My gaze was glued to the shadows beneath the ancient, towering bookcase filled with novels of horror and betrayal.
A pair of floating eyes glinted maliciously, the only sign anyone was hidden there, and I watched, paralyzed, as a long knife emerged from the school jacket my classmate wore.
The dim light of the library reflected off the shiny blade, accentuating its brutal sharpness and cut-throat edge.
With a deep breath, my mind flashed over the past month - a last attempt to justify this cruel end.
September 2, 2019 ( about one month earlier)
I shrugged on my Maybell Academy school coat, and--in a futile effort to reduce frizziness--smoothed down my drab brown hair.
"Come on, Autumn! Honestly, your hair's fine, your jacket's fine, let's go !" My best friend of all time, Christina, exclaimed, throwing up her arms crossly.
In case you couldn't tell, she hadn't had her coffee yet. She was an angel after the first sip.
"Christina, calm down," I said, smiling. "Just because you're addicted to coffee, does not mean I have to go quickly."
With her wavy black hair and bright blue eyes, Christina portrayed someone full of life and energy - and she was.
She was always eager about something or other, and her excitement was contagious. Thinking about it, that was probably a good thing, because I could be quite cynical at times.
Christina puffed out an exasperated breath, and folded her arms, giving me her best 'I'm so done with you' look.
I grinned mockingly at her, swung my book bag over my shoulder, and led the way out.
By some lucky chance of fate, Christie and I, back in our first year of boarding school, were stuck together as roommates. We immediately connected and were practically joined at the hip now.
"I swear to pumpkins, if Mr.
Kelley makes us write one more essay on intriguing weeds, I'm gonna jump out the window," I said, my mind wandering to Biology as we filed into the crowded breakfast hall.
Our teacher was a strange old man who was obsessed with all types of weeds--don't ask me why.
His round glasses and skinny frame, coupled with his slow blinks, prompted us students to compare him to an owl.
"But, Autumn, 'weed's make the sun rise and the moon set,'" Christina said, trying to mimic Mr. Kelley's voice. I laughed and shook my head as we entered the breakfast hall.
Christina poked her head out of the slightly creaky door, and swished it side to side, strands of her hair falling into her face.
The silence of the school at night was overwhelming, and I felt jittery sneaking out - even though I had several times before.
"All clear," she whispered back to me, moving forward in a ridiculous crouch that was meant to be stealthy.
I moved swiftly, which was a terrible idea, because I tripped over the threshold and stumbled a few steps, careening into my best friend.
She lurched to the side noisily as I steadied myself on the wall, looking frantically around for teachers.
"You couldn't not be clumsy for one minute?" Christie whisper-yelled.
"Sorry," I mumbled, rolling my green eyes. "Let's go before a teacher comes."
I locked our room and we ran down the hallway, trying not to make too much noise. My sock-clad feet slipped and slid on the polished floor, but I was able to keep my balance.
Down in the basement on the bottom level of our medium-sized school, a door was slightly ajar, music blasting through the crack.
We slipped inside, and my jaw dropped. Strobe lights danced across the walls, and the bodies of fifty or so students were crowded together on the dance floor, moving in sync.
At a table across the wall, drinks and snacks were laid out (non-alcoholic, of course), along with party favors, like tiny inflatable disco balls.
"Woohoo!" Christina yelled over the music that shook the walls. She launched herself onto the dance floor, and I cringed away. I wasn't big on crowds.
Instead, I chose a spot on the sidelines to people-watch.
Before ten minutes had passed, a shrill scream pierced the air. The music jarringly halted, the students tumbling to a stop.
I was up on my feet before I even realized it, pushing my way through the crowd to the origin of the inhuman sound.
The door to a janitors' closet was what I found, and I took a shaky breath. The air was thick with tension and fear, the sound of the scream reverberating in my ears.
"Well, go on, open it," Seth, a bulky senior, said gruffly. What a gentleman.
I reached a tentative hand forward and placed it on the cool metal handle. A rush of adrenaline and courage ran through me, so I quickly swung the door open, involuntarily taking a step back.
Lying crumpled on the floor in a heap was Lizzie Kalinski, the resident 'mean girl' of Ashton High.
Her light blue eyes were glazed over, dull and lifeless. A look of horror was plastered on her deathly pale face, sending shivers down my spine.
