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firestone-library

The entrance to the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library.

Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

I was laying in the courtyard — the galleons of the sky were dancing impressionists imitating varying animals and beings — when President Eisgruber walked over to me and began to say in a monotone voice: “The library is now closed. The library is now closed.”

“Sir?”

“The library is now closed. The library is now closed.”

“Sir, it’s daylight, and we are not in the library.”

What followed was the harrowing screech of the loudspeakers that woke me from my slumber in the archaic, prehistoric, 1950s, Elvis-Presley-era carrel.

Princeton students have a habit of sleeping wherever they fancy on campus, minute-long cat naps to make up for the restless nights of perpetual study. I’ve been here for less than half a year, and I’ve already noticed the presence of East Pyne and Firestone drowsiness (some of those chairs are just too damn comfortable). The other night, I realized — and consequently experienced — that falling asleep in Firestone can result in being trapped there overnight. Now, I recount that experience to you, as a warning to hold out and refuse the nap’s potency!

Back to the tale.

“What time is it?” My eyes grew wide.

“12:45! Oh freak, freak, freakity, FREAK!” — except those words have been slightly modified here.

Heat began to rise to my now rosy, embarrassed face. I felt like Hugh Grant waking up late in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” — a must-watch film if you haven’t seen it.

“Firestone has been closed for over two hours. Oh ship. I’m stuck. If I try to leave, I’ll trip an alarm and get …”

“ZZZZZZZZZZ SQWAK!” 

“OW!” I rapidly clasped my mouth, attempting to remain silent.

Spooked out of my seat and onto the ground, through the window of the carrel, I was met only by pitch darkness. My breathing began to heave.

“Zzzzzzzzzzz,” the speaker continued to whiz until it sputtered and died.

Silence consumed the room.

“All alone,” I whispered under my breath. The carrel in the daytime was already a squeeze. The iron-clad yet thin walls, the screeching sound the door makes as it closes — these all contributed to a translucent, ephemeral feeling of security. But now, in the shadow of sleeping, artificial light, any potential for comfort was whisked away with the final clicking lock of the elevator.

“Do I dare leave? I can just explain to security that I fell asleep, but what if they don’t believe me? There were people playing hide-and-seek earlier; they may think I was with them and didn’t listen. I’m trapped — I guess I’ve just got to survive the night. How bad can that be?”

I laid my jacket out on the floor under the table in the carrel and set up my backpack as a pillow. I took out a journal to record if anything strange occurred. I then texted one of my friends to come in the morning and check on me in case, of course, Firestone is haunted and the ghosts within would capture me.

An hour had passed, and I was finally beginning to drift to sleep when I began to hear the creaky broken speech of a woman. I stilled my body, but my heart would not stop its incessant racing; I thought it was going to alert her to my location. However, the motion sensor lights did not flicker on, they stayed quiet as her voice began to grow.

“Work … work day all … work.” A cackle became the voice, and then a heavy hesitation settled into the room outside the carrel. I could see ever-so-slightly through a sliver in the crack. My heart was pounding wildly. A single red strip pierced through the sliver.

“THUD! STOMP! STOMP! THUD!”

All the lights roared to life in the room as a bare pair of hooved feet hovered in front of the carrel door. I could smell the sulfur emanating from them. Dread shivered through my body as goosebumps perked up on my skin. I always assumed that if I was thrown into a horror movie, I would be someone who made a smart choice and survived. In that moment, I realized my fate would be the complete opposite. I forced my body to be still, clinging upon some hope that Firestone wasn’t haunted and that I was just dreaming again. Then the feet walked away. The voice appeared once more but wilted away with the lights. I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, my ears glued to the sliver in the door.

At 4:30 a.m., staff began cleaning and preparing for the day, yet I still refused to move, petrified, waiting for the library to open so that I could leave and sleep in my comfy Princeton dorm bed. Oh, how I missed the one-ply excuse for toilet paper and the brick mattress of my dorm hall. Every time the elevator opened and closed, a bit of that anxiety from the haunting of the Firestone carrels returned. The only comfort I could find was the song that one of the staff would hum.

“When the moon hits your eyes like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”

My friend arrived at 9:13 a.m., and never have I been so happy to see another human being. He told me I looked like a ghastly apparition, something out of a Stefon SNL skit, but I cared not. I then stretched my back as my friend began to chuckle at me. When I left through the inspection gate — you know, the one where they don’t really check your book bag — I locked eyes with the guard and a mutual understanding occurred between us. A smirk flickered across his face as if to say: “we’ve all been there, sport.” 

Through the front doors of Firestone, I felt the sunlight hit my face, and heat warmed my cramped bones. No matter how embarrassing the scene, a slight jig was the only proper final ritual to complete my accidental sleepover in Firestone.

To this day, I have yet to return to the carrels to work. It may have just been a dream, but I will not risk the chance again. This is a warning to all Princeton students: after hours, the ghosts of Firestone are awakened and if the night ever seems ticking to a close, refuse the nap! Leave before they can whisk you away in your sleep. From one student to another, please, please, take care and beware.

The author of this piece has been granted anonymity.

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