Zibaldone #9: The Deep School

Today’s commonplace book entry is a bit of free writing from a few years ago. I used to scratch out little vignettes like this every other day or so in order to warm up the old creative muscles, and play with ideas. I don’t do it so much anymore, mostly due to a lack of time.

It’s really just a spatter of story, based on something unpleasant I heard as a kid. I like it, though I doubt I’ll ever do anything more with it. There are a few more pieces like this, floating around my notebooks. If I can find them and dig them out, I might share them as well.  Anyway, enjoy, or not, as it pleases you.


The school sat back way deep in the woods. Some place where the only light that reached the school was moon-light. It was a tin-roofed building, black brick’d and red shuttered. It sat in the bottom of one of those tree-filled craters that pock-marked the county.

A man from the university had said them craters was ancient meteor strikes. That was why the plants grew so funny up amongst them. Fleshy plants that sweated unpleasant juices. The school nestled down among them plants like a toad.

It hadn’t been built, leastways not in living memory of any man or woman in the county. It had always been, though not always in the same place. No one rightly knew why folks thought it was a school, but everybody did, though few talked about it. The students, whoever they were, found it regardless.

No one knew who it was who used the school, only that it was used. At night, long past the sun, the school bell would ring…a deep, tolling sound that wasn’t really sound, but more an absence of it. A loud emptiness that shriveled the soul.

Folks who lived near would sometimes report that they’d seen goofer lights way back and deep as the students of the school followed a trail that only they could see to class.

Sometimes, in the night, there’d come a knock on the door of someone who lived too close to the school. A rattling, storming blow that shook the shack to its foundations. There’d be laughter, high and shrill, and goat-eyed shapes peeking in the windows. 

In the morning, folks would usually find dead animals, butchered and half-eaten, on their roof-tops or laying in the road. Blood dripped from the upper branches of the trees and puddled in cold pools in the dirt where those fleshy plants sopped it up like gravy.

Most folks who lived near the school moved after a few years.

The school followed them.


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5 comments

  1. There was a Deep School in one of Manly Wade Wellman’s John Thunestone stories. And in the Simon R. Green’s Nightside books.

    1. Yep. It’s found in folklore from the southeastern United States, as well as England, Romania, Spain, etc. The Deep School, the Scholomance, the Cueva de Salamanca, etc. Like Hogwarts, only for utter bastards.

      1. I assumed it was something Wellman came up with. Though in his fiction, it’s hard to tell what’s folklore and not. He claims that though he thought he created the Shonokins but he got letters from readers talking about how the Shonokins were real. Of course, Wellman may be mixing ficton with reality there. He was known to do that. (He probably did not challenge William Faulkner to a fight.)

        Come to think about it there’s a Dark School in the Abe Sapien comics.

      2. Yep. I assumed he’d made it up at first as well, but a year of internship with the SC state folklorist taught me different. Lot of stories about hag-schools under burying grounds or ‘thin houses’ in Charleston, etc. Wellman had a wonderful knack for digging up all the best bits from regional folklore and really fleshing them out into something special.

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