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- Chapter One -
Rain pattered down on the family's beat up grey Subaru. The sky above was a dark grey, as it had been for about an hour now. Jullie rested her pale head against the slightly stained backseat window, arms crossed over her chest to keep herself warm. The girl's black sweatshirt hung loosely over her arms, she being a tad thinner than the size of the clothing item. Her parents had never been rich, nor were they poor though. So things would sometimes fit, and sometimes wouldn't.
Nancy Fairsway glanced back at her daughter from the passenger seat. At a prime age of thirty nine, the woman still looked like she was in her early twenties. Bright golden hair hung down to her shoulders, headband usually keeping pesky bangs out of her way. Her figure wasn't much like that of an hour glass, a curve or two here and there. But she hadn't ever wanted that kind of look, finding herself always comfortable in her body. That day, she wore a blue blouse with ruffles on the sleeves and black pants, a loose black jacket over her blouse. Wearing such a bland outfit usually meant a day of sitting at home to do her work, the smell of freshly brewed coffee to fill her nose and classical music to occupy her mind. But that day was quite unlike others. And the reason sat right in front of her sea-green eyes.
She had been very worried about her daughter ever since the day her school had called. They had seemed distressed, calling the woman down to the office right away. Having been in bed on her laptop, the woman had arrived in the nicest dress that she could put on in just a few moments. Her shoes had clapped against the tile flooring of the school, echoing through the empty hallways. Students at their lockers or the bathrooms had given her the oddest of looks, not understanding why the strange and frazzled woman was running about the school. While it was true Nancy rarely came to the school, she had attended every recital for her daughter, every parent event, and had even chaperoned for a school trip once... However, Jullie had only done those things in elementary school. That had been years and years ago.
After what seemed like an agonizing eternity, Nancy practically burst into the main office. A lady at the desk meekly led her into the principal's office, giving her a look of confusion. But the woman was only fixated on her daughter. Jules had been sitting in one of the three chairs facing the office desk, and gave her mother a glance when she came in. A nod of her head and biting of her inner cheek was the only sign the mother had that her daughter was aware of her presence. She missed the eye-roll accompanying these actions.
"Mrs. Fairsway, thank you for joining us." the principal said, making Nancy turn to him. Principal Jones was a tiny man, bald head and large eyes behind his thick, round spectacles. He always wore a button-down plaid shirt over his large stomach with long khakis that seemed to always have a mustard stain on the left leg near the ankle. Jullie had always assumed he ate the school's hot-dogs in office cross-legged, and was just a messy eater. Or didn't get the concept of napkins.
Jones' voice was close between that of a squeaking mouse or a dog toy meant to grasp the animal's attention. Whichever was most annoying to a person, really. He always looked like one to have a stutter, or even just shaky hands, but no matter how hard one listened or looked, neither were there.
"Um, why not you have a seat, Nancy. We've a lot to discuss." The blonde woman faintly nodded, sitting beside her daughter and folding her hands to her lap. The teenage girl had sighed, leaning forward with her elbows to her knees and her hands hanging towards the ground. "Mr. Jones, I really just think you're overreacting. It's just some silly art projects and stories- and, and none of the rumors have been proven to be true!"
"That may be, Miss Jules," the man said, shuffling some papers and peering over his spectacles at her. "But we've evidence of our own, and must take every precaution. Besides, your parents should be aware of these things should you really need help. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
Jullie let out a short and irritated breath, sinking back into her chair and folding her arms over her chest. She mumbled out the words, "Says the man who's not being called out as crazy." Nancy lightly smacked her daughter on the knee, a critical eye warning her to be more polite with the man. She then turned back to the small man facing them both.
"I'm sorry about her attitude... But I must ask, what seems to be the problem here? Has my daughter done, something wrong? Hurt someone?" The thought alone was like a dagger to the woman's heart. Jones frantically shook his little bald head. "No no!" he squeaked. "No, she just...has shown some questionable behavior recently. And other students were getting worried... Well, many of them were coming to us with complaints really. As were many parents. So, we decided it was time to call you in. Since, the guidance counselors haven't really gotten anywhere."
