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- Story Listed as: Fiction For Adults
- Theme: Horror Stories / Scary Stories
- Subject: Horror / Scary Stories
- Published: 12/27/2019
The Modesty Heights Reform School for Boys was an architecturally pleasing building, its aged brickwork and elegant lines beautifully framed by the surrounding hills and woodland. A red gravelled driveway cut a perfectly straight line through the green lawns, ending in a turn-around circle just metres from a rather imposing front door.
The silence of this idyllically peaceful setting was broken by the roar of a snot-green Volvo churning along the gravel, sliding to a brief stop at the front door for just long enough to eject one Stanley Frewer, followed by Stanley Frewer’s luggage.
Stanley glared at the departing car, waving both middle fingers in the air with his face twisted into an ugly scowl. He hefted his belongings and made his way to the huge front door, feeling resentfully dwarfed by its size and majesty.
He pushed the door open and dumped his suitcases on the polished linoleum. “Yo, anyone here?” He idly gazed around the grand foyer, wondering if there was anything interesting he could nick or wreck.
“Mr Frewer, I presume.” Stanley jumped in his shoes and let out a not-so-manly scream of surprise. He whirled around to face a stern-faced older man, formally dressed in a three piece dark suit, looking down his nose at his latest ward.
“I am Principal Cutter. You will either address me as Principal, or Sir. Now, come with me to my office. We will establish the school’s expectations of you, and you will not disappoint us.”
'Don’t bet too much on that. Sir.' Stanley smirked, and poked his tongue out as he followed the headmaster to his sunny corner office. The windows afforded a gorgeous view of green hills and shadowy woods, but Stanley wasn’t much of an outdoors person, and the scenery quite frankly left him cold.
“First,” began the headmaster, “you will show respect at all times to both staff and fellow students.” He eyed Stanley coldly. Stanley shifted uncomfortably, and felt his face redden.
After a few tensely silent seconds, the headmaster continued. “There will be no alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, smoking, swearing, antisocial behaviour, or rude gestures. Your room will be tidy at all times, as will your uniform and general appearance.” He eyed Stanley’s oily spiked hair and rumpled clothing with disdain.
“You will obey all orders from staff and senior students, and you will attend all classes, both promptly and enthusiastically. You will …” The headmaster paused here as Stanley’s eyes began to glaze over.
“Yes, never mind the rest of it for now. It’s mostly common sense, and we do have a booklet that covers the rules that you are expected to follow.” So saying, Principal Cutter lugged out a large folder, stuffed full of paper and colourful dividers. “The information is conveniently separated into sections such as personal deportment, and treatment of property and people.” He thrust the folder at Stanley, who whoofed as the folder’s weight thumped him in his soft tummy.
“Read it well and thoroughly. Transgressions and rule-breaking will not be tolerated. You get three warnings, then …” he enacted a dramatic throat-cutting gesture. Stanley wasn’t entirely convinced he was joking with him.
“Ah, Mr Keltie, please come in.” Stanley swivelled in his chair to see a squeaky clean, well-presented teen around his own age standing in the doorway. “Eric, this is our latest arrival, Stanley Frewer. Stanley’s parents have decided that he will benefit more from our educational discipline here than spend a year or so in juvenile detention.”
The boy stepped forward, hand professionally extended. “Hi Stanley, my name is Eric. I’ll be your “buddy” here. I’ll show you the ropes, and where everything is. May I give you a hand with your luggage?”
Stanley gaped at Eric in disbelief as he automatically shook the proffered hand, but Eric wouldn’t meet his eye.
They left the Principal’s office and hauled Stanley’s cases up the staircase to the second floor, with Eric’s running commentary droning in the background. “Ground floor’s staff offices, cafeteria, gymnasium, rec room. First floor’s senior dorms, second floor’s for new students. That’s you. Each floor’s got a shower block and toilets and their own kitchen. Everyone cleans up after themselves.”
“Are you for real? Like, can I pinch you or something?” Stanley laughed, a little uncertainly. “Don’t you ever break the rules? Sneak a smoke? Leave a dirty cup on the sink?’
