I lived in the dorms my first year of college. There's this myth that living on campus makes it easier to meet people. Total bullshit, if you ask me. All of my encounters in the dorms my first semester consisted of little more than occasional moments of awkward elbow contact on the elevator, or brief eye contact with a stranger as we crossed paths en route to class. I'm a bit of a loner by nature, so this lack of social interaction didn't bother me for the first several weeks. Still, there's only so much isolation a man can take.
I was leaving the cafeteria one evening when I noticed a small pink flyer taped to the wall near the elevators. The large, all-caps title caught my eye.
"ORIGAMI CLUB! TONIGHT ONLY!"
There was more information printed in a smaller font beneath the title. The room, the time, etc. Beneath that, there was a barely visible handwritten message:
"Bring your friends! Or come alone, if you want to make some!"
On any other day I would have dismissed the flyer, assuming I'd even noticed it to begin with. But tonight, something about it appealed to me. I didn't know jack shit about origami, but I knew a thing or two about the kind of people who did. I knew that they all had even less social prowess than myself. Maybe this was my chance to stop being a shut-in, to introduce myself to someone, to get out of my comfort zone. It occurred to me that it had been more than a month since I'd made another human being laugh. I committed the relevant info on the flyer to memory and boarded the elevator.
I arrived to the origami club a few minutes late. About half a dozen heads turned to look at me as I entered the small, neglected conference room, tucked away in the corner of an obscure school administration building.
"Some turn out," I muttered under my breath.
I seated myself at an otherwise empty table, and the heads all swiveled back around to face the excited looking Asian girl standing at the front of the room. She was very petite, but so full of energy that she practically seemed to be vibrating.
"Hello new friend!" she said to me with a smile and a wave. "Just in time!"
I was already regretting this decision. As soon as I'd opened the door, I knew that I would much rather spend the evening alone in my room in front of the computer screen. But here I was, so I might as well stick it out.
The girl distributed folding paper to everyone in the room and gave us an assignment to complete. I felt like I was in kindergarten. We were supposed to write down a secret on a piece of paper, then make an origami figure out of it. She called them our "secret animals." I'd mistakenly assumed that the first meeting of an origami club would entail some instructions on how to actually create origami, for the newcomers' sake. Not only was I wasting my time, I was about to make a fool of myself.
I wrote down the first secret that came to my mind ("sometimes I pee in the shower") and did my best to fold my paper into something resembling a turtle, but the end result was a torn, misshapen mess. I was just about to start over with a fresh piece of paper when the club leader called out: "Time's up!"
She walked around the room, collecting everyone's secret animals and redistributing them. I received a paper toad that hopped when you pressed down on its backside. Obviously whoever made this knew what they were doing.
"Okay!" she said. "Open your secrets!"
I almost felt guilty destroying such a nice piece of work, but I have to admit, I was curious to read this anonymous person's confession. I unfolded the origami frog and read what was written inside of it. That's when my blood ran cold.
I looked around the room at the utterly ordinary faces of my fellow origami club members. Some of them giggled at the secrets they'd received, others just stared blankly at them. My heart was pounding so hard that it felt like it was traveling up my chest to the back of my throat. I glanced back down at the remains of the paper frog, just to make sure I'd read the message correctly. And there it was, in small, impeccably neat handwriting.
"I killed someone today."
My mouth was dry. I tried to force myself to snap out of it. This had to be a prank, a sick joke from some anonymous creep. But somehow the words on the paper seemed terrifyingly convincing. It's impossible to explain, but when I looked at them, I could tell they were completely sincere. I could hear someone talking, but their words ran together in my mind. Their voice sounded muffled and distant. I forced myself to think through the situation rationally.
If this wasn't a gag, if this was a real confession... then the person who wrote it is in the room with me, right now. What if they're looking at me? What if they're reading the expression on my face? What if they know that I'm the one who got their secret? What if they saw me unwrap the frog?
I've never had a very good poker face. I've never been able to hide my emotions. And sitting there, in that tiny conference room, I knew that all my horror and confusion must have been written as clear as day on my face. I tried to appear placid, to internalize my fear, but that only made things worse.
My eyes scanned the room once more. Six people, six secrets. None of them looked like maniacs. They all appeared completely normal. Rather boring, in fact. Somehow that made the situation even more disturbing.
A guy sitting by himself in the corner of the room glanced my way. He smiled at me. We only made eye contact for a fraction of a second before I lowered my head, staring once again at the ruined paper frog.
"Is everything alright, new friend?"
The club leader was addressing me. Her face bore an expression of genuine concern. It took me a few seconds to find the words.
"Uh... I'll be right back. Bathroom."
I stood up and quickly exited the room, the confession clenched in my sweaty palm. I knew this was a terrible idea. Whoever made the frog was watching me leave. I was making myself a target. But it didn't matter. I couldn't spend another minute in there.
I was halfway across campus, on my way back to the dorms, when the realization hit me. I felt a tightening sensation in my chest, like a cold fist closing around my heart.
That handwriting. The secret hidden inside the frog. The small, neat letters.
It was the same handwriting that was on the flyer.
Written by Xezbeth