Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dormtergeist: Act 1

The footsteps echoed so that it sounded like the dorm hallways were busy with wandering students, even though Greg was very much alone. A microwave beeped in the distance as he slowly walked up the stairs, eyes glued to the floor, too tired to even look up and avoid obstacles; he wasn't worried, there was never anyone for him to run into anyway. The backpack was heavy with books and notebooks that hadn't been removed in months, and threatened to tip him over backwards, sending him rolling down the flight of stairs behind him; he wouldn't mind, maybe it would wake him up. He reached the end of the hallway and glanced at his watch: ten after four, the same time it always was when he always looked at his watch when arriving home after a long day of classes. The keys jingled and entered the lock, pushing open the door it was attached to. Greg stepped inside and his eyes darted to the unfamiliar object in his room. He jumped.

"Who are you, and what are you doing in my room?!"

The boy was standing by the window, his back to the door. His eyes were shielded by sunglasses and he had presumably been admiring the view before being interrupted, but his demeanor remained cheery as he turned and smiled.

"Oh, don't mind me! I'm just a ghost."

Greg came back down to the floor, but he remained in the doorframe.

"...What?" was the best that he could muster.

"Yeah, I died in the very room a few years ago," said the intruder. "Long story. But I figured I'd stop by, haunt it for a few days, and then I'll be out of your hair!"

The explanation did little to comfort Greg. His previous attempt at dialog, a strained "what," had failed, so he tried another approach: "Oh... alright."

The two stared at each other for several seconds, Greg trying to process the situation, and the other boy simply grinning. The grin vanished and he introduced himself: "Oh, how rude of me. I'm Matt by the way." He skipped across the small one-person room and struck his hand out. Greg, far too polite, mumbled his own name and shook back.

"Nice to meet you, Greg! Anyway, this is a pretty sweet set-up you got here. Bed, couch, alarm clock, fridge... I like it."

Greg had never been complemented on his room before, and blushed. "Thanks? ...I guess." He decided that it was time to start asking the tough questions. "So um... are you planning on sleeping here? I only have one bed."

Matt threw his head back and roared with laughter, as if he had been asked this question before. "Oh don't worry about me. I'll just disappear into the closet at night, or sleep under your bed, or crawl into the TV or something."

"...Okay..." Greg was unsatisfied, but was too exhausted to continue the interrogation. Sweating from the heat, he realized that he was still standing, equipped with backpack, in the doorway, and walked over to his bed. He laid the bag next to his closet, and sat down at his desk. Matt began whistling a tune while sauntering around the room. Greg ruffled through some papers on the desk and glanced at his watch: a quarter after four. What would he normally be doing at this time? He had a routine, and it had been disrupted. If he could just find his way back to normalcy, everything would be okay. Matt thumbed through novels on the bookshelf, browsed the DVD collection on the rack, jiggled the joysticks on the videogame controllers by the TV. The distractions were overwhelming. Of all the times a ghost could have chosen to haunt his room, it had to have been right before finals.

Greg gritted his teeth and stood up: "So, you said that you died in here? How did that happen?"

Matt didn't even look up: "Yeah, it was a freak accident. Nothing exciting, I don't want to bore you."

Greg tried again: "And you're a ghost now? What's the afterlife like?"

Matt shrugged: "It's not bad. I can turn invisible and fly through walls and stuff. I have a lot of free time though. Been teaching myself to juggle."

An awkward silence filled the room, and Greg was at a loss. He couldn't demand that Matt leave; this was not the time to risk getting killed and turned into a vengeful sprit himself, or being possessed, or having his pots and pans start floating around the room. Matt walked over to the couch, dropped onto the cushions and leaned back. He took off his sunglasses, turned to Greg, and sighed: "Man, you got any popcorn or something? I'm hungry."

"And then!... You're never going to believe this... He had the nerve to ask if I had any snacks!"

It had snowed overnight. Matt ended up sleeping on the couch--he claimed that it was more comfortable than sleeping inside the TV, where the static would keep him awake--and Greg had been too tired to argue. Now he described this new friend to his old friend, Stacy, as they trudged through the ice. She was intrigued.

"Snacks? So is he a friendly ghost? Or the evil kind?"

Greg pondered momentarily. "...Neither. He's just lazy. He sits around watching my TV all day."

"It's no big deal," said Stacy, "We'll just put an ad in the newspaper for a ghostbuster. He'll be gone before you know it."

Greg sighed. "I hope so. What a long week this has been... First I had my math final on Monday and did terribly, now I'm being terrorized by a ghost, and then I'm going to have my econ final on Thursday."

Stacy lost interest as soon as the complaints began. She offered to look into ghostbusters, and the two agreed to meet up the next day and discuss their next move. Greg waved goodbye as Stacy walked away, leaving him shivering in the cold while the wind howled from behind the trees. Pulling the sweatshirt hood over his head, he stuck his hands in his pockets, and started the long walk home. He had promised to pick up some food for Matt along the way. The ghost had said that he would pay him back later.

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