I was still relatively new. We’d only moved here a month before, and I’d only been enrolled in the school for about a week. It’s a rural place on the West Coast, and there aren’t even that many kids. A few hundred or so. They were friendly enough. Some douchebags, but you know how it is. It could have been worse. It was the teachers that made me nervous. The dread I felt when the morning bell rang, the unease radiating steadily and perpetually off my classmates at all hours of the school day… it was more than just regular highschool stuff, I could feel it… I just couldn’t explain it. And it didn’t make sense either, the teachers actually seemed kinda… NICE. Friendly, even. None of the kids got in any real trouble, no-one got sent to detention… …So one day, I asked my desk neighbor to explain it to me, before the class started. To my surprise however she hushed me, glanced to the door, and then told me in quick, quiet tones... about the ‘*Wasp Room*’. I laughed it off at first, it sounded like a dumb joke; but she didn’t laugh with me. She just stared at me, pale-faced, and lips tight. And that was the end of it. The interaction was brief, but it stuck with me. ‘*The Wasp Room’*… what the hell was that? Was it an acronym maybe? W.A.S.P? Perhaps it was a nickname that the kids had come up with. Maybe it simply WAS detention but everyone was… really, really scared of it…? I didn’t understand. I started hearing about it more often after that, though. I started noticing it in conversation. Ever heard of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon? …It’s when you get told something for, supposedly, the first time, and then you start seeing and hearing it everywhere. That’s what the Wasp Room was like for me. I heard its name whispered by the lockers. Muttered behind hands at recess. It started freaking me the hell out. I looked for a 'Wasp Room' sign on the doors in the corridors, for a hint, a clue as to what it could possibly be… But I saw nothing. It wasn’t until the end of the second week that I had my first real ‘experience’ of the Wasp Room's power. We were waiting for our history teacher to arrive. It was unlike her to be late, so the kids were making use of the bonus free time, chatting amongst themselves, messing around just a little, but generally keeping calm. All except for one guy on the other side of the room. He had a bottle of water, half-cracked open, and was shooting blasts of spray out over the kid in front of him. “Cut it out man!” the kid called back to him, frustrated, but the assailant did not. He just laughed and did it again. The kids around him were urging him to stop now too, “quit it Mark, before she comes back!”, they urged him, desperately, some even reached out to try and take the bottle from his hands… But he kept on spraying, and then the kids around all stopped attempt to intervene at once. They were silenced immediately with their hands on the desks and their heads faced forwards as the classroom door swung open. And in she walked, our history teacher, witness to one final blast of cold water over the back of the kid’s neck. I saw the expression on Mark’s face change completely, terror replacing the lazy arrogance, his taunting smile gone in an instant. He fumbled with the bottle and it dropped loudly to the floor, and it leaked as it rolled around into the leg of his desk. There was silence. And our teacher slowly shook her head. “Bullying will not be tolerated, Mark”, she said quietly. “Please”, he said suddenly, panic rising at the edges of his voice, “please Mrs Vires, please don’t send me to the room! Please!” She took a step closer, and her shadow was cast large against the wall behind her. Her eyes flashed and the temperature in the room dropped like a stone. “Mark... I have no choice. You know the punishment... You are to go to the *Wasp Room*, at once”. “NO!” he screamed, and I jumped in alarm, staring as he fell to his knees on the floor, he clasped together his hands- “PLEASE, PLEASE NO!” “If you are set upon causing a scene Mark, you know the consequences. I suggest you take yourself off to the Room at once, and with no more of this nonsense”, Mrs Vires replied. To my surprise, Mark’s victim himself actually came to the boy’s defense, he tried to speak out in support of him, to say that it was honestly no big deal… But with a quick, stern look from the teacher and an outstretched finger, he was compelled to silence. And Mark would not go. He continued to scream and beg. I looked around the room… no-one else was even reacting… no-one seemed to be doing a thing but staring straight ahead! My heart was beating like I’d never expected it to… especially not here, in a SCHOOL… But Mark would not stop, and eventually two men in gray strode calmly