Ruben Mecho Sanguesa

THE STUDENT

“Would you mind putting the cigarrette off Monsieur?” I interrupted
The man in front of me did not utter a word, he just sighed, took a deep puff and expelled the smoke. The other people in the train were relieved by my words and placed their eyes on me and the man who was annoying their train trip to the city of lights. Then he reluctantly extinguished it and came back to his book. He was reading one of those books that is supposed to help you in one way or another in your life, the ones that make money from the human miseries and hardships. He was a stout man, wearing a dark worn out black jacket, a stripped sweeter that by the way did not match his tight denim  trousers. He was in his fifties and looked like life was secondary to him, as if a boxing fight had started long time ago and he was in one corner longing for the fact of giving up and simply could not or even worse, did not dare to.
I looked on the left, through the window and could only see what were supposed to be factories, nevertheless, all of them seemed like a huge everlasting stone block. I closed my eyes since the rapidness of the train was overwhelming and started to feel a bit dizzy. I gulped to notice I still had the ham sandwich flavor in my mouth, the one I ate two hours ago but seemed to unfortunately  be with me the whole journey. I peeped   my watch, it was 3 p.m, only ten minutes separated us from reaching Paris-Montparnasse station.
I got excited whenever I thought of the new life I was about to begin. I could not believe I was in that train leaving the so boring Manchester city and starting over in Paris. Convincing my family that France was what I needed the most was easy, but convincing Tania was another thing. I took her picture out of my jack and Jones’ wallet and could not help a smile, she was so funny in the picture, the ones everybody has in the graduation day, pretending to be serious and differing a lot from the real life. she was wearing that ugly black dress which did not suit her incredible eyes only half hidden by a curly strand of hair. She was very pretty, more than that, she was part of me.
« Prochain arrêt Paris-Monparnasse, n’oubliez pas vos bien, merci »a voice said. I immediately stood up almost treading the man in front o me and leaded to one of the exit gates of my wagon. When the doors opened, I felt the breeze in my face, a cold air coming from the platform that instead of teasing me, made me feel comfortable, like being at home, « Paris, here I go » I muttered and climbed down the train to tread the platform. I started to walk slowly since I was carrying a very heavy leather suitcase that my mother had given me as a birthday present five years ago. I was delighted to see all those lights in the station, so many people moving as if they were ants looking for their meal to be stored. I read an infotrmative sign showing the main exit in French. After all, my French classes were having their effect now.
When I got to the main exit, I had a look and saw there was not  any taxi free in that moment which was a bit strange, in fact I wouldn’t have had to wait until long but I was feeling a bit cold and I needed to go to the toilette, I could see in the near distance an old Café. I grabbed my suitcase fiercely and made my way towards it. The café was almost in the Jardin Atlantique, when I had it in front of me, I could not help the old wooden doorbell, and something carved in the wood saying something in French that I was unable to translate, it was similar to latin, maybe old French and that was too much for a future History teacher. There was a sign above saying « le petit Château » which was the name of the old Café. I pushed the door, a black one and an odd smell came to me as if some fruit had rotted in that place, I hesitated if staying for a few seconds but I finally decided to stay, « Ben, It’s just a quick coffe, you use  the toilet, then, off you go » I said to myself. The Café  was a bit gloomy and why not saying quite spooky. It looked like nobody had visited the place for ages. I ordered an expresso and sat down leaving my heavy suitcase on the cranky floor. I had a sip and hurried to the toilet. After a couple of minutes I came back to my table to realize my coffe had gone a bit cold.
« Voulez-vous le café chaud, Monsieur ? » a voice behind my back asked.
« No, it’s ok » I replied. The waitress just nodded and continued reading a magazine. Although she was not trying to start a conversation, I could feel her eyes on my back, I did not mean to look at her because avoiding the eye-contact would be more embarassing. I drank up the expresso, cleaned my mouth with my forehand and when I was about to leave the old-fashioned place, the waitress asked with a strong French accent : « American, right ? » I told her I was English instead. She insisted asking me if I was in Paris because of work or pleasure. I started to think she was out of the line, shed id not need to know that, nevertheless, I smiled and told her I was in Paris to study my last year of degree in La Sorbonne. She said : « magnifique, tu dois être très sâge » I laughed while she smiled too and cleaned a glass with the help of her old dirty apron.
The old woman seemed quite kind despite being a bit snoopy. She was in her fourties, she was wearing a black T-shirt, a long white skirt, with that filthy apron on it and a pair of grey boots. Her skin was rather dry as if she had spent her whole life cleaning up and working hard. She told me about the recent fire in the Sorbonne university. I was amazed at her words, since I had not heard about that incident. She informed me that the media was not interested in making all that happened public, but she knew that something terribe happened, and that two people died because of the fire. I paid for the coffe and thanked the woman for the information. I picked my suitcase up again and went outside the old Café to breath fresh air. Now I needed to find a taxi to take me to the hotel, leave my things and rest a bit before going to the university. I was supposed to meet Monsieur Laurraite at six p.m. so, I had time to fresh up before leading to meet him.