Eric turned on him with genuine fear in his eyes. “They take their rules seriously here, Stan. I’ve seen what happens to kids who screw up after their third warning. I’ve had my three warnings, and now I just want to follow the rules and get through the rest of my time here. Oh yeah, and I want to leave here ali…in one piece.” He glanced around nervously. “I think the place might be bugged,” he whispered.
“Oh come on!” Stanley pivoted one-eighty degrees with his middle fingers extended, while Eric stood aside with his hands covering his face.
Stanley laughed, and clapped Eric on the back. “Live a little, bro’! Now, where’s my room?”
There were ten identical doors, five on each side of the corridor. The doors were spaced far enough apart that Stanley anticipated that it must be a very large suite indeed!
He was proved correct when Eric swung open one of the doors, but his heart sank when he counted four single beds, each with its own small wardrobe and chest of drawers. There was no display of individuality in any of the living quarters, but Stanley did notice some scraps of adhesive putty beside his assigned bed. Posters maybe? He felt a quiet warmth that there was one boy, at least, who disdained the school's conformity.
“So what happened to the kid who used to sleep here? Did he move to the first floor or something?”
Eric swallowed. “Posters are forbidden. He knew better, but still put one up.”
Stanley laughed in disbelief. “He got kicked out for putting up a poster? You’re screwing with me, aren’t you?”
Eric looked sick. “He didn’t get kicked out. He … Anyway, he’d had three warnings, then he went and did this.” He swept his hand at the missing poster, almost crying. “His name was Tommy Edwards. I was right there when he was … disciplined for the last time.”
Stanley frowned at him. “What exactly are we talking about here, Eric?”
Eric swallowed and turned away. “I’ve said too much already. You’d better make your bed and get unpacked. Make sure everything’s tidy. There’s bedding in the storage room at the end of the hallway, and I’ll take you to get sized up for your uniform after lunch.” He left the room without another word, and Stanley started cramming his few items of clothing and underwear into the top drawer of the chest of drawers. His comic books and graphic novels went into the second drawer, toiletries were tipped carelessly into the bottom drawer.
He threw a blanket over his bed and lay on it for a while, almost bored enough to flick through the stupid rules. Curiosity eventually did get the better of him, and he hefted himself to a sitting position, propped the folder against his knees and started reading, horrified to his very core at the strict regimen he was to follow.
The boys were expected to get out of bed at six o’clock – in the morning! Thirty minutes for ablutions before a hearty breakfast appropriate to their age group. Stanley wasn’t sure what that might look like, but he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to like it. Attend meals and classes punctually or have a note signed by a senior teacher to explain why. No unexplained absences. Too many or lengthy bathroom breaks would be investigated. And on and on. And on.
Stanley groaned and threw himself back on the bed, dramatically flinging his forearm across his eyes. At least it wasn’t going to take too much effort on his part to get himself kicked out of this stupid place. All he had to do, really, was be himself.
He dozed off for a few minutes, waking to the strange sensation of his mattress tilting and rolling him to the floor. Completely disorientated, Stanley cowered on the floor, convinced he was being attacked by a poltergeist; a notion reinforced by the sight of his worldly goods that he had stuffed into his chest of drawers now forming a modest hillock by the side of his bed.
He then noticed a pair of shiny black school shoes, a pair of legs faultlessly clad in sharply creased navy pants, a gleamingly white shirt and striped tie, a set of sternly folded arms, and lastly, a cold face topped by regulation short dark hair. The face stared down at him with barely concealed loathing.
“My name is Peter Gifford,” announced the apparition. “You may call me Mr Gifford, or Sir. I am the Senior in charge of this floor, and my job is to make sure all you newbies follow the rules.”
Despite the feeling that some sort of response was expected of him, all Stanley could do was stare up at his visitor and wonder if this was all a weird dream.
He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before words finally came out. “What the hell did ya tip all my stuff out for?” he demanded belligerently.
The Senior pulled out a notebook. “Refer to Section 2, Clause 2 of your manual. Your personal living space must be kept to a high standard of cleanliness and tidiness at ALL times. You don’t just go cramming stuff in like that. You will now store your belongings properly, and I will be back in 20 minutes to check.”
Peter headed for the door, turning back just in time to catch Stanley with his rude fingers waving high in the air. Peter nodded, not surprised, and scribbled something in his notebook before leaving the room.