Nancy raised a brow, glancing at her daughter. The girl was avoiding eye contact, looking out the large window that spilled sunlight onto the man's desk. A guilty habit, the mother had learned. Before she could fully open her mouth and again question what her daughter had done, Jones put a large stack of papers onto the desk. "This is all the work that your daughter has done these past two quarters... We've picked out some of the, least disturbing."
The first thing the man showed her was an art project, done in charcoal pencils and dull pastels. It depicted what appeared to be a woman clawing at her face, hair burning away in wisps. There were no eyes in the woman's sockets- but rather, spiders crawled from the dark holes. They climbed down the woman's face until they were out of frame. The border of the drawing had been drawn to look like it was inside of a picture frame, but random words were scrawled along the edges. Her daughter's handwriting was so small and contrasted so poorly to the rest of the drawing, Nancy was unable to make out what was written there.
"It says arachnophobia."
Jullie had pointed out to her mother, catching her questioning gaze. And after taking a closer glimpse, her mother had to agree. "This is, certainly a bit troubling... Whatever made you draw this, Julli- Jules?" At that point in time, she was still trying to get used to calling her daughter by 'Jules'. It didn't sound right, and wasn't nearly as flattering as Jullie. Youthful, that's what Jullie meant. Though, the teenager had pointed out that Jules translated to roughly the same thing.
"I, don't honestly remember." Jullie had said with a small shrug to her shoulders. "I just got into the class, and the teacher said we had to pick a word and draw out what we thought of. Like, visual representation I suppose. I chose arachnophobia, and then I guess I just... drew the woman." Taking the project from her mother's hands, Jullie had gently traced the mouth of the woman. It was wide open in that of a scream, and the silence that accompanied the paper only made Nancy shudder in discomfort.
"I wanted to do spiders from the mouth too... but seeing as how everyone reacted to this, I'm glad I didn't." she said in quite a monotone voice. It was as if the girl couldn't see how, disturbing and unsettling the image really was. The thought occurred to Nancy though, that perhaps her daughter couldn't. Before this point could be brought up though, Jones held up another picture. This one was of a small boy cowering beside his bed, hands over his face to not have to look at what lay around him. Creatures made of shadows were reaching out towards the boy, holding what seemed to be the bloody remains of stuffed animals. Inside the slightly ajar closet was a pair of pointed glowing eyes, that stared directly at their target.
Just like the last time, there was a border around the drawing that was like a frame. Words were scrawled again in the frame, like they were supposed to make designs in the word. "This one's clinophobia," Jules had piped up, softly smiling at the piece. "Fear of going to bed. It's most likely the cause for insomnia, as well as many other sleeping disorders. I read that many people with clinophobia see shadow figures when they get ready to settle in for the night. Clawed hands reaching to grab them and yank them to oblivion, and pointed, glowing eyes that some say steal souls directly from the host." The way her daughter's voice spiked with pride at this knowledge and her eyes sparkled made a chill run down Nancy's back.
Jones seemed to be feeling the same as she. However... as disturbing as Jullie's newfound fascination with phobias was, her mother couldn't really place what was so immensely worrying about it. Sure, some might not like the art. And when Nancy heard her daughter's piece on belonephobia, the fear of pins, needles, and anything remotely sharp- she did get a bit concerned. But even then, things didn't seem extreme.
"Principal Jones," she finally had piped up as the small man was shoving her daughter's work back beneath his desk. "I do see why someone would be... worried, about my daughter. But I must ask what you found to be so tremendously alarming about her." Jullie put on a smug look at that, liking that someone was finally on her side. The principal cleared his throat, and after a few moments of listening to his keyboard keys violently click, Nancy was beckoned over to his side of the desk.
