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Okay, so I’m not going to start with one of those disclaimers where the writer assures you that what you’re reading is true. It really doesn’t matter if you believe this. No one does.
I just want to write it down before I convince myself that it wasn’t real, in case there is someone out there who will take me seriously.
I started college this fall, at a university a couple states away from where my parents live, and it went pretty much how it does for most people, I think. I missed my old friends and even my parents, after a little while, but I settled in quickly and focused hard on my classes. I have two older brothers – one is a lawyer and the other in law school. Both were top of their all their classes in college and earned enough scholarship money that they practically put themselves through school. As the youngest, and as the only sister, I’ve always had high standards to live up to, and I would be damned if I was going to be the one sibling that was just average. So I got a job on campus to save up for grad school and I committed myself to getting straight A’s.
So, as you can imagine, I didn’t sleep much. I got used to pulling all-nighters on essays and lab reports at least once a week. My roommate got used to waking up at five-thirty (she worked the opening shift at a café near campus) to see me staring blearily at my laptop, putting the finishing touches on some assignment or other in my clothes from the day before.
Now, my staying up all night wasn’t too much of a problem for my roommate. She kept the lights on at night anyway. Our dorm was supposedly haunted and a lot of the girls got freaked out at night.
Some guy, an upperclassmen, told me about it at a party during my first couple of weeks there. “Oh yeah, I remember hearing about that: Some girl who lived there killed herself in the showers last year,” he explained. “Like, took the blades out of a disposable razor and cut herself up. And not just her wrists, I heard she sliced herself open all the way up her arms and legs. Massive fuckin’ gashes from her thighs to her feet. I heard there was an inch of blood covering the whole shower room floor. But they never found the blades she used.”
At this point, his (drunk) friend chimed in, “Yeah, that’s ‘cause her fuckin’ ghost has ‘em. So make sure you don’t see her while you’re in the shower or she’ll chop you the fuck up!”
I didn’t make much of it. For one thing, the more sober one kept trying to put his hand on my leg and I had a feeling he was hoping I would be so scared that I wouldn’t want to sleep in my dorm that night and decide to follow him to his. For another thing, the blades in a disposable razor are sharp, but they’re pretty small. I was fairly sure they couldn’t get that that much blood out of someone. And if that part was bullshit, then chances were most of it was.
I knew the basis was real though – the suicide that is. A bunch of my floor mates pestered our RA into telling us what happened, since she had lived in the same building the year before. The kid who found the body had dropped out (understandably traumatized) and the school officials didn’t tell the students many details, so what she was able to tell us was this: there was a suicide, it was in the shower room, and there was definitely blood – though I still didn’t buy that there was a whole inch.
Either way, the dorm staff decided not to house anybody on the third floor – where the suicide had happened – after that year, so the third floor shower room was always still and dark and empty. People would get dared to spend a night in there or try to do shit with Ouija boards, but no one was dumb enough to try actually showering in there.
Except for me. But to my credit, it wasn’t some stupid dare.
It was finals week of my second semester and I was even busier with schoolwork than usual. Luckily, the next day was the last of the school year, and all I had to do was turn in an essay for one class. I had stayed up all night to finish it and only gotten a couple hours of sleep the night before, and because caffeine can only get you through so much, it was getting hard to stay awake. But I needed a good grade on this paper and a part of me wanted to see how far I could push myself before I mentally collapsed.
At one point, I caught myself snoozing at my desk, my chin propped up against my hand, for about the fifth time. I glanced at my alarm clock, then at my laptop screen. It was 5:00 A.M. – that left a good four hours until my class started, and all I had to do now was write a few more conclusory sentences and proofread.
Well, a short break wouldn’t kill me, I decided, and I needed a shower anyway. So I threw on my bathrobe and grabbed a towel and the little basket where I had my shower stuff. I shut the door behind me quietly, so as not to wake my roommate. She only had half an hour or so before she had to be up for work.
