School of the Dead

School of the Dead by Avi Read Free Book Online

Book: School of the Dead by Avi Read Free Book Online
Authors: Avi
means . . . ?”
    â€œThe school collapses and we all die.” Peter laughed.
    The thought I’d had before returned:
There’s a lot of death attached to this school.
    The day was long, but I got through. At Penda, at three o’clock you were supposed to check in at homeroom before leaving. But when I did, Batalie asked me if I would mind staying after school, saying, “We should go over some things.”
    Knowing I was heading home to an empty apartment, I said, “Sure.”
    â€œHave you picked a sport?” he began.
    I shook my head.
    â€œYou’ll need to. Along with a Wednesday club.”
    Jessica must have overheard the remark, because as she left the room, she looked at me and smiled. I was flattered by her interest.
    â€œI’ll be right back,” said Mr. Batalie. “I want to get things you’ll need. Take a look at the class portraits. Good way to know people.” He left the room. In the hallway I saw him chat briefly with Jessica and then walk off.
    I was alone—except for Uncle Charlie, who was looking at me from the back of the room. “Was this place as creepy when you were here?”
I called to him.
    When he faded away, I muttered, “Thanks.”
    I stood by the picture wall, which had a headshot of every student in the class. Under the pictures there was a banner, which read:
    ONLY SIGNED POSITIVE REMARKS ALLOWED.
    NO NEGATIVITY.
    Beneath each picture was a sheet of paper on which people had scrawled comments.
    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  Great response paper. Rich
    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  Loved your polka-dot neck scarf. Lucy
    Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â  Terrific soccer player. Mia
    There were many messages for some people. I guessed they were the popular kids. Others had fewer. Under Mac’s picture, one remark:
Your ideas are curious. Jessica
    Under Jessica’s picture, it read:
The way you look at things is cool. Mac
.
    A second line:
You have original ideas. Mac.
    I got it: The Weird History Club people kept to themselves, or were forced to. “The freaks,” as Peter had said.
    I checked for a picture of that blond, curly-headed boy, the one I kept seeing, or thought I kept seeing. I didn’t find him, but there was that blank space. Was it Austin’s? The kid who disappeared? Was it going to be mine? Sort of strange to think I was going to take a disappeared kid’s place.
    Batalie returned, papers in hand. Noticing where I was standing, he said, “I change the comment-board sheets every week. Please note: only signed, positive remarks.Anonymous, negative stuff is forbidden.”
    â€œIs there a picture of everyone?” I asked.
    â€œAbsolutely. Right, I’ll need to put your picture up. Let’s take one.” He set the papers on his desk, pulled out a phone, and aimed it at me. “Smile.”
    â€œI don’t, much.”
    â€œWell, starting a new school in a new town is hard. And someone close to you died. So sorry.”
    How
, I asked myself,
do all these people know about Uncle Charlie?
    I said, “There’s one kid’s picture I don’t see.”
    â€œWho’s that?”
    â€œI don’t know his name. Blond, curly-haired boy.”
    Batalie looked up sharply, alarm in his eyes.
    â€œYou know,” I said. “The kid who looks like the painting in the school office.”
    â€œOh, the Penda Boy.” Batalie forced a laugh. “We like to say his
spirit
is
in
Penda, but not in class.”
    I was about to reply,
But I keep seeing him
,
but
checked myself, since I wasn’t really sure I
had
seen him
.
Instead, I said, “Mr. Batalie, I’m replacing someone named Austin, right?”
    The alarm in Batalie’s eyes intensified.
    I said, “What . . . what happened to him?”
    Batalie turned to his desk. “Let’s go over some things. Have a

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