The Suicide Room. That's what they called room 733 - as if I didn't have enough to worry about on my first day as a freshman.
We had been assigned to dorm room 734 which, it turns out, wasn’t one of the nice add-on rooms in the south hall. No, we found ourselves in the older wing of the building on the 7th floor. I wasn’t too bummed out, though; at least they’d honored my request to room with my best friend.
Lydia and I spent most of the morning moving ourselves in. By the time our Resident Advisor came by I was taping up posters and Lydia was reading.
"Hi girls, I'm Beth!" chirped the bubbly blonde girl as she bounded into our room. "I'll be your RA this year."
"Hi," I nodded at her.
"Wow, you girls really work fast,” she said taking in our made beds and hung up clothes.
Beth picked up a drawing of Cthulhu that Lydia had done over the summer. She turned it sideways, studying it.
"Is this the kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean?"
Lydia glared at her over the top of her book.
"So anyway,” the RA continued, “I know our hall isn't as new as the south hall but trust me, there's a lot of history here. This building is almost 60 years old."
"Yes, I can see that." I said looking around. "The rooms are pretty small."
"Well, people were smaller in the 50s." Beth shrugged.
"Really." Lydia said flatly.
"Yep, really." Beth pursed her lips and just continued to stand there, while the room filled with awkward silence.
"So," I said, "the corner room next to us - 733, is it? It looks a lot bigger than our room. Is anyone assigned to that room or could we maybe-"
"Oh, you don't want that room.” Beth interrupted. "There were a couple suicides in there. A hanging and a jumper if I remember right. They’re not assigning anyone to that room. Anyway, I'd just like to remind you that this is an all girls floor and guys are not allowed up here after 11."
Before we could reply to her Beth clapped her hands and with a quick "well, nice meeting you" she skipped out of the room.
Lydia dropped her book on the bed and stared out into the hall. "I hate her."
"Did you hear that bomb she dropped?"
"I'm going to call her Dumbcrap Beth."
"Lydia, seriously. Suicides?"
"Oh, Becca, relax. Every college campus has a few suicides."
"Yeah, but in the same room?"
Lydia sighed. "Really, who cares? It's not our room."
"Yeah, I guess." I turned to study the little window in our room. "Can you imagine climbing out of that tiny window and jumping? You'd be alive for at least five seconds before you hit the ground."
"Oh, jees, Becca, can you not?" Lydia glanced at the window and visibly shuddered. "You know I hate heights and just talking about that crap is raising my blood pressure."
"We could always move into the suicide room," I teased her, "That one has a window on each wall."
"Okay, okay. But seriously, think about it. It would take a lot of commitment to squeeze out of that tiny window."
"Yeah, well, remember, people were apparently smaller back then." Lydia mumbled as she pushed her bed further away from the window.
Since Lydia was an outgoing and friendly person, we made friends at lightning speed. There were a lot of parties in those first few weeks, at one of which Lydia inevitably met a guy. I'd known the girl since we were in diapers so I fully anticipated her having a boyfriend by the end of September. His name was Mike and he wasn't anything special; just your standard frat pledge douche canoe.
After about a month on campus the novelty of college started wearing off. Lydia and I found our stride and we spent more weekends studying than drinking. Midterms were coming up in a couple weeks and I was determined to maintain a 4.0 GPA throughout my freshman year.
One night in early October I was woken up by a loud, grinding sound. I sat up in bed and strained to hear it again.
Lydia was also wide awake and listening.
What the heck? She mouthed to me.
It wasn't unusual for there to be noise in the hallways since other people came in at all hours of the night. But this sound had definitely come from next door - the corner room.
"Yeah," Lydia whispered. "That's the window next door."
At Lydia's insistence, we kept our window closed at all times. However, there was no mistaking the sound of the window in room 733 being opened and closed again at regular intervals.
"Who's in there?"
"Is someone messing with us? Is this like initiation?"
Lydia raised her eyebrow at me. "Initiation to what?"
"I don't know. College? Maybe they're hazing the freshman?"
*GRIND* (it opened)
"Who is hazing freshman?"
*SLAM* (it shut)
"Becca, I love you, but that was stupid."
I threw a pillow at her. "Well, whoever it is, go tell them to knock it the heck off."
"Me?! I'm not risking being thrown out a window."
