“Which dorm are you in?” Kimmy asked.
“Um…” I rechecked my move-in paperwork. “Foster Hall.”
“My older brother said that one’s haunted.”
“Psh, yeah right.”
“No, really. Apparently a student goes missing every year near the holidays.”
“Goes missing or drops out during finals?”
Kimmy rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay, you’re a non-believer.”
Before I could respond, I heard shouting from behind us.
“Kimmy! Shawna! Wait up!”
“Oh great,” I muttered. “I didn’t know pipsqueak got accepted here.”
“Yeah, she was waitlisted. But she’s here now.” Kimmy faked a smile. “Hey, Dezzy.”
Dezzy pulled up just short of barreling into us and put her hands on her knees while she caught her breath. Kimmy and I exchanged an eye roll over her head.
“Hey guys. I’m so glad I found you. This place is huge.”
“Sure is,” I said. To Dezzy anything was huge, though. She was under five feet tall. But I kept that comment to myself. Even though she’d been kind of the outcast of our grade, I tried not to be openly mean to her. It was just so hard to be nice to her sometimes.
“I’m so excited to be here. I’m taking so many cool classes. What are you guys majoring in? It’d be awesome if we had a class together.”
As Dezzy rambled, Kimmy and I resumed walking. She kept pace with us and we added the appropriate “yeah”s and “cool”s. I already couldn’t wait to ditch her.
“ – and I hear Foster Hall is haunted!” Dezzy gave a squeal and I finally took notice of what she was saying. “I’m on the fourth floor, right below the attic –“
“Wait, you’re in Foster too?” I interrupted.
“Too? You’re in Foster? Oh yay! Practically roommates. We should do a séance, try to weed out the spirits.”
“I’ll pass.” My shoulders slumped as I realized how much harder it was going to be to shake her off now.
And so, college began. Turns out Dezzy was in the room next to mine. I was thrilled. She’s kind of grown on me, though. In a stalker-y way. She knows my schedule without me telling her, but she brings me coffee before my first class every day. I try not to be annoyed with her; she’s just trying to be nice. If only she’d lay off the ghost thing.
“Didn’t you hear that?” Dezzy’s eyes were as round as plates as she stared at the ceiling of the common room.
“Hear what?” I had one headphone in and was trying to stay focused on my research paper.
“That thud. From up there.”
“It’s probably just someone getting’ it on,” Kimmy said.
I looked up in time to see Dezzy turn red. “It’s fall break. We’re like the only people here.”
Kimmy shrugged. “All the more reason it’s people banging. No one’s here to catch them.”
“I want to go check it out. Do you guys know how to get into the attic?” Dezzy stood up from the table.
“No way, girl. Sit your ass down. We’re not dumb kids in a scary movie,” Kimmy said, suddenly serious.
“I thought you said it was just people doin’ it?” I said with a laugh.
“Oh, shut up. Doesn’t mean we should take any risks.”
“What risks? There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
But then I heard something too. A thud and something like metal clanging together. We all froze and eyed the ceiling.
“Want to go look now?” Dezzy asked.
“Hell no. Ghost or no ghost, I’m not going into the attic. Now just get back to work.”
After that day, I started having nightmares. I don’t want to believe that the two things are connected. It was probably just nerves about finals coming up.
But it was always the same.
I would be searching a dark room. I don’t know what I’m looking for until I see Dezzy in a corner. I call out to her but she doesn’t seem to hear me. She’s staring, petrified at whatever’s in front of her. I get closer and reach out to grab her, but then she… this is the worst part… her skin just melts away.
I scream and wake up.
But it’s just nerves. It doesn’t mean anything.
“Where’s Dezzy?” Kimmy asked after she bounded up the steps to the patio outside Foster.
I sat at one of the tables, checking over my notes for my last final. “I dunno. I’ve been waiting for fifteen minutes.”
“You’ve been waiting out here? It’s freezing!” Kimmy shivered and stomped her feet to keep her toes warm.
I shrugged. “Layers. Lots of layers.”
“Why not wait inside, though?”
I shrugged again. I didn’t want to talk about the weird feeling I’d been getting for the last week. Not to Kimmy, especially. But it had felt like a shadow was over me anytime I walked down the hallway or took the elevator. I’d switched to the stairs on Wednesday, but it had only gotten a little better.
“Well, come on. Let’s go check her room. She’s supposed to quiz me for my geography final since she took hers yesterday.”
I hesitated, but gave in at the idea of having to confess my worries to Kimmy.
The lobby was empty, as were the common areas on each floor as we ascended the stairs. Most students were in the library studying if they weren’t currently taking an exam.
We arrived at the fourth floor and felt the temperature drop.
“Brr….” Kimmy wrapped her arms around herself and her breath came out in a cloud. “Someone playing with the thermostat up here, or what?”
I didn’t respond. This was another reason I was prepared with layers of clothing. It’d been like this for three days and no one had figured out why.
Kimmy jogged down the hall and pounded on Dezzy’s door.
“Pipsqueak! Come on! We’ve been waiting on you!”
There was no answer. Kimmy jiggled the doorknob, but it was locked.
“Ugh, where else could she be?”
There was a thud and a bang from above us, followed by a muffled scream.
“Shit,” I said and jumped.
“You don’t think….” Kimmy trailed off, looking up.
“Could she have gone up there? She kept trying to get us to investigate the weird noises.”
“Oh man… she might be…” My dream started to play in my head.
“We should go get her. She must have tripped and hurt herself.”
“Maybe we should call for some help first.”
“Don’t be silly. I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts.” Kimmy tugged on my arm and I let her drag me down the hall.
A utility closet stood ajar next to the bathrooms. A ladder was visible in the back and a dim light fell on it from an opening in the ceiling.
“I wonder how she found it.” Kimmy grabbed my arm again. “Come on.”
Every fiber of my being was telling me to turn back. To get away. To run as fast as I could. But I couldn’t let Kimmy go up there alone. She was already halfway up the ladder, her head poked up into the square of light.
“Dezzy? Are you up here?”
I heard a voice say, “help me,” in response. But it was wrong. That wasn’t Dezzy. I tried to reach out to grab Kimmy’s leg, but I couldn’t reach. She was through the hatch, her feet disappearing from view.
“I’m coming, hang on.”
I was frozen to the floor. I couldn’t go up there, even if I’d tried. My jaw was clenched shut. I couldn’t make a noise. Something was wrong.
I heard a growl from above me. Louder than any dog. Deeper. More menacing.
“Dezzy?” I heard Kimmy say, her voice faltering. She’d realized her mistake now.
There was a rough giggle in reply. The sound was like broken glass. It grated on my nerves and I felt sickened to my core. “She’s already gone,” the voice said, turning my stomach. “Would you like to join her?”
I’ll never forget Kimmy shrieking my name. Begging for my help. It’s all I hear at night when I’m alone.
I couldn’t go to her. I couldn’t move.
Only once her scream had died away was I unfrozen. Once I could go, I didn’t know where to. Not up the ladder, it was too late for that. But not for help either. I already knew there’d be nothing to find up there. If that were the case, this would have stopped long ago. After the first student was taken.
All I can do now is try to warn others. Tell them that someone has to feed the beast in the attic…