“Oh, Sweet Christmas, it’s almost six. Let’s get inside,” Zeke said as the lights started to dim at an alarming rate.
With each step the hallway seemed to grow longer, revealing the infinite amount of rooms it contained. The two broke into a panicked jog as the last bit of light started to flicker out.
“Hey, grandmaster Zeke?! Are we picking a room yet or–” Before Zoey could finish, Zeke shoved her through a closed door that gave way like water. Zoey tumbled out the other side, ready to take on whatever this new room held. She had spent enough time on the nightmare floor that her instincts were always geared towards fight or flight. Yet this room was illuminated by ordinary lamp light and seemed… normal?
“Z, we are totally at peace in this room. Welcome to the only room with positive vibes,” Zeke said from behind her, his arms outstretched, presenting the dull ordinary dorm like it was a grand prize at the end of a game show.
Zoey got up, still feeling uneasy, her fists refusing to relax themselves.
“Seriously, Zoey, this room is fine. I’ve been here before. Watch.”
Zeke moved over to the wooden closest and swung it open to reveal a stash of assorted snacks that came flooding out of the closet.
“Best part is it never runs out of stuff, and I’ve found it responds to your cravings,” Zeke said, rustled amongst the pile for a moment and pulled out a yellow box. “Oh, yes! Carnation breakfast bars!” He ripped open the box and tossed a bar to Zoey before digging into one of his own.
“So, it’s kinda like a Room of Requirement,” Zoey remarked.
“A what now? Is this another reference to something from your era?”
“Yes,” Zoey sighed, “but never mind that now. Why have we not been here before, and why have you ever even bothered to leave this room?”
“Good question,” Zeke said in between bites of his second carnation breakfast bar. “I’m not the only one on this floor that knows about this place, so I stay here ‘til something a lot more hungry than me shows up. Then I hightail it on out of here. Eventually, I find the room again. I can feel its chill vibes like a spider-sense. You know who Spider-Man is, right?”
Zoey rolled her eyes and grabbed a can of Pringles. “Ever try craving an answer on how to get out?” she asked with a chuckle.
“Yeah… yeah, I have.” Zeke pulled out a crumpled piece of paper from the back pocket of his ridiculously bright orange pants and read the contents of the note aloud. “The elevator only works by sliding the RM’s key through the reader. Stupid room gave me a stupid riddle in a box of cheerios once. Like, you can’t slide a key.”
Zeke shook his head as he put the note back in his pocket. Zoey just stared at him. “What?”
Zoey continued to stare at him, before asking for the note. Zoey read it twice through, almost refusing to accept it was that simple.
“You mean to tell me this whole time, all we needed to do was find a keycard to open the elevator…” Zoey said, holding back an outburst.
“Is this something that only someone from the future could figure out? That’s like… destiny,” Zeke said, his eyes filled with wonder.
Zoey wanted to slap the dumb look right off his afro adorned head, but Zeke still was an expert at combat after so many years here, so she channeled her frustration elsewhere.
“Hey, room, I’m really craving the location to this key right about now,” Zoey shouted at the inanimate objects, and seventies cliché, around her. She felt a tingle in her hand and looked down to see the contents of the note had changed: “lol don’t worry it’s coming to you. You prob won’t survive tho.”
“CONTRABAND CHECK! ANYONE CARRYING ILLEGAL ITEMS WILL BE FINED TWENTY YEARS IN MY DIGESTIVE TRACT,” screeched an all too familiar voice.
“Well, that’s certainly new,” remarked Zeke as the door to their room of snacks and answers whipped open, allowing a horde of spiders to enter. There were so many they looked like a wave of pitch black water crashing in.
“Quick, Zoe, the candle,” Zeke yelled as he lit up his own. Zoey lit hers with impressive speed, warding off the eight-legged wave before her. The duo inched their way through the horde amidst the shrill shrieks of contraband emanating from the wave–the shrieks were answered by their boss. Without missing a beat, the two survivors turned their light on the giant slug. It recoiled at the light, and that’s when Zoey saw it. Stuck to its folds of skin was a yellow card that read elevator.
Zoey ran headfirst at the slug, ignoring Zeke’s protests. She lunged at the creature, stabbing it flame first. The small flame contacting flesh caused the slug to fall backwards writhing in pain, setting the card free. Zoey scooped the card up and made her way to the elevator, while Zeke covered her with the light he had left. As adrenaline turned to hope for the two, the card in Zoey’s hand started burning, forcing Zoey to let it go, but it never hit the ground. Instead, it floated eye level with her and a fanged mouth grew on it, uttering, “I’m sorry but this card was not properly paid for by the new owner, please visit residential life and fill out the appropriate form.”
The card burst into flame as the lights flickered back on, returning the hallway to its original state. Zoey looked at Zeke, unsure what to do next. Zeke had no answers, but then a boy dressed like an extra from a Green Day video interrupted the depressed silence.
“Hey, I’m Zyler, come with me if you want to go to res life.”
Conor Killmurray is a fourth-year student majoring in English writings with a minor in political science. He can be reached at CK838793@wcupa.edu.