"Well, I'm not doing it!"
"I'm an art major. You're a political science major. YOU go lay down the law."
"Then call Dumbcrap Beth. Isn't this the kind of nonsense she should deal with?"
"I’m not calling her. Don't you put that evil on me"
"Fine," Lydia whispered loudly, "then we'll just have to ignore it."
"I have class at 7:30!" I whispered.
"Then do something!"
"Ugh!" I got out of bed and stomped to the door, threw it open dramatically and went down the hall to pound on the door to room 733 which simply said 'Supply Room'.
"People are trying to sleep, please stop." I said when there was no answer.
"Dude, seriously..." I sighed.
I stepped back from the door and immediately noticed problem. Room 733 was padlocked shut from the outside. I hurried back to my room.
"What happened?" Lydia asked.
"I'm not going anywhere near that room, again. It's locked from the outside; I don't know how anybody could get in there."
"So, you’re saying it's a spooky ghost?" She laughed.
"No, I’m saying there is creepy crap going on inside a room colloquially called ‘the Suicide Room’.”
Lydia scoffed and rolled over to go back to sleep. "You should have been a drama major." We didn’t hear the window next door again that night but the next morning you could clearly see from outside that both windows in the corner room were now wide open.
I watched the windows on room 733 for an entire week but they remained open. Occasionally at night I thought I could hear a noise next door liked marbles dropping and rolling across the floor. Since it never woke Lydia up, I didn’t bother to say anything.
One afternoon I was alone in the dorm editing notes on my laptop. I had my headphones in but the music wasn’t loud enough to cover the noise of someone knocking on the door.
"Come in," I said without looking up from the screen.
A moment went by and then heard I heard the knocking again. I jerked my earbuds out and slammed the laptop closed.
I turned around, "Come-"
What the heck? The door to the hallway was wide open. I'd left it open on purpose since Ian (a junior I was dating) was supposed to be stopping by. I heard the knocking again from behind me and literally jumped out of my chair.
It had come from the other side of the room – the closet door. It was the closet that shared a wall with room 733.
"Lydia, you're not funny."
"Lydia, I swear to god, I will punch you in your face."
Silence. I walked over to the closet door and grasped the handle.
"Lydia, you’re a -"
Her voice came from the doorway – behind me. I let go of the doorknob and stumbled back, wide-eyed. Lydia threw her stuff on the bed and turned to me, crossing her arms.
"I’m a what?"
“I...thought you were hiding in the closet." I said, lamely.
"Because someone was knocking on the door."
"Jesus, Becca." Lydia rubbed her forehead and walked over to the closet, throwing open the door. There was nothing there but clothes and boxes. She made a swipe of her arm as if to say: what now?
"Becca, there's no one here."
"I know what I heard."
We glared at each other until our little stand off was interrupted by the timely arrival of Ian.
He immediately sensed the tension in the room. "Hi, ladies... What’s new?"
I gave my roommate a hostile look. "There’s strange crap is going on in that room next door. But that’s not new."
'Which room? 735? Or the empty one?"
"The empty one." Lydia emphasized.
“733. Yeah, I'm not surprised. That's the suicide room."
"Right, we heard about the deaths." I sat down on my bed.
"Yeah, it’s pretty messed up. Three suicides all in one dorm room."
"Three?" Lydia raised her eyebrow. "We were told there were two."
"Well there were a couple people in the 70s and then some guy about ten years ago. He jumped out the window.”
Lydia and I both shuddered. Although she was much worse, we were both terrified of heights. A falling death was about the worst thing I could think of.
"I will admit that three suicides in the same dorm room is disturbing.” Lydia said in an apologetic tone.
"Yeah, I heard there's something in that room." Ian said.
"No one knows, but every year someone has a new theory, usually right around Halloween something gets published in the campus paper. Whatever is in there, though, it ain't friendly."
"So, has anyone ever killed themselves in the neighboring rooms? Like this one?"
"Nah, just 733. Honestly, I was surprised when I heard they were opening the north hall this year."
"They told us we were the biggest incoming freshman class in twenty years." I said absentmindedly.
"Yeah, I heard that, too. You know you could request a room change." Ian sat down on the bed next to me and I leaned against his shoulder.
