October 15

Dark

Part 3 of my “No Sleep” series.

I got Stanley’s email address from Danielle and told him I wanted to talk to him about the thing in Faye Hall’s basement – the thing that I’d also seen on the 3rd floor.  Not more than 5 minutes after I’d sent the email, I got a reply:

Call me,” followed by a phone number.

I grabbed my phone and dialed his number immediately.

“Hello?”

“Hi, is this Stanley?”

“I take it you’re Danielle’s friend?” he said, not bothering to confirm that he was actually Stanley.

“Yeah,” I said.

“I’m going to make this quick,” he said.  “I know more about the thing in Faye Hall, but I want to tell you in person.  Do you live around campus?”

“I do,” I said.

“Good, so do I.  Meet me in front of the Student Union this Saturday at 1,” he said.

“Alright, I’ll see you after lunch on Saturday, then.”

“No, no.  1 AM.”

I didn’t know what to think about that proposal.  Meeting a stranger in the middle of the night didn’t sound too safe, but he was Danielle’s friend, so I was pretty sure I could trust him.

“Okay, I assume you have a good reason for that,” I said.

“See you then,” he said and hung up before I could say goodbye.

After that call, I knew I was getting deep into something that was probably not safe, and that’s when I got the idea to start keeping a journal of everything that had happened.  If I went missing, I wanted people to know exactly what had very likely led to my disappearance.

I told Danielle what was going on as soon as I hung up with Stanley, and then confessed to John that I’d talked to Danielle and Stanley about what we’d seen.  He wasn’t mad, but he wanted nothing to do with Faye Hall.

Danielle, on the other hand, was curious.  She was the type of girl that was scared shitless during horror movies, but still went and saw every single one that came out.

“You really don’t want to get involved in this,” I said.

“I may regret it, but I’m coming.  Two of my friends survived seeing this thing, and if there’s another chance to see it, I wanna see it too.”

Danielle and I showed up in front of the Student Union at 1 AM on the dot.  Stanley was already there, and upon seeing Danielle, I couldn’t tell if he was happy to see her or mad that I brought her with me.  They exchanged greetings before he extended a warning to her.

“I have no right to stop you from getting involved in this, but as your friend, I beg you not to,” he said.

“Not gonna work,” she said.  “I wanna know what’s going on.”

“I’m not surprised,” Stanley said with a slight smile.

“So, why did you call me out here?” I said.

“I want to show you something,” he said.  “If you think you’re scared of Faye Hall now, wait until you see it at night.”

Chills ran down my spine.  He had called me to campus to bring me to Faye Hall?

“Whoa, whoa, are you serious?  How would we get in even if I agreed to go?  I don’t have access to the building at night, you know,” I said.

“Completely serious.  I’ll explain on the way there,” he said and began walking toward the section of campus with the female dorms on it.  Danielle seemed unfazed by his suggestion, but I was terrified.  I tried my best to hide it, though, and I think I did a pretty good job.

“See this?” Stanley said, pulling a key out of his pocket and holding it up so we could see it.

“What is that for?” Danielle asked.

“It’s Valerie’s spare key from when she lived in Faye,” he said.

“How did you get that?” she asked.

“When she and Kelly moved out after the incident in the basement, I guess the dorm coordinators hadn’t gotten the move-out procedures in order yet since it was only 2 weeks into the semester, and they never asked for a key back from either of them.”

“They didn’t change the locks?” I asked.

“Trust me, I’m as surprised as you are.  That was the first year of all of those budget cuts, and I guess they couldn’t justify the expense, even with keys missing.”

“I’ll bet they kept that under wraps,” I said.

“They did.  They even lied and sent out an email saying that the locks were changed, I guess as a deterrent to people that still had keys.  I decided to try mine out anyway one day while I was doing work in Faye, and it still worked.”

“Aren’t there security cameras or a night guard or something?” Danielle asked.

“Security cameras, yes, but I know how to avoid them.  As far as a guard goes, I’ve been there twice at night, and I’ve never seen anyone there, but I don’t know for sure, so we still have to be careful,” Stanley said.

When we arrived at Faye, I had psyched myself up so much that I was actually feeling a lot better.  However, looking at that building at night with only a few lights on around it gave me the creeps, and I was back to feeling nervous again.  We followed Stanley around the back, and just like in the story I’d heard from Danielle, he began to peel back the latticework at the end of the deck.

“Whoa, whoa!  We’re going through the scary ass tunnel?!” I asked.

“No, that tunnel wasn’t the secret passage,” Stanley said.  “I’m still actually not sure what it is.”

“But doesn’t that…that…that thing know about this tunnel?” I said.

“That thing knows everything in the building,” Stanley said.  “Trust me, I’ve done this before.”

We made our way under the deck, stopping at the vent-looking thing with the panel covering it.

“That’s the tunnel,” Stanley said.  “Don’t ever go into Faye using that.”  I didn’t ask why.  Didn’t care either, since I had no plans to use it.

We kept moving, eventually past a pile of garbage that had somehow accumulated under the deck, and around the corner where the actual secret passage was.  It was a small door with a broken latch that was obviously used often, as there was a path in the dirt leading up to it.

“I’ll go in first,” Stanley said.  “I know it’s a little unnerving down here.”

scratch

I immediately looked at Danielle and Stanley, but they didn’t seem to notice the noise.  I figured I must’ve been imagining things.

We climbed through the passage, which was about 6 feet long, and exited right into a hallway to the right.  As soon as we emerged, I realized where I was.

“Oh man, this is the maintenance entrance on the west side!  No wonder girls could sneak their boyfriends in through here,” I said.  The janitors were notoriously lazy at night and basically just sat in their boss’ office and played cards.  They did it during the day, too, when the dorm coordinators weren’t around or they could otherwise get away with it.

“Yup, no cameras,” Stanley said.

We continued down the hall until we came to a card access door.  Stanley pulled out the key, unlocked the door, and slowly pushed it open.

“The guys that sneak in go down that other hall and up the maintenance stairs where they can jimmy the lock with a credit card,” Stanley said.  “Quite a few of the locks in this building can be picked like that.”

We shimmied under the only camera in the lobby and made our way to the door that protected the hall that led to the basement.  I was about to ask how we’d get through that door, since an old student key wouldn’t unlock it, but right then, Stanley grinned, took out a credit card, slid it in the doorframe by the bolt, jiggled and pushed it around a bit, and turned the handle.

