sure of this except Darnell. He still had his doubts. Pico was still behaving strangely, though he could hardly hold this against him; there wasn't a person in the school that could be considered normal. Nevertheless, there was still a nagging doubt that just couldn't be shaken off, despite Carl's best efforts, and Darnell became increasingly certain that it was his old friend that was responsible. As such he decided he couldn't pass up the opportunity when a third student went missing, once again sent to the principal's office for a minor misdemeanor.
On the night of the All Hallows' Eve Darnell and Carl crept out of their dormitory in search of Pico, determined to get to the bottom of what was going on.
The corridors were dark, lit only by the glowering moon firing beams of shadowy light through the dusty windows. Illuminated, the drab walls almost seemed to glow with an ethereal radiance; the school really did come to life at the dead of night. Undrawn drapes flitted from side to side, blown by a wind that spent the night chasing its own tail through the hushed passageways. Spiders were busy crafting their webs, waiting in silence for their prey to slip silently into the swaying death traps. Every nook and cranny had an abundance of eyes peering out for that stray moth or fly that signaled dinner time. At least some in the school were still hungry!
Noiselessly two figures moved through this scene, not needing to speak as each knew the other's intentions. They were hunting not to satisfy their stomachs, but to quell their restless minds. Their quarry had passed through here not moments before, oblivious of his extended shadow, conveniently leaving a clear trail of dusty footprints in his wake. While he had moved with purposeful determination, the pair that trailed him moved slowly, darting from shadow to shadow in what they thought was the epitome of stealth, yet jumping at the slightest breath of air. Tension tried valiantly to restrain them, but adrenaline forced them onwards towards the inevitable confrontation.
As the pair tiptoed from the corridor, stepping lightly onto the spiral staircase that lead to the dungeons, all that remained was their breath, lingering in the air like a cold mist.
"Psst, Carl; you hear that?" Darnell whispered, clutching his friends sleeve and bringing him to a halt. "It sounded like, I don't know, a grunt or something up ahead". His wide eyes were lit by the only source of light, a river pouring from the crack under the door ahead, but determination still coursed through him to finally put an end to whatever Pico was up to.
"Yeah, I heard it", Carl replied cautiously. "Sounded to me a bit like someone dragging a body..." this sentence hung in the air for a while, daring either one of them to dispute it. They didn't. For a while they both simply stood, unsure of how to continue. While the whole plan had been to catch Pico in the act, both had clung to the hope that he was perfectly innocent and had perhaps been heading down here to rendezvous with a girl. The fact that it might end confronting a killer had never felt like a real possibility, rather a bizarre dream. Now they were trapped in a nightmare, their limbs screaming to turn and flee, yet remaining paralyzed in fear.
Finally Darnell spoke, a tremor audible in his voice "W...we have to go in there. We have to, or all this is for nothing. A...are you with me?"
"I'm with you mate", Carl replied quietly, his fear masked with a steely determination. "Just don't wimp out on me when we're in there. You know this might end in a fight, and I know he is your friend and everything, but we need to be together on this. He is... a killer..." These final words were blurted out in a rush, as if he was spitting out the most disgusting and unspeakable words he could think of.
"Oh man, what the hell are we doing down here?" Darnell moaned, tears starting to seep from the corner's of his eyes. "What kind of fucking school has dungeons anyway? It's so fucking messed up man."
"I know mate. These chambers were designed to hold students in solitary confinement while the fuzz came to take them away. There are some seriously messed up kids here after all. Seemingly your mate is one of them; perhaps the worst of them."Carl was trying to speak in a soothing tone, but his voice kept jagging in his throat. "Fuck, time we got this over with; on three?"
"Ok, on three..." and with that Darnell clutched his friend's hand tightly, taking a deep breath as he prepared for the plunge.
"One." The tinkling sound of a dripping ceiling drifted down the corridor. One of the vandals upstairs had probably left a tap on.
"Two." Tension built in their limbs. Their lungs felt like iron as they held their breath in anticipation, awaiting the final call.
"Three!" and with that they burst as one down the corridor and through the door ahead of them.
