Everyone knows that locker number thirteen is haunted, even if they won’t admit it.
My brother told me the kid who got stuck with it in his year didn’t believe in the curse. He called everyone who did a bunch of babies, and then he ended up in the hospital a week later.
So even if you aren’t superstitious, it’s better to hedge your bets than get killed. That’s why last year, Aria McGill started dating Luke from the football team after assignments went out and moved into his locker from day one. Easy cover and no ghosts. Talk about smart.
Except I guess not, which is why I’m spending my free period hovering in the hallway like a weirdo. I unfold the note and check the time again. She’s five minutes late already. I should leave and pretend like I never saw the note. Maybe she’ll forget the whole thing.
No sooner than I’ve had the thought, the metal door swings open and in strides Aria and her BFF Jeanetta, their pleated cheerleading skirts swishing around their thighs.
“Are you sure it’s in there?” I ask as they approach.
Aria twirls a string of gum around her finger and shrugs.
“It just seems like a weird place to lose a ring, I guess.”
Jeanetta snorts. “You were here this whole time and didn’t check?” When I don’t immediately answer, she goes, “Oh my god, you don’t believe that dumb rumor, do you?”
“No.” I mean, I totally do. But I’m not about to admit that to Jeanetta freaking Lawson. The row of lockers looms before us, daring me. Lucky thirteen stands out, I swear. I just need to open it once. If I do it really fast, maybe I can get in and out before the ghost decides to murder me. Instead, I’m stuck in place like my grody Wal-Mart sneakers have fused to the floor.
As the story goes, the first-ever owner died after being stuffed inside and left overnight by bullies. And obviously he was pretty mad about that, so his soul stuck around to pass on his bad luck to anyone dumb enough to disturb him. I probably would, too.
Rumor has it the school paper is banned from writing about it, but that didn’t stop a dozen Tumblr blogs from spreading the truth. And the truth is freaking scary.
“Look at her face, she’s scared of a frickin locker!”
Aria remains silent except for the gum-popping. Her dead grandma’s heirloom ring might have spent the summer trapped in the school and you’d think she was standing around after a fire drill for how little it mattered.
Jeanetta isn’t going to let this go. Despite the voice in the back of my head screaming at me, I roll my eyes and spin the dial on the locker. Every story I’ve seen reported, every gruesome photo, every warning rushes through my head in a blink.
My face heats up. The metal scrapes against itself as I fumble through the combination, messing it up the first time and having to start over. After what feels like a million years, the door swings open on creaking hinges.
There’s a spiderweb in one corner and a lot of dust, but no ring. “I don’t see anything,” I call out.
“Are you sure? What about that in the back?”
I lean forward, craning my neck for a better angle and trying my best not to touch anything. I don’t see whatever she’s pointing at. I’m about to turn around and tell her to look for herself when something crashes into my back and I go flying into the locker. There’s no time to turn around before the door slams behind me.
I reach for the handle, for anything, but my fingers dance over sharp, indiscriminate metal. The girls’ tinny cackling echoes around me.
“Haha, real funny. You got me. You can let me out now” I try to sound as bored as possible, but my voice cracks. It’s getting hard to breathe. Can you suffocate in one of these?
“So you admit it? You were afraid of a dumb locker?”
“Yes, I’m scared of the dumb locker. Happy now?”
“Looks like you’ll have all the time in the world to get acquainted,” Aria says, and a fresh wave of giggles flood my ears. I start pounding on the side of the locker as their sneakers fade away, but there’s no one around to hear me. Spots push in the sides of my vision.
They wouldn’t leave me in here for real, would they?
A million years later, the bell rings for real and I jolt awake. For a moment I think it was all a bad dream until I look behind me and see the locker wide open, now missing its lock. Around me, the crowd pushes on, getting books and chatting with friends, too busy to worry about a girl crumpled on the ground.
Tears sting the corners of my eyes. I try to blink them back, but a big fat tear escapes and rolls down my cheek. I wipe it away fast and run in the direction of the cafeteria.
By the time I get there, the lunch ladies are already shutting the line down. All that’s left are some slimy carrot sticks and a few baskets of soggy fries. The fries slip out of my hand and scatter on the floor. I try to pick them up, but it takes me a few tries and I start to feel woozy. I must have hit my head pretty hard when I passed out earlier.
Today sucks. Across the cafeteria, I spot Aria, picking pepperonis off the pizza that she’s not even eating. She says something and the group at her table breaks into uproarious laughter. God, I wish she would just trip over her perfect white Keds and fall flat on her perfect face.
If there’s anyone who knows how to cheer me up, it’s my best friend Bertrand. I beeline to our usual table, relieved when I see him still sitting there. I nudge him on the shoulder and say hey. His head whips around to the side where I’m currently not standing before returning back to the book in his hand.
I shout his name louder, but the bell rings and he doesn’t hear me and a moment later I’m tearing down the hall after him and he books it to his—our—next class. It’s halfway across campus so I don’t blame him, but still. It’s not like him to ignore me like that. Did I do something to make him mad at me?
If that’s not bad enough, Luke—big, beefy football Luke—steps straight into me as I turn the corner to the classroom, knocking me to the floor. He keeps walking like nothing happened.
I’m about to scream when I see myself slide into my desk in English class. And then, I do.
No one in the class reacts except for me. She—me—turns and stares me right in the eyes. And then, she smiles.
I storm into the classroom, ready to rip this chick out of my seat, but when I go to grab her, my hands fall straight through. What. The. Heck. I try again to no avail. I even try lifting the seat, but duh, I’m weak, so all I manage to do is rattle the legs a little.
Run along, little rat, she-me says without moving her lips. This is my body now. Alas, not quite what I would have chosen, but after decades trapped in that iron prison, this will do for now. But don’t worry, I’ll take excellent care of it.
“What?” My legs are glued-stuck to the ground again.
Bert slides into the desk next to her and offers a fist. She bumps it and my heart shatters to a million pieces.
If you’re lucky, perhaps you’ll find a body to inhabit in 50 years’ time.
Then she makes a flicking motion and I’m flying through the door, the walls, all the way to the Starbucks across the street from the school.
According to the Internet, ghostly possession is most easily done at night, under the light of a full moon. That’s why, when Aria goes to bed, I’m there waiting for her.
She got me into this mess, and she’s going to get me out whether she wants to or not. And if not?
I’ve always wanted to be a cheerleader.
Amanda does the writing thing in Louisiana. Her fiction has appeared online in The Rumpus and The Toast, as well as in anthologies by Bag of Bones Press, ELJ Editions, and GUTSLUT Press. You can find her online at www.amandaduncil.com or @amandaduncil.