I arrived at the hotel des académies et des arts in the heart of the explendid neighbourhood of Sain-Germaine-des-prés. I left my belongings and left me drop literally on the bed. After almost two hours rest I phoned a taxi, took my bag and got ready to meet for the first time Monsieur Laurraite. He was in charge of informing me about the project he had in mind for me the last year of degree. I arrived at La Sorbonne just in time, it twas ten to six in my watch. I gave seven Euros to the taxi driver and waited in the main hall. A very tall man approached to me walking very slowly but firmly towards me, he was wearing a red tie, a long black jacket and a pair of  dark troussers. He was overweight and had  clear trouble walking. He helped himself with a stick made of metal which was shining like a new penny whenever the sunlight hit it.
When he was so close to me that I could touch his shoulder, I tried to break the ice by some friendly words : « Monsieur Laurraite, c’est un plaisir… « 
« la même chose, Mr… ? » he interrupted
« I am Mr. Preach, Ben Preach » I added
« Well Mr. Preach, follow me, I will lead you to the main places you need to see «  Monsieur Laurraite said coldly
I did not reply and started to walk by him, after a minute in silence, which was very unconfortable, I sked him about the fire. He told me he had no idea about it,in fac the said he was not aware of a fire. I found it strange but I did not insist on that issue. The bell rang and immediately hundreds of students filled up the corridor. I lost sight with Monsieur Laurraite, maybe he stoped to talk to a student, but as the corridor was keeping empty and the students came back to their classes, I had no track of my tutor, it  was like he had been kidnapped or something. I leaded to the main entrance again and when I arrived there I happened to see a short blond man who had to be a teacher, at least he looked like, I asked him where Monsieur Laurraite bureau was, he indicated me and after thanking him in decent French I hurried towards the bureau, I did not mean to be unpolite the fisrt day and maybe it was my fault to have lost him. I climbed up the stairs and followed the man’s intructions step by step, I finally found it, I knoscked the door and a voice from inside said : « Entrez ». I opened the door and I came in timidly,
To my surprise, the man I had in front of me was not Monsieur Laurraite, in fact the was a young man, he was slim and wore a ridiculous hat although his face was showing preocupation and anxiety at the same time. I could not help asking who he was. He answered back that his name was Françoise, François Laurraite. I smiled and told him that it could not be possible since I had talked to Monsieur Laurraite fifteen minutes ago. The man in the desk gulped, tried to swallow the amount of saliva he had been accumulating while talking to me and unleashed his tie a little bit. He started to sweat as I was describing him the man I had been with a few minutes ago. He stood up and locked the door behind me.
« this cannot be happening to me ! and now you, you are here to prove it is happening, indeed ! » He said to me while stuttering. Then he continued, « It’s been a week of complete despair and horror, he chases me all the time, I do not know what to do, actually, I d not know why I am telling you this »
« so, if that man is another person and you are who you say you are… who is that man ? » I asked him
« His name is Frederic, he was a collegaue and … » he tried to explain to me
« was ? » I interrupted « doesn’t he work here anymore ? »
« in fact the died tend ays ago in the fire, I d not know if you know about the fire, but… »
« yes, I do, but, are you telling me he’s dead ? » I was freaked out
« he is, and he’s come back to take revenge on what happened » he continued
« but what happened ? » I went on asking him
« the fire started and I was completly in panic, I started to lock all the teacher rooms in the floor and although I cried and cried demanding if somebody was in the building I obtained no answer, so I left the place since the flames were devouring the whole place »
I had to sit because I was feeling dizzy.
« he was inside one room and died because of my fault and now he’s here to kill me, or torture me, I do not know what to do…. »
He paused because of the fact that the lights were off, any sound could be heard, no one  speakig at the corridor. That was very strange, I could only listen to my new friend`s breath who was trembling because he grabbed my arm. I started to feel scared too.  In matter of seconds a far odd sound was approaching, we even kept in silence to find out what i twas. It was a noise that we were not able to tell what i twas like.
Suddenly our fear did not go away, it turned into horror to notice that the noise was produced by the sound of a metal object hitting the floor, probably a stick someone had to walk with it. The sound was nearer and nearer and it was so loud that we could not even hear our heart beating. What I could finally listen was Monsieur Laurraite screaming in horror and pain after the office door was slowly opened.
  

 

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Published on e-Stories.org on 01/06/2012.

 

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