Part 4 of my “No Sleep” series.
I remember the first time I wrote in my journal that I stared at the blank page for about 15 minutes before penning a single word. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. We’d met a ghost? We were attacked by a “bad lady?” How does that not sound insane? Anyone that read it would immediately believe that I should’ve been committed. If something happened to me, I wanted people to know what had been going on, not give them reason to think that I’d killed myself or something because I was insane.
The first entry in the journal was a list of names: mine, John’s, Danielle’s, and Stanley’s. I also included Jeff’s, but with a note that he was uninvolved in recent events. Under the names, I wrote a disclaimer that everything in the journal was absolutely true, and some or all of the events were witnessed by the above people. Then, I wrote a sentence that was hard for me to write, and was chilling to even think about.
“If myself or any of the people listed above are ever found missing or dead, the events in this journal are certainly related to our unfortunate circumstances. This is not a joke, this is not a fictional story. This is real, and though I cannot prove it with these words, I can assure you that I am an entirely sane individual, as are my friends.”
My second entry detailed my first encounter in the telecom closet as best I could remember it. The third entry was my recollection of the story Danielle told me about Stanley and Jeff, and the fourth entry was about the visit that Stanley, Danielle, and myself made to the basement of Faye Hall just the night before. I included very specific details, not only so that I’d be able to retell the story (like I currently am), but also for the sake of any readers that found the journal after my untimely death. The more details, the more verifiable the story became. The spare keys, the stack of newspapers, the latticework that peeled back to reveal the tunnel and the secret passage into Faye – all of those were things someone could go check up on, even if they did not prove the existence of the bad lady or Daphne.
My next move was to do a bit of sleuthing. I started going through records in the university library, articles online, and talking to people that worked for the campus housing administration back when Daphne drowned. I needed to know more – needed to find out if anyone else had been found dead or harmed in some way. After all, Daphne said she protected people from the bad lady, but she never said if she had a 100% success rate.
For about a week, I found nothing. No newspaper articles either online or in the library, no records of anything unusual at all. I began to think that maybe Daphne had really been protecting Faye flawlessly ever since her death, until a chance encounter with Roger Hartman.
Mr. Hartman was almost as old as the oldest building on campus. At 72 years of age, he wasn’t the oldest employee the university had, but he was close to it. He was the head custodial supervisor for the dorms, meaning he didn’t actually clean anything, but in the past 40 years working for the university, he’d cleaned, mopped, fixed, resurfaced, and waxed pretty much anything that needed that respective thing done to it. His only job now, though, was managing everyone else that did those things, and he still made frequent trips to all of the dorms – including Faye – to make sure the custodial staff was doing its duties.
When I was introduced to Roger, I knew I had in front of me an invaluable resource for figuring out what was going on, but I couldn’t charge right in with my strange questions. I had to start off small. For this reason, I made excuses every day at work to head over to Connor Hall, which is where Mr. Hartman’s office was. I’d head down there, do whatever little thing I had come up with, and pay Mr. Hartman a visit, at first only making small talk, but gradually finding ways to bring up Faye Hall. My third visit to Mr. Hartman was when I finally started getting answers I wanted.
“The basement of Faye? Ah yes, that basement has been closed for about 20 years, ever since that girl drowned in the lake,” he said.
“A girl drowned in the lake?” I said. Playing dumb was the perfect way to lead into more questions.
“Yeah. Poor girl was only 18 years old. I think her name was Stella,” he said.
Stella? That couldn’t be right. Daphne was the girl that drowned in the lake. I’d seen the headline in the paper.
“Has anyone else drowned in the lake?”
“Actually, yes, I think one other girl did. The lake had already been off limits to swimmers since the first girl drowned. If she would’ve followed the rules, she might still be alive. If I recall correctly, it was only a week or so after the first girl drowned. Hasn’t been a death in that lake ever since, though.”
“Wow. Do you remember the second girl’s name?” I asked. Mr. Harman paused for a second, tapping his finger against his chin, deep in thought.
“I don’t recall it for sure. I think it may have started with a ‘D,’ but I couldn’t tell you other than that.”
“Was it Daphne?”
“You know what? I think that was it! How did you know?” he said.
“It was the first ‘D’ name for a girl that came to mind,” I smiled. Of course, I was lying, but I didn’t want to tell Mr. Hartman the truth.
“So, why did the basement close after Stella drowned?” I asked. Mr. Hartman looked kind of a nervous, his gaze falling to the floor and his tone of voice changing completely as he spoke.
“I shouldn’t tell you this.”
Those were words that I certainly did not want to hear pertaining to the situation, but I had to hear them. Lives were at stake.
“Stella was a student, but she wasn’t a resident of that dorm. She found a way to sneak in the basement and had been living down there unbeknownst to anyone for weeks before she drowned. About a month later, they chained the basement door shut and I don’t think anyone has been down there since,” he said. I didn’t bother correcting him on that last part.
“Why was she living down there?” I asked.
