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We decided to call them Gigglers, because having your life threatened by demonic man-eaters is no excuse for a lack of creativity. I don't think I need to explain the other reason why.
Martin contacted me again with new developments three days after our original Skype call. He asked me to "find cases that took place in this city where teenagers died under questionable circumstances." That narrowed things down approximately zero percent for me. Still,I also knew that was the only option. We had ruled out investigating the Den on grounds of it being suicide, so this was the best we could do for now. Clearly we were off to a great start with the "finding answers" business.
I narrowed down the search as much as was possible. I limited my search to only teenagers 16 and older, and only those who were in schools that had a TES program at some point. After about three weeks of this, I managed to find two cases that seemed particularly off:
Four eighteen year-olds found viciously mutilated nearby school grounds. ID of victims almost impossible. "Puma attack."
Two seventeen year-olds and twelve fifth graders "gone missing" while supposedly on a visit to the National Museum. Seventeen year-olds were acting as chaperones. Bodies never found.
I won't go into the details of how exactly I found some of that info. Far be it from me to reveal my trade secrets. Not all of it was acquired through... legal methods, though, to that much I'll admit.
I happened to be in the middle of writing down the details of the second case when I heard the distinct ringing of Skype. Sure enough, on the monitor popped up a Skype window that announced "Incoming Call: Martin." I answered, and the aforementioned appeared on my screen. He looked the same as last time, only his previous shirt had been replaced by a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt with some disturbingly graphic art on the front.
"I still cannot fathom how you are a law student," I started.
"Dude, it's not like I'm going to look like this once I'm a judge."
"Curl your hair and bleach it white," I suggested with a smirk. "It might pass for a powdered wig."
"Fuck off," he sighed. "Anyway, I have the next week off. We're not gonna get another chance like this. Have you found anything?"
"Two cases, after much failure and frustration," I declared proudly. "I put the details in Word. I'll send you the document."
After a couple of minutes of reading, Martin gave a grunt of approval. "Alright," he began. "This is what we've got so far."
He leaned off screen for a few seconds, then came back holding a map.
"So in the past two years,I've managed to find four cases that really stand out," here he stretched his arm offscreen again and brought out a stack of papers, which he began sifting through.
"2009, five juniors from International School disappear while on a field trip. Bodies never found.
"2002, entire class of fourth graders and teacher disappear without a trace from St. Joseph Academy. Presumed kidnapped by teacher. Neither children nor teacher ever found.
"1991, entire staff of teachers at Mordecai Elementary found mutilated in school's basement. Children mysteriously unharmed.
"1983, nine students and two teachers at Joseph Cecil of the Valley University disappear. Presumed dead. Murders accredited to Elvin Gomez.
"Including your case this year, the puma case in 1996, and the museum case from 1988, we've got seven possible Giggler appearances."
"Six possible appearances," I corrected. "I assure you, Giggler appearance is confirmed in my case..."
Trust me, I got it from a reliable source... I thought.
"Right," he said. "I've also found out that Mordecai, St. Joseph, and the puma case school all closed for good after their respective cases. Apparently too much bad publicity. No one wanted their children near those places. That should make things easier for us."
"Easier for us to do... what?" I asked suspiciously.
Martin smirked and held up the map for me to see. It was a map of the city and the surrounding region. He had placed seven dots in seemingly random places on the map, each one with a year written above it.
"Look at the pattern!" Martin said excitedly. "Each incident took place farther away from the 1983 case than the last! The two that you found, plus what happened at the Den, confirm it."
I was beginning to understand. "I see what you're getting at. If the locations are rippling outward..." I started...
"Then going back to the oldest cases should lead us to wherever this whole thing started!" Martin finished.
"Joseph Cecil of the Valley it is, then," I concluded.
"Pretty much, but there's something else I think is worth noting. Of the three schools that were closed, only two were torn down. For some reason, the 1996 case school was left standing. It happens to be on the way to Joseph Cecil. I think we should check it out."
I considered that for a moment. I wasn't exactly jumping at the opportunity to explore any place the Gigglers might've been, but if it meant answers, then there was really no choice.
"I guess we have to," I finally said.
With a grim nod, Martin hung up.
"I'll come by tomorrow. Be ready for anything," was the last message he sent before signing off.
"You told me to be ready for anything, and you didn't bring a freaking flashlight?"
