It’s tough to like your job when you’re a substitute custodian for your old high school, but it’s even tougher when said school has a hulking, undead axe murderer stalking its halls. But I guess before I get to that part-with the blood, guts and an impressively sized dick-I should pump the brakes a bit and clue you in on how I found myself in that situation.
I guess it all really comes down to one word: college. I made the mistake of thinking putting myself into $30,000 worth of student loan debt would be a good idea. I went in thinking I’d come out with a six figure job and a hot wife. I came out with a paunchy beer belly and a degree that is more useful as toilet paper than for jumpstarting a successful career.
On the bright side, the food at the college was delicious, so I guess I’m glad I was able to experience that.
I suppose this wonderful tale begins on a cool October day, outside my old stomping grounds of Horace Dovecraft High School. I walked across the front lawn of the grounds and passed the large sign that said, “Welcome to Horace Dovecraft High, Home of the Orcas!” I looked at it and shook my head, disbelieving that I was coming back to the school I graduated from four years ago under these kinds of circumstances. I looked around as the kids filed out, hooting and hollering that their day was done and that they could finally go home to smoke a bowl or twerk or whatever it is that high school kids do with their free time nowadays. I zipped up my windbreaker to the highest point, so none of them had a chance of seeing my uniform which said “Queen City School District: Maintenance and Facilities.”
I got to the front door of the main building, gave it a tug and found it locked. Of course. I pressed the intercom and waited for the secretary to answer. A group of kids stood nearby, staring at me with interest. I turned so that my back faced them to avoid any sort of awkward eye contact.
“Can I help you?” the secretary’s voice chirped through the intercom.
“Hi,” I said, clumsily trying to figure out the proper distance to put between my mouth and the intercom, “I’m here for…uh…”
I turned to see if the group of kids were still looking at me and sure enough, they were. They weren’t even conversing, as if I was a zoo exhibit that they all had arrived to examine.
Not wanting them to overhear me, I shifted closer to the intercom and said in a slight whisper, “I’m, uh, here for the second shift janitor job.”
Silence, followed by a tinny, “What? Speak up, kid.”
I cleared my throat and said louder, “I’m here for the second shift janitor job.”
“Kid, these intercoms are pieces of crap, you’re gonna have to say it a little-”
“I’M HERE FOR THE SECOND SHIFT JANITOR JOB!”
I barely realized how loudly I had shouted and my face immediately flushed with embarrassment. I looked back at the group of kids to see them solemnly shaking their heads at me. They weren’t old enough to buy cigarettes, but they were old enough to know a loser when they saw one.
“Oh,” the secretary said, the static of the intercom barely able to hide the disgust in her voice, “really? You? Okay. Uh, come on in and wait in the main office.”
I heard the click of the door being remotely unlocked and pulled it open so swiftly I’m surprised I didn’t tear it off its hinges. The school had an incline which led to a series of doors which opened to the main lobby. Hanging above the doorways was a gigantic portrait of Horace Dovecraft, the school’s namesake. His long face looked down on me with pity, as if he were thinking, “Back in this fucking place, huh?”
I passed underneath the sympathetic Dovecraft and entered the main lobby, a small square sized area with a door to the main office on the left, a door to guidance offices on the right, and multiple doors on the far side leading to the school proper.
I saw a few teachers in the lobby, chatting quietly with papers and folders in hand.I quickly walked past them so they wouldn’t notice me and went into the main office as per instructed. The office was busy, a bunch of students milling about around the front counter. I hung to the back, hoping maybe I could spend my entire 8 hour shift just hiding out there. One of the secretaries saw me and, apparently recognizing me from a grainy black and white image of a security camera at the front door by the intercom, said for the whole room to hear, “The head custodian will be down here shortly, you fucking loser.”
Okay, she didn’t say exactly that, but she might as well have. The entire room fell to a hush and heads snapped over to see who on earth would possibly want to talk to a custodian. I gave a curt nod, mumbled “Thanks” and sat down on one of the chairs.
Everybody got back to their business as I waited for the head custodian to arrive. After a few minutes of waiting, the office door opened and I saw a thin middle aged man in a uniform like mine and figured he had to be the head custodian.
He looked around, saw me sitting shamefully by myself and probably assumed from that that I was his guy.
