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The Hollow Chest Man

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My mom kisses me on the cheek as she hugs me tightly. After a good thirty seconds she looks at me with teary eyes, sniffling a bit as she says, "It's funny, twenty-two years of you living at home and I couldn't wait for you to move out, and now that we've got all your boxes in this dorm, I don't want to let go." I smile. "I'll always be a momma's boy. No matter how far away I live. Besides, you paid for my college, I can't tell you how grateful I am." She smiles, "Well you earned this, you've been putting in some good hours at Rising Sun Steakhouse. Good luck this semester, son. And say hi to Re-Re for me too." I nod and reply, "I will." She shakes a finger at me, "And don't let her distract you! I know you'll have your privacy and what not but-" I cut her off, "Mom, I promise. She goes here too. We know our priorities." She sighs, "I know..."

She hugs me and says, "Well, get to class now, I'm sorry if I've made you late." I kiss her on the cheek, "You're fine, Mom. I'll unpack everything later tonight." She grunts as I give her a big squeeze, "I love you, Matthew." I grunt back, "I love you too Momma." As she leaves, I have mixed feelings. On one hand I'm excited to be on my own. On another, I'm sad to have to watch my mother go. What's even worse is that I seem to be somewhat paranoid of my new room. But I dismiss it as that feeling you get when you're alone in the house, and it's the first of several nights that your folks are out of town. Shrugging it off I shut the door behind me and walk to campus for my 1:10 pm class.

Later that day I meet up with Re-Re in our favorite booth in the cafeteria. She holds my hands and bears an ear to ear grin as she asks, "So, how you like your new room?" I shrug, "I wouldn't know. I haven't even unpacked yet. I even forgot which number it is. I just know which door it was." She rolls her eyes, "Well, no matter. My dorm is perfectly furnished with a mini fridge, booze, video games, and a queen sized bed." She gives me a little wink. I smirk, "Is that an invitation?" Re-Re gives me a toothy grin in response. I contain my excitement and arousal and feign another shrug, "I guess I can always unpack tomorrow morning. I locked the door anyway." "Good, I'll walk you to my dorm. You can stay the night."

I wake the morning after a night of inebriation, fornication, and video games, to the sound of my girlfriend's alarm. It is 5:30 am. Normally I'm never up before noon, but this was the first time I had spent the night in a room that wasn't my upstairs bedroom at home. Re-Re is already brushing her hair and fully dressed for class. She smiles at me, "Hey, sorry baby." "It's ok, I know you have early classes." I groan and sit up, half hungover and half naked. Even with the heating in her building, it's still fucking freezing. Re-Re offers, "You can sleep there if you want. You can even use my shower." I shake my head and wipe my face, "No, I need to unpack. No more procrastinating." She nods, "Yeah, you do that. I'd come over tonight, but I have a 5 to 9 shift." "Yeah, well that gives me even more time to spruce the man cave up for ya." I wink at her. I finish clumsily dressing and haphazardly fix my hair in the mirror beside her. We hug and kiss, long and passionately as always with her. "Bye Mattie. I love you." She says sweetly. I smile as I wave and head out the door, "I love you too Re-Re."

I walk back to the building where my car is parked in the damp, dark, 25 degree cloudy morning. I take note that it is the "A" building, and I had just left dorm 5-C. I remember from yesterday that my dorm was upstairs. I walk up the rusty metal stairs and enter the upper hallway. I immediately recall that my dorm was the second door on the right and unlock the door. A blast of cold air hits me as I open the door, but this only serves to piss me off. It's freezing outside, chilly in the hall, so it's no surprise that it's cold in here. Goddammit, they couldn't even pay the fucking heat? It's a bit run down, but that's still pretty important. "Oh well, it was cheap, and available. I'll either address the issue or buy a space heater." I think aloud and walk in, shutting the door behind me.

Immediately after the door shuts, that weird feeling from yesterday returns, even worse than before. I dart my eyes instinctively, like a child who is afraid to walk down a dark hall, then shake my head at my own foolishness and go to unpack my boxes. Yet I can't shake the feeling that I'm being watched. I try to ignore it as I open up the box with my small flat screen TV, video game consoles, and laptop. I set the TV and game stuff on this little rolling wooden desk shelf I got from IKEA, across from my gamer's chair. I then move to the next box, that has my Japanese decor and swords, because I'm a huge nerd. It is then that I feel that feeling even stronger than before. It's almost like someone is right behind me as my hair stands up on the back of my neck and I stand still, with a katana in hand.

After what feels like twenty seconds, I spin around and quickly draw my katana in one move, only to be greeted by open air, as I half expected. I shake my head in exasperation. But I immediately catch something in the corner of my eye, which makes my heart jump and my adrenaline spike again. Of course as soon as I look it's gone. But, to my relief, I notice that the dorm has warmed up. I guess the heat is on after all. About a quarter of the way through unpacking my clothes and putting them into my dresser, I start to nod off. Fuck it, it's too early, I'll worry about the rest of it tonight. I slip into my robe and pajama pants and slip into bed with my thick comforter from home, setting my alarm for about 12:30.

