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Spoofs & Satire

The Roommate

A woman stops by her dorm room late at night. Careful not to wake her roommate, she never turns on the light. The next morning, she returns to find the police at her dorm. What happens next?

Halloween is really Thanksgiving hung upside-down, getting sugar-high, and scaring each other senseless instead of basking in a comfortable, turkey-induced glow. Every Halloween at TMN we supply a spine-tingling introduction and give our writers a stab at finishing off the story once and for all with a frightening ending. You can stick pumpkin in your ears, lock your doors, and promise to not come out ‘til election night, but you won’t be able to resist our tales of horror that begin in a darkened college dorm room.
 

The Beginning

Sally was in her first semester away at college. Classes had been difficult and midterms were fast approaching. After going out on a date with her boyfriend, she dropped by her dorm room to pick up her books before heading over to his apartment for the night. Knowing her roommate would be asleep, she entered the room without turning on the light, and softly closed the door behind her. For several minutes she wandered around the room in the dark, opening the closet to grab some clothes, reaching into the bathroom to get her toothbrush, and scrambling over to her desk to get her textbooks and notes. She patted around her bed, eventually locating her book bag, stuffed all the items in, and left, again quietly closing the door behind her.

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…
 

The End by Matthew Baldwin

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…spoke to the officer therein, a middle-aged man with sad eyes and a badge reading Officer Monroe. “This must be the roommate,” they told him before taking their leave.

Monroe gestured to the wooden standard-issue dorm chair, and asked the girl to sit. Sally did so, and quickly surveyed the room in search of some clue as to what had happened. All looked as usual, with one exception: Scrawled on the full-length mirror in lipstick were the words “AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DIDN’T TURN ON THE LIGHT?” Something about the message tugged at Sally’s subconscious.

“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” Monroe said. “Last night, around eight or nine, your roommate was stabbed to death.”

Sally gasped in horror, her eyes darting first to Claire’s bed and then to the mirror. “Nine o’clock?” she gasped. “But I didn’t return home until midnight. That means…oh my God!”

She trailed off, and for a long moment sat transfixed by the ominous message written in red, pondering its implications. Then she started, struck by realization. Leaping to her feet, Sally stepped over to Claire’s bed and whipped back the light blue comforter; the linens beneath were timeworn but free of blemish.

“Sorry to interrupt,” she said to Monroe. “But I thought you’d want to know that we found the roommate.” “But there are no bloodstains on the sheets.”

“No, of course not,” Monroe replied. “The girl was killed several miles from here, her body dumped into the woods. That’s where they found her.”

“But what about this?” Sally demanded, pointing to the mirror.

Monroe frowned, puzzled. “Is that significant?” he asked. “It doesn’t—”

But before he could continue, a female officer hurried into the room. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said to Monroe. “But I thought you’d want to know that we found the roommate.”

“The roommate?” he repeated blankly.

“Yes sir, Claire Alessandra. The other girl that lives here. She was down in the building’s laundryroom, hiding behind a dryer. Completely hysterical, scared out of her wits. It took three of us to coax her out.”

The woman glanced at Sally uncertainly before leaning in, whispering the remaining details into Monroe’s ear. Sally, however, could hear everything perfectly, even across the room.

“She claims that the victim visited here in the middle of the night—after the time of death, that is. Claire was lying in her bed half-awake, and says she could suddenly feel a presence pacing around the room and moving objects. She assumed it was her roommate—that her roommate was still alive, I mean—and was going turn on the light to chat.

“But she sensed something was wrong, and became convinced that—” the officer glanced at her notepad “—that ‘Sally’ was dead. She didn’t want to turn on that light for fear of revealing a ghost. It wasn’t until after the presence disappeared that she finally did so…and saw that.”

The policewoman pointed to the mirror, and the two officers pivoted to consider it.

Sally did so as well. Memories trickled in. Now she remembered writing the message. Now she remembered suddenly finding herself in this room last night, without having traveled here. And, thinking further back, she remembered her boyfriend becoming enraged, grabbing the knife…

Staring past the message, Sally’s eyes focused on her own reflection as it slowly faded away.



The End by Erik Bryan

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…Sally saw her roommate laying facedown on the floor next to her bed, wearing only her underwear, with what looked like a massive headwound, her hand still clutching a digital camera.