Timidly, she stepped over and bent down to peer at his screen. It seemed to be showing multiple security camera recordings, each image focused on a certain part of the school. Jones' small finger pointed to the footage on the uppermost left corner, a hallway leading to a supply closet and the bathrooms.
There, in the middle of the screen, stood her daughter. She was wearing mostly black, like usual, her hair down and brushed neatly. At first, Nancy saw nothing wrong. She seemed to just be standing in a hallway to a dead-end. However, the girl stood deadly still for a very long time, her body stiff and rigid... And then, suddenly, Jullie's head snapped to the camera viewing her. Though she swore it must have been a trick of the light, Nancy saw her daughter's eyes as bright orbs of light, like a flashlight was being shined inside of her very skull.
Staring at the camera just a moment, the girl approached the wall ending the hallway and reached out a hand. Black liquid dripped from her fingertips and palm, something of which the mother hadn't noticed before. She then put a hand to the wall and dragged it down. The sound was like wet sand being scraped against the pure tile, instead of a smooth liquid being poured and manipulated over the cleaned wall.
Nancy was on the absolute edge of her toes, watching her daughter with a look of horror. She was waiting for something bad to happen, when suddenly, the footage went black. A small message on screen said, "Connection to device was lost".
"We found her lying unconscious in that very hallway about ten minutes later." Jones said, over-powering the rapid heartbeat that had filled the woman's ears. "Apparently, she had asked to go to the bathroom. When she didn't return, the vice principal was called to look for her. And...there she was." All attention was suddenly on Jullie, who had been watching the two adults watch the tape. She slowly averted her gaze to the wall once the spotlight had returned to her. "Like I told the guidance counselors, I don't remember a thing. I went to the bathroom, and all I remember is blacking out. That's it."
When Nancy looked at Jones to confirm the alibi, he nodded. "She's stuck with the very testimony this whole time... Strangely, the black liquid was never found. It wasn't on the walls, and she had no trace of it on her hands. From the video, we could only assume it was paint. Too thick to be any drink... But perhaps the cameras were tampered with. We have been having trouble with disappearing data and changed documents"
The mother had gone deathly pale, sitting beside her daughter once again and looking her over. She hadn't changed at home, besides becoming a bit more reclusive. She had assumed that was just the normal teenage shtick. "Um, well that was the most- disturbing, of the images and scenes we have. Students have claimed things had happened in the halls as well, but; Well, we've no way to confirm that. Because this has become so serious, in our opinions anyway, we've called you here today to ask you what you're willing to do to get your daughter help."
Jullie had opened her mouth, ready to protest and say that she didn't need help. That she didn't need nor want to go anywhere, to do anything- but her mother held up a hand for her to hold her silence. And the control she had once over the situation diminished in but a second.
"I- me and my husband, we're willing to do anything. What do you recommend?"
The rest had quickly become history. After dragging her daughter home that day and having a lengthy discussion between her husband, Nancy decided on moving the whole family out. All to seek help for her daughter.
The town of Grimswald was a near twelve hour drive from the family's old home, laying between mountain ranges and forests. It was almost as though the town was being protected, or hidden away from prying eyes. Many claimed the supernatural beings dwelled there; vampires, werewolves, witches and the lot. But the woman dismissed such thoughts when she read about the school. It seemed like a nice enough place, having been around for centuries. Described as a rehabilitation school, the place was meant for troubled children to learn in a safe environment.
"Jullie, darling," Nancy said, shaking her head slightly to clear away the clutter that was last month's memories. The young teen's face turned slightly, more of her eyes moving than her actual head. She didn't like being called 'Jullie', but it was such a force of habit with her mom that she just had come to get over it. The whole car ride had proved that.
"Yeah?" She questioned, seeming to just notice how intently her mother was staring at her. The family had seemed to change since the day Nancy Fairsway had shown up at school. They weren't mad at each other, or anything of the sort. But rather, Jules could feel her parents avoiding her. At the dinner table they sat sightly further away than normal, and often changed sides of the hallways when she was coming down. Or rather, they got out of the way as quick as possible.
