The Shadow of the Past


Photo courtesy of Pixabay, photo credits to Brenkee

The Ghost of Dicey Langston is more than a joke (Photo Courtesy of Pixabay, Photo Credits to Brenkee).

We walked slowly into the all too familiar hallways. After our three years here, we all went separate ways for high school. Chills ran up and down my spine, as I soaked in the view of Langston, our old middle school.

One of the other girls, Sophia, looked around nervously, “I can’t believe we’re doing this. What if someone finds us? We could get into serious trouble.”

“Come on Sophia. Stop worrying. You’re putting a downer on our fun,” Lydia whispered fiercely.

“Girls!” Millie said sternly. Ever since we were thirteen, Millie was always the voice of reason, always able to kept the rest of us in line.

After we left eighth grade, Lydia came up with this brilliant way to keep our friendship from growing apart. Every year on Halloween night, we snuck into the building, mostly to catch up, but also to reminisce about the good old days. As seniors, for our final Halloween adventure, this year was no different.

Sticking to tradition, we gathered in the makeshift library, lounging on the beanbags that had to be older than all of us put together.

“Jamie, we’ve heard this story so many times. Why do you always insist that you tell it?” whined Peyton.

As our resident history nerd, I was fascinated by Dicey Langston, the eponym of our school. At the age of fifteen, she was a spy for the Patriot cause, during the American Revolution. While gathering intelligence, she overheard news of a planned British raid on a local rebel camp. She immediately set off to alert the American troops. After trudging through twenty miles of swamps and forests during the dark of night, she was able to warn the troops. Because of her bravery, she saved hundreds of men.

“We have to know where we came from. Yes, we went to school at Langston, but it is important to know why it matters,” I stated before launching into the story. I’ve always thought of Dicey as a heroine, but back in middle school, not everyone felt the same. Most students made jokes about her. Anytime we heard a strange noise, there was bound to be a joke about it coming from the Ghost of Dicey Langston.

At the end of the story, Peyton yawned dramatically and announced that she was going to use the restroom. The other girls nodded and dived right into the latest gossip. While they talked, I leaned my head back, looking up into the skylight, mesmerized by the stars.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

“W-what was that?” Sophia asked anxiously.

“Probably just Peyton,” Millie said.

Lydia darted out of the room to go investigate. The rest of us were more hesitant to move out of the safety of the room, but our curiosity got the best of us and we followed behind.

By the time we reached the bathrooms, Lydia had her faced pressed to the glass of the door leading outside. “Lydia, where is Peyton?” I whispered. Before she could answer, Sophia pushed past us, a gasp leaving her lips, when she looked out the window.

Millie and I gave each other a confused look, as we pushed past Lydia and Sophia to see for ourselves. Peyton’s face was illuminated by the moonlight, her eyes set on the stars as she stood in the center of the grass field. However, the most peculiar part of all was her clothes. Per tradition, we always wore our pajamas, but instead of soft pants with bunnies on them, she was wearing a navy blue polo and a khaki skirt. I quickly rushed to try and push the door open, but it would not budge. “Peyton! Stop messing around! Let us out!” Millie yelled.

Before the field was covered in grass, now it was a dirt field with sandstorms when the wind started to pick up. Right in front of our eyes, sand started to swirl, whipping circles around the pure white of Peyton’s tennis shoes. There was a loud vibration shaking the ground; the noise was overwhelming to my ears. Purple bruises rose on my sides as I pushed my whole body against the door. “Peyton! Peyton! Run!” screamed Sophia, while Millie darted off uselessly trying to open other doors. Peyton, however, stood stoic as the dirt whipped her curly red hair, covering her whole body until she vanished from sight.

In the blink of an eye the wind stopped and the dirt fell. All I could hear was the beat of my heart and Sophia’s fast paced breathing. In place of where Peyton had been standing was a book. The sight of the red cover made my heart stop; the title was engraved in my brain. “The Patriot Wore Petticoats,” I recited.

“The Ghost of Dicey Langston,” I whispered under my breath just loud enough to be heard over the Sophia’s sobs.

