This is the end to a series I have been writing based on photo prompts for flash fiction. I decided that for any readers that have missed the first two parts, it might be nice if you knew what was going on; so the first two sections are repeats.
As I started it in 100 word bursts, I think I shall continue that format: mini chapters, so to speak. Always fun to try out a new format.
(although I totally cheated on the last burst)
The lights glared out over the field, illuminating the dark night. The teacher nervously circled the gazebo, again counting children huddled miserably in the center.
The teacher stood, peering out, hoping for the noise of a bus engine. Straining, her ears caught a noise from the back of the gazebo. Whirling, she saw a strange boy.
The boy stared expressionlessly at her, then the children. Then he raised a hand and pointed behind her. At the same moment headlights swept the gazebo, drawing her gaze. When she glanced back, the boy was gone.
Unnerved, she hurriedly gathered children and instruments.
Alexa sat at her desk, smiling at her students as they ran for the door as the last bell rang. Coats and backpacks flapped behind them as they streamed out. Billy stopped and shyly fumbled an apple from the depths of his pack, plopping it on Alexa’s desk before running after his classmates.
Sitting back in her chair, Alexa’s smile faded as she brought up her laptop and looked at the picture she had found earlier during her lunch.
“Hey, what’s up?” Abby, a fellow teacher poked her head in Alexa’s doorway, and then came in when Alexa didn’t answer.
Alexa looked at her friend, and then turned the computer around. Abby looked at the picture, and then frowned at Alexa.
“That’s the old school that burned down. The property that it’s on backs up onto the park where the band plays in the gazebo,” Alexa explained.
“The one you got stuck at last week when the bus broke down? Okay, but who cares?”
“Look further down the screen, the picture of the boy, Brian Torumel.”
Abby shrugged her shoulders. “I see him, so what?”
“They think he set the fire, but couldn’t get out. He burned in the school.” Alexa looked at the picture, and then took a deep breath. “I saw him last week at the gazebo, right before the bus came.”
Looking up, she saw Abby’s mouth gaping open. Abby shut it, shook her head, and asked, “Could you say that again?”
“I saw him. I don’t know why, but he was there and he pointed at me, then the bus came and he disappeared.”
“So what does he want with you?” Abby asked.
“I don’t know,” Alexa said, loving her friend for her simple belief. “But I think I should find out.”
Alexa sat in the gazebo as the sun set, armed with a flashlight and Billy’s apple. Was she crazy? Who comes out looking for a ghost in the dark? She did, she thought gloomily. Too much Poe.
Of course, Poe began her love affair with literature that lead to her being a teacher. Guess she couldn’t blame him too much. Unless she died tonight. Then she was definitely blaming him. Alexa nodded her head defiantly as she bit into the apple.
Alexa shivered, wishing she had brought Abby. The creepy feeling that she had felt when she and the children were stranded slid over her.
“Brian?” she asked softly.
The boy, tall and gawky with adolescence, startled. Again he raised his hand and pointed at her.
“What do you need?” she asked. “Why are you here? Is it because you burned the school down?”
The ghost shook his head violently and backed away. He was twisting his hands, his thin shoulders hunched and his brown eyes were scared.
“You didn’t burn the school down?” Alexa questioned gently. “What happened? Can you-can you tell me?”
The boy—Brian, she corrected in her head—looked around nervously, and started backing away.
“No, wait! Don’t go!”
“Alexa! Alexa!”suddenly howled through the trees.
Alexa spun, heart pounding, her flashlight beam wobbling. She breathed out raggedly as she recognized Abby’s form.
Alexa turned back to Brian, but he was gone. Frustrated, she shook her head at Abby.
“Don’t you glare at me,” Abby snapped. “You’re the one who came out here by herself. Ghosts may not be the only thing to worry about, you know!”
Alexa sighed, knowing Abby was right. And she really was glad to see Abby.
“Hey, what’s that?” Abby asked, looking over at the other exit from the gazebo.
Alexa looked, expecting to see Brian. But instead, she saw an odd pattern on the floor.
Last bell rang and the children bolted.
Alexa laughed as Abby came in the room. “Should I be offended at how quickly they leave?”
“Nah, it’s just a wonderful day out there,” Abby replied. “Did you find anything out about that symbol?”
“Well, I found a society called the Black Sun, they stole it from the Aztecs. There is some rambling about the ancient sun-god, who pulled the sun into darkness each night. They made a stronger connection with the Iztpapalotl, a death goddess. This group started in the early 1900s, and there doesn’t seem to be traces of it today.”
“So, why did he leave that symbol?”
That question rolled around Alexa’s brain for the next week. She nosed around quietly, looking for a reason for Brian to have set the fire. But nothing indicated he was anything other than a normal, shy, rather geeky student. His friends were all same as him. Certainly not the type to be setting schools on fire. And none of them had ever seen the Black Sun symbol.
Finally, frustrated and cranky, Alexa hit upon the idea of visiting the town library and looking up old newspaper articles. She waved to the librarian and settled in the back where they still hid the microfiche. Three hours later she hit pay dirt.
“You’re going to do what?”
Alexa looked at Abby patiently. “I need to get the police to reopen the case and clear Brian. I don’t think he can move on until the case is solved. He looks so unhappy, Abbs. “
“But you can’t just stroll downtown and tell the police that you saw a ghost and now you know the school was burned down during a ritual gone wrong! They will lock you up!”
“Well, I need to do something! What’s your idea?”
Abby paced, chewing a practically nonexistent nail. “Tell Brian. Explain you know what happened. Maybe that will be enough for him to move on.”
Abby and Alexa sat, once more, on the steps of the gazebo. As the sun dipped, Alexa felt that chill down her back.
“Brian,” she said softly. “ I know what happened that night. None of it was your fault. Can you move on now?”
Abby stared at Alexa, then the spot she was speaking to.
Brian twisted his hands, his face scrunched.
“He’s not going, Abby.”
“I think he needs to hear what happened, Alexa.”
“Ok, so this group started in the 1930s, you know the symbol, the Black Sun. They believed power came from eclipses, when their goddess Iztpapalotl would devour people. It mostly faded, but there was a pocket, here in town. They were having a ritual that night, the night you were staying late to study. It was an eclipse night, and the ritual got out of hand. They never knew you were in the building. You had nothing to do with it.”
Tears trembled in the corner of Brian’s eyes, but he smiled. He pointed at her once more, and then disappeared. Alexa sagged down on the steps.
“What, what happened?” Abby practically howled.
“What do you mean? He’s gone. Didn’t you see him go?”
“I never saw him Alexa; you were talking to a post as far as I could tell.”
Alexa stared at her friend. It had never occurred to her that she was the only one who could see Brian. No wonder he had been so lonely. He had to wait for her.