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When The Lights Go Out



Estimated reading time — 7 minutes

Have you ever had that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you feel like something bad is going to happen? It is a new level of anxiety that makes my mind want to explode! My family has always been wealthy due to our family name owning many large corporations and factories. My parents wanted me to take over their businesses and thus maintain their appearance and reputation. As their only child, they thought it was best to send me to St. Genevieve – an all-girls boarding school, when I turned 12.

During my first week at St. Genevieve, I had that feeling. I struggled to make friends, let alone look them in the eye, however I believe I made up for that with my good grades and almost perfect streak of house duties. I shared a room with a girl named Olivia. She was a couple months younger than me but looked at least 14. She had skin the color of freshly baked bread and eyes like the stump of an oak tree. Compared to my short, blonde bob, her long, chocolate colored hair was always neatly tied in a plait that stretched to her tailbone and her posture was so exquisite that her hair never moved an inch. What I mean to say is that she is quite the eye-catcher. Despite her ravishing looks though, she was very shy and quiet. I do not think I have ever seen her answer any questions in class. Now that I think about it, I do not think I have even seen her be asked one.

One morning when we were asked to get ready for breakfast, I walked into the bathroom to check up on Olivia. I heard the water from the shower running and the room felt quite warm from the steam.
“Olivia, are you almost done? We need to head down for breakfast. It’s quarter to 8.”
I heard the turn of the tap and the water go from a spray to a slow drip hitting the tiled floor.
“It seems like you will be out soon. I’ll wait in our room.” I made my way back into our room and looked out the window. I never really liked looking out of the window here. The view was not amazing, or spectacular compared to that of, say, my uncle’s estate in Sussex which had a grand flower maze. The view was blocked by pipes on the other side of my window allowing only small cracks of light to come through.

A loud bang came from the corridor, interrupting my thoughts, and was then followed by a clinking sound. It sounded as if somebody had been shot and dropped their keys. I peeked outside of my door in fear but surprisingly saw nothing. Being naturally curious, I walked out into the corridor while remaining cautious. I wondered where our dorm supervisor was and why they had not come to investigate the source of the sound. I took about 10 steps, and my heart began racing.

That feeling.

It was here.

I should have trusted my gut and not chewed more than I could swallow. But I was eager to know what happened. I had to know. Gathering my courage, I pushed on. As I neared the end of the corridor, I could feel a burst of hot air surround me.

“Ah, hot!” I exclaimed in distraught. The lights began flickering and before I knew it, I was running down the corridor, knocking on every door and turning every handle, hoping someone would be nearby – anybody who could help me. I finally found a door that would open and ran straight into the room, shutting the door with brute force and hastily fiddling with the lock before locking it behind me. I slammed my back against the door and slid to the ground. I was shaking. I was scared. It was also very warm in here.

Drip, drip.

Ah, I am in the bathroom. Olivia must be in here. Hopefully, she is okay and we can find a way out of here safely.

“Olivia, are you in here? There is a lot of steam outside in the corridor. It is quite hot in here too. Olivia?” Why is she not responding? The bathroom is not very big either. I assumed she was changing her clothes.

I suddenly felt it heat up under where I was sitting. I jumped up and turned to look at the door. The hot evaporated air seeped through the spaces between the door and room. I was not sure what to do and I was sweating profusely.

As I was backing away from the door, 2 of the 3 lights exploded. I screamed at the sudden jolt. The remaining light began flickering – just as I had seen in the corridor. Only this time, they seemed to flicker in a pattern. Was it trying to send me a message? I was becoming delusional. There is no way anyone or anything could contact me through lights!

“Um, Olivia? Where are you? I’m terrified right now and if this is a joke then it’s not funny!” I was crying now. I was so confused about this situation and how to get out of it. Is this how I die?

I went to check the shower, hoping Olivia would be there but to my defeat, she was not.

The light was still eerily flickering and there was more steam filling the room. I was close to reaching my limit of consciousness and could feel my body slowly going limp. From the light, I realized that there was a recurring pattern. I counted the number of times the light flickered. For each time the light quickly turned on, I called it ‘S’. For each time the light turned on for a while, I called it ‘L’. For each time there was no light, I called it ‘P’.

