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Gina had just moved into her new dorm and, damn, she was excited. Her first year of college! She was feeling all grown up, and like a grown woman at last.
And, man, there were some fine-looking dudes here. Tall, muscular, square-jawed. Frat bros [guys going places in the world. Guys with letters on their sweaters].
It was a fun, exciting world, and she dreamed about partying hearty whenever she got the chance.
In reality, though, she knew that she wouldn't get a chance to do a lot of partying, as she was going to be busy hitting the books.
"Don't blow it," she told herself, "you want to get through this frosh year with your skin intact, and a 2.4 GPA."
She was a female brainiac, she knew, so it would be a piece of cake. Everything in life so far was coming up roses. Except, there was one little drawback here.
Her roomie. The bitch they had stuck her in a dorm room with for an entire year was, to be mild, one WEIRD cookie. Her "suite mate," Gina decided, was some kind of psycho. Gina had already taken to calling her the "Bride of Frankenstein."
This girl was some kind of goth, Gina decided from the moment she laid eyes on her. Freaky, creepy; possibly possessed. This girl, Veronica, dressed all in black, and wore black lipstick, eyeliner, fingernail polish. She wore a pentagram necklace, had long, straight black hair, and wore combat boots and black-and-white striped hose. She listened to depressing English punk rock bands, put black tar paper over the windows, and slept with a mask over her eyes. "Sunlight is painful to me," she intoned, in a phony English accent.
She ony watched old horror flicks. Ones about ghosts and vampires.
She must be a devil worshipper or something, thought Gina with fear and disgust. I don't like it, but I'll have to make the best of it until the semester ends, and I can request a change of rooms.
So that is what she did.
There was precious little for them to talk about, realized Gina. They had nothing in common. Once, Veronica tried to get her to "Come on down to this hot club, 'Lassiter's Whip.' All the guys there are goths."
But Gina just shrugged, smiled sweetly, and said, "Sorry Ronnie, not my scene," and Veronica never pressed her about it.
Gina found that, after a few months, and a few less-than-stellar house paries, she was burnt out on the social scene. She settled into her coursework, a good girl, and slowly tuned out the rest of the campus as it went about its hustle and bustle preparing for winter exams.
Veronica continued to sleep through most of her classes, and stayed out all night almost every night. Presumably, she was living (or maybe dying?) it up at 'the Whip' as she called it. Hm, thought Gina. She flunks out of school, it's her own damn fault. Maybe she can get a job as a Morticia Addams impersonator.
One afternoon, as Veronica was rousing herself from her death-like slumber, she groggily said, "I'm going to be out late tonight. I come back, and I'M WITH A GUY, all I ask is...don't turn on the light. Okay?"
Gina, who was spending the evening in the all-night study lounge at the campus library, said, "Sure thing, Ronnie." Privately, she thought, Her days at this school are numbered.
Gina went to the library that afternoon to hit the books. History, mathematics, Intro to English Studies...she had a pile of books of various subjects on the long table of the desk on the fourth floor. After a few hours though, her eyes straining and her head aching, she got up to gather her books and repair to the all-night computer lab. Man, she was starting to get tired, and her head was bursting with difficult facts.
There were a few geeky, quiet heads bent over books and computer terminals in here, but she figured she could squeeze a couple of more hours of study in before exhaustion took her. Finals loomed large, and she knew she HAD to be prepared.
Finally, at an ungodly hour, with the computer lab virtually deserted except for a lone head, bobbing sleepily up and down (and the equally half-sleeping lab attendant), she gathered up her books, yawned, looked over at the clock on the computer lab wall, and was shocked to see that it was half-past one in the morning.
Shivering suddenly, she realized she had at least three lonely blocks to walk back to her dorm room. Past the Teachers College, across lonely, desolate North Quad, across University. Across the parking lot to the Senior's dorm.
She went out of the library, suddenly not feeling so tired. Now, she was a little anxious. The streets were dark and deserted at this hour, the lonely wail of a train in the distance and the rustle of a few leaves in the wind the only sounds she could hear besides her own footfalls.
She walked down the library stairs, going right toward the sidewalk. She could feel her breath begin to pick up, a nagging sense of unease stealing over her. The thump-whump of the rope against the metal flagpole outside made her jump.
She suddenly remembered every crime story she had ever read, every television documentary about serial killers and young girls; co-eds being abducted.
And they were never seen again, she said to herself grimly. She laughed, in spite of her creeping sense of unease.