"Yeah, but they wouldn't keep us together." Lydia cut in. "Becca and I have been best friends for 15 years. We can't room with other people."
"So should we just keep living here, next to Satan?" I glanced at the closet door again.
Lydia shrugged. "At least we'll have some stories to tell after graduation."
"These aren't the kind of stories I want to tell."
A few days later Lydia began to believe my closet story. I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of someone whispering. I looked over at Lydia, who was already staring at me with wide eyes. She slowly brought a finger to her lips. I listened intently, trying to hear what the voice was saying and where it was coming from but I couldn't understand even one word. I got out of my bed and tiptoed over to Lydia's. The whispering was definitely louder over there, but then she shared a wall with room 733. I listened harder.
What the hell? Lydia leaned over and put her ear up to the wall. The whispers suddenly stopped and I leaned closer. Suddenly there was a loud bang from the other side. Lydia immediately recoiled and clutched her ear in pain.
Someone was in there. Suddenly more angry than scared I again threw open our door and stomped over to the supposedly empty supply room. I banged on the door loudly not caring who else I woke up at this point.
"Are you kidding me?!” I yelled at the door. “This crap isn't funny anymore. Come out of that room, you jerk."
Silence. And then the doorknob started to turn.
I don't know what I'd expected to happen but it wasn't that. I backed up so far from the door that I ran into the opposite wall. When the handle had turned all the way down, something started to push from the other side. The
door groaned loudly but the locks held.
I held my breath until the pressure on the door subsided and the handle slowly returned to its normal position.
I noticed Lydia peaking her head out of our room. She held up her hands as if to say what happened?
"Someone thinks they're funny." I answered her out loud. She shook her head and disappeared back into our room.
I knelt down on the floor and brought my head down to the carpet, peering under the door crack. It was the first time I had seen into the corner room.
Room 733 was definitely a supply closet. There were chairs stacked along one wall and bed frames along the other. A few rotting mattresses were piled under one of the windows and a thick layer of dust covered everything in the room. The windows were absolutely huge, which was something you couldn’t really tell by looking up at the building. There were open as always and I could definitely see how someone could easily climb through them to the outside ledge.
The room didn't look like it had been disturbed in a couple of decades which sent a shudder wracking through my body.
The moonlight, which had been providing enough light to see into the room, suddenly vanished and I saw only pitch black inside. I blinked rapidly trying to adjust my night vision. I squeezed my eyes shut and when I opened them, a large yellow eye was looking back at me, only a few inches away from my face on the other side of the door.
I screamed and woke up half the dorm.
There was no denying that things were escalating. The next morning Lydia and I put in dorm change requests with Resident Services and hoped for the best. In the meantime, we agreed to never be alone in our dorm room at night. Either we both spent the night at home or neither of us did. We started spending most nights with our respective boyfriends. I told Ian everything that had happened and he suggested I maybe talk to the campus Paranormal Society. I hesitantly made an appointment and Lydia and I met with a small, cleanly dressed kid named Craig and four of his "colleagues” the following Tuesday.
We told them everything we could remember, every incident, no matter how small. Craig and the four other members of the Paranormal Society sat quietly and took notes for half an hour. It wasn’t until we finished that anyone spoke.
"Is that all?" Craig asked.
"Yes..." I said slowly.
"Would you mind waiting out in the hall for a few minutes so that I may confer with my colleagues?"
"Sure," Lydia smiled indulgently and stood up. "Whatever you need."
The door had barely shut behind us when Lydia snorted and rolled her eyes. "Let's go."
"Go where?" I asked.
"Are you serious?"
"Lydia, come on, we need help, I am freaking out. We haven't stayed one night in our dorm since Thursday so this isn't something we can just brush off."
"Okay.” She threw her hands up. “Let's hear what they have to say and then we can go over to Resident Services and check on our move requests."
We loitered out in the hallway for another 15 minutes before Craig came out and asked up to come back and take a seat.
With all the pomp and circumstance of a meeting of parliament, Craig cleared his throat and made his diagnosis.
"What you’re dealing with, ladies, is a very angry ghost."
"Is that your professional opinion, Craig?" Lydia said. I shot her a look.
"Y-yes,” he stuttered. “A vengeful spirit-“
“A spirit?” I asked. I very much doubted that that’s what we were dealing with.