“Wow, breaking and entering, lock picking, and hopefully a creepy monster thing.  This is turning out to be an exciting night!” Danielle grinned.

We went down the hall and descended the stairs at the end.  The basement door was very uninviting.  It was old and bound with a chain, just like I’d heard.

“Oh, before we go in, I have a question for you,” Stanley said, staring directly at me.  “When Danielle told you the story about my incident in this basement, did she tell you about Daphne?”

“Yeah,” I said.  Stanley grinned and turned back to the door.

“Good.”

With that, Stanley took the lock on the chain, lifted it up, twisted it around on the chain, and suddenly, it popped open.

“It’s been broken ever since the first time I was down here,” he said.

“Wow, they really need to put more money in the budget for locks,” Danielle said.

We walked into the basement, and for some reason, I felt like I’d already been there.  It was just like in the story.  A couple of boats sat in the middle of the room, old mops and brooms off to the side, a thick layer of dust on the floor – I couldn’t help but wonder why such a seemingly useful room would go unused.  All of the basements in the other dorms were used by maintenance staff or for storage of useful things, not old crap that was far beyond repair.

Stanley was quiet as Danielle and I began looking around the room, not sure what we were supposed to find there.  I noticed the stack of newspapers and went over to it.  The top paper was surprisingly not as dusty as I felt like it should’ve been, and I immediately recognized the headline: “Girl dies in university lake, ruled as accident.”  The date on the paper was 20 years ago, and despite the age and lack of care given to the paper, the text under the headline was still readable.

I skimmed through the article for a few seconds, stopping dead in my tracks at the name of the girl that had drowned.  Her name was Daphne Sills.

“Done exploring yet?” Stanley asked.  “I think it’s about time to show you guys what you’re here for.”

I was confused.  I thought we were already seeing what we were there for – the creepy old basement.

“Daphne, are you there?” Stanley called out.

“Is that you, Stanley?” a voice came back.

“Holy shit!” Danielle screamed.  Though I managed to not shout out in surprise, I did jump, and not just a little bit.  I’d been standing by the stack of papers, and after I heard that voice, I was against the wall almost 2 feet away.

The girl appeared in front of us, just like I expected her to look.  She looked to be about 18 years old, kind of short, and wearing a sundress and the cutest smile I could fathom seeing on her face.

“You brought new friends!” Daphne said.

“Yeah,” Stanley said.  Daphne walked over and looked Danielle over first, then she did the same to me.

“You’re the one from the other day,” Daphne said, standing on her toes and staring me in the eye, probably no more than a foot and a half from my face.

“Have we met?” I asked.

“No, not really, but I did help you when you were stuck in the telecom closet,” she said.  I froze as a tingling sensation ran through my entire body.  It felt like all of the hair on my arms and legs was standing on end.

“You…what?” I stammered.  I didn’t know what to say.

“The bad lady was going to hurt you, but I stopped her.”

I looked at Stanley, recalling from the story when Daphne talked about “the bad lady.”  She’d never said who the bad lady who, though, or what it was, for that matter.  I just knew it was that thing I saw.

“You stopped the bad lady?” I asked.

“Mmm hmm!” she smiled.

“Thanks,” I said.  It was short and it sounded weirdly ungrateful after it came out, but I didn’t know what else to say.

“Daphne, I think he’d like to hear what the bad lady is,” Stanley said.  I don’t know why, but that surprised me.  I thought Daphne would get mad or something if we asked her.

“She’s the bad lady that drags people to the lake and drowns them.”

I stood there, silently, thinking, “No, that can’t be true,” but the silence only made the oh-too-horrifyingly-familiar sound that followed more audible.

SCRATCH SCRATCH

“She’s back,” Daphne frowned.  “Stanley, you and your friends need to leave.”

“Alright Daphne, thanks for having us,” Stanley said.

SCRATCH SCRATCH SKRRREEETTTTT

It was such a horrible sound that the thing made.  It scraped at the cement like a dog with metallic claws.  I didn’t turn and look toward the source of the noise, though.  I didn’t want to see that thing again, and I noticed that even Danielle, who had wanted to see it, wasn’t looking back.  I was scared, but I felt safe for some reason, as if that sweet 18 year old girl would really protect us.

We walked calmly out of the basement, up the stairs, and continued out of the dorm just as we’d come in.  By the time we made it back outside, it was around 1:45.

I didn’t have to ask Stanley why we’d left Daphne in the basement.  I already understood what she was, and even who she was.  The headline in the paper 20 years ago about the girl dying in the lake – that was Daphne.  She’d drowned in the lake, and for some reason, she was now a friendly ghost that haunted the basement of Faye Hall, protecting its residents from “the bad lady.”

As we walked back to our cars, I did have one question I wanted Stanley to answer.

“What causes ‘the bad lady’ to attack people?  There are tons of people in that dorm; why haven’t they all been attacked?”

Stanley stared up at the night sky for a few moments.  Maybe he was thinking about how to answer my question, or maybe he was admiring the stars, but either way, I could tell he was a little scared.  It was the first time the entire night that I’d seen any aura of fear surround him.  Even in the basement when we’d heard the scratching, he looked completely fine.

“It’s the dark places,” he said.  “Every place that sees more darkness than light.  Those are the only places she attacks, as well as a solitary dorm room on the 4th floor.  That’s why Daphne stays in the basement.”

“But didn’t she pull the fire alarm to get everyone outside during your encounter?” I asked.  “The whole dorm wasn’t dark, right?”

“She did do that, but she won’t tell me why.  Whenever I start questioning her too much, all she’ll tell me is that she’s vowed not to let anyone else end up like her.”

“Like her?” Danielle asked.  She apparently hadn’t connected the dots, but it was a good thing she hadn’t, because there was something I’d missed, too.  I got that Daphne had drowned, but I didn’t get how.

“That thing – ‘the bad lady’ – drug her out of Faye Hall, into the lake, and drowned her 20 years ago.”

October 13

Basement

Part 2 of my “No Sleep” series.

After the events of “Keys,” John and I went back to the help desk pretty shaken.  Though most of us at that worked there liked each other and were friends, John, myself, and one other person there had known each other for years and had been friends all through middle school and high school.  That other person was Danielle.

