Many university students would agree with me that living in the dorms can be a blast.
Here in Germany though, where I go to university, the dorms differ from the typical ones that most people are used to.
They are more like flats shared by multiple people, each with his or her own room. There are a lot of different types. Some house up to eight people, all living together. Others, like mine, are limited to only three.
Ever since I started university, I had the good luck to share my mine with only one other roommate. My flat was in one of the oldest dorms at the university. In recent years the number of students had gone back and few people wanted to live here, for various reasons. The building was old and run-down, the flat itself wasn’t the nicest and it was quite a bit off campus. There was one upside that made living out here worth it though: the rent is dirt cheap.
My roommate, Chris, was a great guy and, like me, a first-year student. I wouldn’t call us best friends, but we got along pretty well. We’d often hang out, get drunk, go to parties, or have people come over to our place. Life was enjoyable during my first semester.
It all changed at the beginning of the second one. When I returned from my semester break, Chris was already there, but he was behaving differently. I’d brought six-pack to celebrate the start of the new semester. Chris, however, didn’t so much as say a word to welcome me.
I was pissed, but I assumed he was busy preparing for the new semester. I knew his second semester would be tougher than mine. Hell, maybe he was in a foul mood, so I shrugged it off for the time being.
I had hoped for things to get better once the semester kicked off, but he stayed as disinterested as he had been the day I came back. At times, it seemed as if he’d spaced out completely.
His way of speaking was off too. It was quiet and almost a bit too monotonous. He was the polar opposite of what he’d been before. Whenever I asked him if something was wrong though, he’d either give me a simple “No,” or he ignored me.
I even invited him to the big semester opening party, but once more, he ignored me. This was not like him, but what can I say, by that point, I had enough of his behavior. Screw him, I told myself as I went out to have some fun.
The party was amazing, I ended up quite drunk and only returned home in the early morning hours.
As drunk as I was, it took me a damn while to open the door to our flat. I must’ve been fidgeting with my keys for minutes before I so much as found the damned keyhole. Once I’d finally opened the door, I saw an ominous figure at the end of the hallway.
“What the fuck,” I cursed in my drunk state before I realized it was Chris. He was standing there, in the dark, staring at me.
“Fuck you and your creepy shit,” I yelled at him before I hit the light switch and made my way to my room and went to bed.
When I thought about it the next day, while nursing a terrible hangover, I couldn’t help but feel weirded out by the entire thing. What the fuck was he doing in the dark like this? Then I remembered how long I’d been fidgeting with the keys and the lock and the noise I must’ve caught. Still, why hadn’t he said a damned word when I’d come in?
I decided to approach him about it, but when I knocked on his door, he didn’t seem to be home.
Once he finally returned home late in the evening, I couldn’t help but stare at the outfit he was wearing. Chris was a somewhat superficial type, always worried about the impression he made on other people. Seeing him coming back in sweatpants and a dirty, worn shirt made me raise an eyebrow.
I walked up to him to confront him about his behavior last night, but he walked right past me, treating me as if I wasn’t even there. This was it. I’d had it.
I followed him and reached out for his shoulder, but before I could even touch him, he jerked around.
His eyes were wide, and he was staring right at me. I froze and for a second there was complete and utter silence.
“Something wrong?” he asked me.
His voice was toneless, empty, without a hint of emotion. It sounded so strange, as if certain vowels were a bit too drawn-out.
“No, it’s nothing,” I answered, slightly freaked out.
Without another word, he turned back around and vanished inside his room. Only when he’d closed the door, I dared to breathe again. Jesus, what the hell was wrong with him?
After that, I didn’t see him again for a few days. I don’t know where he went or what he was up to. None of our mutual friends had even seen him at university. I started to get seriously crept out by this entire thing.
It was today though that I learned just how much was wrong about this whole situation.
After my lectures for the day were over, I spent the evening talking to some old friends from high school via Skype. Ever since I started university I don’t see them as often as I used to. So these evenings are a pleasant way of catching up and playing some games. It was almost midnight when we called it a night.
I cursed at myself for staying up so late. I had an early lecture tomorrow and I couldn’t miss it again. With a sigh, I got up to go to the bathroom.
The moment I opened the door and stepped out into the dark hallway, I saw him. Chris was out there again, standing at the end of the hallway, in the dark, staring at me. He was still, not moving a muscle, almost as if he was frozen.