“You Zack?” the guy asked.
I nodded, stood up and went over to him. “Yep,” I murmured.
He held out his hand and said, “Matt. I’m the head custodian on second shift. Come on, follow me.”
I followed Matt out of the office and back into the lobby. We went out of the lobby and into the main hallway of the school. The main building was shaped like a square, with the hallways surrounding a large auditorium in the center. We turned right and headed down towards the east wing of the school.
“So,” Matt said, “you from around here?”
Great. I have to make small talk now, I thought.
“Yeah,” I answered, “I actually graduated from this school.”
“Oh yeah? Just last year?”
“No. Uh, four years ago.”
Matt’s eyes widened and he gave a chortle of disbelief.
“Four years. What the hell you coming back for after all that time? Did you try college?”
Oh God, no please don’t ask about that.
“Yeah,” I said, trying to not break down in tears, “I graduated from college too. Just nothing out there, you know. In terms of jobs, I mean.”
Matt gave a knowing nod and said, “I hear ya. I tried college. Didn’t work out. Christ, that was ages ago. Wish I could go back in time and smack the god damned joint out of my hand and tell myself to straighten up. Yanno?”
“Yeah, totally. Weed and stuff,” I said, not sure how to respond.
We turned down the east wing hallway and he led me towards the back door of the school, where he took me out to the back courtyard. The courtyard was a long stretch of macadam that led to the gymnasium. A few basketball courts dotted the landscape between the main building and the gym. The courtyard was also a popular spot for cool, hip kids to come and smoke in between classes, earning it the nickname “Cancer Court.” It was also the place I reached second base with Samantha Hanks in the 10th grade, in case you were interested.
Matt led me towards the other side of Cancer Court, where a small, stout brick house stood. I then remembered that in my high school career I often saw custodians coming in and out of this brick house and realized this must be the break area for them. Then I realized, with horror, it wasn’t the break area for just them but the break area for me as well. I was one of their kind, now.
The brick house was a about fifty feet away from the gym, which was surrounded by caution tape. I guessed the gym was either being renovated or was now a crime scene, both of which were equally as likely.
Matt must have seen me eyeballing the caution tape and he said, “Floor is being replaced. It’s been a bitch, seems like they’ve been working on it for over a year.”
We got to the brick house, opened up a creaky wooden door and stepped inside. I was instantly hit by a pungent odor, a mixture of cigarette smoke, bleach and what I assumed was the smell of shame. A long wooden table stood in the middle of the squat building, surrounded by a motley assortment of custodians.
“Time to meet the crew,” Matt said with a grin, “Guys, this is Zack.”
“Fresh meat!” I heard one of them excitedly squeak. I wasn’t sure how to react to that, although “run outside, screaming for help” was towards the top of the list of options.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly.
Matt then went around the table and introduced the others:
Charles (“How are you?” he said) , a portly middle aged guy with huge coke bottle glasses and a bushy mustache. When he said hello, I could tell from his high pitched voice that he was the one who referred to me as “fresh meat” and made a mental note to not be in a room alone with him.
Lauren (“Nice to meet you, hon”) , a slightly heavyset woman in her early fifties.
Wyatt (“Howdy”) , a thin, lanky guy with a long pony tail and a southern drawl thick enough to club someone with.
And lastly was, Darnelle, who was actually a familiar face. He was a young black kid who was a grade below me in high school and we actually took a class on Greek mythology together. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me.
“That’s Darny,” Matt said, pointing to him when he introduced.
“Darnelle, man. Just call me Darnelle,” Darnelle said. It appeared to be some sort of inside joke among them because everyone bust out laughing as I stood there, forcing a few chuckles to not seem out of the loop.
“And lastly is Oswald,” Matt continued, wiping a laughter induced tear away from his cheek, “but he’s already in his section.”
“Section?” I asked.
Matt nodded. “Yep,” he said, “everyone gets their own floor of the school and you just stick to that. You handle all the bathrooms, classrooms and trash on that floor. It’s kind of a work at your own pace job, so it’s not too bad. Especially for a college kid.” He gave me a playful nudge as I heard a few gasps.
“You went to college?” Charles asked, his already magnified eyes widening to the size of tennis balls.
“Yeah,” I said, my face flushing again, “have an English degree.”