John and I had agreed not to tell anyone what had happened at the risk of sounding crazy.  I felt myself going crazy from thinking about what had happened, though.  John had seen the thing’s eyes, yes, but he’d been cowering in the corner when it came over the wall.  I’d seen much more of it than John had, and even that was too much.  I had to tell someone, and my next closest friend besides John was Danielle.

The three of us shared a 3 bedroom apartment near campus, and one night, after John had gone out to meet a study group for his economics class, I told Danielle the story of what had happened.  The color drained from her face as I told her about the thing we’d seen, and she seemed horrified by every last detail, but she never said a word.

“I swear upon our friendship, upon my life, that everything I just told you is true,” I said after recounting everything.  She stared at me in silence for a few moments, and I knew something was wrong beyond the scope of the story when she bit her lip and looked at the floor.

“There’s something I should probably tell you,” she said.

First, let me explain that Danielle had gotten the job at the help desk as a freshman, and she’d gotten John and I jobs there during the summer after that year when a few of the seniors had graduated and had to leave.  The two guys whose jobs we’d gotten were Stanley and Jeff, both of whom John and I had never met.  The telecom closet incident had happened during the summer after our sophomore year.

“What is it?” I asked.

“That’s not the first time I’ve heard of something like that happening on campus,” she said.  “Something similar happened to Stanley and Jeff.”

I should’ve been surprised, I really should have, but I wasn’t.  My heart was beating faster, not only from recalling the events of a few days before, but also from hearing that perhaps I wasn’t crazy.  Maybe John and I had become a part of something that happened in the shadows on campus that only a few people knew about.

Danielle took a deep breath and began recalling the story as best she could remember it.  After hearing the story only once, it was burned into my mind.

What follows is the story Danielle told me.  It won’t be extremely detailed since it was passed down to me by a friend of a friend, and I am filling in some of the dialogue as best I can remember, but the main points of the story are completely accurate.

It was 3 years ago.  We were still in high school, but Stanley and Jeff were sophomores at the time and working at the help desk at the university.  The university had just implemented the card swipe system on the dorms, and it was in sort of a parallel use mode.  Every door that previously needed a key now hard card access, but keys were still issued until it was certain that all of the bugs were out of the system.

This, of course, had unintended consequences.  The card access system actually ended up working pretty well, so many of the girls would give their key to their boyfriend, and vice versa, since the keys were essentially unneeded.  This was kept surprisingly on the down low, and though dorm management knew it was going on, they didn’t know the extent.

Of course, even though it had only been a couple of months since students had moved into the dorms, there were already stories of angry ex-boyfriends keeping keys or well-intentioned girlfriends losing keys and everything in between.

It was a Wednesday night, and Stanley was visiting his girlfriend in Faye Hall.  Since he worked for the university, he tried to keep things as legit as possible so he wouldn’t get in trouble and lose his job, which he happened to like very much.  This meant that he was one of the few guys in the building that was actually checked in with the front desk and had to leave at 10PM, which was the weekday dorm curfew.  By no coincidence, Jeff was one of the other people that was in Faye Hall legitimately visiting his girlfriend that night.  Stanley’s girlfriend, Valerie, had introduced Jeff to her roommate, Kelly, and they’d hit it off and started dating within a couple of weeks.

It was about 9PM when the fire alarm went off.

“Shit,” Jeff said.  They only had an hour left to spend with their girlfriends, and it looked like most of it would have to be outside waiting to be let back in the building.

The thing about fire alarms in dorms is that at least a quarter of the residents don’t even leave their rooms.  Jeff knew this.  Stanley knew this.  However, neither of them were willing to risk their jobs over something stupid, so they begrudgingly went downstairs with Valerie and Kelly and waited for the okay to go back inside.

An hour passed, and the large group outside was getting pretty restless waiting to go back to their rooms.

“This sucks,” Valerie said.  “Let’s just sneak back inside.”

“There has to be a reason they’re keeping us out here,” Jeff said.

“Well, there’s obviously not a fire,” Kelly said.  She was right, since the firemen had been in the building for nearly 50 minutes without any sign of smoke or excitement.  The group had seen a few firemen walking around, and though they looked rather serious, none of them looked overtly worried.

“I promise you guys won’t get caught,” Valerie said.  “I know a secret way into the dorm.”

“A secret way into the dorm?” Stanley asked.  “Why have I never heard of this?”

“I’ve never used it before,” she said.  “I just know it’s there.  A few of the girls on my floor sneak their boyfriends in through it so they don’t have to give anyone their keys.”

“There’s a bunch of firemen in there, though.  We’ll get caught,” Jeff said.

“No, we won’t,” Valerie said.  “This secret entrance has never gotten anyone caught or it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.  All we have to do is stay in the secret passage until the coast is clear, then run to our room.”

Stanley and Jeff looked at each other disapprovingly, but ultimately decided that standing outside was getting old, and that even though it was a stupid risk, maybe it would be exciting or something.  As for their student IDs that had been left with the front desk when they checked in, they’d simply say they got tired of waiting to be let back into the building and had gone back to their own dorm, using their key to get in.

Kelly made sure no one was looking, and the four of them rushed around to the side of the dorm.  There was a deck overlooking the lake that began on the side of the dorm and wrapped around the back and to the other side.  From the deck to the ground was boxed in with wooden latticework, and surrounding the latticework was some sort of evergreen bush every 4 feet or so.

“Here,” Valerie said, stopping at the back corner of the deck.  She grabbed at the edge of the latticework, pulled at it for a few moments, and much to everyone’s surprise, peeled it back away from the rest of the deck.

“We’re going under there?” Kelly said.

“Yeah,” Valerie said.

“That’s kind of creepy,” Stanley said.

“It’ll be fine,” Valerie said.  “Get going.”

Jeff went first, followed by Stanley, then Kelly, then Valerie brought up the rear.  She closed the latticework and reattached it just like her floormate had told her so that no one would be able to tell that it opened.

“So, where to?” Stanley asked.

“We have to go around to the other side,” Valerie said.  “There’s supposed to be a hatch or something over there.”

The space under the deck was just high enough to walk under if you either bent over or squatted down a little, so the four of them began slowly making their way around the cobwebs and whatnot to the secret passage.  They hadn’t yet rounded the corner when Jeff stopped them and pointed at a vent-looking thing on the wall.

“Is that it?” he asked.