This was the pattern I memorized:

L-S-L-L-P-L-L-L-P-S-S-L-P-S-L-S-P-S-S-L-S-P-S-L-P-S-S-L-P-S-L-S-S-P-L-P

I was glad I went on all those trips with my grandfather on his ship. However, I did not understand whether the message was meant for me. I never did anything to deserve this – nothing I can think of anyway.

There was a scowling noise coming from the mirror and I immediately turned to looked at it. The light went out and I hugged myself for comfort.

“This isn’t funny Olivia.” I was terrified. Right then, the lights went out. I quivered while trying to find the sink counter to regain the balance I was slowly losing. It must have been at least 40 degrees Celsius, and I was quite surprised I was not knocked out cold. I tried turning on the tap, but it didn’t budge.

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I was about to faint when the light flashed on. It took me a few seconds to adjust my eyes to the sensitivity of the light. The steam seemed to have vanished. I had that terrible feeling in my stomach, as if something would come and grab me.
I looked around carefully. I was alone. Where was Olivia?

I turned to face the mirror and I felt a light scratch on my right forearm. When I looked down at it, I got a glimpse of dark-brown hair but when I looked up, there was no one. I turned back to face the mirror and I saw her.
“Oh my god! Olivia, where have you been?” She looked like she was beat up with bruises along her arms and face and she had dirt in her hair. She undid her plait while staring at me through the mirror. This was the first time I had seen her with her hair down and it would have enhanced her beauty had she not been in her current state.

There was one problem though.

On the mirror was written, “tluaf ruoy, lehcaR”. Wait, Rachel? That is my name.
The room began to vigorously shake when the girl in the mirror grabbed me and threw me across the room. The mirror cracked and I began screaming and crying while huddled on the ground in the fetal position until everything became black.

– – –

My eyes shot open. I woke up in my bed with one of the school nurses and my dorm teacher by my side.

“Olivia,” my dorm teacher, Mrs. Corneally, began speaking in a sweet tone, “how are you feeling?”

“I’m fine. Did something happen?” I looked at both women back and forth. Their expressions showed concern and I guessed that there was maybe a speck of fear. I believe I was right.

“Do you remember anything from last night?” Mrs. Corneally looked quite worried.

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“Not really. I do think I had a bad dream though.” That must have been what happened. The nurse assisted me in sitting up and I looked to the other side of the room. There was no bed nor a desk in sight.

I made a start to get out of bed when the nurse stopped me.

“Hold it right there, dear. You’ve got an awful cut on your hand here and you were asleep for over a day.”
Over a day? What exactly happened?

“Mrs. Corneally, do you happen to know where my roommate is? Why are all her belongings gone?” That feeling made its way into my stomach. Was it regret? Or guilt? Maybe even hate?

“Do you not remember, dear?” Mrs. Corneally looked shocked before she softened her expression. She gently held my hand as I shook my head.

“Darling, two years ago there was a girl named Rachel who used to go to this school. She was a very bright student and was quite good at completing household duties and chores in our dorm. I believe she did not have many friends because of how she looked and many of the other girls here would make fun of her. When she got here, she was mostly quiet and stayed away from the others. One day, she tried to complain to the headmistress but you and one of your friends decided to pull a prank on her in the bathroom. I am not sure if you do not remember because you have actually forgotten or because you choose to not remember as a method of coping but, Rachel Marcelo committed suicide by jumping out of your room window. As a result, the school decided to board up the windows to prevent any other students from attempting what Miss Marcelo had done. Yesterday morning you also tried to-”

Mrs. Corneally kept talking but I stopped listening. Not only did I drive my roommate to commit suicide, but I somehow fooled myself into believing I was her.

“Olivia? Olivia!” The school nurse shouted, “Ah, dear, please be more careful. You have been skipping out on your medication which is why you were hallucinating a couple days ago. You should take your medicine everyday after dinner. Please be more mindful of your health. We wouldn’t want you forgetting who you are now.”

Credit : TheRunningWalrus

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