Her skin color was quickly fading, her lips turning an ominous blue. Blond hair surrounded her head in a halo, and then I saw what caused this untimely death.
A rough, purple knife handle stuck out of her chest, a trickle of blood emerging from the wound. Covering my mouth, I stepped back, feeling suddenly very dizzy and nauseous.
Christina wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me to the side. A buzz of chatter emerged from the crowd, then the principal was shoving her way through, yelling for silence and order.
"What in the world is going on here?!" She asked, her plump face red and blotchy from anger. "Why on earth are you out of bed?"
"M-murder," One of my classmates, Darla, stuttered, clutching her cup of rootbeer with shaking hands.
"Don't be ridiculous," Mrs. Penny scoffed.
"It's true," Seth rumbled, moving aside to reveal the scene.
Mrs. Penny paled and faltered in her steps, one slippered foot raised.
Her brown eyes grew as wide as saucers, and she stuck a hand into the pocket of the flowery nightgown she wore, withdrawing a phone.
Her pudgy fingers pressed the buttons frantically, then she shoved the phone onto her ear.
"Yes... hello... there's been a death," Mrs. Penny said in a shaky voice I hadn't ever heard her use. "Ashton High... yes, a boarding school... knife wound... yes, that's likely...
okay, thank you."
She jabbed the 'end call' button and raised her solemn eyes. "All of you, back to bed. We'll have this figured out. The police are on their way."
"Was it a murder?" Katie asked, her bottom lip trembling. She was Lizzie's younger sister, only a sophomore, so I had no idea what she was doing here - at a junior and senior party.
Her and Lizzie had never had a good relationship. In fact, yesterday they had an awful argument that ended in screaming and nearly attacking each other.
"Let's hope not," Mrs. Penny said curtly. "Now, all of you, go to bed. Get some sleep."
"Get some sleep?" I exclaimed. "After this?"
We filed out in a heavy silence. Numbness had spread throughout my body, and I trekked robotically beside Christina, who had her eyes fixed determinedly on the floor.
The evening had taken such a drastic turn; I wasn't sure how our school would deal with this.
September 7, 2019
It's been five days since the death of Lizzie Kalinski, and it's still all anyone can talk about.
The police and doctor claimed it was murder, which meant there was a dangerous person in our midst.
But who? Who would murder someone? Who thought that they had the right to take away someone's life? To end their existence? Erase their future?
"Autumn, quit moping!" Christina said firmly, giving me a stern look.
She had recovered quickly from the shock, and was quick to help the police with any possible suspects, seeing as she always knew the gossip. "We have something important to talk about."
"What?" I asked, baffled. School was still the same; essays, presentations, all that.
"Well," Christina hesitated - something she almost never did - and pursed her lips. "Do you know what they found Lizzie holding?"
"No," I muttered, fiddling with the edge of my blanket I had wrapped around my slumped shoulders.
"A note," Christie's voice was conspiratorial now. "Guess what it said?"
When I didn't answer, she cleared her throat and recited the note from heart: "Autumn winds over the sea, the fire devours the innocent, no one shall be let free."
"What does that even mean?" I asked, my eyebrows furrowing as they were so often wont to do. "It doesn't even rhyme. Are they just random clues?"
"Everyone thinks so," Christie raised her gaze to meet mine. "But, that's not the worst thing right now, Autumn. The students - they talk, and they suspect... you."
"Me?" I exclaimed, outraged. "I didn't do it! Come on, Christie, we have to find this murderer!"
"You're kidding," Christina said. "Do you know how dangerous that is?"
"Do you want to go back to your terrible stepmother because the school was shut down due to several unexplained murders?" I asked.
She shook her head, grumbling, and I leapt off my bed for the first time since the weekend began.
I weaved between students until I was in a secluded section of the library, able to eavesdrop without being spotted. A cluster of students were grouped to my left.
"It was bound to happen," Jeremy said matter-of-factly.
His mother was actually marrying Kate's (and Lizzie's when she was alive) father, but the wedding had been postponed due to the tragedy. "Nobody liked her."
The gears started turning in my head. Jeremy and his mother were extremely poor, while the Kalinski's were rich.
In fact, when the parents passed away, their inheritance (consisting of tens of thousands) would be given to their children.
I narrowed my eyes at the book I was pretending to read: was that enough motive for Jeremy to have committed the crime? Wanting to have the inheritance all to himself?
But then, I reminded myself, the