I'm a New Teacher at the Red Grove Boarding School
I'm writing these notes while locked inside the lounge restroom.
My hands are bleeding and I know it will not be long before my scent attracts them to my location. I tried so hard to keep my head down here and stay out of trouble. But after what happened today, I can't stand living this nightmare anymore. My hope is to warn others. My life is likely already forfeit. I can't run. The nearest business is a good five miles down the thoroughfare and they would find me before then. I can't contact the police, last time when the cops came what they did was downright mortifying.
I'm talking about the children enrolled here. They are NOT normal. I've taught them for three months now. Considering all that I have seen here since then I would say that my tenure here is considerably longer than most educators.
It started at my interview. I remember thinking that the position I was being offered was overly strict in this day and age. That was because of the rules. There were so many of them; but each one was more bizarre than the one prior. I still remember when Mister Andrews, the school's headmaster; dutifully listed them off to me like he was citing scripture.
"Breakfast will always be served in the south atrium. All meals must be finished before the second bell. You will find that doing so can make your whole day considerably easier."
"The library is to remain locked between the hours of 9:30 to 11:45, except to return an overdue book from Amanda Silgy. Never let any of her books go past the third day in late fees."
"No red meat is to be served at lunch. Some of our children have sensitive noses and the scent can set them off."
At the time, I assumed that each of them had a logical explanation. Like that last one, I had thought it must be due to the ever-expanding population that has taken on a vegan diet. One wouldn't want to offend any of the pupils at such a prestigious institution, understandably. Or the rule concerning Ms. Silgy must have been because she has quite the penchant for losing track of her library books. However, as Mister Andrews continued reciting his seemingly endless list of rules, I found myself having a more difficult time assigning them reasonable explanations.
"All surfaces of classrooms are to be thoroughly wiped down with the provided cleaning solution immediately after third period as well as the final period of the day. Keep the cleaning solution securely locked in the designated area whenever not in use. And never use it later in the day."
"During all recess breaks, remain in your classroom with the doors and windows bolted. You may use this time to organize your classroom."
"The girls gym and locker rooms in the east wing are out of order indefinitely. If you notice one of the stalls being used or anyone going inside, please alert the east wing monitor."
"There are janitors assigned to each wing to maintain our accommodations. Do not disturb them when they are in the process of cleaning the restrooms. You must wait a minimum of 1 hour before using a freshly cleaned restroom. We do not have a janitor named Lowell. If the children ask you about him, ignore the request."
"All classrooms must be promptly vacated by 3:30 p.m. sharp. Keep your room key on your provided lanyard secured around your neck at all times."
When Mister Andrews finished listing the rules, he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. I could tell that he was sizing me up. "I'm sure that these all sound strange to you," he said, "but they are necessary for the smooth functioning of the school. Most of them have been in place for decades - long before I became the principal. And I stand by every one of them." I opened my mouth to respond, but then closed it a few moments later when I couldn't think of anything to say. What was I to make of such a bizarre list? I had heard that Red Grove operated differently than most boarding schools, but this was something straight out of the Twilight Zone. Was teaching here going to be more trouble than it was worth? I quickly pushed this thought out of my mind. It was too late in the summer to secure an interview anywhere else; and besides, these rules had me intrigued. If the principal had to run such a tight ship that there were rules about how to wipe down the desks properly, then what did that say about the kids? I was certain it meant that they would never give me any issues. I can assure you now though: I wish nothing more than that I had high-tailed it back to my car right then and there - for it would have saved me from descending into the perpetual nightmare that has been this first semester.
I'll explain what I can. I've managed to keep a few notes sparingly. The first few weeks seemed easy. All the children were even friendly, so I started to become lax with the rules. I thought to myself what could be the harm in breaking just one rule to give them an extra recess? There were a few other rules that went unspoken but were very important. Simple things such as never open lockers 13 or 19 or don't mess with any of the student's belongings, even if they shouldn't have them on them. That's the reason they're after me now, I took one of their phones under the pretense of them being on it in class, which isn't allowed.
That wasn't the real reason, of course, if I'm being honest; the others I was lucky I got away with unnoticed. The first one I broke had been simple, staying just a bit too late in my room after classes were over. I needed more time to grade and hadn't wanted to lug it all back to my living space, so I figured staying a few minutes late wouldn't hurt anything.
3:30 hit and as it did, a deep chill filled my room, much too fast for just the AC turning on. With it, a strong feeling of being watched, the paranoia filling me as I scrambled to collect my things. It was simply too cold to work, I told myself, dashing out of the room. I chose to ignore that I forgot to lock it behind me.The next day I returned it seemed like a wild animal had come into the room and trashed the place.
The second rule break involved leaving my classroom during recess. One of the children had forgotten their coat and it looked like it might storm so I ran out to the playground to give it to her. I remember all of her classmates froze and took a special interest in me once I was out there. They encircled me the way a pack of wolves would. Their teeth gnashing. Their eyes feral.
