My college is pretty creepy at night. I suppose the same could be said of most sizable public buildings, a by-product of the eerie contrast between the bustling well-lit corridors and their nocturnal desolate appearance. Be that as it may, I would still argue that the building in case goes past this simple dissonant clash of habit meeting familiar unfamiliarity.
The building where I have classes until ten twice a week shuts off most lights in the second floor by eight o’clock, as most classrooms up there are not being used past that time. I suppose this is an opportunity for the personnel to start closing up as soon as possible. In fact, the personnel are so eager to close up that one time our class was actually locked inside the building. We had stayed past our scheduled time trying to get through presentations that were taking far too long, only to find the front door locked. The entire class, Professor included, ended up leaving through a low window. That event wasn’t scary though, just amusing.
What scares me is the unlit second floor. I think it didn’t use to feel scary per se – possibly just a bit eerie – but now I can’t possibly go there at night time.
The college’s buildings are enormous. It’s a really old University, and they took their classical inspirations a little too far. The halls are at least 20 feet high, and one can’t help but feel dwarfed by the scale, especially when walking through them while they’re empty. It’s truly a grand waste of space, but it now just adds to the creepiness of it all.
I am aware of the range of possible explanations for the events I am about to recall. Trust me, I’ve taken shelter under their comforting embrace for far longer than anyone else. Even so, I can’t help but feel that spreading my experiences might help someone else out there in the future.
Class ended early that day. After an entire day of classes, all I wanted to do was head home, but I still had a 45 minute commute, and my physiological needs weren’t going to wait that long without putting me through severe discomfort. I chose to go to the second floor bathrooms, as I usually did at that time. I am not particularly fond of public bathrooms, out of hygienic considerations, so choosing the second floor bathrooms that had already been cleaned for the day was a matter of course.
The bathrooms in that building have motion sensors. I honestly hate those. There’s something truly unpleasant about the lights suddenly going out, while you’re doing your business. You will then have to wave your arm around, until the damn sensor detects movement – or enjoy defecating in the dark, whichever you prefer. It’s annoying, especially when you have the need to stay for a bit longer due to an upset stomach.
It was just this type of scenario that day. I went up there, marveled in the usual eeriness of the empty hall, and went in the bathroom. It was empty, as usual. Sitting on the toilet, I allowed myself to sigh deeply, and enjoyed the odd catharsis that comes from a moment of rest after a stressful day, mixed with the relief of attending to overdue physiological needs.
The lights went out. A few cusses and waves later, they returned. A short time later, they went out again. I stretched my arm, and waved, but the lights didn’t turn back on. Damn sensors, I thought. I stretched my arm further, and even got slightly up from the toilet, to try to activate the sensor. Reaching up into the darkness, my arm hit something. It couldn’t be the wall, my arm was stretched towards the door, and it couldn’t be the door either, because the stall was pretty big. Besides this bit of logic, the feeling certainly wasn’t that of a door or a wall either. It felt warm and damp, perhaps even slightly slimy. I could also feel rough points in between that felt oddly sharp. The feeling was also shifting around, letting me know that whatever I touched had movement. I felt the slimy warmness wiggle around my arm, as if I had been licked by it. I staggered backwards and fell besides the toilet, ignoring the pain, and reaching frantically for my phone for a light source. The phone was in my jeans’ pocket and the panic wasn’t letting me retrieve it with as much speed as I wished. I felt something touch my legs, spreading throughout, and screamed. I used my left hand to swipe at it, but it was no use, as the feeling of it enveloping my arm overtook me once more.
The phone was finally out and with the click of a button light streamed back into the stall. I heard something that I couldn’t identify, and I was showered in the light of the bathroom. On the verge of a panic attack, I looked at my arms and saw what looked like a rash stretching from about my wrist to my elbow, they also felt damp. I hurried out of the bathroom as soon as possible, storming to the door to the left of the stall. I bet I looked like a mad man, half-crying and running for the front door. I’m just thankful I didn’t run into anyone I knew.
The rash-looking redness that covered my arms disappeared shortly after.
Retrospective is a bitch sometimes. I showered myself in excuses and logical explanations to wipe away what I conceived of as irrational fear. Even so, retrospective keyed me into a rather upsetting detail, something I couldn’t possibly have taken into consideration while panicking. The single light bulb that illuminates the stall did not glow uniformly and at once. I started seeing the light from the light bulb from left to right. I have been to that bathroom plenty of times, those lights come on at once. Whatever I felt in the dark had been covering the light source physically, it stood in its way to keep me in the dark. When I turned on the phone, it fled, from left to right, allowing the light that had never been off to shine over the stall. Whatever I felt in the dark was probably still standing in the bathroom, to my right, as I exited. It probably watched me as I ran for the door.
I don’t go to the unlit sections of that campus any more, and whenever I use a bathroom with light sensors, I make sure to keep my phone at hand. I suggest you do the same.