Flash Fiction: The Lab

Dan Alatorre’s flash fiction challenge for this week came with simple directions: scare us. Us being the readers. So I took a YA angle and gave it a shot. Is it scary? You decide.

The Lab

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I stare at the dark building and take a long breath. I’ll never forgive Connor for this.

I don’t like coming to school during the day, when it’s full of people. If you’d told me a week ago that I’d be here at one in the morning, I would have told you to lay off whatever you were smoking. Or share it with me. In any case, if Connor hadn’t “accidentally” left my mom’s pills behind, I wouldn’t have had to come back here. It’s not that she’ll die if she doesn’t take them. It’s that I’ll die if she discovers I tried to deal them. It would completely destroy her image of me as her good little girl.

I run my hand over the bark of the tree I’d chosen in the daylight hours. Just tall enough to get me onto the roof and to the access door I’d propped open. I don’t know if the school has motion sensors or not. If so, the tree could offer an effective hiding place if it failed to serve as a convenient escape.

I reach above my head and grab the first branch, lifting myself onto it. Four branches later and I’m near the top. I grab the next branch. It’s noticeably thinner than the others, so I hold my breath as I lift onto it. It holds. For a second.

The cracking sound springs me into action. I leap and grab the edge of the roof, my legs dangling two stories above the earth. “Shit.”

My biceps burn as I grasp the ledge for dear life. I swing my legs side to side to build momentum, then reach for the ledge with my foot. For a moment, I’m in an awkward Y shape with one leg on the ledge and the other hanging beneath me. Graceful. Thank God I’m wearing leggings.

With a grunt and a concentrated lift, I pull myself onto the ledge and roll onto the roof. I lay on my back and stare at the constellations. “Damn you, Connor.” I think of his cocky smirk when he told me where he’d left the pills. Bastard. I suppose I should be thankful he helped me figure out how to break in, but…nope. A non-bastard would do this in my place.

I get my feet under me and make my way to the door. The small rock I’d left in the jamb is still there. I squeeze my fingers into the narrow opening and ease open the door, peering inside. It’s pitch black.

I pull the keychain flashlight from inside my bra and click it on. A lame excuse for beam emanates from it, barely lighting the first two stairs. I step inside, and a loud bang sounds from behind me.

I jerk around and shine the pitiful light on the now closed door, then roll the rock between my fingers. Brilliant.

A solid throw sends it bouncing off the wall.

I creep down the short flight of stairs and push against the door leading to the hallway. It opens into the corridor I see every day but now looks completely unfamiliar. Outside, the wind blows the tree I’d climbed, sending shadows dancing over the lockers.

I officially hate this.

Remembering to replace the rock I’d left in this jamb so I can get back in, I ease the door closed and step into the eerie space as I brace myself for an alarm.

I exhale after three steps, then quicken my pace to the room at the end of the hall.

The door is locked.

I wiggle the handle, as if that will magically unlock it.

A sound comes from the main staircase. Whistling, some old tune my grandpa listens to. It grows louder as whoever’s producing the noise reaches the second floor.

Who comes here at one in the morning?

I turn off my flashlight and crouch in the dark corner as the footsteps approach. I hold my breath and hope the visitor can’t hear my pounding heart.

A pudgy man I don’t recognize jiggles keys in the door across the hall. The old biology lab, I think. I’ve never been in there. I thought the teachers used it for storage.

He enters without turning on the light, and his whistle grows softer.

Who is this guy?

I tiptoe across the hall and crouch next to the open door. I lean over to peer in, then gasp and reclaim my hiding place when he speaks. “Now, let’s see what we’ve been up to, shall we?” He has a gritty, friendly voice, like a guy who would own a tourist shop.

The sound of metal clanging reaches me in my corner. I risk another peek inside. He’s working on something at a table by the light of a headlamp. His back is to me.

I crawl into the room, where a thick stink makes me gag. I hold my breath and shimmy under another table. A small motor turns on – a drill. Its pitch deepens as it cuts whatever the man is carving, accompanying his incessant whistling.

I swallow the lump in my throat, then crawl a few feet closer.

My hand slips in something wet.

I shriek before slapping my other hand over my mouth.

The drilling stops, as does the motor and the whistling. “Hello?” His voice echoes through the space.

I take a shallow breath through my nose. It tickles my throat, and I cough into my hand.

Footsteps approach and stop next to my table. A light shines in my eyes when he bends over.

“Hello, young lady.”

I can’t tell with the light in my face, but I think he grins.

“What are you doing here so late?”

I finally remove my hand from my mouth. “I forgot something.”

“Is that so?” He moves his elbows to his knees, revealing the small tool he’d been using. Something drips from it.

I shimmy away from him. “What are you doing?”

He chuckles and shakes his head. “Just…cleaning up. Looks like I’ll have more of that to do tonight.”

I scramble from under the table and struggle to get my feet under me, then dart from the room. I make it to the roof access door and yank it open. Before I take another breath, I’m on the roof, staring at the tree.

I look back. He hasn’t followed me. Not yet.

I leap for the tree, grasping for the nearest limb. It slips from my hand and I tumble through the branches to the ground, landing with a thud. It hurts to pull in a breath.

“Another troublemaker, I see,” the gritty voice says from behind me. “You think you’re the first one? My grandson has given me several. But I wish he’d picked a different night. I’m terribly behind.”

I twist around, looking at his shoes. “Your…” I cough. “Grandson?”

He crouches over and looks into my eyes. “Let me guess. You gave a boy something you weren’t supposed to have, and he misplaced it for you.”

I pull in another painful breath. That bastard.

As I struggle to get my legs under me, he raises his arm, and everything goes black.

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