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.”
“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.
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.