This took place all about three years ago. I was going to college at the time and was living with two of my friends, Phoebe and Macie, along with Macie’s boyfriend Joe. I’d been friends with Phoebe since we were kids but only recently befriended Macie within like a year of agreeing to move in together, and Joe was sort of a last minute addition.
Well, to sum it all up so we’re not here all day, Joe was a jackass. He was a lousy roommate, but he was even worse to Macie, who’s a pretty meek person and a doormat for Jackass Joe. It was the third time Joe was caught sleeping around that Macie finally snapped and broke up with Joe. He responded by taking off and leaving us scrambling for a new roommate so we didn’t end up losing our place. I think it was Macie who posted the ad on our school’s Facebook page as a last ditch resort. It didn’t matter if they smelled like ham or were up all night blasting Marilyn Manson, we just needed someone to pitch in with the bills.
The next day I answered the door to Miss Dorothy Ball.
I could already tell she was a weirdo off the bat- she was wearing a floor length navy colored dress with long sleeves and a high neck and didn’t seemed bothered at all by it considering it was almost ninety freaking degrees out. Not a blonde curl was out of place, not a drop of sweat on her paper white skin or rosy cheeks. Her large blue-green eyes stared at me as I stared at the trunk and suitcase she had behind her.
Her head bowed down, speaking so quietly her lips barely moved.
“I’m Dorothy. I’m here about the roommate ad?”
I only let her in because I felt bad about how hot she had to be in that get up. When she sat across from me I noticed she even had white gloves on, she seemed to be doing all she could to hide every inch of skin she could.
“I have the money here.” Dorothy sat down an envelope on the table. “I intend on staying a full year, minus any unpredictable happenings. I would like to stay in a room by myself, and I promise that I will be silent as a church mouse and that the rent will always be on time. Will that be fine?”
I cleared my throat. “I’ll have to talk to everyone else.” I opened up the envelope and nearly choked on my spit as the crisp one hundred dollar bills fell into my hand. “Is this for half the year?!”
“Just the first month.” Dorothy cocked her head to the side. “I found out the cost of rent, is this too little?”
“You’re only supposed to pitch in a quarter-” I cut myself off as I realized Dorothy knew exactly what she was offering. “You’re paying for all of it?”
“The first month at least.” Dorothy laughed quietly, her lips not even twitching. “My family is quite wealthy. I would just like to live close to the campus and this is such a nice area, I want to show my appreciation for letting me board here.”
I had a meeting with the other roommates after introducing them to Dorothy. I showed them the cash. Phoebe’s eyes filled with dollar signs as she was clearly imagining what she’d do with all the spare cash she had while Macie seemed a bit more hesitant, but we’d not had any other offers. Most people by now had a place to call home while they went to college, and someone offering to pay all of this month’s rent? You’d be an idiot to say no to that.
Dorothy was pleased as punch to be allowed to stay here, even giving us all a hug as she thanked us again and again. Phoebe tried to bolt from the hug but Dorothy insisted on it. We did have to move things around a bit, Macie moved into my room while Dorothy took her old one, but I didn’t mind since Macie and I basically had the same sleeping schedules anyway.
You know how I said I wouldn’t have minded if we got a roommate from hell as long as they paid the bills? Well Dorothy was basically the roommate from heaven. She kept to her promise, she was so quiet she’d sometimes scare me because I didn’t even realize she was there. Not to mention she was a neat freak- there was never a dish in the sink or a speck of dust on the shelves. I swear it was how she had fun, well, that and shopping.
There wasn’t a week that went by that we didn’t have a bunch of packages on the front porch. All cloth or dresses, Dorothy was quite the seamstress. Her closet quite literally overflowed with dresses, all long sleeved with floor length hems. The few that didn’t have high necks she’d pair with chokers or scarves, again, she didn’t want to show any skin. Not like she minded us dressing how we did, I think Phoebe nearly cried with Dorothy presented her with a crop top she made that was hot pink and had her name on the front. She made me something too, this summer themed dress printed with lemon and lime slices. I still wear it whenever I can, and it fits perfectly. She could guess a person’s measurements just by looking at them.