“I thought it was around the corner, but maybe I misunderstood,” Valerie said.  Jeff began to pry at the covering on the wall, and after a bit of effort and help from Stanley, it finally snapped off.  Jeff pointed the cell phone he’d been using as a flashlight up inside the passage that had been unveiled.  It was lined with cinder blocks as far back as he could see.

“Alright guys, let’s get crawling,” he said.

“Seriously?  This is the secret entrance?” Stanley said.

They entered the passage and began crawling forward.  Jeff kept his phone pointed in front of him, and the rest of the group followed his lead.

“So, exactly what is this tunnel-thing supposed to be?” Kelly said.

“Maybe an air conditioning vent?” Valerie said.

“Aren’t A/C vents normally aluminum or something?” Stanley said.

“Well, I’m not sure what else this could be,” Valerie said.

“Hey guys, it branches off up here.  Which way do we go, Valerie?” Jeff said.

“I dunno, I wasn’t told anything past that it was easy to figure out,” she said.

With that, the group kept going forward, taking turns where necessary and choosing whatever route seemed right based on where they thought they were.

“Hey, the tunnel ends up there!” Jeff said.  Sure enough, up ahead, they could see a small amount of light coming from what seemed like a large room.  Jeff pushed the grated panel open, and found himself a few feet above the floor at the back wall of what seemed like a big storage room.  They carefully climbed out of the tunnel and helped each other down.

“What is this room?” Kelly asked.

“I think this is the basement,” Stanley said.  It made sense, after all.  The deck in the back of the dorm was level with the first floor, and they’d entered the tunnel under the deck.

“How are we supposed to get to the dorm room from the basement?” Jeff asked.

“I don’t know,” Valerie said.  “This doesn’t seem right at all.  No one ever told me the secret passage lead to the basement.”

They each pulled out their phones to use as flashlights and began looking around, finding old maintenance equipment, burlap sacks full of rags, and even a couple of small paddle boats.  It was dark, with the only light coming from the screens of their phones.

“Hey, here’s a stack of newspapers from 17 years ago,” Stanley said as he read the front page of the paper on the top of the stack.

“Why would someone keep old newspapers down here?” Jeff asked.

“I don’t know, but listen to this headline: ‘Girl dies in university lake, ruled as accident,'” Stanley said.

“I’ve heard about that,” Kelly said.  “That’s why people aren’t allowed to go swimming in the lake anymore.”

shuffle shuffle shuffle

“What was that?” Valerie said, immediately running up to Stanley and clinging to his arm.  The four of them pointed their phones across the room in the direction of the noise, but saw nothing.

“Must’ve been a rat or some other animal,” Jeff said.

“That wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Kelly said.  “It looks like this place hasn’t been touched in 15 years.”

shuffle shuffle

“That doesn’t sound like a rat,” Jeff said.

“Hello?” Valerie called out.

What happened next is something you almost never want to happen when you think you’re in a room by yourself and you ask if anyone is there.

“Hello,” a female voice answered back.  Stanley could feel Valerie shaking, as she was still clinging to him, but they all remained quiet for a moment.

“Who’s there?” Stanley asked.

“It’s me,” the voice returned.  It sounded calm and almost as if whoever it belonged to felt as though being in a dark basement room with 4 strangers was just a run of the mill thing.

“Where are you?  We can’t see you,” Kelly said.

“You shouldn’t be down here,” the voice said.  From the shadows across the room, a girl, maybe 18 years old, emerged from behind a stack of containers.  The immediate vibe that she gave off was that of the sweetest girl you’d ever met, and thus, she seemed completely out of place in that dark, dusty basement.

“Who are you?” Jeff asked.

“My name is Daphne,” she said.

“Well Daphne, may I ask what you’re doing in this basement?” Jeff said.

“You shouldn’t be down here,” she said again.

“Why not?  You’re down here,” Stanley said.

“I am trying to protect you all,” Daphne said.

“Protect us from who?  What do you mean?” Stanley asked.

“From the bad lady.”

“Who is the bad lady?” Jeff asked.

“She’s the one trying to hurt people here.  She was trying to hurt people tonight, but I got everyone to go outside so she couldn’t,” Daphne said.

“Wait, you pulled the fire alarm?” Stanley asked.

“Yes,” Daphne said with a very satisfied smile on her face.

Jeff and Stanley would’ve probably been annoyed with her had they not been focused on what she had said immediately prior to admitting that she pulled the fire alarm.

SCRATCH SCRATCH

The dreadful sound was coming from the tunnel in the wall that we’d emerged from.

“Oh no!  The bad lady is coming!” Daphne said.  “You have to get out of here!”

“Why is this lady so bad?  Why do you think she’s trying to hurt us?” Stanley asked.

“SHE’S A REALLY BAD LADY, YOU HAVE TO LEAVE RIGHT NOW!” Daphne screamed.  The four were taken aback, as it seemed to be completely out of this sweet girl’s character for her to scream at them.

“Okay…we’ll leave now,” Stanley said nervously as he and Valerie started backing toward the door that Jeff and Kelly were already trying to open.

“It’s locked!” Jeff said as he pushed against the cold, wooden door.  They could hear a chain rattling against the outside of the door, and immediately realized what that meant.

“The door is chained from the outside!” Kelly said.  “How are we supposed to get out of here?!”

SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH SRKRREEEEEETTT

The four of them turned in the direction of the sound.  Daphne was nowhere to be seen, but it’s what was hanging out of the tunnel on the far wall that immediately grabbed their attention.

“HOLY SHIT, WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!” Valerie shrieked.

They could only see its silhouette in the darkness of the basement, and that’s all they needed to see before they knew they absolutely did not want to be in that basement anymore.

Jeff tried opening the door again, and much to his relief and surprise, it swung open without any trouble.  The chains that had bound the door were on the ground in a puddle of water that had collected at the bottom of the staircase that lead back to the first floor.  They didn’t know how the chains had been removed, and they didn’t care as they bounded up the stairs, through the hall, and out of the maintenance hallway door that was supposed to be the only entrance to the basement.

Stanley had told Danielle the story the next Monday at work.  He and Jeff had called in sick on Thursday and Friday because they were terrified of having to go out to a dorm.  Valerie and Kelly stayed with a friend Wednesday night, Thursday, and Friday and moved off campus that weekend.

After telling me the story, Danielle seemed very unnerved.

“Stanley was shaking almost the entire time he told me the story,” Danielle said.  “Jeff just sat there quietly.”

“So you believed them?” I asked.

