Mark the Janitor Is Pretty Sure the Building Isn’t Trying to Kill Him

Haunted School Zach Diamond

Disembodied screams and bleeding rooms are such classic pranks.

Mark stared at the forest green chalkboard, the lettering scribbled across it in a white, dusty writing. While it wasn’t exactly abnormal for him to find rooms still stained with the day’s teachings, they usually seemed like much less threatening topics. Generally just lesson plans on early history, the occasional math problem Mark had no ability to solve whatsoever, and so forth. He wasn’t entirely sure why this classroom—which he understood to be home to a Spanish lecture—would be teaching a lesson on “GET OUT!”

Shrugging his shoulders, Mark resumed mopping the floor of the empty classroom, careful not to step in what looked like a puddle of fresh, yet startlingly dark, fruit punch. He’d seen his fair share of spilled liquids during his fifteen year tenure as the high school’s janitor, but only recently had fruit punch become his top offender. Urine, surprisingly frequent; water, of course; soda, a close second. Fruit punch, however? Ever since the unfortunate death of several students two months prior, it seemed that spilled fruit punch had become one of Mark’s most time-consuming activities. It was like it dripped from the ceilings or something. Whatever the case, He didn’t actually mind. In fact, he enjoyed cleaning it more than urine or even water. It reminded him of growing up, when his mother would spend a few extra dollars to get the sugary fruit beverage. He smiled and dipped the mop into the yellow bucket beside his feet, then let it soak for a moment before taking it out.

Something fell to the ground behind Mark with a soft thud. He spun around, eyes landing upon a thick eraser lying just beneath the chalkboard. He stared at it for a moment, not entirely able to remember whether or not it had been precariously perched on the silver shelf from which it had clearly fallen, before wandering over to it. He picked it up and placed it back where it belonged, then stopped. Something about the chalkboard looked different. He took a step back, the words “LEAVE” scratched in a white dust across its middle. That had certainly not been there before.

Mark took another step back, scanning the room for Tony. He was always trying to prank him, always doing what he could to freak him out. Just last week, Tony had replaced the plumbing in the upstairs women’s bathroom with a thick, red liquid. It wasn’t fruit punch, but rather some sort of salty substance. It took Mark almost six hours to figure out its source, which ended up being a somewhat hilarious pig carcass left in the water heater. Tony, ever the prankster, denied doing anything of the sort, but Mark knew it was him right away. Only Tony could do something as outlandish and admittedly unsanitary as that.

“Tony?” Mark said, glancing around the room. “You in here? I know it’s you.” No one responded, save for the soft whine of the air vent above. Mark shook his head, smiling slightly. It was a bit annoying to constantly have to clean up after Tony’s pranks, but he had to give him props for his dedication. Tony didn’t work nights, but rather the 9am-5pm shift. Yet he still came in after hours, when the school was dark and silent and the rest of the world was asleep, just to set up his elaborate, and somewhat creepy, pranks. In fact, Tony had quit a few weeks prior, carted out of the building in a stretcher while speaking in some sort of foreign, backward-sounding language. Mark hadn’t even known him to be bilingual. Regardless, here he was again: back at the school in the midnight hour, hiding in the shadows and setting up yet another of his “hilarious” jokes.

Something again fell from the chalkboard, slapping with a familiar tap against the floor. Mark spun his head around, eyes falling upon the eraser lying back on the floor. His eyes slowly rose up to the chalkboard. The “LEAVE” was no longer scribbled into it. Instead, the words “LAST CHANCE OR DROWN” took its place. Mark smiled, his eyes returning their scan of the room. Tony was in there somewhere, probably hiding under one of the desks. The prankster, it was just like the time he’d thrown those knives at him in the cafeteria the month prior. While he’d never actually seen him do it, he knew it was Tony: no one else was present, save for a strange, high-pitched squeal that echoed through the empty high school. It was lucky none of the knives hit him, instead narrowly missing and landing with a metal twinge inches beside his face. If they had made contact, the prank would’ve certainly been less funny.

Mark bent down and stared under the desks, accidentally placing his hand in the thick, red fruit punch now coating most of the floor. He stared at it, not entirely sure how he hadn’t realized just how much liquid had been spilled. It was like it was coming out of the walls, flooding the floor of the otherwise empty Spanish classroom at an alarming rate. In fact, now that he really looked at it, that was exactly what seemed to be happening. He pushed himself back up and let out a soft laugh, shaking his head. Tony must have installed fruit punch into the schools fire system, and then re-routed it through the cooling vents on the floor. It never failed to surprise Mark how clever Tony was in his pranks, although he certainly wished he’d help clean up occasionally. It was starting to get a little irritating that he was always left to repair the messes.

Mark turned back toward his mop and wrapped his hand around the handle just as the watch on his wrist began beeping. That meant it was now 12:30 am, his union-mandated break time. He glanced down at the floor, the fruit punch now almost at the top of his shoes and quickly rising. It was still flowing out of the walls, dripping down them like blood on an open wound. There was no point trying to clean it now, it would be like trying to swim upstream. He’d come back after his break, after he’d eaten a bit of food, and see if the river of fruit punch had stopped its attempt at flooding the entire room and apparently drowning him. It would certainly be much easier to clean up at that point. He turned and made his way toward the closed classroom door, stomach growling in anticipation of the ham and cheese sandwich he’d packed for lunch, with a box of fruit punch to drink.

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