"Shut up about that already, would ya?"
I rolled my eyes and slammed the car door shut, stretching my legs after the two hour drive. The school stretched out in front of us, a single rectangular building, two floors. The right side of the building was crumpled, as though demolition had been started but halted abruptly. Every window was broken, but the jagged shards still bordered the frame like teeth on this abandoned monstrosity, with multiple maws.
"Let's hope the door's unlocked," Martin muttered.
As it turned out, in place of a door was an empty doorway, revealing nothing inside but darkness and rubble.
"About as unlocked as it gets," I replied.
Turning on the flashlight, I shone it into the doorway. Nothing but rubble. In the back there was another doorway that led into what looked like a hallway that extended in three directions.
"What exactly are we looking for?" I asked Martin, who was scanning the area illuminated by the flashlight suspiciously.
"I'm not sure," he admitted without turning. "I doubt there'll be any corpses, and any paperwork is long cleared out. But there's got to be a reason why they left this place in particular standing."
"They'd have cleared everything out in the building..."
"So anything we'd be looking for would be-"
"Underground," I finished.
It wasn't very difficult to find the basement. It had the only set of doors in the smashed-in area that were not only still present, but sealed with two heavy iron padlocks.
"I don't think we'll be getting through that," I said, ever the observant hawk.
Martin placed the backpack he had on the floor and after a few seconds produced from it a pair of bolt cutters.
"But no flashlight...?" I asked.
He put the cutters to one of the locks and closed them. After a few seconds there was a loud slicing sound as the lock snapped in two. He repeated the process and the second set of chains clanged noisily to the floor. While he replaced the bolt cutters in his backpack, I put my hands on the doors, took a breath, and pushed them open.
The English language lacks the words needed to describe the sheer foulness of the smell that hit us. I gagged immediately, and Martin choked and quickly put his hands over his nose and mouth.
"What - what the fuck is - that?" He forced out through coughs.
Freaking NASTY is what it is, I thought, but I actually did recognize the smell. I had experienced it once before. I hadn't even noticed it at the time, probably because of shock, but it was still unmistakable now.
"Rotting flesh," I provided, grimacing.
Martin immediately stopped coughing and looked at me with alarm. "Are you sure?"
"Completely," I said. "Why?"
"Because the last demolition attempt was in 1997," Martin said in a voice barely above a whisper.
Slowly, we both turned and looked into the darkness. Martin stuck a hand in his backpack and pulled out a hatchet, and I reached a hand over my shoulder to my own backpack and brought out the heavy black flashlight I had brought. Before I had time to hesitate, I clicked the flashlight on.
From where we stood, we could see nothing but a set stairs, leading to a bare concrete floor some twenty feet down. We descended these slowly, Martin in front, hatchet raised, me directly behind him, shining the light before us. When we reached the landing, I took the lead, quickly turning the flashlight in every direction to make sure nothing alive was down there.
"See anything?" Martin whispered behind me.
"Nothing dangerous, at least," I replied, my voice thick with relief. "Lower the hatchet before you scalp me-"
As I said this, the pale yellow beam of the flashlight landed on a face, staring at us with static eyes.
I screamed and scrambled backwards, tripping over a piece of rubble and falling back in the process. Martin threw the hatchet, missing my ear by an inch and missing the thing by a good foot and a half.
I quickly regained my balance and shone the light frantically. Where was the-?!
"It's - it's only a corpse," Martin said. His breaths were coming short and quick, but he managed a huge sigh of relief.
"Good thing, too," I muttered. "Cause with your aim, if it had been alive, we'd both be dead by now."
I stood up and dusted off my jeans. I shone the flashlight around the room, slower this time, to make sure there weren't any other surprises I'd care to avoid. I took a step forward, and at the same time that my flashlight landed on a pile of something, I heard a loud crack beneath my shoe. I didn't need to check what it was.
"Bones," I announced to Martin, who had gone to the other side of the room to find the hatchet. "A lot of them, too."
The bones were bleached almost stark white. They had clearly been there for a long time. Among the bones there was the occasional torn piece of orange or yellow cloth, and off in one corner there was a yellow hard hat, covered in at least an inch of dust.
"I... guess we know what happened to the demolition crew," Martin said from somewhere off to my right. After the bones had lost their allure, I trained the light on the corpse again.
"Martin," I called, my voice tense.
