Visited, or Visitors? (a weird college story)
So this is my own Weird College Shit story and requires some set up. I had my first year of college in 2009-10, and I spent it at a tiny school in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farms. The nearest major city was about three hours drive away. The small town I lived in was literally built around the college. My apartment was to the east of school grounds, and my high school best friend (we’ll call her Elise) was in the dorms on the opposite side of campus.
Elise was heavily involved in the drama department. I was in the improv troupe, but my depression and social anxiety meant I was more of an outlier than a “true” drama kid at the college. (They tended to devote all their time and energy to whatever play was happening at the given time and I just… couldn’t.) As a result, while Elise was invited to every drama department-hosted get together in existence, I only found out when she asked if I wanted to go along.
It was Halloween and while most of the college students were at a huge party being held at an apartment as far from campus as possible in this Nowheresville of a town, one of the seniors in the drama department had rented out the black box theatre for the night. Dress code was 1920s and 1940s, and they’d hired a few members of the school’s junior jazz band for live music.
Elise forgot to tell me until the day of the party. As a result, while her hair and make up were perfect and she was dressed in a pretty, beaded and fringed dress from a play she’d done in junior high, along with a faux fur coat borrowed from the props department for the occasion, I had nothing era-appropriate. I ended up going in my clubbing clothes - a mini black dress, a leather jacket, skull-print stockings, and my knee-high, PVC bitch boots. (The heavy jewelry and black lipstick was just a required addition at that point.)
Please keep in mind that neither of us had anything to drink that night, so everything that happened hereafter was while we were both stone cold sober.
We arrived late, only to find we weren’t really welcome. Everyone was acting… off. (We found out later that one of Elise’s “friends” had been spreading ugly rumors about her, jealous that Elise had gotten a part for which they had both tried out.) When we approached folks to say hello, they were polite but talked over any of our attempts to join in their conversations. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and at the time we had no clue why, which was aggravating. Despite the party going to till 2 AM, the pair of us decided to call it a night after half an hour, heading back to Elise’s around 11 PM.
Despite never talking about it, the deal whenever we went somewhere late was always that I would get Elise back to her dorm room, then call her as soon as I got to my apartment. (Neither of us had a car, and of us two I was the paranoid one who carried a knife and pepper spray, and had no problem telling people who were creeping me out to fuck off or being willing to actually dial the local police dispatch number if my instincts started screaming.)
We were walking through the middle of the deserted campus on the way to Elise’s, when we passed the bell tower. (Just to clarify, the “tower” is actually three open blocks built of bricks, the first one five-by-five across, and the same in height. Each block was progressively smaller, stacked on top of one another with four clocks set into the sides of the top block, all showing the same time.) What caught my attention was the three people sitting in the open space underneath. They seemed about our age, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Two guys and one girl, all wearing beanies, light coats, and flip flops despite the cold. (It was low-30s Fahrenheit, or 0-2° C.)
One of them had a bongo drum. He was keeping a beat, while the other two traded lines of improvised poetry.
I slowed down enough to figure out what they were saying. Elise was shivering, but I was wearing more layers than her so I didn’t feel the chill as strongly. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d plopped myself down beside the trio and pulled Elise onto my lap, wrapping my arms around her to keep her warm.
I nodded to the last person to speak - the girl. The three of them were staring at us, but eventually she repeated the last line she’d said, and I responded with a new line.
We went back and forth, from me to the girl to me to the boy, and around again. Bongo Guy started to up the speed of his beat pattern with each turn. I can’t repeat a single line from the entire time now, and only have a distant memory of feeling lightheaded and high. (A few days later when I asked Elise about it, she told me our words were about the moon and old gods and eternity vs the human life span. She said she’d been surprised and caught up in the whole thing until she didn’t care that she was freezing her ass off.)
This went on until the bell above us started to chime the time - 12 AM. I was suddenly aware of how bad Elise was trembling from the night air, and the cold I’d been ignoring came creeping up my body. I finished a pair of rhyming lines as I stood and helped Elise to her feet, then gave the trio a little bow. (I was in a traveling Shakespeare troupe in high school. You don’t finish a verse of poetry without a bow. It’s Just Not Done.) I wished them “a lovely All Hallow’s” and goodnight. They nodded and stayed seated.
I got Elise to her dorm then headed for my apartment. On the way, I passed by the bell tower again. The three people were no longer there.
No names were exchanged that night, and in the two semesters Elise and I were at the school, neither of us saw them on campus or in the town before we left the school.
My favorite part about the whole thing is that from my perspective, these three modern beatniks were strange and possibly magic. But from their point of view, what did me and Elise seem like? Two girls you don’t recognize (one wearing a flapper dress, and one looking like she just walked out of a 90s goth club) invite themselves into your poetry circle on Halloween, three days before a full moon. One of them matches you, line for line, for nearly an hour. And as soon as the clock strikes Midnight, they leave. You never see them again.