The tables have been in that room since before I was born. Bolted to the floor in the same fixed positions. My parents would have sat at them, and they were probably old and warn then as well. Massive tables, to sit ten people around them. You could see how old the wood was now, but they hadn’t been replaced, and will probably stand until the building falls around them. Six of them in total, sitting evenly spread out in the classroom. Everything about this room looked old. The floor stank of the 1970s, and the windows let just enough light in to make it feel like the dark ages. All we have is one phone to light everything up. We have to be careful. In this science room, where countless pointless experiments have been repeated and repeated, with no real reason. I can barely remember any of them, and I still go to school here. The countless people who have sat in this room, leant on these desks, burnt things with a Bunsen, dropped a test tube, shattering it on the floor, not mixing the right amount of one thing with another. All of those mistakes, turned into funny memories. Nothing more. You could feel it in every creak of the floorboards. The room is old, and everything screams it.
It isn’t the floor, or the cupboards that won’t stay completely shut, lined up against one wall. Or the poster with the water cycle drawn all over it, that interests us both though. It’s the tables. Massive wooden tables, with chunks missing out all over the top of them. Compass marks, during bored lessons. The recent scribbles of pencil that will fade before whoever sits there rereads it. The tables are deep, with four drawers, two on each of their lengths. That’s what we are interested in. The two of us. What is in those drawers. They are locked. A little keyhole just above the handle, keeping everything out. If you pulled the handle hard enough, you could feel the pressure building, but it wouldn’t budge. I think the handle would snap off before the drawer moved anywhere. I need to know what’s in them. Or at least the one that is in front of me when I’m in class. I have sat in the same spot for two years, the back right of the room, with the left hand drawer in front of me, facing the front of the classroom. I’ve often tried to open it, just somehow feeling, knowing that there is something inside of it. I can’t explain it, but something is calling me to it.
There was one lesson where I got to move to the adjacent table, to work with the person I’m standing next to now. The drawer near him opened with ease. Inside was a still growing mound of ancient chewing gum, and little odds of paper and lost items the gum was absorbing. The smell alone, made me shut it, instantly. The odd mix of the stale half chewed mess, and the recent additions make me shudder now. But at least that one was open. What was kept in these locked ones, though. I wish I could explain why I was so desperate to know. It makes no sense, but I’m drawn to it. At first it was just a niggling feeling as my mind drifted away from whatever Mr. Tennar was saying. But as time went on, I found myself staring into space thinking about, when at home, walking to and from school, trying to sleep. It followed me around without hesitation, stalking my life until I couldn’t think about anything else. There was something in the drawer, the one I’d sat in front of three times a week for near enough two years. I knew there was, and whatever it was, it had clawed it’s way into my mind, begging me to find it. To bring it back into the light of the room.
After I found out that the drawer in front of Erin’s seat, I waited until after class. Not one other drawer opened. They all were locked. Why was that one open. Did all the others have secrets. If they did the whole class and then some would be here, right now, trying to break into the room. They’re not though, it’s just me and Erin. Who didn’t really care either way. She thought at most there would be old text or work books in there, nothing more. Perhaps dust, even more gum. I knew it had to be more. She was fed up with me, fed up with it being all I ever talked about. This obsession.
It started out, as most bad ideas in school, as a dare. She dared me to open it, I knew I couldn’t. She offered to bring in her dad’s drill, fully charged, and I’ll use it to break the lock.
“I don’t know how to drill a lock.”
“You just put the drill into it and tear it apart.”
“That’s not a good idea, it would make too much noise.”
“What about a hammer, you could pull the the drawer out, and snap the lock. It’s got to be old and can’t be a sturdy as the wood itself.”
I accepted, thinking she wouldn’t do it. That’s not something light to carry round, and it’s not something I’d want to be caught with in school. This morning though, she met me in the usual spot, with a smile on her face. The hammer was the last thing on my mind, the drawer was in there somewhere, but the drill wasn’t.
“What’s up with you?” I asked.
“You’re going into that drawer today. I’ve got the drill, and you’re doing it. We’ll go at break, after IT.”
“You didn’t seriously bring that in, did you?”
“What if someone sees it, or catches us?”
“Nobody has checked my bag before, why would they today.”
She had a point, but I didn’t feel comfortable. How could I. Something was bound to go wrong, but somehow it didn’t. The first two lessons went as normal, and then we dawdled along the corridor towards the science block. The faint scream of the playground just beyond the windows, as we walked passed. The only two people left in this part of the building.
And now I’m shoving the claw of the hammer into the gap above the drawer. There isn’t enough room for a good grip, but I don’t want to turn back now. I brace myself and pull the hammer. At first nothing. And then it breaks. Not the lock, but the front part of the drawer. The wood creaks and I fall forwards, nearly smacking my face into the table. I can hear Erin gasping behind me, half swearing, half laughing.
“Zach, I think you broke it.”
I couldn’t laugh with Erin, instead I froze. My heart beat violently, trying to push me out of the room. Maybe no one would know it was us. My legs started shaking, heat boiled up in my head, the faint sound of the playground disappeared. Not long left until someone will be in this room, trying to teach a class. Maybe they wouldn’t notice. Yeah maybe, but I really doubt it. It’s the first table in the room. Of course someone is going to notice it. Straight away. I hadn’t pulled the front of the drawer off, but I had pulled a chunk of it out, hanging off one side. It wasn’t that noticeable. Maybe I could just slot it back in, and it would be blamed on someone in the next class. I’m not going to be in here again for a couple of days so maybe that would work.
