Jim’s Room. . .
The Carlsberg frothed like sea foam along the green carpet until it hit an invisible boundary, stopped dead, and soaked into the fibres. The tell-tale patch on the floor darkened as Jim grabbed at a box of tissues just out of reach on the cabinet.
“Bugger,” he said, wiping his hands on his jeans.
“Was that the last one?” asked Claire, still sipping from her can, feet dangling over the side of her flatmate’s bed.
“Last one?” Jim laughed. “There's a case of 18 under there. You’ll get the hang of it, Matie.”
He shuffled his bum across the floor and made a shift-out-of-the-way gesture at Claire’s legs before reaching under the bed and dragging out a recognisable green and white box. It was open in seconds and the next lager was ready.
“Are you going to clean that up?” Claire nodded at the sodden mess from the spillage.
“I’ll shift the empty, I suppose.” Jim popped open the ring pull, took a long gulp from the fresh beer and grabbed the other can from the floor. He tossed it expertly into the metal bin, under the study table opposite, with a satisfying clatter.
“You’ve done that before.”
“Oh, only seven hundred and twenty three times.”
“What’s his bother now?” asked Jim, shrugging and sliding back to his cross-legged position.
“Must have been the can hitting the bin.” Claire scratched her cheek. “But it wasn’t that loud, surely?”
“I think Harvey bought that broom just to bang on the ceiling. Never seen him use it for anything else. I wouldn’t mind, but he does it when I’m not even here. Sarah can hear him from her room.”
“Maybe the noise travels from other rooms and he thinks it’s you?”
“Must be something like that. Or he’s hallucinating. I’m pretty sure he’s drinking something stronger than Carlsberg – or smoking it, or snorting it.” Jim ran his nose along his forearm, with a long, loud sniff.
“You think he’s on drugs?”
“Only sensible explanation. I got an email from the hall tutor yesterday saying I had to keep the noise down 'cos there were complaints at the weekend just gone.”
“You went home last weekend," said Claire.
“What noise does he think you’re making?”
Jim made air quotes with his fingers. “Banging on the floor and screaming.”
“Apparently so, like a teenage girl in a Freddy movie.”
“I’m pretty sure if someone had been screaming, I’d have heard it too. Or Sarah at least, next door to you. Did she hear anything?”
“Not a sausage.”
“Indeedy. But it was all Saturday night apparently. On and off.”
“So, he heard screaming all night and didn’t call Security?”
“Nope. Just emailed the tutor and blamed it on little me.”
“I do think he’s a bit odd. Not just because of this. He skips loads of lectures, and have you seen how skinny and pale he is?”
“Drug addict I recon, he’s got the money for it.”
Sarah’s Room. . .
“There he goes again.” Claire sipped a glass of pinot. “That Harvey bloke underneath Jim.”
“Yeah, he was at it all Saturday night." Sarah poured herself some wine. "I wouldn’t mind, but it was the one weekend I needed my sleep. I had that psych presentation on Monday morning.”
“He made a complaint against Jim over banging and screaming all night. Jim wasn’t even here.”
“I know. The guy is weird.” Sarah brushed her chestnut hair behind her ear. “I knew as soon as he moved in, he was going to be a nightmare. Shuffling around the corridors, not speaking to anyone. I think he's joined the Paranormal Society. Weirdo."
“Why did they put a finalist in with a load of first years anyway?” Claire said, “He was bound to have noise problems. I just expected they'd be caused by real things!”
Sarah laughed and nodded and clenched her toes into the soft, grey carpet of her room.
Claire’s Room. . .
“Anyone know any ghost stories?” Claire looked around the faces of her flatmates, half hoping they didn’t.
“Not exactly a ghost story, but I heard something really grim.” Sarah crossed her legs in front of her on the grey carpet and straightened her back against the off-white wall.
“How grim?” asked Claire. “Will it give me nightmares?”
“Women!” Jim cracked open a Carlsberg. “It probably will, because you’re a wuss.”
“Go on Sarah, what have you heard?” Claire spun her study chair round a couple of times while she composed herself.
“Well, you know that guy on my course with the blue hair? Pete Sanding?”
“That’s his natural colour?” said Jim, with a giggle.
“Don’t be daft,” said Claire. “What about him?”
“His cousin was in a flat in one of these blocks five years ago, dentistry course.” Sarah cleared her throat. “Pete doesn’t know which flat. But apparently a guy in a room on the floor above was found dead after the Fresher’s ball.”
“No way!” said Claire, eyes wide, mouth open.
“Yeah. No one saw him all night, and when Security opened his room, he was lying on the floor, stinking of vodka, blood all over himself and the carpet, with a suicide note addressed to his parents.”
“That’s awful," said Jim, sobering up.
"The worst of it was," Sarah leaned in, "that they think he changed his mind part way through, but there was no one around to help him."
There was a short silence, and no one breathed.
“So creepy. Imagine living in that flat after that,” said Claire.
“Yeah, there was a police investigation, and the university closed the flat for the year and moved all the students out to other places," Sarah sighed, “When they reopened it, they had redecorated that room, and obviously had everything cleaned or replaced."
“How did he kill himself?” asked Claire.
“The story I heard was that he swallowed razor blades. But I doubt that’s true. Can you imagine how painful it would be? You'd never stop screaming.”
“Someone would have heard that.” Claire shuddered.
"Apparently, the only other person in the block that night was a deaf guy in the room directly below," Sarah said, "Everyone else was at the ball. Hence no one coming to help."
“You’d never know which room it was now, I guess,” said Jim. “Except it can’t be ground floor.”
“Anyone’s room look different? Mismatched shade of magnolia on the walls?” said Sarah.
“Hang on a minute.” Jim’s face fell. “My carpet’s green.”