AS I CROSSED INTO ROYAL County in what was my last successful trip out of the state, I was pulled over by a state trooper. The trooper insisted that he had received a report that a car like mine had been seen weaving in and out of traffic. He didn’t issue me a ticket, but he followed me all the way to my exit in downtown Liberty. After I got home, Dr. H suggested I go with a friend of hers, someone I had never met, to a bar so I could relax. I accepted her suggestion because I had money and nobody to spend it with. It was a welcome change, after spending the previous semester too poor to even buy gas for my car..
As I walked into the bar with Dr. H’s friend, I began to feel tremors again. I started flailing my limbs to get the blood flowing. The friend nervously asked me what was wrong. I insisted that all I needed was a drink and that we should hurry to another bar. She did not respond well. In fact, she turned to walk away from me. When I raised my voice to call her back, she picked up her pace.
So I walked back to my house. I needed rest. When I got inside, I saw that all the furniture had been moved around. At first, I blew it off and went to my room to lie down. The tremors waxed and waned. Then I started hearing a loud metallic chirping from the telephone poles outside my room. The chirping transformed into a hammer banging on a metal plate.
I twisted and turned in bed, covering my ears with a pillow, but I couldn’t muffle the noise. The hammering grew louder. I stood up in the middle of the room to look outside, but I could not find the source of the noise. I realized then that the banging was coming from inside the house. But when I went to look for the noise, I could not turn my neck or move my body in any direction.
Unable to move and feeling the tremors return, I could only listen to the banging, which now seemed to be coming from upstairs. I heard footsteps, too. I loosened up a bit and walked toward my bed. I knew I would not fall asleep in my room if I couldn’t figure it out. Just as I laid down, I heard more footsteps upstairs and the clicking of a typewriter. Puzzled by all the activity at four in the morning, I went upstairs to the second floor. A light was on in Dr. H’s room, but there didn’t seem to be anyone inside, and the door was not open enough for me to peek inside. The typewriter continues clicking non-stop. I went back down to my room and sat on the floor where the bed had been. The tremors were surging through my forearms. I decided that maybe a cold shower would settle my system.
As I walked to the shower, I heard footsteps again. I decided to ignore them. I jumped into the shower and blasted myself with cold water. The tremors momentarily waned. Then I flipped the lever in the tub to take a bath. Laying my head back, I looked up at the ceiling. That was when I heard talking coming from the room above. I had located the source. Now fully convinced that the banging noise was coming from upstairs, I listened.
A friend from earlier days in college began talking to me through the ceiling. I was a bit irritated that I had to speak with her through some device and not face-to-face, so I sat and just listened. She told me why all the furniture had been moved around after my return to Liberty. It seemed that Downstate University had partnered with New London University for a television show about my life as a non-matriculated graduate student. The show apparently was a partnership between the English department in New London and the psychology department at Downstate University. After hearing her explain the details, I heard the voice of another friend tell me that filming had already begun and that I should act natural but play for the cameras, which were everywhere. He revealed that the noises I had been hearing—the hammer banging—were actually cameras being drilled into the walls for filming. Relieved that the commotion wasn’t something serious, I relaxed in the tub and smiled for the cameras.
Excerpt From: J Peters. “University on Watch.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/university-on-watch/id1457424981