Arcadia High School: The New Arrivals

Paige Turner

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It was 10:25 p.m., at the corner of Mi’ihen Avenue and Tyree Lane. Despite the presence of magic in the world, it was not so different from a traditional city street. The only sound which permeated the Arcadian streets were the low hum of magic orbs which acted as street lamps. The occasional growl of dragons or air-bus engines as they flew around the sky, though with each passing minute, these noises became less common. Although the buildings, walls, lampposts, and other structures had a more natural, fantastic feel to them, they didn’t really seem entirely unusual. Just another coat of paint, really. For Paige’s sake, it either made navigating the streets easier and more challenging, as depending on circumstance. Arcadia had no centralized style with its architecture, so areas and districts were easily identifiable. Specific landmarks, however, sometimes seemed to blend together, as much of it appeared to be whimsical nonsense.

Paige was writing in a book as Michael walked down the avenue. His attire was much darker than his school uniform, which was especially noticeable whenever he walked into the beams of the streetlamps. A long, well-worn purple raincoat, “complimented” by faded jeans and off-white sneakers. Atop his head was a baseball cap with the words “Fazbear Entertainment” on the front. Surprisingly, he wore a handkerchief around his neck. I guess he doesn’t need the one I got. The sneakers don’t blend well into the shadows, but at least the rest of him will fade in easily. Paige had worn black jeans and a dark blue hoodie with the hood up for this express purpose; the style was not her forte, but it would help in the long run.

“Good thing you came early,” Paige said, “especially since I had to go to the store a second time since you responded so late.”

“Sorry about that…” he replied. Mike looked uncertain, as if he were considering whether to leave or not. “Are we really going to break into the school?”

He must be struggling to grasp what is happening. Oh well, he’ll realize it soon enough. “That should be obvious.”

He put a hand to his head. “Are you sure? Why did we decide to meet three blocks away?”

“Well, it would look pretty suspicious if I just hung around the school for half an hour in dark clothes.”

“I guess that makes sense. Uh, what’s that book you’re writing in?”

“Nothing important,” Paige said. Mike seemed content, if unsatisfied by this response. “Here’s your stuff.” Handed to him was a pair of gloves and the second handkerchief. She had bought it for him, after all. “Let’s go.”

As they walked down the street, the school’s architecture peeked from over the street. Its arrogant grandeur during the day was gone, now replaced by a reserved isolation. Many a building, from churches to business offices, looked relatively stunning with their dimly lit windows and magical luminescence. Some abandoned structures even had moss which glowed in the dark. Arcadia High, however, was completely dark inside, almost as if there was a deep abyss residing behind its many arched windows. Its larger-than-life entrance door seemed so sealed off that it was practically part of the wall. Paige picked the lock in about a minute, and the two of them went into the bleak confines of the lobby.
 

Touko Fukawa

young lover's rage
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It was easier to get in by the second floor.

Especially if you had the keys.

She jumped, and grabbed the edge of the now-retracted fire escape.

Easily pulling herself up and over the metal-grated platform, she gave the fire door attached to it a try. Locked from the inside. Why did she expect that? Paying that no mind, she stepped up onto the handrail, before leaping to a nearby classroom's windowsill. Digging her nails into the wooden frame, she yanked it open in one swift movement. Jackpot. No skills necessary, here.

Except, well, athletics.

She slid through the window like a cat through an open door- using the momentum to close it behind her without even thinking about it. That was easy. She'd had much more trouble getting into apartments before- so the practice had helped her quite a bit. If it had come to it, she would have simply broken the window, but thankfully she didn't need to be so crude. Now, the fun really started.

Based on what she recalled, there was a janitor or monitor of some sort on call at all times within this building. That would be an issue, but not a major one. If she was quick enough, it would be no issue at all- and if she wasn't, well, this wasn't a big job. It was simply data collection. Not like there was a dead body to argue over. Breaking into lockers was child's play.

