By Alaya Ayala
By ALAYA AYALA
I woke up with a wild gasp, sitting bolt upright in my seat and frantically trying to figure out where I was. For a moment I was all panic as I realized I wasn’t in my bedroom, in fact, I was in a room surrounding by unfamiliar people, many of whom were watching me curiously. I couldn’t breathe, my heart pounding as I tried to understand what was going on.
As if a lens had suddenly fallen over my vision, I realized where I was and ducked my head in shame. I’d fallen asleep in the Lamont Cafe, somehow, and had probably been woken up by the rush of people looking to get their caffeine fixes. I noticed that I had wrinkled my p-set during my little nap and let out a frustrated sigh, seeing that I had smudged one of the answers that I had worked so hard to find.
“Hey, are you okay?” I flinched away from the unexpected voice in my ear, my heart in my throat. I looked to my left and met a pair of blue eyes that were watching me with concern. I relaxed as I realized that it was just another girl standing next to me, and shook my head, laughing nervously.
“Yeah, fine, just jumpy I guess,” I replied. She smiled and nodded before walking away toward the windows. The windows that were mirror-like now, reflecting back my increasingly horrified reflection as I realized it was dark outside.
I started shoving things in my bag as fast as I could, cramming the stupid p-set into a side pocket when it wouldn’t fit in the larger one. I was pushing my way through the door in seconds, not even sparing the security guard a glance as I walked past and exited the library. I turned to the right and saw that the Quad shuttle was pulling up next to the gate that led to Barker, and I sprinted down the steps to catch it. Maybe the universe isn’t out to get me, after all, I thought as I settled down into a seat towards the back of the bus. I dug into my pocket for my phone and woke up the screen to check the time. Or not.
My roommate was going to kill me, I was late, and we had both agreed to never be late, not for this. It was one of the many rules – laws, really – that we had laid down when we had first started living together. I shuddered at the thought of how furious she would be with me when I got to our suite in Cabot. She’d never been the forgiving type, either.
To my chagrin, the shuttle stayed stopped at the Widener gates for a few minutes as more students piled on. It would’ve been faster to run back to the Quad at this point. I was screwed.
I folded in on myself, wrapping my arms around my backpack on my lap and bowing my head as the enormity of what could happen when I finally got there began to dawn on me. Would she yell and insult me? Would she fly into a rage like the last time I broke a rule? Would she hurt me this time – with more than just her words?
Reina was a ruthless creature, impossibly determined and obstinate, and harder to read than the ancient texts that were buried deep in Houghton Library. Most of the time, she was cold and passive, but when she got angry, it was like a fissure had opened in the ground and started spitting out molten lava, so intense and bright was her rage. I didn’t know how I had managed to stay sane, being around her for the past few months. Our other roommates had abandoned ship a while ago, choosing to illicitly move in with their friends and boyfriends rather than spending their time fighting to get official room changes or dealing with Reina. I was the only one who stayed, more out of loneliness than by choice. I had nowhere else to go.
We were both floaters in the Blocking process, Reina and I, and had been placed with a few other girls who’d been blocking together, and who had been close friends before Reina arrived. Not much lasted long when it meant she couldn’t get her way, not even friendships.
I glanced up from my wallowing as the shuttle pulled itself to a stop in front of Currier. I leapt off of the bus and ran to my entryway, huffing with frustration when the door wouldn’t open the first time I tapped my ID against the scanner. Finally, I got the damned thing open and hurried to catch the elevator before it shut behind a group of giggling girls who were clearly freshmen looking for a party. It was with relief that I exited the elevator on my floor and left their happy chatter behind me, I couldn’t bear to be around their positivity when I was so physically sick with fear.
I stopped outside of the door to our suite and steeled myself, ready for the worst. It was with trembling fingers that I pushed my key into the lock and gently shoved the door open, noting with trepidation that the lights were off in the room.
The door swung shut behind me and I fumbled for the light switch, shivering as a wave of freezing-cold winter air wrapped around me, eating through my jacket. Reina must have left all of the windows open. I found the switch and flicked it, cold fear pooling in my stomach and spreading through me when the lights didn’t turn on.
I edged my way into the suite, trying to figure out where she was waiting for me in the cool gloom of the common room. I whirled around as I heard a scraping sound come from the door, and saw that she had somehow pushed a bookcase against it without me noticing her, blocking my way out. But she was nowhere to be seen.
“Reina?” I called out. I was answered by silence. God, she was so dramatic, but I’d be damned if I tried to pretend I wasn’t terrified of her right now. The air in the room was thick with her anger, the freezing temperature doing nothing to cool the sweat dripping down my back.
I backed myself against the nearest wall, waiting. I knew she’d start speaking when she was good and ready, and not a moment before she knew that she had me cornered.
“This is twice.” She hissed from the darkest corner of the room.
And as she stepped out of the shadows, into the dim pool of light from the windows, I realized that twice was one time too many.
You didn’t break Reina’s rules without regretting it, and as I cowered before her gaze, her enraged eyes glowing crimson in the moonlight, I felt that I wouldn’t just regret this time – I’d pay.
To be continued…
Alaya Ayala firstname.lastname@example.org likes to start off October right with spooky stories.