And she didn't like that. She wasn't some kind of demon from Hell or anything, just a normal teenage girl... Well, almost normal. On the contrary, the recording of herself in the hallway had sent her parents into a protective and constantly worried mindset. They would constantly ask how she felt, if she was okay, or if she felt an 'episode' coming on.
What happened wasn't a episode, Jullie knew that much. She was hoping it was a one time thing, and tried desperately to convince her parents that it had to be a medical problem. But they did every test they were offered, each saying the teen was a young and healthy individual. In the end, nothing seemed to be on her side of things. Besides, no one could explain the light or the black liquid. And nobody bought the whole 'tampering with the cameras' excuse.
"I was just wondering if you're, well, ready for your first day in Grimswald Academy? I read the school is very nice, and I'm sure you'll make a lot of new friends..." As Jullie furrowed her brow, Nancy trailed off.
"I don't, really know mom... I miss our old place already, and my friends and teachers there.... And isn't it called Grimswald's School For Troubled Children? Not exactly an academy." Her mother seemed to give up on the conversation there, softly shrugging and turning back to face forwards. "I was just wondering..." She mumbled, making Jules roll her eyes. She already knew that.
Her father, Tomas Fairsway, spoke up from his place in the driver's seat. Out of all three family members, he seemed to be most positive about the move. "Oh, c'mon Jules! It'll be a new and exciting experience for us. Living out by the beautiful mountain ranges and lakes- Hey, I bet you could get your driver's license and take trips to go for a swim! In the summer, of course."
Jullie glanced up at her dad.
The man was a skilled mechanic, working on cars, trucks, motorcycles, and anything with an engine that he could make purr. His dark brown hair was starting to grey at the ends a bit, but he still looked as young as her mother. He always seemed to wear old and dirty shirts, covered in grease stains and riddled with holes. Except, of course, if it was something very important. Then he would cave and wear a button down shirt beneath a black blazer and dress pants, complete with newly shined shoes. Sometimes, the girl pitied how hard her mother made him try to seem presentable. However, that feeling disappeared when the apparel attention was turned to her. As a 'kid', her say and input upon things could matter one minute, and then be gone the next.
"Uh, yeah... Sure thing dad, just as soon as I make some friends. And get a car... And figure my way around the area." Jullie said, trying to lighten the mood by cracking a small smile. It was more forced than anything... but, it seemed to make her father happy. "Oh, I'm sure you'll find your way around just fine. Your grandma will be sure to show you the town." Nancy glanced at her husband at the word 'grandma'. She hadn't been thrilled that her husband's only grand plan was to move in with his widowed mother until they found a nice place, but Jullie had seemed happier when she heard that they would be staying with a relative. The hardest thing for her seemed to be leaving behind close friends and family. It was a reasonable thing, yet still, her mother wished her daughter would be more optimistic. Grimswald should prove useful in making her feel better, more stable of mind. The quicker that happened, the sooner they could return to their old home, which currently stood empty and dark.
While silence once again filled the family's car, Jules took a moment to check her phone. The battery was running low from hours of texting and streaming music, but she wasn't worried. The family had been driving through a dense forest for quite some time now. They couldn't be too far from the rumored neighborhood to be located out here. In fact, just as the thought crossed her mind, her mother cried out, "Oh, look! There it is!"
Ahead was an iron gate, standing tall and looming over the car as it slowly stopped. Craning her neck to look out each window, Jullie could see that the fence the gate attached itself to stretched on for a long ways through the forest. She thought it, odd, that someone would go through so much trouble to do such a thing. Then again, perhaps Grimswald held something very valuable.
