The thing is… I never saw it. The ghost. Everyone expected it to be haunted coz it was a big old school, but that wasn’t how it was. Dad bought it to do it up, sell off the flats. It was when his company was just starting out so we all moved into a bit of it. It saved money, probably.
My bedroom was on the first floor, it was, it was the deputy headmaster’s office. In the summer holidays I’d be in my room, about three o’clock, doing, I dunno, playing SNES, and then the swing door outside at the end of the corridor would go, and usually that wasn’t weird because the workmen were there or my family or whoever. Only sometimes there weren’t any footsteps, nothing coming down the corridor. I’d just stop in the middle of MarioKart and go over to the door, it had frosted glass in the top half so the deputy head could see who was outside. I’d go over to the door and listen for who was coming down, I could tell people by how they walked on the floor, the workmen always had these massive boots, but I couldn’t hear anything. But… then I could hear these little tiny steps. Dragging.
It wasn’t anyone in my family, not even my sister. It was… it was a kid. This kid coming really slowly down the corridor towards my room.
And just, just before he got to the door he stopped, the footsteps stopped, like, a foot or two from the door.
And I went to put my head out and there was this… this little boy’s tired little sigh. And I looked out and there was nothing there. Just nothing.
It’d be like once or twice a month. Always I felt… I, I knew him, I knew this kid somehow, he was this sad little boy who kept getting in trouble and sent to the deputy head’s office. And he’d died, I dunno when or how but he’d died some time and this was, this was what his life had been, mainly… poor little kid.
I wasn’t, I didn’t feel scared for some reason, so I never mentioned him at first. And then, this one day I just mentioned him during dinner, someone was talking about something else and I just thought it was relevant. And everyone was staring at me, my sister was giggling and my mum had just gone white and my dad said ‘well… that’s very unusual – we might have to talk about this again at some point’. But we didn’t.
My dad got this guy in, Mr Akindolie, and he was a priest. And they’d… they’d just wander around the house, him and my dad. And they were looking for this kid, obviously, finding out where he hung around and… I knew they were going to get rid of him. Mr Akindolie was, he was lovely he was smiley and sweet and he played little games with my sister and he told these stories during dinner and… and all the time he and my dad were thinking ‘right, how we can we do something about this’. Coz… coz my dad wanted to do the place up and then sell it and he knew that if it’s haunted and he knows and he doesn’t tell anyone then then then, I dunno, the estate agents kick up a fuss because that can affect the value of the house, so he had, he had to at least be seen to be doing something about it. By getting rid of him.
We, um, we had a kind of, I dunno, party or something the night they, Mr Akindolie, the night he was going to do the exorcism. My sister did a little painting and I… I made him, the kid… I wrote something. Just a letter saying I hope that he goes somewhere nice and… where he’s not in trouble all the time.
We, that’s my mum and me and my sister, we all stayed downstairs while Mr Akindolie and my dad, they went upstairs to outside my room to, to get rid of him. And, and we played board games and we had crisps and sweets, and not all of the board games worked because we needed four players and there were only three of us and my sister never, but we were staying up late, you know, shit-hot.
And then, then after about, I dunno an hour or so there was this massive, fucking massive crash like a cupboard had fallen over and I ran out, my mum was frantic but she didn’t move, looking after my sister, and I ran out and up the stairs and I just crash right into my dad at the top and he grabs me and says ‘it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s all okay, just back down now’…
And past him, down the corridor, outside my room, there’s Mr Akindolie, wearing, what’s it, called, the purple scarf, on his knees, I can see his lips moving, his eyes are closed… and there’s nothing else there, nothing else there at all, except, well, except this little black wispy thing in the air just for a second. And I’m trying to look past my dad at what’s going on when this noise goes through my head, this ‘nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn’ just like after there’s been an explosion and my ears start to hurt and I feel really sick then I’m screaming in pain but no sound’s coming out and my dad’s carrying me downstairs and…
I woke up in the front room. Dad’s there and Mum and… and he’s stroking my hair and telling me it’s alright and they’re really happy that I’m okay… and then he says it’s alright again, everything’s sorted out.
And I went out, I needed the loo, I went out and… and Mr Akindolie is sitting on the stairs… and I catch his eye. He looks so tired, so tired and old, he’s not happy and funny any more, it’s all gone. He looks at me and says, I don’t know if he can even tell it’s me, but he looks at me…
‘We did a bad thing’, he says. ‘A bad thing we did. Because he was scared and lonely, that’s all he was… sad little boy. He didn’t want to go. He did no harm. And now… oh God, boy’, and he just grabs me then, he grabs me and he holds me into his chest, he smells of sweat and, and… and just quivering, his belly’s wobbling like he’s ill.
‘Oh God’, he says, ‘he was screaming in fear, his face, it was like a demon, a demon in front of me, his face splitting with fear,
I, I can’t do this properly, we just kicked him out and…’ and he grabs my face in his hands and pulls me up to look in his face and his eyes are veiny and yellow, they’re like, they’re like bad apples,
‘Hell is a real place’, he says, ‘Hell is a real, real place and we’ and I’m not thinking, I just say, ‘no, you did’.
Then I, pulled away from him and went for a piss.
Mr Akindolie, he… he never came back. He sent us cards at Christmas. But never to us, he never put our names in, he just said ‘to you all’. And then they stopped after a few years so i guess he’d died.
And I, I sat there in my room for a few days afterwards, just with the computer off and listening. And the door didn’t go, and no one was in the corridor, and nobody sighed.
You know, if you’ve ever put your head down a drain you can just feel it cold and wet and there’s just
(Duncan Gates, 2017)