The sight that greeted them was one lifted from their deepest nightmares. Both stood frozen in the doorway, their momentum halted as they began to comprehend what they were seeing.
It wasn't a large room, perhaps the size of a small bedroom, with a narrow wooden bench fixed to the opposite side with large deadbolts. As such they had almost careered straight into Pico, whose red hair for once did not stand out like a beacon of flame. In fact it matched the room's décor perfectly.
Every inch of the room was smeared in coagulating blood. It dripped from the ceiling, and slid slowly down the walls in thickly flowing streams. Puddles were forming on the floor, darkening and crusting as they grew. The source of this blood was clear; Pico was clutching what remained of the feet, while the arms were chained to the opposite wall. It was plain that he had been struggling to drag the shattered corpse free of its shackles; unlocking them wasn't necessary, there was little left to restrain. What flesh there was left formed a grisly curtain over ivory bones, dangling in sheets to the floor.
"Ah, it's about time you got here ladies, fancy giving me a hand?" Pico said, a crooked smile forming on his lips. "The floor is very slippery with all this blood on it, but it should be easy with some help."
"We've caught you, you bastard", Carl shouted, though still not willing to move forward. "I fucking knew it was you all along. Drop the body and... and... put your hands up?"
"Hahahaha, what the hell are you on about blondie?" Pico chuckled, seemingly enjoying the moment. "You guys really didn't think this through, did you? Coming to apprehend a murderer without ever thinking to pick up a weapon? Fortunately for you I wasn't so stupid; here, take this and keep guard. Darnell, mate, give me a hand with this will ya?"
Carl caught the small switch blade, dumbfounded by the seemingly amiable Pico. Something didn't feel right. Why wasn't he scared? He didn't seem to have any remorse at all for what he was doing, the sick son of a bitch. What kind of killer throws away his only weapon to those there to apprehend him?
Darnell had remained silent throughout this exchange, the color completely drained from his face and seemingly trickling down his increasingly sodden trouser leg. His worst nightmares were being realized, and his conscience was trying desperately to hide in the darkest depths of his mind where the horrifying truth couldn't find him. Visibly straining against his own inner turmoil, his entire body shaking with the effort, he finally turned to confront his oldest friend.
"Pico. It's over. We've caught you red handed, and we can't let you carry on." Darnell began to grow in confidence as the certainty of what he was witnessing grew. This wasn't his friend anymore, this was a monster. Gently, not wishing to wake the beast within, he continued, "This isn't school anymore, man. These kids might be messed up in the head, but most of them aren't evil. Chris wasn't evil. Sonia wasn't evil. The only evil here is you. I'm sorry man, but I'm not going to help you move... that. Let me help you get better. Chase these demons away and come back to your friends." By this point tears had begun to slowly trickle down his cheeks, dripping from his chin and clearing a small splash amidst the blood on the floor.
Pico had stopped laughing. Carl was sure that he was about to launch himself across the room in a frenzy of teeth and ripping nails, and silently moved the knife into his right hand, ready to defend himself. But instead Pico, without a word, simply dropped the corpse's leg, gently stepped over the oozing carcass, and enveloped his friend in a bear hug. Or at least it would have been had Pico not been a good foot shorter than Darnell; instead it looked more like a child holding his father.
"You know, only a true friend would stand by me and try to help, even if they thought I was a psycho. And of course you stood by me before, all those years ago, despite the things I did to those kids. But you have it all wrong, I didn't kill this guy. I didn't kill any of them!"
"What? Of course you did, you bastard! How can you possibly think you can weasel your way out of this, when we have caught you here doing... this!" Carl shouted, unable to hold his temper any longer. There was something wrong all right, and he wasn't prepared to let it slither away. "You must see that Darnell? He's lying, relying on your trust and friendship to convince you!"
Darnell wasn't listening. Instead he was looking at Pico, hope blooming like roses in his eyes. "Is it true", he whispered. "You really didn't kill them?"
"Of course it's true!" Pico said, stepping back a broad grin on his face at the faith his friend had in him. "Here, let me explain. First though do you think you could point that knife the other way? If you don't believe me after what I have to say then I will come with you peacefully." Flustered and strangely embarrassed, a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Carl withdrew the knife, though he kept it at hand just in case.
