TITLE: The Locked Door
GENRE: Scifi/women's fiction
I have tried to imagine the day I died in that other world almost ten
years ago. Certain details stand out because it was an especially
aggravating day. The rest is easy to fill in with all the mundane
details of college dorm life. I was never one to place any stock in
the chaos theory or the butterfly effect. You know, the nonsense that
a butterfly flapping its wings in Argentina is going to cause a
tornado in Texas. I always figured if that were true, the jiggling of
my thighs would be causing tsunamis in Southeast Asia.
It turns out that there are ripple effects that derive from
our very existence, even from a life as pathetic as mine.
And there are worse things than a tsunami.
Even though this story is about me, I can’t look at her death in
first person. I lived. I didn’t die that day. So I am evoking third
person, just for this. Just so I can tolerate the gruesome nature of
my own murder.
Hannah Dean was nineteen years old that day in October 1999. She was
a skinny, geeky thing with flat mousey hair and granny glasses. It
was her sophomore year at the University of Washington and she was
engaged to a wonderful, handsome man who had graduated months before.
Nathan was commissioned in the United States Navy. He had already
gone through Officer Candidate School during the summer and had just
started Naval Nuclear Power School in Goose Creek, South Carolina.
She lived for his phone calls, when they got through. Which was rare
because her psycho-bitch roommate, Daphne Davidson, was always on the
Daphne was the roommate from hell. She was gorgeous to behold, and
she knew it. That was the problem. When Daphne walked into a room
with that certain saunter to her hips, you could feel everyone’s gaze
turn to her. However, her beauty was the exact opposite of her
corrosive character. She was a user, and proud of it. Her parents
were sweet and moneyed, but it was easy to see their weariness. I’m
sure it was a relief to have her away at college, where someone else
had to suffer her machinations. Boys were the usual victims. She
changed boyfriends like underwear – very nasty underwear. One
desperate boy crawled across asphalt naked, just to gain her favor.
She mocked him and shared pictures of the stunt with all her friends,
who passed them on to his friends and so on, like a wicked game of
Telephone. Her friends weren’t treated much better, but they still
remained her satellites, circling her in endless awe and devotion.
They were little blonde clones, dressing the same, eating the same
(which meant not eating), and listening to the same music. They even
spoke in the same chatty tone, all with the same cadence and gestures.
The Stepford Skanks.
Most any other year, Hannah could have applied in writing and been
able to switch roommates after the initial waiting lists were filled.
No, that wasn’t possible that 1999 school year. The campus was
slammed with new residents. The rooms that should have been doubles
were forced to triple capacity. Hannah ended up getting an additional
roommate, Kendall, a blonde with a frizzy poof of hair like an
electrocuted poodle. Kendall wasn’t one of the blondes like Daphne;
no, she was the real thing, the one all the blonde jokes are about.
Sweet, innocent, and a total airhead. It was nice not to suffer
Daphne alone, but they suffered enough by being pressed together as
tight as a Friday night laundry bag.
Despite the distracting presence of Daphne, Hannah insisted that her
dorm room was her sanctuary and study zone. Hannah was the sort who
received an assignment in class and returned to her room to start it
immediately. Procrastination was a dirty word that only referred to
the actions of other people. That October brought an endless stream
of literature assignments – the peril of any English major. Hannah
loved reading, she loved writing, but sometimes it just seemed like
too much. Regardless, there was no point in putting it off.
Nathan had left her an old laptop and printer. It was a clunky
thing, slow, but it was perfect for typing, even if she couldn’t go
on-line. Since there wasn’t space for three desks in the room, she
had the laptop set up on a stretch of counter underneath the room’s
singular window. Her laptop and implements took up half the space on
the counter; Daphne’s make-up and beauty supplies occupied the rest.
The keyboard, screen, and printer paper all bore a lacquered-layer of
hair spray. Ahead of her, the window offered a spectacular view south
of the campus where Mount Rainer loomed like an omnipresent god. The
volcano looked down upon Seattle, upon the campus, upon Hannah, its
gaze cool, aloof, yet always majestic. A single glance reminded
Hannah of childhood hikes and the crunch of snow, even on a baking
summer day. Rainier was a friend beyond her window, and not even
Daphne’s whining could take that vista away.
Besides the computer and a stack of books, Hannah’s most
important accessory was a pair of good headphones.
Daphne would not shut up.
“Oh my God!” Daphne cackled. “You so did not! You did? Seriously?
What did he do then? Oh my God, you mean it actually worked out just
like it said in the magazine? Serious?”
Hannah gnashed her teeth, fingers curling in rage as she tried to
type. The volume was so high that she couldn’t even hear the
obnoxious clunking of the keys, yet Daphne’s babbling on the phone
rang through with the clarity of a car horn. It had already dragged
on for over an hour, ever since Daphne returned from class. When one
call ended, another began, and all of it was about sex, gossip, and
parties. It was never ending.