Lori Nelkins had the kind of voice you wanted to listen to to--calm, thoughtful, and compelling. She drew you in, and you wanted to catch every word even the story was telling probably involved horror that iced over your spine and shriveled up your gods forsaken soul into cold ashes.
“Because the middle school was so large,” she explained, “it was divided into 3 different ‘academies’ (6th, 7th, and 8th). 6th grade ( where I was) was housed downstairs while the 8th grade and most of 7th was housed on the second floor.
“The library occupied both stories, and it was on the second story that infamous Locker no 490 was located.
“After Nadine, her burly friend/bodyguard Brenda and a few others in Rm. 105 ‘persuaded’ the Scene Kids to unblock the door and put everything back in perfect order; Veronica finally told me the story of Locker no 490.
“It was a famous school legend, about as popular as the legends of Bloody Mary, the Tri-cycling Gas mask Ghost of Sunset Court, and the Skull Headed Collie of Sutter Road.
“I was too busy being a model student and making new friends to pay any attention to local ghost lore.
“According to the legend, the curse started way back in the 1970‘s. Back then Curtisville wasn’t the gentrified bedroom community it is now. It was mostly a sprawling backwater chiefly consisting of trailers, humbled shacks, ranches, nurseries, and a wrecking yard.
“At that time, Curtisville Middle School wasn’t quite as large and luxurious--just 13 classrooms, an auditorium/lunchroom, and a much-smaller library. Every single locker there was long and full-sized, no top and bottom at all. And many a small seventh-grader suffered the indignation of getting crammed into one by the school doofuses.
“In an effort to combat the town’s growing image problem and promote better tolerance and understanding, the school decided to host a group of exchange students from Okinawa.
“Things went surprisingly well, despite the language barrier and some cultural differences, perhaps because several reporters including world famous Walter Cronkite commented about this exchange program on the news, and the town’s folk didn’t want to appear badly with the eye of the world watching them.
“It wasn’t until the middle of August that the inexplicable, hideous tragedy of Locker 490 first came into play.
“The seventh grader who was using the locker was a Japanese student by the name of Marina Yamauchi. She started hearing noises at first--faint rustling and creaking like someone or something was moving around inside. Yet whenever she opened her locker to check, there was nothing unusual to be found. Everything was where it should be, books and binders stacked in proper order, her jacket hanging in one corner, her book bag with her lunch inside lay at the bottom untouched.
“Since there was a maintenance room right near her locker, Marina eventually decided all the strange noises she had been been hearing were due to the janitor working next door.
“The strange sounds continued, and then the weird smells began, as well as the sensation of being watched. It was like someone was standing just a few feet away staring with huge unwavering eyes. Common sense told her that no one could be there; it was impossible for anyone to hide in that cramped narrow space let alone move around without her noticing. Afraid, Marina stopped using her locker altogether and instead, carried her stuff with her everywhere. But even this precaution didn’t help, the sensation of being watched persisted, becoming more intense. Now the watcher was coming after her, staring at her with wide unblinking eyes.
“Marina knew that somehow this disturbing experience was connected to that locker. Even though she wasn’t a superstitious person, she knew two of the locker numbers--’4' and '9' were considered unlucky in Japan.
“Four was pronounced ‘shi,’ which was the same pronunciation as ‘death,’ while nine was pronounced ‘ku,’ which had the same pronounced as agony on ‘torture.’
“She also noticed when the numbers--’4,’ ‘9,’ ‘0‘ were added together, they came up with another unlucky number--’13.’
“But even though she desperately needed someone’s help, she didn’t tell anyone. Even though she wasn’t a shy timid person, she wasn’t sure people would believe her.
“Plopping down at a cafeteria table with a weary sigh, Marina listlessly picked at her lunch.
“Several of her friends walked up, and the named Via Nakada who happened to be half Hawaiian and Japanese, asked her, 'What’s wrong Marina?”
“‘Nothing, it’s just...’ Marina paused. ‘It’s nothing,’ she sighed again.
“Concerned, her friends glanced at each other. This wasn’t like Marina, trying to hide her feelings whenever she was upset or sad.
“‘No, really Marina, what’s wrong?’ Via persisted.
“Reluctantly, Marina looked towards her friends before glancing back at Via.
“‘I think my locker might be haunted,’ she muttered. Then she told the others gathered around the table about the weird things that were happening to her.
“Nobody snickered or laughed, they just stayed silent, giving her weird looks. None of them ever heard about anything paranormal happening at the school before. No mysteriously moving photographs, no overwhelming feeling of dread (unless you counted visits to the Principle’s office and Mystery Meat Day), no wispy apparitions, glowing orbs or unexplained sounds. There was not even a case of unusual death, suicide or sudden insanity.
“Compared to other middle schools, CMS was pretty normal, full of ordinary kids with ordinary preteen problems. It would have still went on being perfectly normal if it hadn’t been for that damn locker."