Part 5 of my “No Sleep” series.
The day that Mr. Hartman unknowingly revealed to me that Stella was “the bad lady,” I stopped going to Faye Hall. Knowing what I knew was bad enough, but not understanding it all was worse. A ghost with an unfounded vendetta for vengeance? No thanks.
Three years passed. I graduated from college, got a real job, and grew apart from John. He’d moved out of state for his new job, as did many of my friends. Danielle and I were still around, though.
I thought about Faye every once in a while. Danielle and Stanley and I joked about it in the few times that we’d all hung out together since that night. I’d told them what I found out from Mr. Hartman about Stella, but that didn’t stop them from wanting to go back to visit Daphne. What did stop them, however, was when campus housing finally found out about the secret passage and boarded it up. Stanley still had his spare key, but walking in through the front door didn’t seem like such a good idea with all of the security cameras and whatnot.
I thought I would never see the inside of that dorm again until a couple of weeks ago when I read a headline in the newspaper that sent chills down my spine.
“Student drowns in campus lake.”
I read it again, and then reread it 4 more times. It was impossible. Daphne protected the girls in Faye. Was it an actual drowning with no supernatural involvement, or had Daphne somehow failed? All of the old memories of my sleuthing came back, and I was struck with a pang of guilt for having never gone back to try to somehow stop Stella once and for all.
Danielle and I still lived together, except we had moved into a 2 bedroom apartment to accommodate for the loss of John. I showed her the paper without saying a word. I felt like I’d done something wrong, like maybe Daphne was mad at us for not visiting her again. My mind raced in all sorts of directions on every possible tangent as Danielle read the article. As she finished, she put the paper down and looked at me with an intense combination of emotions in her eyes. Fear, sadness, frustration – they were all obvious.
“We have to go back to Faye,” she said. “We have to find Daphne and figure out what happened.” I nodded, still too shocked to speak.
That night was when I started writing down these recounts of what had happened 3 years ago. I referred back to those journal entries I had made to get the details straight, but most of them were burned into my memory well enough that I’d never forget them.
Danielle called up Stanley to tell him what had happened. Stanley agreed that we should go back to Faye, but he was on vacation for a couple of weeks. He said he’d find a way into the dorm, so we could leave that to him.
He finally returned a couple of days ago, which gave me some time to write everything I could just in case something happened. The events of “Girl” were completely written down before the events in this story, except for the last few lines, which I finished right before I started writing this recount.
Saturday night, we met up at the Student Union, just like we had 3 years ago. Stanley had a backpack thrown over his left shoulder, and a walking stick in his right hand. I didn’t bother asking what either was for. I was sure I’d find out anyway. We made the trek to Faye with occasional chit chat and other pleasantries, but there was a palpable fear in the air between us.
“Faye looks as creepy as ever,” I said, as we stood there behind the deck, myself and Stanley facing the building and Danielle facing the lake…just in case.
“How are we getting in?” Danielle asked.
“You’re not going to like the answer to that question,” Stanley said. He unzipped the backpack and pulled out three flashlights. “Here, these work better than cell phones.”
He didn’t have to say anything else as he motioned for us to follow him to the corner of the deck where the latticework used to peel back before it had been nailed back down. We knew we were going down that terrifying tunnel.
Stanley once again reached into his backpack and pulled out a small crowbar. He pressed it up against the deck and under the corner of the latticework, pulling it up once again.
“I’ll go first,” Stanley said, entering the crawlspace under the deck. We followed him under, letting the latticework slap back into place behind us. Stanley poked and prodded at the air with the walking stick, swiping away spiderwebs that had accumulated in the absence of boys sneaking in down there.
We stopped in front of the panel that blocked the entrance to the tunnel. Stanley sighed and began to pull at the corner until the panel popped off.
“I’m surprised they didn’t board this up too,” Danielle said.
“Apparently, we were the only idiots dumb enough to actually crawl all the way through here,” Stanley said. “Everyone else figured out it was the wrong tunnel after the first turn.”
With Stanley in the lead, we begrudgingly entered the tunnel. He said he didn’t remember the correct turns to make, but he had done it before, so we were hoping he could do it again. Sure enough, 5 minutes later we emerged in the basement. Either all of the paths converged there, or Stanley had gotten really lucky in choosing his directions.
It was less creepy in the basement than it was before. We’d had only cell phones back them, and now we had not only 3 flashlights, but a lantern that Stanley immediately pulled out of his backpack and set up in the middle of the room.
“Nothing is going to sneak up on us,” he said as he flicked it on.
“Hello? Daphne? Are you there?” Danielle called out. No answer.
“Daphhhneeee?” I said. Still nothing.
“Why do we always have to come here during the summer?” Stanley mumbled. “It’s so much more creepy knowing that this entire building is empty.” Just a week earlier and the building would’ve been full of students eagerly awaiting to finish their last exams and head out for the summer.
“Hello?” Stanley called out. “Is that you, Daphne?”
“I think it’s just this pipe over here,” I said. There was a puddle on the floor where the water was falling and accumulating. I hadn’t noticed before, but there was a small door behind some boxes by the pipe. No way was I opening that thing.
We continuing poking around the basement, trying to figure out where Daphne had gone. Before, she had come out immediately. If she had disappeared, that would explain why Stella had successfully managed to enact her “revenge” on someone.
