Make sure to read Part One if you haven’t already! Enjoy!
It was a beautiful fall morning—the air crisp, the sun warm, the leaves of yellow and orange and brown fluttering all around. It was Sunday. It’s here, he thought.
He woke up, showered and dressed, and ate a granola bar. He stepped outside and decided it was much too nice to drive the few short blocks to church. Who knows how many more days we’ll get like this? he asked himself. He slipped his car keys into his pocket and started walking across campus.
Most of the campus was still asleep—as it usually was on Sunday mornings, especially the Sunday mornings after Halloween dances. He passed the student union, the math and science building, and the library—no signs of life. He crossed the street and Tyndall Hall stood a few hundred feet away. A girl stepped out of the upperclassmen dorm to his left. He had seen her around campus before, and when she looked at him, he turned away quickly. He kept walking, eyes fixed on Tyndall. Is it open on Sundays? he wondered. I guess I’ve never tried. He checked the time on his phone, then looked at the old building. I better not.
He passed Tyndall Hall, looking as silent and empty as ever, and turned off campus. He walked and the sunshine hit his face and he smiled. It’s going to be a good day, he thought. I’m going to go to church and learn if that Sunday School teacher was wrong and then finish that comp paper. Nothing can make me feel like I did last night when I sat alone in my dorm room. Cars drove by and he didn’t care if they saw his smile. He walked for a few more minutes, went up a hill, and then saw the church sitting at the base of the hill.
The First Episcopal Church was an old stone building—smaller than any church he’d ever seen. It looked like a house with a bell tower where its second level was supposed to be. It sat in a corner lot, tucked behind a row of mostly bare trees that gave it some protection from the road, and was surrounded by houses. What an odd place for a church, he thought—and what an odd looking church.
He stopped at the bottom of the hill—wondering if he really wanted to go through with it. He was never very good in places where he didn’t know anybody, but his mom always told him he needed to step out of his comfort zone. The more he looked at the church—it’s misshaped stones and dark windows—the more he felt like something was off.
He was about to turn around—and walk back to campus and the comfort of his empty dorm room and church on a computer screen—but then he heard a voice.
“Are you going in?”
He turned around, startled, and saw the girl from the upperclassmen dorm standing there. She smiled, a few strands of wavy blonde hair blew across her face, and she pulled them behind her ear.
He smiled too—more embarrassed than anything else—and said, “Uh, yeah. I just thought I dropped something.”
She let out a little laugh. “You didn’t. I’ve kind of been following you since campus and haven’t seen you drop anything.” She smiled again, and he thought it was pretty. “I wondered if you were going here.”
“Oh,” he laughed, “yeah. I thought I’d check it out.”
“So it’s your first time?” He nodded. “I didn’t think I’d seen you here before.” She took a step forward and put her hand on his arm. “Well I’m glad you did! Want to head inside?”
He nodded and smiled and they crossed the street.
“My name’s Dani, by the way.” She extended a mitten.
He shook it and said, “I’m Theo.”
Another smile—his stomach twirled. “It’s nice to meet you, Theo.”
They walked into the stone building that somehow looked even darker inside—dark trim and paneling, old fluorescent lights struggling to light the small entryway—but Dani and everyone he saw had bright smiles on their faces. Dani greeted a few people and they walked across the room to the sanctuary—or really large living room, Theo thought. They were greeted by a smiling couple at the threshold. They knew Dani and handed her a bulletin and she said, “This is my friend, Theo. It’s his first time here.”
His stomach twirled again. He smiled and they welcomed him.
He followed Dani into the sanctuary, and she chose a pew near the back. He sat next to her and looked around the room. There were maybe a dozen pews in tight rows packed into the small sanctuary ornately decorated with stained glass windows depicting various scenes from the Bible. A few older couples and families with young children were scattered around the room. Nobody spoke, a few people kneeled then sat, the organ clanged.
