Scores of children walked into the auditorium as the school bell rang throughout the whole building. Teachers followed; giving directions and ensuring they behaved and stayed in line.
“Single file, girls, and no talking. That includes you, Julie,” said Sr. Bernadette.
Julie giggled with her best friend, Alice. They were always up to mischief and getting themselves into trouble.
“Yes, Sr. Bernadette,” Julie replied.
They sat on the stage and peered out at the other students who sat on the bleachers on either side of the hall parallel to the basketball hoops. In the middle of the hall stood the Principal, Sr. Carmel. Most of the students feared her, the woman’s stern voice aided this opinion. In her hand was an old silver microphone, dented at the top, with a lead spanning all the way to a socket on the wall. High above the principal, on the back wall, hung a painting of Sr. Mary Aikenhead. The painting was put up when the school was built, in 1858; the year the nun had died.
“Her eyes are moving, again,” whispered Alice.
“Don’t say that! It freaks me out enough without her eyes moving, too,” said Julie. Herten-year-old imagination running away with itself.
“Those eyes are staring at you, Julie.”
“Stop it, Alice,” Julie squeaked.
“Shhh,” hushed the crowd.
Sr. Carmel stretched her neck to see who was talking. You could hear a pin drop. Silence.
Alice continued to whisper and told Julie all about the pictured nun.
“I heard if you run around the school three times or if you shout Sister Mary Aikenhead three times at her picture, her ghost appears, and she takes out her whip and beats you to death. My sister said she beat lots of bad children to death when she went to this school. She said she was evil.”
Julie clenched her fists and placed them by her side. She wanted to get back at Alice for trying to scare her. “I bet you wouldn’t do either of those tasks.”
Alice tapped her finger on her chin for quite a while.
Assembly finished and the girls walked off the stage.
“Look, her eyes are following us again,” quipped Alice and grabbed Julie’s shoulders.
Julie couldn’t bear to look at the painting, she felt the eyes follow her. ‘It’s not real. It is just a picture.’
“I know what we can do,” Alice stated. “Tonight, we should sneak out and meet here at eleven o’clock. I’ll run around the school and I dare you to shout out her name three times. I’ll leave a window open for us to climb in tonight.” She stared at her friend and wouldn’t budge until Julie agreed...
“Okay, okay... I’ll sneak out, but if we get caught, you’re taking the blame. It was all your idea. Deal?” Julie demanded.
The girls spat on their hands and shook, fluids mixing in their palms. It was now unbreakable, not even the President could stop this deal now.
At home, Julie prepared her bag for that night. Her older brother had everything she needed, he was into survival kits and all that stuff. She didn’t have long to gather up the items, her brother would be home soon. A torch, rope, and lighter went into the main section of the bag. She popped a penknife into the front pocket because you never know who you’ll meet at night.
‘I hope I don’t have to use that.’
“Come down for your dinner, Julie,” her mom called from downstairs.
Julie had just finished her homework and her stomach grumbled. There was lasagne for dinner, everyone’s favourite.
Stevie burst in through the front door and ran upstairs, ruffling Julie’s hair as he went.
“Hey, little sis.”
“Hi, Stevie. You coming down for dinner?” she asked.
“Tell mom I’ll be down in three minutes, and don’t go eating my dinner, missy,” he laughed.
Julie was nervous. She hoped her brother wouldn’t check his survival box; as it would be nearly empty.
Stevie bolted down the stairs, grabbed some garlic bread, and headed for the door.
“And where are you going without dinner?” their mom demanded to know.
“Mom, I have study club tonight. I don’t have time to sit and eat, I’m going to be late. Just keep me some, I’ll have it when I come home. Okay?”
Their mother crossed her arms as steam escaped her ears, “You better be back before midnight.”
“I will, I promise.” He kissed their mother’s cheek and Julie’s head, “Bye.”
“Yuck, don’t do that, Stevie,” said Julie, but he was already out the door.
Julie’s stomach was full by the time she finished her dinner. Even though she was only partly through the lasagne, she felt queasy all over with nerves. She took deep breaths to settle herself.
They went to bed at ten o’clock, Julie’s mom read her a book and switched off the light.
At ten forty-five, Julie crept out of bed, she was already dressed and tip-toed to her parent’s room to confirm her mom was asleep. Her light snores drifted out of the doorway. Dad was on the night shift. He worked long hours as a paramedic.
Downstairs, she carefully opened the back door so as not to make any noise. If she didn’t leave now, she may not get there in time.
