Emily Draden realises she has forgotten her keys and walks back to her classroom. She waves at Joe the Janitor. “Keys!” She says as she passes. He smiles and carries on fixing the broken light switch. He has a bit of a soft spot for Mrs Draden, she has worked at Beaumont High about as long as he has and all that terrible business with her husband being killed in the car accident three Christmases ago. He always did think she was such a fine woman.

Emily walks back to her car and is trying to decide if she can be bothered to cook or ask Nancy if she wants to go to Carlito’s when she hears crying. Sat on the edge of the parking lot is Laura, Emily can’t think of her surname, she has never taught her but she knows her from the School’s Gifted Programme. Laura is considered a prodigy, when she played Danse Macabre at the Summer Music festival last year, Emily actually had tears in her eyes. She tucks her keys in her pocket. “Laura? Are you okay honey?” At the sound of her voice Laura jumps slightly and runs the sleeve of her sweatshirt over her face. “I was… Sorry Mrs Draden. I was waiting for a ride.. there.. ” She bursts into tears again. Emily sits down beside her and hugs her. Teacher aren’t supposed to have physical contact with students but to hell with rules. “Honey are you hurt? Has some hurt you?” Laura stumbles and stutters over the words. “Mr Czarneki… he is… We were in the Music Room… I tried to run…” Emily feel cold She has known David Czarneki since he started at the school five years ago. She always thought him a most pleasant and dedicated man. A little ‘off in the clouds’ sometimes but she thought was just because he was a talented musician in his own right. She puts her keys into Laura’s hand and points out her car. “You go and wait in my car. I will be right back.” Laura moves without speaking, she is so terribly pale. Emily is becoming more and more angry. ‘If he touched her…’ She can’t even think about it.

As she walks down the corridor she notice Joe coming out of his office. “Joe! Hi! Sorry I have a favour to ask.” He smiles. “Sure Mrs Draden, car trouble?”. She pauses. “Oh no that’s fine, would you mind coming with me to the Music Room? I need to speak to Mr Czarneki and, well I don’t really want to go on my own.” Joe looks confused “Erm sure Mrs Draden.”  “Joe you can call me Emily. I’ve known you for, what?, 11 years almost.”

As they reach the Music Room they both pause and go silent. The small window in the top half of the door is cracked and has a red smear down one side. Emily’s breath catches in her chest. “Oh no.” Joe opens the door waving his hand as if to say ‘Stay back’. Looking over Joe’s shoulder she sees David Czarneki standing in the middle of the room. He is on tip toes with both arms spread and and his head tilted back, staring at the ceiling. Joe steps forward. “Mr Czarneki? Sir? Are you okay?” They both walk around him and neither one really understands what they are seeing. It takes several second to realise what is in front of them. His eyes are gone. There are just gaping bloody holes where they should be. His jaw is moving as if he is trying to say something , it is only when she takes a step closer that Emily sees the rat in his mouth. She screams and leaps backwards. Joe grabs her and they run out of the room, Joe fumbles with his key chain but eventually finds the right one and locks the door.

“Jesus. Shit. God almighty!” Joe looks up at Emily “Sorry Mr Draden, I have never… I mean how? He was standing.” Emily is waiting for the call to connect. She dialled 911 as soon as they got to Joe’s office. The reassuring voice at the other end tells he to wait and help is on the way. As she turns to let Joe know that paramedics are on the way she suddenly shouts “Laura!” They both run out and across the empty car lot. Her car is empty. Emily starts to shout “Laura! Laura!”

Emily was heavily sedated, her Doctor thought that in her agitated state she might harm herself. After consultations with her friends and co-workers it is decided that she must have had a breakdown after her husband and best friend Nancy Fortenine were killed in a car accident three years ago. They had been having an affair for a year before the accident, almost everyone knew apart from Emily. Joe Spencer the Janitor she spoke of had been dead for four months. The school has only one student with the first name Laura, she cannot play a musical instrument and was in Boston, special dispensation from the Principal to attend her Grandmothers’ funeral. The  911 call logged was traced back to the school but the recording is just of screaming.

Emily wakes, her limbs feel so heavy. Laura, David and Joe are standing by her bedside.


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