Sally, somewhat shocked, sat down on her bed. One of the officers was wearing a suit. She asked him, “Hey. Are you in charge here?”

The man in the suit replied, “Yeah, I’m the one in the suit. Of course I’m in charge. What’s up?”

“What’s wrong with Becky?” she asked.

“Really?” he replied. “You a philosophy major or something? She’s dead.”

“What happened to her?”

“It was kinda tricky to piece together, but it seems like she was attempting a fairly acrobatic picture of herself, possibly for MySpace. That’s where you girls are putting all those pictures of yourselves in your undies these days, right? MySpace?”

“Yeah, totes. We have no shame.”

“Right, so, it looks like she lost her footing and…fell. Hit her head on this here bedpost. Were you two…close?”

“Oh…no, not at all. Couldn’t stand her actually. Sucks, though.”

“Uh-huh. It might help our investigation to know who some of her friends were. Could you help with that?”

“Naw, I wouldn’t know. I’m on Facebook. MySpace is for sluts.”

“Yeah, totes.”



The End by Lauren Frey

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…she saw that near where her Monet poster had been there was now a small portal to an alternate universe. It glowed a gaseous green behind the hole in the wall.

“Again?” Sally complained. “Can’t the college switch my room?”

“I understand your frustration,” said the tallest of the bunch, a middle-aged man with a slight paunch, “but you’re going to have to speak with Student Housing about that. It’s not a police matter. What is a police matter is—”

“Wait, you’re not the F.B.I.?”

“Uh, we are, but we just didn’t want to draw any more attention to ourselves than necessary. Plus, we think these uniforms suit us better,” he added awkwardly. “The cut has a little more give around the middle.”

“You’re not suggesting…” “I’m afraid we are.” A sunglasses-clad officer next to the tall one elbowed him in the gut.

“But listen, Sally, this isn’t Project Walkway,” the tall one added, composing himself. “When was the last time you saw your roommate?”

“Yesterday at lunch. I came in last night but I left it dark so I wouldn’t wake her up.”

“We believe she was in here when the portal blasted open.”

“You’re not suggesting…”

“I’m afraid we are.”

“Why do I always have to be the one to go get her? There’s an empty room across the hall. If they just let us stay there Jessica wouldn’t keep getting sucked into this thing.”

“I wish I could help, Sally, but it’s very hard to get a hold of Student Housing.”

“All right, whatever, I’ll do it.”

Sally threw down her bag, took a few steps back, and made a running dive into the portal.

The F.B.I. team checked to make sure the door was locked, then took off their uniforms, stripping down naked. Tugging lightly around their belly buttons, they pulled their skins off like they were blankets, revealing their vaguely gelatinous forms. They chanted exuberantly, but quietly, so as not to draw attention from the curious students in the hallway, “Two new queens!” (Only since they were no longer posing as humans and were therefore not required to speak English, it sounded more like the scratching sounds of rats or an actor discussing his political views.)

“Quick, let’s get in there and close up this portal before she manages to bring Jessica back again!” said the formerly tall one.

All agreed. They oozed in through the portal and closed it summarily, leaving behind only a drop of slightly greenish goo that various alien enthusiast groups would later use as their logo on all official correspondence.



The End by Eric Feezell

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…”I do,” Sally replied with a confounded hesitation. “I’m Sally Penford. Why? Is there something wrong, Officer—”

“Detective,” the man cut her off. “Detective Green, Homicide Division. Your roommate, Janine, was found brutally murdered this morning. A Resident Adviser checked in on her around 7 a.m. after a neighbor reported hearing a scuffle sometime before dawn. No sign of forced entry. No prints except yours and hers. Blood everywhere…” He seemed to trail off for a second. “Look, this was a savage, brutal, very brutal attack administered with passionate rage, likely by someone who knew the victim.”

“Oh…oh, my God,” Sally managed incredulously. “She was…murdered?”

Sally had not really gotten to know Janine all that well yet, but their lack of closeness did little to mitigate the enormous impact. She fought back tears as the horrible news sunk in.

“Brutally. Look, I’m going to need to ask you a few questions, ma’am.”

“OK.” Feeling faint, Sally walked down the dormitory hall, Detective Green in tow. They sat, facing one another, in two wooden common-area chairs.