It seems like I blink my eyes, and suddenly my entire body is paralyzed, and for some reason I feel terrified. My room, having no windows whatsoever, is completely dark, save for the small bit of light from the one window in the kitchen next to the living room. I also get the feeling that I'm being watched, even more intensely than the first time. Then I catch a glimpse at my door, and see a ghastly apparition of a man with a hole in his chest, staring at me. At that moment I scream and jolt awake, my heart doing somersaults in my chest as my eyes dart nervously around the room. I clutch the sheets close to me as I try to rationalize what just happened. I'm sure it was just a night terror. I'm in a new place, so it's to be expected. After trying to reassure myself, I give in to my childish fears and throw the covers over my head to create that impenetrable barrier that no bogeyman can break. I finally fall asleep automatically at 10 am when my paranoia gives way to drowsiness.

Re-Re notices the bags under my eyes and my general malaise at 3 pm in the cafeteria. She frowns and asks, "You ok baby? You look tired." I lay my head in her lap in the booth and groan, "I had a nightmare." Re-Re strokes my head, "Awww, poor Mattie. Was last night good for you at least?" I nod, "Hell yeah it was. Probably the hangover that did it. I'm also still not used to my new dorm. Turns out being alone is a bit scary." Re-Re nods and coos with a motherly tone, "I know, it's hard to get used to. Sure you don't wanna move in with me?" I snort, "I would never get anything done if I did. Except maybe you." Re-Re chuckles, "True. Same for me. It's only been six months, but I already wish we were married." I smile, "That's the nicest thing I've heard all day. And I agree. We'll get there some day."

At 4:35 I start to walk with a little bit more pep in my step back to the "A" building, but it's still a cold and dark December night. And I'm still having subconscious reservations. But I have to man up and go in there, finish unpacking, and move some stuff around, make the place nice for Re-Re. I open the door, and like fucking clockwork, the feeling that I'm not alone returns with full force. Come on, Matt, we can do this. Ignore it. I stand in the doorway for about a minute, scanning the room with my eyes just for reassurance, then step in and shut the door. I again stand where I am and psyche myself up. "You're a man now, Matt. 22 years old and on your own. Get used to it" I chant to myself. After taking a deep breath, I move into my bedroom.

I finish transferring my clothes from the suitcase to the dresser, put my desk lamp on my nightstand, and put my Japanese decor on the walls and the top of my dresser. Quaint, but it works for what little I took with me. Plus I arranged the rest in the 'living room' if you will. I then move to the kitchen, trying my best to ignore the feeling like someone is watching me again. I put what very little silverware, tupperware, and plastic plates I have into the cabinets. I move my soft drinks and alcohol into the fridge, and after all this I realize that I never brought any food. I shrug and tell myself I'll go grocery shopping eventually. I look at my phone and realize that the whole thing took a few hours, and it is now 7:30. I decide to have a shower and get into my night clothes, and settle down for the evening. I walk to my bathroom, flipping off whatever creepy stalker ghost my mind keeps conjuring up behind me.

I get out of my clothes and step into the shower, which to my ecstatic surprise is hot. I finally feel relaxed in this run down, spooky dorm room. I decide to revel in the comfort of the thick massaging jets of warm water as I wash myself very thoroughly. Though, as I wash my hair and close my eyes, I'm once again afflicted with the same paranoia one would have while doing so, so I finish up as quick as I can. I open my eyes and look, and am relieved when of course no one is there. I reluctantly turn off the water after a roughly 30 minute shower and step out. I'm shocked but not surprised that it is cold outside the tub, and the mirror is fogged. I messily dry off my hair and the rest of my body, then get into my robe and night pants. The feeling persists, but I try to replace my fear with humor. I wipe the fog off the mirror and yell, "Whoever's watching me, you're a pervert and you should feel bad." In the mirror I see myself, as well as this fucking corpse of a man in boxer shorts standing behind me. He smirks at what I assume to be my comment, but upon seeing him I immediately scream like a small child and dash sideways out of the bathroom door, slamming it shut with my back against it.

My heart races and I practically hyperventilate as I brace myself to keep the door shut, as if that's going to hold a fucking ghost in my bathroom. I'm in full panic mode at this point, because seeing him the second time in the mirror, I realize it was the same motherfucker I saw in my night terror. That burly young man with short spiky hair, pale grey skin, and clouded over eyes. Another feature that sticks out for me every time is that fucking hole in his chest, that looks like his heart was ripped out. I shake uncontrollably, wondering if I'm going insane or if I'm living in some sort of haunted dorm or something. The confusion and fear finally breaks me as I collapse, sliding my back down the door and huddling up, crying like a little boy being left home alone. After about 10 minutes of that, I wipe my nose and eyes and try my best to calm down. "Fuck" I say aloud. "Guess I'm not sleeping at all tonight" I sigh and groan, with my head in my knees. "I hate it here..."

