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Count The Stripes

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I knew dorming with other art students was a bad idea by around my second day there.

There's something socially inhuman about a lot of the people here, they don't really seem to have any idea of what's appropriate or not. For example, the fact that it's not okay to state that your sexual activities in the rec. room were merely a social experiment, or that nobody likes it when you bring home decomposing roadkill to use for an art project. The only real reason I decided to dorm here so that I was close enough to other writing students to nudge my way into a decent study group, hoping that they knew the secret to finding someplace quiet on campus. As miserable as I was with my neighbors, my assumptions were right. One of the senior writing kids, Mick or Vick or something, had informed me of a secret plot of land between the observatory and the agricultural department, hidden far enough out of the way that it was rarely used by anyone, even the gardeners seemed to ignore the area, letting the grass grow a bit too long and the trees spread their branches a bit too far. While I'm not a big fan of tall grass that probably hasn't been properly sprayed for ticks in ages, I'd been having a hard time adjusting to the hustle and bustle of college life. It would be nice, to have someplace quiet to study in peace. After lunch, I decided to check it out, in hopes that it was as empty as the other had remembered it to be.

In the empty plot of land, there was a single, beaten-up park bench, leaned right up against one of the two trees. It seemed to be the only proof that this plot was ever intended to be used for anything. I took a seat, and set my bag on the space beside me, before I noticed my heels touching something underneath the bench. I reached down, and pulled out what I discovered to be an old backpack, that reeked of mildew from sitting in the grass so long. Curiosity got the better of me, being a writer and all, and it seemed far too old to belong to anybody, surely nobody would mind if I snooped a bit before taking it to lost and found. I took a quick survey of the area, double checking to make sure that I was truly alone, before unzipping the old bag.

Damn. These were some expensive textbooks. Who would just leave these lying around like this?

Every single one of them was in French, and while about half of the art students took French to seem more...art-studenty, I was not one of them. There was also a small collection of those weird beanbag dolls, like the kind used as blank slates to turn into voodoo dolls. Creepy.

Hearing an elongated, raspy sigh of breath, I jumped, looking up to see a figure standing just a few feet away. They wore one of those blank white masks that mimes wear for what I assume is the sheer purpose of looking creepier, a beret with a few strands of black hair poking out, and a white shirt, with a single stripe lined across it. Just one.

"Oh. Sorry, is this yours?" I shouted over to who appeared to be just another creepy art kid, holding the bag up to show it to them. They stood and stared at me some more.

"O-okay. Well I'm just gonna...leave it here then." I slowly set down the bag, and stepped away from the bench, stepping backwards as to avoid turning my back to the bizarre figure. They merely tilted their head, and waved goodbye. I forced a smile, and waved back.

Art students are weird bastards. Every last one of them.

The next day, I woke up early to avoid the rush to buy the last of the pancakes in the cafeteria. I swear, if you can buy 10 pancakes, your parents are sending you way too much money. As I stepped out the door, I noticed a small group of frat pledges, up this early doing something awful for social acceptance I'm sure, standing around someone. My curiosity getting the better of me again, I stepped over to see what was going on. Pancakes could wait a second more, right?

"C'mon, do the box thing!" One of them snickered, as the mime from the other day seemed uncomfortable with them surrounding him like this. They were obviously making fun of him, pretending to appreciate whatever it was he was doing just to laugh at it. This happened to art kids quite a lot. As I was about to cut in and defend him, the mime did as he was told, instead of forming a box around himself, he formed a box around the pledge. The pledge rolled his eyes at the display.

"Oh shit, I'm trapped, if only I could just..." He stretched out his arm, only to get a very real, very solid, thump, against the side of the invisible box. The others continued laughing, as the one in the box panicked.

"G-guys! Guys help! I'm stuck! I can't breathe!" He continued to bang against the sides of the box, gasping and wheezing, his fingers and lips going blue. The other two weren't laughing anymore. They banged on the outside of the box, trying to find a way to free him, until the one inside collapsed, banging his head against the wall of the invisible structure.

Our attention all turned to the mime, who was already walking away. I hardly noticed that there was a second stripe on his shirt.

I didn't get pancakes that morning. I spent most of the day attempting to figure out how to report an incident like that to the dean. By the end of the day, I had convinced myself that I was so groggy that morning, that I had imagined the whole thing. It was a shitty excuse to sleep in, but it helped me sleep that night.

The mime was preforming there again the next morning, as I had dreaded. This time I didn't leave the dorm for breakfast, merely looking out my window at him. He knew I was watching, he gave me another little wave, just like when we had met. As someone walked out of the building, and began to walk past him, he stopped them with an invisible rope. Sure enough, they stopped in place, being yanked backwards by the mime's rope. I covered my mouth in shock, and watched helplessly as he pulled the rope, causing them to struggle and hang by an invisible noose. He wasn't doing it for revenge this time, he was doing it for me. He stared at me, waving to me with his free hand, as another stripe formed on his shirt.

That day, I formed my new conclusion. It was the pot fumes from the dorm. If I moved out, I'd stop seeing things. So, I started packing, ready to move back home, when there was a knock at my door. Assuming it was someone needing something, as art students always need something, I opened the door.

There, in the doorway, was the mime, holding a body over his shoulder, his mask and his gloves coated in blood, and his shirt...his shirt was covered in stripes, horizontal, vertical, diagonal...they were everywhere. He took the body in one arm, and flicked an invisible switchblade with his free hand, jabbing into the corpses chest and digging out bits of flesh until he could rip out its heart, handing it to me as some sort of gesture.

Never dorm with art kids. They're horrible people.

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