Several voices from multiple places intermingled in the seconds following Vivienne’s bloodcurdling scream. Amelia could still be heard pleading for answers from the phone now laying on Josie’s floor. Josie had begun repeating, “Oh, my god…” again and again as she raced out into the hallway and headed for the source of the shriek. Kirk met up with her and bellowed, “What the hell is going on?”
The only person who seemed unfazed by the commotion was the one who had risen silently from her bed, walked calmly into the kitchen she shared with Josie, bent to pick up the abandoned cordless phone, and – without registering any emotion whatsoever in response to Amelia’s frantic cries on the other end – hit the “end call” button. Katrina returned the phone to its cradle before shooting a baleful look at the growing scene several apartments away, visible through the door that Josie had left agape in her rush. With an impatient but nearly inaudible sigh, Katrina pushed their front door closed and wandered back into her dark bedroom, closing that door behind her as well to cut down on the racket.
Aside from Katrina, though, it seemed everyone else on the floor was in complete disarray. Various neighbours had begun poking their heads out of their flats, if not attracted by the alarming sound from Vivienne then by the melee that followed.
Josie began to bang, hands flat, then with her fists, on Vivienne’s door. “Vivienne?” she cried. “My god, Viv, are you okay? What’s happening?”
Kirk tugged his girlfriend away from the door. The scream had startled him, too, but he wasn’t about to be given over to histrionics, regardless of how weird Viv had looked earlier. “Jo, maybe she just had a nightmare. Christ, do we really need to make a scene like this?” He glanced around and saw the gathering of people on either side of them in the corridor, and he flushed in embarrassment.
“Did that sound like ‘just a nightmare’ to you?” Josie shot back, pulling free and resuming her campaign against Vivienne’s door. To Viv she said, “C’mon, girl…just…say something and let us know you’re okay!”
In anticipation of some kind of response – any kind at all – the din died down for a moment. Even the student spectators fell to a hush. Long seconds ticked by without a sound, from inside Vivienne’s quarters or from the corridor. And then:
“Please…don’t. Just go away. I don’t want you in here.”
Vivienne’s voice was faint, a little on the hoarse side, but audible. Josie stepped back but kept her palms on the door, as though she’d be able to offer some kind of support that way. “We don’t have to come in, Viv,” Josie said plaintively. “We just want to know if everything’s all right! You screamed! I mean…are you hurt?” She gave Kirk a resentful look over her shoulder. “Or did you just have a bad dream?”
This time Josie had to press her ear against the door to make out anything Vivienne was saying. “…a nightmare. Just a nightmare.” That was all Josie could hear, but she sighed and turned to confirm that the smug look she’d have expected from Kirk had indeed formed on his face. Oddly enough, it hadn’t. Kirk still looked unsettled. A quick glance around at the other friends, acquaintances and classmates gathered in small clusters nearby showed that they, too, were a bit on edge. Josie wondered how much worse it would have been had anyone other than she and Kirk had seen the state Vivienne was in only an hour or so ago.
Kirk seemed to forget himself and his frat boy bravado for a moment as he again stepped forward, this time gathering Josie into a hug. “She’s fine, Jo. Obviously she doesn’t want us bugging her any more tonight. Let’s just leave her be.”
Aware that other students were now edging closer to hear the exchange between the two of them, Josie’s voice dropped in volume as she looked directly into Kirk’s eyes. “You and I both know there’s more to this than a nightmare,” she whispered.
“Maybe so,” Kirk allowed, though his gut was speaking far more forcefully to him than his mouth was to Josie. “But we can’t do anything more about it tonight. If she wants to be left alone so she can go back to sleep, that’s what we should do.”
“Tomorrow…” Kirk stopped himself before saying that tomorrow wasn’t his problem, that he’d already been done out of a romp in the common room with his girlfriend tonight and wasn’t feeling terribly charitable toward the cause of it. “Tomorrow you can talk to your den mother, or whatever she’s called, and get her to look in on Viv. That’s her job. It’s not yours.” He turned and looked around at the rubberneckers surrounding them on all sides and raised his voice again. “Okay, everyone – one of your neighbours had a bad dream. Big deal. You’ve all gotten your entertainment for the night. Nothing to see here. Move it along.”
“Kirk!” Josie hissed. “That’s so rude!”
