5/1/1999

Zyler was in a mood.

“I swear, man, I thought we were forever. Like, Cory and Topanga forever!”

Clad in his blue jeans, oversized neon T-shirt, chain wallet and high-top converse, Zyler was discussing the dismantling of his two-week relationship with his best friend Seth.

“I told you,” Seth said, “she had a Rachel haircut. That’s such a basic hairdo, she was bound to be a flake!”

His mouth replied, “Yeah, totally!” while his heart screamed, “As if!” He immediately dashed his plans to invite Seth over for the new “Friends” episode.

Soon, the two friends approached Seth’s dorm. Seth turned and put his hand on Zyler’s shoulder and started to speak.

“I gotta be honest with you, Zyler. To get back in the game, you gotta quit bugg’n. Just breathe, take a chill pill, and next time Jessica sees you, tell her to talk to the hand. Okay?”

Zyler nodded to himself, still morose. Seth began to walk back towards his dorm before he remembered something of the utmost importance.

“Hey Zyler!” he shouted. “Are we still on for ‘The Phantom Menace’ after finals?”

Jessica now forgotten, Zyler’s world brightened.

His personal life might be hella awful right now, but “The Phantom Menace” was the silver lining of his sophomore year. He didn’t care how many people said the trailers looked bad. He trusted George Lucas implicitly.

“You bet!” Zyler shouted to his friend as they parted ways.

Approaching his building, he reached into his backpack, dug out his Sunny-D, downed the contents, and threw it in the recycling bin. It was at this bin that he noticed an etching he’d never seen before. “The elevator combo of no return. 2. 4. 1. 0. 6.” He looked at this message and decided he just HAD to check it out.

He arrived at the only elevator working in his building (even though he could swear that this thing was old as time) and entered in the recycling bin code. Once his finger pressed “6,” the contraption let out a long groan and started its ascent. Its very long ascent. So long that he began to pace.

SNAP!

He looked down to see that he’d stepped on an afro pic with a giant peace sign on it. Before he had time to think about it, though, the doors opened to a poorly lit floor.

Wondering whether or not the building was experiencing a blackout, he exited the elevator and looked around the floor. Everything appeared to be in order. Too much order. The lounge was perfectly arranged, there were no crumbs on the floor, and there were no people stumbling back to their rooms from a night of partying. Still perplexed, Zyler was snapped out of by hearing the elevator doors shut closed behind him.

He turned around on reflex to the sound only to startle at the sight of what was on the wall next to it. What was that? A card reader? What would one of those be doing in a residence hall?

HISSSSSSS!

Something that sounded distinctly snake-like was slithering around at the end of the hall. Zyler was 100 percent petrified at the thought of how big the animal had to be for him to hear its movement down the hall. He sprang into action and ducked into the nearest room. Surely, he thought, his neighbors would understand. What he saw shocked him so thoroughly that it completely slipped his mind to shut the door. The room was completely bare, save for one little girl hunched over in the corner, rocking and muttering.

“Um, hello?” Zyler squeaked.

The girl froze and turned her head at a glacial pace to his direction.

“I want out!” she whined.

“Okay…” Zyler would never admit it, but something about her eyes was deeply unsettling. He wanted to give her whatever she asked and leave. “The door is open. I can walk you out of here to wherever you need. Do you know where your parents are?”

“No!” she protested. “I want OUT!”

At the last word she gestured to her arms that had been previously facing the wall. They were encased in a strait jacket. His gut told him not to get closer to the girl, that something was deeply wrong with her, but he also didn’t want to go down as someone who wouldn’t help a child in need.

He gulped, nodded, walked over and crouched next to her to undo the ties. The jacket fell to the ground, and Zyler’s world was turned on its head.

Those arms, if you could call them that, were actually covered in barbed spikes. She snarled and pinned him to the wall. All that he was aware of was the stinging pain, his adrenaline and the girl’s pupils, which began expanding to bottle-cap proportions. Had he not been so scared, he might’ve noticed how loud the hissing got. He also might’ve registered a low voice saying, “No candles in the dorms.”

After that day, all that remained of him was his wallet. Now he’s gone, and there’s no one left to remember the 90s.

Halle Nelson is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in English literature and deaf studies. She can be reached at HN824858@wcupa.edu.

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