“Weirdly enough, I did.  They weren’t the type to play jokes, and everyone at work really respected and trusted them.  By their demeanor during the story, I knew something had really happened.”

“Did they ever go back to Faye Hall?”

“Stanley did, but Jeff didn’t.  Every time there was something to be done in Faye, he asked someone else to do it for him.”

“And nothing else weird ever happened to Stanley there?” I asked.

“If it did, he never said anything about it to me,” she said.  “Oh, wait, there was one more thing from the story that I forgot, but I’m not sure it’s important.”

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah, the reason the firemen were taking so long inside the dorm was because every fire alarm had a puddle of water on the floor beneath it, so they had to investigate for foul play while the janitorial staff mopped up the water.”

I knew right then that I had to talk to Stanley.  I was scared of Faye Hall, I was terrified of the thing I’d seen in the telecom closet, but Stanley, Jeff, and both of their girlfriends had seen it too, and I wanted answers.

I had to know what was going on.

October 12

Keys

This is Part 1 of my “No Sleep” series.  My previous story, “The Lake,” sets the mood for this series.

Back when I was in college, I worked for a help desk where I did computer support.  I didn’t deal with network hardware or anything of the like, but I did whatever my bosses told me to do, which sometimes including taking inventory of equipment I didn’t normally deal with.  Taking inventory of computer equipment was boring and tedious, but there was one thing that I did enjoy taking inventory of: the network equipment in the telecom closets.

The telecom closets were small rooms where racks of noisy networking equipment was kept.  The rooms had to be secured to maintain the integrity of the networks in the various dorms, so access was extremely limited.  Stupid people, especially stupid college kids, would undoubtedly steal, destroy, or otherwise mess with the equipment if it wasn’t kept under lock and key.

One thing about the dorms on our campus is that most of them were very old.  10 of the 12 dorms predated telecom closets altogether, so small rooms were either repurposed, or larger rooms were partitioned to make a suitable area for the network equipment to reside.

It was a Friday during the first month of summer when I got a request from one of my bosses to check out a serial number on one of the switches in a telecom closet in Faye Hall.  Normally, that dorm would be crawling with girls, as it was the largest of the girls dormitories, but since it was summer, there were only administrative and maintenance staff in the building, most of which were on the 1st floor of the 7 floor building.

My coworker John and I decided to walk over to Faye Hall after lunch to take care of my boss’ request.  We shot the shit on the way there, joking about something that had happened earlier that day and generally taking our time walking.

“What floor is the telecom closet on?” John asked as we got closer.

“There’s 3 of them in Faye,” I said.  “One on the 1st floor, one on the 3rd floor, and one on the 6th floor.  I’m not sure which one the switch is in.”

I’d been in all of the telecom closets in every dorm on campus except for the very newest dorm, which actually had real, dedicated telecom closets from the beginning, since it was only 3 years old.  The closets in Faye, on the other hand, were old, unused rooms, and were probably the largest of any of the closets.  I wasn’t sure why such relatively large rooms had been dedicated to telecom equipment, to be honest.  The one rack took up maybe 2 feet by 3 feet in the 15 by 10 foot room, but who was I to question university building structure decisions?  I was just a lowly student worker.

“Do you at least have a guess?” John asked.  He’d never been in a telecom closet before, even though he’d been to Faye Hall hundreds of times to fix computer problems.

“Probably the one on the 3rd floor.  We can start there, then the one on 6, then the one on the 1st floor.”

We swiped our ID cards by the scanner on the door to the lobby and flashed our technician badges to the lady behind the front desk, even though she barely seemed to care that we were there.  Typically, if a guy could enter that building without a girl’s assistance when there were no girls currently staying in the building, the dorm managers couldn’t have cared less who came and went.

“Let’s take the stairs,” I said.  “They come out right by the telecom closet.”

The building was about 50 years old, so the elevators were added as an afterthought in the 90’s.  There were off on the west wing in the only place they could manage to fit them that required minimal destruction and remodeling.  The stairwells were hella creepy, though.  They were windowless, narrow, and the lighting was pathetic.  The entire place was an echo chamber too.  Any sounds you heard could’ve been from above or below any distance away, and you could never pinpoint the location of the sound without a visual of the source.  If you were on the second floor, you could only see up half a flight of stairs.  If there was someone rounding the corner right there between the 3rd and 2nd floor, you’d never know exactly where they were until they were right on top of you.  Sometimes when I was alone, I’d take the elevator just so I didn’t have to be in there by myself, but since I was with John, I didn’t give it much thought.

We swiped our IDs at the card access point in the stairwell and emerged on the third floor just a short walk away from the telecom closet.  There was a kitchen area right there, then a closet behind it that required ID card access, and then the telecom closet was through that closet behind a door that required an old fashioned key to open.  The closet didn’t have any windows or lights, and while the telecom closet didn’t have any windows, it did have an old fluorescent light in it.  Without that light, it would’ve been eerily dark in there, considering the only other source of light was from the closet next to it that was already dark and void of any light fixtures.

As we approached the door to the closet, I could already hear the whirring of the fans on the network hardware.  From far away, it was a gentle drone, but once you got in the closet, it was pretty loud.

After we swiped ourselves into the first closet, I took the telecom keyring out of my pocket and looked the individual keys for the one marked “FAYE.”  There was one key that opened all of the closets in the entire building, so even though there were 12 keys on the ring, it was easy to find the right one.  I took the old, dull key and inserted it into the lock.  It clicked, I turned the door handle, and we were met with a rush of hot air, darkness, and the now much more audible whirring noise of the fans.

I flipped the light switch, and the overhead fluorescent light flickered on, but pulsed black and dim white light.

“I guess they don’t change these lights too often,” I said.

“Wow, it’s kind of warm in here,” John said.

“This equipment gets a little hot.”

John looked around while I checked on the switch.  I began swinging the keys around on my finger and whistling, as if I were a security guard or something.

“What’s this wall for?” John asked.

As I said before, the room was about 15 by 10, but on the right side of the room, there was a cinder block wall that went up about 7 feet, leaving about a 3 foot gap between the top of the wall and the ceiling.  Another 2 feet beyond that wall was the original wall.  I had always assumed the room had been partitioned off incorrectly or that there was a door leading to that small section somewhere, and that the door just wasn’t visible beyond the cinder block wall.

