RE: University Records Request, Alumni Association
To whom it may concern,
I shall endeavor to explain the strange happenings on campus during the closing days of 1999. The remembrance of these events has weighed heavily on my mind for some time now and the alumni association should retain some record of them as a warning for future students at the University.
Now, I was not a spiritual sort nor a participant in the various religious debates that occurred on the fifth floor of Eisman Hall, collectively known as The Discussion, but it was common knowledge that the diversity of students in Eisman hall had resulted in a number of such peculiarities. They were mostly peaceful affairs, discussions of religious thought, beliefs and creeds. Indeed, the greatest thing that could be said about them prior the aforementioned occurrences was that I found them profoundly boring. Conducted as they were in the common area of the fifth floor, I inevitably had to pass by the droning voices contemplating the mystery of mysticism, so despite my boredom I was quite familiar with them.
Before I continue further, it is necessary to introduce you to the person of Dmitri. Certainly the University must have some records of this individual, and thus provide a last name for him, but my communications with the Hall of Records turned up nothing. In fact, the last probe I conducted in search of his records caused an altercation on the phone with the records keeper who, for reasons that may become clear to you, was deathly afraid of anyone learning about this man. It definitely seemed to me that he knew more than he let on, but perhaps I am being unkind.
For his part, Dmitri told students in Eisman Hall that he was an exchange student from Crimea (specifically Teodoro, a city I discovered in my research is just a collection of medieval Greek ruins near Kerkuk) and that religious debates were quite fascinating to him. We had no reason to doubt him, his prodigious stores of vodka seemed to corroborate his story, and it is entirely possible he was telling the truth, for I have never been there. Unfortunately, without the cooperation of Records, I am unlikely to ever know this for certain.
Over time I had become quite used to the late-night discussions in the common area and so it took me some time to notice that they had become rather more heated than before Dmitri had arrived in our dorm. There were arguments and even the occasional shouting match. Cries of Blasphemy were becoming frequent. I can only remember fragments of conversation from that period as I was preoccupied with my studies and typically only came out of my room to heat midnight snacks. Still, one thing stands out in memory. Why it afflicted me so, I cannot say, but even the memory of it is disturbing to my countenance.
Dmitri, you see, claimed that he could see demons. Of course, any rational individual would express disbelief at this notion or consider that Dmitri had consumed far too much from his stores of vodka. But there was something different in the way he said it, some emphasis that even I, shuffling through the corridors of the dorm late at night, could pick up. It was entirely possible Dmitri was not sane, but nobody doubted his belief in the demons.
It wasn’t long before the discussions simmered down again. Yet their cheerful, amiable ways never returned and Dmitri’s whisperings grew quiet and almost sinister. I distinctly remember the first time I found the door to the common area closed. You must understand that in the interests of religious tolerance and friendship, the door was categorically never to be closed, so you can understand how profoundly disturbing this was to me.
A wiser man than I might have shrugged these events off as more religious quackery and simply ignored further activities from the Discussion. But curiosity, that constant companion and temptress of men, overcame me. One night, I lingered outside the common area longer than I should, straining to hear the voices inside. But there was only silence, not even a whisper.
The door opened and Dmitri stormed out angrily from the Discussion, mumbling about a warning. Even though I had been caught eavesdropping on the Discussion, he seemed to care little.
He claimed that the Demons were coming for him, that only he could see them. The mechanism behind his claim was murky to me, though a member of the Discussion explained it thusly: Demons, Dmitri had told the Discussion, could be detected in the radiation of their energy, of hot and cold. Some humans, it was explained, could see just a little bit into the infrared spectrum (a topic of considerable interest at the time, due to my Physics major), and thus be seen as a shadow, a haze in the corner of your eye.
Dmitri, naturally, claimed to be just one such individual. And at that moment when he stormed out of the Discussion, his face red with anger and fear, he suddenly stopped and looked into my eyes.
“Behind you.” He said, and his eyes shifted, as if to look at a person peering over my shoulder. Strangely, I felt something in that moment. A slight shift in the temperature or a breeze in the corridor, I cannot say, but it was palpable. It was enough to stir that instinctive fear in me, as the strange behavior of the Discussion and the late hour all combined to make for quite an understandable unease. In the days following, Dmitri took to carrying his bottle of vodka with him wherever he went, even to the dorm’s bathroom. I had heard from other members of the Discussion that he had even been expelled from class for drunken behavior.
A week after that, the Discussion stopped completely. Yet the door to the common area remained closed, and no one dared to open it. Late at night, strange sounds could be heard from the room, similar to the voices of the Discussion. I would pass by that body’s members in the halls, all of whom carefully avoided even looking at the room. It was clear that it had to be empty. My late night snacks became more infrequent as the tension in the dorm grew.
One night I arrived at the dorm from a late night studying session, and I saw the lights of the common area on. Shadows could be seen waving their hands as if in animated debate. By the time I climbed the steps to Eisman 5, I could see that the door remained shut, and no light shone from underneath the door. Nor was there any indication that door had even been opened recently. Yet hints of voice and pieces of a language I had never heard before echoed through the corridor.
That night quite a commotion overtook the floor around 3:00 AM, coincidentally (or perhaps not) the so-called Witching Hour. Screaming voices could be heard; desperate pleas and exhortations. Many members of the Discussion were gathered around Dmitri’s dorm room, whose door was open. As I approached, it became obvious what had concerned them so.
Dmitri was standing on his window ledge, his vodka bottle in one hand, looking down upon the five story drop to the pavement below. He turned to us and there was a hollow anguish in his eyes, a world-weariness that I cannot describe with mere words. As you know, the winter of 1999 was extraordinarily frigid, and yet despite the open window, as tall as Dmitri himself, it remained unseasonably warm in room. In fact, it was so hot that I distinctly recall the odor of sweat about my fellow students.
