Skill Focus: Literary Texts
Episode #7: 7th Grade Wing
“Zolivia!” Morgan and Arty run to where she stands as sentry. “Look what we found!”
Morgan is holding a warm print out of the online article in outstretched hands. Arty tries to leap ahead to pass the Pearland Historical Society article to her first. Zolivia scans each briefly.
“So which one is it?” she puzzles. “Which one is the founder?”
“The Count!” Morgan exclaims. “The Count started Pearland. The Count is the dude riding the black stallion in the statue. The Count is the ghost who attacked us backstage!”
Arty bites his tongue. When Morgan gets wound up like this, it’s hard to jump in and make an argument. He knows; no, he suspects there’s more to it. Zolivia can see the doubt in his eyes, and her ability to own a room also makes her the perfect candidate to take control of a conversation.
“We need more evidence,” she says. “These are both just articles about local historical figures. How do these connect with the statue at all? … I mean, other than the fact that the missing statue is Count Witold von … What’s his name again?”
“Zychlinski,” Morgan is already heading back toward the computer. “I’m on it!”
Arty looks relieved to have avoided a confrontation. He would rather keep the peace. “We’ll go back to the cafeteria and see if we can find anymore clues there.”
With that, Zolivia and Arty make their exit. Morgan is left alone in the dim glow of the computer screen and sweet smell of books That have been opened and closed a thousand times.
- - -
The two scouts make haste to ensure no authority figures see them. As they approach the cavernous center of the building, Arty silently extends his arm to halt Zolivia.
“I just remembered,” he whispers. “Mrs. Paisley is in here.”
“Nah, I’m sure she’s gone by n—”
WHOOSH! Arty launches Zolivia into the 7th grade wing just in time to avoid being seeing by Coach Wilson, who is now making his way toward the front of the building from the gym. Their only hope to escape an interrogation is to continue deeper into the halls. Every classroom door is open, but the rooms beyond are dark and stale. The lockers that flank their path are open as well, and every single one has been emptied. This is an abandoned wasteland. Where they used to laugh with their friends between classes, there is now silence.
“This is depressing. I’ve never seen the school so empty,” Zolivia remarks.
“Or so quiet,” Arty agrees.
They continue their strolling, getting lost in their memories, until they come to the end of the hall. Glass double doors lead outside where they can see heat rising from the asphalt outside, serving as a warning to stay within the protective walls of the school.
Arty looks down. Amongst stacks of discarded books rescued from lockers is one faded notebook lying open on the floor.
He stoops down to pick it up.
“'One Summer Night' by Ambrose Bierce; 1893,” Arty reads aloud. “I’ve heard of him. He wrote lots of twisted stories, sort of like Edgar Allan Poe.”
<Read the short story on the americanliterature.com website before proceeding>
“Is this real? Or is this a work of fiction?” Zolivia’s gears are turning. “You don’t think that was left there for us to find, do you?”
“Like, by a ghost?” Arty responds. He and Zolivia have found the same wavelength. “Uh, yes. That’s what I wanted to say in the library. I don’t think we’re dealing with the Count. I think this is the ghost of Mark Belt. He’s obviously irate that what he started was renamed and forgotten. He was forgotten. This is a warning.”
“But this story isn’t even about him. It’s not about either one of them.”
“Yeah, but it’s about a guy who was buried alive, and then grave robbers try to steal his body too. Talk about being lost and forgotten.”
“That’s a bit of a stretch, Arty.”
“Is it? When we were backstage, a guy in an ancient-looking military jacket leaped out at me. Mark Belt was a captain in the military. The article we read also mentioned he associated with some pretty notorious characters, like Jesse James and other outlaws. I don’t get the impression he was a terribly nice guy.”
Both their phones buzz in their pockets.
“It’s Morgan,” Zolivia says, unlocking her phone. “They say, ‘Find anything? I’ve got nothing, and I’m starving. My mom has snacks in her classroom.’”
Arty bolts for the 8th grade wing before Zolivia has time to react.
“I’m so hungry! Let’s gooooooo,” he calls behind him.