“Man, it smells like shit down here,” Stanley said. “It didn’t always smell like this, did it?”
“No, definitely not. I don’t think it even smelled this bad when we first got down here,” Danielle said.
“Who are you?” a voice called out from the corner of the room, interrupting our discussion over the smell.
“Daphne, it’s me, Stanley!”
“I’m afraid I don’t know you,” the voice said, as its owner slowly emerged into the path of our lights. “And I’m not Daphne.”
“Whoa,” Stanley said. It really wasn’t Daphne. This girl looked slightly older, and her attire was more old-fashioned.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Caylee,” she said. Danielle and I froze. Caylee. I’d read the article 6 times, and I’d be damned if I didn’t recognize that name.
“You’re the one that drowned in the lake 2 weeks ago,” I said a bit more calmly than I had expected it to come out. She nodded without even a hint of sadness.
“Caylee, where is Daphne?” Danielle asked.
“Oh no…” I whispered.
“Oh, good, that must be Stella,” Caylee said.
“Good? No, that’s the bad lady. Where is Daphne, the girl that protected this dorm?” I said. Caylee looked confused.
“Daphne? Who would Daphne protect me from?” she asked.
“Stella – the one that drowned you,” I said.
“Stella didn’t drown me. Daphne did.”
“What? That’s impossible. Daphne was a guardian of the girls in this building. She kept Stella from hurting anyone,” Danielle said.
“No, that’s not right,” Caylee said. “Stella was the one that protected the girls here from Daphne.”
“But Stella attacked me in a telecom closet upstairs 3 years ago and Daphne protected me,” I said.
“Did you see Daphne protect you, or is that just what she told you?” Caylee asked.
“That’s what…she told me…” My view of the entire situation was suddenly flipped on its head. I immediately thought back to every story – every encounter we’d had. Every time we’d seen or heard Stella, Daphne was there. Stella was creepy as hell, but that didn’t necessarily mean she was bad, right? In the telecom closet, she was there before Daphne showed up. Preemptive protection? Did she know circumstances that caused Daphne to attack? But wait, what if Daphne had been on the other side of that wall, and that’s what the crashing and all of the scratching was about? The time in the basement, as soon as Daphne heard Stella, we were told us to leave. Was that because Daphne didn’t want to have her cover blown?
SCRATCH SCRATCH SKRREEEETTTTTT
“Are…are you sure that’s Stella?” Stanley asked.
“Yes. She won’t bite, I promise,” Caylee said.
I watched as Stella emerged from the tunnel. She was so absolutely terrifying that goosebumps spread across my body faster than the chill that ran down my spine. Could we really trust Caylee that Stella wasn’t bad?
“Guys…” Stanley said. Danielle and I remained silent, so he continued, “I don’t like this.”
“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” Danielle asked. The three of us were slowly backing up against the wall. It was then that I noticed an ashtray on a nearby table with a few cigarette butts left over from 20 years ago. My mind immediately flashed back to the story Mr. Hartman had told me, and I came to a horrifying realization.
“No…my mind isn’t playing tricks on me! Daphne protected Mr. Hartman from Stella 15 years ago. You’re lying!” I screamed. The smile on Caylee’s face widened until it was so unnatural that it was downright frightening.
“Interesting. You realized my ruse faster than I thought you would,” Caylee said. “But it’s still too late.”
“Oh, shit…” Stanley whispered.
Stella slowly crept toward us, her sunken eyes fixated right on me. I remembered the first time I’d seen her eyes 3 years ago; I remembered the same terror flowing throughout my body.
I had almost forgotten the stench from earlier, until Caylee started coming closer to us. The rotting, horrible smell of death – it was her.
“We’ve made a huge mistake…” Danielle said.
“Don’t worry, it’s the last mistake you’ll ever make,” Caylee said. She was barely 10 feet from us, with Stella right behind her. I desperately looked around the room, shining my flashlight at the door that was chained from the outside and the tunnel we’d crawled in from. I tried to think of an escape plan, but it was no use.
We were trapped in that room, and we were going to die.
“Leave them alone!”
That voice…it had been 3 years, but I recognized it instantly. The sweetness of the sound emanated through the room like the smell of a fresh baked pie to the noses of hungry children.
“Daphne!” I said.
“Stella, Emily, get away from them!” came a voice I didn’t recognize. I shined my light over in the direction of the voices and could barely make out the figure of the two girls as my eyes adjusted. One of them was Daphne, but who was the other girl?
“How dare you impersonate me, you monster!” the girl fumed.
“I unchained the door. Leave, now!” Daphne commanded.
“As if we’ll let them leave!” the girl that had claimed to be Caylee hissed.
Much to her surprise though, we had already bolted for the door. I didn’t look back, so I had no clue if they were chasing us. One of us flung the door open – I don’t even remember who – and we bolted down the hall, out through the lobby and right out the front door. We were probably on camera, and we didn’t care. We just ran.
We ran to our cars, sped to our respective apartments, and ran inside. That night, Danielle and I slept huddled together on the couch in the living room because we were both too scared to sleep alone. We might’ve been too scared to sleep, but the combination of excitement and running was enough for us to catch at least a nod. I don’t remember my dreams from that night, and to be quite frank, I’m glad that I don’t.