“You saw it too, didn’t ya Nick,” Erika asked.
“Yeah, I saw it all. The dead body, the engraved pentagram on its back, the horrified students watching. All of it. But I didn’t see you there,” I said.
“I was there. Just on the other side of the crowd. But I was one of the first to see it.”
“Says the person who comes to campus early even when she only has afternoon classes.”
“Hey, if something’s happening on campus, I want to be there when it does!”
“Then what about that time I saw someone just like you take the bus to campus? You said it was your twin sister.”
“That’s because she can’t drive. I don’t get why she didn’t want to share an apartment with me. But anyway, I’ll let the rumors about that murder speak for themselves.”
“OK, but I still don’t believe that twin sister excuse of yours.”
“It’s true. You just don’t want to believe it, do you?”
It did feel strange to have classes resume despite the murder. You’d think we need time away for our protection, but a decision is still up in the air hours after the discovery.
When I returned to my apartment later that day, I noticed some students loading gasoline tanks and rope into an SUV in the parking lot. A thumping sound came from the trunk, but it didn’t seem too loud.
“What was that all about?” I thought.
The next morning, I saw Erika on the bus ride to campus. I wasn’t sure if she was Erika’s sister. She had the same hairstyle, but she wore a necklace.
“Is that her? They look alike, but it could just be a coincidence.” I thought.
I didn’t want to know if my friend was fooling with me, so I just ignored her. But for a moment, I thought she stared at me.
Later that morning, Erika and I met in the library.
“Witchcraft? Seriously? That’s impossible,” I said.
“Professor Lazare told me about it, especially the witch trials. The local authorities even want his assistance,” she said.
“He didn’t say that in my class with him!”
“You have him once per week, whereas I have him three times a week. Plus, he gives me private tutoring once a week. I do wonder why he only does this with me. And before you ask, she doesn’t have it with my sister. Just me. He told me that when I asked him.”
As I walked to my next class in the afternoon, I heard a scream from one of the classrooms. I went inside to find another dead body under some desks. Engraved on her back was a pentagram, just like the other victim had. A crowd of students and professors were inside as well.
I thought I saw Erika looking at me among the crowd. Or at least I thought it was, but the necklace gave it away. I also think I saw a professor grinning at the corpse.
Later that day, I received a phone call while I worked on homework in my apartment.
“Hello?” I asked.
“I heard you were interested in the murders lately,” a voice said.
“Wait, Erika? Didn’t we talk about them already?”
Erika’s voice sounded different. Was she feeling well? And why ask me about what we discussed already?
“Erika? You must be referring to my twin sister. She’s told me about you.”
“Wait, she wasn’t lying?”
“My sister would never lie to anyone. Not even to you.”
I didn’t trust that response.
“Nice try, Erika. I know you’re still fooling me with that twin sister excuse.”
“So you don’t believe me? Then I’ll cut to the chase. Students are burning other students off-campus. The victims are suspects in the string of murders. They had no say in proving their innocence.”
Since when were students killing each other?
“What? Seriously? Why? And how do you know all of this?”
“I’d watch my back if I were you. Some students only want to save their skin, so they pin the blame on others. It won’t be long until they get to you. You all should have just minded your business since late August!”
“What do you mean, Erika? Why tell me this now?”
She hung up before I got an answer.
“Geez! What’s her problem?”
Still, that abrupt change in attitude bothered me. Could all of this be some kind of prank? Or is there a murderer on campus?
I was out of luck for answers because Erika wasn’t around for a week. Even her social media stopped updating. Now that I think about it, I didn’t see her since I saw that dead body in the classroom.
Then I considered what her alleged twin told me. Students killing each other off-campus? No chance to prove themselves? Only out for their skin? And what did she mean by they were coming for me? Is this some kind of nightmare? Will I die next? These questions distracted me from my afternoon class that day. Still, who is the murderer? It couldn’t be Erika, right? She’s my friend. She would never lie to me!
My thoughts would have to wait when a campus police officer interrupted class and took center stage in the room.
“Students, I’m afraid all in-person classes are to be canceled indefinitely due to the string of deaths on campus. Whether they be from the alleged Wiccan or the students seeking retaliation, these events have turned our campus community into a hazard. I ask all of you to take your belongings, evacuate the campus, and stay safe. But do not kill students you believe to be involved in witchcraft. You have the beliefs, but where’s your proof? That is all,” he said.
And just like that, we were all sent home. In my case, it was back to my apartment. I wasn’t sure if my parents wanted me to move out of my apartment, but I’ll have to ask them later.
But when I took out my phone to schedule an Uber, there was a text message for me. It was posted at least an hour ago.
“There’s a secret room in the Biology lab. Meet me there if you want to see Erika,” it said.
At first, I thought it was a spam message, but I didn’t want to leave campus without getting an answer, so I went to the Biology lab.
“You’re Nick, correct?” someone asked.
I turned around. “What is it?” I asked.
He gave me a composition book. “Someone wanted you to have this. Don’t ask me why. She wanted to remain anonymous.”
Why would someone give me a book like that? It felt strange at first, but I saw a familiar name on the book.
When I got to the Biology lab, I found a strange alcove in the back. Inside it was a path with red marking all over it. The markings gave me the chills.
Eventually, I came across a strange room. Books stacked across the room surrounded the pentagram in the center. It does look like a lair for the murderer, but why in the Bio lab?
When I walked across the pentagram, a body fell from the ceiling and landed on me. As I got up, a red liquid painted my hand. When I saw the body, I recognized who it was. It was Professor Lazare. He had a stab wound on his chest.
“No, she couldn’t have!” I said.
“So you came,” a voice said.
I looked behind me to see Erika’s alleged sister in a witch’s outfit. Her face looked emotionless.
“So you’re Erika’s sister? Or are you just a fake?” I asked.
She walked towards me. “She wasn’t lying, you know? Geez, you’re stubborn. If only she was more explicit back then.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s true. Erika wanted us to meet sometime. She wanted us to be happy. If only she didn’t take up Professor Lazare’s offer. If only those people weren’t curious. If only you all didn’t discover that body in the pond.”
I pointed to Professor Lazare’s body. “Then why did you do this?”
“I just wanted to protect her. But Lazare used her to get closer to me! He wanted to use me for his experiments! He even encouraged students to kill for him, hiding his involvement! No one had to die over this!”
“Even if Erika was here, would she be happy knowing you killed someone?”
“But he’s gone. Now no one will...”
I embraced her. “Killing won’t solve anything, Aradia.”
She gasped. “How did you...”
“Someone gave me this.” I showed her the composition book. “There was a note addressed to me. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to save her.”
“Wait, Erika’s diary?” At that moment, Aradia hugged me.
I could see tears running down her face. “Erika, why? Why didn’t you tell me this before? Why? I don’t know what to do...” She dug her face into my chest, crying.
“It’s OK Aradia. We’ll move on from this. For her sake.”