When I got to my floor’s shower room, I was unsurprised to hear one of the showers already running as I shuffled into a stall and hung up my robe. It was finals week, after all and I probably wasn’t the only one on my floor who had just pulled an all-nighter. Still rubbing my eyes, I turned the shower knob three quarters of the way around and was jolted awake as a spray of freezing water hit me head on. I stood there for a few shivery minutes, shifting my weight uncomfortably and waiting for the water to warm up, but it didn’t change, even when I turned the knob to the hottest setting.
The hot water must be used up for this floor, I thought, with a half-hearted swell of admiration for my unknown floor mate, who was showering anyway, in the cold water. I turned my own shower back off, but as I walked out of my stall, shrugging my bathrobe back into place, I noticed that all the shower curtains were open. The shower on the end – empty – was spouting a tepid stream of water onto the floor.
So, no hot water because someone was stupid enough to leave without turning their shower off.
My annoyance fueled my determination to get clean. I adjusted my robe and climbed one story up to the third floor, trying not to think too hard about what I was actually doing. Everyone in the dorm had a key specific to their floor so that we could only get into one shower room, but as I had hoped, the one on the third floor was unlocked. This was a stupid move on campus security’s part, I observed as I went inside to see the mirror smashed and the walls crisscrossed with graffiti. But either way, it benefited me. I was doubtful that this floor would actually have hot water, or even any water at all, but it was worth a try. I went into a stall and hopefully turned the knob toward hot. There was an awful screeching noise from inside the walls, which I chalked up to the moving of rusted and under-used pipes. But then, there was a gush of water from the shower head. Surprised, I hurriedly jumped out of my bath robe and hung it on a hook on the wall, though not quickly enough to keep it from being splattered with the water, which was bitingly cold and orange with rust. As I waited though, the rust color faded out and disappeared down the drain, and the water temperature rose to an almost-warmth that was acceptable, if not pleasant.
I’m not going to lie, I was creeped out in there. Not terrified – I hadn’t believed in ghosts since I was five – but definitely creeped out.
There was a smell of something dull and metallic in there, something old and festering. ‘The plumbing in here must have fallen to shit, that’s gotta be where the smell is from,’ I reasoned, though a voice at the back of my mind whispered, ‘blood’.
I decided to finish my shower as quickly as possible and then get out of there.
I was feeling better though, by the time I finished washing my hair and skin. The weather was finally starting to warm up and I felt like wearing shorts today. So why not spend an extra few minutes shaving my legs? Anyway, I was almost done with my paper and my first class of the morning wasn’t for another two hours. And the only vaguely scary thing that had happened so far was a faint scraping sound coming from the floor drain.
Again, I chalked it up to rusty plumbing.
As I was shaving, I started thinking about finals coming up, about how badly I wanted straight A’s and how some of my grades were right on the borderline. I guess not concentrating was what caused me to cut myself.
It was just a little nick and definitely nothing I wasn’t used to, but the unexpected twinge of pain made me drop my razor. It skittered across the slippery tiles and as I bent to pick it up, I noticed something.
There was something caught in the drain. It didn’t look like a hairball or an earring someone had dropped, it was something else. It was about the size of a small fist, child-sized, and it was pale white, webbed with hair-thin black lines. I thought it might be marble. Or maybe some kind of stone?
In a moment of curiosity and what I can only guess was stress-fuelled stupidity, I knelt down and started to pry the grate off the drain. I thought the thing was maybe some sort of brooch or necklace that someone had somehow dropped in there.
It really was stupid of me. Even as I pried the grate off the open hole of the drain, I could already see the thing inside starting to move.
I tossed the grate aside with a feeling of triumph, and saw the pale thing begin to rise up toward me. It seemed to be writhing with a force of its own and I thought I could see thin protrusions below its surface. Almost like bones.
With a growing sense of fear roiling in my stomach, I stood up and backed away a couple steps, but my sheer unwillingness to believe in a stupid ghost story kept me rooted to the spot.
