PREFACE

It's 7.40 a.m within the cold walls of the silent school building. There is a boy standing in one of its endlessly long halls, gazing out of the window, looking at the empty, squared schoolyard and the school gym. He can hear the creaking of the swaying bathroom door and the wind blowing through the halls. Where is everybody? And why is he so afraid? Everything seems to be alright and yet he feels a knot in his stomach. Suddenly some silent voices start emerging out of nowhere and now fear spreads all over his body. Are those coming from his head? They sound demanding, dissatisfied, disappointed. They want to humiliate him. He starts to run, but there is nowhere to escape - he hall leads to the closed door of the gym. He runs anyway, runs for his life, even though there is no one actually chasing him. Filled with panic, he stops, wanting to jump out of the rusty window, but it's too big and too heavy and impossible to open. His body starts to shake.
    He wakes up and regains consciousness. Thank God, it's still August. His last days of peace and quiet before he goes back to school to teach children, like he did for so many years now. It's the third time he had that same dream. First time he dreamed it when he was in primary school, second time before one of the winter exam sessions and third time just now, by the end of Summer holiday.
    Rats, school rats everywhere. They run in the basement, they swim in sewage, avoiding enemies for their entire life. They form mysterious groups, that can kill their victim in a blink of an eye. They can mercilessly compete with each other. They are able to survive in most extreme conditions. They are practically invincible...and yet eventually death always gets them. Where do they die? Actually, very often they choose too pass away in the dark and forgotten underground areas of schools! Because once a rat gets into a school, it often can't find its way out and stays there for ever. It doesn't know the world outside of school nor does it want to know any other world. It is safe to eat scraps and then die among them. A graveyard of rats.
    Krzysztof, our main character, was “born” at school, in a sense, he spent his whole life there. This is no fairy tale... but it is an educational tale, which I will gladly share with you.


Chapter five
School pets

There are certain animals that live silently at every school. And I don't necessarily mean those poor hamsters, frogs or fish in biology lab. School is also home for wild creatures, that chose that space as their place of birth, life and death. They are excellent hiders and are able to live unnoticed through the entire school year. By “they” I mean various insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds and even fish. Once in a blue moon someone would catch a glimpse of such a secret school inhabitant and it would be the headline news at school.

Krzyś actually noticed those little creatures on a daily basis. Their presence was obvious to him. He saw bunches of cats, rats big and small, an occasional frog or a lizard. As for birds, he would frequently encounter sparrows, martins, crows, tits and larks. The most common insect was a cockroach, but in the summertime there were also bees, wasps and huge flies. Fortunately, there were no hornets. Krzysztof found a hornet nest on the school's roof many, many years later.

Why were there so many creatures roaming around the school? It's easy – schools produce enormous amounts of leftovers from the school cafeteria. Even though, children and teachers tend to have great appetites, schools produce enough food waste to attract wildlife.

Rats were particularly mysterious and unpleasant. Sadly, those old ones could grow to a size of a cat. They were brown or gray and basically fearless. They could swim in sewage. Once, such a rat jumped out of the toilet at Krzysztof's home, having made a lot of noise. The boy's father did whatever he could to fight them, but he also feared them. Sometimes he would corner them and close in a box so that they starved to death. Other times he would lay out food stuffed with plaster, which would cause rats to die a rather painful death. In the boiler house, he would simply use some big and sharp tools. If he stuck a rat on something like that, he would keep it there still for several days, to scare other rats away.

In the Springtime, Krzyś enjoyed observing martins, that happened to build their nest above his window, every year. And the squeals of the newborn hatchlings were a sign of warm and joyful Summer days approaching.

Over time, our boy developed particular fondness of one, domesticated school cat, whom the night watchman gave a name Leszczyński (it was the famous Banan's actual last name). No wonder anytime someone called out “Leszczyński, here, kitty kitty kitty!”, it made everyone roll on the floor laughing. The cat was frequently treated with a saucer of milk or even cream. Krzyś had never met such an intelligent animal before. This kitty could play “volleyball” with chunks of chalk and ate with he's paws while sitting upright like a hare. He would walk with Krzysztof's family as if he was their pet. He particularly liked walking along the plane tree alley toward the citadel. He would always walk faithfully next to his human and when it saw a dog approaching, he would calmly climb the nearest tree and patiently wait for the dog to walk away. He's only vice was that he was awfully lazy and didn't feel like catching any mice or rats. Unlike Minia, his mother, who had always been a great hunter. Once, Minia caught a few little rats and decided to lay them all in an underground corridor, arranged by size...