Charles shook his head in awe, as if I just said I recreated the Sistine Chapel and used my buttcheeks to hold the paint brush instead of my hand.
“Cool shit, man,” Darnelle said. I still didn’t know whether or not he recognized me as a fellow Dovecraft alum, and that didn’t honestly help to clue me in at all.
“My sons went to college,” Lauren said, “and they’re still paying for their student loans. I feel for you, dear.”
I gave a mournful nod of agreement. Seconds later, Matt sat me down at the table and gave me a time sheet. He ran down how to fill it out, because I guess he’s used to training people who don’t know how to write numbers. After we sorted out that complex business, he said it was time to show me my section.
“Let’s go Zack,” he said, leading me out of the brick house, “and as for the rest of you, what do you think you’re getting paid for? To sit on your asses? Let’s get to it!”
“They pay us?” Charles said, giving a chuckle.
I groaned inwardly. I could tell I was among some very witty people.
Matt took me back to the main building, explaining a few things on the way.
“As I said, everybody gets their own section,” he said, as we crossed the threshold back into the school, “Darny, Lauren and Wyatt are all in the Monroe Building.”
The Monroe Building was a separate building connected to the Main building via an enclosed bridge. The building was called such because it was on Monroe Street.
“Here in the Main building, Oswald is in the basement level, I’m on the 1st floor, Charles is on the 2nd and you will be on the 3rd. You’re going to be filling in for Joe, who’s on workman’s comp at the moment.”
“Gotcha,” I said, nodding along, wondering if my 8 hour shift was almost done yet.
We went into a stairwell at the far end of the east wing and trudged up towards the 3rd floor as Matt gave me the basics of the job.
“Get the trash first, then do your bathrooms. Bathrooms are simple. Clean the toilets with a johnny mop, the mirrors and sinks with some glass cleaner and then mop up the floor with number 5 disinfectant.”
I only understood about half those words but I nodded in understanding anyway.
“After that,” he continued as we reached the 3rd floor landing, “you do your classrooms. Sweep underneath the desks, vacuum any carpets and rugs.”
We were on the 3rd floor and were heading down the front side of the building when I saw something that made my stomach drop: Mr. Randall.
Mr. Randall was my 11th grad Enlighs teacher and my favorite teacher in high school. He used to have a lot of creative writing based assignments, which I usually excelled at. I remember him telling teachers who walked into the classroom that I had a bright future.
“See him?” he would say, pointing at me, “that’s Zack Quinton. By the time he’s 24, he’s going to have 3 successful novels published. Sharp, sharp kid.”
I would usually fidget and shrug it off as I find compliments like that awkward to accept. I am a pretty awesome dude, but I try to stay humble, yanno.
I hoped to God he wouldn’t recognize me in my janitor uniform, even though we constantly kept in touch via e-mail over my entire college career.
He was sifting through a manila envelope, looking for a paper or something. I thought Matt and I would be able to walk by him without him noticing but, as if he could smell embarrassment, he abruptly looked up and straight into my eyes.
“Whoa! What the hell is this? Zack Quinton!”
My stomach dropped all the way to China and considered playing this off like I wasn’t Zack Quinton, even though my uniform clearly said “Zack” in curvy letters.
Matt looked between us and said, “Ah, former student here, Mr. R.?”
“Not just a former student,” Randall said, reaching out for my hand, “one of the best former students. You know about this kid, Matt? By the time he’s 24, he’s going to have a successful novel published, I guarantee it.”
Okay, maybe I exaggerated a bit with the three novels up above. But, still, you get the point.
I reluctantly shook Randall’s hand and murmured a “Hello.”
“Speaking of which,” Randall continued, eyeing up my uniform, “what is this all about? Researching for a book?”
“I wish,” I said with a forced laugh, “I, uh, just am working.”
“Working?” Randall said, disbelieving.
“Yep,” Matt confirmed with a slap to my back, “Zack is the newest member of the Dovecraft Custodial Staff.”
“I see,” Randall said, his upper lip curling a bit, “Well, that’s interesting. Nothing out there for you, Zack?”
“No,” I said tersely.
“Absolutely nothing?” Randall asked again.
“No, Mr. Randall. No.”
“Huh,” he commented, looking at his watch, “oh shit, look at the time. I gotta get going. I’ll see ya guys later. Good luck Zack with…everything.”