He returned in 20 minutes as promised, and inspected Stanley’s living quarters, nodding in approval.
“Much, much better,” he murmured. “I do need to inform you, though, that you have just been given your first warning.”
“My first … what’s that, now?”
Peter sighed. “Surely you know about the warnings, Frewer.”
Stanley thought about responding, “That’s MR Frewer to you!” but wisely decided not to.
“Well of course I know about the warnings, I just don’t know why I’m getting one! I haven’t even been here a day, yet!”
Peter smirked. “I would have let you off for the untidy drawers, it’s your bad attitude that got you the warning. I’d be a bit more careful in future, if I were you.”
A very subdued Stanley somehow got through the rest of the day without adding to his warnings. Dinner was an almost military operation, lines of tidy boys queueing up at the food service bar and taking their trays to an empty seat, a roomful of boys eating in virtual silence.
Stanley felt a deep-down fear, and for some reason felt like crying. Home at that moment seemed so very far away.
The next morning was a struggle, but Stanley managed to get up at six o’clock, shower, dress neatly in the uniform provided, and make it to the first class of the day on time.
However, as the history teacher droned out endless dates and facts, Stanley could feel his eyes cross with the sheer need to sleep. He did, in fact, manage to fall asleep in the middle of World War 2, his head connecting with his desk with a loud, hollow thonk.
Bedlam ensued. Stanley rubbed his head with an agonised “ooohwAAA”, which turned the muted snickering into full-blown hysteria. Boys were holding their stomachs while tears soaked their faces, and one boy actually fell off his chair and writhed helplessly on the floor.
The red-faced teacher slapped his cane on the desk. “Warning! Warning!” he yelled, which just made things worse.
“Warning, warning,” one young lad gasped before dissolving into a series of violent giggles.
The classroom door suddenly swung open, and Principal Cutter entered the room. The laughter dried up in seconds, and boys quietly retook their seats and focused on their textbooks.
Stanley strained to hear the whispered conversation between the teacher and principal, but there was little doubt in his mind as to the subject.
Principal Cutter made his way to Stanley’s desk, and Stanley slowly raised his bruised head until he made unwelcome eye contact.
“I understand, Frewer, that you have received one warning already. Consider this your second.” Without another word, he turned and left the classroom.
Despite himself, Stanley felt a little impressed, and wondered what the record was for collecting three warnings. Because he was killing it, so far.
Lunchtime came and went, then the boys were allowed outside for an hour. Stanley gratefully sat on a bench and turned his face to the sun. It felt good on his swelling bruise.
Eric sat beside him and admired Stanley’s injury. “Rumour has it that you’ve had two warnings already,” he whispered. “Is that true?
Stanley nodded proudly. “And it’s only my second day!”
Eric groaned. “I wish you’d take this seriously, Stan. You’re gonna get yourself … vaporised!”
Stanley shrugged, growing a little tired of Eric’s crazy exaggerations.
They sat in silence for a minute, then Stanley grinned and nudged Eric. “Hey, wanna sneak away somewhere for a smoke? I’ve got half a pack stuffed in my undies.”
Eric looked appalled, although it wasn’t clear, even to Eric, whether it was because of the transgression, the idea of smoking, or the idea of smoking something that came out of Stanley’s sweaty underpants.
“No!” he whispered fiercely, looking around in terror. “Not gonna happen, Stanley. Look, you get a strike cancelled for every three months of good behaviour. Sometimes shorter if you do stuff like picking up litter, or volunteering to clean the toilets. At least get one strike cancelled before you go doing stupid stuff like smoking, huh? Please?”
Stanley sighed. He had only been teasing Eric, but now he did really feel like a smoke. Surely there must be a quiet corner somewhere! He scanned the courtyard. Were those security cameras stuck in the corners of the building eaves? Hmm. Maybe ... “Hey, do they have security cameras in the toilets? Like, that would be a breach of privacy, surely.”
Eric stood up. “You go get yourself killed if you want, Stanley, but don’t drag me down with you. Okay?” he walked off. Stanley waited half a minute and then made his way to the toilet. He didn’t actually have anything like a half pack of smokes. But then again, the cigarette wasn’t anything like a commercial cigarette ...
