Jack Gloria shook the cold, black bottle in his hands, feeling the paint swish up and down. He looked up. A tall, brick building stood firm in front of him. The bricks were a coal, metallic color, one that he decided to spray with a mahogany paint. He pressed down on the cap, adding the finishing touches on the knob—a lock.
Locked doors lined the back of the building, facing nothing other than a deserted lot. Each stood proudly in thin strips, making the lone space seem ominous and crude. Jack sighed. He re-shook the bottle, starting another door an inch away from his previous one.
He never got in trouble for dishonoring the school’s property. His principle never confronted any of the students about the doors.
No one seemed to know it was him.
He heard passing rumors among the teachers and students, and understood why no one painted over the graffiti. Everyone had hardship in their lives, something that bothered or shook them up. The doors had an air about them that reached out to people. An air that emitted a sadness that resonated deep inside of people's inner beings, except for Jack’s. He saw passed the sadness, had a profounder point of view. A monster lurked beneath those deceitful mahogany doors, a darkness that he felt was groping restlessly to try and reach him.
But there was no escape. Every day, for the past year, as if he was under some kind of hypnosis he would come back for more. Painting the same thing as yesterday and the day before that. Didn’t matter if it was raining or shining, the locked doors would stand confidently with new editions every passing lunch period.
He couldn’t explain it but he felt this distinction in the ambiance, a change in the restless wind. A shift among the blowing tree branches. He knew someone was behind him, before the clapping started.
“Bravo, bravo. So this is where you disappear to?” said a girl.
Celesta. Jack could recognize her voice from anywhere, even though they never held more than two minute conversations before. She was an outcast, like him. Her short hair was dyed purple. Dark clothing covered her small frame, shading her lite skin with a gray tint. A silver snake pendant hung around her neck, looking out of place, but the way she wore it seemed to shroud the necklace with importance.
“What do you want, Celesta?” he asked, without turning around. His gaze never left the doors.
“Nothing, witch boy. Just taking a stroll.” She leaned against the wall, lazily crossing her arms over her chest.
Jack’s body stiffened, his solute casting a shadow over the painted doors. “Don’t call me that,” his voice lowered into a dangerous whisper. He wasn’t a witch. He was human and didn’t want to be anything else. But that one, important fact didn’t seem to change anyone’s minds.
He cursed that fateful day in first grade when the school bus rolled over to Mrs. Gloria’s house and she stood by the door waiting for him, tapping her foot against the patio floor in an endless rhythm. After, the rumors never died of Mrs. Gloria. She was creepier than her house, and Jack seconded that. But why did he have to get stuck in the middle of the rumors? Mrs. Gloria adopted him, he wasn’t related to her whatsoever. That didn’t stop the mean kids, though. They used to call him the witch’s child, not because they actually believed in witches, but for the sake of teasing.
“When did you become so artsy? I got to admit, it doesn’t suit you. Adds to the creepy,” she said, ignoring his remark. She made hand motions that pointed at his clothes. He wore a plain buttoned down shirt, and jeans. The buttoned down shirt was Mrs. Gloria’s doing. Apparently he wasn’t allowed to dress like a hoodlum. He was already a disappointment.
He dropped the spray paint bottle. It clinked against the ground, and rolled over, touching Celesta’s black sneakers. He turned around to finally face her.
“Don’t you have something else to do? Like scare away rats?” he asked, a little annoyed.
“I thought that was your job.” Celesta snorted. She burned him bad. She blew a bubble with her purple gum, the color of her hair. Others may have done the distinctive hair style to look cool, but Celesta seemed to enjoy looking different than everyone else. Be intimidating and noticeable, in a sense. Jack didn’t understand that need. He craved to be like others, to fit into a group. To be a part of something bigger than himself. Never different. He was sick of it. He felt different than everyone else for his whole life.
“If you’re just here to dis me, please leave. I’m busy,” he huffed, picking the bottle up and looked back at his work. He ran his hand through the cracking paint.
“I always wondered what the doors meant,” she added, blankly. “What are they supposed to do anyways, lead you into a different dimension?”
“Ha. Ha. Very funny,” he said, “but I’m only human.”
“I didn’t say anything--.”
“You implied it,” he remarked, glancing at her. “Besides, if I really had powers don’t you think Mr. Fission would be dead by now for assigning the six chapters of calculus over the summer?”
Her black lips curved into a sickening smile, as she tilted her head to the side. “You’re right.” She took the bottle of spray paint from his hands.
“What are you doing?” His eyes widened.
“Helping you,” she said. She sprayed an empty part of the wall, outlining another door. Jack smiled back, a darkness glinting in his eyes.
“I can’t believe today’s the last day.” She was trying to make small talk. He cleared his throat, deciding to play along.
“Yeah,” he agreed.
“I won’t miss this place,” she said, meanwhile focusing on the door. Jack winced. He almost admitted he would miss the school but caught himself beforehand. Anyplace was better than Mrs. Gloria’s.
“Did you hear they’re having a party tonight?—in Brandon’s house,” she continued.
“Really?” he said, nonchalantly. He rubbed his chin. Something was missing from the doors.
“We’re not invited of course,” she said, giving him a quick glance.
He didn’t catch any sense of hurt in her voice, but her words told him otherwise. Why did she wanted to be invited anyway?
He merely shrugged. His schoolbag was pushed off to the side, collecting dust in a corner. He unzipped it and pulled out a black pen. Perfect, he thought. He began to write words on the door's hinges. Words that didn’t make any sense. Latin words. He hardly glimpsed at them. He shoved the pen in his pocket. That was better.
Celesta perked up an eyebrow at him. “Okay,” was all she managed to say. She took a step back from the wall, handing the cold bottle back to him, while fingering the snake necklace around her neck. Jack averted his eyes. In his mind's haze a memory was barely floating to the surface. He put a hand on the wall to steady himself. He didn’t like snakes.
“See you around, witch boy.” She saluted, like a general, meaning she had to take leave and he saluted back. Her gray clad figure disappeared as she turned the corner, leaving him alone to mingle with his daemons.