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I was on my way to school. The bus was unusually full that day – most of the classes had exams. Some students were still desperately reading books or checking smartphones, others were chatting about their personal lives. Of course there were also people like me, who were just quietly observing the world outside the windows of the bus.
It was a nice spring day, sun was shining, grass was green and sky was blue. Definitely, it was a refreshing sight after the northern winter and I felt sad that I had to do my exams that day, instead of some entertainment I could have had - there are many ways to find something fun to do when you are 16.
I majored in history; my exam was earlier than most, so I took a last look on my notes. I felt confident, I knew the subject well and I was prepared for anything, however, I would lie if I said that I was not a little nervous. After some time the bus stopped. Most of the students were lucky enough to have some spare time, but my peers were already on the way to the exam class, so I had to follow. We took our seats, got objectives and began our work.
I was not the first one in my group to answer, actually, I was third to last. I made necessary preparations, watched how others were handling the exam and finally presented my own work, as I recall it had something to do with Medieval Ages. My teacher was pleased - she said that I did my work well and that I can expect high marks. I was asked to wait a little outside the classroom until the last two "historians" will complete or fail the exam. I left the class.
It was very quiet in school. Other classes were already working, while everyone who completed examination was at canteen or outside the building. I heard my friend Ben complaining about something and as I was about to leave the school building, someone called me.
"Arthur!" it was the mathematics teacher, Ms. Traynor.
"Why are you making all this noise? It’s not easy to concentrate in these conditions, you know."
"Noise? But I have not..."
"Of course you haven’t, right... Anyway, stop it please or I will talk with your teacher."
She made a glaring look and returned to class. I decided to leave the building not to get into any trouble. I was near the exit, I noticed a girl from another class. Her name was Jane. I approached her.
"Hey! How are you..."
"Tsss! Listen..." she put her finger near her mouth and pointed at the floor with another. I stood there trying to hear something and after some time I could make it out. Something was moving down there. I whispered:
"Yeah, I've just seen Traynor, she was complaining about it..."
"Would you like to go see what’s going on? We can be first there."
"Who cares? Why should we..."
"Do you have something better to do until Ben and others will come out?"
"Not really, but I know a nice café..." She smiled. Jane was your typical girl next door, but actually had good looks.
"I've been here for 10 minutes. Tell you what, if you’ll go with me, I’ll go with you in your café."
"Whatever. So, what do you suggest?"
"Let’s follow the hum, Arthur... If you are not afraid, of course."
Noise was definitely from below. School basement, obviously. When I was younger we used to sneak into there. Nothing spectacular, just walls, broken equipment from classes and dust. Also, pipes with water. The only use for that place was smoking, but a reward was not worthy of being caught perspective. Jane whispered:
"Why are others not reacting?"
"So, Jane, you expect everyone to stop exams because of not so easy to hear sounds from maintenance? Besides, Ms. Traynor..."
"I see your point, but look over there." Our principal was walking with several members of school staff into the basement.
"I hope you do not..."
"Come on, there is no crime in what we are doing. We can call it a journalist thing."
"Well, I am not the literature stud like you..."
"Everything will be fine, Arthur, please, I won’t go there alone... Please?"
I was such an idiot. What do you think? We just silently followed our principal - Mr. Hoster, two school guards and a maintenance guy whom I have never seen. They went further into the basement, while Jane and I decided to stay at the entrance, so we would not get unwanted attention. After five minutes we sneaked into the next room. It was the same old basement. At the far wall we could see Hoster and his companions talking about something. Jane hid behind some old school table and made me a sign to follow. After that we quickly moved to another, near the far wall. We were unnoticed: there was only one not so strong lamp in the room and a hum was noticeable by now. So, we just sit there and tried to make out something of the principal’s speech.
"Is it the generator, Lesley?"
"No, the generator is behind the main building, this one is not gen, Mr. Hoster."
"Hmm... Any ideas, gentlemen? What’s behind this wall?" he looked confused.
"Nothing, actually. I worked for four years here and even saw the plans during the last summer big maintenance. Wall should be solid," the technical guy answered. It’s funny how he managed to keep our school in shape without us seeing him that much.
"Anyway, it disrupts the whole examination process. I got at least three reports from various classes. Mr. Lesley, please go into my office and tell them that we are onto it. Mr. Keltsis, please contact the local 911. Mr. Pressley, you and me will stay here for now, perhaps we can solve this mystery."
Two teachers left. Hoster and Pressley (maintenance worker) began to study the wall. Jane and I were just sitting down there. I whispered to her:
"Are you satisfied? Let’s go eat something."
"Nah, aren't you curious at all, Arth? I had a better opinion of you."
"When 911 will come they will find us, that’s all." She looked sad after I said that.
"Fine. Let’s go."
We sneaked back, trying not to get any attention. We successfully reached the first room of the basement. It was not as quiet as before. Most of the exams were completed and people, understandably started to gather around the basement. However, no one entered, the door was closed tight. We were pretty much screwed. I was about to start a tirade on Jane, but she looked so sad. I just made a glare and quietly asked her:
"What’s next, Ms. Journalist?"
"Well, I was wrong, sorry! We can hide maybe?"
"Where? Behind the tables? They will find us immediately."
"Look, I dunno, maybe this room has some pantry or something?"