"What, what is it?" Martin came running over, hatchet raised, and looked at where the light was pointing.
The corpse hadn't even begun to decay, and still had recognizable features. It was a boy, with a crew cut of straight black hair, that was coated in dust, and glassy, lifeless blue eyes. His face was frozen in an expression of shock, his eyes wide, and his mouth open. He was dressed in a white polo and had green trousers, with a logo on the right side of his chest.
"What?" Martin demanded. "He's still pretty damn dead."
"That's my school uniform," I said.
"Do... do you recognize him?" Martin asked hesitantly.
"No, but that doesn't mean anything. I'm new, I hardly know anyone at my school." I walked towards the cadaver, cautiously, and examined him closely. "If I've seen him before, I don't remember," I reported.
Martin walked over and stood next to me, examining the body. He stared at it for what felt like a long time, eyes narrowed in concentration.
"This 'kid' may not have been a kid at all," he said with disgust.
"You think this is a Giggler?"
"I don't know, but... there's something sinister in his expression. I can't place it, but it's there."
"Hey!" I suddenly exclaimed. "He's got something in his hand!"
The body's left hand was clenched into a death grip, and there was what looked like paper sticking out from between his fingers. Martin approached the body cautiously, hatchet at the ready. He reached out a hand and very slowly touched the body. When it failed to respond, he took hold of its arm and attempted to pry the fingers open.
"Wow, this thing's got a strong grip," Martin said with difficulty. In the end, he managed to wrench the hand open and take the paper.
"What is it?" I inquired curiously.
Martin slipped the paper into his pocket. "We'll check it out once we're outta here," he decided. "Come on, look for anything else that might be useful."
There turned out to be nothing else down there. The place had been wiped clean of anything that wasn't dust, rubble, or bone. We gladly got the fuck out of there and made our way towards the building's exit.
We had been in that basement longer than we had thought, and by the time we got in the car, it was already pretty dark. It was clearly too late to head for the university, so we turned towards the road home.
After a few minutes of silence, I turned to Martin. He had a look of concentration on.
"You've got an idea on that kid in the basement, don't you?" I said.
He nodded. "And you're not gonna like this one either."
As I knelt in front of the file cabinet, paper clips poised to pick its lock, I seriously considered the possibility that Martin's real plan was to get me arrested.
His idea had been simple: if the corpse belonged to a former student, then there'd be a file on him at school. I just had to search for it. It was a harmless endeavor, really, and I'd thought of the same thing myself, but that wouldn't make it any less prohibited for me.
Once my next school day had come around, I had hung around after hours, camping outside the superintendence. I'd waited for the secretary to leave the office and the cabinet unguarded, and sprang into action when she did. That left me where I was then, picking the lock on the cabinet with all the students' files in it.
I was close to cracking it open when I heard footsteps approaching the office.
Oh, crap, not now, I thought.
I jumped up and made to casually leave, and as I opened the door, I almost bumped into Coach Saul.
"Oh, uh, hey, coach," I said nervously.
"How ya doin?" he replied. Coach Saul was pretty old for a coach, but he was in amazing shape for a 58 year old. He was of average height, with almost totally straight gray hair and a thick mustache of the same color. The coach always had this incredibly strong odor of cologne about him too, like he'd just bathed in the stuff a minute before greeting you. He smelled that way now. I assumed it was to counter the sweat. He was man who zealously encouraged athleticism, and scorned anyone who didn't feel the same way.
"Oh, good, just, ah, meant to ask something," I lied.
"Looking for something?" the coach asked, uncharacteristically curious.
"Yeah, but with no one here..."
He let out a bark of laughter. "I've always said this school's administration is useless the moment you actually need it. I came here for the same reason, but if there's no one here, might as well just take care of it tomorrow. Take it easy," he said, before he jogged back the way he had come.
"You too, coach!" I called, relieved for the burst of luck.
Once I'd made sure he was gone and no one else was coming, I raced back to the cabinet and began picking again. After a minute or so, I finally heard a satisfying click! and the drawer popped forward a tiny bit.
I searched through the fourth grade files, double checking each one, and found no one who matched the corpse I had seen. I repeated the same process for fifth and sixth grade, even third and seventh, only to end up with the same results.
Martin was right, I thought. Still kneeling, I quickly fished my phone out of my pocket and dialed Martin's number. He picked up halfway into the third ring.
