Haunted Harkness Hallucinations

Sophie Bilanin ’26 in Features | October 21, 2022

A student is woken by silence. The eerie quietness of her room shoots fear into her veins, pumping sensation through her blood and into her shaking hands. Goosebumps race down her arms as though a chill has swept under the bedsheets. She turns to check the time; upon realizing, the color drains from her cheeks: it is 9:08 AM. The student rolls out of bed and falls to the ground, her nose hitting the floor with a crack. She can smell something tangy, metallic. Blood drips from her nostrils, but she cannot afford to stop. Ringing echoes through her skull. It grows louder with each second as she grabs her books and backpack. The door slams shut behind her, and she gasps, realizing that she forgot her phone and key fob. How will she ever get back in her room without the public safety app? Yet the student must persevere. She races down the empty hall; flickering overhead lights cast shadows on the walls and illuminate the terrors of the first-floor Dawes House common room.
She has forgotten her shoes; rocks slice the bottoms of her feet as she sprints across The Bowl. Red footprints mark her path to the Kirby Math and Science Center. The student finally makes it to the building's entrance. She arrives at her classroom with only seconds to spare before the bell rings. The fresh cuts on her feet sting upon contact with the carpet. She sinks into her desk chair, pulls her knees to her chest, and hides her head to avoid the glares aimed at her disheveled hair and clothes. A math test is placed upside down in front of her; she stares at the blank paper. The student’s heartbeat pulses in her fingers as she grips her pencil tighter and tighter. Her efforts are in vain—her hand will not stop shaking. She flips the paper, but the questions are an incoherent blur. The words and numbers dance around the paper, laughing at her, taunting her. Their voices overwhelm the ringing in her ears, and begin to shout. 
A piece of stray hair covers the student's eye, pulling her away from her thoughts. She moves to push it behind her ear, only for the lock to fall into her hand. Eyes widened in horror, she runs her hands through her hair as strands begin to fall from her head onto the desk. Soon, her fingernails run over nothing but her bare scalp. The student opens her mouth and screams. She spills her soul out of her vocal cords in an awful, ear-splitting scream. She doesn’t stop screaming when a group of figures from Public Safety enters the room and lifts her from the chair. She doesn’t stop screaming as 14 pairs of eyes watch the figures drag her away, gazes darkened with disgust and judgment.
“…Excuse me? Hello?!” A voice interrupts her dream, and the student slowly wakes to find herself in the true nightmare: a Harkness discussion. She can hear the stifled laughter from her classmates as the teacher storms across the room to where she is sitting. She has escaped being late to class, getting locked out of her room, failing a math test, and humiliating herself completely, only for her to miss the dance this Saturday night because of a detention. She sighs and accepts her fate.