Amanda didn't know why she left at that moment, just before Scream Time. She'd looked forward all week to being allowed to scream her lungs out in the library. So why had she chosen this moment head down the deserted stairwell?
Scream Time had been a big tradition through the 60s and 70s at Orange County University. For two predetermined minutes during finals week, everyone on campus dropped everything and screamed. It was a great way to release pent-up energy and boost campus morale during the stressful testing period.
Amanda didn't know why it stopped in the mid-70s. Since this year's reintroduction, stories flew fast and furious. She'd heard everything from apathy to murder. The true answer lay somewhere in the middle, she guessed. Likely closer to the mundane. A string of murders would still be in the lore of OCU.
At the second floor landing, she checked her watch. Less than a minute to go. If she opened the door, she'd be among fellow students. But something wouldn't let her leave. A nagging in her mind that guided her down the stairs.
Halfway to the ground floor, she hit a pocket of freezing cold air. She paused and looked up, but instead of finding any air-conditioning vents, everything went blurry. She sat down to avoid tumbling to the bottom. In seconds, her vision cleared up, and she discovered she wasn't alone.
A young girl, probably no more than 18, skipped down the steps. She had on tight bellbottom jeans, a plaid polyester shirt, and an avocado headband. Amanda started to say something, but she couldn't get the words out. Amanda could see right through her.
As the girl glided past like a wisp of smoke, Amanda could smell her perfume. The semi-transparent girl paid her no mind.
Amanda stood up and prepared to bolt when she saw a man down in the shadows. She couldn't see much detail, but he threw off a menacing vibe. "Hey, watch out!" she yelled, but the 70s girl paid no attention. The guy lunged like a striking cobra.
The girl screamed. Amanda screamed. The entire school screamed.
Amanda started down the stairs, realized that was stupid, and turned to rush back up to the second floor. She screamed, again unheard because of Scream Time. Another man, this one solid, stood above her on the second floor landing. He wore baggy clothes and a ski mask. The door at the bottom of the stairwell banged open and another man, dressed like the one above, stepped in. The two ghosts--they had to be ghosts, she reasoned--struggled on, paying no attention to the three around them.
The man on the second floor landing came at her, taking the steps two or three at a time. She couldn't bring herself to move, and the guy kicked her in the chest. She fell backwards down the stairs, bouncing awkwardly. Her bones shattered as she tumbled past the girl, who now lay sprawled across the bottom few steps with white, ghostly blood dripping down her face.
Before she blacked out--died, she was going to die--she heard two things. The first was from one of the real men. "The sex is best right after they die." The second came from the girl ghost. "I'm glad I led you hear. We can be best friends forever."
Amanda's head happened to be pointed at the girl, and she was looking right back at Amanda, a big smile on her lips. Amanda closed her eyes and knew no more.
All across campus, the screams continued.
Copyright: © 2009 Eric J. Krause
Copyright: © 2009 Eric J. Krause
----------------------------------Eric J. Krause pens stories from Orange County, California, just minutes away from Disneyland. He has a number of stories published online. When he is not hard at work writing, he substitute teaches in elementary and middle schools. He lives with his wife, Amber, and their dog, Spike. You can visit his blog on writing at http://ejkwritingspot.blogspot.com.