"Hello?" came the voice from the speaker.
"You were right," I responded quickly. "There's no file on the kid. He's definitely not a recent student here."
"I double checked every file. Either this kid was a Giggler, or the school has no information on him whatsoever."
"Damn it," he hissed, frustrated. "What does this mean?"
"I don't know, but perhaps there's someone-"
The voice came from behind me. On a reflex, I hung up the call. Silently cursing, I turned around.
Standing in the doorway, arms crossed, was another senior. Slender and of average height, she had black hair that had a slight reddish tinge to it, and dark green eyes that seemed to always be carefully analyzing something. With her button nose, unblemished cheeks, and rather small lips, all her facial features, aside from those eyes, had an odd softness to them, like someone had used the Refine Edge tool on her. Pretty ironic, since she also had a habit of getting mad or frustrated pretty easily. She reminded me of a Greek statue: moody and wise.
Her name was Celia. I didn't know her last name, and I didn't need to. We had spoken a couple of times in passing before, but everyone knew Celia either way. With her IQ of 142, she had made quite a reputation for herself. I was among the top students in my class, but this girl was the smartest in the entire school, probably.
"Why are you searching through the student records?" she asked suspiciously.
"Would you believe me if I said I'm the new secretary?" I asked feebly.
"And what was that phone call about?" she pressed.
Fuck, she heard...
"Just a friend of mine," I said smoothly. "He asked me to get his little brother's file so they could make his grades better."
"Alright, now without the lies," Celia responded, not fooled in the slightest.
I sighed. "Look, even if I told you, you wouldn't believe me. And it might even put you in danger. Just... forget you saw me here. Please?"
She didn't budge. "Enlighten me. Otherwise, I'm gonna have to rat you out."
I smirked. I had been prepared for this situation, thankfully. I quickly gathered the twisted paper clips, replaced the files, and slammed the drawers shut.
"Nice try, but there's nothing to rat me out about," I triumphantly said.
Celia smirked herself and held up her left hand. In it she held a cell phone, a picture of me kneeling before the cabinet with several files in my hands on the tiny screen.
"I took this before you turned around," she countered. "So, will you tell me, or...?"
I grimaced. The last thing I wanted to do was tell her the truth, but after what I'd just learned and theorized, I didn't want any of the school staff to know I was snooping around in the files.
Ah well, she probably won't believe me anyway.
I told Celia everything, starting from the Warehouse and the Den, to the corpse in the basement at the a abandoned school. At first her expression was cynical, exactly as I'd expected, but as I progressed she looked more and more disturbed. By the time I finished, she looked like she might vomit.
She took a deep breath, slowly exhaled-
"What makes you think I'd believe something like that?!" she burst out.
"You asked me to tell you the story, not make you believe it!" I shot back, just as annoyed.
"Was that really the best you could do at short notice?!"
"Did that sound half-assed and quickly put together to you?!"
"It didn't exactly sound scientifically possible either!"
I was prepared to avoid being caught, threatened, punished, but not annoyed. I'm still not quite sure how I didn't just slit my throat at the time. I raised my arms and for a moment I thought I might strangle her, but then I just sighed.
I looked her directly in the eyes. "Y'know, it's actually better you don't believe me. In fact, forget everything I've told you. I wish I could..."
She must have seen something in my gaze, because all the skepticism slowly melted off her face.
"You're... not lying, are you?" she said. She sounded a tiny bit frightened.
"Wish I were, but no," I confirmed. "I'm not."
"That's... that's just horrifying," she whispered, grimacing.
"I know, and that's exactly why aside from not telling anyone else about this,you should forget you heard anything yourself. Pretend you never saw me here. Some things are better left forgotten."
At first Celia's expression was one of agreement, but she seemed to calculate things in her mind through those odd eyes of hers, and when she looked up at me, she crossed her arms and gave me a more stubborn version of the determined look I'd gotten from Martin.
"On the contrary," she said, "I want in."
This didn't factor into my backup plans. This wasn't a predictable outcome. The reaction caught me so badly off-guard, all I could think to reply was, "WHAT?"
"You heard me. My lips are sealed, but I want in on your plans."
"Why would you want that?!" I demanded.
She seemed to consider that for a second, but just turned away. "Just - just morbid curiosity."
Written by JustAnotherScarecrow