Early Sunday. I sleep fitfully; presumably this building’s been in mothballs over summer, and the pipes and vents are gurgling and coughing their way back to life. At 7.15am I head for the kitchen to make my first cup of tea in my new home.
I’ve still got the place to myself. Eight bedrooms in a postgrad building, and I haven’t seen a single person in the entire 20-flat block yet. Only one of the eight cupboards in the shared kitchen/lounge is full (mine.) Outside, only the geese are wandering about.
A memory comes rushing back: a computer game from the 80s, those primitive-but-thrilling text adventures by Infocom. ‘The Lurking Horror’. It was set in a University, and there was something in the game’s background, stalking you, always there, terrifying. Those text-only games were as immersive as any thriller novel.
This deserted campus feels like that University.
Is there a reason I hadn’t heard of Warwick University until I started researching MBAs? Is there a reason it… isn’t in Warwick?
Have I somehow enrolled at … GHOST UNIVERSITY?
Some sort of dimension-wandering educational apparition, popping up for a few days here and there all over the cosmos, picking up lost souls like the Black Pearl did evil sailors?
Perhaps it feeds itself on creative wanderers like me. When you’re feeling down, as I was earlier this year, it senses your pain, and ‘makes itself available’, carefully inserting itself into your consciousness and scooping you into its dreaming maw. To the University, I am food.
Are the geese and ducks outside merely… the shades of past souls Ghost U has absorbed?
Now it has me, it will surely dematerialise soon, and reappear in some distant galaxy to collect more educationally erratic miscreants. I am on campus now, drawn into this little self-contained world. There can be no escape.
How many others will share my fate? Or am I the only one?