“I dunno,” I said, walking toward him as he admired the barrier.  I should’ve been paying attention to where I was walking, though.  I was always so careful, especially in places where I’d be more prone to accidents, but in that sudden lapse of judgment, my foot landed on something small and round, and I felt my legs fly out from under me.  The keyring that was on my finger flew off, as if I’d practically thrown it, and I landed with a thud on the dusty linoleum floor next to the iron pipe that had tripped me.

“Dude!  Are you okay?” John asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said, trying to stifle the embarrassment of falling.  John extended a hand to me, and I rose to my feet, taking pause to dust the ass of my jeans off.

“Where’d the keys go?” I asked.

“I dunno.  I thought I heard them land behind me.”

We took a quick look around, but the keys were nowhere to be found.

“You don’t think they went behind the wall…do you?” John said.

“Shit,” I said, realizing that the dark space behind that wall was the only place in the room we hadn’t combed over.

“How can we even get back there to look?” he asked.

“I am super claustrophobic.  I’m definitely not going back there.”

“You’re such a baby,” John said.  “I’ll do it, just help me get a chair or something to get over the wall.”

scratch

“Did you hear something?” I asked.

“Yeah, a bunch of noisy-ass fans,” John said.  He was probably right.  The fans did make weird noises sometimes.

I walked out to the kitchen and grabbed a chair.  On my way back in the telecom closet, I kicked the doorstop under the door so it wouldn’t close on us.  Without having the keys, it would suck if the door closed.

I put the chair in front of the wall, and John climbed up on it with his old smartphone in his hand.  It didn’t have a flashlight on it, but he opened up a blank white screen on it, which cast off a decent amount of light.  The chair created just enough lift for John to be able to hoist himself to the edge and look over the top of the wall.

“See anything?” I asked.  He moved his phone around, trying to inspect the closed-off space.

“No, there’s not enough light back here.  Looks empty, though.”

“Crap.  Man, we have to find those keys,” I said.

“Chill man.  I’ll climb over the wall and look.  Go grab another chair and we’ll throw it over there so I can climb back out.”

“How will we get the chair out after?” I asked.

“I think those keys will be missed a lot more than an old chair will.”

He had a point.  I went back in the kitchen and grabbed another chair.  I noticed in passing that it had grown a little dark outside.  There was no rain in the forecast, and it had been beautiful just 20 or so minutes ago, so that struck me as odd.

“Here.”  I handed the chair to John, who carefully lifted it up out of my hands, guided it over the wall and down as far as his arms would reach, and then dropped it.

“Be back in a jiffy,” he said, pulling himself up and over the wall.  I climbed onto the chair on my side of the wall and hoisted myself up over the edge so I could watch what he was doing and finally see what was back there myself.

“I sure hope the keys are back here.  My phone is almost dead.”

I couldn’t really see anything, so I got down and leaned against the wall, hopeful that John would soon find the keys so we could get out of there.

SLAM!

The door had closed.  I don’t know how, but it had, and as a result, the room was even darker than it was before.

“What the hell was that?” John asked.

“The door somehow closed.”

“Oh,” he said, unfazed.  “Hey, what’s this?”

“What’s what?”

“There’s some sort of small corridor back here,” he said.  My interest was immediately piqued.  I got back on the chair and hoisted myself up to look over the wall again.  John was kneeling at the far end of the tiny space with his phone out in front of him, looking down the corridor that neither of us had seen before.  It was only a few feet high, so it’s no wonder that it had blended into the darkness.

“I think it might be an old air conditioning vent,” John said.  Back then, I didn’t give it a second thought, but now, recalling the events of that day, I stop and wonder if that building even had central air conditioning when it was erected so many years ago.

scratch

“Okay, I definitely heard something that time, and it wasn’t the fans,” I said.

“Yeah…I heard it too,” John said, his voice showing the first and slightest hint of fear.

“Dude, this is really freaking me out.  Forget that corridor or vent or whatever it is, and hurry up and find the keys so I can at least open the door.”

“What do you mean?  Why can’t you open the door?” he asked.

“The door locks from both sides.  We’re locked in here until we either find the keys or call someone to get us with the spare keys,” I said.

scratch

“There it is again!”

“I think…I think it’s coming from in here,” he said, still looking down the corridor.

“Well, do you see-”

“JESUS CHRIST!” he screamed, practically jumping up and running to the opposite wall.  As he stumbled backward, he tripped over the chair, and one of the legs broke right off.  “SHIT!  Get me out of here!”

“What?!  What’s-”

“SOMETHING IS IN THAT FUCKING CORRIDOR!”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“There’s a thing…in there!” he stuttered.  “I saw its eyes!”

“Stop playing around, dude.  It’s not funny,” I said.

“I’M NOT FUCKING JOKING!”

SCRATCH

It was the loudest the noise had been yet, and that’s when I realized that the noise wasn’t getting louder; rather, it was getting closer.

And that’s when I started freaking out.

“The chair!” I screamed.  “Shove the chair down the corridor!”

John didn’t hesitate.  He grabbed the broken chair and stuffed it down the down the corridor legs first.

“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” he screamed again.  I got down off of my chair and lifted it up.

“I’m throwing this chair over!  Catch it so it doesn’t break!”

“HURRY!”

I lifted it and tossed it as carefully as I could.  I heard it fall and crash into the ground on the other side, but miraculously, it didn’t break.  Moments later, John came climbing over the wall.  He didn’t hesitate for a second at the 7 foot drop.

“Dude, what the hell is back there?!”

“I have no idea, but we have to get the hell out of here!” he said.  I pulled out my phone to call a coworker, but there was no signal.  We were inside of a tall building in a super enclosed room.  We may as well have been in an elevator.

“There’s no signal in here!” I cried.  John pulled out his phone in hopes that since he had a different cell carrier that maybe he’d have a signal, but he never got to find out, because as soon as he pulled his phone out of his pocket, the battery died.

“Shit!” he said.

CRASH! 

The chairs on the other side of the wall had obviously just been smashed together or against the wall or something.

“HOLY SHIT!” we both screamed. 

We were definitely not alone in that room.

We had to get out of there, but with the keys lost and our cell phones being of no help, we were at a loss.

“How the hell are we going to get out of here?!” John whispered frantically, as if the thing on the other side of the wall didn’t already know we were there.

“Wait, I’ve got it!”

I immediately reached over to the rack and began pulling network cables out of the switches until every last one lay on the ground.