That in mind, she approached the door of the classroom- opening the lock with her keyring, and easing it open with an ominous creak. It was Lyon that was the real issue- befitting that name, his wealthy parents had his house guarded by a pack of security guards like it was a goddamn prison. She would have to figure out his schedule out of the home to even have a chance. Confidence was important, not stupidity. And unfortunately, it really seemed like the best way to get that information was a locker raid.

She'd memorized the location and number perfectly, in advance. The first floor, by the janitor's closet.

Staying by the side of the halls and keeping her footsteps light, she made her way through the pitch black hallways; their only illumination that of dim street lights in the distance shining through the occasional window. In this lighting, and her outfit, she was scarcely recognizable anyway. Another thing that emboldened her. With her mop of hair down from its braids, in a simple tank top and shorts so short she could savor every last mark on her left thigh (with the bonus of quick access to the holster on her right), and the manic glow of excitement in her eye, it should have been clear to anyone she was a wholly different beast than their librarian. If they even thought to connect the two at all.

With a grin, she slid down the banister on the staircase, too.

No sense in not having fun while she was here after hours.

Her nerves were sharper as she neared the locker itself. Not only would she need to spend some time here to sort things out, it was close to the Janitor's closet. And he was one of the ones that had a habit of staying after hours- something she had confirmed last time, along with the location of the locker. That made this easily the most delicate part of the operation. Get her information, and get out. Perhaps if this were one of the other lockers, she would have time to idle, but...

She was about halfway through forcing open the lock with a pair of scissors when she heard the distant snippets of conversation.

Shit.

All at once, she leapt and scrambled, ending up somehow on top of the flat rooves of the lockers, in perhaps a two foot space between their top and the ceiling. Staring crouched in the direction she had heard the conversation, she looked like some sort of hideous gargoyle, with her mess of hair covering the majority of her face and hanging down. They were voices she recognized, in the back of her mind. She couldn't put names to them, but she could say one thing- they were certainly not the voices of any faculty members.

Other students.

She hadn't thought she'd be in good company for her crimes today.

Restraining herself, she managed to keep her voice down to only a breathy laugh.
 

Michael Afton

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“The basement door is this way, right?” Paige said as she and Michael turned the corner and walked into the hallway. Fukawa, crawled up in between the two-foot space between the lockers and the ceiling, stared down at them like a barn owl, watching them steadily grow closer to her.

“Should be. I can’t imagine it would be anywhere else.”
Michael replied, tensing up as the darkness of the hallway enveloped them. It almost made it pointless to disguise themselves with how hard it was to see. Worse, he couldn’t help but feel a presence within the hall, something practically looming right behind the both of them. The thought alone made his hands shiver with a coldness the gloves Paige gave him couldn’t protect.

“You nervous?” Paige asked, hearing him let out a muffled groan behind the handkerchief around his neck.

“Of course I am! I-it’s dark and we broke into the school!” He whispered, eyes darting around the hallway.

“Relax. The only person who should be here is the janitor, yeah? Easy enough to avoid.”

“I mean, I guess. What if someone else is here and DOES see us, though?”

“Seriously? It’s pitch dark in here. I can barely see you.”

“I still think we should use the flashlight.”


Paige rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and let him see a lit hallway when it’s supposed to be dark? It’s easier to keep the light off.”

“If stumbling down the hallway feeling for a doorknob is easy.”

“You complain too much.”
Paige replied before taking a step to the side. She grabbed Mike’s arm to drag him with her as she ran her hand along the lockers beside her. They shook, rattling like snakes, enough so that Fukawa could feel them approach through the cold metal. Her giggling grew louder.

Mike stopped, limbs locking up. If Paige could see him, she would have seen he looked like he had seen someone get stabbed in the stomach.

“What is it?” She asked.

“Did you… hear that just now?”

“The creepy laughter?”

“Yeah.”

“Nope.”

“You know, when you said the janitor wasn’t a ghost, I didn’t think I’d have to take that idea seriously ever again.”

“Did I say that? I forgot.”
Paige said as they finally walked past the sitting Fukawa.

