Room 373

I used to work for a university; I won’t say which one for privacy concerns. Much of my job involved checking the classrooms in our building after every school day, usually around 9:00 pm, as that is when the last class would end.  I typically checked for students loitering around, made sure that all electronics were turned off correctly, and locked the doors behind me as I went.

This would have been an ideal job, considering much of what I did besides that was typical office work. However, there was one thing that had always bothered me. I didn’t like room 373. This room sat right across the hallway from my desk space; from my desk, I could see the small window to that room through a large window in the office suite.

It was extremely unsettling because when I was working alone, which I did most nights, I would feel as if I was being watched. Like someone was staring at me from the room. Every time I would glance over there, all I saw was pitch black emptiness.

I had always been afraid of the dark. But this was a different level of darkness. The aura around that room was unsettling. Every time I went in there to check the computers, the air felt heavy and suffocating. I was hyper-aware of everything in that room. Something always felt off when I would go in there, though most would say that I was being irrational.

When I would tell my coworkers about this, all they’d say is that I was being paranoid and that I watched too many scary movies. A few of them laughed at me. All of them agreed that it had to do with me being alone late at night. Be that as it may, there was always something unsettling about that room.

Whenever I would be working on one of my projects, I would see movement out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes it was a small flicker, kind of like when a light is about to go out. But other times it looked as if someone was walking down the hallway. This was impossible, though, because after the last class ended, the doors to the building were locked automatically. There was no way for students to return after the doors were locked, and as I mentioned before, I always checked to make sure the building was completely empty. I was always completely alone in the building. And considering I was sitting at my desk every time, there shouldn’t have been any movement whatsoever.

Most people would have chalked the movement up to just being a trick of the light, or perhaps their imaginations. And at first, I did too. I thought maybe I was letting the fact that I was alone get to me. I thought perhaps I was psyching myself up to give myself a bit of excitement.

But it wasn’t just movement that I saw. Sometimes I would faintly hear the sound of a door knob being rattled. I would look over to 373, and I could have sworn that I saw the handle jiggling ever so slightly each and every time. But I always figured it was my eyes playing tricks on me. That I was tired and my vision was affected by my sheer exhaustion.

At least that’s what I thought until a few days ago.

I had been in my zone, working hard and trying to make sure that all of our awards certificates had been printed and prepared to ship. I wanted to make sure I got all of the names and addresses right, so I was taking my time. All of my attention had been on the task at hand. I had set about this task immediately after checking each and every single classroom.

The entire building had been blanketed in darkness except for the office space in which I sat. Everything was fine at first, then I started feeling the hair on my arms and neck pricking up. My back was to room 373, and honestly, I wanted to keep it that way. Something deep inside me was telling me not to pay any attention to the room tonight. Especially tonight for some reason. But I wasn’t going to give in to my paranoia this time. I remember shoving my fears to the back of my mind and powering through my work.

Once I managed to get my mind off of the room, I heard an airy whisper in my ear: “Look behind you.”

Immediately I turned around. No one was there. I bounded to the door and looked in either direction. My office was in the middle of a long hallway, so there was no way someone could have run off that fast. I avoided looking at room 373. For  a brief moment I thought I heard the door handle rattling.

Shaking slightly, I decided it had been my imagination again. Maybe I had made it up in my head when the AC had turned back on. It was the only logical explanation.

I quickly busied myself again. It hadn’t even been a full minute before I felt the unmistakable sensation of a hand on my shoulder. I almost fell out of my chair as I spun around. Still nothing. This time, though I couldn’t help but to peer into the room. The urge to do so had been magnetic, as if some something was calling to me.

At first, I saw nothing and was about to return to my work. I took one last look into the room, and then my breath caught in my throat. Deep in the inky blackness, I saw something moving erratically, unnaturally.

I crept closer to the large window of my office suite. I wanted to see whatever it was better, but I wasn’t fool enough to go out into the hallway. I wasn’t stupid enough to go any closer to the room that I already was. Pressing my face against the cool glass and straining my eyes as hard as I could, I froze. It felt as if my heart had stopped.