“I didn’t really know Janine very well yet,” Sally explained. “She was nice. Quiet. This is unbelievable.”

“Sally, where were you last night? Did you have any contact with your roommate?” The detective looked hard at her and she quickly grew uncomfortable. At that moment it dawned on Sally she may be a suspect.

“I was at my boyfriend’s, at Rick’s.”

Sally then relayed the details perfectly. After going out on a date with her boyfriend—a welcome break from her difficult study schedule—she dropped by her dorm room to pick up several items without turning on the light, and for several minutes wandered around the room in the dark and packed a bag with clothes, scholastic notes, textbooks, and even her toothbrush. She also patted around on her bed (due to the darkness) to find her bag and quietly closed the door behind her. There were certain things on her mind throughout all of this: namely difficult classes and rapidly approaching midterm exams.

“Going out on dates when you should obviously be studying? A boyfriend who lets you stay at his apartment, who lets you bring a toothbrush and clothing and half the items in your dorm room over for a one-night visit?!” It was in her best interest, she knew, to answer fully any questions the detective might have and help him move the investigation forward.

“So then I bounced,” she concluded. “I was at Rick’s all night. He lives in Park West, those apartments about a mile off campus. He’ll confirm that if you want him to, of course. I just wanna help you make sense of all this. It’s terrible.”

Green ruminated for a good minute before finally looking challengingly at the young woman.

“Some of what you’re saying doesn’t add up.” The detective shifted in his seat, re-crossed his legs, and continued his questioning. “This is your first semester away at college you say? Classes have been difficult? Midterms fast approaching?”

“Yes, I’m a freshman.” Sally wasn’t sure where he was going with this, and her words now poured forth with nervous energy. “And, yes. Classes have been difficult. Midterms are fast approaching, and I’ve been really busy with all that.”

“Yet, with everything going on, you still have time for dating a boyfriend with an apartment?” he asked, timbres of doubt rising in his voice. “My understanding, too, is that you are ‘away at college’…away.” Tiny shifts in the muscles in his face put Sally on edge.

“Yes,” Sally spoke. “I’m originally from Atwater. About eight hours up north.”

“And, despite being from out of town and here less than two months, you’ve already met a boyfriend with whom you spend copious amounts of time? Despite having little free time to devote to a relationship? Going out on dates when you should obviously be studying? A boyfriend who lets you stay at his apartment, who lets you bring a toothbrush and clothing and half the items in your dorm room over for a one-night visit?!”

He ate a pistachio at this point.

“Sounds pretty serious, Sally. At least according to the details we just heard.”

“Um, I guess.” She was afraid, confused by Green’s suddenly confrontational, accusatory tone. He wasted no time switching his offensive tack.

“You also stated the room was dark, did you not? Pitch-black because you left the lights off out of kindness to your presumably sleeping roommate (who later got brutally murdered)? So dark you had to ‘pat around’ to find your book bag?”

“Yes. That’s right.”

“Yet you managed, Sally,” Green then raised both hands up to form air quotes as he spoke, “to grab ‘clothing,’ ‘books,’ ‘notes,’ and half the items in your dorm room and stuff them into a bag—and I suppose it would have to be one big bag—and you did all of this without knocking into anything or turning on a light for any reason whatsoever?” The detective stood up quickly and walked around the back of the chair, draping his hands over it and bending down to Sally’s eye level.

“Yes…”

She was ready to cry.

“Are the clothes you are wearing now the ones you grabbed last night?”

“Yes.”

“The brown of your sweater, I’d say, matches quite well with the olive green in your blouse. Your brown and orange socks, too. All lovely earth-tone hues.”

“Thanks?”

“Good work for a blind person!” he zinged. “I’m also impressed with your ability to locate the notes you say you took with you. Did you write them in Braille, perhaps?”

Tears now streamed from her eyes. Why was Detective Green pressing her, she wondered. Sally knew she was innocent, and it seemed blatantly obvious—to her at least—that she was not capable, in both physical and personal senses, of committing such an atrocity. Yet Green seemed dissatisfied with what Sally had told him, as if anyone could have done a better or more imaginative job offering the plain facts of everything she had done in the dorm room the night before.

“What are you saying?” she asked sobbingly, wringing her hands together in grief and fear.

“Your story—the story relayed to me at the beginning of our encounter—it doesn’t check out, Sally.”

