I grew up in a subdivision, in the heart of coal country Virginia. In the middle of a dying town, each home in this subdivision was stained by the coal dust that plagued the air, and soiled all of our clothing a darker color than they had begun. The roads in this subdivision were set up as a giant square, and the roads were all named after trees that are indigenous to our area. I lived on Dogwood Street, in a brick house with a carport that always had hanging ferns. Dogwood was adjacent to two streets, one being Pine Road, and the other being Walnut Street.
I had friends who lived on the end of Walnut farthest from my own house, and I would go ride bikes every Saturday evening. It was great fun, except the walking home afterwards. I would always try and disentangle myself from the fun a little before dark, and begin that seemingly endless walk. The reason I hated this walk was, even though my home sat in one of the nicest subdivisions in the whole town, right in the middle of Walnut Drive sat an abandoned school house. With three stories, and great black, empty windows, and gaping doors that seemingly wanted to gobble my eight year old self up, this particular eye sore of the community was a common theme to my childhood nightmares.
There were many rumors circulating the old building, speculations about why it was closed, why it was never torn down. I was always partial to the more wild stories, like that the man who owned it still lived in there, in the basement, eating rats and birds, and spying on little children as they played. That is, I liked that one until Saturday night's, when I had to walk home alone by the frightening building.
I feel compelled now to emphasis the normality of my small antebellum town. The evidence obviously stated there was no crazy man living in the basement of the old school house, because in our monotonous town no one went crazy. If they had, we would have considered it relief from the boring lives we lived. I can still remember the schedule I had on those Saturdays, because It never varied. Well- it almost never varied. The one Saturday I can ever remember my schedule changing in the slightest was the day the old school house caught fire.
They told everyone a couple of teenagers had done it, and I think at one point they brought one in for questioning. But really, I am probably the only one who knows how it really happened. It was later in the evening, later than I had meant to stay at my friends'. The sun had sunk beneath the horizon, and I was walking on the opposite side of the than the house. I was walking slower than normal, fear making my muscles tense and my joints stiff. I would allow myself a glance in that directions every few seconds, praying silently that I would see nothing. Despite all my hoping I would see nothing, a glimmer of light caught my eye.
"Go home." I told myself. "There is nothing to see in there." And yet, for some reason, I felt my stupid self hitting the kickstand of my bike with my toes, rummaging through my back pack to find my flashlight, and marching (a little shakily) towards the front door. This is where the true problem presented itself. There was a maze of halls and stairs, some covered in plant life, some smelling of decay. The air was actually so rancid that when I went to start down one of the flights of stairs, I choked as I inhaled, a spluttered out a cough, falling on the mossy, twig and leaf covered steps. That was when the real trouble began. Something scraped across the floor downstairs, and a man's voice called a soft "Hello?". From my over active imagination, I began to conjure all of these grotesque images. Images start flashing past my eyes: An old man with long fingernails gutting a rat, and eating the entrails, bloody knives and dull, lifeless eyes staring at me from all angles. It was too much for my young self to handle. I started screaming and crying, balling up my fists up and resting my head on them. I couldn't move, other than the heaving of my chest. Footsteps approached and I did nothing more than sob harder. The darkness surrounding me beginning to lighten as the person got closer. The hand that shook me didn't feel like it had too long fingernails, and I peeked up out of my crying eyes to see a kind looking older man, in his fifties looking down at me with concern, one hand on my elbow, the other holding an old fashion kerosene lamp.
"Are you okay?" He asked, but all I did was sniffle in response. He kindly helped me to my feet, with a sweet smile. He patted my cheek, but his grin was changing. He was no longer smiling sweetly, but now he was grinning like a mad man, grinning so wide I was sure his face was going to split in two. His hands clamped down on my shoulders, I screamed, and lashed out, kicking wildly. My foot struck the lamp, and he dropped it. The flames where instantaneous, burning the twigs and leaves and then on to bigger things, like support beams. The man dropped me in shock, and instead of running towards the door like I did, he ran back down the stairs, which soon began collapsing in on themselves. I looked back once, and no one followed me out of the building.
The fire burned hot for a day and a half, as the fire trucks tried to put it out. After they finally did, and teams were sent in to investigate, they found in the basement the bodies of five girls, all missing throughout the county. They were of varying ages, all of them gutted like deer, and parts of them sectioned off. They also, by digging up the yard surrounding the building, found they decomposing bodies of seventeen other women and girls, the bodies of twenty two dogs, and four cats.
At least after that I now knew he didn't eat birds and rats.