“Yes,” answered one of the not-Craigs. “That’s ghost to the layperson.”
“Jesus Christ,” Lydia groaned and rubbed her temples.
Mistaking Lydia’s frustration with despair, Craig rushed right into his speech.
“Don’t be afraid, ladies, we’re going to take care of you. It’s true that spirits can be quite a headache if you don’t know how to exorcize them which is why it’s good you came to us. Suicides almost always result in angry ghosts, they need revenge.”
"Revenge on whom?" I asked.
"On other students. Perhaps this particular spirit was bullied into taking his own life and now seeks to torment others.”
"We can take care of this for you right away, all we ask is a small donation to the society,” Craig continued. “We honestly didn’t realize that room was having this much activity. It's really very exciting."
"Great, well, thank you for your time," Lydia said as she grabbed my hand and pulled me out of my chair.
“Do you want to set something up for this weekend?” Craig asked.
“Tell you what, we’ll call you.”
Lydia hurried me out of the room wearing a weary look and we didn’t speak again until we were almost to the Admin building.
“That was a waste of time.” She said.
“Look, I’m not disagreeing with you, but-”
“Becca, tell me you didn’t honestly buy into that?”
“So you don’t think it’s a...a…” I was having trouble even saying the word, it sounded so ridiculous. “…ghost?”
“Well, I don’t know, but neither do they. That guy had no idea what the heck he was talking about.”
I pulled my hood lower over my eyes as we stepped into line at the Resident Services desk.
“Let me put it this way.” Lydia continued. “They’re playing Ghostbusters and we’re* living* the Exorcist.”
"Fine,” I sighed. “Then what do you want to do? Just keep sleeping at Mike and Ian's until we get reassigned?”
“I just want this to end.” Lydia crossed her arms and stared straight ahead. We all wanted this to end. Even if living next to that room wasn’t scary it was sure as hell distracting.
“Alright, well, I mean we're probably safe during daylight hours so as long as we don’t spend nights there we should be okay. Our room is only ghost adjacent after all, and our new assignments will come through soon." I checked my watch. “crap it’s almost 2.”
"crap, really? I gotta go. Mike got accepted to Sigma Chi and he's getting initiated today."
"Oh yeah, I forgot he rushed."
The girl at the desk waved us forward. I hadn’t even realized we’d reached the front of the line.
“Let me know what they say,” Lydia said as she ran out the door.
The girl at the desk eyed me suspiciously as I approached.
“You’re the girl trying to move out of 734 in Reilly, aren’t you?”
She’d caught me off guard. “Yeah, one of them. How’d you know?”
“Sorry, I overheard you. I also saw your file cross my desk a few days ago and I gotta ask: why are you looking to transfer rooms, exactly?”
I was tired. I was beaten down. I didn’t have the energy to think of a lie.
“Because crap is going on in the empty room next door and it’s really freaking us out. Noises, whispers, knocking, the other night I saw someone...”
“You saw someone?”
“In room 733?”
“Yeah. I looked under the door. There was definitely someone in there.”
The girl narrowed her eyes at me for a moment and then nodded for no particular reason.
“Well, your rooms aren’t ready yet but I’ve pushed them through as a priority. For right now you’re stuck, though. There just isn’t anywhere else to put you.”
I sighed. I’d figured as much.
“I’m Alice,” she continued, “and, look, I’ve actually done a lot of research on the Reilly suicides and I think I can help you. Or at the very least offer some insight.”
“Really?” I asked, hesitantly.
“Absolutely. I’m in Taylor Hall, room 310. I’ll be back to my dorm by 4 today."
"Thanks. We just came from the Paranormal Society on campus. “
“Ugh, say no more,” Alice rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, so…I’ll definitely see you at 4.”
“Great,” Alice said, and smiled.
I was early to Taylor, but then so was she. I told our story for the second time that day and Alice wasn’t afraid to interrupt with questions, though her queries didn’t betray her thoughts.
When I was finished she leaned back in her chair and sighed deeply.
"I can’t believe it,” she shook her head. “I’d always heard rumors but I honestly doubted any of it was true.”
“I can assure you – everything I’ve told you is absolutely true.”
“And how is it now? When you’re there?”