Lydia looked around at the three of us. “Is this some kind of joke?” she questioned, her eyes darting quickly between the three of us. The three of us stood in silence, as Sophia’s sobs grew louder.

“Sophia is panicking. We don’t have time for this. Jamie, go see which classrooms are unlocked,” ordered Millie, taking charge. Eyes wide, I darted off, pushing my sore arms on each door, until the door to the science class opened, startling me.

“Hey! Mr. Simpson’s room is open!” I yelled, my voice trailing off at the end. I had forgotten how unsettling his classroom was back in middle school. Not a single thing had changed in the last six years since I sat on the third row. As I looked around, my sights set on an old project of mine on the wall. In sixth grade, we had to catch bugs, kill them, and pin them on a board. Glancing around the room, I started to realize that the thousands of bug eyes were making me uncomfortable. Lost in memories, I jumped when the old door creaked, and Millie and Lydia carried a hysterical Sophia into the room. Millie was doing all she could to calm Sophia down, but it seemed as if nothing was working.

Lydia turned to face me. “Did that really happen or am I imagining the whole thing?” she said shaking her head in confusion. I was speechless as the realization of the situation settled in. As my mind raced with worries about Peyton, movement in the room caught my attention.

One of the large bugs on the wall started fluttering; assuming it was the wind, I turned my attention back to the girls. Peyton was gone, and we were locked inside the school.

“Do you hear that?” I questioned. A slow steady vibration was increasing in volume.

“No. What are you talking about?” Lydia answered impatiently.

I tried to ignore the noise, but I was extremely jumpy after the sandstorm. When the sand started to swirl outside the window the first thing we heard was the very same rumble from earlier. I gulped realizing what was happening. As soon as my mouth opened to warn the girls, the noise suddenly grew unbearable and the swarming started. The insects on the walls flew off, filling the room by the thousands. Only Sophia’s screams were able to penetrate the rumbling.

My feet immediately jerked into action. Swatting at the insects surrounding my head, I dived for the door, a rush of relief filling me as it easily came open. Soon after I left the insect infested room, Millie and Lydia followed suit. Shakily, I asked, “Where’s Sophia?”

With our noses pressed against the glass of the hallway windows, we watched as a switch was flipped and it all stopped. The silence was deafening. Each project was lined up straight on the wall with every insect back in its rightful place, as if nothing had changed. The only difference was a red paperback book resting in the middle of the room. My heart stopped. Silent tears started to stream down my cheeks. “S-Sophia,” I stuttered.

After what seemed like a lifetime, Millie grabbed my and Lydia’s arms, herding us into the infamous George Washington room. The room is really a conference room, but it is characterized by the portrait of George Washington watching over the hallways outside of the room. Normally the old comfy swivel chairs would make me feel safe, but they were doing nothing to comfort me now.

The uneasy silence stretched out between us. A sudden loud noise startled us, causing everyone to jump. “What was that?” I blurted out.

“Just the old table,” Millie reasoned. But then the table creaked again and again and again, until the noise was ear-splitting.

“Oh no,” I yelled, even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. The darkness came in an instant and went just as soon as it had came. I didn’t need to look around the room to know it was there. Despite my attempts to suppress them, the words still rang out in my head. The Patriot Wore Petticoats. My eyes were squeezed shut. When I dared to open them, only one pair stared back at me. “Lydia,” I whispered, as my heart sunk at the loss of another friend.

Without saying a word Millie and I dashed out of the room, trying to open any door possible to get out. Our attempts were futile. Darkness slowly came in with such a completeness that it was impossible to see anything in front of me. I felt a reassuring grab of my right hand, knowing Millie was at my side. The darkness surrounded us like an uninviting thick black blanket. Impenetrable silence filled my ears.

After what felt like years, a single light came shining down, the full moon displayed through the skylight. I lifted my head. The moonlight was casting a spotlight on the portrait. Instead of the face of an old white man, the soulless dark brown eyes of a young woman stared back at us. The George Washington painting was slashed and dangling above the ground. Millie squeezed my hand. The Ghost of Dicey Langston. The thought rang out in my head. My eyes closed as slim cool fingers clasped my left hand.