There were usually around eleven cats at that school. Some of them tended to become particularly aggressive when the little ones arrived. Those cats could even attack dobermans and chase them down the alley. It was however the dog owners' fault, every single time, because silly people tried to bait their dogs. They were usually stunned when it was their dog that got chased. Those cats tend to suffer from a mysterious disease that caused eye infections and fur damage. They tried to heal themselves, eating camomile flowers in the schoolyard, but it wasn't of much help. If a cat died, it would always be cremated by Krzysztof's father.





Chapter twenty-six
The age of Pigeon's Hear

Just like in Ancient Egypt ruled by the Roman Empire, the new school blossomed thanks to the new principal. After all the weirdness of the predecessor and all the terror of the principal, who was there before Krzysztof came, the teachers and other school workers could breathe a sigh of relief. Their new boss was a kind and fair person, who had everybody's best interest at heart. First years of her leadership passed in peace and harmony. No one thought that things were about to drastically change.

Pigeon's Heart became the principal because of just the right circumstances. Her predecessors disappeared quickly and she had been chosen, sort of in a rush. Before that, her job was to assist and to help. In fact, she was barely noticeable. She taught her class, recorded the staff meetings and then became an associate. When chosen for the principal, she humbly accepted her new function and during the first years, she would sit quietly in her office. She would delegate all the diffidence administration matters to her assistants. The first assistant left the school after the reform that introduced junior high schools. The second one was the associate until retirement and the third one kept her position until the last days of the Pigeon's Heart's leadership.

People were working hard at that school, for its best interest. Many of them performed additional activities completely selflessly, without expecting any gratification. They truly wanted to make that school the friendliest place for the children and for themselves. They organized interesting events and were genuinely happy to come to work everyday. They knew that the school wasn't particularly prosperous and that only with their own effort and creativity could they make positive changes there. And because of all their creative endeavors the school began to be noticed and acknowledged. Most importantly, the school gained trust of the local families, who were happy to send their children there, knowing that they would not regret it.

The school appeared to be a well-oiled, smooth-running machine that could only accelerate and develop. It seemed that all cogs of that machine worked perfectly and accordingly. It seemed that the machine operator is perfectly competent. But where did the beloved principal's nickname come from? Why was she called Pigeon's Heart? It wasn't out of spite. That epithet slipped out of her associate's mouth during one of the final discussions with the Union representatives. Some haters would soon laugh that Pigeon’s Heart had a tough head, tough ass and was dangerously slick. Some even called her a calf, which was far beyond the belt.

Once, by the end of her career, Pigeon's Heart compared the school to a railway station and herself to a station master. The haters loved that remark and would then comment that yes, the school was a railway station, ruled by the station master's family, where the trains where trains were damaged and never on time. According to the haters, the trains were operated by incompetent engineers, the wheels were provided by the secretary's husband and the passengers didn't know where they were going. And the platforms, of course, stank with urine.

There were those who thought that Pigeon's Heart was, at some point of his life, possessed by some demons. Some even claimed to have felt her diabolic aura that smelled with sulfur. But she also had some supporters, who saw her as a good person, just a little bit naive and incorrectly informed by her assistants. And those assistants were supposedly using her innocence and unawareness in their own interest. Of course there were also those, who thought that all her actions are dictated by her own desire for money and power.

Here is the secret to the Pigeon's Heart's success. She was a skilful and smooth actress. She could lie without blinking, she could suggest bad solutions with a kind smile on her face, she could cry at any time and stop crying just as easily. She was a brilliant puppet master who pulled the strings of the entire school staff. She knew how to antagonize others and she was able to use her closest friends in her own interest. She was flawless, always innocent and always perfect. Her decisions were always right and always consulted with the staff. It was a true and natural skill. The Nikifor of the elementary school's Machiavellian politics.

She didn't give anybody a chance to excel. She was always the one who claimed all the awards. She would be praised for the achievements of her, what she called “team”, meaning people who were actually doing the job. She would reward them with a handshake or a paper puff piece, but all the financial profits she'd keep to herself.

