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The music block ghost

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Image by Christoph Schütz from Pixabay

I played piano and Marcy Scott played saxophone. What brought us together was…MUSIC. But what crossed our paths for good was a …A GHOST.

Not just any ghost.

THE MUSIC BLOCK GHOST.

The music block part is easy to explain. The ghost part, well…we’ll get to that.

All you really need to know about the music block at our school is that it used to be a stables. It was a long, skinny building, with eight horse-sized pianos, tucked into tiny rooms. At one end of the strip was a DOOR. And at the other end of the strip was a DEAD END.

More or less fine for making music. Not so great if you’re trapped in there with A GHOST.

At the time our story starts, I’d been playing piano for 3 years and had my Grade 5 piano exam coming up. Marcy Scott was in the year above me and was using one of the practice rooms to honk her way through a grossly jazzy saxophone piece. Unfortunately, all musicians were allowed to use the rooms.  I could tune out other pianos, flutes, even the violins. But Marcy, saxophone playing Marcy, was like a honking goose, always getting on my nerves.

One Thursday after school, the sounds of the music block had dwindled down to just me and Marcy. Me practising Handel’s Toccata in G minor. (Minor key, sad). And…

HONK HONKETY WAAAEEEEE HONK, HONK. There was Marcy, honking and screeching her lungs out. I swivelled around in my wooden chair and glared at her through the wall of our practice rooms. And as I did so, the door to my practice room flew open, blowing my music off the piano and onto the floor.

I expected to see Marcy standing there – come to complain or ask for gum, or some other annoyance. But there was no-one. I gripped the edge of my chair and craned forward, slowly.

HONKAWAAEEE HONK HONK.

Marcy was still playing. I gripped the edge of my chair, like a terrified barnacle. Then I leaned forward, slowly. I couldn’t see anyone in the corridor. Just empty space and a section of chipped white wall.

My stiff concentration was broken by a wooden THUNK, then the metallic clang of a saxophone being dropped onto tiles?

“Marcy?” I shot out of my chair and collided with her as she raced right into me, grabbed me by the neck of my jumper, and dragged me down the corridor, like I was a shoplifter. She didn’t let up until we were out of the main door to the block and over by the monkey puzzle tree.

“Jenna. That. Was. A. Ghost,” She wheezed quietly, a wild grin on her thin face.

I took my glasses off, rubbed my eyes, and put them back on. Then I raked my curls back into place.

“You felt it too, right?” she said, looking up at me expectantly. Although she was in the year above me, she was a blinking mouse to my…I would say lion, but right then I was shaking and suppressing the urge to let loose an after-shock scream.  WHAT HAD JUST HAPPENED IN THERE?

“We have to go back in,” Marcy said.

I did need to retrieve my music, and my bag. But was it worth it? And MY PHONE. AGGGH.

“We need to see what they want. The ghost. I mean…”  Marcy shrugged her bony shoulders up and gestured around her, to the nearby classrooms, and the home economics block. “Who’d want to be stuck here forever?”

What followed was a rather intense and adrenaline filled conversation about ghosts and purgatory. Heaven and hell. School and music exams. Chopped up between calling out to the ghost.

“HEY, HELLO?”

…and retrieving our stuff.

“How’s your saxophone?” I asked, as Marcy scooped it from the floor.

She put it to her mouth and tested it. HONK.

I flinched at the god-awful noise.

“It seems ok. Thanks for asking,” she said as quietly as if we were in church.

That’s when the door blew open again. This time we both screamed and grabbed each other by the elbows. Marcy dropped her saxophone in the process, onto our almost touching toes. She yelled, and I cursed, and we hustled our way out of there. Both squealing, screaming mice, being chased.

I got to the door first, and worked the handle, but it wouldn’t budge. Marcy tried too, rattling the door, but no give.

“We’re trapped,” she whispered.

We both screamed again. I could barely hear her scream over my own, but I would say that we were both hitting a solid Top C.

“What do we do?” I mouthed.