Against the far wall of 373, I witnessed a writhing mass of flesh. An appendage was waving at me quickly and jerkily. I strained my beyond their limits, trying with all my might to make out the shape of… whatever that was. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, I realized that it was a girl. She was emaciated and mutilated. Her skin looked as if it had been shredded to ribbons, to the point where she looked inhuman. Her body was completely mangled, which is why she looked almost shapeless when I first saw her.

She had no hair on her head. Instead, there was a softball sized crater, and beneath her scalp I could see something pulsating wildly. I was on the verge of hyperventilating, but I couldn’t look away. I needed to be sure that I was really seeing her. I blinked repeatedly, expecting her to disappear each time my eyes fluttered back open, but each time she was still there.

Initially I thought she was in pain. Her arm was beckoning me, as if she was flagging me down to help her. I thought perhaps a student has been attacked and was begging for my assistance. I almost ran over there…

Then I saw her smile. It was grotesque and too wide. Her teeth were almost transparent and needle sharp. What had scared me the most, though, was her eyes. Hey eyes were a solid blood-red. There was no pupil, no iris. Just flat crimson. They were sickening to look at, and they glittered with the light coming from my office. With her waving appendage (her hand?) she began to signal for me to come over there.

No longer did I feel the urge to help her. I knew whatever she was, it was not a damsel in distress. It was not someone who needed saving. If anything, I needed to save myself form her.

Nauseated, confused, I tried to race out of the office. Out of the building. It was at that moment that I realized how muffled everything seemed. There was no sound, no movement except for her writhing. It was as if time had stood still, with no one else in this plane of existence but me and her. It was as if she knew she no longer had me fooled.

Terror gripped my heart as I realized that I couldn’t move. I was rooted to the spot. The girl was coming closer to me. At first, I hadn’t noticed she was moving, but now I could see that she was mere feet from the door to room 373.

I could make out more of her grotesque shape. Her legs were mangled beyond recognition. She shouldn’t have been able to walk on them, as there were bits of bone protruding through the ripped flesh. Yet there she was, jerking closer and closer to the door. Beneath her, you could make out the faint drip, drip of rust-red blood falling to the floor.

I was horrified. I couldn’t move a muscle. Was I frozen in utter terror, or was she the reason? Had her fear-inducing eyes paralyzed me? All I could do was watch as she hobbled nearer to the door of the room. She took one crushed hand and began to open the classroom door.

My heart pounded painfully in my chest. I prayed and prayed for her to go away, to disappear. I prayed that she was just a hallucination and that she would be gone at any moment. But still she pulled the door open slowly.

Just as she began to inch her way out of the door, my phone rang. At first it sounded miles away, but the longer it rang, the louder it got.

Suddenly I could move again. I could hear again. I glanced at my phone, which I had been gripping tightly. My knuckles were white with strain. When I turned my eyes back to the room, there was nothing. No mangled girl, no writhing mass.

For the briefest moment, I thought that maybe it really had been a hallucination, that I had finally lost my mind. I let myself thing, just for a split second, that my exhaustion and self-induced anxieties had finally broken me. Normally I would have tried to explain it away. I would have attempted to convince myself that I was still sane.

However, there was unmistakable proof that this had really happened. The door was ajar. The door that I had locked myself hours before; it was wide open, and there was the faintest rust-colored smear right near the door.

As realization dawned on me, all I could do was stare dumbfoundedly at the door, at the stain, and at the spot where the girl has stood only moments before. My knees were shaking, and I felt as if I was going to pass out.

In my utter confusion and disbelief, I had almost forgotten about my chiming phone. Still staring at the open doorway of room 373, I answered the call, my voice wavering. I noticed that tears were streaming down my face and my jaw was clenched tightly. Painfully.

“Hey, Barry, I hope you have all of those certificates printed. We have to send them out first thing in the morning. I just got an email our mail carriers won’t be in any other time until next week.”

“Yeah, Mike, they’re printed and ready. You have a good night.” That night, I hung up the phone immediately, having no energy left to try and convince anyone else that I had really seen something… paranormal. There was no point. Everyone would think I was nuts. I grabbed my things, my shift hadn’t even ended yet, and walked out the door, vehemently praying as I walked past 373. Whatever I had witnessed that night, I wasn’t every going to see it again. I wasn’t ever going to come back.

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