She crossed McKinley, past the bus stop on the other side of the Teachers College, down past various ancient buildings, some of which were administration buildings and offices, others where classes were still held. Some of them had been dormitories back before World War 1. Were they haunted? She wasn't sure she believed in such things. She had heard rumors of strange cries and moans, objects being moved around and even strange-looking people that were spotted at odd hours in the hallways of her own dorm, and who seemingly vanished into nowhere. And no one ever identified these weird, costume-clad students.
Maybe creeps from the theater department, she said to herself, trying to cheer herself up. Outside, under the waning moon, the campus seemed old and sinister and bleak; alive with the ghosts of the past.
She walked down past the front entrance of the Student Center. She just had to make it across the parking lot, and she was home free. The weird, gothic facade of her own residence hall loomed in the moonlight.
She was nearly jogging now, past a few solitary cars, probably belonging to the maintenance crew, and across the street in front of her dorm. Then, she was in the front yard of the place, hurrying up the walk.
Up the stone steps she went, through the door, and past the mailboxes. She climbed the steps past the front desk. The night security guy was bent over a cheap paperback Stephen King novel.
"Oh, hiya," he said. "I didn't think anyone would be coming in so late on a weeknight."
She smiled, said, "Shows how much you know." She didn't know why she was such a smartass this morning, but maybe it was because, all of a sudden, she felt safe.
He seemed to think her too cute to take very seriously. At least, he seemed to show no offence.
She swiped her ID in the electronic device, and the old door (modified for new technology), swung open. She walked past the ornate downstairs lounge area (which was full of antiques such as clocks and glass cases with ancient sports pennants, and photographs from the 1910's and 20's), and hurried down the short length of hall to her room.
Oh thank you God, she said to herself, for seeing me home safe. I promise, from now on, when I'm studying at the library, I'll keep an eye on the clock.
She unlocked the door. It was pitch dark inside, courtesy of Veronica, who blacked out the single window; but Gina could hear Ronnie moaning and groaning on the bed. At first she thought she was just having a bad dream, but then she noticed...oh yes, Veronica was in bed with someone else! A guy from the club.
Having a little nookie while I was out, thought Gina bitterly. Guess the party isn't over yet.
Gina, who realized it would be a miracle if Veronica managed to return to school next semester, still thought better of angering her roomate and turning on the light during an intimate encounter. So she dropped her bags by her bed, kicked off her shoes, reached over, set her alarm, and pulled the covers up to her chin. She rolled over on her side and tried to ignore the moaning and groaning.
She was roused from troubled dreams at some ungodly hour. There was a sudden thump agains the side of the bed, and Gina's head shot up from the pillow, her eyes adjusting to the early morning gloom.
Abover her loomed a dark shape. Veronica's boyfriend for the evening, she thought. He accidently bumped her bed getting up to go tot he john.
"Oh, hey..." she mumbled, wiping her bleary, sleep-gummed eyes.
The weird shape looked at her silently. She tried to make out the features as her eyes adjusted to the trickling moonlight. Was he smiling? Suddenly, the dark silhouette pivoted like a top. He walked to the door, opened it, paused for a moment as if to take a last look—as if he was trying to decide something—and then slowly closed the door. He was gone before dawn. Gina rolled back over, and was out again.
When Gina finally woke up for the last time that morning, she thought she was still dreaming.
Her mind couldn't process the reality of what she was seeing. As a child, she had been frightened and disgusted by a book about Jack the Ripper, particularly of the grisly crime scene photo of Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper's final victim who had been savagely mutilated as she reclined in bed.
The scene Gina was witnessing now was worse than that.
Veronica was a butchered rag, lying in a pool of dripping blood and gruel. It looked as if she had been slashed and gutted like a fish. Blood was pooling at the side of the bed. Gina could still hear it drip...drip...drip...
A ghoulish grin had been carved in Ronnie's face. Ear to ear. Later, someone would say it reminded them of the face of Elizabeth Short, the "Black Dahlia."
And a message, a horrible, mocking message had been written on the wall above the bed. In blood.
And it was not a message for the police or the guys manning the morgue wagon. It was a personal message, addressed to Gina. The mocking message read:
Aren't you glad you didn't turn on the light?
The vomit hit the back of her throat and projected out of her mouth, riding the tidal wave of a scream. Gina turned, slipping and sliding in blood, throwing open the door and running from the room with her arms raised above her head, her eyes looking as if she might lose her sanity.
They say Gina never quite recovered. She never returned to school, at any rate. Some say she spent years afterward in a mental institute, cowering in a corner at every step, begging the staff to never, ever leave her alone in the dark.
"Don't, whatever you do, just DON'T TURN OFF THAT LIGHT. If you turn it off, THEN YOU'LL HAVE TO TURN IT BACK ON! And who knows what you'll find then!"
This is what they say she is like, even to this day. But surely you don't believe that, do you?