Zoey and Zeke stared at each other for a moment; the key card from their Connect Four win wasn’t working, and the RM was just behind them.
“Zyler, I thought you said this thing would work!” called Zeke, waving his dwindling candle at the giant slug beast that gnashed its teeth at him.
“It must’ve expired or whatever. Gosh, just come on already, we need to get back to Res Life. Even in death we can’t escape incompetent desk jockeys.”
Zoey and Zeke exchanged one more hesitant look before following him at a sprint down the hall. The Resident Monster pursued them, a horde of black spiders in its wake.
“We should find a room to hide in till living hours,” said Zoey. “I dropped my candle back there, and Zeke’s is going out!”
“No!” Zyler shouted looking over his shoulder. “We can make it to Residential Life.”
“But…,” started Zeke.
“Ugh, just shut it already,” Zyler spat at him.
They followed him for a long while before he suddenly burst through a couple of doors that led to the stairwell.
“What are you playing at? These stairs don’t go anywhere!” Zeke yelled.
“Gosh, you’re such a poser,” Zyler yelled back. “You have to go down three flights, and it’s the first door on the left this time. How have you not figured the pattern out yet? Haven’t you been here for, like, years or whatever?”
“Well… I suppose so. But, wait, how do you know the pattern?”
Zyler ignored him as they plunged down the stairs, Zoey and Zeke now in the lead. Zyler seemed to be struggling, his breathing raspy, the lungs of a smoker. Zoey and Zeke hadn’t noticed him fall behind until they burst back into the hall of the nightmare floor and reached the Residential Life door. A white sheet of paper pasted to the outside of the door read: “Must be alive to open door. If you are not alive, we give our deepest condolences and apologize for the inconvenience. Please see the RM if you would like your soul to be devoured. Have a good day!”
Zoey completely ignored the sign, threw the door open, and hurtled inside, but Zeke stopped and looked back for Zyler. He still hadn’t made it out of the stairwell. Zyler waited in the threshold of Res Life, staring at the doors to the stairwell. A few seconds passed, and Zeke’s candle finally flickered out. Then he heard the doors swing open.
“Zyler?” Zeke called.
There was no response.
“Uhh… Zyler, come on!”
A moment passed. Then, so close to Zeke’s ear that he felt saliva spatter his face, a voice hissed: “NO CANDLES ALLOWED.”
Zeke darted in the room and slammed the door shut behind him. There was a low light in the room, allowing him to see Zoey staring back at him.
“I guess it got him…,” began Zeke, but then there was a knock at the door.
“Hey,” called a familiar voice. “Open the door, losers.”
Quickly, Zeke cracked the door open and Zyler slipped inside.
“How did you get past that thing?” said Zoey in amazement.
“It just ignored me. Makes sense. I’m already dead inside anyway.”
“Oh, wow, alright, edge lord,” Zoey scoffed back.
Zeke stared at him incredulously but said nothing. In the low light of the room, Zoey and Zeke were finally able to get a good look at Zyler. He had long, straight, jet black hair that hung down in front of his eyes, which had black shadows under them. His black leather jacket was opened, revealing a black T-shirt with a giant white Punisher skull on it. His black skinny jeans sported a couple of tasteful holes and a silver chain with a Velcro wallet attached to it.
“Um, are you wearing eyeliner?” asked Zoey.
“What? No! My eyes are just black, like my soul, gosh.”
“Oh my God, I can’t even,” said Zoey, turning away to investigate the room.
There was a dusty old counter with an oddly new-looking bell on it. Seats lined the walls, a couple of which hosted dilapidated skeletons. They looked around the room for a while, but didn’t find anything useful.
“Well, go on then, ring the bell!” said Zeke to Zoey.
She dinged it twice then jumped a good two feet as a skeleton with a baseball cap on popped out from a door behind the counter.
“Weeeeell, hello there!” it said cheerily. “The name’s Boneingtonlysworth, but my friends just call me Lenny! Or, well, they would, if I had any friends! I guess, really, I just call myself Lenny because I’m here alone all the time! I don’t think I’ve actually seen anyone else for the last four hundred years or so, except these fine young chaps.” He pointed at the skeletons sitting in the chairs. “But they aren’t very talkative! They came here a long time ago, but I didn’t notice they were here for a couple decades! Shame I just got this bell last week! Anyways, I…”
“SHUT IT!” yelled Zyler. “You got any key cards for that elevator or not?”
“Ohhhh boy, you bet I do! We’ve got loads of them! Wayyyyyy too many in stock. Only one has ever actually been checked out! Anyways, that’ll just be ten dollars!”
“TEN DOLLARS?!” shouted Zeke. “THAT’S ABSURD! Why are they so expensive!?”
“Well, if it’s too much,” said the Lenny, his voice suddenly becoming demonic while red flames burst from his eye sockets, “you can always pay with your soul!”
“Wow, wow, wow, relax,” said Zoey, fishing around in her pocket for the wallet her wallet that she had been holding on to. “Forgot I had this.”
She handed the skeleton a $10 bill.
“Super!” he said, his voice returning to normal. “Let me just go grab that for ya!”
Lenny left the room and the three of them stood in an uncomfortable silence, Zoey fiddling around with her hair, Zeke fixing up his now sad-looking afro and Zyler also messing with his hair, but in a far more dark and brooding kind of way.
“Heeeeere ya go!” said Lenny, sliding back in the room quite theatrically and handing Zoey a keycard.
“Ouch!” she screamed. “It bit me, again! I hate supernatural bureaucracy.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! It’s just performing a blood ritual! You’re all set to go now! You have yourself just the best day, okay?”
“Don’t tell me what to do!” spat Zyler. “Gosh.”
The three went to the door and readied themselves for the sprint to the elevator, hoping this time, Res Life got the card right.
Matt Donahue is a third-year student majoring in physics with a minor in computer programming. He can be reached at MD834123@wcupa.edu. Riley McRell is a third-year student majoring in English writings track. He can be reached at RM825947@wcupa.edu.