Once, in the early days of his work at the new school, Krzysztof asked Pigeon's Heart for help. He could not get along with one class, for which he became on object of a very mean behavior. He found out, years later, that some of those kids ended up in prison. No wonder, he had so much trouble dealing with them. The principal helped Krzysztof right away, in a rather radical way. She told him how to properly deal with such kids: throw an unbearable amount of work on their shoulders and account them systematically, consequently and mercilessly for every, smallest thing, with the help of a device called “work sheet”. Krzysztof took the advice very seriously and put all his heart into gaining control over the class. Bad grades were flying around in all directions. The collective responsibility worked and soon, class divided into two groups: one, of those who cared about their results and the other, of those who did not care. Krzysztof noticed that his actions let the one, united and adverse group into a division and rivalry. Both sides were then in a rat race. Those rats, who up until then fought against Krzysztof, began to fight against each other, so in a sense, he succeeded, thanks to the Pigeon's Heart's advice. He remembered that experience for long. Many years later, he realized, that she applied the same mechanisms in order to deal with the entire school staff.

Pigeon's Heart was not afraid to walk the thin line between justice and crime. She did not hesitate to risk the life of the school staff and even the children. And when a situation grew risky for her, she would do anything and everything in her power to find and destroy her true or apparent enemies. She was a true master of manipulation and getting away with lies and frauds. She was incredibly talented in gaining people's trust. It was an amazing and amazingly dangerous person, who influenced and destroyed many lives.



Chapter thirty-eight
The school's ghost, curses and other amazing phenomena

It is believed, that there are certain, inexplicable phenomena occurring in our lives and in nature. Phenomena impossible to be rationally understood. Some people do not believe in god, or any inexplicable phenomena. Some are passionate followers of their religion, who believe in ghosts, spirits, superstitions, horoscopes and dark magic. In his life, Krzysztof encountered a number of amazing phenomena and events, that made him question his reality perception and he really wasn’t' sure anymore if those are just made-up stories and lies. He didn't pay much attention to horoscopes or parapsychology, on a daily basis, but as a kid, he read a few books about UFO and spirits.

There was a legend, going around his workplace, about a ghost from the 2nd floor. That story was particularly popular around the porters and cleaners. The ladies who worked as night-porters were often startled by every little noise at school. The story emerged after one Summer camp, in early 80's. In that time, school buildings were often used for organizing vacation activities for kids. According to the witnesses, a group of sports kids, accommodated at school had a lot of trouble sleeping on the 2nd floor. At first, it was assumed that kids were joking. But despite the windless weather, something was knocking and humming, doors would close by themselves, some kids were feeling someone's presence...The eldest school workers claimed, that there once came a medium to school and performed a spirit seance. Apparently, the medium called up a spirit if a worker, who was murdered at the school's construction side and buried in the substructure. The ghost supposedly said that the school was cursed and would remain cursed until finding of the body and identifying the murderer. It also predicted that eventually, the school would burn, because of poor electrical installation.

Some may believe it, some may laugh at it, but the truth is, there really were some strange things going on at that school. Weird noises were coming out of nowhere. Once, during an individual physics class, a teacher suddenly felt a wave of cold air and heard someone step around her. There was just her and one boy at class and there was no one in the hall. The teacher, thinking she may be going crazy, asked the boy if he heard anything. He nodded with fear in his eyes and murmured that he would really love to leave quickly.

Some thought that it was all one, big joke. Others assigned the noises to the wildlife that frequently visited and inhabited the school. Animals were attracted to the building, because of all the food scraps that the school produced. Krzysztof knew about a fisher that lived in the school loft. He also used to encounter rats, cockroaches and hornets, so such visitors didn't startle him. So, perhaps, all those mammals, reptiles, amphibians and birds could have been responsible for all those noises, door-closing, knocking...and, during estrus, also moaning. There were also those, who thought that the noises were caused by teachers having laud and dynamic sex with each other, in classrooms, after classes. There as also a belief that those teachers stuffed the keyholes with paper for soundproofing, but it never worked.

However, some occurrences were really unexplainable. Were those paranormal phenomena? For instance, the winning of the cars in competitions by all the harassed teachers. Or, the fact that the funny rhymes written by one of the teachers turned out to be powerful and accurate premonitions of events such as that winning, or the principal's public collapse? How could anyone explain the fact that all those harassed teachers always somehow got away with their revenges? Or, the fact that in the hardest time of the war with Pigeon's Heart, the rats and insects emerged from the underground and the sewage spilled? Coincidence? Fate? Curse of the body from the substructure?






                                                       
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