by Sheri’ Flyte, Scare Off Contest Winner
I hated going down into the Pool Science basement. It had nothing to do with the blood spatter left behind by the Forensics students or the occasional sighting of a three inch long centipede before it skittered into a dark corner. It was the claustrophobic feeling it had. The constant ducking to avoid smacking your head into a steel pipe. Practically crawling on the floor to get underneath a vent. The complete lack of windows. Only one way to leave. Radio transmissions were sketchy at best, if you were lucky. But the fire extinguishers had to be checked, and it was my turn to go into the basement. When I walked up the stairs, finished with my task, something felt…off.
The strobe lights of the newly installed fire alarm system were flashing, but there was no sound to accompany it. Looking out the doors facing Rodale, the hazy, fog-like air lit up intermittently with the brilliant blue of the emergency phone light. I left the building hurriedly as I attempted to contact dispatch or the other officer. Nothing but radio silence and a strange haze in the night air greeted me. I caught a familiar scent on the breeze that poked at the recesses of memory, but I couldn’t place it.
Getting into the patrol vehicle, I sped to the office, seeing alarm and emergency strobes emanating from every building. Once I arrived, I flew into the office to change my radio and find out what was going on. But the office was empty. It was never empty. And even with the fresh radio, I received no response from the other officer.
Running to Butz, I found that none of the students had evacuated because there was no audible alarm. I began knocking on all of the doors, yelling “Campus Police! You need to leave the building!” No one came out. Keying into each room, I found them all devoid of occupants. The same occurred in Curtis, Moore, and Steinbright. Everyone was just…gone.
I took the patrol vehicle through the streets of Allentown and Bethlehem, finding nothing but emptiness and silence. Even cricket chirps were nonexistent. I called every number in my cell phone with no results and the mist left an ash-like residue as it settled on every available surface.
As the days went by, the darkness remained and I continued to catch that scent. Like the remains of a barbeque pit, it smelled like overcooked animal flesh. A hollow sound escaped my lips echoing in the silence as I realized I was utterly alone, and a T.S. Eliot verse stormed through my head. “This is the way the world ends; Not with a bang but a whimper.”
I wish he had been wrong.