Julie jogged most of the way. When she arrived at the gate, there was no sign of Alice. The arch was surrounded by shrubbery. The moonlight stretched the shadows of the twigs to resemble long-reaching fingers. Julie shivered.
‘I knew it. I knew she wouldn’t turn up.’
She peered down the street where Alice should have walked.
Julie squealed as she was grabbed from behind.
“Gotcha!” laughed Alice. “I’ve been here a few minutes and hid when you came . . . all, so I could frighten you.”
“It’s not funny. You’re just being mean now.”
Julie folded her arms and thought about returning home. She didn’t want to put up with this nonsense.
“I’m sorry, Julie. Let’s get this over and done with. I want to go home to bed, I’m tired.”
The girls climbed the wall easily enough and landed on the soft tarmac, the clicks of their shoes echoed.
“Now, you wait here while I run around the school three times. Like we agreed,” Alice ordered and stood on the steps to the large entrance.
She began to run, sprinting as fast as she could. Julie stepped back from the main school door and looked up at the stars. The roof was so high, it blocked the moon, yet the clouds shone brightly. A shadow glanced out the top window and she gasped. She stretched her neck to see if Alice was out of sight and, when she viewed the window again, the shadow was no longer there.
When Alice finally came into her sight, her pace had slowed a little.
“Alice, I have a bad feeling about this. I think we should go home.”
Out of breath, her friend replied, “Don’t worry, you’re just being silly.”
And she was gone again, her dust followed close behind. Julie looked up to see the shadow appear and disappear out of sight again. Her stomach did a twist and a turn while her heart’s rhythm quickened.
“What the hell are you doing here, missy?” a voice demanded.
Stevie peered in through the gates with a frown, Julie’s jaw fell open.
“When mom finds out you’re here, you’ll be in trouble. C’mon, I was on my way home from Susan’s, I mean study group, anyway.”
“Oh Stevie, please don’t tell on me. Alice is here with me, I’m not on my own. We’re leaving in about five or ten minutes.”
“Why the hell are you out at this time of night anyway? Don’t you know the boogeyman could get you?”
“Stop, it’s not funny. Alice and I made a pact to see if Sr. Mary Aikenhead’s ghost will appear. She has to run around the school three times, and I must call out her name three times at her painting.”
“Oooohhhhhh. Sr. Mary Aikenhead. She’s gonna beat you with her stick. Oooohhhh.”
“I said stop it.”
Julie, angered by her brother, stomped her foot.
Alice came back around again and waved.
“One more time. Hi, Stevie. Bye, Stevie.” Then darted past the two of them.
“Will you come in with us? Into the hall. I’ll call out her name three times and we can go home. Please?” she begged.
“Oh, all right then. But you better not tell anyone I went in there. Got it?”
Julie nodded with a smile and her nerves eased a little.
“How are we getting in?”
“Alice left a window open in the basement. It’s never checked, so it should still be open.”
“I better be able to fit.”
Stevie swung his arms by his waist and tapped his foot while they waited for Alice to return.
In no time, Alice came thundering towards them.
“I saw her, I saw her. She came at me, but I was running so fast, the fat ghost couldn’t catch up.”
“Really?” Stevie asked.
Alice laughed her heart out, “Nope.”
It was time for them to go into the building, to stand in front of the painting, and shout out the nun’s name. They scurried to the side of the building and down the basement entry steps. Stevie checked the door, hoping it was open. It wasn’t. Julie pulled out the window beside it. There was a gap less than two feet wide for them to fit through. Alice leapt up and slipped through. Julie was close behind, but Stevie hesitated.
“I don’t think I’ll fit through that window, Julie. I’m too wide.”
“Please try, Stevie. I want you with me.” With his head sticking in through the open window, she whispered into his ear, “I’m scared.”
Stevie held in his breath and went arms and headfirst into the gap. His bum got stuck, but, with a bit of wriggling, he popped all the way through. Out of breath, he gasped while on all fours, Julie placed her hand on his shoulder.
The school was dark, chilly, and creepy. Their breaths filled the air with vapor and they shuddered. Every step taken on the wooden floorboards creaked and echoed throughout the corridors until they entered the large hall.
“Why are we here again?” Stevie asked.
“I’ve to call her name out three times, remember? I dared Alice, and she dared me. She ran around the school three times. Now, it’s my turn.”
Stevie rubbed the soft baby stubble on his chin.
“I’m not too sure you should do this. Let’s go home.”
“She will not go home. I didn’t run around the school three times for Julie to back out of her part.”