“As far as I can remember, she had a fight with her roommates at her apartment, and she was kicked out. She’d lived in Faye the semester before, so she must’ve known the building well enough to know how to avoid getting caught while living in the basement for free.”
“That is crazy,” I said.
“The saddest part of the whole ordeal, besides that she drowned, was that no one that knew her had anything nice to say about her. It seemed like she was not a liked person.”
“This may seem like a weird question, but have there ever been any other weird happenings in Faye Hall?” I asked. He put his finger on his chin again, entering his deep thinking mode.
“Well, yes, but weird things happen in all of the dorms. Relatively, that dorm is no different from any other. Why do you ask?”
“Just looking for a good ghost story to tell at my next party,” I laughed. Mr. Hartman smiled.
“Oh, you want a ghost story? I can give you one of those,” he said.
“Absolutely,” he said. “100% real, too. Not that I expect you to believe such a ridiculous story from an old man like me, though.”
“That’s actually what I meant when I asked you about weird things in the dorms. I’m interested in the supernatural,” I said. At least, I had been since a week and a half ago.
“Well then, you’re in for a treat,” he said.
About 15 years ago, Mr. Hartman had been doing one of his least favorite duties – picking up cigarette butts off of the ground from behind Faye Hall. Smoking was allowed on the back deck, but littering was most definitely not. The girls there were apparently notorious for doing it anyway.
At the time, Mr. Hartman worked the early shift, which was 6 AM until 2:30 PM. He, however, was extremely dedicated to his job, and usually showed up and got to work 15 to 30 minutes early every day. That morning, he had started picking up cigarette butts around 5:45 AM. It was still dark outside, and though the floodlights that were supposed to illuminate the area were on, a tree had grown in front of the path of the lights in the past 5 years and had blocked their usefulness substantially.
As he picked up the last of the cigarette butts that had been carelessly tossed onto what he considered was practically his own yard, he caught sight of something out in the distance on the lake. The way he described it to me was “it looked like a tree at first, but there were no trees in the middle of the lake. Then I thought that it must be a person, but what person could be hovering over the water like that in the middle of the lake, where the depth is nearly 8 feet?”
Whatever it was, it got closer, and Mr. Hartman could begin making out what it was as the shroud of blackness disappeared. It was the figure of a person, but it was on top of the water.
He thought he was seeing things, but as the figure got closer and clearer, it turned out that there was no mistake – it was walking on water. Mr. Hartman was a religious man, but even he couldn’t believe seeing this person walking across the top of the lake toward him. He couldn’t move as it came closer.
“What…what are you?” he called out. “Is this some sort of trick?”
“Don’t come any closer!” he said. “I know martial arts!” It wasn’t a bluff, as Mr. Hartman did have some self-defense training, but that didn’t stop him from shaking.
He again begged his legs to move, and they cooperated, but only enough to back him up against the wall of the dorm. He couldn’t explain it, but even though the thing was still over the lake and had not communicated to him in any way, he felt the aura of death upon himself. “It was unlike any feeling I’d ever felt before or have felt ever since then,” he said.
It was only as the figure reached shore that Mr. Hartman could finally make out some details. It was female and had grayish skin with a black, tangled mess for hair. Though terrified, he still couldn’t move. It was truly a paralyzing fear that had surged through his body as the horrifying thing was merely a dozen or so feet from him.
“I love you, Evelyn,” he whispered to no one. A good bye to his wife, who was at home, in bed. He was certain he’d met his end.
Just then, someone appeared between him and the ghoulish girl. He was so frightened that he didn’t know where she came from, but she’d seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
“Go back to the lake,” she said. “I’ll never let you hurt anyone else again.”
“They’ll…pay…” the ghoulish thing hissed.
“These people did nothing to hurt you. Go back to the lake.”
“They’ll pay,” it hissed again, though now it was slowly retreating to the lake.
Mr. Hartman didn’t know what had happened, so he did what came naturally to him as a nice guy.
“Thank you,” he said. His savior turned around and smiled.
“Don’t mention it,” she said, and then disappeared in the blink of eye.
Mr. Hartman had only told this story to his wife, because he didn’t want to sound like a lunatic to anyone he worked with. For 15 years, the story had stayed in the recesses of his own mind until he finally opened up and told me on that day. He’d been on a new medication, and he’d always thought that perhaps it had been a hallucination, but the realness of it all had stayed with him no matter what rational explanation he could come up with.
“The girl that saved you – who was she?” I asked. I wanted to tell him that it wasn’t a hallucination, but instead, I just implied that I believed him.
“I don’t know,” he said. “But, I do know who the girl on the lake was.”
Goosebumps crawled over my skin. How did Mr. Hartman know who the bad lady was?
“I’d never forgotten her face when they pulled her out of the lake. It was the same ghoulish face she had 5 years later.”
I stood there, unable to speak, because I suddenly understood what he was saying.
“The one that attacked me was Stella.”