The Secret Room

The Secret Room

I knew the secret room wouldn’t stay secret for long. You just can’t trust a sixth grader with stuff like that. Especially one with as big a mouth as Martha Hargrove.

We had a great system. Every Tuesday afternoon, Martha, Brick Morris and I would meet at the abandoned utility closet behind the orchestra room. A broken mop, a filthy sink with a half empty bottle of bleach sitting inside it, and a rusty, yellow bicycle with a single training wheel and a missing seat were the neglected custodians of this musky room.

The three of us would meet for forty-five minutes after school as we waited for Mrs. Morris to pick us up. Brick’s mom was a teacher at a school across town, which gave us plenty of time to explore our secret room while we waited for her. The three of us lived in the same rural southeaster Texas town— cow pastures and rotten marshes were our playground.

The closet was locked but we’d figured a way around that quickly enough. Martha stole a small flat head screwdriver from her dad’s toolbox and turned it diligently into the lock. The door clicked open with little effort. So much for middle school locks.

After dismissal on a fine October Tuesday, we were huddled inside, voices hushed as we waited for the remaining sounds of middle school laughter to fade toward the car pick-up lane and away from our secret. Martha was turning the squeaky handlebars of the rusted yellow bicycle like she always did, staring at the seat post longingly. She desperately wanted to ride the bicycle and was certain the seat would appear if she just stared at the metal post long enough. It never did.

Brick was talking about his upcoming online gaming tournament while I half-heartedly listened. I wasn’t allowed to play games online. Too much damage to my brain, is what my mom would say.

That’s when the strangest thing happened. Martha stopped playing with the handlebars-and yet they continued to move on their own. Rotating back and forth, squeak, squeak, the flat front tire smushed into the concrete floor. The three of us looked at one another and screamed. We pushed each other out of the way to get out of the closet first, Martha rambling about ghosts and invisible child molesters haunting the closet and other such nonsense.

We never went back to our secret space again, always eyeing the door with suspicion and dread. Brick and I occasionally talked about it, wondering exactly what happened that day. We couldn’t explain it. Marth just blabbed to the entire school. She made up some crazy story about a sixth grader, Becky Bordon, that disappeared fifty-years ago around the time the school was built. She said they found her bicycle but not her body. The custodian was suspected in the murder, but it could never be proven. She said Becky was haunting the school, hell bent on redemption.

Nobody believed Martha, of course, but she insisted it was true. She said her grandmother was a friend of Becky’s and told her the story after she ran home and told her about the bicycle incident. She even brought an old, yellowed newspaper clipping of the incident to school to show everyone, but Brick and I figure she photoshopped it in Tech class.

The next week, we saw the custodian fixing the lock. We never bothered to see if a flat head screwdriver would open it again. Martha might be a blubbering liar, but I’d lost my stomach for creepy after-school hiding places.