Extraordinary Occurrences and Unusual Happenings

Submitted into Contest #223 in response to: Start your story with a student discovering a hidden room in a university library.... view prompt


Fantasy Horror Mystery

This story contains sensitive content

Content Note: Mention of child murder and a public hanging/execution in the form of a newspaper headline/excerpt.

Hyde hiked the strap of his book bag farther up his shoulder and turned the crumpled piece of paper upside down. Only now realizing he had no frame of reference beyond the hurried pointing of a busy librarian during final exams. He was fortunate she had taken the time to do even that, let alone sketch him a map. But Hyde was a polite young man, who waited patiently and could be relied upon to, when necessary, crack a toothy grin on his cherubic face. The paper contained a maze of penciled right angles with parallel lines for walls and arrows within indicating left and right, right and left, and another left? Or was it a right? Hyde couldn't figure it, but his feet continued to wander none-the-less. Soon, the subtle sounds of the busy library began to fade and the thrumming of basement boilers and old steam pipes hummed low, yet loud, in the air. Looking up, Hyde found himself quite lost and in a dead end of a rarely used wing of the library. The recent modernizations made in the main area of the library had yet to reach these halls. Dark drab wallpaper with cracked gold trimming surrounded him. It took a moment for it to register to Hyde, but after twirling about in a confused manner he could say there were no doors at all around him. 

“Well, that’s odd…” said Hyde. As soon as the words left his mouth the harsh clanging ring of a rotary phone crashed between the narrow hallways causing Hyde to jump and turn back toward the dead end wall. Though now, behind the pea green wall paper was the outline of a doorframe made visible by a flashing light within; exposing the sliver of space between the frame and door. The light strobed like a frantic morse code. He was almost certain it was three short, three long, three short...SOS. Hyde was curious by nature. The mystery of a ringing phone and an oddly specific light bulb drew him to methodically run his fingers and palms along the wall. Pulling and tearing away large swathes of sticky wall paper, all the while the loud ringing demanded to be answered: BRRRRRRINNNNG-BRRRRRRINNNNG-BRRRRRRINNNNG!

Beneath was a door, same as many of the doors around the university, wood with a frosted opaque glass pane window and with writing in thick black lettering. Hyde’s mouth instinctually spoke the words aloud as he read them, “DEPARTMENT OF PARANORMAL AFFAIRS AND SPECTRAL COMMUNICATION.” Suddenly the deadbolt thudded out of the slot and the door opened ajar with a loud squeak of old hinges.

“I suppose that’s as much of an invitation as I’ll ever get,” spoke Hyde, to no one in particular. He pushed the door in and crossed the threshold. The door closed behind him and Hyde found himself in a not too small, but cozy research lab and office in a state of abandonment. As if an emergency had occurred and the occupant left it in a hurry, but never returned. There was even a long dried up cup of coffee and a percolator on a hot plate that was almost assuredly growing various species of fungus. On one side of the room was a modest metal desk and chair, with filing cabinets behind it. On the other side was what could only be described as a sort of experimental lab with a mixture of radio research tools, biological samples, antediluvian architectural drawings and a makeshift darkroom built with two by fours bolted into the wall and a thick black rubber curtain that hung over. A copper name plate rested on a pile of books atop the desk: Dr. Raymond Tully.

Hyde registered once again that the phone continued to ring, he answered.“Hello…?”

“Uh, Hello?! Wow, I did not expect anyone to answer."

“How did you get this number?”

“Oh, well, it’s in the Student Handbook under, uh, yea: Extraordinary Occurrences and Unusual Happenings.”

“I see.”

“Yea, well, can you help me or not? Are you not the Student Faculty running the office today?”

“I suppose I am, yes? My name is Hyde. How can I help you?”

“Well, Hyde. I’m Lilly and I’m pretty sure I’m being haunted.”

“Let’s see what we can do about that.” Next to the phone was a dust covered clip board with a check list of questions on a piece of paper, “Hm, convenient.” Hyde said to himself. “Ok, let’s see here. Can you describe the type of abnormal, paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise strange and eery presence, event, or vision you are experiencing?"

“Ever since I moved to into this new dorm room on top floor of East Building I’ve had my books thrown across the room when I’m not looking! Lights turning off and on at all hours of the night! Scratching and groaning and sometimes screaming coming from the closet space! I’m starting to have nightmares every night! I can’t sleep! I’m gonna fail my exams and get kicked out if I can’t get some real rest! I’m desperate. Please, help me!”