“Why the hell did you do that?” John asked.

“I’ll explain later,” I said, looking around the floor.  “Ah, there it is!”  I’d finally spied the pipe that had tripped me earlier – the root of all this mess.  We backed against the farthest wall, myself holding the pipe in front of me, and John just standing there, shaking.  I was probably shaking too, but having that pipe in my hands made me feel at least a little better.

A few moments of silence passed, and then John had to go and open his mouth.

“What if it can climb?”

I stood there, letting those words echo in my ears.  It was such an innocent phrase, but in this context, it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever heard.

Bzzzz

The light overhead flickered.

“No…not now.  No…” I whispered.

SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH SCRATCH

It sounded like a huge dog scratching against a door.  Over and over and over.  We sat there for at least 20 minutes, though it felt like hours, listening to the scratching from the other side of the wall.  I was so thankful for the droning of the fans, because if I had to hear that scratching noise in dead silence, I probably would’ve gone a step beyond crazy.  We’d already screamed our lungs out, but there was no one around to hear us.  It seemed like there was nothing left to do but wait for whatever was on the other side of the wall to get us.

A few more minutes passed, and John finally lost it.  He turned to the corner and started crying, while I just stood there, my hands numb from gripping the pipe, staring at the top of that cinder block wall.

Suddenly, the scratching stopped.  My first instinct was to be relieved, but then…I saw the silhoutte appear over the wall.  It hadn’t stopped scratching at the wall because it had given up; it had stopped scratching because it had succeeded.

I saw, just for a second, the eyes that John had seen earlier when it was still in the corridor.  They were human-like, but had the eeriness of a cat’s.

And then, as if things couldn’t get any worse, the old fluorescent lights finally gave out, leaving us in completely pitch black darkness.  That was it.  I knew right then that in mere seconds, whatever that thing was would be at my throat.  I wanted to say something brave like, “It’s been a pleasure working with you, John,” or “I’m not going down without a fight,” but I was so scared that I couldn’t even open my mouth.  I think I might’ve meekly swung the pipe around in front of me, but I honestly don’t remember for sure.

Then, the door opened.  Light flooded the room.  I’d never been so happy before to see a door open.

But…the thing.  It was gone.  How had it disappeared?

“What’s going on in here?” a large man walked into the room.  I immediately recognized him from the few times I’d worked with him before.  He was a network administrator with the university’s Office of Information Services.

I don’t know how I’d thought of it in that mental state, but I’d remembered that the network guys had a tool to see when a switch went offline.  When I pulled all of the cables out of the switch, I was hoping they’d get an alert and come check it out, and much to my amazement, it had worked.

John and I walked out of that room terrified, but unharmed.  The network guy thought we were crazy, but I didn’t blame him.  Maybe we were crazy, but as we were walking out of the room, I stepped in a puddle of water that definitely hadn’t been there before.  I only barely noticed it was there because my next step was slippery, and I only mention it in this retelling of the story because I find it strange after the fact that water had somehow appeared out of nowhere.

We never did find the keys.

October 10

The Lake

Delia and I were both students at a university in Arkansas. We’d met during our freshman year and started dating sometime during the spring semester.

The dorms on campus were separated into male dorms and female dorms, with only the residential college being coed.  The male dorms were all situated around each other on one side of campus, with the female dorms all within close proximity of each other on the other side of campus.  I guess when they were laying out the plans for the campus, they thought it would keep the guys and girls from “fraternizing” late at night, but it’s not like a short car ride across campus was much of a deterrent.

The male dorms were close to an open field that was good for playing sports on.  Other than that, there wasn’t too much to see.  It seemed like they stuck the male dorms on the ugly side of campus.

The female dorms, on the other hand, were surrounded by beautiful, old trees, and the dorm that Delia stayed in had a pretty nice lake behind it.  Delia was even lucky enough to have a view of the lake from out of her dorm window.  From my dorm window, all I could see was a Pizza Hut and a bank.

That Friday night, Delia’s roommate was going home for the weekend to visit her parents, so Delia would have the dorm to herself until at least Sunday.  Like I said, they tried to keep the guys and girls from spending the night in the opposite sex’s dorms, but they were largely unsuccessful.

Delia snuck me in through the back door and to her room on the 4th floor without any problems.  It was only about 8PM when we finally made it to her room, so we planned on watching a couple of movies and eating snacks and doing whatever else sounded like fun.  As she was digging through a box for her DVDs, I took a glance out of the window to admire the lake.

“Hey, people aren’t allowed to swim in the lake, right?” I asked.

“No, not since some girl drowned in it about 20 years ago.”

“Well, there’s definitely someone out in the lake right now,” I said.  Delia stopped looking through the box and made her way to the window.  I couldn’t tell for sure, but the figure in the lake appeared to be that of a girl.

“Why would anyone be swimming alone in the lake at night?” she asked.  We continued staring silently at the person, until suddenly, there was a knock at the door.  We both turned around, startled.  Delia motioned for me to hide in the storage area under her bed as she answered the door.  It was just a girl down the hall asking if she could borrow some soap.

I climbed out from under the bed, but by that time, Delia had already made her way back to the window.

“She’s gone.”

We both stared out at the lake for a couple of minutes, and there was not even a ripple on the surface of the water.

“Weird,” I said.  “I guess they were afraid of getting caught.”  I thought it was strange that the person had disappeared so quickly, as the lake was a fairly decent size, and they had a long swim back to shore, but I didn’t say anything about it.

Delia went back to digging around in the box for her DVDs, and I threw a bag of popcorn in the microwave and pressed the “POPCORN” button before going back over to the window.

“What the hell…she’s back,” I said, turning to look at Delia.

“That’s kind of weird,” she said, again putting aside the box and making her way to the window.  “Is she even moving?  Should we get help?”

The scent of buttery popcorn began to fill the room, but our fixation on the person in the lake seemed more important.

“We should go down and see if she’s okay,” I said.

“You stay here so you don’t get caught.  I’ll go look.”

Delia left the room, taking her keys and locking the door behind her.  I watched out of the window, waiting to see if Delia would appear on the ground below.  The microwave went off, but I barely even noticed, and surely didn’t bother to get the popcorn out.

The combination of distance, darkness, and the fog that was slowly rolling in made it difficult to see, but the girl was definitely still out in the lake a few minutes later when I heard Delia unlocking the door to come back in.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“She wasn’t out there anymore.”