Not to say I wasn’t still a bit offput by her. Something was just not right about this perfect roommate. Any time we’d ask a question about her family or her past, she’d give a half-answer and change the subject, usually by offering to buy us dinner. Even though she did that I never saw her eat, although she enjoyed tea twice a day, once at ten and once at three, like clockwork. I never caught her in the bathroom, although I did hear the shower run late at night when we’d all gone to bed, even Phoebe who’s a night owl and potential insomniac. Whenever she talked she’d bow her head down so I couldn’t see her mouth clearly, she’d never complain about being hot or cold, hell, she never complained at all. And her face was practically frozen. She’d blink, but she had no real expressions from what I could tell- again, she’d always bow her head down so I couldn’t get a clear view of her face past the curly hair.
Again, all of this is weird, but harmless. I chalked up my willies to just Dorothy’s weirdness and did all I could to be friendly to her. I never wanted to be an asshat.
Dorothy was closest with Macie. After Joe left her Macie was pretty messed up, she cried nearly every day and Phoebe said she was afraid Macie was going to drop out and leave us too.
That changed after Dorothy moved in. I think Dorothy sensed how sensitive Macie was and focused a lot of her energy on becoming her friend. Macie never told me what they’d do when they hung out, but Dorothy made it a habit to enter our room and just… talk with her for hours. I’d usually just excuse myself to the living room to binge Netflix and well, whatever Dorothy did worked. Macie got out of her funk, her self esteem shot way up, and she even began going on dates. All the while Dorothy was just basking in her glow, just happy that Macie was happy.
Of course, something did happen. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten Jackass Joe from the beginning of this story. For a little more context, Macie’s old room was on the ground floor, while my room that I now shared with Macie was on the second floor.
Waking up to hearing Dorothy scream bloody murder at around three AM was not a welcome sound.
I jumped the stairs three at a time to rush down there, and when we threw open the door I saw Macie was hiding under her quilts while Joe was sitting in the center of the room completely flummoxed.
“I thought it was Macie!” He tried to explain as Phoebe dragged his ass out of there. Naturally, no one was interested, even if it was Macie it’s gross as hell to just crawl into bed with your ex girlfriend who wants nothing to do with your ass anymore.
I approached the bed, Dorothy still shaking and crying. I tried to draw the blankets back but the blanket bulge flinched back. “No! Don’t take away the blankets!” She screamed.
So I just sat by the bed and waited for her to calm down. Her crying did slow but she refused to come out.
“Are you okay?” I finally asked.
“… He almost saw me.”
The very top of Dorothy’s head peeked out from under the blankets, I did absentmindedly note how her eyes weren’t bloodshot and her face wasn’t red and blotchy, but she was still shaking. “I know… I know if anyone sees what I hide, they will never want to come near me again. And to suddenly have a man in my bed, I… I was frightened. I am so sorry for screaming.”
“Don’t be, I think most girls would freak out with a stranger suddenly climbing into their bed,” I rested my hand on the side of the bed. “It’s okay. You’re my friend, no matter what you’re hiding.” I meant it too. Sure, she was strange, but she was nice. And I prioritize nice.
Dorothy slipped back under her blankets, but I heard a muffled ‘thank you’ as I exited the room.
Of course Joe wasn’t going to stop being the worst because he accidentally got in bed with the wrong girl. He began harassing Macie, saying he was ‘sorry that she felt hurt’ and he’d ‘never do it again’. A quick Facebook check revealed that he was about to get kicked out of his dad’s place for being a shithead, so it made sense he’d go back to his doormat ex to get a new place.
Cept of course, in the few months Joe was gone, Macie had grown a backbone and she was just not interested. Neither were the rest of us, Dorothy especially. The first time I heard our strange roommate swear was when I heard her call Joe a bastard over breakfast, which nearly made Phoebe choke on her Cheerios. Joe could rot in hell. Joe probably sent over one hundred texts asking Macie to kick out ‘the weird chick in your room’ so he could move back in. Macie just ignored him, blocked his number and then every social media profile he tried to reach out to her on. She kept blowing him off, and we all figured sooner or later Joe would get bored and leave us alone.
Oh boy. Not even close.
Phoebe was out that night. I just went out to go pick up some frozen pizzas at the corner store, I was probably gone for like ten minutes. When I got back my heart sunk in my chest when I recognized Joe’s truck out front. I didn’t even enter the house to hear them arguing.