He gave a short nod and continued down the hallway, leaving Matt and I to continue our trek to whatever Hell the rest of the day had in store for me. We got to the end of the hallway where there was a lone wooden door at the corner. Matt pulled out a massive ring of keys that looked like he mugged off a medieval dungeon keeper and rifled through them.
“Here we go,” he said, finding the key and putting it in the hole. He unlocked the door and opened it with a firm tug. I looked inside and saw the horror within.
It was a dank, cramped closet with a waist high sink filled with all sorts of mold and mysterious colors that I honestly didn’t know existed. There was a strong, musky scent that rushed out like a tidal wave.
“This here,” Matt said, gesturing towards the closet like Vanna White showing a letter on Wheel of Fortune, “is your home away from home. The slop sink. Here you’ll find all your chemicals, your mop bucket, your johnny mop, some spray bottles and, if you’re lucky, some rubber gloves so you don’t have to clean the shit barehanded.”
I waited for a laugh to reveal that that was a joke on his part, but it never came.
“Now, you’re gonna need a set of keys.” He dug into another set of pockets and fished out a new, smaller set of keys. He ended them to me and said, “The key marked ‘A’ is the masterkey. Will open up every door in the building.”
I found the A key on the ring and nodded. He then explained a few more things, such as where my trash barrel was, what chemical worked best on toilets and that I should change the water in the mop bucket after every bathroom I do. Just normal stuff that every person should know when they find themselves working as a custodian for eight bucks an hour.
“Okay then,” he said at long last with a clap of his hands, “that’s about all for now. You can get to work. Remember, I’m on the first floor if you need me. And if you don’t find me, you might run into Oswald at some point. Uh, be careful with him though.”
“Huh?” I asked.
“He’s got this lazy eye, it’s really freaky looking and he’s sensitive about it so don’t go pointing it out or staring at it. He will notice.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
“Good!” he concluded with another slap on my back, “See ya around. Take lunch whenever you get hungry, we don’t have any strict rules about that around here. Have fun!”
“Will do,” I mumbled hopelessly, trying to hold back the vomit from the slop sink smell.
I heard his footsteps echo down the suddenly lonely and desolate hallway. I peered into the slop sink, moaned and looked at my cell phone to check the time. 3:12. My shift ended at 10:45. It was going to be a long day.
Around 5:45, after two and a half hours of moving trash from one can into another can, spraying toilets with dangerous disinfectant and clumsily mopping bathroom floors, I decided it was time to take my lunch. Or dinner, I guess. Whatever it would be considered at that time of day.
I didn’t bring a lunch so I was going to have go out and pick something up. I didn’t know the protocol for leaving the building, so I figured I’d find Matt and let him know. I didn’t find him after making a few laps on the first floor so I went to the brick house to check there.
I got inside and found Matt and Wyatt sitting at the table, Matt picking through a sleeve of crackers while Wyatt was leafing through what looked like a hunting magazine.
“Hey Matt,” I asked, “is it cool if I go out and pick something up for lunch.”
“Why not?” he replied, “It’s your time, do what you want.”
“Where y’all gonna go?” Wyatt asked curiously, his eyes never leaving his magazine pages.
Oh God, please no, don’t ask to come with me.
“Uh, Taco Bell, I think.”
Wyatt’s eyes darted up from the magazine and looked into mine, widening with elation.
“I love that there shit! Count me in, partner!”
Fuck fuck fuck no fuck
“Uh, shit!” I said, giving a fake snap of my fingers, “You know what! I forgot, my mom has some leftovers. I think I’ll just go home and pick them up.”
“Well shit,” Wyatt said with a playful shrug, “what she make? Mind if I come with?”
Are you fucking kidding me?
“Ha!” He laughed, his laugh sounding oddly like a duck’s quack, “just kidding!”
Oh. I breathed a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t have to go out in public with another janitor, or, worse, be forced to make conversation with one.
I left the brick house and started walking towards the nearest McDonald’s. I know I told Wyatt I was going home, but that was a lie, and since I already told him I wasn’t going to Taco Bell, I didn’t want to go there and possibly run into him in case he decided to satisfy his craving by himself.
It isn’t an easy life when you’re as neurotic as I am.
I got to the McDonald’s, which was only like two and a half blocks away from the school because it is impossible to be more than two and a half blocks away from any McDonald’s. I didn’t want to look like a loser eating my food alone at the restaurant, so I headed back to the school to eat alone there.
I couldn’t eat at the brick house because Wyatt was there and he would see that I wasn’t eating leftovers, unless he assumed my mom is Ronald McDonald. I knew where the teacher’s lounge was, though, so I decided to head there to eat.
The teacher’s lounge was a comfy little room in the basement with a few round tables for the teachers to dine at. I was sitting there, eating my disgustingly greasy Big Mac, skimming the bulletin board on the wall that I was facing. There were various news clippings, job postings, a few comic strips cut out of a Sunday newspaper but the thing that caught my eye was a pamphlet titled “The Origins of Domino.”
Domino was the name of the orca whale mascot for Dovecraft High School. He was a cartoony looking whale who tried to look mean and menacing with a perpetual frown. He was on the cover of the pamphlet, which looked like it was a student project from some computer education class. I plucked the brochure off its thumbtack and looked through it. It was fairly interesting, highlighting all the different designs Domino went through over the years, kids who donned the Domino costume at sporting events and also why Dovecraft’s mascot was an orca to begin with. It said:
Do you know why Domino is an Orca?
Good question, reader! As you may know, Dovecraft High School’s cross city rival is Edward Poe High, whose mascot is a shark. Dovecraft High, not to be outdone by their rival, decided to pick a mascot that represented the ultimate threat to a shark: the orca whale. The orca whales are the apex predator of the ocean and one of the very few natural predators of the shark. Take that, Poe!
I gave a nostalgic smile and put the pamphlet back on the bulletin board when something else caught my eye. Right next to the pamphlet was a newspaper clipping, a section cut from the Weddings section. The title of the blurb was “Washington-Hart” and I saw the picture. Standing next to a pudgy looking guy was my 12th grade anatomy teacher, Miss Hart.
I read the article and confirmed what I feared. Miss Hart had been made an honest woman. Her husband was a guy by the name of Earl Washington, some schlub who worked for a welding company. Big whoop, I thought, anybody can weld.
I thought back to my days with Miss Hart. What a hottie she was. Smooth hair the color of honey pulled back in a ponytail by a purple scrunchie. Legs that went for miles, ending in some leather stiletto boots. She was young too, fresh out of college. My class was her very first. I remember all the jokes we would make under our breath, such as how we enjoyed learning the theory of anatomy with her but that we would have loved the practice of it even more. We were young and stupid, but we thought we were brilliantly witty at the time.
I was unreasonable angry at this news, especially since Earl Washington didn’t even look all that attractive. Hell, I thought I was better looking. With my Big Mac still in hand, I drifted off into a day dream about me running into Miss Hart.
“Oh my God,” she said as I entered her room on my beautiful white horse, “it’s Zack Quinton! You’ve come back!”
“Indeed, my fair beauty,” I said, feeding my noble steed a freshly grown apple from one of my orchards, “I have returned to take you for my own. Would you find it agreeable to court someone such as me?”
I reached down to pull her up on the horse but she obstinately shook her head.
“No, no, I can’t! My husband would never!”
“Husband!” I said as I signed a check for a million dollars to give to charity, “you have been taken from my grasp, then! I am most apologetic, I hope he makes you very happy.”
“No, he doesn’t, Zack, not a bit! He is an ogre of a man, rude and oafish. In fact, I think I can smell him coming now!”
I turned and saw a lumpy, doughy man lurch into the room. He had a long, greasy beard and what looked like a mere three teeth in his mouth. He was sucking on a long bone, which he tossed away as he entered the room.
He smacked his lips, gave a belch and said, “My pathetic wife! You were late to sex my cock tonight!”
“Oh Earl,” Miss Hart said, bawling her eyes out, “I am so sorry to have displeased you! Please, forgive me!”
“Perhaps!” Earl growled, followed by him launching a snot rocket into the ground, “but first, who is this unwelcome, though admittedly handsome, man on this horse!”
“I am Zack Quinton,” I said, unsheathing my sword, “and I am here to end your reign over the lovely Miss Hart!”
“Ha! We shall see about that! Also, fuck kittens.” Earl punted a wandering kitten across the room and gave a hearty laugh.
“He is evil incarnate,” Miss Hart said, “destroy him, Zack, for me. For us!”
I raised my sword and charged towards Earl, as he brandished a rusty dagger and-
CRASH, THUNK, THUNK.
I was brought out of my reverie by a loud noise from outside in the hallway. It sounded like someone knocked over a bookshelf or something, the sound of wood splintering and heavy thuds as objects fell to the floor. I jumped in my seat and nearly crushed the rest of my burger in surprise.
I set my burger down on a bed of fries, slowly got up from the chair and inched towards the door to the lounge, wondering if I should go out and investigate when-
More thuds, like someone was throwing medicine balls on the floor. I gulped and reached for the door handle. I slowly opened it as it let out an impossibly loud creak. I poked my head out and realized there was a new sound. A throaty wheezing, almost like a bullfrog with asthma. I looked down the hallway and saw around the corner a thick, reddish liquid pooling on the floor. I considered hiding out in the teacher’s lounge until the end of my shift, or maybe even for the rest of the week, but I knew that wouldn’t be a viable option. So, despite the butterflies in my stomach telling me to just stay put, I crept out of the lounge and headed for the corner where the wheezing and blood (?) was coming from.
It was probably only about fifty feet but if felt like a five mile walk as I tip toed towards the corner. The wheezing grew louder and louder as I got closer. There was a low rumble of a cough and the wheezing stopped. I froze in my tracks, about ten feet away from the corner. I was able to more closely examine the red liquid and saw it was gooey, kind of like a syrup of some kind. Abruptly, the wheezing kicked back in, this time merely feet away as if the source of it was right around the corner.
I was so taken aback by the new, much closer proximity of the wheezing that I tried to turn around and head back to the lounge, but stumbled on my feet. I fell to the ground, bracing my fall with hands. My wrists screamed in protest as it tried to maintain all 130-170 pounds (I’m not telling you my actual weight, asshole) of me.
I stared at the concrete floor of the hallway and heard the wheezing above me, as the source of it was now towering behind me. I closed my eyes, expecting to get stabbed or sodomized or something equally unsavory.
Instead, I got a delicate tap on the back.
“Hey,” I heard a raspy voice say.
I didn’t turn around right away, suspecting this was some sort of trap.
“Hey. Hey kid. You okay?”
I finally decided to turn and face my surprisingly polite doom. I looked up and saw a short, stocky guy with a receding hair line and-
“Oh Jesus,” I said uncontrollably.
-the most fucked up lazy eye I’d ever seen. While the one eye looked down at me with concern, the other was hanging around towards the top left of the eye, as if it were trying to check out if one of the hallway’s light bulbs needed changing.
“What’s the matter?” the man, who I assumed was Oswald, asked.
“Nothing, nothing. Just, uh,” I stalled, trying to think of something.
“It’s my eye isn’t?” Oswald said, looking cresfallen.
“What? Eye? What eye? No, not at all, man, your eyes are…definitely eyes…”
Oswald shook his head and said pathetically, “I know it’s scary looking, but I can’t help it! You think I enjoy it?”
I heard his voice quiver as tears started to form and I realized I had never been in a situation that went from pants shittingly scary to squirm inducingly awkward in such a quick amount of time.
“It’s okay, man,” I said, getting up off my knees, “really.”
Oswald nodded and wiped an errant tear off his cheek.
“Anyway,” he said, clearing his throat, “sorry if I made too much noise. The shelf in my slop sink fell and it broke the shelf beneath it and it’s just a huge mess.”
I followed him around the corner where I saw the door to his slop sink closet open and its contents spilled out like as if the closet itself vomited them out. Two shelves lay on the floor, both broken in half as bottles of chemicals were turned on their sides. I saw the source of the red liquid as a trail of it led to a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner.
“Need some help cleaning this up?” I asked as Oswald leaned down to start tidying up the mess.
“Nah,” he said, rounding up the busted bottles of chemicals, “it’ll help the time go by. By the way, I’m Oswald.”
“Yeah, I know,” I said.
“How?” Oswald then gasped. “They mentioned my lazy eye, didn’t they.”
His bottom lip trembled and I, thinking on my feet said, “No, your uniform, man.”
Oswald looked at his uniform where the name tag said ‘Oswald’. He chuckled.
“Of course, of course,” he said smiling, “and you are Zack!” He pointed at my uniform and laughed in delight at his ability to read.
I couldn’t believe it, but this guy was making me itch to get back to work.
“That’s right, I’m Zack,” I said, “and right now, I need to get back to my floor.”
“Are you on Joe’s section?” he inquired, “3rd floor Main?”
I nodded and he gave me a pitying look. Or at least his right eye did, his left eye was checking out the ceiling tiles.
“Tough luck kid,” he said ominously.
“Why?” I asked, suddenly curious.
Oswald just shook his head and said, “Have a good night.”
He went back to cleaning up his slop sink, leaving me to head back to the teacher’s lounge with an uneasy feeling. Tough luck? How? I mean, the stairs are a bitch to climb, but I’m young, I can handle it. Do the teachers bitch a lot?
I kept mulling this over as I went into the lounge to wrap up the rest of my lunch and put it in the fridge when I saw it was no longer on the table. The burger wrapper was completely bare, no Big Mac or fries in sight. I looked around the table and under it.
“The fuck?” I breathed, looking around for large mouse with ketchup all over its whiskers. I circled around, looking in the general area when the bulletin board caught my eye and I suddenly knew what happened to my meal.
The half eaten Bic Mac had been disassembled and, along with the rest of my fries, were pinned up on the bulletin board separately to create a meticulously crafted frowny face. The face was basic in its construction, just a circle with two eyes and a frowning expression but it was very clear what it was. I looked in awe as the two pickles formed the eyes, the fries were bent and arched to form the circle and chunks of burger meat, lettuce and tomato were making the face frown.
I quickly poked my head out the doorway and looked down the hallway to see if I could see anybody around. Maybe someone had sneaked inside while I was investigating Oswald’s mess and I would see them peeking around to see my reaction. Nobody. Just an empty hallway with the faint wheezing from Oswald up around the bend. Surely this was just some case of rookie hazing on the part of Matt and the crew. Or Wyatt! That southern bastard probably tailed me all the way to McDonald’s and back to the teacher’s lounge and was expressing his disappointment in me through some fast food art.
I brought my head back in and looked at the disconcerting frowny face. I swiftly began pulling the thumbtacks off, letting the ingredients fall to the floor. After the bulletin board was devoid of the portrait, I cleaned up the floor and threw everything away. Then I hauled ass out of the lounge and back up to the 3rd floor to get my mind on work and off of whatever the hell I had just experienced.
I went through the night, convincing myself over and over again that it was just a prank. I would go back to the brick house tonight to see a jovial Matt laughing it up with the rest of the janitors. Yep, that’s what would happen. Over and over, I told myself that.
When the time came to head back to the brick house and clock out, there was no laughing. No subtle nods towards a prank. Just some muted small talk about the day’s work. I considered bringing it up but figured it was best to just try and forget the event ever happened.
“Well, it’s that time again,” Matt said around 10:45, “head on home. See you all tomorrow. Good first day, Zack.”
All I could do is nod and power walk off the school grounds. I got home to the comfort of my own house and hoped that nothing weird would happen the next day.
Something weird happened the next day. Like even weirder than Frowny McBurger Face.
I was cleaning the men’s bathroom, squirting disinfectant all over the toilet bowls. The bathrooms all had sinks equipped with motion sensor based faucets, because we have gotten to lazy as a species to twist a knob to turn our water on. So when I would walk by, sometimes the sink would turn on before turning back off a few seconds later.
Therefore, I found nothing strange when I walked by a sink and heard it turn on. But as I stood in front of the stall, blasting the shit out of my disinfectant bottle at the toilet, I heard another sink turn on. I turned to see two sinks going full blast. Then another turned on. And another. And finally, the fifth and final sink started pouring out water and I suddenly realized this probably wasn’t normal.
I went over to the sinks and waved frantically in front of the motion sensor as this sometimes work with turning them off. No dice, though. The sinks just kept flowing and flowing and I worried they would start flooding if they stayed on long enough.
That’s when the water turned into blood.
I didn’t even notice the transformation as it was instantaneous. I blinked and suddenly the water was thick, maroon blood pouring out like a fountain of…well, uh, thick maroon blood. I leaned in, holding my hand over my mouth incredulously. The shiny porcelain of the sinks started to stain with the red blood and I began to panic, wondering how I was going to explain this to Matt. I spun on my heel and rushed to get out of the bathroom and down to the 1st floor when the faucets stopped simultaneously.
I stopped, sliding a bit on the tile floor as I did. I turned to the sinks and saw they not only had stopped pouring blood but the sinks were squeaky clean. The stains I had seen earlier? Nonexistant. I took a gloved finger and rubbed the inside of the sinks, checking the glove for any substance. Nothing.
I shook my head, trying to jog the crazy out of it.
Feeling helpless, I figured the only thing I could do was do what I did the previous night and focus on my work, trying to keep my mind on other things. I had been under a lot of stress, so I thought maybe, just maybe I was seeing shit. I made a mental note to check Wikipedia to see if hallucinations was a symptom of stress or maybe a result of being a janitor.
I finished my shift without incident and hoped that the next day would bring some normalcy.
The next day did not bring normalcy. In fact, it brought the most shit crazy thing yet, quite literally.
This time I was about to start cleaning the woman’s bathroom on the 3rd floor. I wasn’t too excited as I had been forced to fish a bloody pad out of a toilet with nothing but a wire hanger the day before (according to Matt, the wire hanger was “the best thing for the job”). I went in hoping there wasn’t another pad to dispose of and instead got something much worse.
I knocked on the door to make sure there were no stragglers from any evening school programs that I may not have heard about and, hearing no response, walked in. I instantly was brought to a standstill as I saw what had been left for me.
On the wall directly opposite the door, right next to the first stall was a message written completely in shit. The message was as such:
THE END IS NIGH. I AM COMING FOR YOU ALL.
I promptly turned around and ran around the school screaming for Matt.
I finally found him vacuuming the main office.
“Matt! Matt!” I yelled, knocking on the office door. I quickly reached down to get my keys to unlock the door myself but was shaking so much that they popped right out of my hands and on the floor. I tried to pick them back up but my tremors prevented me from doing so, and was hopelessly trying to grab them like a dolphin trying to pick up individual marbles with its flippers.
The door opened and Matt stood there, a befuddled look on his face.
“Zack? Everything okay?”
I couldn’t talk. Just shook my head, sweat pouring down my forehead.
“What’s wrong?” He put a comforting hand on my shoulder and I did my best to respond.
“Bathroom shit wall scary,” I stammered out.
Believe it or not, that was the best I could do.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand you,” Matt said, raising an eyebrow.
I authoritatively picked up my keys, turned and headed towards the stairwell to take him up to the 3rd floor.
“Zack?” Matt called, not picking up that I obviously intended for him to follow me.
“I’ll show you,” I said and I heard him rushing to come up beside me.
I took him up to the bathroom and showed him the fecal death threat. Surprisingly he seemed more impressed than scared.
“Wow,” he said, “I’m surprised they know how to spell ‘nigh’.”
I couldn’t believe my ears.
“WHAT?” I snapped, “There is a message written in shit telling us that something is coming our way, and you are complimenting their spelling?”
Matt laughed and shook his head.
“Oh, Zack, give it time. You’ll see enough crazy things and learn that nothing will faze you.”
I chortled, unable to comprehend this kind of reaction.
“So you’ve seen something like this?” I asked, gesturing towards the message.
“Well, there was this one time when Taco Bell had that five buck meal box deal and there were some pretty grisly bathroom scenes.”
“I was actually talking about the death threat part.”
“What? Oh, that. Nope, that’s new.”
I shook my head and stared at the words as the shit started to drip down, giving the message a streaky and even more ominous look. I felt a reassuring slap on my back and Matt said, “Take it easy, Zack. As I said, you’ll see a lot of wild things on this job. You’ll have plenty of stories to tell the grandkids, I guarantee it. Starting with this.”
He wished me luck on cleaning the mess and left me alone in the bathroom. I could taste bile in my mouth, both from disgust and a tangible sense of fear. Everything, from the Big Mac face to the blood sinks and now this, were combining to give me an incredibly unsettled feeling. I’m not one to believe in the supernatural, but I knew something wasn’t right and I couldn’t imagine how it could get worse.
Hint: It would get worse. A lot fucking worse.