Friday, December 26, 2008

Dormtergeist: Act 3

Greg leaned against the sickly off-white wall in the center of the silent hallway. Reid McCoy, the ghostbuster, had told them to wait outside while he worked, and Stacy had gotten bored after half an hour and left. Now he was alone, pacing back and forth, running laps up and down the stairs, doing jumping jacks by the front door, killing time until he was sure that his single-room was a single once more. Night had fallen outside, and the dorm became a giant walk-in freezer; Greg could see his breath as he shouted at McCoy through the door, asking if he was done. No response. He leaned his head and pressed his ear against the door. Nothing. Taking a deep breath, prepared for the worst, he found the keys, jingling in his pocket, and unlocked the door. Inside it was dark, except for the glow of the television, illuminating the two figures sitting on the couch, and the bags of chips littered on the floor. Greg fumbled for the switch on the wall and turned on the light.

"Greg-o! Join the party, man!" Matt was jovial, as usual.

"Come grab a drink," laughed McCoy, sprawled on the couch with a bowl of salsa on his lap and a bottle in his hand. Greg was indignant, and demanded the private investigator join him in the hallway for a business meeting. McCoy stood up, gave Matt a fist-pound, told him that he'd be back in a minute, and went into the hall.

"What are you doing?!" cried Greg, once they were alone outside.

"I can't exterminate this guy!" said McCoy, putting his sunglasses back on and adjusting his hat. "He's so cool!"

"He's not cool! He's haunting my room!"

"Matt is 'not cool'? Have you seen him juggle? The guy's amazing!"

Greg was at a loss for words. "Look, I'm not paying for this."

"Alright fine, handle him yourself," muttered McCoy, the smile disappearing behind his mustache. "This is a run-of-the-mill 'closure' case. All you have to do is figure out how he died, figure out why he can't rest in peace, help him out, and then he'll leave."

Greg perked up: "That's it?"

"Sure is," McCoy grunted. "Anyway, I gotta run. Apparently the sorority across the street is having a banshee problem." The creepy smile reemerged from behind the mustache as he walked down the hall and vanished around the corner.

Greg breathed a sigh of relief. As he turned around to return to his room, however, the relief-filled sigh was cut off prematurely. Matt was standing in the doorway, arms crossed, glaring at him. "You're trying to get rid of me?"

A long pause ensued as the two stared at eachother while Greg mentally searched for an excuse. "...No?" was the best that he could come up with.

This seemed to make Matt angrier. "I heard the whole thing, Greg. Come on, man, I thought we were friends!"

"...S...Sorry, I have to go," Greg whispered nervously as he walked towards the stairs.

"Yeah, you will see me later, dude! I'm not going anywhere!"

Greg's walk turned into a run as he sprinted down the steps. He knew that Matt was tethered to the room and wouldn't give chase, but the echoing shouts reverberated throughout the dorm, following him all the way downstairs to the door.

Greg's eyes were red. Afraid to go home, he had slept in the library, spending hours doing research on the computer, searching for anything that could give him a hint about Matt's unfinished business.

He and Stacy walked up the stairs of the dorm. The hallways, filled with the echoes of their footsteps, were now overwhelmed by the strong smell or butter and oil, emenating from the freshly-microwaved bag of popcorn that Greg carefully carried. "So what's the story?" Stacy asked.

"Ten years ago," began Greg, "to the exact day that Matt first showed up, a student in this room was trying to microwave some popcorn. He accidentially set the timer to three days instead of three minutes, forgot about it, and three days later the microwave imploded. The kid disappeared in the blast."

Stacy was slightly disappointed, but was still looking forward to the upcoming exorcism. They reached the door and looked at each other. "Let's do this." Greg knew exactly how things would go down: they would open the door, seeing nothing but pitch black darkness inside. The window blinds would be shut, the closet door would be slightly ajar, and the television would be tuned to static while white-noise would play on the radio. They would call out for Matt, to no avail, and try turning on the light switch, though it wouldn't work. Tensely, they would tiptoe inside, the floorboards creaking under their weight, as the door would slowly shut behind them. As they would work their way to the center of the room, one of them would see a shadowy figure move in the corner of their eye, but it would be gone the second they would investigate. As the ominous music (which would of course be playing, though they wouldn't hear it) would decrease in volume to near silence, the imaginary camera would frame Greg in a medium shot, with just enough empty black space above his shoulder for Matt to pop out off. They would scream, and while Greg hadn't planned past this expected moment, he was sure that he would be able to improvise.

Prepared for all this, Greg took the keys out of his pocket and leaned forward to open the door when it opened on it's own accord. Anticlimactically, Matt stood on the other side. "I could hear you guys talking out there," he said.

"Oh," said Greg. They weren't inside, and already things weren't going according to plan.

"I know what you're here for!" shouted Matt, just as angry as the day before. "You're here to bust me, aren't you?!"

Greg was afraid. "I... I..." He was stumbling, but took a deep breath. It was time to end this. "I brought you some popcorn."

The deranged look on Matt's face softened, and he smiled. Suddenly, he leapt forward and wrapped his arms around Greg in a massive bearhug. At first recoiling, Greg stopped flailing and allowed the hug to continue. After an uncomfortable amount of time, Matt let go and grabbed the popcorn. "Thanks a lot, man! You don't know how much I've been craving this!" He reached into the bag and removed a giant handful, stuffing it all into his mouth and devouring it while some of the buttery kernals dripped down his face. After swallowing a few and reaching for another handful, he suddenly stopped. The bag fell from his grasp, spilling the contents all over the floor. Matt soon followed, collapsing onto the ground and crushing the popcorn beneath him. Silence enveloped the room.

Stacy and Greg looked at each other uneasily. "Um..." began Stacy, "...I was kind of expecting him to vanish in a puff of smoke or decompose into a skeleton or something."

"Yeah, me too," said Greg, eyeing the unmoving body in the middle of room. "...Let's go find that ghostbuster."

The two walked out, Greg turning to get one final look at his former roommate before shutting the door.

Minutes passed after they were gone, and the entire dorm was silent as a cemetary. Matt's eyes fluttered open, and he slowly sat up, looking around the room. He was alone. He grabbed onto the bed post and lifted himself to his feet, brushing off the popcorn still stuck to his shirt. Skipping over to the wall, he picked up Greg's discarded backpack, unzipped it, and dumped out the textbooks and notes. One by one, the bookshelves and DVD shelves and videogame shelves were emptied, their contents stuffed inside the backpack as Matt whistled. Soon, his temporarily home was vacant, except for the soda cans, empty bags of candy, and popcorn by the couch, but it was time to move out, and he was sure that his roommate wouldn't mind cleaning up. Surveying the room one last time, he sighed. He turned off the lights and shut the door behind him, making sure to lock up so that no one could get inside and rob the place.

Matt walked down the stairs, the halls still smelling of popcorn, and put on his sunglasses before exiting into the bright afternoon sun. Haunting was tiring work, but at least it paid well; Trevor and Rocko had been doing it since freshman year, and they seemed to make a good living. Yet if that was all Matt cared about, he could have easily just stolen everything from each dorm room that he picked the lock of. No, Matt cared about making new friends. And that... That is what ghosts are all about.

Not like vampires. Lousy, no-good, anti-social vampires.

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