At the edge of the small village of Hollow Waters was a street like no other. Many said the street was haunted, with ghosts hiding in the backyard sheds that were always threatening to spook those on their morning walks. Others claimed that they had seen faces in the windows of the abandoned manor that covered most of the right edge of the street. There were only two other houses on the street. One was owned by the elderly Eliza Polack, who lived alone and the other had just recently been bought by the Mindal family.
This street was known as Mineral Lane. The street was feared by all of the other villagers, who avoided it on their runs. Even the paperboy refused to set foot onto Mineral Lane, resulting in those on the peculiar street being forced to drive into town every day to pick up the newspaper.
My parents, Michelle and Kosias Mindal were both in their fifties. I – their son, Anthony - had attended a juvenile delinquent center twice in my life, and was seventeen years old. I had more than one tattoo, both in unseen places, and had nearly every part of my body that could be pierced had a loop ring or stub stuck into it. I often wore black eyeliner and I could remember when a boy at my first school had called me a freaky goth. The boy had been in the hospital for over a month and I had been kicked out the next day.
I tended to enjoy exploring more than anything else. Whenever I could, I talked over the cellphone with my friends back in the city, who often told me about their new tattoos or who they had beaten up that day. In my free time, I would venture far back into the woods behind my small, beat down home, and would hang out in a small swampy area I found, gulping down a couple of beers on my trip.
One day near the beginning of the school year, I was approached by a group of boys at his new school. They dressed like wannabes and acted like wannabes, what with their fuckin’ backwards caps and pants pulled way too far down.
“Wazzup muhfucka?” one of them asked. He was too short to be in high school, I couldn’t believe it. “Hear you were a badass back in the city. But here, we work a little differently.”
I didn’t answer, but instead blew a cloud of smoke into the boy’s face from his cigarette. Then I leaned in close to the choking boy.
“Why dunt you jus fuck off, you fuckin’ midget mongoloid?” I growled quietly to the still coughing boy.
One of the other boys shoved me away from his leader and smiled a shark grin.
“Heard you live on Mineral Lane. We’ve all been inside the manor across the street from your house, it ain’t as scary as you might think.”
I was ready to storm off, but I had been wondering about the manor. I knew it was abandoned, but I was sure I had seen some fucked up shit when I looked out my window during the night, like curtains shifting and faces in the windows.
“You see anything in there?” I asked the boys, who were staring at me with looks of excitement, waiting for my response.
“I dunno,” snarled the main boy. “You got any cash?”
I stepped forward, ready to beat the shit out of these assholes, but a hand appeared on my shoulder. I turned around to find myself facing a tall, lean figure with a hollow face. It was Principal Grewed.
“Is there a problem here, Mr. Mindal?” said Grewed in his raspy voice. He couldn’t have been more than fifty, probably younger than my parents, but he was wrinkled and bald, so I couldn’t be sure.
Before I could think of a response, the Principal led me off towards the front doors. As they marched away, I noticed the boys laughing at me. I flashed them the middle finger behind the Principals back. He opened up the doors and led me inside. Usually, I would have thrown this guy to the ground, but he knew my parents didn’t have the money to move again. So I simply tried to smile and stepped through the door, letting the Principal lead me down the hallway.
As the Principal opened the door to his office, I could feel a cold chill down my spine, like someone was walking on my grave. The Principal ushered me inside the office with a hurried, exasperated look.
The office was small, with a single desk in front of a wall covered in plaques. There was a sheet strung against the ceiling, blocking off the view of left hand corner. I could feel the cold rising now. I wondered if the window was left open, but I knew it was closed. This was different, almost as if someone had made the temperature freezing. He gripped my shoulders instinctively and the Principal turned towards him with a smile on my hollowed bony face.
“I understand your chills, Anthony. I had them the first time as well.”
First time? What was this old fuck going on about? But I could see the Principal’s eyes ever so slowly shifting towards the curtain in the corner. I wanted to know what was behind it.
“Now Anthony, I want you to know that this will shock you. I don’t care who you’ve beaten up or robbed at your old schools, this shocks everyone that has seen it.”
“Did you just bring me here to show me my school record or something?”
This guy was really starting to get on my nerves. Who was he to say that I was going to be scared? I once saw a woman who had been hacked to pieces with a bucksaw. I’d watched every single horror movie there was to see. I was practically immune to being scared.
Yet something about that sheet made me really uncomfortable and the Principal could see it. Whatever it was that was behind that sheet was very important. Why he was showing me of all people was beyond him. From the way he was acting, this was something for the police, not a delinquent.