“But I didn’t murder my roommate! You have to believe me, detective!”

Detective Green looked at Sally, like a father at his distraught progeny, patted her shoulder three times, and then let his hand fall there warmly. “I know, Sally,” he said with an assuring inflection. “I knew it all along. Your story was pretty much unbelievable from the start.”

Relief—and confusion—washed over her. Unbelievable? It was the truth…

“So you’re not accusing me of anything then?”

“No,” Green replied. “It’s just that…well, I had to be sure. There was something about your story that rubbed me the wrong way. The details that were provided about your actions last night felt poorly thought out, hole-ridden, and contrived in an almost generic sort of way…

He looked off at nothing particular, unfinished quite yet.

“Like a really bad prompt to some silly spook story.”



The End by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…sat her down on her bed. “I’m Detective Mason, and this is my partner Detective Ross,” said the older one, a grayed out man whose pale, cratered face seemed like an extension of the popcorn ceiling above, a contrast to his companion whose youth and pearly eyes reminded Sally of an eight-year-old she once babysat.” We’re sorry to interrupt your morning,” Mason continued, “but we’d like to ask you a few questions.”

“What’s going on? Why are you guys here?”

“Sally, I want you to be truthful with us, OK?” said Mason. “We’re giving you your chance to do right for yourself.” Ross had stepped away from his partner, as if to give him room to maneuver. He was now leaning against her desk, his arms folded across his chest, looking more cold than menacing. Mason knelt down and reached into his pocket and pulled out a sealed plastic bag barely the length of a thumb. He laid it gently across his palm and then brought it up to Sally’s eye level.

“What’s this?” She squinted.

“Look closer,” said Mason.

“I am.”

“Are you saying you had nothing to do with this?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Sally with a slight raise in her voice. She was already thinking of her hallmates and their proficiency at gossip. Her parents sent her to this all-girl’s college in the backwoods of New England, because they thought it was just the middle-of-purgatory environment that would keep her focused on the right things. She met Brad at an off-campus party. Brad delivered the pizza. He was three years older than her and could hardly read the cover of her textbooks, but she liked him fine. She felt safer with men who would never figure her out.

“All right, help her,” Mason said to his study, who produced a magnifying glass from his coat jacket and held it over the plastic bag. Now Sally could see something inside. At first, it seemed to her a tiny speck of glitter, but when Ross changed the angle of the lens, she saw that it was a tiny picture of herself. The portrait had been taken her junior year, not at her high school yearbook shoot, but at a department store portrait studio. Her mother had a coupon. The whole family went. They even put Fruma the cat in its carrier and brought it along for the group photo.

Then her mind flashed to the time in high school her parents showed up with their lunch to the cafeteria, and then they showed up again the next day, and the next. “My daughter has special needs,” her mother told the school counselor, who gave them free range of the campus. They told her few friends stories she thought would never follow her into the other world, which was what she called life outside her parent’s two-story stucco house with closed-circuit cameras at every corner. Only until the trimester was over and she was earning all A’s again, did they stop showing up.

“Going around with a boy like that, this is what you’re becoming. Puny and insignificant, your potential diminishing to nothing,” said the man who called himself Mason. The man Ross withdrew the magnifier into his coat. “You know what needs to be done,” Mason added.

“Get out,” yelled Sally. The older man stood up and walked slowly out the door without looking again at her. The younger one turned around before his exit. He didn’t say anything, but Sally saw the unspoken apology in his face. If she saw him again, maybe at a supermarket, where his usual job might be to gather and return shopping carts, she would simply walk the other way. He was no more than a hired prop. Outside, she could hear men packing up and leaving their stage. She could imagine her parents sitting on their directors’ chairs across the quad, but she wouldn’t allow herself to see past the windowpane.

It wasn’t long before a knock interrupted Sally. Judy, her roommate, popped her head inside. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes,” said Sally. “It was just a joke. My parents are so funny.”



The End by Jonathan Bell

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…asked her to sit down. She looked around nervously. The officer coughed. “Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked, doubt starting to coalesce in the back of her mind.

“Do you know Meredith Green?”

“Why, yes of course. She’s my roommate. This is her room. You’re sitting at her desk,” she added unnecessarily.

“Correction, Miss Jones. This was her desk.”