I sit for the next hour and a half glued to my TV, and I get a text from Re-Re. "I'm home baby <3" it says. I reply, "Can you Skype?" And she comes back with "Yea sure, gimme a sec <3" After a few minutes my Skype ringtone plays with her username. I open the video chat to see her beautiful emerald green eyes, pale baby face, and sandy brown hair still tied up. She's still in her work uniform, which makes me feel somewhat happy knowing she prioritized calling me over getting out of her waitress uniform. That beautiful face smiles at me and greets me with, "Hey baby!" My exhausted and frazzled features temporarily soften as I reply with a smile and a groan, "Hey baby girl..."

She frowns and perceptively asks, "What's wrong? You don't look well, and you're shaking." I'm not even aware of it at this point, and I retort, "Is it that noticeable?" She nods, with worry in her eyes. "Do I need to come over there and spend the night with you?" I shake my head, "I dunno if that's a good idea." She leans back furrowing her brow, "How come? Still haven't unpacked yet?" I shake my head again, "No... I think... I dunno, maybe I'm going insane..." She frowns again, demanding, "Matt, please tell me what's wrong. You're not going insane, I know it." I sigh heavily, and after a brief and pregnant pause I tell her, "I think... I think my dorm is... haunted." Re-Re arches an eyebrow, "Haunted?" I nod, "Yeah..." I tell her about my night terror and the mirror, looking over my shoulder periodically throughout the conversation and trying to shake the feeling that the "Hollow Chest Man" is watching and listening.

Re-Re listens to me, and slowly seems to get more nervous as I go. She finally swallows as I finish and asks, "Babe... Um... what's your dorm number?" I think for a sec. "I'm the second door on the right, upstairs level of "A" building" Re-Re shouts back, "14-A? Are you fucking serious? Matt, that dorm IS haunted!" My core goes cold and my eyes widen. "Oh god..." is the only response I could muster. Re-Re explains after about three seconds, "Babe, the past two tenants both died of heart attacks in their sleep! Haven't you heard the rumor?" I shake my head, "No, I haven't. I never really have been sure I believed in that sort of stuff. Well, until now at least..." Re-Re gestures frantically, "Matt, you HAVE to get out of there! You are NOT safe! Come sleep with me tonight and get the hell out of there tomorrow!" In my panic, and confusion, I retort with, "But it was cheap, and... priorities..." Re-Re yells through her tablet, "To hell with that! Your safety is more important to me than us being 'distracted'! Get what you can and get your ass over here, quick! Please?"

I nod, but before I can reply, she gasps and looks at her screen. "What?" I ask. She seems preoccupied and terrified as she clicks something, and starts whimpering and chanting "No... no, no, no...." and typing frantically. I repeat more forcefully, using her real name, "Serena! What's wrong?" She starts to breathe heavier and opens up a screen share on my end. I can see now what she is seeing and what she has been typing. Some random person with the username of "Stevie" has started messaging her. The conversation goes as follows:

Stevie: I recognize you

ReRe<3: No you don't

Stevie: Don't lie to me. I know that face

ReRe<3: Please leave me alone

Stevie: You're ForsakenGirl

Re-Re is crying at this point. Meanwhile I'm starting to become angry, and my protective instinct is overriding my own fears. I ask her, "ForsakenGirl?" Re-Re immediately replies with a sob, "It was an old username of mine!" Now I'm incensed. "Who is this asshole? Is he a crazy ex or something?" Re-Re shakes her head frantically, "I barely know him!" Her whole body trembles, and she finally replies to him:


Stevie: No. You deserve to die

Re-Re screams and starts sobbing. I shout through the screen, "Tell him you have a boyfriend who will fucking kill him if he comes anywhere near you!"

But as soon as I say that, he messages her again:

Stevie: He can't save you

Stevie: Sweet dreams bitch

I am now filled with a cocktail of rage, fear, and confusion. Re-Re is having a full blown panic attack and is unresponsive. I explode and scream like a madman through the screen, as if somehow 'Stevie' will hear me, "HEY DICK HOLE! I FUCKING DARE YOU TO TRY SOMETHING! YOU'LL HAVE TO GO THROUGH ME!"

Re-Re suddenly shrieks and sobs in mortal terror, which makes my core go cold. Failing to keep a cool head, I scream "SERENA? ARE YOU OK? IS HE THERE?"

Then the hair on the back of my neck stands up, and that familiar sensation returns. My eyes are drawn to the little window in the corner of her screen share. It's a video of me...

With the Hollow Chest Man standing with a menacing smirk behind me...

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