“Wow, that does not sound good. Uh, I’m sorry to hear you’re experiencing that and I’m gonna do my best to help.” Hyde began flipping through some of the books strewn about in a decades worth of dust. Finally he came upon one titled Spectral Beings and Their Accompanied Purposes, after reading the table of contents Hyde quickly flipped to page 138. “Ah, yes, it seems you may have what is called a Poltergeist. Unfortunately, they are quite troublesome to those they attach themselves to.” Hyde continued by directly reading from the text: “Almost always a malevolent spirit or demon that chains themselves to a victim and causes all manner of escalating havoc in the chosen victim's life. They use a variety of auditory, visual and physical forms of antagonism against their victim. Often resulting in severe personal tragedy or death to the victim through a consistent draining of hope, while instilling perpetual unease and eventual madness or possession."

“Are you kidding me!? But why me? I just wanna be a vet!” Lily replied, clearly distraught, verging on tears. The compounding stress was apparent in her voice. Hyde couldn’t help but feel for his peer. Perhaps the tools he needed to help her were in this office. Maybe he could do something.

“It’ll be ok, Lilly. I’m gonna do my best to help.” Hyde held the thick phone receiver against his shoulder while he used both hands to pull down a wide book. Opening it across the table revealed detailed maps and blueprints of the university campus. “You said East Building, correct?”

“Yes, at the edge of campus near the old river mill and bridge.”

“I see,” Hyde flipped through the pages and found the location. “Oh my…”

“What is it?!” 

“Uh, well, it’s not good news, but we’re gonna work through it together! It seems that East Building was at one point an Orphanage, there’s a notation for the year 1890. Can you give me a moment, please?” Hyde put the receiver down before Lily could respond and began furiously looking through the file cabinets until he found one in which the files were labeled by year and pulled the file for 1890. He hurried back to the phone, “Ok, I’m back.”

“What’s going on?! I’m freaking out! The scratching beneath the floor is getting louder. It doesn’t usually happen during the day time. I need to get out of here!”

“Please, stay with me for a minute, Lily. We’re really close to finding out what’s going on.” After browsing about a dozen newspaper clippings of various strange happenings on campus or in town, Hyde found what he was seeking. “Here it is! I found it! Fifteen Orphans Killed in Fire.” He flipped through more news clippings, the excitement of a puzzle to be solved pumping adrenaline through his veins.

“You got be kidding me…fuck my life.”

“Wow, it seems that a young mill worker had fallen for a young woman that worked with the children, but she rejected him. So he killed her in a fit of rage in her bedroom on the top floor and burnt down the orphanage to conceal his crimes. But a surviving Orphan testified against him and he was publicly hung in what is now the court yard outside East Building and buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds near the river.

“I’m just gonna go home. I can’t do this. I give up! I stop at child murderers and haunted orphanage!”

“Lily, don’t! I can help, let me try first! Running away won’t solve your problem. According to this book at least. It says it’ll just follow you wherever you go. We need to deal with it here and now. I’m gonna gather some supplies and I’ll be over as soon as possible!”

“I….fine, fine. I can’t be in here any longer though, I’ll meet you in the courtyard. And thank you, you know, for answering the phone.”

“Indeed, you’re welcome.” Hyde put the phone receiver down and slumped back into the chair for a moment trying to comprehend what was happening to him. Was this a curse or an opportunity? He really didn’t have time to decide. Lily needed his help and he was in a position to do that. Pushing himself up from the chair Hyde began grabbing various items and shoving them into his bag: a set interesting looking goggles, a modified camera, a funny looking flash light and last of all some sort of crank operated thingy? He also grabbed two books titled: Incantations, Conjurations and Invocations: Soothing the Restless Soul and Runes and More: A Guide to Hand-Drawn Magic. As Hyde reached out for the door-handle he found a pair of keys hanging from the key hole, waiting for him.

“Huh, I guess we’re back in business.” Hyde took the keys and exited the room locking it behind him. He ran, rushing off down the hall towards East Building.

November 06, 2023 04:50

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Jorge Soto
08:11 Nov 16, 2023

Hi Andrew. This was a delightful read, very good. I got an email asking to review some stories from the contest and didn't think much of it, but I really did like your take on the prompt. The way he's fallen into a sort of tech support role for the paranormal on campus is funny and witty. Great work!


Andrew Gibbons
13:50 Nov 16, 2023

Jorge, Thanks a lot! I got same email, I plan on working on those. These 12 hour work days are killing me though! Anyway enough about my horrible work life, I really appreciate the comments, I'm glad someone caught the parallel I was trying to make with tech support student workers/junior ghost busters mash up. I appreciate you taking time to read my story. I'll check out your profile and read some of yours as well. Be well!


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