The girl had never understood architecture in her entire existence. Sometimes it seemed straightforward—four walls to create a box, and a number of smaller boxes inside made a house. Copy and pasted houses stacked up for several floors made apartment complexes and dormitories. She could even wrap her brain around partially misshapen rooms, made with circles and curves for a round area effect, as if that room was a to scale model of the world.
However, it was with the more creative architecture that the girl lost her nerve. If things didn't match up in some rounded or boxed off symmetrical fashion, she felt entirely lost, almost abandoned. Some architects, apparently, thought it would be fun or creative to make advancing tiers and winding hallways, and did so without any concern, abandoning the thought of any people that would have to deal with their mess for the rest of their lives.
Standing on the top floor of the Anderson Hall dormitory, the girl knew that whoever had been the architect in charge of building this place was clearly a part of the latter, and the person responsible for hiring him was clearly insane. The girl pressed herself against the railing, looking down all the way to the bottom floor's lobby with ease. The rest of the floor layout seemed practical enough—three walls, all positioned perpendicular to each other. It was the fourth and final wall that was displaced from the rest, an open chasm in the floor separating them.
It could have made some sense. The girl had been to several hotels before, and this technique was often used, rooms lining the walls, the middle of all floors open to give a spectacular view of the lobby. She hadn't liked the effect much then either, mainly because walking to her room felt like balancing on a tightrope. Now, she didn't care, once again staring down to Anderson Hall's ground floor, trying to make some sense out of what was going on.
Even though she had been here for years, she still didn't understand it. If all of the floors had the same gap between them and the wall, it would have looked balanced, and the girl would have had no problems. As it was, that was not the case. The girl leaned farther over the edge, the railing pressing into her stomach. It was hard to see from the top floor, but the rest of the pseudo-balcony structures for the rest of the building were in different shapes and sizes. The top floor's was the most extended, so you had to really lean over or go to another floor to see just how uneven the floors were and how the produced a staggering effect when you looked up at them all.
From this position, the girl could just barely see the edge of the seventh and third floors, their railings a silver and dull iron color respectively. It wasn't supposed to be, but what floor someone lived on could easily give a sense of superiority, especially if you were on the top floor, where all the metal ornamentations were at least plated to look like some sort of gold.
The girl curled her fingers around the golden railing, tightening her grip before stepping over it. There was a thin line of floor between the railing and the chasm, coated in the same plush carpet that was in the top floor's lobby. Physically speaking, this small line of floor was so the railing had better support on both sides, preventing some sort of spill off the edge. Again, the whole problem could have been eliminated if the architect hadn't made his irrational chasm in the first place. Regardless, the purpose of this section of floor wasn't, unlike the rest of the eighth floor, for anyone to stand on.
The girl adjusted her grip on the rail one hand at a time, turning her wrists so that there was less strain on her joints. She then leaned forward, stretching her arms out as far as they could go. Her toes were no longer on the floor, and the corner of the carpet pressed into her arches with some sort of urgency. At this angle, it was impossible to see the fifth or second floors, but that was only because of the way the third and sixth floors covered them up, their balconies extending far enough to cover the others up.
It would have been a fatal fall if the girl let go. The seventh and third floors stuck out, but not enough. From here, it would be a straight drop to the ground floor, and the floor there wouldn't be forgiving for an accident. At least the ground floor used tile instead of carpet, so it wouldn't have been a big deal to clean up if someone did fall.
That, surely, was the end result of the decorator's own foul sense of humor, or possibly some sort of insight.
The girl didn't really worry about things like falling anymore, though. With certainty, she let go of the railing with one hand, stretching out until her fingertips brushed against the cord supporting one of the light fixtures. It was just in reach for her, almost like a taunting challenge for anyone to try and defy the ordinary. The girl was able to grip onto the cord and swing herself onto the light fixture, bare feet providing some sort of friction against the slick, fake gold surface.
In all consideration, cord probably wasn't the right word for it. It was far thicker than that, just barely able to fit inside the girl's palm. It was also a cool metal beneath her hands, and painted the same sort of pseudo gold. It was sturdy enough to support the light fixture; the girl could even jump up and down, and it wouldn't give in, the lamp only shaking under the movement. She had tried it once, but hadn't been able to knock it down, so she didn't try again.
Standing on the light put her several feet down from where the top floor was, so there was no turning back. Now, though, she could see the seventh floor, though she was several feet away from it, not close enough to attempt another jump. The seventh floor's silver linings sparkled, just like they always did, looking close to but not quite at the top floor's level of class. It was only a paint job and some furniture choices, but the difference between the two was obvious.
This difference continued all the way down each floor in subtle increments, the imitation precious metals making way for plain irons, the wallpaper becoming painted cement blocks, carpet floors becoming wood until they were just tiles. The top floor was almost like an upscale hotel, while the ground floor and its rooms were nothing more than a standard college dormitory.
The light fixture the girl was standing on was one of many, and the one corresponding to the seventh floor hung from underneath the eighth floor's balcony. Like the metal on the seventh floor, the support for the next light fixture was silver. The girl had to swing the golden light a bit to get close enough, but soon she was on the silver one, sliding a bit down so that she could stand. Other than their colors and height, the light fixtures were identical, and provided roughly the same support.
The girl was now on level with the sixth floor, and its imitation bronze stood out against the darker colors of its décor, almost glowing. The supports for the next two lights hung from underneath the seventh floor—bronze and a dark brown in imitation of the wood that accented the fifth floor. The girl moved to the bronze first, since it was closer, then to the fake wood one, putting her on level with the fourth floor. There, all the supports and linings were black, paint covering the metal.