through the classroom door, grabbed the screaming boy by the arms and dragged him swiftly from the room and down the corridor, til he could be heard no more. My hands were white against the desk, I was so fucking scared. …But then Mrs Vires SMILED, and she just went on with the class! As if nothing had happened! I sat there in shock, barely able to focus and making my notes with a pen held in trembling fingers. And I couldn’t take it anymore. This wasn’t some silly game or an in-joke, this was something terrifyingly REAL… so that afternoon on the bus home, I asked one of my new classmates about it, I asked for the truth. “Quiet!” she hissed at me. We were sat near the back and she shot a paranoid glance down the bus and over the seats, beckoning me closer. She hesitated and then whispered something into the ear of the boy next to her. “Yeah”, he replied. “She should know. She needs to, actually, for her sake”. So we spoke in whispers at the back of the bus, and they anxiously told me the tale of the Wasp Room. It was as the name suggested, they told me. The kids who misbehave are dragged down through darkened corridors to a door at the end of the hall. You can hear the buzzing from there, they say. You can hear it grow, the drone of perpetual malice behind the final door. They throw you in and keep you there for however long they decide until you’ve learned your lesson, and then they just let you out. “No way”, I replied, “you can’t be serious… there’s just no way… So wasps, then? You’re telling me that the school has a room just full of... of wasps…?” The kids looked at each other, but did not laugh. They did not break into a joke, they just regarded me solemnly. The boy leaned forward. “Have you heard the story of Dan Martinez?” I shook my head. The rain beat down against the bus window, gray and relentless. “They say he was the first kid to ever get given an after-school stay in the Wasp Room. They say he kicked and struggled and fought the entire way down the corridor… apparently you can still see some of the scuffs and dents he made in the paint on the walls….” The boy swallowed. “None of the kids who come out ever want to talk about it”. “Well what about Dan Martinez himself?” I asked. “Couldn’t you just ask him?” “That’s just the thing”, the boy went on. “This was the first ever after-school session. And with every thrown punch and kick he extended his time… apparently they just… well, forgot about him. Forgot he was even there. And he was so afraid… so afraid of the wasps…” I realized my throat had gone dry. It was almost like I was there in that corridor… listening to the drone and the buzz beyond the door… “And when they remembered the next morning”, the boy finished, “it was too late. He was dead. He’d been stung so many times that at first they didn’t even recognize his body… Apparently all the teachers pretended that he’d just moved away…” He shrugged. “But that’s not how the story goes. Not the way the kids tell it”. \* I thought about the stories I was told on the bus all night long. I couldn’t get the images out of my head, and when I slept, my dreams were of Dan Martinez. His ruined corpse trying to warn me from beyond the grave…. As the sound of the wasps grew louder and louder… \* School the next morning was like an out of body experience. I could barely think straight at all. I was so scared, so terrified of stepping out of line. The teachers must have picked up on my change of mood, but, they didn’t say anything. They didn’t say a damned thing. So I kept my head down, and I did my best. At least, I did until the commotion in the cafeteria that lunch… A sudden clatter of tray and splatter of food set the whole hall to silent. There was a gentle rustle of shirts and jackets and everyone turned at once to see the source of the commotion. I didn’t have to, I was stood right next to it. The girl from the bus had just stumbled into a teacher and knocked his lunch to the ground. A miserable old Science teacher, by the name of Mr. Rhyde. We made eye contact, and I have never seen such genuine fear… I could see tears forming in her eyes… and the teacher burst into a sudden rage. He swivelled to look at her, face red, and bellowed: “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING YOU SILLY GIRL!” I’d never seen a teacher shout at this school before, which made the experience all the more frightening. “I’LL BET YOU DID THIS ON PURPOSE, DIDN’T YOU? EH? ANSWER ME!” “N-No, No Sir”, she stuttered back, she was flushed with embarrassment, shaking and scared… “THE WASP ROOM!” He shouted at her, “NOW!” Her eyes went wide and white, her own tray dropped to the floor as she clasped together her hands… it was all happening so fast, she began to beg- “No! Sir, PLEASE! PLEASE DON’T