A small building jutted out next to the gate, kind of like the small stations on the highways where people collected tolls for passing by. As the three waited silently, a man in a bright pink suit jumped up. Whatever had kept him hidden, Jullie couldn't say. Her mother jumped a bit, chuckling nervously as the man let out a loud laugh. "Hiya there, strangers!" He chimed, leaning on one of his elbows and resting his chin in his palm. He seemed...awfully childlike, more so than the teenager staring him in the face. This strange man had bright blue eyes and a shaved-bald head, one could tell from the stubble lining the sides. He seemed to be perhaps in his late twenties to early thirties, though for all Jullie knew he could be fifty and just in peak shape. His suit was slightly wrinkled here and there, and was adorned with pins. Many of them were of circus animals and acts, or of different years on a circus background. "Guy must, really, like the oddballs of this world." Jules thought, looking at her parents for a moment, then back to the man. He had only paused for a moment or two to look the family over, not giving anyone room to speak.
"Haven't seen you folks around here... Ooo, you must be that new family that's movin' in with Edith Fairsway! Yeah, yeah! I'm right, aren't I?" His voice was, on the higher end of the spectrum. Especially as he began to get more and more excited, clapping his hands together as if to congratulate himself. Thomas and Nancy looked at each other a moment, a bit uncomfortable that someone unfamiliar knew about them. It was Jullie's father who took to doing the talking.
"Er, yes. That's us... Did, someone tell you about our arrival?"
"Haha, you silly-silly man! No no, whenever someone applies to move into Grimswald, they're put on our population list! Since I'm the gate man, I get to look at the list every day. I'm supposed to regulate who comes in and out." For no reason in particular, Jules found it hard to believe that someone with a functioning brain would let this man be in charge of who went in and out of the town. Especially if it was that big of a deal. Still, there she sat, looking at the man with slightly narrowed eyes. A look of realization suddenly passed over his face, and his shoulders slightly drooped. "Oh, I haven't given out my name yet, have I? How rude of me! I can't believe I would forget something so important!... Ah-hah, anyway, you all can just call me Sam. Now, let me get you all your paperwork and car papers to ensure you can travel in and out of Grimswald easily!"
He then disappeared into a side room, not returning for a solid minute or so. When he did, he reached out to hand over a large manila folder half-stuffed with paperwork. Nancy hesitantly reached over and took the folder, looking through it as Jullie's father took a moment to thank Sam, who seemed overjoyed that someone actually found his little speech helpful. As he was smiling away, his eyes suddenly landed on the teen. For a moment, he had a serious look to his face. But it quickly faded away, and his happy look was back again. Reaching to his pocket, he pulled out a small pin. "Here, a little something for the young lady in the back." After quickly stuffing the pin into Nancy's hands, Sam rushed to a control panel and pushed his thumb to a button. Moments later, the gate clanked open.
"Now you all have a good stay! And tell Edith I said hello~!" Sam waved his right arm like a small child from where he stood, the grin on his face making him seem like a toddler. Jullie's father paused, before smiling slightly in return and driving out into the streets of Grimswald. The three could hear the gate crash shut only moments later, Nancy jumping out of her skin. "My my...," she muttered, composing herself after a moment. Turning around, she handed the pin Sam gave her to Jules, who took the small thing in her hands and glanced it over. It was a black rose, the petals seeming to almost be drooping from how wilted they were. The stem was thorny, and it gave one uneasiness at the thought of even touching something like it. And yet, something compelled the young girl to pin it to her chest, and keep good care of it.
After making sure the pin was fully fastened to her shirt, Jullie took a glance outside. Past the gate, the trees had given way to a large town, spreading for miles and miles. Over hills and into valleys, she assumed. Everything was painted dully, though, and made the sight less impressive. Her parents oohed and awed, making a fuss over nothing. Perhaps they thought it would spark their daughter's enthusiasm for the move. If anything, it only further doused it.
Five minutes passed, a few turns down cramped streets, and then, her father stopped the car in a driveway to a large and dark house. As the engine hum from the car died down, he glanced back at his daughter and gave a real smile. "Well, here we are. Our new home awaits."