Chapter 4

“Hello?” I said into the phone receiver. “Mom?”

“Hello, Simon,” said my mother through the phone. “How are you?”

“Great,” I said. “I made a friend. Can I come home now?”

“No,” she said, getting annoyed. “You know you have to spend at least one school year there.”

“But you don’t understand how fucked up this place is,” I said. “They kill their graduates.”

“Of course,” she said. “And I have wings.”

“Fuck you,” I said, and slammed the phone into the base.

#

“They said no, right?” Claudia said as I walked out of the dorm. “I told you.”

We began walking to the courtyard.

“You know,” I said. “Maybe we should stop.”

“And let…” she paused, thinking. “Whatever’s happening happen? Like I would ever do that.”

“But our first breakthrough was completely wrong,” I said. “We have nothing.”

“Or,” she said, “we could think of it differently.”

“How?” I asked.

“The school is making those parents think their kids are fine when they actually aren’t,” she replied.

I was silent. I never would have thought about that as a possibility.

“How would they have done that?” I asked finally.

“By recording their voices, and then using a computer to put together phrases,” she said. “It would sound weird, but you could easily credit that to something else. Didn’t think of that, did ya?”

“No, I didn’t,” I said.

By now, we were sitting on a bench in the courtyard. There were other students sitting around, or walking through.

“Well,” I said. “If we’re going to keep this up, we need to figure out what Patrick was hiding from in the library.”

“He called it Umbra during the entry,” Claudia said. “We should look that up.”

“I’ll go to the library,” I said. “Meet you back in my dorm in an hour.”

“Okay,” she replied.

We both ran off, I north, she northeast, probably to call her parents and get them to pull her out.

#

It had been a week since our discovery about Alice’s disappearance. We hadn’t had time to investigate anymore, because the library was closed at noon on Sunday, and we didn’t have time during the week. We were either in class, or asleep.

Of course, that hadn’t stopped me from thinking about it. I knew that the umbra was a part of an eclipse, which meant it was Latin, but I didn’t know what the word actually meant. Also, Alice never TECHNICALLY died, according to the entry, but she was nowhere to be found. Did she somehow manage to escape by playing dead?

We couldn’t ask another teacher, since it was obvious they didn’t want to tell us. However, if we figured out what Umbra was we would finally have a legitimate lead.

#

I went to the library and looked it up on the Internet. Apparently, the word umbra is Latin for shadow. But that didn’t make any sense. How can a shadow be following somebody? The only way that made sense would be if Umbra was some sort of paranormal being, but that didn’t make sense, either, since that shit doesn’t exist…

But then again, people don’t get away with killing fifty-plus teenagers per year and get away with it, either. Was it possible that Umbra was…something else? I had no idea. None of it made any sense. However, not very much of it did.

Either way, by the time all of this had run through my head, I was already late. I ran from the library and back to my dorm, where Claudia was waiting for me.

“Took you long enough,” Claudia said as I walked into my dorm. “Are you seriously so technologically inept that you can’t even search stuff on the Internet?”

“Sorry,” I said. “I got lost in my own thoughts. Anyway, I found out that umbra is Latin for shadow.”

“So,” she said. “I’m supposed to believe that a SHADOW was killing these people? That makes SOOOO much sense, I don’t know how I didn’t think of it before.”

“That’s not even the most unbelievable part,” I said. “I thought about it, and I think we’re looking at some sort of paranormal being.”

“Sure,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Does this paranormal being reign from Wonderland?”

“Shut the fuck up,” I said. “I’m serious.”

“Okay, God,” she said.

However, I wasn’t paying any attention to her anymore; I smelled smoke.

“I’ll be right back,” I said.

I walked over to my door and opened it. Sure enough, there was a huge inferno a few feet from my door.

My dorm was the last one in the hallway, which meant that Claudia and I were trapped. To make things worse, the whole interior of the building was made of wood.

I ran outside, pulled the fire alarm, and ran back in. The fire was so big already that the sprinklers probably wouldn’t stop it, but they would slow it down. I was already almost choking on smoke.

“What are we gonna do?” Claudia asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, beginning to panic.

I looked around the room.

“We could jump out my window,” I said. “We’re only three floors up.”

“We’ll break our legs,” she replied.

“Then what’s your suggestion?” I asked.

I walked over to the window and tried to open it. However, it was sealed. I ran to my desk grabbed one of my text books, and threw it as hard as I could through the window.

“Are you coming?” I asked as I stood next to the window.

“After you,” she replied.

I jumped, and when I landed, I could feel my legs break. Claudia followed, and screamed as she hit the ground.

“Follow me,” I said.

I crawled around to the front of the dorm, and found all of the girls and teachers, and most of the boys.

“You made it!” one of the teachers, Professor Grelling, yelled.

“I’ll call an ambulance,” the dean said.

#

The two of us were admitted to the hospital. We were there for three days, and then we were discharged. However, one thing was nice: we both got wheelchairs.

Both our parents came to see us. My parents still wouldn’t let me go home.

Finally, the day came for us to return.

#

“Hey, Simon,” Claudia said as she wheeled over to me in the courtyard. Then, sarcastically, “I’m really glad Dr. V didn’t operate on my leg. If he had, I’d probably be dead.”

“I think we should stop,” I said. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea to keep doing this. I mean, we almost died.”

Claudia stared at me for a few seconds. Then, she said:

“What?”

“This investigation isn’t going anywhere,” I said. “And obviously, it’s dangerous. Someone tried to kill us, and according to Simon, Alice actually DID die.”

She was silent for a minute.

“I guess that makes since,” she replied. “But what are we gonna do to take up our spare time? Magic tricks? I mean, seriously. There’s nothing to do around here.”

“Well,” I said. “Why not do magic tricks?”

She looked at me for a second.

“And what would we get out of it?” she asked. “It’s not like we can go to Vegas with a show.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But it’ll pass the time.”

“I guess so,” she said.

“I’ll call my parents and have them bring me a few decks of cards,” I said. “And your ban on the library goes away next week, so we can look up tricks.”

“If you want to,” Claudia said.

And so, the investigation ended.

Or so we thought.

TO BE CONTINUED JUNE 25


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