James MacInnis picked up the thin folder his editor had given him. Someone had phoned in a scoop that a New England Town had what seemed to be a very small-scale plague of insanity. James didn’t understand why his editor hadn’t brushed it off, and had no idea how he was going to turn it into a story.
It contained three sheets of paper. The top report was recent. A fifteen-year-old girl had been institutionalized with Dissociative Disorder and Dissociative Amnesia on November 1, 2010. She had refused to give up the delusion that she was a character from a popular science fiction show. Poor kid, James thought. The next one was from nine years earlier. The story was almost exactly the same, but with a more gruesome ending. The girl, also fifteen, had believed the people she encountered were monsters and attempted to stab them with a wooden stake. He flipped another page and saw the same story again, in 1996, when another fifteen-year-old had refused to give up the idea that she was a girl detective. Both the girls in 1996 and the girl in 2001 had died not long after being institutionalized. The third still lived, but had not recovered.
James sat back in his chair, frowning. It was strange. The three girls’ stories were too similar to be coincidence. He wondered if there were traces of the mystery any further back.
It wasn’t long before he found something.
James stared at his computer screen. He didn’t believe in the supernatural, but his skin was crawling. He had a thought: what if they had all attended to the same school? He picked up the phone and called the town’s public high school.
“Hi, James MacInnis from the Boston Globe here. I’m looking into a story about teenage girls from your town who are being sent to institutions. I’m wondering if I could talk to someone who’s been at the school for a while.”
“Thanks for calling, Mr. MacInnis. I’ll put you in touch with Miss Natalie. She’s a library volunteer but she’s always the one who knows what’s going on with the students. I’m sure she’d love to talk to you.”
“Thanks,” said James. He was going to turn this boring little story into something huge, he was sure of it.