The tiled bathroom was cool after the noon heat outside, the air smelling unpleasantly of perfumed toilet freshener and poo. All good, though, Stanley thought. It would mask other odours.
He pulled down his pants and carefully extracted a thin joint and lighter from a special pocket sewn just under the waistband of his undies. He lit up, and took in a grateful drag, holding it in for a few seconds before streaming the fragrant smoke towards the small louvered window above the toilet tank. Oh man, that felt so gooood!
Another drag, and he felt warmly relaxed, the anxiety of the past two days finally subsiding. “You’ve got this, Stanley,” he assured himself. “Just fly under the radar, do your time. Then go home, and fly under the radar there as well.” He nodded confidently, and carefully stubbed out the joint before tucking it back into its hiding place for later. He took out some eye drops and a small spray bottle of BreathFresh from another pocket and covered the evidence of his misdeeds as best he could. Not much he could do about the sweet smell of marijuana in the toilets, but denial was usually the best defence. It was like that when I got here! Stanley snickered softly and opened the stall door.
“Aren’t you going to flush, Frewer?”
Peter Gifford and another senior boy stepped forward as Stanley cowered back into the stall. “Um, I think someone’s been smoking pot in here!” he tried bravely. “I came in and the place stank of the stuff, so now I’m leaving.” He went to march past the boys, but they effortlessly contained him, and walked him to Principal Cutter’s office.
Principal Cutter was not impressed.
“I wish I could give you TWO strikes!” he thundered, pounding his desk for emphasis. “I’ve never met someone so ... so ... so DISRESPECTFUL of this institution and its rules. Your stupid face makes me sick and I never want to see it again. You’ve got three strikes, now, boy. Be very VERY careful, or NO-ONE will ever see your stupid face again.” He sat back in his chair and swiped the sweat from his red face. “Get him out of my office.” Cutter turned and looked out the window as the boys walked Stanley out.
“Keeping an eye on you, boyo,” hissed Peter as they escorted him from the building. “Let’s see if you can manage to not screw up for a whole afternoon. Moron.”
Stanley made it to his first afternoon class with one minute to spare, his heart pounding with stress. Eric was sitting in the back corner. He didn’t look up, even when Stanley sat at the desk beside him.
The next two hours of lessons were uneventful; Stanley kept his head down and his mouth shut. Despite himself, he was starting to feel a little scared. Well, okay, a LOT scared. Surely they didn't actually exterminate schoolboys, did they? I mean, that was just insane. Wasn’t it?
By the time Assembly rolled around, Stanley’s stomach was rumbling with anxiety and probably the dope he had smoked. He clenched his buttocks together, and hoped for the best.
But by the time all the boys had assembled in the courtyard, he knew it was a losing battle.
Principle Cutter climbed the couple of stairs to the speaker’s platform, and looked over the sea of clean young faces.
A perfect silence reigned.
Stanley could feel the grumbling build up of gas, and tried desperately to contain it. “Oh God, please make him start speaking. Please make something else make a noise. Please ... oh noooo.”
Gas shrieked from Stanley’s bottom, echoing in the silence. He heard a couple of snorting giggles, and saw boys’ faces turn red with the effort of not laughing.
Stanley tried so hard not to laugh, but that made the situation worse. You could say, in fact, that it backfired. Badly!
Loud explosions clapped out with every convulsion of Stanley’s body, until he couldn’t hold anything in at either end.
He bellowed laughter as farts ripped from his body. The boys who were unlucky enough to be standing next to him fanned their faces hysterically while trying to push their way out through the densely packed boys. A minute later, Stanley was standing alone in a cloud of noxious fumes.
He noticed the “security cameras” slowing panning his way, the all-seeing eyes glowing red. His body trembled with strange ripples, like all his molecules were rubbing together. Vibrating. Warmth becoming heat.
It wasn’t long before the heat became intolerable as his body shook harder and harder. Steam erupted from his eyes, his ears, his nostrils, his mouth. His eyeballs burst and trickled down his cheeks as his insides became superheated, cooking him from the inside out.
There wasn’t much left of poor old Stanley by the time the microwave transmitters swivelled back to neutral and retracted into their casings.
Eric was the only one to shed a tear as the boys walked past the steaming pile of Stanley and went back to school.