The support for the black light hung off the bottom of the fifth floor, and the girl had to move back towards the outside wall to get to it, swinging the darker brown light towards it. She didn't feel fear when she jumped lights, although her feet were starting to get a bit sweaty. She tried to wipe them off on the metal, the action too slippery for her own tastes. She adjusted where she was standing and held on to the light, waiting for it to stop shaking.
From where the black light was, it was possible to jump to the next one, the vague difference between plain metal and black paint obvious at this distance. The girl avoided that. The distance was greater between the two lights due to just how much the third floor stuck out. It was easier to just jump for the third floor balcony since it was directly under the black light fixture.
Once it settled down, the girl did just that, landing feet first on one of the couches, its color a red to match up with the rest of the décor for the third floor. She just barely managed to keep her balance, hands catching onto the back of the couch. The girl's legs shook from the impact, and she sat down for a moment, catching her breath. It wasn't too long of a fall, but the courage it took to trust the jump was enough to take the energy out of anyone.
While resting on the couch, the girl looked up. She could see the bits of the other floor's balconies sticking out, and the light fixtures shined down into her eyes with fluorescent intensity. The seventh floor stuck out the most with its silver light fixture, the eighth floor and ceiling above it filling in the rest of the gap between the floors and the wall that the chasm created.
Once she caught her breath, the girl stood back up. It would have been easier to just stay on the third floor and take the stairs or the elevator to the ground floor. She didn't want to do that, though. This was the last day that Anderson Hall would be empty, so it was her last chance to play on the lights without causing a commotion until December. She had to do it while she still could.
The next light fixture was the same dull iron color as the third floor's accents, and it was the only other light besides the gold one that was attached to the topmost ceiling. It was entirely possible to go from the gold light to this one and slide all the way down to the bottom, but the girl didn't do that. The first time she had played on the lights, she had tried, and the friction from the metal hurt her hands. The force of the impact had really jostled the light, too, and the girl was certain she had pulled something out of its connection that was supposed to be there, no matter what. Repeating the stunt ran the chance of dislodging the light, so she avoided it with all costs.
Consequently, she didn't like being on the iron light for long, either. She reached out her fingertips, gripping onto the pale blue support that was connected to the next light fixture, not even taking the time to look at the second floor. She slid down, thankful for the better support of the third floor's balcony, far closer than that of the ultimate ceiling. There was far less tension in such a small distance, less room for things to snap and fall apart.
All that was left was to make it to the ground floor. The final light fixture hung over the lobby, another collection of couches gathered around a somewhat cheap television in imitation of a living room. The girl waited again for the light fixture to come to a rest, knowing that she needed more precision to make it to the couch than she had needed to get to the ones on the third floor. The ground floor was cheap, and the couches were smaller, and had less cushioning to ease any impact. The floor was hard, and there was still enough distance to the drop to break something in the fall.
The girl knew that, but she never stopped trying. The first attempt, it had taken her several hours to finally build up the courage from jump to jump, and it was the middle of the night before she had made it to the ground floor. She had even taken the iron light fixture as a shortcut. Now the girl could go from light to light without much hesitation, and her record time was twenty minutes, if you didn't count her break on the third floor.
So, with confidence, the girl was able to jump, landing on the biggest couch of the ground floor. It was almost disorienting just how much of a difference there was between each floor, making it almost impossible to believe they were all really contained in the same building. But that was just the sort of place Anderson Hall was, the ground floor a beige dull in comparison to the vivid color scheme of even just the light fixtures, let alone the upper floors. The light brown was supposed to be uplifting to the people that would live there, but the girl really thought it was just depressing.
Catching her breath again, the girl felt a sense of pride. She stood up, checking herself for injuries. There were none, and while the impact onto the slightly hard couch had stung at first, the feeling was gone now. She smoothed out her dress. She had successfully made it, no complications. To her, that was a good omen. The upcoming year would be good for the people that came to live here.
Now that her self-supported ritual was done, the girl had the whole day ahead of her. It was still morning, and people wouldn't be showing up until tomorrow afternoon. As long as she didn't make a mess (or, at least, made a mess and cleaned it up) there would be no complications. Everything would go well, and she could do whatever she pleased for the next upcoming year.
The girl stepped closer to the TV. It was small, especially in comparison to the ones in higher floors' lobbies, but it had enough screen space for the girl to see her reflection. In the TV screen, she was just another ordinary girl, dark hair straight, falling over her shoulders, an average face almost on a level to be called cute, and a purple dress, flowing down to above her knees, showing off her calves. She adjusted her hair a little bit, making sure that her bangs didn't fall too far into her eyes. For once, she wished that someone would come with her, look into a mirror, and she what she was really like. That sort of thing, though, would never happen, since nobody ever looked into mirrors.
Because Anderson Hall was haunted.
[Avi's "New" Project Notes]
This is a somewhat old novella I started several years ago written for fun. It seems I can't escape writing ghost stories. In any event, I wrote the ending earlier this year, after much procrastination. It's not my most polished writing, but it does go some interesting directions, so I figured I'd share it.
Anderson Hall will update every Saturday until it's completed its run. Additional info about my writing can be seen on Twitter Plot_K_Bunny, and early releases of chapters can be seen on my Patreon, Plot Bunny Productions.
Until next week, please look forward to it!