“C’mon, Jo. You really think most of these people give a damn? Once they know they’re not in danger, that there’s no psycho who’s broken in and is attacking random students, their only concern is the spectacle and what they can gossip about in Art History tomorrow morning. It’ll probably have turned into a story about how Viv’s a screamer and she’s getting laid by some dude from Alpha Beta Phi.” Kirk’s trademark bad-boy grin finally resurfaced. “You know firsthand we’re the best there is.”
Josie rolled her eyes but couldn’t stifle a little smile. “Whatever.” As the crowds dispersed and people began disappearing back into their own apartments, she turned back to Vivienne’s door with one last plea. “Viv, if you need anything tonight, just come knocking, okay? Please?”
They heard nothing. Kirk shrugged. “See? Probably already back to sleep.” He put an arm around his girlfriend and leaned in close. “So…since I got totally screwed out of my date night with you…”
“You know that’s not allowed,” Josie protested, anticipating his suggestion, but without much firmness in her voice.
“Aw, come on…we didn’t get caught last time. And your den mother must either be out partying or she’s a damn heavy sleeper, ‘cos I don’t see her out here wringing her hands like the rest of you. Come on. Come on, come on, come on.” He was teasing her now, and whatever resolve she had was wearing down quickly. Just not entirely for the reasons Kirk would’ve liked to believe.
“Fine, but we’re not going to make this a regular thing, okay?” she said under her breath as they turned to head toward Josie’s apartment. “I’d like to be able to still live here next year, thanks.”
“Lord knows why,” Kirk drawled. “Clearly you’re surrounded by freaks and dumbasses.”
“Oh, shut up,” she replied with a chuckle. The smile on her lips died, however, almost immediately upon reaching her room at G237. Kirk, for once, noticed.
“That’s just…weird. I thought I left my door open.”
“Maybe your loony roommate closed it.”
“No, she was asleep when I came in to… Oh, no, poor Amelia!” Josie put her hands to her face. “I think I left her on the phone! She’s probably so freaked out right now…”
Josie turned the doorknob and was relieved to find that she hadn’t locked herself out somehow; clearly she’d misremembered whatever had happened in the seconds following her race to Vivienne’s apartment.
Or had she?
As the couple stepped inside, Kirk flicked the switch to turn on the overhead light in the kitchenette. The apartment was otherwise completely dark.
Okay, Josie thought, I definitely did not waste time turning out the lights.
Then her gaze fell upon the cradled phone receiver. She distinctly recalled dropping it before the mad rush. Upon closer inspection she could see that the ringer was now off – which it never was – and the caller ID light was flashing, indicating that Amelia had called back a half dozen times after…
“You’re creeping me out,” Kirk said from behind her, and she jumped. He reacted in kind, with a nervous laugh. “Jesus, Jo, what the hell?”
“Keep your voice down!” She was hissing again. Kirk backed away.
“What has gotten into all these crazy bitches?” he muttered to himself, careful not to let Josie hear, for that would surely torpedo the last chance he had to get some tonight.
Josie’s eyes moved to the crack beneath Katrina’s door, just as they had earlier. Still no light. But if Katrina had gotten up because of the ruckus, why on earth would she not have come out to see what was going on? And if she hadn’t gotten up…who had turned off the lights and hung up on Amelia? What the hell was going on?
She voiced none of this to Kirk, ushering him quickly into her bedroom instead and shutting the door behind them.
“Whoo!” Kirk exclaimed with a laugh. “So now you want to get all aggressive, eh? I’m down with that. Definitely.” He sat down on the bed and bounced a couple of times. Maybe focusing on Josie’s hot body would quell the unexplained uneasiness that was lingering deep within him.
As she let Kirk undress her and went through the motions of returning his kisses, Josie’s mind was far away from her impending sexual escapade. Haunted still by Vivienne’s strange responses at the door and whatever was truly going on behind it, and now completely baffled by whatever had gone on in her own apartment while she was gone, Josie would play along with Kirk tonight, and risk breaking the rules by letting him sleep over, because the truth was that she really and truly did not want to be alone until morning.
Meanwhile, only a wall-width away in her dark bedroom, Katrina heard the enthused whooping of that poor excuse of a “fraternity” brother, the creaking springs, the ghetto Harlequin-esque “oh baby oh yeah” exclamations, and everything else Kirk and Josie were doing. An expression of pure loathing settled upon her face. Nighttime was her time, and having it interrupted by copulating college kids displeased her greatly.
Maybe it was time she shut them up, too.