Shadow in the Hallway

There's an old story that I used to hear growing up about the "Shadow in the Hallway." It was said to reside in the middle school I went to. People claimed that it was the spirit of someone who used to work there. According to rumors, he had a habit of kidnapping children and torturing them with threats of death if they didn't behave. He was described as a tall man who walked slowly and always wore a wide-brimmed hat out of habit. His spirit was said to wander the hallways, searching for new victims.

I always heard it and laughed to myself. It was just a dumb rumor that the kids came up with to scare each other. My friends had parents who said they heard the same thing growing up. Nobody really believed it and for good reason. Something like that would have had to have been reported at some point, but there was nothing from what I remember.

The hallway he resided in was one of the few locations in the school that hadn't been renovated. You could still see the old paint peeling off and several doors had looked like they'd been through a war with the number of scratches on them. It was my belief that this dated appearance made the hallway seem creepier, and the shadow stories simply grew out of that.

Years would go by and I never once found myself being visited by the spirit. Everybody else in my class didn't believe it either. We'd long grown past the age of believing that stuff.

I ended up going back to the school years after graduating college. Why I went back is something I really can't explain. Maybe it was a strong sense of nostalgia that I felt after growing up a little. It's funny how much you miss the simpler times after experiencing life a little more.

The school looked almost exactly as I remembered, even the hallway. I walked down it and smiled at the paint that was now almost entirely peeled off. Something about the hallway made me feel differently than I had before. The idea of something like this retaining its appearance after so many years kind of disturbed me. Everything else I knew had changed with time, but the hallway barely did at all.

I was about to walk away when I saw something at the end of the hallway. It appeared to be a man wearing a wide-brimmed hat. I froze right where I stood and blinked several times. This couldn't have been what I thought it was.

Behind me came the sound of heavy breathing, as if there was someone standing right beside me. I carefully looked from the corner of my eye and saw nothing. Then I looked back and saw that the man had left. When I turned to walk away, something stopped me once again.

Standing right in front of me were the faces of several children who looked like they were in their early teens. Each of them had pale complexions and eyes that looked swollen from whatever torture they'd been subjugated to. They stood with stiff shoulders and could barely look me in the eye. I could now feel my heart pumping so hard that it felt like it was trying to break free from my chest.

The children's eyes became even more fearful as the breathing could now be heard right beside me.

"They all learn to fear me, eventually," said a voice. I didn't even turn to see what was looking at me. I ran in the opposite direction, refusing to look back and wishing that I'd never seen what I did.

I' still haunted by what I heard and saw. Sometimes I'll try to sleep, only to see those faces staring at me. Who were those kids? Did they have connections to him? I know I said that I hadn't heard anything about a worker kidnapping children, but maybe they just weren't reported. I don't really care to look either. You think I want to dig deeper into something that messed me up just by its implications? No thank you.

Whoever wants to solve that mystery can be my guest. Just remember that there's no escaping once you begin.