"Now I know it looks bad, but I didn't kill this guy", Pico began, sitting himself down on the bloodied bench with a sigh. "When I arrived he was chained to that wall, his insides all over his outsides just like they are now. Exactly the same was true of Chris and Sonia. I realize you still may not believe me, it certainly does seem like a strange coincidence, but after all, how do you think I did this with just that knife, and without getting any blood on my top either?!"
"Carl, he's right!" Darnell gasped, the relief pouring out of him in waves.
"But I still don't understand! What are you doing here if you didn't kill them?" Carl was still on edge, but his guard was beginning to relax as the cast iron evidence began to melt before his eyes.
"Well, I do have a small confession to make on that front", Pico responded, the first glimmer of guilt appearing on his face. "I may not have killed them, but it was me that put Chris on the roof, and Sonia in the spaghetti." He didn't give them any time to respond to this, instead rushing on as if trying to distance himself from the unpleasant truth. "You'll have to believe me when I say it was necessary; I had to let the school know what was going on! He has been slaughtering his students and getting away with it! While I can't deny that many deserved it, this school is full of the very worst kind of filth, I couldn't let the biggest shit stain of them all escape unpunished!"
"Who, Pico?" Darnell asked, relieved at his friend's apparent innocence, but fear creeping down his spine at the realization that the real killer remained at large.
"Yeah, what you getting at Pico" Carl parroted, still untrusting, but the truth beginning to dawn on him.
"Him, of course!" Pico shouted. "The Doctor!"
In the end the plan of action was obvious. With three able bodies it had been easy to free the carcass and transport it across the school unseen, with Carl scouting ahead for potential trouble. As such it was less than twenty minutes later when a trio of shadowy figures entered the cavernous main hall, scurrying as fast as they could whilst carefully carrying what remained of the corpse between them.
"Quickly Darnell, grab one of those chairs by the wall." Pico shouted in a whisper, a cold sweat beginning to trickle down his brow. The only illumination in the room came from the open door, lighting the scene in shadows and giving it a macabre feel. "Carl, give me a hand putting it in position; if we don't hurry rigor mortis will make it impossible".
Darnell dashed for the corner, almost falling in his haste. Meanwhile the pair in the centre of the room fought and strained with the stiffening body, remarkably resistant considering the lack of flesh left on the bones. With the chair and body in place, the three friends stood to admire their handiwork. As such they were unaware of the movement behind them until it was too late...
With a crack the electric lights of the hall snapped on, bathing the room in a white glow. As the darkness scampered for the corners, the crime was revealed in all its glory. In the centre of the room stood three blood smeared boys; one short with flaming red hair, one tall and wiry with an untidy blond mop, and the third an African American with closely cut black curls, and a wet stain crawling down his left trouser leg. Between them was a brutally butchered corpse propped in a wooden school chair, one hand raised in a ghostly significance towards the grand stage at the far end of the hall.
And framed in the doorway was a towering figure, a glass of Chianti being gently swirled in his right hand.
"Well what do we have here, boys?" the unmistakable booming voice asked. "Three students out of bed after hours, and to compound that they seem to have done quite unspeakable things to one of their comrades. Tut, tut, what is a teacher to do with such behavior?"
"Don't play games with us, you bastard", Pico shouted, fire welling in his heart. "You did this! You are the murderer! All we are doing is warning the school about the monster in charge!" Trembling with rage, Pico began to move towards the Doctor, a carefully sharpened biro seemingly materializing out of nowhere in his clenched fist.
"Now Pico, you are jumping to some wild conclusions," the principal replied calmly, unshaken by Pico's wild outburst, but keeping a wary eye on the brandished pen. "I might not like my students; in fact I positively loathe them, but I have no reason to go slaughtering them when it is so much more fun to keep them alive!"
"Then why do they keep disappearing?" Carl was now moving forward alongside Pico, the knife held firmly, but a tell-tale tremor giving away the fear inside.
