Morgan and Aiden were right behind Teri, looking at her questioningly.
“I’m not crazy, okay? He was over there,” she said, pointing to the hallway intersection. “And then he ran in here.”
“He would’ve had to run right past us,” Aiden said. “It’s the only way without running around the outside of the school.”
“Yeah,” Morgan said. “But it’s not exactly the craziest thing we’ve seen lately.”
“Good point,” Aiden said. “Sorry Teri, we’ll take your word for it.”
Teri gave Morgan a grateful look. Looking the classroom over one more time, Teri satisfied herself that Max wasn’t inside. She turned back into the hall, straining to hear the slightest sound.
“Do you hear something again?” Aiden asked.
They moved deeper into the school. The occasional shaft of light came into the hall through a classroom door, but other than that there was only darkness. A few whispers of footsteps reached Teri’s ears, but not close enough to tell where they were coming from. Then they turned a corner and saw Max running upstairs.
“Max,” Morgan called. “Wait. It’s us.”
The footsteps continued without stopping, leaving them to rush up the stairs after Max. They reached the second floor landing. Teri looked one way and Morgan looked the other.
“I don’t see him,” Teri said.
“Stay away.” The words were faint, but it was definitely Max’s voice, coming from the third floor.
Aiden led the way up the stairs. He was taking the steps two at a time. Teri’s legs weren’t long enough for that. She ran up as fast as she could, but she was barely over halfway when Aiden made it into the third floor hallway. Morgan had gained some distance on her too, but not as much.
The sound of their own feet drowned out Max’s. When she reached the third floor, Teri went the opposite direction as Aiden. She didn’t want to separate, but it would cover more ground. She hovered next to a corner. If she continued on, Teri wouldn’t be able to see Aiden and Morgan anymore.
“Do you see anything?”
“No,” Aiden said. “Let’s be quiet for a minute and see if we can hear anything.”
Silence reclaimed the dark hallways, making Teri feel even more isolated. The stillness was shattered as Max ran from a doorway between them and disappeared into the stairwell. All those doors had been closed. She hadn’t even heard one open. Teri was getting frustrated.
“Enough of this.”
Teri scrunched her brows and forced time backwards. Max ran in reverse. As soon as he disappeared from view again, Teri stopped concentrating and sprinted towards where he was about to be. She covered half the distance before Max started running across her field of view.
“Hey Max, stop,” she called.
Max kept running, but he did look back at her. Teri was only a few steps behind him now. Close enough to see the terror in his eyes even in the dim light. He was right at the edge of the stairs. Teri was worried he was about to trip and fall. Instead, he disappeared.
Teri skidded to a stop and almost fell herself. One moment he’d been there, and the next he was gone.