SEND ME TO THE ROOM! I- I- I-“ And I began to panic. She was losing it. She was going to do the same thing as Mark had done yesterday, she was going to make it ten times worse, she was going to be dragged there by force… what if she kicked up as much of a fuss as Dan Martinez! What if they threw her in overnight too? What if they forgot about her like they forgot about him! I couldn’t let that happen. So I gathered my courage. And I stepped forward. I came up with a quick plan, one that might just work. The girl and I looked similar, similar hair, similar build… And I cleared my throat. “Excuse me, Sir? Mr Rhyde?” He span and turned to look at me with disdain. “What do you want?” “I uh… it wasn’t her who knocked over your tray. It was me”. “What are you talking about you silly girl, I was looking right at her!” “No, Sir, it was me, I was running past and I wasn’t looking where I was going. Apologies”. A flicker of doubt crossed his face… “And to be honest Sir”, I finished, forcing myself to be brave, “you really should have been looking where you were going”. I heard a gasp from somewhere behind me. And the doubt on his face was replaced at once by that same anger, this time however, redirected at myself. “TO THE WASP ROOM WITH YOU!” He roared, “NOW! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT! AND YOU!” He points to the other girl. “Clean this mess up!” My heart was hammering away inside my chest. I wondered if I’d just been a massive idiot… but I made a decision, and I had to stand by it. “I’m sorry Sir", I said, "but I don’t know the way”. He seethed and grabbed me roughly by the collar. I heard a tide of whispering rising behind us as he dragged me from the hall and down corridor after corridor, beneath broken and darkened lights, and eventually down a shaky set of metal stairs, one I had never seen before. Down we went, down a long and blank corridor with flickering lights. Completely bare except for little cracks and scuffs along the wall… and a large, chipped white wooden door at the far end. The buzzing, at first, I assumed to be from the lights. But as we approached… as that terrible door grew larger and larger… the drone of the buzz grew with it. It felt like the air became thicker, like tar, I struggled to breathe as I stumbled and tripped over my feet, until we were stood right by it, right by the door. And he grabbed a key from his pocket and jammed it into the lock. He shot me a look… And was that… A smirk? I swear it was, the hint of a smirk, of GLEE… and he tore the door open, and threw me inside. “I’ll see you at the end of the day!” he barked as the door slammed shut… …*The end of the day*… but that was over three hours away… No… surely he couldn’t mean to keep me in here for three hours? For supposedly knocking over some food? But I heard the door lock behind me. I only *heard* it, because the room was pitch black. The buzzing was all around. I began to panic… the beads of sweat across my skin felt like legs… like little wasps, in my mind, crawling all over me… I began to scream… “Sshhh!” came a voice through the darkness. Another kid! “Don’t scream, and don’t move- just stay still. Stay as still as you can, and keep your mouth SHUT”. “ENJOY!” came the voice of Mr Rhyde through the door, and suddenly I was hit by a terrible heat. The room was thrown into a bright and violent light, from heatlamps stationed all around, and in the split second that I could see before I was forced to shut my eyes, I saw the walls come alive. They rippled and swarmed from every surface, a violent, shifting hivemind… ...the wasps. Thousands upon thousands of them. I watched clouds of them shoot into the air to bask in the heat. The buzzing and the drone grew tenfold and even if I had screamed I don’t think anyone would have heard me. They were all around me at once. The wasps. Flying past my ears and landing on my clothes and my skin. I slammed my mouth tight shut, and quickly drew a hand up to each ear to cover and protect them. Too quickly, apparently, as it was fast enough to disturb a handful of wasps. I felt them swarm over my eyelids, crawling over my hands and my fingers…. I suppressed a scream as I felt a sharp sting into the back of my hand… and then another. I was shaking. Trembling so violently… They were everywhere. Everywhere all at once. Swarming. And LOUD. *So LOUD.