Monday, June 22, 2009

The “Other” People

Like all things, time passes on. And so shall we pass on from reading stories of my time in elementary school. Now, we move onward to a story concerning my middle school.

Hm, I should also give you some background information about this school, and a warning. Sometimes, you might see me referring to “middle school” as “junior high” in my writing. This was the same school. The district changed the name from “junior high” to “middle school” during the years I attended.

And speaking of years . . . this was a strange (that word is starting to feel cliched at this blog) time for me. In truth, I only spent two years in this building. The breakdown of the grades was as follows:

Elementary school: Kindergarten - 6 grades
Middle School: 7 - 9 grades
High school: 10 - 12 grades

However, the same year I started middle school was the same year they changed the grades between schools. They moved 6th up to the middle school and 9th up to the high school. I only spent 7th & 8th grades at the middle school.

Okay, now that we have this cleared up, let’s get to the story. The school was big. We had three floors of wall to wall classrooms, a spacious underground lunch room separated into three different dining areas, carpeted hallways, a section for the private drug cartel, a nice size gymnasium for, well, gym classes and any extracurricular events, a small auditorium that I didn’t even know existed until in high school, a wood shop, and even a tiny movie theater for the AV club.

Anyhow, the building was situated right in the heart of a major city, which meant tons of shops the kids could scrounge around in for our meals. This meant, after the morning school bell rang, all doors were shut. These doors had those “one-way” locks, where you could exit the building but couldn’t reenter without a key or someone helping you inside. The only door allowing full access had a member of the faculty standing watch, so no students could sneak back in. The only other place you could enter was through the private entrance for the drug cartel, and none of us students were going to go through there and make it out alive.

Speaking about the faculty, we had some very interesting teachers. They . . . huh? You want to know why I keep mentioning about those strange people who weren’t teachers, lunch ladies, or custodians. You want to know about these people who worked behind the two stairwell doors that said “DO NOT ENTER. NO STUDENTS ARE ALLOWED PAST THIS POINT.” You want to know about the people who we never saw enter the building, walk through the hallways, or exit the building.

I can’t tell you much about it. Like I said, the school faculty did not allow students to enter this space. Even in-between periods, the teachers stood guard at the doors so no students could “accidently” pull on the door handles. I had assumed that whoever was in there was part of a drug cartel. Or maybe they fenced in stolen goods. Or they were scientists who pumped in mind-altering gas through the heating ducts as they watched their big monitors to see what the little lab rats carrying their school books would do. Only once did I catch a glimpse through this door, and it was only by chance.

In fact, it was so by chance that I’m not even sure how it came about. I was talking with a student who helped the secretaries in the office. I tagged along with her down into the stairwell as we approached the forbidden door. And you could automatically tell this door was forbidden. The janitor had painted the entire surface red, and it had those little dribbles of dried paint as it looked all, um, bloody.

Well, she walked right up to the door and swung it open. Behind it stood about twenty people. Boxes and papers and desks littered the entire area. As one, every adult froze in place - in my young mind it looked like they tried to play possum. Then they all swiveled on heels or raised their heads to stare directly at us. One person spoke.


That was it. That’s all she said. The student took two steps inside, handed the paperwork to the woman, and walked out. The door swung shut.

A drug cartel? Fencers packing their stolen goods? Could it even be scientists packaging those dissected students to ship off to the processing plant to make into food stuffs and then later served back to the rest of the student body disguised as the cafeteria’s mystery meat?

No. It was even more sinister than all these scenarios. The staff in the principal’s office had forbidden the student to talk about it. But before I headed off to class, she whispered three words to me that sent shivers along my spine.

After those eerie words, she walked away. I never saw her again.

*Of course I didn’t see her again. She was an eighth-grader and that was the year they bumped all grades up one level. So she spent her ninth-grade year at the high school*

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