September 23, 2009

Everything's Jake?

When I was a freshman in college, I lived in what was called an “open double” – a tiny room, big enough for two beds, two closets and about three feet of empty floor space between the two sides.

I shared the room with my “randomly selected by computer” roommate, Jake, who had the charming habit of howling like a wolf for no apparent reason, and keeping all of his nail clippings for posterity inside an old prescription bottle on his nightstand. Don’t get me wrong – I liked Jake, it’s just that he was a bit odd.

Anyway, one of the few perks of living with Jake was the refrigerator he had rented, which allowed us to keep ice cold six-packs of soda in our room, accessible to us at all hours of the day and night. And as freshmen in college, we pulled plenty of all-nighters, during which tons of caffeine were very much in demand.

We were also, like most college students, extremely lazy – so rather than walk the three doors down the hall to the recycle room to rid ourselves of the empty aluminum cans, we instead started the “Great Wall of Cola” in our room, stacking them along the far wall until they threatened to block the window completely.

Across the hall lived Braun, who we were friends with. One day, as we sat in his room talking about this-and-that to avoid starting our homework, Braun started sharing a story about an experience he and his friends had with a Ouija board. Apparently, as the story went, they made contact with a “demon” and when they demanded he show himself, the bookcase on the wall fell to the ground, causing Braun and his friends to flee the scene, screaming in terror. And since, the demon was never formally asked to leave, Braun believed it was still following him, playing practical jokes on him so that he wouldn’t forget he was lurking.

Braun described two specific things the demon liked to do. One was to mess with clocks, by causing the time to jump ahead to where all the numbers matched. For example, he said, picking up his digital clock… it was currently 3:50. “If you left the room for five minutes, you’d look at this clock and it would suddenly read 5:55.”

The other thing the demon liked to do was to leave objects in full view of closed doors, so that when you opened it, the first thing you’d see was something that didn’t belong there – like say, a blue sponge sitting in the middle of your dining room table, when you knew all the sponges you’d bought for your house were yellow.

It was a very interesting tale, and while I didn’t buy a word of it, it was clear to me that Braun believed what he was saying, which made it all the more riveting a story. Still, as it was now almost a quarter after 4, and we all needed to get started on some work before heading out to the dining hall at 5… Jake and I said our goodbyes, and walked the two steps across the hall to our locked door.

It took no more than five seconds for us to be back in Braun’s room. We dragged him quickly across the hall, and very slowly reopened the door which we had just slammed shut, and showed him what was inside.

There, next to my digital clock which for some unknown reason was telling me it was 4:44, was a single empty can of Mountain Dew, a beverage which had not previously occupied either Jake’s refrigerator, or the “Great Wall.”

To this day, I cannot explain how that can got there, nor how the time on my clock had changed. And though I don’t believe in Braun’s demon, let’s just say I’m not going to be playing with any Ouija boards anytime soon.

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