"Ah, now I can see why you might think that suspicious young Carl, but if you will let me I can explain." He was still standing firm; refusing to back away from the two students moving towards him, but for the first time an edge of panic touched his voice.
"Ok, explain!" Pico yelled, pointing the pen at the Doctor's throat, but pausing for the time being, his curiosity piqued. Stretching one arm out, his eyes still firmly locked on his quarry, he caught hold of Carl's top and held him steady. "Let's hear this, I like to hear a good story".
"There was a time when I enjoyed being a teacher", the Doctor began. "I could help the good students to be the very best people that they could be, and I could punish the bad ones who simply needed to be taught manners and how to behave like civilized human beings. My cane was feared across the state and many a night was spent wiping the blood of children from it in time for another day of consequences. As such my students were the best. They respected me, feared me, and that is how I liked it."
"But then the government decided that it was cruel to punish students in this way. My cane was taken away, and with it my power. Suddenly the children ruled the classroom, and in particular the little devils and bastards that had once feared me. My favorites were engulfed by the filth and vermin of the world, their chance at life destroyed by the selfish actions of their classmates. I became a source of ridicule, my classes a zoo, and so I was fired from my position by one of these modern age principals who think that poor behavior is the fault of the teacher, not the students."
"I struggled for employment after this; no school wants a teacher that can't maintain control. No school except this one that is. This place gave me a chance, and I was keen to take it."
"But why on Earth would you want to come here of all places?" Darnell piped up, no longer scared, entirely entranced by this story.
"I asked myself that many times", the Doctor continued, his rhythm unbroken by the interruption. "There is no question that this place is full of those children that I most hated, and no doubt there was part of me looking for revenge for all the hurt their brethren had caused me in the past. These students deserved punishment; every last one of them, and I wanted to punish them. As such the night before I started here I came up with a plan."
"Yeah, to murder anyone that crossed you!" Pico growled.
"As I said before, death is too good for many of these kids," the Doctor replied, exasperated at having to repeat himself. "No, I didn't want to kill them; I wanted them to suffer, like all those talented students had suffered because of them, and at the same time regain the respect and fear that I deserve!" His voice was starting to rise, causing the windows to tremble. The body in the centre of the room quietly slid off its pedestal.
"I made this place into a living Hell!" The Doctor was shouting now, reveling in the glory of his master plan. "This school is their punishment. Every stone, every spider; this is their torment, and I am its master. They live in constant, never-ending fear. Fear of darkness; fear of each other, but most of all, fear of me! No, I don't kill my students. What I do to them is far worse."
"Then what of all those students that have disappeared?" Carl was visibly shaken by this tirade.
"Ah, now that is my greatest triumph", the principal said with a smile. "A teacher cannot by feared unless his students truly believe that he is untouchable. He must be unchallengeable, and free to do what he wants with those students that disobey to set an example to the rest. Thanks to the government that isn't possible anymore, but it is here. My students don't fear me because of what I do; they fear me because of what they think I will do! I am not a monster, I am a myth; a legend spread by rumors and ghost stories."
"The disappearing students; they were simply smuggled from the building under the cover of darkness and returned to whatever dump they came from. None of them were harmed in any way! That is none of them until the last few weeks, when our little vigilante here decided to take punishment into his own hands. Isn't that right Pico?"
"B...but it wasn't Pico" Darnell stammered. "We know it wasn't Pico, he was trying to expose the killer!"
"Who else could it be?" the Doctor shouted. "Don't be so easily fooled by your friend!"
"But they are so easily fooled", a voice said from the shadows.
"I...I can't believe it", Pico stammered, his face ashen as the true horror dawned on him. "Why would you do this? How could you do this?"
"Why, let me show you..." the oh-so familiar voice replied. "Sorry about this Carl, but they did ask".
"Hey guys, I don't feel too good", Carl moaned, bending over double clutching his stomach, his breath wheezing in uneven rasps. A small trickle of blood was running from his nose in a meandering stream.
And then he exploded. Blood and organs flew in all directions, splattering across the walls and ceiling. A wide cavern was left where his chest had once been, Carl's heart still hammering behind his shattered rib cage. Pico had thrown himself to the floor under the barrage of butchered flesh. Darnell simply stood in shock. Together they witnessed the final beats of Carl's broken core, his eyes glazing over as he toppled backwards into Darnell's arms.
