With the washing machine now doing its work, Chike took off his jacket, then brought out his novel. He’d been on the first story for about 2 weeks now. Well, he was not to blame. School work was just too much right now, and he always found the whole thing funny anytime he remembered how he’d been told that the second semester was going to be easier than the first.
Four intensive lectures and three course-works later, all within the first week of the first week of the semester, he was already revising his perception of the whole thing.
Chike opened the book to where he’d stopped and continued reading about how Mr. Oxenhope reacted after meeting the resident ghost of the Clamber Court mansion in the story, The Unsettled Dust. Five minutes later, he felt a cold draft on his skin. He looked up, then stretched his neck around and behind him, checking for any open windows. None. Puzzled, he brought his eyes around…
…and a flash of white caught his eye.
Chike turned to look properly, taking care not to blind himself on the sharp edge of the machine-top beside him. There. The blond hair. He stood up fully and looked at her. Chike took off his earphones, stopped the music and pocketed his phone. The little girl smiled, and somehow the room became colder. Shivering a bit, Chike looked at his skin, saw it was puckered in goose bumps; was the main door open?
Then some warmth returned, and Chike looked up. The girl was gone. Frowning, Chike looked at the floor, then looked at the book in his hand. Was his choice of literature messing with his head? He heard that playful giggle again, from the corridor surely, and then the patter of little feet. Both sounded hollow. Chike walked out to the corridor and turned just in time to see the doors to the stairs down the corridor swing shut. Chike listened, then looked the other way. The wind still raged on outside, and Chike didn’t think anyone would be out on the grounds with the weather acting up this way. Maybe a few in the library, but he was sure that 95% of the students would be in bed, snoring the morning away or just lying in bed. He walked to the door of the undergraduate cafeteria and looked in. Nobody.
Just as he was about to try the door, a young man in a blue apron appeared within the restaurant, pushing a trolley filled with ceramic plates. Satisfied, Chike went back to the laundry room. As he stepped inside, he heard an explosion, and the door of one of the machines he was using flew open, then slammed shut again.
“Oh God,” he breathed, rushing to the machine. He bent down and looked in through the glass door. His clothes were wet, but the machine wasn’t spinning anymore.
And this was happening just three minutes into the main-wash cycle! Chike opened the detergent compartment, checking to see if water was still rushing. Nothing.
“What’s this one now eh?” Chike asked no one in particular. He put his left hand into the compartment…
…and the hot water gushed out, scalding him.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!” Chike snatched back his hand, cradling it as he shuffled backwards. He sat down heavily, looking at his hand; it was slowly going red, and hurting like hell.
The room went cold again, and he heard that giggle again. The pain doubled and he cried out. Damn! Where was the mother of this kid? He stood up and she looked at him, her head cocked to the side as though she were deciding what to do.
To hell with this, he was going to take her to her mother.
“Where’s your Mum?” Chike asked her as he walked towards her grimacing. His hand was really throbbing now. And no cold water here to douse it in. He would check the toilets for-
The girl turned and pit-pattered off.
“HEY!” Chike called out, quickening his footsteps. He turned and looked, just in time to see the doors to the stairs swing shut, again.
That…was downright impossible. It was beyond that; it was impossi-can’t. She’d had like what, a two, three second lead? Even Usain Bolt wasn’t that fast, not to talk of a little kid. For a moment, his mind went cold, then blank, and then the throbbing in his hand reminded him of the trouble in the laundry room. Visibly bothered, Chike turned and walked back to the laundry. He stopped in the doorway, like he’d hit a brick wall.
The little girl was standing there, giggling for all she was worth, in front of one of the dryers.
Chike could only manage a weak “Huh?” He was too surprised to be afraid. He looked out at the corridor, then back at her. Maybe she’d hidden herself on the other side as he’d looked and then she’d-
All conscious thought flew out of Chike’s head when the girl opened the dryer and climbed inside, pulling the door shut behind her.
“HEEEEEEEEEEY”!!!!!! Chike screamed, forgetting his throbbing hand and running towards the machine. Three steps in, and the dryer came on by itself.
“JESUS!” Chike exclaimed. He heard her goggle again-did she think this was fun? He looked in and saw a white blur as the machine began to spin, the laughter spinning with it.
“CHINEKE!!!” Chike exclaimed in his native tongue, as he pressed a button to stop the machine. Nothing. He pressed and pressed and pressed, and the machine began to spin faster.
“SOMEBODY HELP!!!!!!!” Chike didn’t want to think of the consequences of this situation. Him, a foreigner, alone in the laundry room, with the body of a little British girl in the dryer. He would become a case study in the study of psychopaths. “HEEEEEEEELP!!!!!” And that laughter, was it louder now?
The machine slowed, and Chike tried to claw it open. T wouldn’t budge. He yanked one more time…
…and the door of one of the washing machines opposite the dryers opened. Steam billowed out of it, then a dripping, white, little hand appeared.
A shoulder, clad in a white dress.
Little female face.
Small, dainty, dripping feet.
She climbed out and turned to face Chike. Her hair was now lank and plastered onto her head. All warmth was gone from the room, despite the steam; in fact it was cold steam. Chike stooped and stared. Turned to look at the dryer.
The washing machine.
He looked up at her.
Forget being the bigger man here.