Note: All the names of the characters found in this story have been changed to protect their real identities.
I was a college freshman, out with my classmates, celebrating the last day of the school year. We were in a bar drinking beer and eating chili squid rings when the conversation turned to ghost stories. My friends wanted to talk about the freakiest things they had seen in school.
Mark, a dormer, told us about sneaking out one night to stroll through campus then regretting it when he saw a headless priest cross the quadrangle on its way to the chapel.
Celine talked about a computer in the statistics classroom that kept printing the named 'Armand'. The name also kept appearing on her monitor during class.
Another friend talked about hearing a baby cry in the biology lab where the fetus jars were kept.
I smiled and made comments about their stories, but deep inside I was thinking that these people knew nothing about real fear. They have never felt fear so gripping that chills you every time you remember; a fear that paralyzes and haunts you even when you're awake. The kind of fear that flashes a dreadful picture in front of you at odd times during the day, stunning you into inactivity for a few moments. The kind of fear that hooks itself into your heart and never lets go.
The group turned to me and asked, "What about you, Maya? Don't you have any stories to tell?"
"Not really, guys," I replied.
"Hey, weren't you classmates with that girl who went crazy?"
"Yeah, what happened to her?"
"Someone said she saw a ghost."
"No, they said it was a pervert."
"That's not it at all," I said.
"So what was it?"
I decided that it was time to put the rumors to test. I owed it to Iris and I owed it to myself. It was time to let the world know the true circumstances of her breakdown, that it wasn't her fault.
"Okay, fine. I'll tell you what happened. But after today I don't ever want to hear you talking about it again. Ever."
"Sure," everyone agreed, eager to hear the real story.
"Don't say I didn't warn you. If you ever get a class in the Communications Department Auditorium (CDA), don't blame me if you have to drop it," I told them.
"Maya, just tell us what happened," Celine said.
It was our class in Group Presentations and my group mates reserved the CDA. We came in early and found the lights already on and the air con at full blast. I dropped my bag in the nearest seat and set up the laptop while the others fixed the projectors and the posters.
As our classmates started walking in, I noticed that our group mate, Iris, was missing.
"Hey, has anyone seen Iris?" I called out. No one had seen her.
"She was with us when we walked over here. Maybe she's outside having a smoke," Anton said.
I went outside and looked around. There was Iris sitting on a bench a few feet away. Sure enough, she was smoking.
"Hey, Iris, let's go in and practice before Ms.Perez gets here," I said as I walked over.
"Maya, I don't feel so well. Maybe you guys could do this without me," she said as she blew a cloud of smoke.
"Come on, she'll fail you if you don't present. You can just read the first part."
She grabbed my hand and pulled me down to sit beside her. She looked down at her feet. "Maya, do you feel anything inside that room?"
"No," I said, and then added, "Why?"
She raised her head and seemed to stare at nothing. She wouldn't meet my gaze. "I have to tell you something. Don't thing I'm a freak or anything."
"Iris, we don't have time for this. Ms.Perez is almost here. We can talk about it later."
"No. Before you go in there, you have to know."
"Know what?" I asked, already irritated that she was freaking out.
"I can see this girl sitting on the ceiling beam. She's on the right side of the room."
"Where? Iris, no one can get up there. It's too high."
"I can see ghosts, Maya. I can see things that no one else can. See things that no one else should." She slowly shook her head. "I see her sitting there. She watches us walk in. She laughs and she keeps on laughing."
"Why don't you just ignore her?" I suggested, as I stood up and started to walk back towards the room. I began to feel uneasy.
"Wait, Maya! You can't go back there."
"Why not?" I asked, not turning around.
"Because she keeps pointing at you."
I stopped. "What?"
"When you walk inside the room, she turns to look at you. Then she points and starts laughing. She follows you around. She swings from beam to beam, stalking you."
"That's insane," I said. I kept walking.
As we reached the door, Iris grabbed my arm. "Look at your seat. See if anything strange is going on," she said quietly opened the door.
The room was full of windows but my seat was hidden in shadows. It was right next to a wall that held the air con and sunlight did not reach it. Then I saw that there was a wet puddle right next to my bag on the chair.
Suddenly something fell from the ceiling and landed on the puddle. It was a drop of liquid. Another one fell. As my eyes moved up to look for the source of drops, I felt a cold, wet chill move up my spine. My leg muscles started to tremble and I could feel the edges of my vision turn white.
Iris' grip on my arm tightened. "Don't look up," she whispered.
I hesitated for a moment. I knew that she was right. I knew that if I looked up, I would regret it. But I couldn't help it.
I saw her. A girl sat on the wooden beams of the ceiling. She had wild black hair and a sallow gray face. She was looking down at something, then her head snapped around and she looked straight at me. Her eyes were all black. Her pale mouth opened and stretched, showing her rotten brown teeth. Her hand slowly moved up and she pointed one finger directly at me.
She started to laugh. At first it was kind of mocking laughter with chuckles that made her shoulders shake and her finger waver. Then it built up to a high screeching laughter that made her bounce up and down and swing her legs. She never stopped looking at me. Her head shook her body rocked back and forth as she laughed.
I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand and my fingers became numb. My heart was beating so fast that I felt my pulse pounding in my head. My throat constricted and I could barely breath.
She laughed until there was drool pooling at the sides of her mouth. It was a thick yellow slime that slowly flowed to her chin and began to drip down. It fell to the puddle on my chair. She grinned and, while looking at me, opened her hand, palm up. She was calling me.
I shut the door and pushed Iris' hand away. I ran as fast as I could to the chapel. I sat there and prayed for an hour until my group mates came looking for me. They gave me back my things and asked if I was okay. I lied and told them I felt sick and thanked them for bringing my stuff.
My bag was wet with a thick yellowish fluid that smelled sour and rotten. I took my things and threw the bag away. I didn't want to bring home anything that reminded me of that day. My memories were clear enough.
The following week I shifted to a different course so that I wouldn't have to go back to the CDA ever again.
As for Iris, she withdrew from school and her family migrated to a country that had better psychotherapy clinics. We never saw her again.
To this day, when I think of Iris so desperate to leave, I couldn't help but wonder - What else did she see?
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