Age: 13, Grade: 8
School Name: Jhs 259 William Mckinley, Brooklyn, NY
Educator: Laura Skidelsky
Category: Novel Writing
The Adventures of Class 793
Seventh grader, Paul, finds himself in a new class and quickly befriends five students: Peter, Sally, Oren, Wally, and Phoebe, through their love of mystery movies. They decide to start a club where they can watch these movies together, however things escalate when they find a mysterious key. This key is one of many that opens tunnels to the houses of students and staff. The group discovers that the custodians are dropping these keys, and begin collecting them to figure out what the custodians are doing. When a custodian chaperones one of their trips, they almost get hold of an entire keychain as it slips off his belt, but the vice principal spots them and orders the group to return them. By Thanksgiving, the issue of the keys seems resolved, until Phoebe finds a tunnel in her cousin Jack’s yard which leads to the school’s hidden fifth floor. Phoebe is eager to explore this area, clearly being the custodians’ base of operations, but Sally and Wally worry they could get into some real trouble if they’re caught again. The threesome have a dispute, which is resolved with a trip to the school’s guidance counselor, who also calls the police to investigate. Together with an officer, the students go to the fifth floor, and catch the custodians as they admit that they were digging the tunnels to fill with trash as a form of revenge for the poor treatment they’d received having to clean the messes of the staff and students.
A Real MysteryDear Diary,
It has been a few days since the mystery club actually convened; since last Thursday and this Tuesday, Mr. Balomono had us do work for his class as punishment for running amok without his permission. But now here we are, the third Thursday of September, the mystery club finally reuniting for its original purpose: watching movies. Of course, the meeting quickly redirected itself.
Actually, it was at lunch last Thursday when Wally unveiled to us what today’s session would be about. We all sat down at the lunch table, engaging in casual chatter, when Wally called for our attention.
“Hey guys,” she announced, awaiting our focus, then she continued “I wanted to tell you this yesterday, but we had lunch detention, so I waited until today. One of the custodians dropped something after leaving Mr. Hemoon’s class yesterday.” Then, she pulled something shiny out of her pocket. A key that read ‘Tunnel 031’ on it, similar to the one Peter found on the first mystery club meeting. “A key, probably for another tunnel!”
“Woah!” exclaimed Paul. “We have to test this key out! If it opens another tunnel, we might get a better idea of what the custodians are doing!”
Peter interjected “When will we be able to test it? If Mr. Balomono catches us fiddling with keys during club again, we’ll be in real trouble.”
“Well we have to use it as some point!” Paul reasoned. Everyone paused to think about it for a moment.
Eventually Wally decided, “I’ll just hold onto it until there’s a time to test it out.” We all felt that would probably happen soon— we just didn’t know specifically when— so we went back to eating our lunch.
Today, was the fourth official meeting of the mystery club, and based on what happened before, we counted on something strange happening here.
We sat there with the key still in Wally’s pocket, as Mr. Balomono put Detective Claustrophobia back on from the point where we left off last week. It had barely been fifteen minutes into the movie when Mr. Balomono declared that he had to use the restroom and would be right back; even though it’s usually unwise to just leave a small group of teens alone without any supervision.
We all shared mischievous glances and Paul had a flash of glee in his eyes. Were we doing the wrong thing? Yes, we were, but I’d say justifiably so as I announced, “Now the mystery club has a real mystery on their hands! The mystery of the custodians and the keys!” We all squealed joyfully and then ran around, quickly checking for anything with a keyhole in it.
After we didn’t find anything, we joined back up, sitting around the table. We knew Mr. Balomono would be back soon, so instead of doing anything else that may risk a detention, we talked a bit about where the door might be, since this process of looking around and checking every door would take forever.
“Well we know there are at least 31 tunnels in the building if not more.” Wally recapped. I nodded my head. Then I had an idea.
“Maybe it’s like the classroom numbers! Tunnel 001 was the only tunnel on the zeroth floor: the basement! Thus, tunnel 031 would be the first tunnel on the third floor!” I proclaimed this idea with pride, and hoped the others would be as enthusiastic about this revelation. Indeed, I was met with smiling faces of anticipation.
“Hey, that’s a great idea!” shouted Paul. Then we all quieted down as we heard Mr. Balomono’s footsteps returning from the bathroom. “I guess I know what we’re doing tomorrow,” whispered Paul.
“So, how’s the movie?” Asked Mr. Balomono as he sat back down at the table behind us. I forgot the movie was still playing.
“It’s good,” Oren stated cooly.
Then for the rest of afterschool we watched the movie, since Mr. Balomono stayed in the room for the rest of the time. Thankfully, we made a substantial amount of progress for the ten minutes he was in the bathroom. Tomorrow, we’ll definitely be checking the third floor.