“Let me know if you find anything, I need to get to class,” Erin said, smoothly, while walking backwards to the door.
“No, you caused this.”
“Don’t blame me. I didn’t do it.”
“You told me too, you brought the hammer in.”
“I didn’t think you’d actually do it. You chose to.”
“I swear to God, you are not leaving this room without me.”
Erin stops moving and just stands still, static. I start towards the drawer and touch the hanging chunk. It’s barely hanging on. Through the hole I’d created I could see nothing.
“Pass me your phone,” I hold out my hand to Erin.
“Use your own.”
“You know I have a crap one, yours has a torch on it.”
“Yeah, get your parents to buy you a decent one.”
I hold up Erin’s phone to the hole and let the torch shine through. The hole isn’t big enough for me to see all around the drawer, but I can see something sitting in the middle. A piece of paper. Something is written on it. My hand jumps into touch it, and everything goes weird. A dream delirium.
Sitting at the teachers table, a young man. Buttoned up suit. Behind him the white board has been replaced by a black board, the ink by chalk. An ash tray in front of the young man. Cigarette in hand. One flick and the ash it at the bottom of the tray. Another drag and the room lights up. Puffs of smoke permeating towards the lone boy. Crying, cuts all over his hands. His shadow not moving in rhythm, doing its own thing.
“You can’t mess up again,” The man states.
Another flick and another drag.
“I’m sorry Sir. I can’t.”
“You’re going to be here forever. You need to stick to it. Practice and make things happen.”
“Not hard enough.” He shouts, and the room darkens.
I try moving my hand away from the paper in the drawer, but I can’t. I have no control. I’m not in the room anymore. Somehow outside. This isn’t the same room. It’s a completely different place. As if I’m looking at the room through a different tint. The boy is looking at the floor, almost in tears.
“You’re a dying breed,” The young man states. “We all are. And you can’t mess this up. If others find out about this they will not be happy. Bad things will happen to you.”
“I know, sir.”
“I hope you do. Smarten up, don’t let it happen again. And get out of here. Go to your next lesson. If I hear about anything like this again, I’ll deal with you myself.”
The boy turns to leave, and that’s when I see it. His face, completely aimed at me for the first time. I’ve seen it countless times before. Not in my house, but at my grandparents. It’s my Dad’s face. It looks identical to the picture they have in their living room. On their shelf with every child’s face in the family. He walks through me and out of the classroom.
Erin has disappeared. I’m still holing the paper, but I can move more freely. I pull it towards the hole and force it through the gap. It scrunches without resistance and then I can fully see it.
“What is it?” Erin asks.
The room is back to normal. No smoke in the air. The young man, gone. Everything back to how it normally is. My eyes are focused on Erin, but I’m not actually looking at her.
“What’s going on, you alright?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I nod. “I’m alright.”
“I don’t know. There’s something written on it.”
I hope this reaches someone.
If you are reading it, this letter has called you out.
The Eyes of the Architects are coming for you, if I haven’t succeeded.
I was called upon, but rejected their teachings. I hope I find you first.
Please seek me out before you make a decision. After they call to you, find me.
Before you make any decision. Find me
The paper was old, yellowing slightly. The writing scruffy, and rushed. It was definitely written by a child. My dad’s name is Nathan, did he write this. It definitely fits in with everything else. Erin came and stood next to me, she looked over my shoulder.
“There’s nothing there,” she said.
An icy sting shot through my body, coming from her hand on my back. I didn’t say anything, I didn’t want to sound crazy. I Just stared at the paper, at the words only I could see. Unless Erin was lying to me, maybe she could see something. I turn to face her, the hand on my back falling. There was a smile trying to hide on her face.
“Well that was worth it. Just an old piece of paper, someone probably left it there years ago, before they locked the drawer. Did you want to break the others now, or leave it?”
I shakily slotted the wood back into place, hoping no one would notice it, at least for a couple of hours. Then it could just be someone else’s problem. Another thing broken in this school, that only rumours take credit for.
“I’m going to head off now, but this was fun. Maybe next time we find something worth breaking in for,” Erin said as she backed out of the room.
I just ignored her. My best friend, but I couldn’t speak to her. I no longer felt stupid. Something happened then. Can’t explain it, but something happened. The writing, the vision.
I blank out the rest of the day, my mind fixated on that break time. I don’t think I spoke to another person for the rest of the day. I just wanted to go home and reread that message. Should I ask my dad about it. He could answer everything, but I could also just be insane. None of it makes any sense.
When he comes back from work he shouts hello and then slumps into the settee, where he will remain until dinner. I pretend to get a drink to walk through to the kitchen. Staring at him with every step. Wondering if he could help me. Did he write this letter. Should I just ignore it and move on. It was just a stupid day dream. Nothing important. Just me wanting to make something out of nothing.
Just before bed, I pull the letter out from under my mattress and unfold it. Flatten in on my desk, and start reading. Eyes of The Architects. That sounds like some kind of cult or gang. What are they. The internet tells me nothing. Well nothing that fits. If this letter is aimed at me, then they’re after me for something. What are they. Who is N. How would I seek him out. I yawn. Where has the evening gone? This is stupid. It makes no sense. Putting the letter back under the mattress I roll into bed, and let sleep take hold.