It all began one evening.
As a college student, money was tight, and so my cabinet was mostly filled with ramen noodles and instant coffee. One evening, after a long day of classes, I returned to my dorm room to make myself a cup of instant noodles. I tossed my phone and my bag on my bed and returned to the kitchen area. I filled an instant ramen cup with tap water and threw it in the microwave; I poured a glass from the sink to quench my thirst. That’s when I heard my phone ring. Normally, I would down the water and then answer my phone, but something compelled me to answer the phone first. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I set the glass on the counter, and went to my bed to answer the call.
“Hello, my name is Diana and I’m calling to inform you of a brand new product for wat…”
I immediately hung up and threw the phone back on my bed. Stupid telemarketers.
Upon my return, I picked up my glass to drink, and noticed something was off. The water was laced with tiny bubbles, and it had an odd shimmer to it. I lived alone in my dorm room, so I had no roommates who could spike my drink with something as a joke. It looked fine, just; there was something a little off about it.
Shaking my head, I tossed the water down the drain as collected my noodles from the microwave. As I dug my fork in and was about to take a bite, I noticed something seemed… off about them. I couldn't put my finger on it, but they seemed different than usual. I started to freak out as I threw the noodles in the trash. I put my hands over my head. What was wrong with me? Why was I freaking out over water and noodles? I took a deep breath to relax myself, there was nothing to worry about; I was probably stressed out from exams is all. I decided to just go to bed without eating, trying to push the disturbing experience out of my head.
I woke up early the next morning, and immediately started brewing a cup of coffee, just like every morning. As I showered and get dressed, my phone rang. It was Lidia, my best friend.
“Hey man, you still sleeping?” she asked jokingly. I smiled; Lid always knew how to brighten my day.
“Nah, I got early classes today, so no sleeping in for me,” I replied back, slipping my shirt over my head.
“Sucks for you, anyways, you wanna grab a cup of coffee or something before class begins?” she asked.
“Sure, I’ll be down in a few minutes,” I replied.
“Cool, hope you’re thirsty,” she said before hanging up the phone.
That last line echoed in my mind, before I remembered the strange events of last night. What did she mean by that? “Hope I’m thirsty?” I shook the dumb thought out of my head. There was nothing to worry about; it was just an innocent remark. I was reading too much into this, maybe that coffee would help after all…
I grabbed my keys and bag and quickly left my apartment, completely forgetting about the coffee already sitting on the counter…
After a few minutes I made it onto the campus, and after a bit of searching, I found my friend, with her dirty blonde curly hair and glasses, holding two large cups of standard college-brewed coffee on her hands.
“Hey man, I got you your coffee!” she said, handing me one of the cups.
“Thanks Lid you’re the best, I had a strange evening last night, I really need some caffeine.”
As I raised the cup to my lips, I noticed Lidia was downing her coffee like it was a shot. That was odd; the coffee was still hot. That’s when I noticed the beverage through the mouth hole. It looked like coffee; it smelled like coffee, it was hot like coffee. But it was different! Just like last night! I resisted the urge to scream and instead I held the cup up and pretended to drink before letting out a fake exhale.
“Well, I gotta get to class, thanks for the coffee, I’ll pay you back later bye!” I yelled as quickly as I could before sprinting off out of sight.
“Wait! Don’t you want to grab breakfast too?” I heard her yell as I dashed behind a building.
I tore the lid off the coffee cup and studied it. Why did it look different? It was brown like coffee, it smelled just fine, but it just wasn’t coffee! I didn’t know how, I just knew it wasn’t coffee! I dumped it out onto the ground, not taking any chances of getting it in my mouth. I started huffing, my heart beating a million miles per hour. It couldn’t be a coincidence, it couldn’t be! Could I trust any liquids?
That’s when I felt my stomach rumble in consequence of not eating last night. This was crazy, what was wrong with me? I never had a problem with this before, I was always a rational person, but everything was seriously freaking me out. I decided to splurge on a bottle of water; there was no way bottled water could be tampered with.
I hit the vending machine, inserted my money, and a bottle of water dropped out. Looking around nervously, I opened the cap and looked inside. It was clear, cold and it looked fine. I realized immediately how stupid I was being. There was nothing to be afraid of. I guess I was really stressed from exams.
Right before I took a sip, I noticed a kid from my class staring at me from the stairwell, holding the same bottle of water I was about to drink from. He took a long swig from the bottle before he winked at me and retreated back up the stairs. As I was staring at the spot where he was standing, my watch beeped. I was late for class.
As my professor droned on and on with his lecture, I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying, that encounter freaked me out. The bottle of water was clutched in my hand, still full. My mouth was dry, but I couldn’t bring myself to take a sip. I stared at the bottle through the whole lecture, and as soon as class was over, I sprinted out the door, throwing the bottle in the trash on my way out.