In the dim light that came from my room, I saw his eyes resting on me. His head was tilted to the side, almost at a ninety-degree angle. The entire way he carried himself was wrong. It looked as if he had too many bones in his body, too many joints in his limbs. He was leaning forward into my direction as if lying in wait for me. Or, I thought, preying on me.
“Stop that shit, man,” I called out to him but nothing happened.
“Okay man, what the hell’s your problem?”
Again I got no reply, no reaction at all, but he kept watching me. I’d barely taken a few steps into his direction when his head jerked around to the other side. His mouth opened wide, but for a moment there was no sound. A few seconds later, when he started speaking, I heard a voice, but it wasn’t his voice. It was an entirely different voice that came from his mouth.
“Hey, come closer,” he said in this strange voice.
He broke up for a moment before he continued the sentence in his usual, monotonous voice.
“There’s something I want to show you.”
This was enough to freak me out. In an instant, I was back inside my room and had locked the door. What the hell had happened? What the hell was with that voice?
It was completely different! I could tell for a fact that this hadn’t been Chris imitating someone to fuck with me. No, it had been a high-pitched female voice that was nothing like his!
I expected him to bang against my door, to call out after me, but nothing happened. Everything was quiet. After a long minute had passed, I snuck to the keyhole to check if he was standing outside, but I saw nothing.
I told myself to go to bed, to ignore it all, but I was too confused, too freaked out to even think about sleeping.
My friends had already gone offline, so I went to YouTube for a moment before I checked my emails. God knows it had been weeks since I’d looked at my mailbox. There had been some talk about a new schedule for one of my lectures, so I might as well get this out of the way.
Most of my folder was filled with spam. I deleted email after email before I stumbled upon one by the student-union. It had been sent to me a couple of days ago.
It was a long-winded email that talked about changes to the dorms and the repurposing of some of the old buildings, including mine. In the course of this procedure, they would move some students to different accommodations. I was one of them and in the months to come, I was supposed to move into a different dorm since I was living here all by myself.
I looked up when I read this. What the hell were they talking about? I wasn’t living alone, Chris was right here.
When I thought about it though, his weird behavior. Was it because he was staying here without permission and tried to keep a low profile? Even though it had nothing to do with me if he’d gotten into trouble.
Still, what about his weird behavior? What about that voice? No, something didn’t add up, not at all.
And that’s when I got an idea. With shivering hands, I reached out for my phone.
It was nothing but a random thought and I prayed I was nothing but a paranoid idiot.
I dialed Chris’s number and was expecting to hear a phone ring from the other end of the apartment or even hear him answer out in the hallway.
It rang and rang before someone finally answered. It was Chris, but because of some loud music playing in the background, I didn’t understand a word he was saying. After a while, the music got quieter and I could make out what he was saying.
“Sorry man, it’s pretty loud here. So what’s up? Let me guess, you only just read my email, right?”
“What the hell are you talking about? Why are you-?”
“The email about me transferring to the Humboldt University of Berlin.”
“What are you talking about? Stop fucking with me!” I yelled at the phone.
“You missing me that much already?” he said laughing. “Can’t handle living alone in the old place?”
“Stop fucking around man, this is not fucking funny! Tell me right now this is all some stupid joke and you’re out there, in the hallway!”
Chris stopped laughing.
“Hey man, what’s going on over there?” he asked, sounding concerned by now.
It was right at this moment that I heard his voice again. This time it wasn’t coming from the phone in my hand though, but from the hallway outside.
“Something’s wrong. Come out and help me,” the voice called out to me.
In sheer shock, my phone slipped from my hands and crashed down to the floor, hard. It was an old piece of shit and as luck wanted it, this was one too many times. I cursed at myself for being too cheap to get a new one for so long.
The voice outside though didn’t care and continued talking.
“Come out, see what’s wrong.”
By now the tone of the voice had changed. It’s gotten louder, angrier and whoever’s out there is now right in front of my door.
I don’t know what to do. The damned apartment is on the seventh floor and there’s no other way out. Oh, god, I can hear him scratching over the door outside.
“Come out,” it yelled, once more in a wholly unfamiliar voice.
Oh god, what is that hell’s that thing out there and what have I been living with for those past weeks?