The way the room changed, the way the room felt when I woke up that day, told me that while I had slept, another had been there.
My bag had been rifled through. I opened it first, for my composition books were in there with writings I had been working on for years. They were in the wrong order. I had them in chronological order, and they were no longer set up in such a way. One of them was set higher than the rest. They had been compromised. Someone knew all my secrets, had been through the most telling of my thoughts, and had seen the things I said to myself. They knew my fears.
I rushed to the door and found it locked up tight. The deadbolt rolled closed, which was impossible, unless they had taken my key! The horror of it was too great. If someone had my key, then I would have to have the locks changed. In a dorm room in college, that would be a problem. I found my pants and fished through my pockets. Keyring in hand, I checked it and found my room key exactly where it should be.
Had to be Justin. He had been my roommate until leaving for a single room months ago. I left the room and stomped to his. Fist pounding, voice yelling, I demanded the key be brought to me. He opened the door, shirtless, showing his scar, his hair a sty, his face showing signs of sleep.
“What the hell, Jesse?” he groaned.
“I want my key. You still have a key to my room. You bastard, you went through my things while I slept.” I curled my fist tight and he laughed, unafraid. He looked at my fist and grinned.
“You’re gonna hit me now?” he said. He was much bigger than me, but not as mean.
“Give it to me,” I said. “Now!”
“Don’t have it, bro. I turned it in. They made me turn it in before they gave me the key to this one. I swear, I don’t have it. Someone else got into your room, not me.”
I left frustrated, stopping at my RA’s room to check with him. He was sitting by the window blowing cigarette smoke out of it. He fanned it away and closed the door behind me.
“What do you want?” he snapped.
“When Justin moved out of my room, did he turn in his key?” I asked.
“Yep, saw him do it myself,” he said.
“Were you high?”
He laughed, grabbed my shoulder and squeezed. No one feared me here. They did not know what I was. “Why would you say that, Jesse? You know better.”
“Call housing and ask,” I snapped.
He shook his head and obeyed.
They had the key. It was not Justin. I went back to my room and looked around more. There on the floor by the bed, my shoes had been shoved aside to make room for someone to stand. Whoever had been in my room had stood right there, right at the head of the bed, looking down at me while I slept. I was a light sleeper. I would have woken; I had no doubt. But there it was, proof that I hadn’t.
Bag in hand, I locked the door behind me, with no confidence it would stay that way, and I left the building and found Bekah.
“There is no question. Someone was in my room last night. Was it you?” I asked. I watched her very carefully. Every woman I had ever known had lied to me. Surely she had as well, I had just never caught her. She stared at me. She was taking this seriously, and I was relieved. No one else I had talked to that day had.
“I was not in your room,” she said. She did not explain that it was impossible, that she didn’t have a key, and she could not have climbed all four stories to slip in through the locked window. She just shook her head. “It wasn’t me… Are you sure someone was there? Are you sure you didn’t just wake up in your dream and go through it all yourself?”
“No. It wasn’t me. Look at this.” I pulled out my comp book as my hand trembled. I drew in a deep breath and prepared myself to see it again. I opened to the page I had dog-eared, and I pointed. At the top of the page in the corner, written in flowing script, stood out bold and unwavering.
I am coming.
She looked at the page and nodded. “That is not your handwriting.” It was obvious by the rest of the page written in my scrawl.
“No, it is not,” I said.
She pointed to the title of the poem that was written there, and she scowled. “What is this story about?” she asked.
It was called “The Bulb”. It was about pictures that had been taken of me when I was little, pictures they had not found when they raided his house.
“Nothing important,” I said. “It’s just an exercise.” I snapped the book shut and shook my head. “Something is going to try to find me, and it will try to hurt me.” I looked her in the eye and grimaced. “It doesn’t know how big a job that will be.” I got up and walked out. She called after me, but I would not listen. As I left the common room, I stuffed the comp book in the trash.
The autumn breeze chilled my face and hands. I rubbed them together but could not warm them. I felt eyes on me, and I looked left. People stood all around me. They laughed and talked. They tried to look important and smart. They seemed better than me, and I hated them all for it.
I saw it then, in the distance, standing with its mighty hands down by its sides, balled into fists of hate. It did not try to hide itself while it stared at me.
It was tall, wide in the shoulders, and lean everywhere else. It did not move, though it was obvious that the thing was graceful. It wore the body of a man, but it wasn’t. How I knew that, I could not tell you. It was not of this world, though I knew it had written in my journal. It was powerful. In its grasp, I would not survive. It seemed to be comprised of shadow and naught else. It seemed patient and disciplined. It did not know rage. It did not know feral acts. It was civilized, cultured even, and it was old. Ancient. A hate from another time, another place.
I turned and walked on. I headed for my room and the door I could lock. I knew it would not avail me. He had made it past my door once. He would do it again. I looked back to see it standing in the crowd of people, in the spot I had just left. I walked on. In five steps, I was running.
I sprinted up the steps of the dorm and rushed through the hall, pulling out my keys. I found mine and held it, tight and ready. When I reached the door, I fumbled with the lock for a few horrid moments before I slid it home, and with a twist, I was behind a locked door.
I don’t remember what happened next. When I woke up, a desk was in front of the door, and Bekah was beating on it. I came out of a stupor and answered the door. I did not want her out there with it.
She stayed with me for a long time. She let me do the talking, and when I had said everything I needed to say, she made love to me.
When she was gone, and night ruled my room, I woke up at the mirror. I was staring in the mirror in the dark, my eyes black pits, my face half in shadow, half in moonlight streaming through the windows.
The smile on my face was foreign to me. I reached for the tiny black knob that would cast light upon me, and I froze. Something was in that mirror that I didn’t want to see. After holding my hand back for too long, I finally stretched out the last few inches and thumbed the knob.
The fluorescent light stuttered, showing flashes of my face. After an agonizing moment, it shone bright.
I saw a horror beyond anything I had ever seen before—a twisted visage of hate that struck terror into me instantly. The dead look in the eyes told me I was looking in the face of a killer. The hard face told me of monstrous intent. It was the face of my death.
And with a whisper it said to me, “I am coming.”