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The Halloween Project 2019 Story 11: Connected

Mouth agape, Adrian stared at the whiteboard in the front of the classroom. He had been slow to move when the bell rang to signal the end of study hall. No one else was there, even the teacher was standing just outside the door monitoring the hallway as kids passed by. This room, 319, was almost like home to him. It was his base of operations. A special education room, Adrian came here for both study hall and Resource Room. Now a senior, Adrian really didn't need either. In addition to those classes he was taking Advanced placement Calculus and Physics, Creative Writing, and Forensics. And he still got to go home an hour early. Usually his grandfather came to pick him up. Adrian was 18 but he didn't have a license yet. His parents still kept a close eye on him. "Hello, Adrian, go to class," the words sprawled across the whiteboard and then slowly faded left to right. They weren't textbook or printing, it was like someone wrote them freehand. "Shut the front door," Adrian muttered as he looked left and right to make sure no one was in the room. "Hey, Mrs. Barnes! " Adrian yelled to the open door. Mrs. Barnes, a middle-aged, no nonsense, special Ed. teacher who enjoyed her students but kept them working, tucked her head inside, and called back, "What's up, Adrian?" "The whiteboard just said hello to me. Told me to get to class." "Uh-huh, well that's good advice. Thank you, whiteboard!" She nodded to the front of the room where the whiteboard hung, blank and blameless. Then back to Adrian, "Come on. Get moving. You're going to be late." Adrian gathered his books and made for the door. He hesitated just a moment. "Mrs. Barnes, I know computers, but could someone from another location write something on that board. Like a prank?" "It might be possible if our I.T. guy set it up that way, but that's not how it is. Each whiteboard is controlled by the computer in that classroom. See that sitting on my desk?" She gestured across the room. "That's my computer connected to that whiteboard," she moved her pointing finger an inch, "you've seen me use it a 1000 times. "Well, some other joker was using it two minutes ago," Adrian replied. The road to senior year in high school had been long and arduous for Adrian. Diagnosed as "On the spectrum" a dozen years earlier, he was also considered a genius beyond measure. Learning to read by age three, by four he wasn't just putting blocks together but could make elaborate structures out of Legos. He was also prone to terrible night terrors and had a pronounced difficulty playing with children his own age. His parents were concerned in all respects. Early childhood testing and intervention helped, special pre-school was a godsend, and things moved along nicely until adolescence. It was in 7th grade that Adrian's wheels came off. Voices began to float in and out of his head. Sometimes whispery, sometimes strident. He complained that the voices were saying terrible things. Psychiatry, medication, a hospitalization and more medication and the voices were quelled or at least buried. High school had continued apace. Meds and doctor's appointments just became matter of fact. Later that day Adrian returned to 319 for Resource. He didn't have much to work on so it would be another glorified study hall. He was the first one to enter the room. As he walked passed the whiteboard it lit up in scripted green marker. "Adrian, Mrs. Barnes is such a bitch," it read. He stood three feet from the whiteboard, looked quickly at the computer, then back. A girl entered the room and the letters quickly re-traced and vanished. "Leslie, did you see that?!" Adrian asked quickly. "See what?" The girl answered. "Forget it," he replied. Forty-five minutes later when the bell rang to end Resource, Leslie and the two other students who had been working on assignments hustled out of the room. Adrian dropped a book, stooped to pick it up and when he rose the whiteboard said, "Adrian, throw the dog out of the car." "Mrs. Barnes!" Adrian again called to the hallway, as the letters faded. She had turned but he said, "Never mind." Whoever was doing this had an evil streak that made Adrian mad as well as freaked. He signed out from school as he did every day with the security guard at the main entrance desk. Walking to his grandfather's car he could see Jasper, the little terrier, jumping for joy at the sight of him. The entire ride home Adrian was quiet, but just kept looking at Jasper. The next morning as a kind of reality check Adrian poked his head in 319. Mrs. Barnes must have made off to the teacher's room. The whiteboard announced, "Adrian. Throw your meds away." And then it scrolled away. Adrian made straight for the school psychologist's office. He trusted and liked Mr. K as everyone called him. Candid was how Adrian ran his life and he told Mr. K. everything. "O.K., Adrian. You leveled with me and now I'll do the same for you. There can only be a few explanations. First, and most likely, someone is messing with you. Some computer genius targeted you and when we find out who they will be dealt with harshly. I will get our guy working on that the minute you leave my office." "Next?" Adrian asked. "This one's a little harder," Mr. K. chose his words carefully, "You might be having some kind of an episode. You're imagining these words on the whiteboard. Are you stressed? Upset about anything? College? Taking your medication? We've talked many times about what happened to you in middle school. Remember?" "Whoa, which question do you want me to answer first?" Adrian replied, "No, I'm not stressed, I'm really not. School is fine, the college thing is going well and I always take my meds. Never miss. But here's the thing. I wasn't imagining the words on the whiteboard. They were really there. Any other explanations?" Mr. K. threw up his arms, "The whiteboard's haunted?" This brought a small grin to Adrian's serious face. He made several more stops in 319 through the week, always pre-planned so no one was there. Once or twice the door was locked but more often not. On successive days the whiteboard announced: "Adrian, you suck." "No college will ever accept you. "No one likes you. You have no friends." "Do us all a favor and disappear." Adrian grew increasingly manic and in unforgiving cycles, depressed. His parents came to school several times to speak with the administration. They orchestrated sessions with Adrian accompanied by several adults who sat together in 319 but the whiteboard remained pure white. Adrian couldn't sleep, barely ate, rushed home after school like a furtive cat. On the Wednesday right before Halloween he made another solo stop into the room which now haunted his dreams. The whiteboard in all caps scrawl yelled: "ADRIAN! ADRIAN! ADRIAN!" As if the whiteboard was screaming inside his head. Adrian grabbed the desk closest to the front of the room. He hefted it quickly, reared back and rammed it into the whiteboard. A tremendous crash accompanied by an electronic thrum bellowed out from the board. Adrian hit it again and again and again. It showed cracks and striated lines throughout its entire six by four foot span. Sparks flew from the wall plug. It fell from an upper corner wall attachment and one side crashed to the floor, leaning like a broken billboard. An alarm went off outside in the hallway. "We are currently in lockdown. This is a lockdown." Adrian continued to attack the board, still in its metal framework, cracks lacing its surface. Within minutes an entire team descended on 319. Mr. K., the security guard, the youth officer from his office in the basement, the nurse, and the principal all appeared, trying to calm Adrian who screamed and ranted at the board. Within another ten minutes a gurney lugged by two burly EMT's rolled into 319. Adrian was quickly subdued and strapped down. He thrashed and yelled. Orders and directions were doled out across the room. They made for the door when Adrian screamed one more time. "LOOK! Look at it now!" Everyone in the room turned. Everyone could easily read through the slices, cracks and dents, the words forming there. The whiteboard said, "Fuck this school and everyone in it." #

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