Excerpt from Chapter 3
It was dark and he couldn’t move
Campus of the haunted college, 2001.
The ocean is crashing on the cliffs down below, so close to us that it almost sprays our faces with salty water. This is the perfect night for ghost stories.
“I’m glad you’re here with me,” Rachel says. “I like going for a walk before bed, but I always get kind of creeped out when I’m on this part of the road.”
“I’m glad you’re showing me around. I actually didn’t know this road existed.”
This is my first semester on campus, and Rachel has been explaining the basics of college life to me. We’re following the service road that runs parallel to the ocean, on the west end of campus. To our left is the forest of trees that the Theosophists planted years ago, a tiny wilderness in the middle of campus. The wooded hills stretch upwards in dark shadows. To our right, the sea.
“I mean, I know Loma is a totally safe place and all,” Rachel says. Her shoulder-length brown hair blows in the ocean breeze. “Still, when I’m down here alone, I can just imagine someone waiting in the shadows. Some sicko or pervert who snuck onto campus. You know how some guys can be.”
A lone car passes by us on its way to the main part of campus. Its headlights create stark, defined shadows in the trees.
“So you said your cousin goes here, too?” Rachel asks me.
“Yeah, he lives in Hendricks.” I gesture uphill, towards the twinkling lights of the boys-only dormitory. “Boobin started here a year before me.”
“Oh, that’s cool that you have someone who…wait, what did you say your cousin’s name is?”
“Boob…oh, well his real name is Jordan. But we all call him Boobin.”
“I gave him the nickname in high school. I decided I wanted to put the word ‘boob’ into his name, and I just started calling him ‘Boobin’ one day. You know how high school boys are about boobs.”
“Guys are so weird.”
We walk a minute in silence. The lights of Hendricks are closer now; we can hear music coming from an open window in the dormitory.
“Hey,” Rachel says, “I know this is a weird question. But has your cousin Boob—Jordan…has Jordan ever mentioned anything weird happening in Hendricks?”
“Like, at night.”
“Well, he told me there are a bunch of guys who dance in the showers all the time.” Rachel stares at me, confused. “It’s like a game for them. They all sing this song called ‘the booty dance’, and they dance around in the showers naked.”
Rachel laughs. “That’s not the kind of ‘weird’ I meant.” Her brown eyes twinkle in the moonlight. This is one of those clear nights when the reflection of the full moon is so swollen in the deep sea, it looks otherworldly. Its reflection cuts a bright yellow gash in the middle of the ocean to our right, penetrating the night.
“So what kind of ‘weird’ did you mean?” I ask.
“I mean…well, I was just thinking about something my friend Chad told me. He lives in that dorm, and he told me about this really strange thing that happened to a friend of his. Chad’s friend said he was asleep one night, when he was woken up by the sound of his roommate coming into the dorm. The guy opened his eyes and tried to sit up to say ‘hi’ to his roommate. Then he realized—he couldn’t move.”
The surf crashes against the sandy cliffs to our right.
“Chad’s friend said it was like he was paralyzed. He felt his arms crossed over his chest, like he was hugging himself, but he couldn’t get his arms down. He couldn’t move a muscle. He tried to say something, and couldn’t even make a noise. He could hear his roommate moving around and everything, but he couldn’t respond.”
The wind is blowing through the trees to our left. I look for some sign of joking or sarcasm in Rachel’s eyes. She’s dead serious. “I’ve never heard of anything like that. Why couldn’t he move?”
“Chad says there’s something in Hendricks that…that gets to people when they sleep.”
“What, like Freddy Krueger? Is this a ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ kind of thing?” Rachel isn’t laughing at my joke.
“No,” she says. “It’s the ghost children.”
* * * *
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