I’ll cut to the chase: today we did indeed check the third floor for tunnels. We got a chance between Social Studies and lunch, which were on the same floor, since we knew we would have plenty of time during lunch before the aids realized we were gone. Our main fear was that someone passing in the hall would find us, so we ended up rushing into the bathroom anytime we heard footsteps.
Based on our theory that it was the first door on the third floor, we assumed that ‘the first door’ either must be the leftmost or rightmost “closet”.
My nerves at the time made the events very vivid in my mind. We went to the leftmost side first, swiftly tiptoeing as Wally anxiously pulled the key out of her pocket. We spotted a small door, half the size of a regular one, right next to the final staircase on this side of the building. Quickly, Wally crouched down to open it. First she rotated the key to the right. When that didn’t work she turned it back to the left. She spun it a couple more times and was about to give up when we heard footsteps. I can still hear the clip-clopping of fancy shoes now.
Luckily we didn’t see anyone, so we still had time to hide, so we ran to the bathroom. We sighed collectively. I could still hear the footsteps. I was beginning to become curious as to who it was. I turned the knob slowly and opened the door just enough to slide my head through. I caught a glimpse of the school’s vice principal when I felt a sudden tight grip on my shoulder and was yanked back.
The door shut and I turned around to see who pulled me back so rudely. It was Sally, who glared at me in a furious panic. “Why would you open the door?” She barked.
I attempted to justify myself, saying, “I just wanted to see who it was.”
“The whole point of running in here is so no one would see us! We really shouldn’t be trying to attract their attention by staring at them!”
“I wasn’t staring at them! I was just curious!”
“It doesn’t matter! Just the creaking of the door might have prompted a quick glance, and then whoever you saw would come over and ask why you were looking at them, and then you would have to explain!” I don’t know why Sally was so livid. I do this kind of thing all the time and it’s never gotten me into trouble.
After that argument, we listened for another minute to make sure there wasn’t anyone else there and left the bathroom to meet back up with the boys.
We then quietly speed-walked to the rightmost side of the floor, where there was another half-door next to the staircase. Once again, Wally bent down and turned the key. This time, it opened. We all gasped as we once again observed literally a hole in the wall; another tunnel. We took a quick moment to discuss what we should do.
Paul immediately proclaimed,“I want to go in!”
Oren stopped us, remarking, “Hold on. This time, if we want to go in we’ll have to close the door so no one catches us, but there’s no Mr. Balomono to pull us out if somehow we get stuck. If we want to go in there, we better have a backup plan.”
We paused and then Sally asked, “Does anyone have their phone on them?”
“I do,” I replied.
“So, if we get trapped, we can just call someone. I know the signal isn’t the best, but it’ll probably work,” Sally explained.
“Yes, but that would get us caught,” Peter stated.
“We already took the equivalent of two days detention from Mr. Balomono. I’ll take it if it means we won’t rot in a tunnel,” Sally diminished the argument, then continued, “I don’t really like this plan either, since the reception in that tunnel won’t be good and it might backfire, but it’s either that or we don’t go.” That statement didn’t particularly instill confidence in me, but I still wanted to see where the tunnel led, so I was in.
We entered the tunnel; it was nearly identical in physical appearance to the last one, but twisted and turned in different ways. It started off with a ladder, since we were on the third floor. We climbed down the ladder and then began crawling once we reached the ground level. It continued in a straight line for a long while after the ground transitioned from the stone school floor to dirt, and it felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. Then there were some left and right turns, followed by another straight line, until we reached the tunnel’s end.
It was another ladder, though smaller than the three story one we went down before. This one was maybe 6 or 7 feet tall. We climbed it and pushed the exit door off so we could get out. We were greeted with another house. Paul had an astonished look on his face. My theory was confirmed when he exclaimed, “This is my house!”
“It is?” Everyone else said at once.
“How have we never noticed this tunnel?” He asked. It was strange. The lawn was empty, and there was nothing obscuring it. The only thing was that the door blended perfectly with the rest of the lawn. It must have been cut directly from the lawn, since even the blades of grass matched. “I’ve only been at this school for two years. Why would there be a tunnel here?”
“Have you done anything to upset the custodians?” I asked him.
“Not that I can remember.” He replied quickly, with clear concern in his voice. “In that case, I’d wager most of the kids who have been here for two years also have a tunnel.”
“But there are so many kids in the 7th grade!” Rejected Sally.
I took my statement back “Okay maybe not most of the 7th graders, but it has to be more than just Paul.” I paused “Now the question is: who has tunnels leading to their house, and why?”
At that moment Oren shouted “Guys, the period ends in 5 minutes! We have to go now! If we’re quick enough maybe we can just get away with being late to class.” We all jumped and zoomed back through the tunnel. Miraculously made it back only a few minutes late, and we were left with the rest of the day to ponder these happenings.
Even tonight I’m still thinking about what happened. The tunnel and the house is all very confusing. I hope that if we keep looking into it, the answers will soon arrive.
Stay inquisitive, Phoebe Alen