“We aren’t ever there at night but during the day we’ve heard scratching on the wall, really quiet whispering and sometimes we still hear the window opening and closing. In broad daylight. However every time I look up from the street the windows to 733 are open.”
Alice nodded. “Well, for the record I don’t think you’re in any danger. As much as it sucks, you guys are simply a casualty. You just need to stay out of room 733.”
I snorted. “Are you kidding? I would never go in there.”
"I believe that you believe that. But this thing, whatever it is, it's tricky. Manipulative. A liar. And it's smarter than you."
"I'll try not to be offended by that."
"You shouldn't be."
“What do you think it is?”
“Something very old and very evil.”
I regarded her skeptically and then let my eyes wander around the room. I hadn’t really noticed the décor before but to say Alice had an interest in the occult was an understatement.
"I can't see any situation where I would be compelled to enter that room."
"I know. But you have to be prepared that there may come a time when you have to make a decision about entering that room. Because what you’re dealing with? It’s already killed five people.”
"Five?! I thought it was three!"
"Yeah, well, not everyone is inclined to do the level of research that I do. Let’s see, there was Ellen Burnham in 1961 – she jumped out the window. She was the very first. And then Tad Collinsworth in 1968 - he jumped, too. Marissa Grigg in 1975, she hung herself. Erin Murphy in 1979 - she jumped. And then Erik Dousten in 1992 - he hung himself."
"Five suicides. How could the university still let people live in there?”
"They don’t, apparently. That’s why it’s a supply room.”
“And back then?”
“Well, every few years, once everyone who would remember had graduated, the room would be reassigned. This was before the internet, you know, and the incoming freshman were clueless. But after that last one - Erik Dousten - they closed the entire north hall of the 7th floor and built more rooms onto the south hall."
"So, what does it want?"
Alice shrugged. "Chaos. Death. Souls. Who knows? No one even knows what it is."
"Okay, so what do we know?"
"We know that it's somehow bound to that room though it seems to have minimal influence just outside of it. We know that everyone who ever died was alone at the time. And we know that it's a trickster. That's what we know."
It wasn’t enough. “Why do you think they do it?” I asked quietly.
“All I know is what’s rumored to be in the evidence files. All the suicides were found with pictures or writings that were considered ‘unspeakable’ at the time. They contained horrible, evil things that would make you physically sick to read or see, they say.”
“And these people, they drew them? They wrote that stuff?”
“Yep. Whatever is in that room drove them mad.”
“Have you guys considered getting somebody to bless the room?"
"Well you'll have a hard time getting him but perhaps some other sort of holy person."
"No, I mean, Jesus, you're talking about an exorcism."
Alice shrugged. "Maybe. The rumor in the 70s was that this all started with a Ouija board game gone wrong in 1961."
“Really? That crap’s made by Hasbro.”
"Not in the 60s it wasn’t. Anyway, it's just a rumor. The only person on campus who would know is Tom Moen in Admin. I've tried to talk to him before but he refuses to see me."
"Did he go here in 1961?"
"Yes. And he was staying in Reilly."
"We need to talk to him. I need to know what the heck is happening or I won’t be able to live the rest of my life as a well adjusted person."
"I suppose we can try to chase him down on campus."
“Can we talk to him tomorrow?"
"We can try.”
Mr. Moen wouldn't see us that day or the next. We tried to catch him on his lunch hour and then again while he was leaving work but he got around us every time. It was soon clear that the old man was actively avoiding us.
Lydia and I had seen little of each other since we’d continued to sleep in other dorms. I went back to our room twice a day - once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Usually the other room was silent but that didn’t make me feel better. I could always sense something on the other side of the wall, somehow watching me. It felt like the calm before the storm.
The Thursday before Halloween I came back to the dorm to shower in the evening, much later than usual. I‘d seen Lydia that afternoon and she’d informed me that she had enough clothes stored at Mike’s to last until graduation so I knew I’d be there alone.
I showered down the hall in the safety of the bathrooms and then walked back to my room to change. I was supposed to meet Ian in half an hour to head out to a party and I wanted to get out of here as quick as possible.
Since the silence was unnerving me, I threw my iPod on the docking station and turned up AC/DC.
I got dressed and then stood in front of the mirror to dry my hair. I flipped my head over and blow dried upside down to try and give my hair some volume. When I flipped my head back up and shut off the blow-dryer I immediately noticed the silence in the room. But that wasn’t all I noticed.
