Freshman

by Epiphany Ferrell

It occurred to Marion that she’d been lying in bed quite a long time. At first she’d watched the shadow from the windowpane move up the wall, across the ceiling, down the other wall. Then she’d not been able to see it anymore. It all seemed gray, the indistinct light of not-quite-morning. She found the quiet troubling. She’d asked for a room at the end of the hall, a single room, but even so, all day and most of the night she could hear her fellow students walking, talking, slamming doors, laughing. And now nothing.

Marion sat up, looked around. Her room was dusty. A butterfly, a swallowtail of some sort, dark-winged, lay dead on the open book by Marion’s laptop. She’d collected butterflies as a child, but didn’t recognize this species.

When she stood, the floor was cold. She rubbed her arms, looked at the bed, and was surprised to find herself still lying in it. She looked at her feet, below her, and could see the floor through them, just a little bit. And she could still see her feet in bed. She made a helpless gesture, this was absurd, this astral projection, whatever it was. Probably just a dream, confusion from all the poetry she’d been reading, Keats and Byron all those other English Romantics.

She looked down at herself in the bed, feeling a twinge of compassion. She’d lost a few pounds since coming to college. In the first weeks, she’d gone to the coffee shop on the corner by Lincoln Tower same as everyone else, but tired of sitting alone as she did so frequently. Once a young man with a beard and sparkling eyes had put his hand on the back of a chair across from her at her little table and said, “May I?” and she’d said, “Yes,” surprised he wanted to join her. He moved the chair over to a table crowded with students, some of whom she recognized from her hall.

She’d stopped going there after that, stopped going anywhere but class. And soon even that seemed too much. She signed up for the online option in two of her classes. She was quiet even in them, finding the mandatory discussion requirement onerous.

It occurred to Marion that the body she gazed at, her own body, did not appear to be sleeping. It looked sunken, gaunt in the face with darkened eyes and a slightly open mouth. She ought to get someone.

She didn’t have the strength to open the door. She tried to imagine the hallway, thinking she might be able to slip through if she could visualize the hall. The door wouldn’t yield, but Marion could hear in-between-classes sounds. A voice came near her door, she could hear individual words: “smell,” “complain,” “gross.”

The voice faded. Marion sat near the window, out of which she could see only sky. She didn’t want to be here when they found her.

Artist: Seamless

Epiphany Ferrell lives and writes on the edge of the Shawnee Forest in Southern Illinois. Her stories appear in New Flash Fiction Review, Third Point Press, Newfound and other places. She recently received a Pushcart nomination, and has a story forthcoming in Best Microfiction 2020. She blogs intermittently for Ghost Parachute and is a fiction reader for Mojave River Review.