* …But I had to calm down. I HAD TO CALM DOWN! If I didn’t… if I didn’t then they would just keep coming. They would keep stinging. So I focused as best as I could, and I took as many deep breaths as I was able. This was insane. This was absolutely insane. How could they do this? How could they do this to a bunch of kids? It was a nightmare. A true nightmare. And the time dragged on. Minute by agonizing minute, hour after torturous hour. God knows how long the other kid with me had been in here. The lights turned on and off intermittently. When they were on we sweated under its painful, burning heat, the wasps were disturbed and roused to a frenzy, and that’s when they were at their most aggressive. When the lights went off we were plunged back into total, unforgiving darkness. The wasps were all over me. All over my arms and legs, all over my face… scratching their way around my nostrils… I’ve never had to control my breathing so carefully… not breathing out too hard for fear of angering them… and not breathing in too hard for fear of… hell, for fear of… Well, I didn’t want to think about it. I couldn’t stand to. *BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ* \* I was a different person by the time I was let out. Everyone must have gone home by then. It felt like years had past, not hours. The Wasp Room was dark when my ordeal came to an end… It had been for some time, much longer than I’d gotten used to… I was braced, terrified but braced, for another blast of that burning light… But it never came. Just darkness, cool and steady until the majority of the wasps had settled, and then there was light again. I could see it through my eyelids… but this light was different; it was pale. I cautiously opened one eye, and saw a silhouette of a man by the open door. I could have cried in relief. I think I did, a little, actually. “Out you come”, he muttered. Mr Rhyde. The boy was out in a flash, quickly sprinting away down the long corridor, but I could not run. My legs were still shaking. Traumatized, I took step by careful step back out into the corridor. And he laughed. Mr Rhyde LAUGHED. “Enjoy yourself in there, new girl?” He chuckled, and I looked up at him through bleary, bloodshot eyes. “You’re a monster”, I whispered, before I could stop myself. Then the laughter left from his face. And time seemed to slow. “*What* did you just say?” He asked me, a voice harsh and forced from between his teeth. I said nothing, tried to walk on by, but he grabbed me my the shirt, held me in place- “So you think it’s appropriate to talk back to your teachers, do you, GIRL?” he spat, a vein bulging in his neck. “It might be an idea to teach you how things work around here sooner rather than later… we wouldn’t want another Master Martinez on our hands… “ He grinned; “I’m starting to think that perhaps, you’d appreciate a little more time in the Wasp Room…” And I panicked. My vision flashed white and began to throb at the edges. No. Oh God, No more. No more. FUCK. I CAN’T DO IT. I CAN’T TAKE IT. DON’T MAKE ME GO BACK INSIDE. “PLEASE SIR DON’T! DON’T SEND ME BACK INSIDE! YOU CAN’T!” I struggled, screaming, kicking, but he held me steady- he began to open the door back up… and the buzzing grew… the wasps…. The wasps… …and I flung him off of me. He stumbled. He was old. And before I knew what I was doing, I had shoved him. Shoved him hard, into the Wasp Room. He staggered and fell onto his back, scrambling around desperately, onto his knees, crawling back towards me… …And I slammed the door tight shut, and locked it, clenching the key tight in my fist. He began banging against the door from the other side. Again and again and again. “NO!” he shouted, “You can’t do this! I’m allergic! Please, *I’m allergic to wasps*!” I took a retreating step back down the corridor… I heard the sudden, metallic buzz of the heatlamps accompany the swarming buzz of the wasps… and I heard his screams. I felt a hand on my shoulder and jumped in terror, swivelling at once- \-It was the boy. The boy I’d been locked in the room with. We stared at each other for a moment. Then he gestured to the key in my hand, and quietly, he said: “I’d leave that here, if I were you”. So I let it fall from my wasp-stung hand. It clattered to the floor. And in silence we walked out together as the buzzing and the screams echoed down and around the corridor behind us... \* We have a new Science teacher now. A woman. She seems nice enough. But they never told us what happened to Mr Rhyde. They never even mentioned his disappearance. Most of the kids assume he’s just retired, perhaps even some of the teachers do too. I don’t know what happened to him, exactly. I don’t want to know. I’ve started getting nightmares. And I don’t think the boy I was locked down there with is a grass… I don’t THINK he’d tell on me… but I don’t KNOW. And I feel like I’m losing my mind. I notice furtive, searching glances from teachers in the corridors. Whispers behind locker doors. And I’ve never felt less safe. And I can’t go back to that Wasp Room. Not ever. I can't. I can’t do it. So I have to get out. I have to find a way out of this school. And I will do whatever it takes.