She saw him looking around and whispered, “What do you think?” with another smile.
“It’s—” he paused, “interesting.”
She laughed. “I know. It takes a bit to get used to. Do you go to a church like this back home? Or . . .” she trailed off.
“No,” he said quickly. “Never even heard of the word Episcopal until I saw it on a flyer in Tyndall.”
“Oh funny!” She smiled again and her blue eyes lit up.
He wanted to say something about the flyer and the clipart ghost and the real reason he was there, but the organ music stopped abruptly and everyone turned to the back of the room. He was glad he didn’t say anything. He turned around and saw a man in a white robe walking down the aisle followed by a few others in similar robes. Everyone’s eyes followed him, and Theo felt like he was watching the world’s smallest parade.
The minister greeted everyone and prayed and then the whirlwind began. They stood and then sat and then kneeled and recited all sorts of creeds and prayers. He was glad Dani was there to share the red book with him and point to what he was supposed to say, and even though he felt uncomfortable kneeling, he didn’t want to look stupid in front of her so he did. When the organ music picked back up and everyone pulled out their hymnals, he sang—loudly enough so Dani knew he was singing but quietly enough so she couldn’t really hear him. The whole time he waited, following along in the commotion of the service and trying to find the answer he was looking for that never seemed to come.
Two of the people in robes read from the Bible and then a third walked to the front of the congregation.
She said, “A lesson from Ephesians 6,” and then read, “‘For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” She put an emphasis on spiritual forces and evil. Theo sat up a little straighter and leaned forward.
The minister took his place at the front of the sanctuary. This is it, Theo thought.
“Thank you for those lessons,” he said. “We must always be on the lookout for the dark forces at work in this world.” And then he jumped into his overly broad sermon about God’s love and mercy and all the other warm and fuzzy things Theo had heard a million times at church camp and Sunday School Bible.
That’s it? he wondered. He felt cheated. We just have to be on the lookout for dark forces in the world? He leaned back in the pew and looked at his feet. That doesn’t tell me anything about ghosts and the Bible.
There were more prayers—and Dani helped him say the right things—then everybody but Theo took Communion and it was over. Theo felt confused and disappointed and empty—he didn’t know if his Sunday School teacher was right, he didn’t know what to believe—then Dani smiled at him and he forgot everything he was feeling.
They left the small sanctuary and Dani introduced Theo to a few more people whose names he’d never remember. He added little to their brief conversations, and then they left the small stone church together.
They began their walk back to campus—first crossing the street, then starting their climb up the hill—and Dani asked, “What’d you think?”
Theo hesitated, then said, “It’s definitely something I would need to get used to,” and she laughed.
“You’re right about that.” Another smile. “I hope you get used to it.”
He knew he wouldn’t because he knew he wouldn’t try. The comfort of his computer screen was hard to beat, and he didn’t care how much his mom would disapprove. He wrestled with telling her the truth about the flyer and the real reason he went, but every time he was about to say something, she smiled or asked him a question.
The air had lost most of its bite, and Theo hoped their walk would never end, but they turned into campus where Tyndall Hall stood welcoming them in the distance. They passed on its sidewalk and Dani saw Theo looking at it. She smiled at him—a little grin he had never seen before.
“You know a girl died there, right?” she asked.
“Huh?” Theo responded. “No.”
“Yeah,” she continued, “it was back in the 30s or 40s. They were doing some major construction on the staircase and shut the whole building down—like moved everybody out for the semester, completely off limits to students and everything. The story goes that a girl and her boyfriend snuck in one night and she fell from the second floor and broke her neck.”
Theo’s eyes widened. “No way.”
“I know right.” She leaned a little closer. “But there’s more. So the boyfriend claimed he walked her back to her dorm that night and was just as shocked as everyone else when he found out she was dead. Some people thought he pushed her—but his grandfather basically founded the college, so that idea didn’t get very far—and others think she killed herself. No one really knows, I guess, but a lot of people think it’s haunted.”