I'm sorry. I can't handle this anymore, and I cannot have anyone else coming here. That one experience alone is already making me shake with terror. I can't even bring myself to recount it. Taking the phone was the easy part today, getting to the teachers lounge was difficult, I don't even know what I did to my hands. I'm typing this message as quickly as I can, I can hear their bounding feet approaching. Dear god. Please let me get this message out.
I'm rambling, I realize.
My head has gone foggy. I am certain I've had a concussion, and it's left my thoughts a jumble. I will attempt, as best I can, to order what's occurred here at Red Grove in a more linear account. It may be my only chance. It started roughly a month into my tenure, I had lunch with a former professional colleague. I won't name this person nor share any details that might identify them, because god only knows what might befall anyone even tangentially linked to this hellish school. We had ordered at a gourmet steakhouse, and my coworker made it their treat. When we finished the short meal in the dormitory; I returned to school with a doggy bag containing half a medium-rare porterhouse steak and sides. If only I hadn't been running late, I would have deposited my leftovers in the faculty lounge fridge. However, instead I hurried to my classroom, where I intended to slip my doggy bag into a desk drawer for the time being. I arrived just as the bell rang to begin the first class of the afternoon.
My students were already seated, chatting amongst themselves as children do, but the instant I was through the door, they went silent, and their eyes fell upon me with such intensity that I stopped dead in my tracks. My skin crawled as if I were being groped by some unseen force. The students' nostrils flared, all in unison I could have sworn, and they sniffed aggressively as if a pack of predators having caught the scent of blood in the air.
I had no idea what the children were going to do at the time, but some primal instinct for survival overcame whatever foolish explanation my rational mind was attempting to conjure for their bizarre behavior. I slowly backed away, as one would from a snarling dog, out of the classroom. Once in the hall, I slammed the door shut and broke into a breathless run for the faculty lounge.
But I didn't make it that far. I ran down the east corridor, leftovers in hand. A great commotion of scuffing furniture and labored panting rose from the nearby classrooms. I glanced down for a moment - just long enough to realize my stupid mistake - and the bag slipped from my numb fingers and spilled across the patterned tile. One classroom stood between me and the teacher's lounge. The doorknob jiggled. My eyes grew wide, scanning the hallway until they rested on an old oak door with an "Out of Order" sign. Knowing that I wouldn't make it to the lounge in time, watching the au jus and cracked pepper sauce slowly stain the tile and hearing the ravenous commotion from the classroom, I had no choice. I slipped inside the girls' locker room and shut the door behind me. Fluorescent bulbs flickered and hummed around me. Rows of rusty lockers ran the length of the room and sloped back toward the showers. The whole room smelled of mold and decay - and another scent I couldn't place - an acrid blend of pine and citrus. I took a step toward the showers. A pool of stagnant water had collected near the back of the room, and the piney scent was much stronger here. All the shower stalls had been stripped bare. All except one. In the corner where the stagnant pool was deepest and the scent was strongest, a white, floor-to-ceiling curtain hung from shiny steel hooks. It was entirely out of place, an island of newness in a sea of rot. My pulse rose, and my fingers closed around the soft white fabric. My hearing sharpened so that I heard every buzz of the nearby flies, every plink of water in the dank pool, and my own unsteady breathing. I drew back the curtain and screamed. A corpse rotted away, bound and gagged and left for dead. Lacerations ran down his disfigured body and I could still read the name "Lowell" etched across his crimson-stained name tag.
I fell backward and hit my head. I hardly remember the rest. Somehow or another, one of the other staff members found me and saved me before those little demons could rip me to shreds.
After that incident, I remained on high alert and so did they. Everywhere I went I felt like they were watching my every move. I started to think about ways that I could escape and file a report with the police. But it seems downright impossible, especially now. We are isolated. Even if they came, I would be doing more harm than good. This place is designed to be a trap, I can see that now.
I can't even describe what I found out about their parents, the poor souls. I don't understand what happened to make these kids so vile; but I can say this… there is one other rule I wish Mister Andrews had given me, and I'm hoping by sending this report out that maybe somewhere an official can come and do a proper investigation.
The gym. There's an unused stairwell that goes to a lower basement, and down there you will find the corpses of about thirty-seven adults. I found them one day while I was trying to search for a different escape route and I believe that most of them are quite fresh. From the injuries, it seems that the children broke their legs first to incapacitate them; and then to snap their spine and rip open their chest cavity. I have no doubt that the adults were likely lured there, either by staff members who are so frightened that they feel obligated to obey the kids; or something even more sinister.
I hear them clamoring at the door now. Please, listen to me. Send this to the army. To whoever will listen. Send whatever force you can to blast Red Grove off the map.
If not for me, think of your own children. Because there is one other thing that forced my hand to finally make an attempt.
A sign in the teachers' lounge, no larger than your average poster.
Now enrolling for fall semester.