Many people look back at their time at university with fond memories. For me, it’s different. My time at university will always be overshadowed by an incident that happened in my third year.
I was an IT major and the first thing I can tell you is that all the clichés about IT students are true.
The cliché nerd with the button-down shirt spending all weekend playing with Linux kernels and compilers? Check. The socially awkward outcast who sweat and shook whenever people, even worse girls, talked to him? Yep, seen those two.
Now don’t get me wrong, most of my fellow students were nice. Hell, quite a few of them were much smarter than me. It’s just that they were all a tad bit too weird for me.
Stephen was one of them. He was a nice enough guy, but he always struck me as a bit strange. I have no way of knowing it, of course, but he might have been autistic. He didn’t seem to have any actual interests and spent most of his free time in front of his computer. Here he’d tinker with whatever strange, cryptic software he was into at the moment. I never saw him go to a bar or a party and he showed no interest in girls or guys for that matter. For all I know, he might have been asexual.
How do I know all this about him? Well, at the start of my third year, I shared an apartment with him and two other people.
One was an English major named Christopher. The other was a good friend of mine, Peter, who majored in science.
Originally Peter and I had planned to rent a place for just the two of us. The rent in our city was too high though, so we had no other than to room with other people.
At the time I was working on a project with Stephen. As I said, he seemed an okay enough guy, so I hit him up with mine and Peter’s idea. After some early hesitation, he soon picked me up on my offer.
Things started well enough. During our first week, we all hang out together, shared a few drinks, and watched a couple of movies together.
I could already tell, though, that Peter wasn’t too fond of Stephen.
There was an unspoken truth between the two of them. Peter tolerated the weird IT student, and Stephen, in turn, ignored him.
Before long, though, the two of them started to antagonize each other in more or less subtle ways. It was mostly ridiculous pranks. A hidden alarm clock that would ring in the middle of the night, a prank call here and there, those types of things. It was all so childish, but it gave me a couple of good laughs. I only hoped things didn’t escalate any further.
It was two months since we’d moved in when I saw Stephen with a box filled with all sorts of weird items.
“Hey, Stephen, what’s all that?” I asked as I approached him.
“Oh, eh, it’s nothing,” he answered with a nervous look on his face and hurried back to his room.
I hadn’t seen most of box’s contents, but I could’ve sworn I saw a freaking voodoo puppet. I couldn’t believe it and chuckled to myself. The pure image of him sitting in his room, poking it with needless hoping it would work was hilarious.
He must’ve read about it on Reddit, or hell, even 4chan. I knew he was a weird guy, but this was a little too weird, even for him. Or a little too dumb, I wasn’t sure.
A few days after I’d seen it though, things got a lot stranger.
“Hey man, you got any Paracetamol or something?” Peter asked me out of the blue.
“Don’t think so, what’s up?”
“Ah well, fuck it then, got those freaking headaches for a while now, but it’s probably just a cold.”
Things didn’t get better for him though. Soon enough he not only complained about headaches but a general dizziness and back pains.
“Maybe you should go to the doctor,” I started, but he cut me off right away.
“Nah it’s gonna be fine. Might be the stress of those damned exams coming up.”
“Yeah, but this has been going on for a while now, hasn’t?”
He gave me a frustrated look before he sighed. “All right, if things aren’t any better once exams are over I’m going to get it checked out.”
I had completely forgotten about Stephen’s voodoo puppet. One day, though, when I got home I saw him tinkering with it in the hallway. He was pushing nails into its back and head before shaking it violently. As soon as he noticed me he hid it behind his back and struck up an awkward conversation with me.
“Did you know that they released this new Linux update?”
“I’m installing it now, it got some cool extra features, you want to see it?”
“Nah, I’m good, got to finish my math homework, anyway.”
With that, he hurried back to his room.
For a moment I stood there staring at the closed door to his room. That had been the freaking voodoo puppet, hadn’t it? Then I shook my head and laughed. This was ridiculous, there was no freaking way this was anything but a coincidence.
