That would have been a better answer.
“Why is a second laboratory being built?” I have asked Sir countless of times, and every time he would joke about a poltergeist living in the current laboratory. He further added that the ghost looked like an old man with a shrunken head
I was a fool not to believe him. That night, I learned the truth.
The incident began when Sir led his last class out to see the new laboratory. As his loyal student assistant, I waited in the old laboratory for their return. With Sir’s permission, my crush Kate and her friend Sheila stayed with me to work on their lab report.
Sheila woke me up around 6:55pm. I did not realize that I had dozed off listening to their discussion. Kate gave me a shy smile before returning to her laptop. She asked a question, and Sheila answered after consulting her notes. I was disoriented, and for a moment, I considered returning to sleep...until a loud thump woke me up.
I looked behind me and saw a large moth flying haphazardly away from the window. The girls, startled at first, began giggling. I grinned at them and Kate caught my eye.
“Can you please check the model of the machine we used?”
I never knew how to describe it, but suddenly a chill ran through my spine and I felt a weight of foreboding settle on my shoulders. Her wish was simple. All I have to do is walk out the door behind the classroom and find the label on the machine. But at this time of the night, it doesn’t sound so appealing.
My hesitation was obvious. “He’s afraid,” said Sheila unhelpfully.
Afraid or not, Kate’s request should be done. In seconds, I found myself inside the laboratory checking the machine. It was cold inside and images of the old man swam in my head. What if Sir’s jokes were true? What if the lab really is haunted? The feeling of foreboding grew stronger until I could bear it no longer. I felt my hair rising for no reason, and then suddenly lights went out.
“Hell,” I muttered. I stood for a moment in front of the machine, waiting for the emergency lights to turn on. When they did not, I immediately knew something was amiss. I need to leave. Now.
I turned on my heels and ran to the door. I was halfway when it happened.
I grabbed the nearest counter and ducked. I don’t know why, but suddenly I felt something sinister enter the lab. I looked at the door to the classroom and realized it was opening and closing on its own. Was it the wind?
As if by answer, I heard a buzz behind me. I turned and watched in horror as the machine I just left lit up with no power. Then the lights went back and began to flicker.
I bit my lip. So the poltergeist is true. I wanted to run, but suddenly my knees felt like jelly.
Still ducking, I reached up to the counter with my hands to pull myself up. My fingers touched water. I cursed. The faucets on the lab counters have turned on by themselves. I tried to look up but was blinded by the lights. I looked away, shifted my hand, and felt the cold metal of the sink. I used my hand to guide me...feeling water, then metal of the sink, then the tiles of the counter, and then suddenly, my fingers found something that shouldn’t be there. Another hand, thin and soft, covered my hand. I felt wrinkles touch my skin.
The blood froze in my arm and I found myself going numb, but I managed to see the shadow standing above me. With a loud cry, I yanked my hand away from the sink. I heard a snap and saw the arm that was previously holding my hand clatter on the floor. With utmost terror I realized it was broken from the elbow. The arm was thin and wrinkled, like an old man’s, and it was twitching. I screamed louder and ran from the laboratory and into the classroom. I never saw the owner of the hand, and I’d rather not.
The classroom was empty and in chaos. I took a second to digest the clutter and realized the girls had escaped. I scrambled over upended chairs to the door leading out of the building. It was locked. I was locked in. What did I expect? The ghost will just let me go? I screamed for help and forced the doorknob but it won’t budge. The lights began blinking, and a cold wind entered from the lab.
I found a hiding place inside the lower shelf of a cabinet. Call me craven, call me coward, but there was no time for me to choose another plan. Shaking with fear, I watched as the old man entered the classroom. I saw only his lower body part, legs and feet so thin that the skin clung shriveling on the bones. The feet lingered at the center of the room, and then walked towards me. I held my breath and swallowed, but the legs moved across my point of view. It took forever as I sat silent and unmoving, but finally the legs were gone. I sighed in relief. And suddenly they were back. Right in front of me. I chocked and waited for what seemed like another eternity. My heart pumped louder with every second, but still they did not move. Tears began to form in my eyes as I willed them to stay open, and still the legs remained.
“I know you’re there.”
I gagged. His voice was shrill and high, but it was more than that. It was a child’s voice. It was a child’s voice in the body of an old man.
Something crawled behind me. I tried not to move but saw a spider inside the cabinet. It was as big as my hand and has five legs. I did a double take. Then I realized what it was and screamed myself out of the cabinet.
The old man laughed a childish, evil laugh as I scrambled on the floor away from his severed arm—the arm I had yanked out from his body earlier. I crawled away and found myself trapped in the corner. The hand crouched on its five fingers like a lion ready to pounce a trapped prey. There was no blood on the arm. The flesh just ended on the elbow.
“It gets lonely here sometimes,” the man said in his childlike voice. “If you were to move to a new place, I don’t have anyone to play with anymore.”
It took all my courage to look away from the hand on the floor to the face of my tormentor. I gasped. Sir said he had a shrunken head. Sir was wrong. The head was that of a child’s, placed on an old man’s body. And he was mockingly smiling at me. The sight almost drove me crazy, but I managed a comeback.
“To hell with you,” I said.
The smile faded instantly. “You are no fun. No fun at all.” He raised his other arm. The hand on the floor suddenly tensed. I had a feeling I knew what would happen.
I watched both hands warily, one on the floor and one on the body, and then, without warning, the old man snapped his fingers. I screamed as the severed hand lunged at me.
The fingers shook my shoulder.
Disoriented, I opened my eyes and saw Sheila. Behind her, Kate was working on her laptop. I glanced at my watch. It was 6:55pm.
It was a dream!
Realization surged through me and I can’t help but smile. The nightmare had been a literal nightmare after all. I started to chuckle in relief. In the blur of my vision blinded by tears of joy, I became aware of Kate asking a question, and Sheila answering after consulting her notes.
The relief I felt a moment ago disappeared in one second. I sat straight in my chair. Something felt familiar.
There was a loud thump behind me and I turned to see a large moth flying haphazardly away from the window. My heart began to pound. I slowly stood as if in a trance. If I were correct, the next incident would be—
“Can you please check the model of the machine we used?” Kate asked.
My throat went dry. I crumpled and remembered everything. The realization hit me hard.
“Out!” It was no more than a whimper, but the girls’ instantaneous silence told me they must have felt my fear. “Out!” I shouted much louder, and then finally found my courage. “Out! We need to get out of here!”
Startled, Kate started to gather her things in a frenzy. I went for my backpack hastily, but Sheila grabbed my arm. “What is it?” she asked.
I ignored her but she grabbed my shoulders and looked at me straight in the eyes. I knew they were wet with tears, but I did not feel ashamed. I only felt fear.
“Tell us what happened,” Sheila begged. Kate watched us warily.
I struggled to find my voice. When I spoke, it was shaking. “I had a dream. There was a polter—”
And then the lights went out.
Author’s Note:This was first published in The Central Echo Literary Folio “Night.” The Central Echo is the official student publication of Central Philippine University.
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