“They are here.” He told us, his eyes darting here and there. “They followed me, I don’t know how they found me, but they are all here. And they know what I told you.”
Chetan, a man of Sikh persuasion who was an acquaintance of mine, and a talkative member of the Discussion, assured Dmitri that no such demons existed and that he must be under a lot of stress to imagine them. Other students hastily agreed, but I detected no sincerity in their voices. More eyes than those belonging to Dmitri were darting back and forth warily that night.
Somehow, Dmitri was talked down from the window ledge and I must admit to my great chagrin that I cannot even remember who had even done the deed, such was the fear present in that room. As I returned to my dorm room, I distinctly overheard the floor administrator complaining about the malfunctioning heaters. It seemed that despite the perfectly warm temperatures inside Eisman 5, the heaters were actually not operating. When I returned to my room, I found that the administrator had to be correct. No hot air was coming from my vents, yet it was not even cool inside, despite the below-freezing temperatures outdoors.
Naturally few of us managed any sleep that night. The next morning, Dmitri was lead away by several security guards. As far as I know, he never returned to the University. Where he was taken, I cannot say, and the records department has certainly not been cooperative in the matter.
For many weeks thereafter, nobody discussed the affair or even suggested resuming the Discussion. The door to the common area remained closed and even I gave it quite a wide berth when I walked past it, for reasons I can only ascribe to instinct.
As you know, most students returned home for the Holidays, but a few, like myself and Chetan, the only member of the Discussion to remain, stayed in the dorms over the Holiday season. My own parents had since moved to Europe for their retirement and so I had no other place to go. Suffice it to say, Eisman Hall was not a comforting place in those days, the events had unsettled me and the few other remaining residents. Much of our time was spent in the kitchen area (on the opposite side of the building from the common area) in each others company. Thirteen of us had remained behind and spent our time in the kitchen, including myself. None of us would openly admit that fear drove us to this end, but it was also quite well understood. Eisman Hall did not feel safe for any of us.
And so when one of our number failed to show up to the Kitchen on Christmas Eve, we began to worry. But it was entirely possible that the resident was celebrating the holiday with other students elsewhere on campus, so our worry remained relatively subdued. You may recall that on Christmas of 1999, that great Nor’easter from the Atlantic blew in. Power outages were severe and limited resources remained on campus to help us due to the Holiday break.
Yet Eisman hall remained unseasonably warm. When another of our number failed to arrive in the kitchen at the appointed time, we began to worry openly. Surely Chetan would not have left the building in this atrocious, stormy weather, we reasoned. But knocks on his door produced nothing. That was when we noticed that, despite the power outage, light was emanating from the common area.
Chetan’s voice could clearly be heard within. Yet, the words we heard were strange utterances in a tongue we did not know. Now, since Chetan was from India, and none of us were, it was entirely possible that this was simply his native language. But we will never know. The rest of our group did not want to open the door, for now we all expressed that fear we had earlier denied, but for our fellow student I was willing to brave the door.
It is an experience that has haunted to me ever since and is the primary reason that despite my generous donations to the Alumni Association, I have never set foot on campus since my matriculation. Cold blew in immediately, as if the freezing cold of the storm has leaked its way into this room only. But against the cold, I could see the shapes of men. It was like a man’s breath condensing in the frigid air, only it held volume and shape, as if pockets of extreme heat were buried within the freezing cold of the roiling Nor’Easter. The source of the cold was obvious, for someone had opened all the windows in the common area. This was despite that fact that the last any of us had seen from outside, they had most definitely been shut.
It is cowardly, I know, for we all swore we heard Chetan’s voice from within the common area, but we could stand no more of the torment. I shut the door and we ran out into the storm, leaving our belongings behind. It was freezing, but the cold was comforting to us, proof that we had left whatever malevolent force in Eisman 5 behind.
We would later find shelter in the University library, where we waited out the storm. I do not need to tell you what happened next, for the rest is common knowledge on campus. But for sake of completion I shall repeat what I know.
That night Eisman Hall burned to the ground. Official records placed Chetan inside the building when it happened and attributed the fire to malfunctioning electrical equipment, damaged by the power surges from the storm. God only knows how many interviews all of us went through about our strange foresight in leaving the building when we did. Certainly many police officers found our actions oddly suspicious, but we had nothing to tell them except stories of the strange happenings. That, of course, promoted the assignment of several University psychologists to monitor us for some time after.
I never saw any members of the Discussion again, and for a time I was plagued with nightmares from which I would wake up sweating profusely. Odd voices could be heard sometimes, as if they were just outside the door, but therapists assured me that it was just post-traumatic stress from the loss of my friend. Of course, for a time I was convinced that whatever had plagued Dmitri was somehow watching me too, wondering how much I had learned. For many years I did not speak of these tidings. Over time things returned to normal, especially after I completed my degree work and moved away.
To this day, I have heard rumors from Alumni friends of mine that, though Eisman Hall has never been rebuilt in the intervening years, sometimes strange voices can be heard from there and that it is always just a couple of degrees warmer there than the general ambient temperature. This has been explained away by other students in a variety of scientific fashions.
Yet I cannot shake my belief that something strange accompanied Dmitri from his previous residence, something with an otherwordly, malevolent streak. Since the records keeper refuses to answer my inquiries and the school considers this matter closed, I thought to provide this summary in case someday, someone may wish to understand the happenings of 1999.
Certainly, I hope this puts those of us who failed to look after Chetan in a better light, for certainly the school newspaper was quite unkind to us. Perhaps we were cowards, but though all of us would have braved a fire without hesitation, none of us could stand the things we saw that night.
Alumni Association Member