Witiko Falls High School

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The only secondary school in town, Witiko Falls High School has just under five hundred students, where once it had several thousand; consequently the entire north wing of the school has been permanently closed down. In most respects the school seems like a perfectly normal American high school. It has a football team, the Witiko Falls Kelpies; regular teachers teaching regular classes; a library, a field, a metal shop. There are hints, though, of certain peculiarities. There are several school clubs such as the Left-Handers, the Young Rosicrucians, the Pareidolia Club, and the Lucid Dreaming Club that seem somewhat unusual. In lieu of a Homecoming Court or a Prom Court, the students hold elections for figures such as the Satyr and the Nymph and representations of the Seven Virtues. The library seems fairly normal until one begins to investigate the titles and discovers the complete works of the Marquis de Sade and an incredibly extensive collection of German fairy-tales. Such strangenesses are dismissed by staff as nothing more than quirks of local custom and school tradition.

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The high school itself is a massive edifice of early twentieth century Green River brickwork and more modern additions of aluminum roofing and black-tinted windows. Four stories tall, with at least two more basement levels, and two massive, now abandoned wings, the structure casts a large shadow over its neighbors. Outside on the allegedly goat-cropped lawn, the school’s marching band can often be found practicing, adorned in the school’s green and bone colors.

The Chimera


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The Kelpies’ library is relatively vast for the comparatively small town and drastically downsized student body. The oneiric playground for many young bookworms, the maze-like imbroglio of wall to wall shelves holds nigh-countless books that range in subject, age, and language, from recent young adult romance novels to time-cracked tomes made of fish-leather and gold-painted vellum. The patchwork quality of the sprawling collection is highlighted by a similarly variegated lighting: bright fluorescent tubes, vintage green-glass banker lamps, dusty amber-cast globe chandeliers, and what might be a failing blacklight tucked away in an all-but hidden alcove. There is a reason why the students’ nickname for the place is the Chimera.

The Main Office


Seemingly frozen in time, the d├ęcor of the high school’s main office is just as many alumni remember from their four-year stints as Kelpies. The same nose-burning scent of fresh wood polish and overly strong feminine perfume strikes visitors as they scans the office’s counter, its array of phones, stacked papers, office paraphernalia, and the toad-bodied elderly secretary, Agnes Sperle, who often squats behind it. Behind the counter, the main office snakes off into a nest of filing cabinets and private administrative offices.

The North Wing


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The school’s north wing has been abandoned for more than three decades due to shrinking enrollments. Few find any solitude in the dark corridors. This is not the sun- or starlit wilds where life teems and man is a seldom tolerated foreigner. Instead, the neglected halls and desolate classrooms portray desolation: the profound haunting absence of human society where it should thrive.

And yet, despite its abandonment and desolation, the north wing is far from quiet. Lights sometimes spring into false-life, buzzing or flickering before dying. Magnetic door-locks clunk, causing echoes to haunt the hallways and dark stairways. And then there’s the smell. Sometimes it resembles burning chicken feathers, saltwater, or a clothes’ iron left forgotten face-down. And the smell is almost always accompanied by the taste. Like old pennies in one’s mouth, or the flavor of licked batteries. No, the north wing is far from quiet. It is disquiet. The journey alone is enough to make most students break into cold sweats and panic attacks.

But for some, what waits at their destination is far worse: the principal’s isolated sleeping quarters and office.

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The domicile of Sister Apollonia Gorczak, like its owner, is severe. Rough-sanded planks support a metal-framed cot covered in rough but precisely laid sackcloth. Beside it, a small bookcase stands in shadow. The plaster-cracked walls are less adorned and moreso impaled by religious iconography. Foremost among these is a large black cross set above a Latin inscription: DOMINE MISERERE SUPER ISTA PECCATRICE, which some students have painfully learned the translation of: LORD, HAVE MERCY ON THIS SINFUL ONE. However, no known students remain anything but ignorant of the meaning of the human skull bolted to a plaque.

There are no chairs in Principal Gorczak’s office. One either stands or kneels.

Witiko Falls High School

Witiko Falls: Disillusion Parasomniac Calder_R