“What do you mean?  She’s out there right now,” I said.  We both turned back to the window, and there, where there had been nothing before, was a wet handprint on the glass.  I jumped back a little, and Delia probably had too, but I was too startled to notice.

“Did…you do that?” Delia asked.

“No…”

Delia didn’t question whether I was joking.  I think she could tell by the tone of my voice that I was just as weirded out as she was.

“How could there be a handprint on the outside of a 4th story window?” she asked.  What was even creepier was that I hadn’t left the window, and had only looked away from it when Delia had come back in the room, yet I hadn’t seen a thing.

Someone had been right outside the window without me knowing.  A chill ran down my spine as I thought about it, but I quickly shook it off.

“Look,” I said, pointing past the handprint and out at the lake.  “See?  She’s still there.  She never swam back to shore.”

“That’s impossible…” Delia said, staring in disbelief.  “I went down to the back door of the lobby and stared at the lake until I was sure there was nothing out there.  I am positive that no one was there when I checked.”

“What in the world is going on?” I said.

It was around 8:20 by then, and though we were both already sufficiently creeped out, we decided to yet again watch the girl from the window.

“It’s getting too foggy,” Delia said.  “I can barely see.”

“Is she…is she moving toward the shore?”

“I think so,” she said.  I didn’t want to say anything until the girl was closer to shore so I could see her better, but it became increasingly obvious, even though the fog, that the surface of the water was as smooth as glass.  Not a ripple, not a wave, not a single sign of a person swimming to the shore.

“Why aren’t there any waves?” I asked, but at that moment, the girl in the water reached the shore, and the power in the dorm immediately shut off.

“A power outage?” Delia said.  She began fumbling around in the dark for a flashlight, while I pulled out my cell phone and used it to illuminate the room to aid in her search.  I turned back to the window for just a minute, and immediately wished I wouldn’t have.

“Holy shit!” I said.  Delia looked up and immediately froze.  There was a second handprint on the window now, but this one had a tinge of red.

“Is that…blood?” Delia asked.  I didn’t have to answer her, but I don’t think she was expecting an answer anyway.

“Let’s get out of here,” I said.  “I don’t even care if I get caught in the girl’s dorm at this point.”

“Can I sleep in your room tonight instead?  Would your roomie mind?” Delia asked.

“Once he hears about this, I think he’ll understand.  I’ll figure out a way to sneak you in.”

We grabbed a few essential things, and just as I was about to grab the door knob to leave the room, Delia let out a horrific shriek unlike anything I’d ever heard her scream before.  I turned around, and there, clinging at the window like a spider, was a girl with soaking wet, black hair and gray skin that was wrinkled up like a prune.  Hey eyes were sunk into her skull, and her clothes were mere rags.  She was breathing onto the glass between the handprints that only she could’ve created earlier, and in the moisture her hot breath created on the glass, she began to write something with one of her bony, gray fingers.

“GO, GO!  GET OUT OF HERE!” Delia shrieked.  She didn’t need to tell me twice.  I grabbed the door handle, swung the door open, and ran out of there like bats out of hell.  I didn’t even notice until we got down to the lobby that the lights were all on.  The power had only gone off in Delia’s room.

We tried explaining to the dorm manager, Ms. Conners, what had happened, but she didn’t believe a word we said.

“Look, I’m in this dorm right now without permission.  Would I really be telling you this for no reason, knowing that you’ll kick me out?” I said.  Ms. Conners pondered that for a second.

“Fine, you said there were handprints on the window, right?” she said.

“Yeah…” I said.

“Then show me,” she said.

“Please don’t make me go back up there,” Delia whispered.

“Can Delia stay here?  She’s scared.”

“Sure, but she’s going to have to go back up there to sleep,” Ms. Conners said.

“I will personally rent her a hotel room to keep her out of that demon infested dorm room,” I said.  Ms. Conners looked at me for second like she wanted to make a remark, but held her tongue.

Leaving Delia in the lobby, Ms. Conners and I headed back up to the 4th floor.  In the stairwell, I noticed a metal pipe leaning up against the wall and grabbed it.  Ms. Conners noticed and gave me an odd stare.

“Just in case,” I said.

“This is either a really convincing bluff or some of the freakiest shit I’ve ever heard,” she said.  I didn’t say anything and silently continued up the stairs behind her.

We exited the stairwell and began walking toward Delia’s room.  I motioned for her to slow down, but she barely did.  I could see Delia’s door was still open like we’d left it, but there was something shimmering on the floor in the doorway.

“What’s all of that water from?” Ms. Conners asked.

“I don’t know.  We didn’t do that,” I said.

We stepped carefully through the water, and even though I was scared shitless, I followed her back into Delia’s room.  I was a little relieved when I saw that there was no one in the window.

“Well, where’s the demon-girl and the handprints?” Ms. Conners asked.  We stood a few feet from the window staring right where Delia and I had been when the girl appeared and scared the ever-living shit out of us, but there was nothing there.  The windows were clean of everything but a little dust.

“I swear, it really happened.”  I was baffled.  How had the handprints disappeared?

“I’ll bet it did,” she said.  “Come on, I have to go write you up for being in here without permission.”  I sighed as we both turned around to head out to the hallway.

“Oh…my…” Ms. Conners said as she practically raced backwards and nearly pushed me into the wall by the window.

“What’s…” I started, but then I saw it too.  The puddle of water in the doorway was no longer water.  It was a bright, red, terrifying pool of blood.

“We have to get out of here!” she said.  We stood up, looking for a way to leave without having to step in the blood, but I made the mistake of looking at that damned window again.

“DAMMIT!  SCREW THIS!  SCREW EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS!” I screamed.  The handprints were back, and though the demon-girl wasn’t there, the spot she had breathed on and written in was.

There, written in the moisture on the window, as clear as day for both Ms. Conners and I to see, are words that cause me to lose sleep at night until this very day:

GET OUT!

I dropped the pipe that I’d been holding so tightly, and we bolted the hell out of the room.  We didn’t care about the blood on the floor, we just ran as fast as we could.

I still have no idea what happened that day.  Thanks to Ms. Conners, Delia got relocated to a different female dorm that was as far from the lake as possible, and neither of us got in trouble for me being in her room without permission in the first place.

However, we both did invest very heavily in curtains, and we can no longer stand the smell of popcorn.