The policeman looked expectantly at Sally, as if waiting for a reply. But Sally had nothing to say. She could only open her mouth and close it again. She looked around the room. Everything seemed to be in order. She recalled grabbing her stuff in the dark, scrabbling around and feeling her way through the small space, her shins brushing Meredith’s quilt as she had squeezed past to get into the bathroom.

“Where is Meredith?” The words sounded small. She felt like she already knew. Panic ebbed through her, the hairs on her arms rising in slow motion. “I mean, I was here last night, late, and everything was just fine.”

Meredith, dead? OK, so she wasn’t the sparkiest of roommates. She hadn’t exactly gone out of her way to make Sally feel welcome. “You were here last night?” The policeman sounded unsure. He paused. “Didn’t you notice?”

“Didn’t I notice what? It was dark. I was in a hurry. I didn’t stop to take a look.”

The policeman got up. He was disappointed. “We found Meredith Green’s body. Our forensics reckon she’d been dead for about a month. I’m sorry.”

Another pause. Sally couldn’t process the information. Meredith, dead? OK, so she wasn’t the sparkiest of roommates. She hadn’t exactly gone out of her way to make Sally feel welcome. In fact, the two women had barely spoken at all. But still, death? Someone she actually knew had died.

Come to think of it, after the social blur of the first few weeks, her memories of Meredith were hard to recall. It was true that she’d spent barely any time here in her lodgings. It was a dark, musty room that smelled both sweet and rotten. And there had been a problem with flies. Meredith had been uncommunicative to the point of rudeness, so she’d spent more and more time with Josh, working in the library and trying to get a grasp on her courses.

Sally sensed that a response was needed. “Where did you find her?”

“Oh, she was right here,” said the cop, his arm describing a broad arc that took in Meredith’s bed, the desk area, and the bathroom. “I mean, are you sure you came by last night? It was pretty…” He let his voice trail away.

A fly rattled against the window. Another damn fly.

Next time, thought Sally, I’m going to ask for a room of my own.



The End by Bridget Fitzgerald

The next morning, Sally returned to her dorm and found it surrounded by the police, one of whom approached her and asked if she lived there. They took her into her room, and…

…her roommate was gone.

“There’s been a transfer,” someone told her, but she barely heard. Her head was reeling as she looked at the rotund figure of her new roommate. The person she would have to share her entire life with for the next semester and a half. The person who would be studying, sleeping, and showering in the same room. Sally clutched her toothbrush in one hand, her textbooks in the other. And then Sally realized: next to that person was that person’s mother.

Sally took a step backwards, “I need to sit down.”

“I realize this is a shock,” one kindly police officer was telling her. Beside him, a hand holding a pointed paper cup of water appeared. Sally took a feeble sip. She felt weak all over, like she’d somehow relinquished control over her own body. She suddenly had a terrible urge to get married young. To buy a rifle. To swear off The New York Times.

“I can’t,” she stammered. They needed to understand. “I’m only just 18.”

“I know, dear,” the officer said, patting her knee. His tone was turning more condescending by the moment; he cleared his throat, as if he, too, found his attitude a surprise.

“My dad always said I was too impressionable! I’m registered but I’ve never voted! I don’t even watch the news! I have no defenses in place!”

The officer winked at her, “Oh, nobody watches the news.” Then he shook his head a little, clearing his throat again. “I mean, er—” It was no use. He had nothing to say. “Where are those notecards, goshdarnit?”

“I fell asleep during the debate! I have almost no firm opinions of my own!” Sally was growing more desperate by the moment. She felt the need to pander, to at least use a horrible cliché more than once in the same sentence. “I’m conflicted about almost every major divisive issue! I’m easily swayed! I’m from a swing state!”

The officer had stopped listening. He was tossing his head in an odd manner, winking still. He paused long enough to point at her and say, “You betcha.”

Sally felt her resolve fading. “Truthfully, I don’t even care…that…much.” Maybe she just wanted to be a soccer mom.

Her new roommate came to sit beside her. She slowly took one of Sally’s hands in hers. Sally noticed she was wearing cashmere. It was very soft. She seemed nice, this new roommate. A lot like her, but pregnant. Perhaps this was a good idea after all.

“Sally,” her roommate’s mother said. She was rather pretty. Her suit looked very expensive. Sally liked her glasses. “We have a job for you.”
 

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers