Running. Mischief. I ran down the hallway making remarkably little sound. The green tile floor of the school was straight out of 1973. It raced by under my feet and I ran my hand along the painted cinder block walls. It was dark. It was early morning.
I knew that very shortly, the five AM students would arrive for their swim classes. So, I hurried down this hall towards the double doors at the end. Behind me, Gary made his way in the same sort of silence, though at a more cautious pace.
Vanishing through those doors, I hung a right and kept going until I came upon the locker room opening. This was an old school and the locker rooms had no doors, just that wide open entryway that you had to walk into and then turn a corner.
It was dark in here too. This locker room was familiar to me. Though its layout was convoluted and not well thought out. Shower rooms were seemingly randomly placed inside rooms and throughout the twisting center walkway where the lockers themselves stood.
I quickly wound my way through them all until I came out the other end through the same sort of door as I came in through. The pool was still. The moon still shown through the skylight windows that were aligned some 30 feet up the walls. It cast a gentle light on the water.
I raced along past the ‘no running’ sign and made my way up the handicap ramp, grabbing the green painted metal rail as I went. I reached the registration booth which now stood empty, but the gate was left open. I stopped to wait for Gary.
But I began to have trouble breathing. It was such that I needed to sit. I dropped to my knees instead and found that my arms had stretched themselves out as though I was going to embrace someone. My breathing became more like a throaty gargle, and I struggled for air. Moments went by like this.
But soon I felt something change inside my chest and the gargling sound stopped. It was replaced by a hissing sound like that of a snake. I could hear it echoing off the cinder block walls. But it wasn’t just my breath. I heard the distinct sound of another. I held my breath and the hissing continued. I snuck down and placed myself along the inside wall of the wheelchair ramp. In this position, I could see the person walking up, but they would have to look over the rail to see me.
Gary walked into view and made for the ramp. He was hissing and slightly hunched over as though he had been out of breath. He walked up and just leaned himself on the upper rail, overlooking the pool. So much for hiding. He was in plain sight.
Our hissing sounds continued to create an uncomfortable ambience in the pool until we spotted Sam and her two classmates. They marched up the walkway and stood at the registration booth. After a short while, Sam walked forward towards the rail where Gary stood. She walked up right beside him but did not even notice him. She peered around the pool as though she were looking for something. I assume it was that hissing sound.
I had to crane my head out to see her as she was directly above me. It was then that the moonlight struck her face, and I could see that her front teeth were very flat and almost indented. She almost didn’t look like herself. She opened her mouth in a sort of smile as she kept looking about. Suddenly she looked right at me. I froze. So did she. It was a long moment where it seemed that everything was still save for Gary’s hissing. Yet… there was no light of recognition in her eyes. In fact, I don’t think she even saw me.
I slid down the wall and sat on the floor. What was I? What was Gary? Come to think of it, Gary did not seem me either. Could he see Sam? She did not see him. Why could I see them both.
Sam turned and resumed her spot at the booth, while I sat and wondered what sort of Shade I had become.