The librarian could barely keep still. With how on-edge the boy was, she could only imagine the sheer terror on his face if she hopped off the lockers and snuck behind him right then and there. She imagined him jolting and jumping up into the air like a chaotic bolt of electricity if she just slithered behind him and whispered softly into his ear. It’d be adorable, if nothing else.

His girlfriend, however… she couldn’t see her face, but she cringed at her voice. Perhaps it was the way she spoke, with her words laced with smugness, loaded with a sense of indestructibility. Or, perhaps more likely, it was the simple fact that it was because of her interruption that prevented her from opening up Lyon’s locker. She had been planning the heist for days, and it was only ruined by the unknowable interference of a teenage tomboy.

Michael and Paige finally stopped at a lonely large door in the middle of the hallway.

“Here it is. You know what to do, right Night?”

“Open Mike Night, dude.”

“I refuse to call you by your full nickname on principle alone.”


Michael had to admit that the pun was pretty freaking bad. He walked over to the edge of a nearby row of lockers to peer by them and down the rest of the hallway. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll keep a lookout, Book Lady.”

Just as Paige got onto her knees to pick the lock of the basement door, she turned around with a confused and very disappointed glare at Michael.

“Huh? It’s Mage, Night. Mage. ‘Book Lady’- what?” She replied, sounding absolutely offended.

“S-sorry! It just… that was the name before! It came… out of my mouth.”

“Well, shut up. Stealth.”
She said before returning to the door.

Fukawa’s crimson eyes glowed brightly in the dark. A far grander heist had been planned for that night, it seemed.

What a terrible coincidence! Perhaps it’s time for a little payback.

Her tongue rolled out like a snake as she let out a small, but audible cackle. It reverberated around the hallway, the sound seeping through their disguises and directly into their minds.

“Well…”
she said, voice low, growling, “I wasn’t expecting company.~”
 

Paige Turner

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In that moment, the darkness of the room felt especially blinding.


“What- who’s there?” she whispered, looking around slowly, cautiously. A cold sensation crawled up her forearms, her sense of touch growing numb. Very little light seeped into this hallway, so little that it was hard to tell if her eyes were closed or not. She could identify Michael’s silhouette, which had huddled closer to her for safety. There was also enough light to see where the lockers started. However, there was not enough to see the other end of the hall. Not enough to identify where that voice came from. “Where are you? What do you want?”


“I could ask you the same thing, book lady!”


And then she looked up. Two rings shone a dim red, dreadful spotlights catching the two students in their escapades. Whoever or whatever possessed those eyes sat with legs crossed atop the lockers. Its form was difficult to make out, and impossible to identify. It looked human enough, but considering how magical this world is, it could be a pixie or a doppelganger or any other absurd creature that she had never seen before.


It hopped down from the locker, and paced around the duo. Its voice, with the edge of a knife and the elegance of a hatchet, held a mocking tone that felt particularly oppressive. “You’ve got a lotta nerve, coming here without permission. Don’t ya know you can get expelled for trespassing?”


Michael shivered beside Paige, a small distance separating the two. He had started stuttering, but nothing coherent came from it.


I can’t honestly blame him. Paige took a breath and responded. “Of course… of course we do.” She stared straight forward, trying not to look at the figure despite its inability to see her staring at it.


“So what, you just wanted to break a couple rules, huh? Huh, huh?!”


Paige remains silent.


“Hellooo! What are you doing here?”


“U-u-u-uh…” Michael, hunched over with his hands held to the chest, tried to gather his thoughts enough to produce a complete sentence. “W-we came here… t-to, uh-”


“Not you, Open Mike Night! I’m talking to little miss tomboy over here!” Michael backed away, putting Paige between them. She found that the eyes had shifted to her, and felt a few beads of sweat rolling down her cheeks.


“...We’re here to look for something.”


“Ooo, what kind of something?”


Paige hesitates once again. How much control do I even have? If I tell them, the plan may be busted, but if I don’t, then-


She feels something press against her neck. It was cold, pointy, and metallic, and it felt like the slightest bit more pressure would send it straight through her throat. She had no say in how this conversation unfolded.