“I’m going to draw back the sheet now,” said the Principal in a dark voice. “You’re going to have so many questions and I cannot answer them. All of your answers will be in the manor. Once I open the sheet, I’m going to leave the room. You have ten minutes to do whatever you need to do. Then leave. I don’t care if you move or stay or whatever, but you have be out of this room before the time is up. And don’t tell the authorities, they won’t believe you.”
Before I could respond to anything the Principal had said, barely able to process the complete strangeness of this fucking dickhead’s actions, Grewed grabbed the sheet and yanked it back, revealing the horror that was behind it.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” I screamed but the Principal had already left the room. Mr. Grewed was right on one thing. This was something not even I had seen in my entire life.
Lying on the floor were two small babies, no more than one year old. They were both male and still, but they were breathing softly. Each of them were both completely naked, their genitals exposed to my vision. The babies were both covered in scabs, pus and blood leaking from the cuts as they poured in a flow onto the cold tiles. Their eye sockets were empty, almost like they were black right down to the center of their skulls. Their skin was shriveled; almost like they had been lying behind that sheet their entire lives and their lips were completely black.
I stared at them for a few moments, completely startled beyond comprehension, then ran to the Principals desk and puked in the top drawer.
My Principal was a sadistic fuck who kidnapped babies and held them off for display to his schoolchildren. That was all I could think of that would explain this. He searched desperately around for a telephone, but the room was void of one. I looked for the windows, hoping for a way to escape this abomination, but they seemed to have melted into the walls. I ran to the door, but the knob wouldn’t turn.
I turned away from the doorknob, breathing heavily, not able to remove the taste of puke from my mouth, and saw words written on the wall above the babies that was not there before.
By now, I could barely stand to look at them; much less do these disgusting creatures any favors. What did they mean by avenge them? Did that mean kill the Principal? That was a little harsh, but these children were probably there since their birth, judging from their shriveled skin and torn out eyes. And how the hell did the words get written there anyways? The babies hadn’t moved an inch.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to escape the room until the ten minutes were up. I knew the Principal had told me to go to the manor, but this was fucked up. He had to go to the police, get that bastard arrested. Maybe he could even save these destroyed children.
I waited, facing away from the children. I couldn’t look at them, it was too revolting and I didn’t want to throw up again. I knew that this was all some sick prank by the Principal, it had to be. I didn’t believe any of the stories about ghosts and neither did my parents. That was one of the reasons why they didn’t mind living on Mineral Lane.
When the ten minutes were up, I flung open the door and looked down the empty hallway. School had ended just as I had met those wannabes and the place was empty by now. The Principal was nowhere in sight.
I left the children in the room, knowing that they weren’t going anywhere, and fled the schoolyard, snatching my skateboard from my locker. I was going to the police station. That freak of a Principal wasn’t getting away with this.
“Don’t tell the authorities my ass,” I mumbled, unable to remove the image of the babies from his head.
I skated down the streets as fast as I could, ignoring the glances of the villagers, and burst through the door of the police station.
An officer at the front desk looked up at me expectantly.
“May I help you?”
“Yeah you can help me! My fucking principal has two half dead kids in his office! You have to arrest him… or do something!”
I sat down, I eyes wide and stared at the officer, who was staring back at him with a stunned look.
“Look kid, I know you might have thought you saw something in that office, but I can guarantee you Principal Jardet is a highly respected citizen and…”
“Wait, what?” I said, holding my hands in the air. “Who the flying fuck is Jardet?”
“Don’t speak to me that way, you little punk. Jardet has been the Principal of Hollow Waters High School for that past 23 years.”
I stumbled backwards, unable to take this in.
“But I talked to Principal Grewed, not your fantasy Jardet!” I yelled, more to myself than the officer.
The officer stood up, frowning at the shaking boy. “Are you on drugs?”
“No!” I cried, trembling heavily now. “Why do you ask?”
The officer sighed and massaged his temple.
“Principal Grewed passed away in the fire at the manor on Mineral Lane 25 years ago. Him and his two children and his wife. They all died. Poor kids, they couldn’t have been more than one year old.”
I screamed, bursting out of the police station and ran down the street. As I ran, the officer came out of the door, watching me fly down the street like a fucking mental patient.
I could only think of one thing. I would have to enter the manor and discover the secret behind the dead children.
How could I have seen them? I knew I hadn’t imagined it, it was too real. But how had I known exactly who Principal Grewed was if I had never met him before then? I knew somehow that if I returned to the school now, I would be confronted by nothing but this new Jardet and an empty room.
I ran down Mineral Lane, past my house, and slowed to a stop in front of old woman Polack’s house. It was a small, boxy sort of house, with a creaky rocking chair out on the front porch. Eliza Polack was sitting in the chair, a knitting basket in her hands and she knitted a pair of gloves for the cold autumn that was quickly approaching.
“Why hello there, Anthony!” she croaked, smiling as I hurried up her steps. “What brings you here?”
