Combat Zone

Collins Memorial Mortuary


Photo courtesy of Flickr

It started out as a great day to be a Logger. The sun sparkled through the fall leaves. The line in Diversions moved swiftly. Your meme was well-received on the campus Facebook page. President Crawford passed you on the sidewalk and gave you a hearty smile.
The seven-page research paper, due the next day, not yet begun, was not phasing you. You knew that the warmth and camaraderie of Collins Memorial Library would pull through. With the watchful eyes of the second floor paintings looking over you and the ashes of Puget Sound’s past a capella members stored in the archives, how could you not feel safe in the library?
After you breezed through your two 50-minute classes, frisbee practice, Gardening Club, viola lesson, two professors’ office hours and 20 minutes of yoga, you embarked on the paper. You had three close friends in the class who had a regular spot in the library. You hadn’t texted them but planned to meet them there.
You walked over to the library with a skip in your step. You were following 17 Instagram accounts that featured self-affirming quotes and you whispered them for the entire walk over: “I am strong, I am brave, I can do anything, I am strong, I am brave, I can do anything.” As you approached the library doors a student walked out and mumbled, “You’ll regret entering this realm.” Weird, you thought, but we all have our off days.
Again, this seven-page research paper due in 18 hours was nothing to worry about.
You arrived at your friends’ spot in the library at 7 p.m. and only one of your three pals was there. You let out a knowing sigh — one that indicated the night would be long but not impossible, brutal but not unbearable, soul-sucking but necessary — before saying, “Oh man, how are you feeling about this paper?”
Your friend responded, “Which paper?” without looking up from their textbook. A shiver ran up your spine.
“Um, the seven-page research paper due tomorrow.” Your friend slowly raised their head as they met your eyes with utter fear.
“You,” they paused for a sharp intake of breath, “you haven’t started?” Goosebumps broke out across your skin. You quaked in your Birks. “I’ve already finished,” your friend whispered. The whisper reverberated off the lines and lines of cold bookshelves and went through your body. It took all of your power not to scream (especially since you were in an orange zone).
You whipped out your phone, and frantically texted, “Anyone in the library and going to be here late?! Let’s study together!” to every group chat you were in. When you looked up from texting, your friend was gone and only a paper that they made an A on was left on the table. No one responded to your message.
You tried to settle into your seat, murmuring, “Strong, can do anything, brave.” Or was it “Can do anything, smart, strong”? You could not remember. Shoot. Your pants were too tight. You should have worn comfy pants for the occasion.
Hours ticked by. Or was it days? You felt a breeze behind you and turned around, it was the librarian pushing in a chair behind you. Strange, she had pushed in that same chair 15 minutes earlier. No other students were in the library. It was only you. You looked at your watch and it said 11 p.m. Why wasn’t anyone else there?
Then, the intercom began playing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” on a loop. It would not stop. You looked to your right and there was Pharrell. His hat was so tall, his voice so shrill. You did your best to maintain focus on your research, but it was nearly impossible with Mr. Williams at your side. Keep looking at the screen. Keep looking. Keep typing. When the song was on its 20th play you decided to confront Pharrell. When you looked up to stare him in the eyes it was not him but the ghosts of all of Puget Sound’s past a capella groups.
Your baggy, bloodshot eyes burned. A stifled yelp was caught in your throat. You began to pack up and run but the zipper on your backpack was stuck. The ghosts began chanting, in unison, “You are smart, you are strong, you can do anything.” The library intercom played, “The Collins Memorial Library will be closing in 3, 2, 1.” The lights went out. The ghosts continued their chanting. You never turned in your paper.
You are still in the library.

You will be forever.