“Yep.” She gave him another grin. “What are you doing tonight?”
He was even more shocked hearing that than the story.
“Um—nothing. I have to finish a comp paper, but I’m going to work on that this afternoon.”
“Good,” she said with the same grin. “Meet me here at midnight.”
“At midnight? What for?”
“We’re going in,” she pointed over her shoulder at Tyndall Hall, “to find out if it really is haunted.”
. . .
He wanted to go but he didn’t. Sure, he thought, I’ve always liked scary movies and ghost stories, but this is different. No matter how those ended, I was always safe and comfortable under a blanket or behind a pillow. This is way diff—and then he thought about her smile, her blue eyes, and the way she said his name. I’ve got to, he decided.
And that’s what he did.
He stayed up watching Netflix in bed—sticking to comedies and even changing those if a halfway suspenseful part came on. At 11:55 he left his room, walked out of his dorm building, and walked to Tyndall Hall. The night was cool. Streetlights kept the campus well-lit and the unusually bright moon helped.
Dani stood on the sidewalk outside of Tyndall Hall, scrolling through her phone. She saw Theo and flashed him a smile—the moonlight shimmered in her eyes.
“Did you finish that paper?”
He told her he did and then asked, “How are we going to get in?”
“I’ll show you.” She led him to the back of the building and to a basement window. “This window’s lock is broken.”
“Don’t they have a security system or something?”
“Not in Tyndall,” she replied. “It’s just a bunch of old, dusty classrooms and a few offices. Nothing super valuable here.” Theo didn’t look sold. “People do it every year!” She touched his arm and said, “Come on.”
He was convinced. She grinned and knelt down to open the window. It squeaked as she opened it, and she pulled out the flashlight on her phone. Theo followed suit and bent down beside her. They shined their flashlights into the dusty room and saw stacks of desks, broken chairs, and tables.
Dani looked at Theo and giggled. “You go first,” she said.
I need to show her I’m not scared, he thought. I’m sure she already thinks I am. He started climbing through the window—don’t fall, don’t fall. His feet landed on a stable desk, and he gave Dani a thumbs up. He helped her down, and they turned to face whatever Tyndall Hall had to offer.
They looked around. The storage room they found themselves in looked like it hadn’t been used in years. Everything was covered with a sheet of dust including the crushed beer cans piled in one corner. I guess she was right about people breaking in here, he thought.
“Pretty cool, huh?” she asked. Theo nodded, though he wasn’t so sure of his answer. “I’ve heard a lot of stories about Tyndall, but I just had to see it for myself.” She wrapped her arms around his and grinned. “Let’s go upstairs.”
They walked side by side with Theo’s flashlight guiding their path. He pushed open the storage room door that led into a hallway lined with locked office doors and empty classrooms. The hallway was musty and the air felt heavy.
“Do they still have classes down here?” Theo asked.
“I had one down here my freshmen year, but that’s the only time I’ve ever heard of it.”
Theo nodded, even though she couldn’t see him, and they tiptoed to the stairs at the end of the hallway. They started up the stairs, each step marked by a loud creak, and then they stopped.
“What was that?” Dani asked.
“I don’t know.”
They heard it again. It sounds like a floorboard creaking, he thought, only lower— softer almost.
“Is it the stairs?” Dani asked, and before he could reply, said, “Let’s go,” smiling.
She grabbed Theo’s hand and led him up the stairs. They stopped on the main floor and looked around—the large staircase to their left, the heavy arched doors to their right. Silence. Nothing.
“Shine your phone up there,” she said, pointing at the stairs.
Theo shined his light up the stairs, and they saw nothing on the small landing. Dani started moving again—Theo’s phone pointing straight ahead, the stairs screeching and moaning with every step—and then stopped halfway up the stairs.
“Do you hear some—”
“Shh!” She put a hand up. The sound began again. It’s almost like a howl, he thought. Is it the furnace? It stopped and started and stopped again.
