"Oh, please help!" C., dressed in early-twentieth-century clothing, cried to the new arrivals. "My sister--she drank lye, and I don't know what to do!"
R., portraying the sister, lurched and released her mouthful of stage blood. Then she crumpled on the dirty, black, Rose Room floor.
"Please!" C. begged. "Help m--!"
She froze, staring toward the gap in the curtains whence M. had emerged, in black dress and veil. My cue. I tugged on the rocking chair line with one hand and the piano line with the other.
Creak. Clash! Creak. Plink!
C. raised the bottle of 'lye', 'drank' from it, and collapsed on the floor.
Finding the curtain-line, which I had marked with a safety pin, I yanked on that too. The curtain twitched, but didn't fall. I pulled again. No luck. Seeing that the curtain was convulsing on the wall but refusing to come down, M. reached over and tore it off.
I emerged from behind the piano and joined the rest for notes. I got plenty of compliments for my rigging-work, especially of the instrument.
"It's ten o' clock now," Ms. B., the head of the drama department, announced. "I want everyone out of here by twenty after. If you need to call your parents now, go ahead."
There was one final stop on the haunted house tour, however: the Insidious hallway. This too could only accommodate groups of ten. This time, I ended up in the first one.
There was no lighting in the narrow corridor formed by the black curtain and the mirrored back wall of the Rose. No light, that is, save for that provided by J.'s small, wind-up lantern, which he held out as he beckoned us inside.
"Come in, come in!"
The corridor contained figure after figure under white sheets. Some of them were mannequins. Most of them weren't. Still, none of them moved as J. methodically pulled their sheets off.
They made me supremely uncomfortable. Not scared, exactly, just very nervous. I knew there was going to be a jump-scare at some point, most likely at the end. And when I get nervous, I tend to start up with a peculiar, choking sort of laughter.
"Are you alright?" the freshman in the clown suit asked me.
"I'm fine," I replied.
At the final sheet-covered figure, J. hesitated before dramatically tearing off the fabric. The girl beneath waited a beat, then screamed.
We piled out into the cafeteria, where it was safe and bright. I borrowed a phone to call my parents, then collected my things out of the Rose and left to wait at the benches beside the bus ramp for my dad.
It was chilly outside, but not too cold. The night was dark, and the campus was quiet and unnervingly empty. A few people passed me while I waited, but there were some minutes-long spans of time where I was utterly and completely alone. I may as well have been the only living being in the world.