Recently, I finally graduated from university. I studied to be a physics teacher. It’s not that I liked teaching; I just won a scholarship for this major. After graduation, I had to pursue my profession for some time. Unfortunately, there were no teacher vacancies in my hometown. There was one vacancy by the beginning of September, but the school was not in the city. I had to go to the village, which was 150 kilometres away from the city. There was nothing to do, so I packed my bags, hugged my parents and left to work on my speciality.

My best friend agreed to give me a lift to the village. The weather was overcast, and it was raining on the motorway. I noticed that there were very few cars. During the whole journey, we saw only 2-3 vehicles.

– So, they sent you so far. I’ve heard the village is strange, and they don’t even have a mosque,” Arsen said.

– I’ll keep coming on weekends, but the pay is good. I’ll come next week, and we’ll have a great dinner,” I said.

An hour later, we reached the village. It looked like an ordinary village: old houses, cattle grazing, children on bicycles. I had to go to the principal’s office and asked a friend to drop me off at the school.

– It’ll collapse soon; you won’t even have time to work here,” Arsen grinned.

– I don’t care, as long as I get a decent living place. Wait for me for half an hour; I’ll talk to the principal about a job and a place to live,” I told my friend. The school was very old indeed. The windows were wooden, some had cracked panes, and the roof was made of old slate. I headed towards the main entrance. Inside, it was even worse: old, creaky floors and smelled like a barn, not a school. The principal, a pre-retirement woman, was standing right at the entrance. We walked to her office.

Well, you’ll stay in a special dormitory in our school building. You two will live there together, as we have a new literature teacher. By the way, he’s the same age as you and from the city too. He arrived yesterday,” my new boss explained to me.

– Right in the school? What about the toilet, water…,” I asked confusedly.

– There’s everything you need. Again, the toilet is outside, but you’ll get used to it. You’ll start work tomorrow. You know the schedule. In the meantime, you can get settled in. The dormitory rooms are at the end of the corridor so that you won’t get lost,” the principal said, continuing to fill out some documents.

     My mood had collapsed entirely. But before I went to my new place, I had to say goodbye to Arsen. He was waiting for me by the car, looking at the school carefully.

– You’re going to live in the school? I’ve never seen such a thing; it’s crazy,” Arsen was as surprised as I was.

– Well, I don’t have a choice,” I replied

-Listen, while waiting for you here, I noticed many exciting things. Just now, a woman and her child were walking past your school, and the mother told her son not to go near the school. How’s he going to study here? And the security guard is a bit strange. He’s a young guy with all grey hair. He asked me why I was there. I told him I’d brought in a talented new teacher.

– It’s the countryside, what do you want? Well, come on, thanks for the lift,” we shook hands and said goodbye.

I headed back to the school. It was evening, and I felt uncomfortable walking down the dark corridor. The dormitory was behind large wooden doors at the very end of the corridor. On both sides of the corridor were classrooms. Suddenly, I heard a shout outside the door to my right. It was room number 17. I stopped and listened. Some mumbling replaced the shout. The room door opened abruptly, and a young guy stepped out. He said hello to me, quickly locked the room door, and headed toward the foyer. The guy’s face was scared, and his hair was completely grey. I realised that this was the guard Arsen had told me about.  

The dormitory rooms weren’t so bad. Unlike the school, they smelled nice, clean, and tidy. My new neighbour was in the second bed. His name was Yerzhan. He graduated from the same university as me. We talked for about an hour. It turned out that Yerzhan had seen me many times at the university, but I did not remember him, most likely because we studied at different faculties.

– I came here in the morning, and there was no work in the city. Only here did I find a vacancy,” a colleague told me.

– I’m in the same situation, – I replied.

– Well, it’s not all bad. Country kids aren’t as spoilt as city kids. They don’t have any problems. And teachers are well paid now. But… – my interlocutor stopped abruptly.

– What is it? – I asked curiously.

I’m not comfortable here, to be honest. You don’t know it yet, but some kids broke into the school this summer. They were playing their games, but one of the kids disappeared. It’s like he disappeared into thin air. We searched the whole village, the whole school. He’s nowhere to be found. The kids say the kid went into room 17, but he never came out.

     Yerzhan was very nervous when he told me this story. I immediately remembered the guard and the room.

– What do you think of the local guard? He’s strange. I heard him shouting from the room as I walked down the corridor here,” I told my colleague.

Do you mean the grey one? He’s a little weird, but he’s a regular guy. He doesn’t say anything about his grey hair, but his teachers said he went grey after the guy in room 17 went missing. I wonder what he was doing there? – Yerzhan said in thought. We talked some more, then started to get ready for our lessons.

In the morning I went to look at the timetable. To my surprise, my first physics lesson was to be held in room 17. I was very nervous. The students were already waiting for me in the room. For a 7th-grade class, these kids were very calm. But I noticed that one girl was behaving strangely. She sat alone at her desk and looked fearfully at the empty seat. After the bell rang, when all the children started to leave the room, I decided to talk to her.

– Are you all right? – I asked.

Yes, teacher, I just have a headache today,” the girl replied, but she looked scared.

– Okay, I need to close the room,” I said, walking towards the exit. The girl followed me. When I exited the corridor, I turned around and was stunned. There was no one behind me. The girl was walking right behind me and suddenly vanished as if in the air. I was confused and didn’t know what to do. The other students saw everything, too. The children started to panic; the girls screamed and cried, and the boys immediately ran into the classroom. But it was empty.

– What is this… Just like then… I won’t come to this school again…” the students said to each other. Other teachers, the principal and a grey-haired security guard, came running. We checked the whole room: windows, floors, cupboards. Everything was expected; the girl had nowhere to go. All the students confirmed that they saw me talking to the student and that she followed me. But then the poor girl just vanished behind my back.

In the evening, we sat in a room with Yerzhan. We had only recently been released from the police station. The policeman listened to the testimonies of all the witnesses and spread his hands. It was just like that night in the summer. Only now, a student had disappeared right before everyone’s eyes, which was even creepier. The principal decided to suspend classes for a week..

– Poor parents, what are they supposed to think? It’s impossible! How can a person disappear in front of everyone’s eyes?  I’m afraid to live here,” said Yerzhan.

It was my first day on the job, and it was such a bloody mess. I didn’t even know what to think; I couldn’t get my head around what had happened today. Suddenly, there was a knock at our door. Yerzhan and I stopped talking.

It is the guard, open up; I need your help! – came from the other side. I quickly got up and opened the door. The grey-haired guy with the lantern was shaking with fear, and his eyes were filled with primal terror.

– Men… there, in room 17… please come with me. I’m terrified alone,” he said, stammering. Yerzhan and I looked at each other. Our curiosity prevailed, and we followed the guard into the back corridor. At first, everything was quiet, but we heard strange things as we approached room number 17. We thought we heard children laughing. When we got close to the room, the guard looked at us.

– A kid went missing in the summer, you know. Since that incident, strange things have been happening in the room. I hear creepy noises at night. The first time, I decided to check the room by myself. After that, I won’t go in there alone,” the guard said, pointing to his grey hair.  

– What did you see? – we asked him.

– Here’s the key; you’d better see for yourself.

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