"No!" Darnell whispered, shock robbing him of his voice. "Carl! Come back to me Carl! You can't be dead. You can't be!" By now his voice was rising into a wail. "You... you bitch! He never hurt you!"
Finally the figure in the corner stepped forward into the light, her dress radiant in flowery pink. "He hurt me, Darnell. They all hurt me. You hurt me!" and with that Nene let out an almighty scream, her massive frame wobbling with the exertion.
"All of you! If it hadn't been for kids like Carl we wouldn't be here! We'd have been back at school. We'd have been happy! We'd have been together forever! And you Pico..." she screamed, turning towards her oldest friend, "if you hadn't murdered those kids; if you had left the police to clean up that mess, we wouldn't be here either! We wouldn't have spent all those years locked up in that loony bin, surrounded by rapists and killers!" Finally she paused, fighting to regain her breath.
"But Nene... I did it for you!" Pico cried, stunned by the wave of hate emanating from her. "Those kids deserved what they got; I thought they were going to kill us! I thought they were going to kill you! We're together aren't we? We've always been together! Isn't that what you wanted?"
"No! I want my life back! I want my best friends back! All these years have changed you Pico; you aren't the boy I fell in love with! You're as bad as those kids were! I... I'm scared of you!" Nene was almost in tears now, water welling in the corners of her eyes.
"But Nene...." Darnell said, finally plucking up the courage to speak, "what has happened to you, babe? How did you do... that... to Carl! Where did that fun-loving chick go?"
"Remember that Indian at the hospital? We used to stay up all night chatting about life. He was a wonderful man." Nene replied, a smile spreading on her lips as she recalled better times. "One night I told him about what happened at school; about how those kids were able to throw things with their minds. It was like magic, you remember? Well, he said he knew the secret. Over the subsequent nights he taught me everything he knew; he showed me how concentrating and blocking out the world around me was enough to give the mind enormous power! Power you couldn't imagine!"
"And we thought you had simply lost your mind..." Pico sighed, finally understanding, "but you were in there all along, plotting your revenge. Letting your hate mould and form into enormous psychological power."
"Exactly; and now it is time for you to face the consequences of what you did Pico. You need to be punished for your crimes; for what you did to me! The games are over; it is time for the final move!"
Much faster than her bulk should have allowed, Nene dashed for the door. She had a strange, waddling gait, yet she seemed to almost be floating on air. The instant the last remnants of pink fabric flapped out of sight, the door slammed shut with a crash that shook the ceiling, dust floating down like snow.
"Goodbye, Pico!" a faint voice shouted, and then she was gone.
Pico and Darnell looked at each other, unsure of what was going on. Why hadn't she killed them? What did she mean 'goodbye'? The Doctor, unconcerned by this, was hammering on the door with his massive fists. Despite the mighty blows, the door stood firm, locked with more than a simple key.
A crackling sound was coming from behind them, and with it a peculiar warmth, like a warm hug from your favorite grandparent, enveloped the friends. They didn't need to turn to know what was going on; finally they understood what the consequence of their crimes would be. Excitement mixed with fear in Darnell's eyes, his face glowing as the flames moved closer. The hammering on the door increased in intensity, the Doctor now screaming for help at the top of his lungs. Of course nobody came; who would save a murderer?
The school burned to the rasping screams of the crows. For them alone, actions have no consequences.
Police Report: November 1st, 2010. Overlook rehabilitation school incident.
Last night, at approximately midnight, a fire of unknown cause began in the main hall of the school. Fire drills were in place, and all staff and students were able to evacuate the building safely. Firefighters were able to douse the fire in the early hours of the morning. No part of the building is salvageable, and the institution will have to be shut down permanently. The whereabouts of the principal, a Dr Lecter, is unknown. Two heavily burned bodies were found at the source of the fire. Dental records should enable a rapid identification, though both seemed to have undergone severe trauma before the incident; no internal organs appeared to be present.
No other bodies were found.