THE FINAL LAUGH

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By: Katherine T.  Monserate

I was  a college freshman,  out with my classmates, celebrating the last day of the school year. We were in a bar in  Libis  drinking  beer and eating  chili squid  rings  when  the conversation turned  to ghost stories. My  friends wanted to talk  about the  freakiest  things  they had  seen in  school.  Mark,  a dormer,  told us about  sneaking  out one night  to stroll  through campus then  regretting  it when he saw a  headless  priest cross  the quadrangle  on its  way to the chapel.  Celine talked  about a computer  in the statistics  classroom that kept  printing  the name Armand.  The name  also kept  appearing  on her monitor  during class.  Another friend talked about hearing a baby cry in the biology lab where the fetus  jars were kept.  I smiled  and made  comments  about their stories, but deep inside I was thinking  that these  people  knew nothing about  real fear. They have  never felt  fear so  gripping  that it  chills  you every time you  remember; a fear  that paralyzes  and haunts  you even  when you’re  awake. The kind  of the  fear that flashes a dreadful  picture in front of you  at odd  times during  the day,  stunning  you into inactivity  for a few  moments. The kind  of fear that hooks  itself into your heart and never lets go.  The group  turned  to me  and asked. “What about you, Kath? Don’t  you have  any  stories to share?”

“Not  really,  guys,” I replied.

“Hey, weren’t you classmates with that  girl who  went  crazy?”

“yeah, what happened to her?” “Someone said she saw a ghost.” “No, they said it was a  pervert ” That’s  not it at all, ” I said.  “So what was it?” I decided  that it was  time to put  the rumors to rest. I owned it to iris and I owed  it to myself.  It was time to let the  world know  the true circumstances  of her  breakdown, that it  wasn’t her  fault.  “Okay, fine. I’ll tell you what  happened. But happened . But after  today I don’t ever want to  hear you talking  about it again. Ever.”

“Sure,” everyone agreed, eager to  hear the real story. “Don’t say I didn’t  warn you. If you ever get a class in  the Comm. Dept.  auditorium, don’t blame me  if you have to drop it,” I told them.

“Maya, you’re so full of drama! Come on, just tell  us what happened,” Celine said, it was our class in  Group Presentations and my group mates  reserved  the Communications Department auditorium. We came in early and found the lights already on and the air con at full blast. I dropped  my   bag in the nearest  seat and set  up the  laptop while the others fixed the projectors and the posters.

As our classmates started  walking in,  I noticed  that our group mate, Iris, was  missing. “Hey, has anyone  seen Iris? I called out. No one  had seen her.  “She was with us when we walked over here. maybe  she’s smoking  outside.”Anton said.

I went  outside and looked  around.  There was  Iris  sitting on a bench  a few feet away. Sure  enough, she was smoking.  “Hey Iris,  let’s go in and  practice  before Ms.  Perez  gets here,” I said as I walked  over.  “Maya, I don’t  feel so well. Maybe you guys could do this without me,” she said  as she blew out a cloud  of smoke.

“Come on, she’ll  fail you if you don’t  present anything  at all. You can just read the first part.”

She grabbed  my hand and pulled  me down to sit beside her. She looked down at her feet. “Maya,  do you feel anything inside that room?”

“No,  I said,  and then  added, “Why?”

She raised  her head and seemed to stare at nothing. She wouldn’t meet my  gaze. “I have to tell you something. Don’t think  I’m a  freak or anything.”

“Iris, we don’t  have time for this, Ms.  Perez is almost here.  We can talk about it later.”

“No. Before you go in there,  you have to know.”

“Know what?” I asked, already irritated that she was  freaking out.  “I can see this girl  sitting on the ceiling beam. She’s on the right side of the  “I can see this girl sitting on the ceiling beam.  She’s on  the right side  of the” I can see  this  girl  sitting on the ceiling  beam. She’s  on the right  side  of the room.”

“Where? Iris, no one can get up  there it’s too high” I can see ghosts, Maya. I can see  things that  no one else  can.  See things that  no one  else should.” She  slowly shook   her head. “I see her sitting there.  She  watches  us walk  in. She laughs  and she keeps  on laughing.”

“Why don’t  you just ignore  her?” I suggested  as I stood  up and started  to walk back towards the room.  I began to feel uneasy.  “Wait, Maya. You can’t go back there.”

“Why not?” I asked. Not turning around.

“Because she keeps  pointing at you.” I stopped. What?”

“When  you walk inside the room, she  turns  to look at you. Then she  points  and starts  laughing.  She follows  you around. She swings  from beam  to beam,  stalking you.”

“That’s  insane, ” I said, I kept   walking.  As we  reached  the door,  Iris  grabbed  my arm. “Look at your  seat . See  if anything strange is going on,”  she said  as she  quietly  opened the door.  The room was full of windows but my  seat was hidden in shadows. It was  right  next to a wall  that held the air con and sunlight did not  reach it. Then I saw that  there  was a wet paddle right next to my bag  on the  chair. Suddenly something small fell from  the ceiling  and landed  on the  puddle. It was a  drop of liquid. Another one fell. As my eyes  moved up to look  for the source  of the drops, I felt  a cold, wet chill move up to look for the source  of  the drops, I felt  a cold, wet chill move up  my spine. My leg muscles started to tremble and I could feel the edges of my vision turn white.  Iris’ grip on my arm tightened. “Don’t  look up, “she whispered. I hesitated for a moment. I knew that she was right. I knew that if I looked  up,  I would regret it. But I couldn’t  help it.  I saw her. A girl sat on the  wooden beams of the ceiling. She had wild  black  hair and a sallow gray face. She was  looking down at something, then her head  snapped  around and she looked straight at me.  Her eyes  were all black.  Her pale mouth opened  and stretched, showing  her rotten brown teeth, Her  hand slowly moved up and  she  pointed  one finger directly at me.  She started  to laugh . At first it was a king of mocking laughter with chuckles that made her shoulders shake and her  finger waver. Then it  built  up to a high screeching  laughter that made her  bounce  up and  down and swing her legs. She never stopped looking at me.  Her head shook  and her  body  rocked  back and forth as she  laughed.  I  could  feel the  hairs on the back of my neck stand and my fingers became  numb. My heart was beating so fast that I felt my  pulse pounding  in my head. My throat  constricted and I could barely breathe.

She laughed until there was  drool  pooling  at the sides of her mouth. It was a thick yellow slime  that slowly flowed  to her chin and began to drip  down. It fell to the  puddle  on my chair. She grinned and,  while looking  at me, opened her hand,  palm up.  She was  calling me. I shut the door  and pushed Iris’ hand away. I ran  as fast as  I could  to the  chapel. I sat there and prayed  for an hour until my group mates came looking  for me.  They gave me back my things and  asked  if I was okay.  I lied and told them I felt sick  and thanked them for  bringing my stuff.

My bag  was wet with a thick yellowish fluid that smelled sour  and rotten. I   took my things  and threw the bag away. I didn’t  want to bring home anything that reminded me of that day. My memories were clear enough. The following  week I shifted to  a different course so that I  wouldn’t  have to go  back to the Comm. Auditorium ever again.

As for Iris she withdrew from School  and her family migrated to a country that  had better psychotherapy clinics. We never saw her again. To this day, when I think of Iris so desperate to leave, I couldn’t  help but  wonder…. What else  did she  see?

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