“You’d better stop cutting up, before I decide to join you!”


Reluctantly, Paige looked away and muttered “We came to enter the janitor’s closet.”


The figure took the metal away from her neck, walked back, and gave a restrained fit of laughter. “That’s all?! If you wanted a delicious glass of bleach, the convenience store is right down the street!”


Responding with a nervous laugh, she tried to look this… thing in the eyes. “Heh… well, I’m... not that edgy. But we have a good reason to investigate.” This is a terrible idea, Paige thought before pushing through her fear. “I’m guessing that… you also… have some reason to be here? ...Right now?”


“Rightamundo, Book Lady! I’m also looking for something tonight. But I can’t leave witnesses, you know. It’s bad for business!”


Suddenly, an idea came to mind. One that might get the duo out of this predicament. Putting forth as much confidence as she could muster- not much, but hopefully enough- Paige turned completely toward the voice. “Well, if we are a problem for you, then perhaps we can strike a deal.”


Michael turned to Paige, violently shaking his head as if to say ‘What are you doing? You’re going to get us killed!’


However, the stranger closed their eyes, and it almost looked like they crossed their arms. “Interesting… You’ve got guts to give me an offer. Alright, spill the beans!”


“The offer is simple. We won’t tell anyone that you were here, even if we get caught ourselves. In exchange, we ask you to do the same, and also refrain from injuring us.”


They opened their eyes, a skeptical glare shining in the dark. “How do I know you won’t just rat me out to the police the instant you get out of here?”


“Well, that would make it easy for us to get caught, wouldn’t it? It may make them wonder why we were around the school so late. Depending on how tonight goes, I don’t want to give more incriminating evidence if we can help it.”


“Wait,” Michael whispered, “w-what do you mean… ‘if’ we can...?”


Paige bent over and quietly replied within his ear. “Don’t worry about it, just play along.”


A low hum rang through the hall as the unknown individual contemplated. Finally, they responded. “Okay, I love a little drama anyway! You better watch out for Mr. Janitor, though, he’s a crazy one!” And before the duo realized it, the stranger was already gone.


Michael stood there, looked at his companion, with the faintest hint of concern on his face being visible through the black of night. “Can we trust that thing?”


“I’m not sure, but it won’t do us any good to worry about it. Let’s head on.”


As Paige walked ahead, hand to the lockers, he gave a heavy sigh. “This isn’t very good for my heart…”





Eventually, the duo made their way to the janitor’s closet. Pale blue moonlight shimmered through a single window, bathing the closet door in an eerie glow. It was just a normal door, like any other in the building. However, the idea of what lay behind made its white paint feel like a bright facade. I’m going to enjoy ripping the blanket off this case.


Paige kept an ear out, checking if anyone was moving nearby. It was silent. She pulled Michael away from the door, in case someone was inside the closet and was able to hear them from within. “That creep told us to watch out for the janitor, so he’s probably inside. We should think of a way to lure him out.”


“But how do we know he isn’t patrolling the halls, and we just didn’t run into him?”


She shrugged. “We don’t. But he’s not a security guard, he’s a janitor with a secret. So if he’s only here to guard what’s in the closet, he’d be better off just standing out front or guarding from inside.”


Michael slouched over, arms folded. “I don’t know, it seems pretty dangerous…”


“Come on, Night, we need to get in there.” Mike was still slouching, clearly not understanding how futile it was to complain in this situation. They had already broken in; to backpedal would be to have broken the law for nothing. His emotions were getting in the way of rational thinking. “Look, I get it. You don’t want to get caught and expelled. But we need to keep going. If we don’t push forward, the strange things I told you about will never get resolved. So you need to buckle down so we can get to the bottom of this, alright?”


He looked away, though it was hard to tell through both the dark and his low-tipped ball cap. Eventually, he gave Paige a side glance. “Okay then. What are we going to do?”
 
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