The Boy in the Hallway
(Dutch Harbor, Alaska, USA)
(Photo from Alex Campos flickr CreativeCommons)
People often ask each other if they have any real-life scary stories to tell—usually around a campfire or as a means to kill time on a long road trip. When I am asked this question, the answer is always the same: No, I don’t believe in that sort of thing.
But in my mind, I know there could be nothing further from the truth. Chandi and I talk about it every now and then, one of the girls I was with that night; the only one with whom I still speak. But there is no one else.
I was twelve years old, at a slumber party on a Saturday night. There were five of us and staying at a classmate’s home; her name was Autumn. I don’t remember the other girl’s names…only Chandi, Autumn—and the new girl to our class, Nona.
Nona was very pretty, but also quiet and a little strange. I’m afraid to admit that none of us really liked her, except Chandi. Suffice to say that Chandi was the only reason she’d gotten invited. Nona was acting even stranger that night, leaving our company every few minutes.
We heard her giggling to herself in the next room, always returning with a bizarre smile on her face. Autumn’s parents were gone for the majority of the night and we’d been left to our own devices. It was around nine o’clock and we’d already run out of movies to watch.
Autumn suggested we talk about her favorite subject: boys. We did so for a while, revealing our crushes on classmates or celebrities. Eventually our conversation morphed into its own sort of game, sitting in a circle and taking turns describing the perfect boy.
When it came to Nona’s turn, she said she didn’t want to play. Autumn wasn’t going to let her off that easy though. She pushed Nona until she relented to play along. Autumn was sitting directly across from Nona, her back to her open bedroom door leading to the hallway.
Nona paused mid-sentence, looked above Autumn’s head to the hallway, then smiled. She then began to describe a boy with dark blonde hair, blue eyes, and a dimple in his cheek. A boy who wore a Seattle Supersonics t-shirt because they were his favorite team; she said the Supersonics were here favorite team as well.
The room went silent and Autumn’s face went pale. I shot a nervous glance at Chandi, whose mouth was open wide. Autumn’s eyes filled with tears but the rest of her face was all rage. Nona moved to our small town in April, but for those of us who had never been anywhere else, it was obvious that Nona was describing Autumn’s brother, Jerermy.
The sixteen year-old brother who’d died in a car crash three months before Nona and her mother moved to town.
“What is wrong with you!” Autumn screamed at Nona’s terrified face.
“What?” Nona pleaded. “What did I do wrong? I just thought he was nice.”
Before I could say anything else, Autumn jumped up from her seated position, reached through the circle of us…and slapped Nona across the face. Nona started to cry and, Autumn locked herself in the bathroom and started to cry as well.
None of us moved while Nona sat sobbing and holding the check Autumn had slapped, asking again and again what she had done wrong. Finally Chandi asked Nona why she had described the boy that way. “In the hallway…”Nona voice barely made out in answer.
Chandi told her softly that Autumn was upset because the picture in the hallway was of her dead brother. Nona looked confused, and then said the words that still give me a chill to this day. “Picture? No, he was standing in the hallway!” Nona’s mother came to pick her up a half hour later.
When she left, we went to the hallway to find the picture of Jeremy smiling in a Seattle Supersonics t-shirt, a picture we’d seen so many times walking through that we barely noticed it anymore. But because of that, none of us had looked before to see that it was no longer there.
Autumn’s mother had taken it down and replaced it with a picture of Jeremy as an infant baby, dressed all in blue. That night when I went to bed, I clasped my eyes shut to the dark and tried not to think of what Nona had been doing earlier that night, going back and forth, giggling to herself in the next room.
To this day, I still try hard not to think of the boy in the green and yellow shirt... forever standing in the hallway.