The Fresh Ghost of Stuy-Aire
You’ve heard of Chucky and the Grunge. Now meet: CARL.
Reading Time: 5 minutes
The sophomore runs for her life. It is 8:07 a.m. and she’s late to her AP Chemistry exam. Somehow, she has deluded herself into thinking that she suffers from a lack of time, not a lack of knowledge dating from the end of the sig figs unit to the present.
She jumps onto the 7-9 escalator. The lactic acid (ha, she HAD learned something) in her leg muscles burns with every step. Soon, she will be in her seat worrying about the chemistry of being beaten with a slipper as she spends more time calculating her grade than actual chemistry equations.
Suddenly, the escalator decides to hate on her as well, screeching to a stop. She groans in exasperation. Yet this was a strange stop. It felt as though something was pushing back on the stairs. This was not the standard blockage of a stray hair tie or freshman’s toe.
Her backpack is the only thing that cushions her landing as she is flung backward by the escalator. She is gobsmacked, the concept of potential energy finally snapping into clarity, as she is thrown to the ground from three-quarters up. And just when she regains her senses, she realizes: the escalators are going backwards!?
In the SU room that Alex and Eshaal still intrude upon (look, cushioned seating is hard to come by and even ghost hunters get back aches), their ghost-y sensors begin to beep. Yeah, that’s right, they have the budget for ghostbustin’ tech, now! Take THAT, bankruptcy!
“It is time,” Alex whispers, donning his cartoonishly large detective hat. “Carl’s back.”
“Ooooh, more ketchup!” Eshaal happily tastes some of the suspicious red specimens the detectives have found at locker 666.
“We’ve talked about this…”
Alex scratches his head, trying to fathom why Carl the ghost could possibly be haunting Stuyvesant again. Hadn’t he done enough damage last time? The ragtag detectives have already interviewed victims of his crimes this time around. So far, they have heard stories of:
- Three other escalator throwdowns.
- The ninth-floor lockers all began “bleeding” at 6:66 p.m. (it was a robotics student who initially noticed this and dismissed it as a hallucination from being in the building for 28 hours straight). This was confirmed upon taste tes- ahem. PROPER EXAMINATION of the specimen.
- Every single physics exam last Tuesday had all answers as “B.” When teachers confirmed that they were not responsible, the “100s” turned into “BOOs” on their own, jumpscaring at least five juniors. Ms. Sharaf claimed that it should have been a giveaway that it wasn’t her doing when it became clear that the class had a passing test average.
- The night before deadlines, senior Common App accounts automatically converted their personal statements to 650-word lists of “your mom your mom your mom your mom…”
- The heat suddenly rose to 95 degrees in the locker rooms. Eshaal herself was a victim of such paranormal troublemaking. Carl the ghost had chanted through the vents, “SMELL ya later!”
Upon laying all of these cases out on super-sophisticated index cards, the detectives squeeze the brain cells they have left to try and find a connection. Eshaal sighs, leaning onto the wall, the poster crinkling behind her. Annoyed by the audacity of inanimate objects, she frustratedly turns around to rip it down. But then, she reads it: FRESHMAN CAUCUS OFFERS THERAPY VOUCHERS FOR AP BIO TAKERS!
Eshaal gasps. “FRESHMEN!”
Alex looks at her weirdly. “You know, as a senior, you’re a little too excited about tha–”
“No, Alex! My dude! My man! My slime!” She shoves the poster into his face. “Everybody Carl’s been attacking has been an aged Stuy student. We’ve gotten sophomores, juniors, seniors… but the freshmen remain unscathed.”
And so the case has been cracked!
And so the case has been kind of cracked!
Unfortunately, there is a weeklong waiting time to get approval on ghostly investigations. What the movies don’t show you is the sheer amount of paperwork it takes. The liaBOOlity forms? Ghostly Arrest Warrants? Spooky Scary Contracts for Summoning Beings from the Underworld? So BOO-ring.
They put together a stronger ritual than the year before: a circle of Stuy gym shirts decorated with half-used pencils from around the hallway floors. The center of the circle was a singular ID card—a sacrifice (plus, Eshaal has #glowedup since the picture was taken, so she could not care less about where it goes).
“COME OUT, CARL!” they shout. “WE KNOW YOU’RE HERE! WHY ARE YOU TAUNTING US?”
Slowly but surely, a ghostly figure emerges from the setup, wearing a thick pair of glasses and a gym shirt two sizes too big for him. “Y’all needa chill.”
“Carl!” Eshaal takes on a friendlier tone. “What is up?”
“What is up?” Carl swooshes over menacingly. “What is up is that you people have no RESPECT for freshmen anymore! Why, when I was a youngin at Stuyvesant, I was constantly pushed, berated, and harassed for my DRIP! You old people do not understand the plight of children.”
Eshaal looks on, baffled. “But they’re short.”
“Short people do not get rights.”
Carl pauses, pondering this. He was a freshman when he entered ghostland, but he was a tall one at that: one of those 5’11 kids who wore basketball shorts in the snowy winter. You know the ones. Strange folks. “But you… you’re 5’4. How could you say this?”
“I can respect the game. And freshmen are the only people shorter than me, so I will call them itty bitty widdle babies when they can’t open their lockers. Or e-mail their teachers without quaking. Or take notes without copying the board word for word. Or dress well. Or-”
“ENOUGH!” Carl booms. “However… I had not considered that the discrimination against freshmen is due to their fun size and not their rank. That. That makes me feel better about our social hierarchy. It’s focusing on the really important things,” he nods. “Okay. I will cease my harassment of the elderly.”
“Hey, we’re not that ol-”
“You started high school during the pandemic. Lady, your bones are crunchier than a chip bag.”
He swooshes back into his ghostly realm, the bloody ninth-floor lockers reverting to their original state and the escalators running forwards again. Eshaal victoriously punches the air. “I DO have communication skills! Take that, therapist!”
And so Stuyvesant High School spends the rest of Halloween in peace, with Carl doing whatever it is that ghosts do (the wannabe Ghostbusters haven’t cracked that one yet). With him gone, students can go back to their regular sources of intense sadness: college apps, numerical MP1 grades, and most importantly, AP Chem tests that you can fail even without anybody’s sabotage.