Marcy’s gaze was flickering around. I followed it, taking in the long corridor, the doors of the practice rooms and the dead-end wall at the end. It wasn’t even like the practice rooms had windows that we could climb out of. I pulled my phone out of my bag, and Marcy shook her head. “The police won’t believe us, they’ll think it’s a prank,” she said, brown eyes big as planets.

“I’m not calling 999. I’m just calling someone to let them know we’re locked in. My Mum or…”

There was a force, like a polar bear swipe, that knocked the phone clean out of my hand. Before I could grab it, it arced up and smashed against the wall to my right.

Marcy took off down the corridor, and I followed, so fast that the music room doors blurred. We both ran until we hit the dead end and then collapsed in a terrified heap, backs to the wall, hugging our knees, breathing hard and staring back the way we’d run.

“What do you want?” Marcy asked shakily, to the empty space in front of her.

I felt a cold draught, like someone had just opened a freezer door in front of my face. I looked at Marcy and she nodded, eyes shining with ‘You felt it too, right?’

“You should try talking to it,” Marcy whispered. “You’re loud. I mean…forceful…I mean…clear?”

Said honking saxophone girl! WELL, OK!

“Ok,” I said, fingers tapping on my knees. “HERE’S THE DEAL, GHOST. We’ll help you for the next 10 minutes and then you let us go!”

Marcy nudged me and gave me a thumbs up.

No sound, no movement from the ghost.

“We need a communication system,” I said. “YES or NO questions. You get 20 questions, ghost.”

I took my shoes off and placed them carefully in front of me. They looked a little muddy, and were a little hot, but they would do. “Move my left shoe for YES. And my right shoe for NO.”

Nothing.

“What if it isn’t sure about left or right?” Marcy said.

“Take your shoes off too then!” I hissed.

“Have you seen Die Hard?”

“No.”

“He takes his shoes off. And then he has to run on glass. It’s not good. We might need to run.”

“Run where? Have you got a better idea?”

She shook her head, then took off her shoes, and placed them next to mine. They were shinier than my black loafers, and a third of the size. I removed one of each, leaving my left shoe and Marcy’s right shoe next to each other. They were easy to distinguish.

“MARCY’S SHOE IS YES. MY SHOE IS NO. GOT IT?”

Marcy’s shoe wiggled in place, and Marcy and I grabbed for each other’s hand.

“Ok, take it in turns,” I said to her, steadily.

“Are you a ghost?” Marcy asked.

Marcy’s shoe wiggled a YES, and I thwacked her knee.

“What?” she said, thwacking me back.

“That was obvious. Not a question.”

“I was just checking…”

Both shoes rose up to knee height, rotated slowly, and slapped their soles together, then dropped back down. It was a nauseating combination of riveting and terrifying. A magic show gone wild.

I cleared my throat…”Ok, do you need our help, ghost?”

Marcy’s shoe got all the action. YES. YES. They needed our help.

“What with?” Marcy said.

I thwacked her knee again. She sighed. “Oh, Oh, I see.” She sighed again through her thin nose, and rubbed her temple. “Yes or no questions. This is hard.”

It was. It was a slow, painful way to eke out what was up with this ghost. If you think I’m exaggerating, know that it took way more than twenty questions. By somewhere around forty, I seem to remember resorting to asking, “Are you a horse?”

Now Marcy thwacked my knee, extra hard

“WHAT?” I said. “This block used to be a stables.”

“Oh,” Marcy said. “Ghost, were you a groom? A king? A rider? A princess?”

The shoes did their sole slapping shut-the-hell-up motion.

I couldn’t check the time (AS MY PHONE WAS SMASHED) but way more than twenty minutes had passed. And it then took more like a thousand needle-pulling-splinter-in-a-haystack-questions to get to the fact that…. the ghost wanted us to return the next day…. with…

A BIBLE

A CRUCIFIX

A CLOVE OF GARLIC

And

A KNIFE

I mean what kind of ghost creates a shopping list like that?

Marcy and I stared at each other.