I wasn’t in my dorm anymore. Behind me was reflected the dusty bedframes and large open windows of room 733. I spun around in a panic to find that I was actually standing in my own room. I looked back at the mirror to see that 733 still reflected there. A slight movement behind me was all it took to make me run.
I grabbed my purse and phone and I fled from my room slamming the door behind me. On the elevator ride down I called Alice.
"I can't do it anymore," I said when she picked up. "I can’t go back in that room, again. I can’t ever go back.”
I told her.
"Jesus. What do you want to do?" She asked.
"I need to talk to someone who knows what the heck is going on. Is Tom Moen the only person we know was here in
"The only one I know of. Maybe we can get him on his way in tomorrow morning? We'll just corner him and refuse to move until he tells us something. He comes in at 6:30 according to the schedule I have. Do you want to meet me outside the Starbucks in the Atrium?"
"heck yeah I do. I have a class at 7:30 but I'll blow it off."
“Okay. See you then."
I wasn’t usually much for parties but I was glad I was going to one that night. As soon as we got there I asked Ian to get me a drink. Since I wasn’t usually much of a drinker he gave me a raised eyebrow. I gave him a brief synopsis of what had happened earlier, hoping he wouldn’t think I was crazy.
Ian made me a scotch and coke. It was the first of many.
Around midnight I went to have a cigarette and checked my phone. I had a voicemail from Lydia left at 11:04pm.
"Hey Becca, listen I just, ugh, I just had a huge fight with Mike. He, well, I guess his frat decided that for Halloween this year all the new brothers have to spend the night in the Suicide Room. In our dorm. I just, I can't take it. He knows what's been going on with us and he still agreed to do this. He’s now trying to convince me that Sigma Chi is behind all of the stuff going on in room 733 because they’ve been trying to drum up buzz for their Halloween deal. I can't-"
I hit end and threw my phone in my bag. No wonder Lydia was pissed. This was not good. Not good at all. I found Ian inside and asked him to take me home. I was suddenly very stressed, very tired and very drunk. When the alarm went off at 6am, it took everything I had to pull myself out of bed. I got dressed in the clothes I'd worn the night before and shuffled my way across campus to the Atrium.
Alice was already there with a black coffee in hand.
"I figured you'd need this," she laughed.
"How'd you know?"
"I texted you last night?"
"Yeah, at about 1. You told me about Sigma Chi.”
"Oh, god, yeah." I pushed my sunglasses higher up my nose and pulled my hood lower over my eyes.
"Those guys are idiots. Remember how I told you that it's crafty? Well what if the point of messing with you was to make 733 provocative, you know, to seduce people into going inside. No one has been in that room for years, can you imagine how hungry that thing is?”
"Do you think they're really at risk?" I asked as I sat down on the steps to the Admin building.
"Yeah. In fact the only thing they have going for them is that all those suicide victims were alone at the time of their deaths."
"So, it'll be less powerful with all of them there?"
"Theoretically. We would know a lot more if we knew what it was. And we can't know what it is without knowing how it got here. And that is why we need Moen."
"What time is he supposed to get here?"
"Actually, twenty minutes ago," Alice said, grimly.
It was another half an hour before we resigned ourselves to the fact that Mr. Moen had snuck around us as usual. We went to the front office hoping to beg again for an appointment with him anyway.
The woman at the Admin desk regarded us coldly.
“Tom isn't coming in today. Or any other day for that matter. He quit yesterday. Looks like you won’t be harassing him anymore."
"We weren't harassing him,” I said. “We just desperately needed to talk to him."
“We still do.” Added Alice.
"Well you won’t get any of his personal information from me," she said snidely and walked away.
"What the heck do we do now?" I asked Alice.
"Without Tom Moen there's nothing left to do."
"Alice, crap, I can't go back into that room.
"Well, then I guess it’s good your transfers came through."
"Yep. I got the notice when I checked my work email this morning. You're going to Morton and Lydia is going to Tinsley."
"Oh thank god."
"I thought you'd be happy about that. I also convinced my boss not to assign anyone else to room 734.”
“The only thing is you won’t be able to move until Monday."
"I can last through the weekend, especially now that the end is in sight. I have to tell Lydia."
