The campus was littered with the yellow and brown and red leaves autumn brought each year. Its hallways and bulletin boards were littered with flyers like always. The usual posters advertising football games and volleyball games and different club events were all there, but since Halloween was the next week, every bulletin board and cork strip was plastered with papers. There was one flyer, in Tyndall Hall, that stood out to him—that almost jumped out at him—and he almost wished it wouldn’t have.
He found the flyer one afternoon while leaving the almost 100-year-old building after his last class of the day. He walked down the building’s wooden stairs alone—he had asked the professor a question after class, and the building was almost abandoned for the night. With each creak of the stairs he felt more and more like the building was crying out to him to stay, like it didn’t want to be left alone for the night. I’d love to stay, he thought. There was something about the building’s high windows and worn orange boards, its smell of leather and dust and wood, that made him feel calm—that put him at ease no matter how stressful the test or how fast the professor lectured.
But he couldn’t stay. Not that evening, not that night, not any night. Tyndall’s doors locked at 4:30 sharp every afternoon and wouldn’t open again until 7:30 the next morning. Most of the buildings on campus stayed open until midnight, or later if you made friends with one of the security guards, but not Tyndall. You could walk through campus late any night and see lights in classroom windows—students scribbling on whiteboards or reading textbooks deep into the night to cram for tests the next morning would bring. But not in Tyndall—never in Tyndall. He wondered why for a moment, then pushed the thought out of mind.
He descended the last two steps—the staircase let out its last creaks—and made his way across the main floor, getting his hands ready to push open one of Tyndall’s heavy doors. But something caught his eye right before the doorway and he stopped.
A lone flyer hung on Tyndall’s bulletin board. A lone flyer with two pictures that seemed to jump off the page. In the upper lefthand corner was a plain black cross—a clipart picture of a ghost sat in the bottom right corner. Weird, he thought, and took a step closer.
“WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT GHOSTS?” was printed across the top. Below, it read, “Join us on Sunday,” and below that, “First Episcopal Church @ 9:30 AM.”
At that moment he knew exactly where he’d be Sunday morning. He always felt drawn to the spooky things that become so prevalent during Halloween—the ghosts and monsters and demons—and he had heard what seemed like a million different things about the holiday and church. He had a Sunday School teacher tell him he’d go to hell if he went trick-or-treating one October Sunday, but when he asked why, she huffed and said that it was in the Bible. He helped his mom pass out candy that year, but he went the next year after he saw that another church in town was having a Halloween party. He still had no idea what to believe.
But not for long, he thought. This is it—I’ll finally have an answer.
He pushed open one of Tyndall’s big doors and walked down its granite stairs onto the sidewalk and into the bright orange glow of a setting sun.
. . .
He drifted through the next few days on autopilot—gliding around campus from dorm to class to class to dorm, dreading the upcoming winter, and longing to be back home where he didn’t have to make any new friends. The only time it seemed he shifted off autopilot was when he sat in class in Tyndall Hall.
Friday afternoon came and it was time for his last class of the week in Tyndall Hall. Wind whipped his face as he walked across campus—alone at first, but then he walked closely behind a group of football players. He didn’t speak to any of them, and they paid no attention to him. They made stupid jokes and laughed much too loudly.
“This weekend’s gonna be crazy!” one said.
All the football players agreed and made more stupid jokes. He kept glancing at Tyndall Hall in the distance as though he would get there sooner the more he looked at it.
They got to Tyndall’s granite steps and walked up them while students poured out the doorway. He stepped inside the building after the football players and looked at the bulletin board to his right. He slowed for a moment, hoping to see the flyer with the ghost and cross on it, but the board was covered with all the flyers he had seen across campus. He didn’t think much of it and walked to class.
He sat in the back of the classroom underneath one of those tall windows he loved so much. The sun coming through it was warm and made him want to take a long nap right there. He didn’t, though. He took notes and answered questions—in his head, of course, there was no way he’d say something in front of that many people.
The professor dismissed them five minutes early and everyone sprinted out of the room grateful to start their weekend a few minutes early. He sat in his desk—looking through his notes and packing up his things slowly.
A voice came from the front of the room. “Can I help you with anything?”
“Oh, no,” he said, “just looking over a few things before I leave.”
The professor nodded and said, “Have a good weekend,” then started to walk out the room.
He sat for a few more minutes—basking in the sun and taking in every moment he could. He glanced at the clock in the front of the room. It read 4:25. I should probably go, he thought. He got up, grabbed his bag, and left the room. The second floor was a ghost town. He didn’t see any other students. The professors were all gone. He was alone.
The floorboards moaned and the stairs groaned and he made it to the main floor. He took a few steps toward the doorway and froze. The bulletin board was empty except one flyer perfectly placed in the center. The clipart ghost seemed to stare back at him.
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