The three stood at the back of the room and faced the painting. Julie inhaled deeply and called out as loud as she could without screaming.
“Sr. Mary Aikenhead.”
“There’s no going back, sis, once you finish.”
“Shhh! I’m finishing this.”
“Go, Julie,” encouraged Alice.
“Sr. Mary Aikenhead.”
Through the high windows, the sky outside lit up brightly, and a deep roll of thunder shook the school.
“Julie, please don’t,” begged Stevie.
She closed her eyes and, like in slow motion, she uttered the words one final time.
“Sr. Mary Aikenhead.”
A loud cackle could be heard throughout the school. Both Julie and Alice grabbed Stevie’s arms.
“Wha . . . what was that?” she asked her brother with trembling hands.
“I dunno, but I think we should get out of here now.”
All three ran towards the basement, they jumped down the four steps and into the storage area.
Alice pulled herself up and out through the window, Julie followed as Stevie paced up and down. As soon as she was outside, Julie turned to her brother. His right leg was out the window as he struggled to fit his torso through. Darkness crept up behind him and overshadowed the emergency exit light. Julie screamed as a large figure, dressed in a dark veil, clamped on Stevie’s other leg. He yelped and stretched out his hands for help. The girls grabbed a hand each and pulled as hard as they could. Back and forth Stevie went, screaming, as his shirt frayed from buffing the window frame. The phantom released her grip and the girls showed excitement when they won the tug of war.
Their victory was short-lived as the phantom closed over the window into the groin of Stevie. His pelvic bones crunched, his bowel squashed, and he howled in pain. It kept pushing until the frame nearly met the other side, Stevie had already passed out. It pushed and pushed the window until blood spewed from his mouth, stomach, and rear. That’s when the nun walloped him with a cane. It tore through his jeans with every strike. His body jolted as nerve endings were lacerated and flesh was sliced to the bone. It didn’t take long for Stevie’s body to flop lifelessly.
Open-mouthed, Julie didn’t know what to do. Alice took her hand.
“Julie, I’m sorry, but we have to go.”
Both ran like the wind out of the school grounds, tears streamed down their faces, guilt pressed on their souls. Stevie was dead, the ghost of Sr. Mary Aikenhead had killed him.
“Come to mine, I’m closer. We’ll call the police and your mom,” said Alice.
As the girls scaled the wall, both were dragged back with a force as strong as a hurricane. Their bodies flew as far as the main door and they landed on their backs, the impact dazed them.
The ghost towered over the two frightened girls as they screamed, high-pitched well above normal decibels. Gritted teeth and anger displayed on the ghost’s face like it couldn’t stand the sound. She lashed out at the girls with her cane. Blood sprayed as the haunted wood stripped skin and flesh from their legs and arms making their screams louder. She hit and hit until a mass of blood pooled around their bodies. Their screams turned to exhausted whimpers. The girls spied to see if the nun had left , but they could barely move their necks to see.
“Is she gone?” Alice groaned.
“I hope so. Can you move?”
Julie reached out and held Alice’s hand, it was wet and sticky just like hers.
Julie raised her upper half off the burgundy stained ground, she held her stomach where most of the pain was located. Dark blood poured profusely through her trembling fingers.
“I can’t. I’m trying, but I can’t,” Alice bawled. “I’m sorry, Julie. I made you go in and say her name, even when you said you wanted to go home.”
Julie laid back down and rested her head on Alice’s shoulder.
“It’s okay. You weren’t to know.”
Both cried loudly, not in the hope a passerby would hear them, but from knowing they would never see daylight again, nor their families.
It didn’t take long for the ghost to reappear, attracted by the sound. She appeared before the girls, snapping the cane in her translucent hand.
“Do your worst,” said Alice, knowing this would mean certain death.
“Yes, do your worst,” added Julie, then hollered as loud as her damaged throat would allow.
Sr. Mary Aikenhead pounced on the two with her cane and whipped their vulnerable bodies until there was no more movement. No more sound. No more life.
Ensure you watch out for the ghost of Sr. Mary Aikenhead. Don’t call out her name or she will come with her cane.
D.J. Doyle is the author of multiple horror novels and short stories from extreme horror to comedy horror.
She was raised by pot-smoking hippies and spent her days worshipping pagan deities in the HellFire Club, and her nights watching horror movies. She now lives with her family in a treehouse, preying on unsuspecting travellers, and where she likes nothing better than coming up with ideas for new stories and plotting her next novel. Some of this might have been made up. To learn more about D.J. Doyle, her website can be found at http://djdoyleauthor.com
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”