The following is inspired by actual events. He smirked – he sneered.
302. This better be goddamned it.
Derek booted open the door with one swift kick, accidentally dropping the bottle of lukewarm whiskey he had been clutching all night in his left hand. It shattered into shards, echoing down the corridors and up the stairs of Adams Hall. Splashes of brown liquor left 80-proof streaks on the beige floor tile, white concrete walls, and his black K-Swiss sneakers.
“Yahyou- fickin’ beeeyotch,” he slurred in disgust at the bottle, as he staggered into the suite common area.
The suite was dark. Too dark, he thought.
He expected to see Tim frantically playing Halo on his Xbox, or Ben watching Family Guy with a Fireside sub in his fat, freckled, face. Instead, all he saw was a darkened, lifeless, room, scattered with empty bags of Doritos on the couch, and half-drank beer cans piled in the corner from last night’s festivities.
It was dark. Quiet. Odd.
Especially for a Sunday night, he thought.
The door slammed shut behind him, like it always did, but he jumped slightly in surprise anyway. He felt nervous. He felt alone.
He felt drunk.
He pressed his face into his palms, feeling the warm tingly sensation pass from his cheeks into his fingertips. Stretching his arms overhead, he squeezed his eyelids shut in an attempt to keep the drunken spins at bay for a few moments longer. He giggled as he did this, finding the whole situation humorous as hell.
“Dah-dose prrrikid fickn leev me heeer by myselph, all shhhssfaced and shshmashed,” he managed as he leaned against the couch, only to slip and fall face-first on the cold and sticky suite floor.
He laughed at himself, as drunks do, and rose to his feet. He walked crookedly down the suite hall toward the bathroom, keeping both arms out horizontally against the walls beside him, in order to maintain his balance.
The hall, too, was dark. He felt through the darkness, tracing his fingertips against the wall, searching for the outline of the glass and steel door that signaled the entrance to the bathroom.
“Betchoo focks tink this iz reaaal funny, aye?” he said, startled by the sound of his own voice echoing back into the common area behind him.
That’s when he stopped -and listened.
Breathing. He could hear breathing – wheezing.
Very faint in the mask of darkness in front of him. It was coming from what he thought was the shower stall.
He felt himself sober up slightly, as he stood silently in the darkness, and listened again.
More breathing – more wheezing. From the shower.
He knew it.
What in the wretched love of crucified Christ is that, he whispered in his head.
He could feel his body tense as his heart began to sprint circles in his chest. Suddenly things didn’t seem quite as funny anymore. Drunk or not, he was not about to let himself be the victim of some dumb payback prank from Bill or Brian or any of his other suitemates.
“Hardy freakin’ har, guys! Waydo pick on ze drunk guy,” he said louder than he had planned. “Just rememmmbur I know where you twwahwats live, mmkay?”
Still only silence. Still only breathing . . . wheezing. The shower.
Screw this shit, he thought to himself, feeling the braveness of booze kick his courage back into overdrive. He reached into the darkness, feeling for the cold steel frame of the bathroom door. As he pressed the door open, the rusted metal hinges let out a sharp shriek, sending a quick shiver of fear out of his toes.
He didn’t enter the bathroom – not yet. Instead he stood in the doorway, reaching around the frame and scanning the wall on the other side, feeling for the light switch with his quivering hand. He could feel the hard plastic nose of the switch, and with a deep breath, he flicked it on.
At first he couldn’t see much. The sudden burst of fluorescent lighting jolted his pupils into a fog-blurred haze. He squinted into the mirror above the sink, staring at his funhouse figure reflection in front of him. Rubbing his eyes against the knuckles of his index fingers, his eyes slowly regained their focus.
That’s when he noticed the breathing – the wheezing – had stopped.
He turned to the entrance to the shower at his left, looking over the lone curtain that separated the stalls from the rest of the bathroom. It swayed softly in place like a drunk – like him.
Just a draft, he thought.
He swallowed hard, tasting bits of bile and whiskey on his breath, and pulled the curtain aside.
He didn’t scream. He couldn’t scream. He just stared and stood — stapled to the spot in frozen disbelief. He couldn’t tell how long she had been there, hanging by her swollen neck from the mildew-soaked showerhead. He gazed across her naked body, focusing on the crusted blood that had dripped out of her bulging eyes, leaving trails of scabby streaks on her pale cheekbones.
My Christ, he thought. That can’t be her. It can’t! Can it?
He knew her.
They were in the same philosophy class together. She borrowed his pen once. He bought her a drink at The Dog last week. She showed him her Tinkerbell tattoo on the inside of her thigh. They had fooled around one night in his dorm room, while his roommate slept in the bunk below them.
What was her name? He thought, stepping closer to the motionless girl, her feet dangling inches above the moldy shower stall.
Oh my God I can’t remember her name!
He pressed his ear to her cold and clammy chest, hoping for any signs of life.
No heartbeat. No pulse. Nothing.
Derek lurched back in shock, tripping backwards and falling hard on the slippery stall floor. His head crashed against concrete wall behind him, sending a loud CRRAZHK back into the darkened suite.
Dazed and bleeding, Derek stared into the black and bulging eyes of the hanging girl in the stall.
She smirked – she sneered.
“It’s Emily,” she said in a raspy gasp, staring back into the whites of Derek’s terrified eyes.
“Remember me now, motherfucker?