We searched the room around some washing tools, old chairs and pipes. Logic dictated that there should have been some small room for clothes and other things and we were right. Rusty door was not that easy to spot from the beginning, ‘cause it was painted in the same color as the walls. Anyway, people upstairs were getting even more loud, so we had to open it and enter that pantry. It was small, full of bad old chemical smell and dusty textiles. We could not help but sneeze. The whole situation was very stupid, cliché and stupid again. Whatever. We stood there for some time and finally heard the door opened upstairs. We heard several voices and instinctively pushed against clothes on the back wall of the pantry. And we were in the small tunnel. It was completely dark. I took my phone and lightened that place a little. Jane looked surprised, so was I. The tunnel was tiny, actually, and the wall between us and the clothes was ruined long before. Our instincts were right, someone opened the rusty door to the pantry and closed it after half a minute. We observed the tunnel. It could be a ventilation or pipe one, but I was not sure.
"Let’s wait here then..." Jane said.
I looked around and decided to explore a little. My reasoning was bizarre at that time, but as I recall, I just wanted to make sure both Jane and I were safe. The tunnel was very dark. A small amount of light from my phone was enough for us not to get into panic. Walls were close to each other. Both to my left and my right the tunnel was going further, though after I lighted the left part (I was facing pantry), it revealed solid wall in the end. To the right, though, the tunnel was going and going. Noise was louder here than it was in the main basement. Jane was scared. I tried to reassure her that everything is going to be fine.
"Don’t worry, just stay here. Do you have a light on your phone?"
"Yes, I have."
"Good, just..." I stopped mid-sentence because we heard hammers. Looks like the principal decided to get through the wall. No doubt there was a lot of people from outside the pantry. We heard their voices. I continued:
"Just stay here. I will scout ahead and return to you. If anything happens, just forget about it and let them find you." She nodded.
I moved to my right, between thin walls. Noise grew louder, though it was not shattering at all. The more I listened to it, the more I understood that it resembled a generator, like Mr. Hoster thought. After some brief time, a tunnel became even more thin in height. I stopped and tried to look around. The tunnel was going further. I crouched and flashed right there. To my surprise I saw normal floor. I looked back and saw Jane. The whole time she was following me. I had enough. I wanted to scream at her, but I was interrupted again. Looks like 911 forces finally managed to break through the wall. It was near us. The whole tunnel started to shatter. I had no choice, but to grab Jane and enter the hole which was the end of the tunnel.
We stood up. We were in some cell. First thing we noticed was smell. It was beyond awful, we coughed. After we made improvised masks out of our clothes, it got a tiny bit better. The generator (I was sure it was the generator) still made noise somewhere further. Plants were growing through the shatters inside the cell’s walls. Water was all around from the pipe nearby. I carefully went further.
We faced another tunnel. One way led to the right, one led to the left. I flashed my phone to my left and made a few steps. There was another small room. The noise was very loud. I followed the sound and finally saw the source of it. It was, indeed, a small generator. With a switch. We were getting really scared inside the darkness. I thought it would be better to have some light. I turned the switch up...
The room I was in was covered with blood. Old blood. I've never seen anything like that and I was completely unprepared. I was frozen. I turned my head back to see the condition of Jane. Instead I heard the most chilling scream I've yet to experience. I moved slowly in the direction of the right wing of the tunnel. I had trouble moving my legs. Jane could not stop screaming. Lights were not that bright, but I saw blood on the floor all the way. There she was, standing in the room similar to that where the generator was.
This room actually had another two wings which led to another two rooms. However, inside this particular one, near the wall was a bath. A bath with a corpse in it. A dead man was rotting, everything inside the bath was full of awful rusty blood. Even his brown clothes were rotting. Near the bath there was a knife. I came to Jane, tried to hug her, protect her from the sight, but I got a glimpse of what was in another room...
Now I was completely frozen. There were many lights. In the center was a podium with a chair. A medical, dentist like one. And there was a woman. She was naked, but her body... It... I've never seen anything like that. It was burnt, heavily, not with fire, but with acid, it seemed. Skin was green, black, yellow, violet, distorted, shattered. Unnaturally natural... There were holes and I think I saw some worms.
She moved her head away from me. IT WAS ALIVE. She was in a mask. A white textile mask which hid her face, but even the mask was not right. Holes for eyes were on the place for ears, well the place where ears should have been, but there were only hideously blue veins seen in those holes. Ripped flesh was where the hole for a mouth should have been. Jane could not stop screaming. I fell to my knees. A woman (?) made some groaning sounds. I blacked out. Jane was already on the floor.
I remember stories about that place from the emergency services. They have found us eventually, approximately 10 minutes after we blacked out. They have found us quickly because of Jane's screams. She was in a near catatonic state, so was I and yes, as you can see there was a good reason for that.
After they have broken the wall in the basement, they have found several rooms and a maze of tunnels. Some of them were blocked. Special services are working on them now. Rooms included several torture chambers, prison cells, medical equipment to keep victims alive. There were signs on the walls and the only single clue for the monster responsible for all this. It was a sculpture, which consisted of two models. A man in black clothes, a hood and long mosquito beak was inserting metal rods inside the detailed woman’s body. Her face was of extreme agony.
They have found a note inside the dead man’s clothes. It consisted of the single word. "Shihana".