I opened my phone to pull up Lydia's number but my attention was caught by the red ‘1’ badge over the voicemail logo. I hit play. It was the rest of the message from last night.
"-even look at his dumb face anymore so I'm going to head home. Don't worry about me, I'll be okay. I’m drunk enough to sleep through any bullcrap from next door. I'm just so pissed off right now. I would honestly rather deal with Dumbcrap Beth than Michael-My-Parents-Must-Be-Siblings-Because-I'm-That-Dumb-Benson. Let’s hang out tomorrow. Love ya!"
The message ended.
Alice gave me a questioning look.
"Lydia spent the night in our dorm."
"She's safe though, right?"
"As long as she doesn't go into 733."
"She wont.” I thought of the always open large windows of the corner room. If nothing else the mere thought of those
would keep Lydia the hell out of that room.
"Good. Well, since we have nothing else to do, do you want to go look for theology books in the library? It's pretty much the only thing open right now. "
“Sure," I shrugged. I didn't have another class until 10.
The little old lady who sat behind the library's checkout desk must have been 1,000 years old. Ms. Stapley's eyes were small and watery and her skin looked like it was melting off of her skull. Still, she was nice and knowledgeable and she sent us in the right direction for books on demonology, though she gave us a curious look as she did.
There wasn’t much. We read everything we could but it either wasn’t relevant or wasn’t in English. We returned to her desk 30 minutes later.
"Ah, do you have anything on the occult?"
"The occult? Ah . . ." Her voice trailed off. "Yes, I do. Over there to the left of the reference section.”
"Ok thanks. Sorry, I‘m too hung-over to use the Dewey decimal system," I said.
"I don't think she likes the look of us," Alice whispered as we walked away.
"Our look or our subject matter?"
Within the hour we were back up at her desk having struck out again. We could tell she was getting annoyed as her eyes narrowed suspiciously at us as we approached.
"Ah, sorry, do you know where we could find something on séances or Ouija boards or--"
"Now listen, girls.” Ms. Stapley stood up from her desk and looked over her glasses at us. “I really hope this is for class."
"It is," I said.
"It's not," Alice answered simultaneously. "It's personal research.”
"Research? What kind of research?"
"Look, we're not going to mess with a Ouija board or anything . . ." I said.
"Good," Ms. Stapley smoothed her pleated pants and sat back down. "Because I can't have that sort of thing going on here again."
"Again?" Alice latched on.
The older woman suddenly looked very uncomfortable and started fidgeting with a stack of books on her desk.
“We may have something on séances in-“
"Ms. Stapley, we’re researching what happened in Reilly in 1961.” Alice interrupted.
“And also what’s been happening there ever since.”
"Well, it's no secret, is it? A student committed suicide in that room. Dreadful but not unheard of on a university campus.”
"Five students." I corrected her.
"But you know that, right?” Alice was suddenly talking very fast. “Because you sound like you’re well versed in this story. Please, tell us how this started and we might be able to end it."
"End it?" Ms. Stapley's voice became quieter but more concentrated. "Don’t be so arrogant, young lady. You can't end it. People have always died in that room and they always will. There is no end to it so you’d best stay far away from it."
"But maybe if we knew how this all started -"
"It started just as you think it did. But everyone that was involved is either very old or very dead by now. Just stay away from that room. Concentrate on your studies."
I leaned over her desk. "Well, I'd love to but they assigned my friend and me to the room next door. Maybe you can forget about all the suicides but we can’t. It wont let us."
"Young lady, I never forget." Ms. Stapely voice was even quieter now. "My friend Ellen was the very first to be killed in that room. She was my very best friend and not a night goes by that I don't imagine her wiggling out of that tiny window, standing upon the cold ledge in her bare feet and jumping off the 7th floor of that building."
Alice sighed. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t know.”
"Yes, well these are old wounds, my dear. Now girls, I suggest you request a room reassignment immediately. No one should be living on the seventh floor of that building. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about it. “
Alice sighed but resigned herself to a nod. We wouldn’t learn anything more here. Still, it was quite a breakthrough - at least we had some information now.
Alice walked away and I made to follow her but my feet wouldn’t move. Something was bothering me - a small yet poignant word had been buried in Ms. Stapley's story; a word that suddenly seemed very important.