Dani looked at Theo and grinned.
“What?” he whispered.
Her grin widened—her eyes two black specks in the shadows—and she said, “This is where she died.”
Theo said nothing and looked around. A chill rolled down his spine. How many times have I walked up these stairs? he wondered. How many times have I stepped in the exact spot?
“Are you scared?” she asked.
“No—” he replied quickly. “Just a little creeped out.”
She grabbed his hand again and led him up the stairs. She moved quickly—almost frantically, he thought—and the stairs creaked louder than he had ever heard. They made it to the landing and turned to head up the next flight of stairs. She held his hand tightly, pulling him along behind her, and then stopped at the top of the stairs.
The low howl returned. It’s like Tyndall’s calling out to me, he thought. Dani let go of his hand and took a few steps to their right. She stopped by the banister and looked at the stairs below—the spot below.
“What do you think she was thinking?” Dani asked—her hand sliding along the railing. “Or do you think he pushed her?”
“I—I don’t know.” Something isn’t right, he thought. We should get out of here.
“I know he didn’t push her. I know she jumped,” she looked over the railing, “—more like dove, I guess.”
She started walking toward him, eyes bouncing to the stairs below and back to him. Theo knew something wasn’t right. I need to get out of here, he thought. I need to get her out of here.
“I bet she was sad,” she continued. “Hopeless. Do you ever feel that way? I do.” He could hardly see her face in the darkness, but he recognized her grin. Her grin that spread—so unnaturally, unworldly wide—across her face. “I bet she felt it was the only thing she could do to stop feeling that way.” She touched his arm. “Do you think it’s the only way?”
He shook his head. “Dani, we should get out of here.”
The howling—or is it wailing, he thought—got louder.
“Why?” she asked. “I’m having a good time. Aren’t you?”
“Come on,” he took her hand and started down the stairs.
She screamed, “No!” dropping to her knees and pulling on his arm. “I have to do it. It’s the only way to stop it.”
“No it’s not!” he yelled. “No it’s not—come on.”
He pulled her up and practically carried her down the stairs. She screamed and cried and the howl got louder, but he didn’t care. They rushed down the stairs—creaking, moaning—and it felt like something was rushing after them. They ran across the main floor, Theo pulling Dani along, and skidded down the flight of stairs leading to the musty hallway. The wailing grew louder and louder still. They sprinted through the hallway and reached the dusty storage room at the end.
Dani dropped to the ground and looked up at him. “I have to,” she said.
“No you don’t!” A gust of wind ripped through the hallway.
He picked her up and led her through the storage room, bumping into desks and chairs, and then all but pushed her through the open window. He climbed out after her into the chilly autumn air.
A soft breeze pushed a few leaves across the ground and then everything was silent—no howling, no wailing, no old creaking floorboards.
Dani lay on the ground beside the window. She looked up at him with wide eyes and asked, “What happened?”
“What do you mean what happened?”
“I mean what happened. I remember going through the window and walking through that dusty room and then nothing.”
“You don’t remember any of that?”
She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. “Was it bad?”
“I can’t even begin to describe it right now,” he said. “Can I try explaining it tomorrow? I think we just need to sleep.”
“Sure,” she said. “Lunch? I have a break at noon.”
“That works for me.” He helped her up and she held his arm and he walked her back to her dorm.
. . .
Theo looked for her in the caff the next day but she was nowhere to be found. He looked for her the day after that too, but nothing. He asked a few of the girls he had seen her with if they knew anything, but they told him they had no idea who he was talking about.
He hasn’t seen her since that night in Tyndall Hall. He usually avoids thinking about that night, but every once in a while—when he’s walking around campus or alone in his room—he thinks about that old church and Dani and that night in Tyndall Hall and he laughs.
Give the story a like if you would read it again or want to keep reading about Tyndall Hall. What do you think really happened in Tyndall Hall?