“OK THEN,” I said, standing up, and making a show of putting both my shoes on. Marcy was still sitting there, back to the wall, so I did the shoplifter removal grab on her, hoiking her up in an instant.

“Wait, my shoes,” she said, as she slipped her narrow feet into them.

I linked my arm through hers, and made a show of walking calmly down the corridor, retrieving my bag and music.

“Got your trusty saxophone?” I said, like this was a perfectly normal evening.

“Why thank you, Jenna, I do,” she replied. “After you.”

I tried the door and it…OPENED. We walked through sedately, managed four paces or so, then TOOK OFF like we were being chased by demons, out past the monkey puzzle tree and into the car park.

So did we go back the next day? Bringing all said items. And ready to WATCH SOME HELL UNLEASH?

Or did we:

A) NEVER PRACTICE PIANO (OR SAXOPHONE) AGAIN

B) JOIN THE NETBALL TEAM INSTEAD

C) EXPLAIN THE SITUATION TO THE DEPUTY HEAD, AND BE TREATED LIKE WE WERE HYSTERICAL GIRLS

D) HIRE AN ACTUAL PRIEST, WITH SOME HOLY WATER

E) NEVER PRACTICE ALONE AGAIN

Or none of the above? Or all of the above?

Partial spoiler. We tried C first.

IT WAS OUTRAGEOUS.

Miss Arkwright, the Deputy Head, folded her fingers together and nodded at us, over her desk, in a way that screamed CONDESCENDING, and then said, “Now really girls. I do understand that this can be a stressful time in your lives.”

“STRESSFUL?” I said. “Stressful?”

She looked at her computer monitor.

“Jenna, I see that you have your piano exam coming up. Are you stressed about it?”

“WHICH IS WHY…which is why I need to practice! WE need to practice?” I elbowed Marcy. “Which we cannot do if we’re going to be held hostage by some satanic vampire hating ghost. THAT is the stressful part.”

Marcy swallowed loudly, then linked her arm through mine. I appreciated the back up.

Miss Arkwright clucked at us, in the back of her throat, then made a shooing motion with one hand. Marcy and I swivelled as a pair, and shuffled out the door sideways, like friendly crabs, before righting ourselves, and continuing arm in arm down the corridor.

What I will say regarding our options:

A) NEVER PRACTICE PIANO (OR SAXOPHONE) AGAIN

Positive spoiler alert. I got a distinction in my Grade 5 piano exam. And Marcy got a merit in her Grade 3.

B) JOIN THE NETBALL TEAM INSTEAD

Marcy and I lasted less than one practice. Less than 20 minutes. Certainly less time than it took to play 20 questions with a ghost.

D) HIRE AN ACTUAL PRIEST, WITH SOME HOLY WATER

See C. He also didn’t believe ‘us girls’. What can I say? In his job he clearly believed all kinds of super weird things, just not anything to do with us.

E) NEVER PRACTICE ALONE AGAIN

Well, duh. I mean, I’m not going to say that we are duetting. I still think the saxophone stinks. But I did get to go over to Marcy’s house. Her saint of a mother let me play the piano in their living room, while March practiced her saxophone up in her bedroom. Way better than a haunted horror house of a music block.

And as for the ghost…. Well, I’ve heard rumours…from other girls. Not enough to make me sleepless. But, you know…Marcy and I have been planning our movie marathons to equip us better, should we ever get trapped again. And yes, she did make me watch Die Hard. And Die Hard 2. And…hell, I’ve just looked it up…there are 5 of them!!

Week 8

One third of the way through my 24 short stories challenge.

This week I had a plan for my story, but I scrapped it 20 minutes in as I realised that I had bitten off WAAAAY more than I could execute in the time. For example, my plan had a major reveal in it, and I quickly realised that I did not have the time to manage an effective set up, with multiple steps to then get to this pay off.

This will be something for my brain to chew on, and learn from though! Maybe after I have finished these 24 short story challenges (one a week), I will switch to one a month, so that I can usual multiple sessions to figure out some different challenges.

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