"Eh, Ms. Stapley,” I asked the tired, old woman at the desk, “Why did you refer to the windows in 733 tiny? Because I’ve seen those windows and they’re huge, like 5 feet tall.”
"Dear, you're thinking of the corner room, that’s the supply closet. Room 733 is next door to that."
"No-no," I stuttered, "that's room 734."
"Yes, well, it is now. When they built the additional rooms on to the south hall they moved all the room numbers down.”
Oh my god. I suddenly felt very hot and very dizzy.
"That sneaky creature," Alice whispered next to me, her skin paling.
We took off across the campus at a dead run, witnessed only by the few bleary-eyed students on their way to morning classes. When Reilly finally came into view I stumbled on the pavement as my blood turned to ice. From our vantage point we could clearly see the windows of the corner room were closed – the first and only time I had ever seen that way. And the window to my room was open.
We ran into the lobby, pushing past several latte-sipping, Ugg boot-wearing freshman who had just gotten off the elevator. I hit seven and watched the doors close more slowly than they ever had before. I leaned against the wall, trying to steady my breathing.
"Alice, how the heck did this happen?"
"I don't know. I don’t know.”
"She's been in there all night, Alice. In our room. Alone.”
Alice shook her head but had nothing to say.
When the doors finally opened on floor 7, we saw a quiet, deserted hallway. I ran toward my room with Alice right behind me. Rounding the corner, I threw open my door hoping it wasn’t locked. And it wasn’t.
Lydia looked back at me. And for one breathless moment, cruel glimmer of hope crossed over her tear streaked face.
But it was too late. The next second, she leaned forward so slightly, and she was gone.
She screamed the entire way down.
Alice ran to the ledge where Lydia had just been while I stood motionless. She stuck her head out the window and looked down just as a different kind of screaming started from the bottom floor. Alice closed her hand over her mouth and pulled her head back into the room as tears of shock ran down her ghost- white face.
The screaming from outside got louder as more people saw what remained of my best friend on the cold pavement. I leaned back against the dresser and slumped to the floor. A falling death. Lydia never wanted a falling death.
I absentmindedly picked up one of the pictures that were strewn all over the floor. It was a picture of Lydia's mother. She was dead. I picked up another picture. It was Lydia’s baby sister. She was dead, too. There were dozens of pictures just like it all over the floor - Lydia has been busy last night. As for the things depicted in them, I cannot tell you. Lydia was a talented artist and I only saw a few before I got sick on the floor next to me.
Alice was standing in the doorway yelling something down the hall. I don't know what she was saying because all I could hear was a high pitched whine in the room. Suddenly a piece of paper slid out from under the crack in the closet door and glided across the floor toward me. I picked it up and studied it for a moment.
This was drawn by Lydia too, but it wasn’t like the others. It was a picture of the closet from my exact vantage point. In the drawing the door was cracked and there was something looking back from the darkness.
I put the paper down and studied the closet. The door was cracked open just like the picture. I squinted my eyes and tried to see inside. Just as I started to distinguish the defined lines of a long face looking back at me, Alice pulled me to my feet.
"We need to get out of here," I thought I heard her say.
I never went back into that room. My parents moved my things and I spent the rest of the semester in an apartment off campus. I transferred to an out of state school for my spring semester and finished my degree there.
Every night I dream of Lydia pulling herself through the tiny window, shimmying out onto the cold ledge, standing up and knowing there’s nothing between her body and the terrifying abyss in front of her. I watch her look down seven stories to the black pavement below and realize, though not accept, her terrible fate. I see the blind horror cross her familiar features. I hear her wildly pounding heart, desperately trying to race through every beat of the life she should have lived, and knowing it has only mere seconds.
I watch her look back at me. And I watch her fall.
It's been 9 years since that night. And every fall semester for 9 years I’ve called Resident Services to see which dorms are open for new student assignments. Reilly is always open. The seventh floor is closed.
This year life and work got in the way and I called much later than usual. I was put on hold immediately.
"Resident Services." A man finally answered. "Were you the one asking about open rooms in Reilly?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“We're entirely filled up and there’s a waiting list for Reilly. But, as it happens, you actually have great timing. I make no promises but we may be able to get you in. We just got approval this morning.”
“Approval for what?” I said slowly
“We’re opening up the seventh floor.”