“Ms. Polack,” I said, my words coming out in a jumbled flow, “what can you tell me about the fire at the manor?”
Like a light switch being turned off, her cheerful expression immediately changed to terrified.
“The children, they were so young. I can’t remember their names, not in my age, but they were so beautiful. Their father was the Principal at your high school. Such a nice man, from what I can recall. No reason at all for them to die. But she was mad, you see.”
I took Eliza’s hand. “Who, Ms. Polack? Who was mad?” “The wife! Ms. Grewed. She was a strange, strange woman. Spent much of her time inside, sheltered from the world. She didn’t work, she didn’t do much of anything other than take care of her children. I suppose the stress of it all got to her and she must have, well…snapped.”
I could picture it as she spoke. The wife living with nothing, but two babies and a husband that was always working. A simple match being lit was all it would take. The babies and the parents must have all perished in the fire. But why could I see them?
“Ms. Polack, I have to go into the manor. It’s…it’s the only way I’ll keep myself sane.”
I looked her in the eyes as I said this and she seemed to understand.
“I understand you’re curiosity, but I warn you, stay away from that place. You weren’t the first one to question me about this, after all.”
It was just like Grewed had said. Everyone that moved into Mineral Lane must have been taken by Grewed to see the babies, or as he should say, Grewed’s children and then sent off to the manor. Then they either moved away or discovered the truth. I knew somewhere inside that there was a third option, but I didn’t want to think about it.
What was so special about Mineral Lane? I knew that I had to find out or I would lose it. And I couldn’t go back to fuckin’ juvie, not again. Or worse: solitary confinement. I didn’t want to go crazy. And if nobody believed my story, I would have to find out the truth on my own.
Before Ms. Polack could stop him, I ran across the street and ran up the steps to the door of the manor. Ms. Polack stood up from her seat and yelled to me.
“Come back here, I! It’s not safe, it’s not…”
But she didn’t get a chance to finish. I slammed the door behind me and looked around inside.
The manor was huge; nearly five times the size of my small, shitshack of a house. A grand piano was situated on a raised floor panel, the keys covered in dust. There were chairs and a long dining table and old, Victorian style couches around an incredibly old television set. Beside the dining room table was a long, spiral staircase. I ran over to it and dashed up two steps at a time.
I reached the top in seconds and looked around, a wild flurry in my eyes. I could feel my brain beginning to crack, as if I was already crazy and knew I had little time before I completely snapped.
There was a doorway that was slightly open. The rest were closed. I could easily tell that others before me had gone through this door, searching for the truth. Whether they actually exited the room was a different story.
But it was the only way. It was either discover the truth or lose my marbles completely. I supposed Ms. Polack would tell my parents and then they would hire another psychiatrist and then I would have to either take kooky pills or go to meetings. All that really mattered to me now was finding out why I could see the old Principal and his dead children.
So I stepped into the room, sealing my fate, and noticed that it was a nursery. Two cribs that were side by side sat abandoned in the center of the room. They were empty. There was also a desk against the wall, covered with pictures.
I approached the table slowly, half not wanting to know what was on the pictures and half desperate to find out. In the end, my curiosity got the best of me as I picked up the stack of photos.
The first was an old, black and white photo of the Grewed family. The babies were both smiling widely, along with Mr. Grewed. But what seemed odd was the face of Ms. Grewed. It was obvious she had been smiling in the photo, but her face had been drawn on with a pen, turning her smile into a depressed face of someone crying. There were hints of red around her eyes, almost as if she was crying blood.
I flipped to the next picture and gasped.
It was a picture of a boy, nearly the same age as me, standing at exactly the same table I was standing at, holding the same stack of photos. Standing behind him was a thin, bony woman with burnt, clawed hands and bent, spiked teeth, her hands reaching for his neck.
I whimpered, dropping the pictures, which fell in a jumbled mess around my feet. Slowly, I turned around, knowing what was coming.
The mother of the two children was standing in front of me, her hair falling down in a mess on her shoulders and her eyes sunk into her skull. The bloody tears that were in the picture dripped down her face in cold droplets, plinking as they fell to the floor.
I had come to a conclusion: I had lost my fucking mind; I was dead to reality. My life flashed before my eyes and I was crying, and praying to a god that I didn’t, before, believe in. This was the scariest, most life changing, and last moment of my life. No longer was I afraid of death or a juvenile delinquent center. I apologized to my family as tears streamed down my face. I was finally free of the shackles of society and the shit that I’ve done in my life. I apologized to everyone I had ever beaten up, and every store I’ve ever robbed. I accepted my fate and waited to be brought to hell.
“My husband wants you to save them. You will not get the chance.”
Then, as I closed my eyes, she lunged forward, and I smiled.