Still, I couldn’t help but be glad that I’d never gotten on his bad side.
I eventually told Peter about the voodoo puppet. He burst out laughing and told me that Stephen was a freaking idiot, but I could tell he was a little freaked out. In the end, he sighed and said he was too busy to deal with any of his antics at the moment.
A few days later, things got a bit out of hand and might very well have gone physical if Christopher hadn’t been around.
Peter had wanted to make himself some coffee, only to find Stephen sitting in the kitchen. He was toying with the damn voodoo puppet, happily poking it with needles. When Peter confronted him about it, Stephen muttered to himself, staring at his feet.
As Peter proceeded to yell at him, Christopher entered the kitchen to see what all the ruckus was about. Right at this moment Stephen hurried away, clutching onto his silly little puppet.
Similar incidents took place over the next weeks. Peter didn’t get much better and Stephen continued to annoy him. He’d stumble into him in the hallway or find his way into the kitchen when Peter was preparing meals. And he was always holding the voodoo puppet in his hands.
It was ridiculous, and I was sure he was just fucking with Peter. He must’ve found out about his headaches, so he’d gotten himself this stupid puppet. Another childish little prank, but this time Peter had fallen for it.
At the time all of this happened, I’d taken a bit of a break from my studies. My last semester had been hell. Between studying for exams, project work, and my part-time job, I’d barely enough time to sleep. So this semester I’d focused on nothing more than a few presentations and a handful of extracurricular activities.
So my semester break was actually this, a break. For the first time in a while, I’d enough time to hang out with friends and enjoy summer.
One night I was out much longer than usual and when I made my way back it was already long past midnight. Knowing that everyone else was still preparing for exams, I entered the apartment as quietly as possible.
As I tiptoed to my room, I noticed that Peter’s door was cracked. The light was out, but I could see a figure rummaging in the dark.
“Peter, you all right?” I called out to him in a quiet voice but got no answer.
I was worried instantly, considering how long he’d been sick. I turned on the light in the hallway and pushed open the door to his room. What I saw made me stumble back a few steps before a surprised cry escaped my mouth.
There was someone else in the room and at first, I suspected it was a burglar. A moment later, though, I recognized the figure. It was Stephen. He was completely naked, was wearing some weird fetish mask, and clearly had an erection. Behind him I saw Peter, lying on the bed, his lower half naked as well.
For a few moments, I couldn’t move as my brain tried to decipher the weird scene in front of me. Christopher soon appeared, cursing about the noise before he saw what was going on.
No one made a sound. Then Stephen freaked out, started yelling and screaming at us incoherently before he rushed back to his room.
It was at this point that we realized that Peter was out cold.
We called the cops immediately. After Stephen didn’t open the door to his room, the officers kick it in, handcuff him and took him away.
When Peter woke up, he felt dizzy as usual, had a splitting headache, and the same back pains that had plagued him for more than a week. He was taken to the hospital immediately.
What they found out was that Peter had been drugged. Not only tonight, but ever since Stephen had gotten the damned voodoo puppet. The cops swept the entire apartment. They found several narcotics in Stephen’s room as well as in Peter’s food. At the hospital, it was determined that those were the reason for the constant headaches and dizziness.
The reason for the back pains is still unknown. They assumed it had been caused by whatever Stephen did to him during the night when he was out cold.
Fortunately, there seemed to have been no penetration or anything else of that nature.
I don’t know why Stephen did it. Maybe it was some twisted attraction towards Peter or he was, frankly said, nuts.
Peter stayed at the hospital for a few more days and eventually he pressed charges. Stephen got in a lot of trouble and was convicted on several charges, including sexual assault and possession of drugs.
Only after I’d given my statement, I understood why Stephen must’ve gotten the damned voodoo puppet.
It was nothing but a charade to confuse the rest of us and distract us from what was really going on.
Sure, none of us believed it was real for even a second, but we still wondered about it, just like he wanted us to.
And in turn, no one suspected what was going on, or what the real cause of Peter’s affliction was.