I bolted up the stairs to see Macie and Joe screaming at each other. One of Joe’s friends was there too, a guy named Derek. From what I could make out apparently Joe did find another place, but they needed one more roommate to make it work, and apparently Joe was back to harassing Macie about it. Macie’s face was bright red as she yelled at them both to get the hell out of her house, she wasn’t interested in ever being near Joe again, and if he didn’t leave she’d call the police.
That police threat seemed to really rub Joe the wrong way as he grabbed her arm and squeezed it so tight I thought he was going to break it. I tried to step in, but Derek actually pushed me away, stepping between us so I couldn’t get to my friend to help her out. My cellphone was in my pocket and I was considering just running for it to call 911 when I heard someone walking up the stairs.
I turned to see Dorothy, her head bowed so I couldn’t see her face. She was dressed in a white nightgown that reached just past her calves, I could make out what I thought was scarring on her ankles and toes as she paused at the top of the stairs for only a moment. The next moment she stormed up to Joe and grabbed him by the arm, dragging him towards the stairs, clearly intent on throwing him out herself.
“Get out of this house. Right now. And never step near Macie again.”
Her voice was cold and grating, far from the typically soft mumbles. Joe was probably frozen in shock at first, but he reacted with violence. He shoved Dorothy with all his might, Dorothy stumbling for a moment at the top of the steps before losing her balance and falling down the stairs.
When her body collided with the steps, it sounded like someone had taken a stack of china and thrown them down to the ground.
Dorothy rolled down the rest of the steps, the discordant sound of smashing glass causing all of us to freeze in our tracks. Dorothy finally hit the bottom step with her head and stayed all too still at the foot of the stairs.
Joe shot us all a ‘what the fuck’ look before Dorothy stirred. With the rattle of broken glass, Dorothy got up on all fours. For a nauseating moment I thought the side of her nightgown had been pierced with a piece of bone, but with a sickening grinding sound, Dorothy grabbed onto her gown and ripped it down the side, grabbed the loose shard of white porcelain in her hand, and began the painful looking process of crawling up the steps.
Now I could see what Dorothy had been insistent on hiding, now that her gown had been ripped to ribbons thanks to her shattering. Each of her joints was like the ball joint on a doll, a dip in the skin that now made more disturbing grinding sounds as she hauled herself up the steps. Slivers and pieces of porcelain continued to fall from her body, the biggest missing part nearly taking up her entire right side. Inside of her I could make out incredibly lifelike imitations of ribs, lungs, all cracked and breaking apart. Her right cheek was horrifically cracked, her eyelid hanging half down, unable to fully shut or open. Her chin hung loosely open, her mouth a black, gaping hole. But that still open eye was focused right on Joe, and it was full of loathing.
Macie acted first, bolting into her room and turning the lock. Derek screamed in horror and shoved me forward to act as a shield. Dorothy hauled herself up that last step and I nearly fell on top of her, barely managing to catch myself as I stepped on another piece of porcelain and sliced my foot open like butter.
Dorothy paid me no mind as she managed to push herself to her feet, swaying as she tried to regain her balance before she began to limp over to the terrified men. Joe looked at me and I think I remember him saying ‘help me’.
I responded by crawling into Phoebe’s room and locking the door behind me.
They weren’t screaming for much longer.
I hid in there for hours, clamping my hands over my ears to block out the worst of the wet ripping and tearing. I didn’t leave until I heard Phoebe enter the house, call for us, and then shriek when she saw all the blood.
And there was a lot of blood. It soaked the carpet on the second floor, with bits of flesh and muscle embedded in the fibers. But other than that and the shards of porcelain scattered about the stairs, there was no sign of Joe, Derek, or Dorothy.
We never heard from Dorothy again. An envelope containing enough money to cover a few more months of rent did appear in our mailbox, but the police couldn’t even confirm Dorothy Ball was a real person outside of her school registry. I never even told Phoebe the entirety of the story, only that Dorothy had attacked both Joe and Derek.
I still don’t know what I saw, not really. The image of her shattered body crawling up those stairs, the hate in her still working eye as she stared at Joe will never leave even as I try to rationalize how on earth that could happen. People don’t shatter like… like that.
But I do know Dorothy was real. I know she was.
And I’m thankful for her. And she’s still my friend. Wherever she is.