On the Ring of the Bell

February 22, 2010
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All was still on that night. The full moon drew long shadows on the forest floor, littered with the decaying leaves from the oaks high above. The school loomed through the woods like skyscrapers towering over a megalopolis. Emanating from its halls, a cry, a scream; then the illimitable stillness once more.
Victoria Lerner’s waking broke the silence of the deathly cold darkness, one which had been serene only moments before. As she attained her position, she realized, perhaps startlingly, that she was neither in her bed nor in her house. In fact, she concluded, with somewhat of a jolt, that she was inside of her school, buried deep in the woods. She had despised her school from the moment she had first walked in three years prior. What could be described as creepy during the day was even more dreadful and frightening and ominous and odd in the shadow of the night. How had she arrived there, in that school of hers? This place of wretched learning that she had despised so much seemed to have drawn her in, like a lure does to a fish; towards its impending doom. She had not come by choice, and instead was left in the dark about her reason for arrival. Diffusely scattered on the stiff linoleum floor were her fellow classmates, which only added to the questions on her mind. One by one, they awoke, and if out of fear, of despair, or of doubt, they embraced Victoria as their leader through the dark of night.

The school itself was out of sight of the main road, nestled in the trees, and although it was old in nature, it was well maintained for the daily use of the students who endured what was held inside. The classrooms were neither lavish nor decorated in any way, and the halls were simply furnished with the usual lockers and announcements for the coming weeks. Visitors were infrequent. Field trips were non-existent. Leaving school property without permission was strictly banned.
The students hurriedly ventured through the school, towards the main entrance, only to find, to their dismay, that the doors were locked, from the outside. Frantically, they searched. The windows in the halls were tightly closed; the panes: practically unbreakable. The doors to the classrooms were all bolted shut; the wood: as hard as steel. Every method of escape was futile, which only helped to evolve the school from a place of learning into an insane asylum.
With all hope lost for a rescue by the night’s end, and after wandering the halls aimlessly for hours, a voice cracked over the announcement system. In bewilderment and fear and trepidation, they listened in earnest.
“Welcome children. This is ‘The Principal’ speaking. I sincerely hope you are enjoying your school... day, and I insist on letting you all know that if you have any problems, any concerns, or any doubts at all, please visit me at any time. Have a good… night.”
How could this be? What sort of tomfoolery was being played on them? It had gone from a joke to something much more serious and much more menacing long ago. Victoria and the other students had thoroughly searched the main office, as they had with the remainder of the school. Contained in the main office was the secretary’s desk, brimming with papers about school news and activities, notes from parents and babysitters, and office equipment. Though it may have seemed out of place, there was also a large vault, which was sealed until the morning. No matter how hard they scoured the main office, no matter where they looked, a key, or a phone, or any means of escape eluded them.
The only place they had not even bothered to explore was the principal’s private office. The thought had not crossed Victoria’s, or anybody else’s minds. The principal, a mean spirited man of many years, had died in his office six months prior, and its creaky, worn doors had not been opened since.

As the moonlight shone brightly, and as the stars glittered high above, another announcement echoed through the halls.

“Good evening, children. As you may or may not have realized, your clothes are stained with blood. This is an unfortunate result of me bringing you here, and your bleeding will not stop… unless one of you pays me a visit in my office. Dying to meet you…”

Astonished, they all looked down at their clothes, only to discover, to their utter terror, that they all had extensive scarlet red bloodstains on their garments. There were no wounds, no cuts, no bruises, no scrapes, nothing. Their skin was perfectly unharmed, and yet, they still each had blood splattered all over their clothes. Some bursted into tears, petrified of what would lay ahead, while others tried to keep their wits about them, for most: to no avail.
A small minority, however, such as Victoria Lerner, contemplated what they should do. They had previously learned that the nurse’s office was under lock and key, so getting any kind of medicine or cure for their unexplainable bleeding there was out of the question. The only way to stop their profuse bleeding from nowhere was to confront The Principal himself.
Most of these students refused to go to The Principal’s office, having been paralyzed by fear one too many times on that dreadful night. Victoria, on the other hand, acted courageously in front of her classmates, and volunteered to go to end their nightmare once and for all.
Dawn was approaching slowly but surely at the school, while Victoria Lerner was striding fearlessly towards The Principal’s office. She was enervated and perturbed. She had had enough of whatever type of sick joke was being played on them, and would rather listen to what “The Principal” had to say with her own ears than have to experience it from someone else’s account. For this, and many other terrible reasons, she kept on walking, determined to finish their madness off once and for all.
As she journeyed into the main office, she detected a difference in the secretary’s desk: all of the papers, notes, and information about the school that were scattered on her desk only hours before were missing. No one had come in or out since they had first explored the office, so how could everything be moved about? Even more peculiar was that the solid steel, 6 inch thick vault was opened wide, and that all of the personal information about the students was nowhere to be found. With this in mind, she continued towards the deteriorated door to The Principal’s office.
All about the room were cobwebs, strewn along the window, the cabinets, and the chairs. The pictures were faded, and the lamp was flickering slowly, towards its death. The carpet was filthy with dirt and mold and mildew of many sorts, the entire room covered in a thick layer of dust. And in the middle of all of the wonderful chaos of that room, The Principal sat in his large and imposing chair.
The Principal’s being, in all of its entirety, was a sight to behold. He had on a rustic suit, one from the early 40’s, which contrasted greatly with his ghoulish white skin. He had a petite beard and a small patch of hair on the top of his almost perfectly circular shaped head. His penetrating eyes bore into Victoria Lerner without falter. Of all of the things that Victoria noticed about The Principal, it was his smile that intrigued her most. His smile, one that may have seemed to be kind and compassionate to adults, appeared to be almost faked, almost menacing, almost intimidating to her. And yet, she was not scared of him in the least.
“Well hello there Victoria. I knew that one of you was going to show up here in my office, but I was not expecting you. As you know, I am The Principal of this school.”
Victoria replied smartly, “I know for a fact that you are not the principal of our school. He died, right here in this office, six months before…”

“Ah, yes, that may very well be true, and he may be gone, but as you can tell, I am still here. You may be wondering why you all have been brought here. Do you remember that field trip to the beach that my wife, your former teacher, took you on? You all knew that she did not know how to swim, but you joked with her anyway, and pretended to push her in. Were you planning on letting go? Were you planning on letting her fall to her doom on the rocks below? The day of my suicide, which the police thought was natural death, was the day after I had learned that she had died. I knew that she did not just fall in. I knew that it was you and your classmates. Now you will experience what she had to, when she died a wrongful death. Oh, it looks as though the bell is just about to ring…”

As the first rays of sunshine were coming through the eastward window, The Principal reached towards the button for the bells, and smashed his thumb down with meaningful force.

At that moment, all of the students that were wandering the halls dropped to the floor. They would never feel any more pain, never have to suffer, and would never breath again. Victoria would be the last one to fall. In her dying gasp, she managed to say “I’m sorry…”, yet The Principal did not hear her. He was already out of the front of the school doors, heading down the road.

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