Eugene Reese, Mist Valley High School’s principal, only wanted one thing: an explanation. What the hell happened to the school library? Rather, what the hell happened in the school library? Reese personally surveyed the damage and surmised it was less an act of vandalism and more a force of nature. Mist Valley’s local hoodlums couldn’t have performed the impressive acts of destruction Reese found after Chai the janitor called him in at 2:55 am. Four shelves in the YA fiction section were toppled over. Shredded book confetti was sprinkled on top like snowfall.
A month later, Reese learned about the auxiliary gym while prepping the library’s insurance paperwork for the district’s superintendent. It was another later night at home, hours after Julianne had passed out on the couch. Reese’s cell phone rang, buzzed, and flashed on the kitchen table. It was Juan, Mist Valley High’s other janitor.
One of the basketball hoops was torn from the rafters and lay shattered on the ground. There was a hole in the roof the size of Reese’s minivan. Three deep scrapes undulated through the waxed wood. Something sharp and heavy was dragged along the ground. Reese saw the stars in the night sky through the warped metal and exposed wires.
“Maybe it’s the full moon,” Julianne told him a couple weeks later. Her eyes fluttered as she fought to stay awake. “Crazy stuff always happens on nights like this.” She lasted fifteen minutes into Game of Thrones. Reese never cared for the program. Too fantastical with all those dragons and snow zombies. Give him a hearty slice of police procedural instead.
With the episode on mute, an uneasy silence settled into their house. Reese’s exhausted and slippery mind drifted away from the Addendum G of the school district’s infamous Form 72-B. It was the most tedious Addendum to the most tedious to Form. Somehow, Reese got saddled with it more than anyone else. He put the pen down and rubbed his eyes. Julianne couldn’t be right about the full moon, he thought.
But what if she was?
The night sky was bright enough that Reese didn’t need headlights to get down the driveway. His minivan joined one other car in the school’s parking lot—Chai’s. Reese had to let Juan go after the two incidents ate through the school district’s emergency savings. Inside, the dark hallways were quiet. Good sign. Patches of silver moonlight poured in through the tall windows. Reese turned left at the front trophy case toward the science wing. He passed the A/V club on his right. Locked up tight. The library entrance was still decorated with loud yellow caution tape from two months ago. He told himself he was acting crazy. If Julianne woke up and he wasn’t home, he’d never hear the end of it. And he still had to finish multiple subsections of the Addendum G before the fiscal month ended.
Chai was inside out. Well. His body was inside out. Reese couldn’t describe it any other way. The tiny Vietnamese custodian was pinned, upside-down, against the 1300 row of lockers. The gory scene didn’t smell. Had to be recent. Reese patted his sweatpants pocket for his cell phone. Then he remembered he left the damn thing in the car. He was already tabulating the alphabet’s worth of Addendums the accident was going to require. Reese worked up the nerve to get Chai’s corpse down.
Then, he heard voices.
“Hello,” he called. The voices got closer. “Show yourselves.”
Two boys and a girl swung around the corner from the science wing. They were children. Students. His students. The taller and skinnier of the two boys noticed Reese first. “Principal Reese?”
Reese recognized both of them but not the girl. “Alistair Williams. You have a lot of explaining to do.”
“I’ll tell you everything. Later.” Alistair said.
“This instant, young man.”
The enigmatic girl peeked around the corner. “Ally,” she said. Her voice hiked an octave on the second syllable.
“Principal Reese, you’re in crazy danger right now,” Alistair said.
“What happened to Chai?” Reese asked.
“A capra got him.”
“Too late, Ally,” the girl said.
“Too late for—” thundering footsteps cut Reese off. They echoed down the hall, the same one the kids emerged from moments earlier.
“Damn it,” Alistair said. He drew a two-handed sword from a scabbard on his back.
“Trespassing on school property? With weapons? You’re all in big trouble,” Reese said.
“Keira, can you shut him up?” Alistair asked.
“You watch your mouth—”
Keira traced a symbol in the air. The tattoo on the back of her hand glowed an eerie shade of red. Reese felt a tingling sensation on his face. He realized his lips were fusing together. He tried to shout, but the sound was only a muffled yelp. This was a problem because Reese wanted to scream when he saw what was chasing the kids. The monstrosity was easily twenty feet tall with the top three devoted to a pair of gnarled goat-like horns that scraped the ceiling. Its body was lean and muscular, with cloven hooves and clawed hands.
“Hmhp hm hmph?” Reese asked.
Alistair swung the blade in his hand. “Hey!” Its vertical pupils narrowed as it sniffed the air. The floor shook as it roared. “Stay behind us, Principal Reese.” Alistair leapt at the beast, sword raised, his legs carrying him higher than humanly possible. The creature swatted him out of the air. He careened head over feet into a bank of lockers.
Principal Reese turned and ran. He made it five steps before one of the monster’s horns burst through his ribcage. His feet lifted off the ground. Then the bleeding started and his eyes fluttered like sleepy Julianne’s. As Principle Reese’s life slipped away, he thought about magical teenagers. He thought about goat demons. He thought about the unfinished Addendum G sitting on his kitchen table. He wondered who was going to sign off on this one.
Neil Floyd is a writer and musician living in Philadelphia. Most recently, his fiction has appeared on 365 Tomorrows and he’s currently finishing up his debut novel. Neil can be found online at www.neilfloyd.net and on Twitter @neiltfloyd.