As the thing reached the top of the drain hole, it somehow unfurled. I don’t know how else to describe it. Four spindly protrusions curled outward from the top of it, revealing a flat underbelly covered with oily, purple sores. One side was sticky with something that looked like grey-ish pus coming from the end of a knobby stump where there should have been a . . .
I recoiled as I realized that this thing was a hand.
The palm wasn’t much bigger than a toddler’s, but each of the remaining fingers had to be at least six inches long, with bulging knuckles and, at the end of each one, a fingernail.
Actually, ‘claw’ might be a better word for them. The one on the little finger was broken off at the base, leaving only a few jagged fragments lodged in a gooey nail bed. But the others added another three inches in length to each finger. They hooked inward grotesquely and the edges glinted in the rusty water pooling around the drain. They looked razor sharp.
Now, by the time it took me to observe all this, I didn’t really give a shit anymore about how childish it was to believe in ghost stories, or how this might be my imagination blowing some easily-explained thing out of proportion, or even that I was completely naked with one leg still smeared with shaving cream. I was getting out of there.
I started to scramble backward, one hand reached out behind me to yank open the shower curtain, but the tiles were slick and I didn’t manage to back up more than a couple steps before my ass hit the floor. As I fell, one of my ankles brushed the palm of the hand. It felt clammy and soft, like something left too long at the back of the fridge. The fingers twitched at the contact.
I flipped over onto my hands and knees, thinking I would crawl out, but as I tried to shuffle away, I felt the long fingers wrap around my left ankle. A jolt of pain went up my leg as I felt the claws bite into me.
I looked back to see several inches of arm now outside the drain, and still rising slowly, millimeter by millimeter, out of the floor. I could see the outlines of warped bones and tendons beneath the sagging skin, and the very beginning of a knobby elbow. And at the other end, the hand was still grasping my ankle, trickles of blood dripping down from where the claws pressed into my skin.
I tried to pull my leg back toward my body, but the thing’s grip only tightened. I felt a sickening scraping sensation and another bolt of pain as the claws met the bone of my leg. And the screeching noise was back. And the arm was still rising slowly out of the drain.
It was my roommate that saved me – her and that early café shift she hated so much. She said she found it strange when she woke up at dawn to find me gone, but my laptop still on and opened to my almost-finished essay. Mid-paragraph, even. Also absent were my bathrobe and the basket of shampoo and other shower supplies we shared, but she didn’t hear any water running in the second floor shower room. So, following a hunch, she checked the one on the third floor.
The paramedics said that I’d probably been unconscious for twenty minutes or so; I had lost a lot of blood. When they found me, I had a series of gashes going all the way from my ankle to my hip on my left leg, and up to my knee on the right. Some of the cuts were shallow, but most were deep and jagged. The worst of it was in the area of my left ankle. The doctors spent hours stitching me up.
They asked me about my history of illegal drug-use and mental illness and I told them – truthfully – that I had neither. They asked me if I was sure about ten times, then had a psychiatrist come talk to me.
I was more than a little bit hopped up on pain meds but even so, it took me a few days to let my guard down enough to ask my psychiatrist about the hand. She said that nothing else out of the ordinary had been in the shower room when they found me – just me, naked and bleeding on the floor. She said that disturbing hallucinations were a common symptom of sleep deprivation.
“But then, how did I get all those cuts?” I asked.
She didn’t sugarcoat things, I’ll give her that: “You did that yourself, hon. You were stressed and you were tired, and you’re not the first college student to become unstable during finals week.”
Like I said, I’m starting to believe her about the hand being a hallucination, but I know I wasn’t the one who gave me those cuts. There wasn’t anything sharp enough or big enough to slice me up like that – not in the showers, not in my room, nowhere in the vicinity. They thought I might have taken apart my razor, but when I asked my roommate, she said she saw it lying beside me, exactly where I had dropped it, completely intact.
Which is why want to put this out there for other people to see. I know that what I remember happening makes no sense and shouldn’t be possible, but I just wouldn’t feel right staying quiet about it. I want people to know: I don’t think that girl killed herself in the shower room last year. I think something else did.
Credit To – Juliet