The windscreen wipers of the old Opel were working at the highest speed. I covered more than 300 kilometres. The East of Poland. It was pouring down continuously, the sky was overcast and a depressing dusk was overwhelming. Distant mountains were shrouded by mist.
A strange area, less and less cars, truly a wilderness. I was using a GPS from time to time and finally, when it looked like I was near my destination, I decided to ask some locals.
The small X village looked abandoned, but it might be the result of the bad weather. Yet I stopped for a moment spotting an old woman that was on the doorstep of one of wooden cottages that could be even more than hundred years old.
– I’m looking for a school named for the Saint Angels, formerly for Dzerzhinsky – I asked. The woman was silent and I thought she hadn’t heard my question at first. A thunder struck somewhere in the distance. A serious tempest was coming.
– Not go there! – she screeched. – It’s an evil place!
I inserted my hand into a pocket of my jacket discreetly and turned the recorder on.
– Why is it evil? Did anything happened over there? I’m… a reporter. I want to know something about it.
– Better get back where came from. A good advice. Many wandered into there.
The woman raised her head and turn her eyes on me. I shuddered. They were milk-white, she had to be blind.
– But… What did actually happened over there? What… is going on over there?
– Can’t tell anything more! – the old woman replied. – Better not talk about these issues, ’cause attracts the evil.
I thought I wouldn’t get to know much more. I wanted to drive off and then she shouted when leaving.
– The school after the village is, only hard to see it, ’cause now it’s in a mist. Drive straight and will see… Listen… When will hear the children sing, run away at once!
I thought she might be a little bit nuts. I looked at the rear-view mirror. She was standing over
there, before the cottage, like a statue, seeming not to take notice of the downpour. Suddenly, I realised that I hadn’t seen anyone apart from her for a good hour.
Fields and hills, which were darkened due to the downpour, stretched all around. The GPS was going mad – losing and regaining the signal for a while in turns. I lost hope completely, but then I spotted a grim square silhouette of a large building.
Everything was somewhat different, somewhat strange. Who the hell builds a school in such area, in the wilderness? I explained quickly to myself that school buses certainly brought children in there from the small neighbouring towns.
I drove as close as possible and parked the car on a sodden road. The school was standing in front of me like a lurking monster, a grim and silent one. Would I manage to get inside?
I came closer. I looked around, in the midst of the thickening dusk. I looked at my watch. What time could it be? It was almost 7 pm. What the hell had happened with all the time? Suddenly, something riveted my attention. A movement behind one of the windows. Just as someone spotted me and hid inside.
It couldn’t be, I thought. There was rather no-one in there in such weather.
I approached the front door and drew the camera. I turned the handle and it gave up easily. The door opened creaking like a coffin lid at a hollow night.
Inside was light sufficiently to take photos. But darkness would come soon, I was aware of it. The place was starting to get on my nerves, to made me anxious. The old woman – blinded and shouting something about singing children. And finally – Anthony himself and his letter. What the hell was going on in there?
I thought that it would be best to take many photos and get out of there before night would fall. I came in and I was dumbstruck. The corridor appeared to had been deserted few days ago – not many years! Children’s drawings hung on the walls. On lockers, that certainly were for hanging jackets, some paper cut-out flowers could be seen, which seemed to – unknown why – emanate kind of profound sadness.
Shafts of daylight were getting into through the distant windows, spreading over the walls and the floor. I was walking slowly, taking photos, and sound of my steps was echoing silently around that enormous abandoned edifice.
Extraordinary. Everything in the deserted school was in its place. Blackboards, desks, chairs. Nothing was walked off with, no-one dared to steal a thing. I thought it’d be better not to think why.
Wandering around that in every respect weird building, I spotted climbed up stairs. I climbed them passing consecutive storeys to eventually reach an enormous loft. What was housed in there? I had no idea. I was pacing up and down, feeling a growing anxiety. Suddenly, I turned around rapidly. There, at the window… a silhouette, translucent due to the light from the outside. I shuddered, managing not to drop the camera by the skin of my teeth.
A child was standing over there. Within about 100 metres, on the opposite side of the giant loft.
I wanted to shout, ask if he or she didn’t need help. Maybe… it got lost? But a part of me told me not to do that. With trembling hands I drew the camera and raised it to my head. When I looked through the objective, there was no-one over there.
Suddenly, I heard a blood-curdling sound. The school wasn’t closed, after all. The building was living its own life. It resembled a conscious being animated by my trespass. Somewhere from below I heard a quiet yet distinct choir of children’s voices.
If I were a little sun up in the sky
I would only shine onto you
Neither on mountains nor on forests, but for all times
Always for you if I could turn myself into a little sun
The singing seemed to be closing on and falling back, it was coming from one of the classrooms which were in the school. On numb legs I had started to retreat from the loft and went downstairs. A fear was struggling in me with the growing curiosity. And what if it was a hoax? If someone lured me into there to have a laugh at my expense?
Maybe it was a kind of a reality show and I was being filmed? There was something else. For all these years, I had written various rubbish, feeding people with made-up stories. But then… I could find it myself if there was a spark of truth in the stories about ghosts and frightening haunted houses.
The stairs, passing the ground floor, led down. I hesitated. I knew enough, time to scoot off. However, something attracted me to those stairs. Quite nice photos might be taken in the basement. After all, a singing was just a singing! Damn it, someone was certainly putting me on, was playing the song, frightening some strangers.
I promised myself that I would show a clean pair of heels as soon as I spot something suspicious. I drew a small torch out from my pocket and went downstairs to the basement to look around. Just a couple of stairs, not to freak. And maybe you would take a really good photo…
The basement resembled rather a grim bunker. The long corridor went on and on and disappeared in the dark. On both sides were doors leading to some rooms. One of them was ajar.
With the camera and the torch I approached the ajar door carefully. A smell of humidity and mustiness enfolded me.
’But better in daytime and not in the night, because it’s scary in the night and many of those who had gone there didn’t come back.’
'When will hear the children sing, run away at once!’
There was a rectangular hole in the ground, resembling a grave, in the middle of the basement. A stench of decaying flesh was in the air. Fresh soil was towering at both sides.
Then somewhere in the depth of the basement I heard a silent shuffling sound. I wasn’t alone in there. As if I got stricken, I made a run for it. I ran upstairs and rushed through the corridor. As quickly as possible towards the exit!
Suddenly, I spotted someone standing at the end of the corridor, a figure clothed in black, blocking my way. It was it, I thought, it woke up. Whoever built that school, he or she did so in a very unfortunate place. Something was hidden in the ground. It awaited there all the time and broke away. That was why the school had to be closed.
In panic, I ran into one of the classrooms and knocked a cage with a bird down. The animal turned out to be alive.
Everything in there was comingto life, coming back – an irrational thought flashed through my mind. Suddenly, I realised that I wasn’t alone in the classroom. There was a man next to the blackboard. He turned his head slowly towards me, showing his decaying skeletal face. He was holding an object resembling a reed or a pointer. At the desks were children – pale, focused, staring at me and dead for a long time.
I don’t remember my scream, though I undoubtedly had to scream like a banshee. I don’t remember how I broke away from the school eventually, but injury marks on my hands seem to bear witness to doing so through a window.
After that I ran, ran through vast plains, as far as I could go, straight ahead.