All of this didn’t make any sense at all. I went over each event over and over in my mind, studying it. What was so off about the coffee and the noodles from last night? Why was I so paranoid about this? I gripped my stomach as it roared angrily at me for skipping dinner AND breakfast. I needed some food, now. I walked quickly to the café, hoping to grab something to alleviate both my hunger AND my fears. I continually tried to convince myself that I was being paranoid, and this was all just a strange coincidence, but I wasn’t so sure myself…
As I approached the café, I felt someone tap on my shoulder, causing me to scream and jump into a karate stance.
“Whoa calm down! It’s just me! Lidia!”
As I looked forward, I realized it was Lidia who had tapped me on the back. I then noticed everyone in the room staring at me. I blushed and rubbed the back of my head. “S-Sorry…”
“Geez dude, what’s your problem? It’s like you just seen a ghost.”
I groaned, “I don’t know, weird stuff’s been going on, I've kind been on edge.”
She looked at me, “Like what?”
I knew it was going to sound like an idiot, but I decided to ask anyways. “Did… anything seem… off about our coffee this morning? Mine… sort of tasted funny.”
She looked at me like I had grown a second head, “No, it tasted normal to me. It’s probably because I didn’t add enough sugar, I’m sorry man.”
I sighed, “No, it’s not your fault… I just think I’m cracking up from stress is all…”
She smiled and put her arm around me, “Well, nothing beats stress like food! Come on, I’ll treat you to lunch!” she said as she dragged me by the arm into the lunch line.
Lidia grabbed a burger, a thing of fries, and a soda while I grabbed a turkey sandwich and a can of juice; I realized how hungry I was as Lidia paid for both of our meals. We sat down at the table, and Lidia immediately dug into her burger, the grease dripping down her chin. I smiled softly, this was one of the reasons she and I were friends, she knew how to eat like a guy. I opened the plastic container, and gripped the sandwich between my hands. I studied it extensively; it looked absolutely fine to me. The turkey was moist, the lettuce was crisp, and it didn’t have too much mayo. I opened the juice too, I couldn’t see it inside the can, but it seemed fine too.
“Why are you staring at your sandwich like that?” Lidia mumbled in-between bites.
“Just… making sure it’s not… spoiled…” I lied through my teeth.
“Oh,” she said, drinking her soda, “You really shouldn’t be wasting food though, I mean, noodles are getting more expensive these days…”
I immediately stared at her, my eyes widened in terror. “I-I-I have to go!” I practically shouted, dropping the sandwich and leaving the juice behind as I bolted out of the cafeteria.
“Wait! Don’t you want to finish your meal?” she shouted, but I ignored her, and I ran. It was no longer a coincidence, I told NO ONE of the noodle incident from last night.
I ran like crazy, passing by kids, all staring at me, drinking water bottles… that’s it! The water! Something’s in the water! The noodles, the coffee, even my own drinking glass, and the bottle, it all goes back to the water! It had to be, there was no other explanation! I ran and ran, I had class in ten minutes but I didn’t care, I ran back to my dorm and slammed the door behind me. I panted as I locked the door. There was something wrong with the water, everything that contained it either looked off, or made people drinking it seem off, I banged my head in frustration. No, I had to be paranoid! Stuff like this doesn’t happen! It all has to be in my head! IT HAS TO BE IN MY HEAD!
That’s when I saw it. The coffee I had brewed this morning. I stared into the cup, and screamed. I threw the mug against the wall, shattering it into a million pieces. I backed up against my bed; I couldn’t let it touch me! The water… no… not just the water! I couldn’t trust any food or drink! What was I going to do, starve to death? No! There has to be a fresh source! I won’t give in! I WON’T DRINK THE WATER!
My stomach had stopped growling, and now was emitting low gurgles of pain. My mouth was as dry as a desert, but I couldn’t risk it. I couldn’t become contaminated. Everyone else was probably doomed already. I could hear everyone knocking on my door, “concerned” for my well being, I haven’t been to class in two days, trying to figure out what to do. The human body can only survive three days without water, I’m not going to let them get me, I’d rather die than let them get me. They all drank the water; each and every one of them is contaminated. Even Lidia, they have her too. Oh god, how far does this go? Has it spread to all of the country? Is it just my campus? No, I can’t, I have to resist. I already barricaded the front door, they can’t get me, JUST LEAVE ME TO DIE. Oh god, they’re breaking down the door! NO! I won’t let them get me! They’re coming! I have to escape! They’ll make me drink! I won’t drink! The window! I need to warn people! But how do I know if they’re contaminated or not? Oh god, they’re here! I need to jump! It’s my last chance to escape! I’LL NEVER DRINK, YOU HEAR ME?! NEVER!
The paramedics rushed to the unconscious college student, having jumped from the second floor of his dorm room. As they loaded him into the ambulance, they placed an IV into his arm, as he was severely dehydrated, and they knew they needed to get water into his body immediately…
by Brandon Chan