Amy’s note: I always wondered if this scene actually gave away too much, but I love it nonetheless. The story Allie tells about trying to find her way back to her locker one night in high school and getting totally freaked out is based on my own experience in high school. It’s now almost 20 years since my graduation and yet when I had to return there recently (only the second time I think I’ve been back in all these years),  I saw those old spear-headed wrought iron gates and felt the same terror all over again.

I gathered up my two forms of ID, shoving them back into my purse in a  spot they’d readily accessible since I knew I’d be needing them again soon. Then I walked towards the door I entered with my family the day of Matthew’s orientation. Since this entrance was on the back of the building, I didn’t know if it would actually work. After all, it had always been a locked emergency door when I was a student. But the day we’d dropped Matthew off, the door had been open and I didn’t recall seeing the alarm, so I figured it was a worth a shot.

It opened easily, and I walked into a building that looked much darker than the last time I visited. When the door closed behind me, I found myself struggling to see. I considered going back to it, finding my way out and heading around to the front of the building, but I feared that I might be wrong and the alarm might still be there after all. That’s just what Matthew and I both needed:  the embarrassment of a whole school fire alarm evacuation. His classmates would never let him forget it, and I doubted the staff would ever let me visit again. So instead, I continued on down the dark hall.

Where was everyone? There were no voices or sounds of movement that indicated that class was going on anywhere nearby. Instead, there was a strange, eerie feeling—like I remember having once when I’d stayed at school late for a play rehearsal. Partway through I realized that I had forgotten my World History book I needed for my homework that evening. I wandered away from the theater, alone down the halls of the now darkened school, back toward the alcove where my locker was. That’s when the light from theater and the hallway outside of it ran out and the only light came from a few lamps still lit on specimens growing in the bio lab. And ahead of me—blocking the way to my locker—was a giant metal gate that had been pulled across the hallway, locking me away from accessing the books that I needed. The dark, quiet, gated hall gave me the creeps. I remember feeling that if I didn’t get away, they might trap me in the building forever. So I literally ran away, back down the halls and to the security of the well-lit, friendly, people-filled theater.  And I never tried to go back to my locker or anywhere else inside the school after hours again.

Today this place had that same kind of feeling. And I felt that same fear. The halls were so black I had to feel my way along to keep from running into a wall. The only sound I could hear was a faint beep, like that of a computer monitor.

Why would the building be this dark at this time of day? Was it possible I had inadvertently entered the student dormitory? That would make sense, since they should all be in classes now.

THWACK! My stomach slammed hard into something. “Oh!” I cried out a little too loudly. The sound of my own voice seemed to amplify the dark silence, and I grew more afraid—not only because I had no clue where I was and that creepy fear of being locked in school had come back to me full-force, but because I didn’t think that The Academie staff—who did not seem pleased with the idea of my visit in the first place—were going to be all that thrilled if they found me wandering around who knows where. Of course, if they had told me where to go rather than treating me like an enemy invading their space (I saw the irony now, given my current actions) I wouldn’t be in this trouble in the first place.

I felt my way around the obstruction as quickly as I could, now frantic that I might find my way to the main offices. What if I got to the end of the hall and found it locked with one of those massive gates?

The thing I’d run into appeared to be on wheels because it moved slightly as I found my way around it. It was just over waist-high on me and surrounded by bars—the cause for the now throbbing pain in my mid-section—but the top appeared to be cushy, like a bed. Yes, this must be the dormitory, I decided. But as I reached what I hoped was the end of the thing, I found what appeared to be wires attached to a peculiar metal piece. Strange bed, I thought, but there was no time for investigation. I had to get out of there before they found me.

As I continued down what seemed to be an endless corridor the light began to shine through and at last I could see again. To my relief, I began to recognize things—not from my time as a student here, but from the day I toured the facility with my family. The first I recognized was the library, perhaps because it appeared to be the one thing that had not actually changed since my time here. But for whatever reason, it appeared to be closed. There were no lights on inside it, no one running the front desk, and no students perusing the isles or using the study tables.

The next room I recognized was the fancy technologically advanced, wheely chair and fancy desks classroom that I had gawked at during the orientation tour, again dark and uninhabited. Figures, I thought. They probably use it only for staff meetings where they sat around eating donuts and asking each other, “What is it with kids today?” I grew salty on Matthew’s behalf.

(To be continued…)