She propped open the stiff window of her college dorm room, climbed into her narrow bed and turned off the bedside lamp. The light from the full moon spilled in, transforming ll it touched: the ugly grey carpet was now a shimmering silver, the old wooden desk gleamed and the cracks in the walls had been plastered over by the magic touch of moonlight Spackle.
The two-storey brick boxes had been perfectly designed to maximise the heat in summer and minimise it in winter. The day had not been oppressively hot but inside her tiny dorm room, where she’d been swotting madly for the end of year anatomy exam the following day, the air had been as uncomfortably stifling as the material she was cramming into her reluctant, overheated brain. Now, thankfully, the breeze wafting in from outside danced over her bare skin, cooling and tantalising.
Anatomy was her second last exam for the year, while almost everyone else at college had finished theirs. The ebullient whoops of those freshly released from their academic shackles had echoed down the hallways and bounced under her door all day, disrupting her concentration. Med students always got the raw deal: exams started before those of other courses, finished later, and were longer, more difficult and there were more of them. At times like this she sometimes asked herself why she was putting herself through such an ordeal, rather than doing something like a fine arts or music degree. She reminded herself that she really did love what she was doing and took comfort in the knowledge that she’d end up with a job that didn’t require the repetitive, “Do you want fries with that?” Little did she know that she would spend a great deal of her working life trying to convince her patients that they didn’t “want fries with that”. But I digress. Back to the night in question…
She tossed and turned, eventually discarding her nightgown to take full advantage of the fingers of breeze lightly massaging her clammy skin. Sleep finally came, bringing with it her escape into a world of fantasy.
Before we go on, I need to explain one of this girl’s peculiar quirks. Although she’d always been a vivid dreamer with the mixed blessing of good dream recall upon awakening, when overstimulated mentally and under stress (such as in the lead up to major exams), her dream life went into overdrive. Not particularly surprising in itself but the unusual part was the mood-incongruent content of said dreams. The more pressured and under the grind she felt, the more liberating and enjoyable her dreams. And sexual. Most memorably, during her final high school exams, the then sexually innocent and inexperienced girl had delighted in highly erotic and explicit dreams night after night, after which she’d spent her waking hours longing to be asleep. Regrettably, the night after her last exam, the sex came out and the mundane returned to her dream life.
The dream on this particular full-mooned night was not of the risqué, pleasurable genre; rather it was disappointingly grounded and topical – to begin with…
She was studying in her room, trying to shut out the ambient noise produced by inebriated revellers, when a fire alarm went off. After her orderly exit of the building, the dream took a sharp turn into one of those look-down-and-see-yourself-naked-in-public nightmares. Horrified, she didn’t go to the fire assembly area but instead cowered behind some bushes. As soon as the coast was clear she bolted back to her dorm room – only to discover that the self-locking door had closed behind her. Shit. No clothes, no shoes, no keys. Middle of the night. Lots of drunk college students nearby.
Using the blind courage and warped thinking one is afforded in dreams, she climbed over the second floor balcony rail and inched her way along the very narrow ledge towards her dorm room window.
Her head, shoulders and upper torso had just managed to squeeze through the narrow frame when her bare bottom was brightly illuminated by a flashlight.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
If she’d been in top comedic form she’d have come up with a witty quip or two to deliver to the security guy standing on the ground below, perhaps ending with something like, “Does my bum look big in this?”
Instead, she burst into tears – she thinks. It’s all rather hazy from that point on. Only fragments were able to recalled: a ladder, a blanket, the security guard’s office…
The dream recap did not impress the girl lying in bed the following morning. With all the stress she’d been under, she’d been hoping for at least a little light sexy relief. Naked and embarrassed instead of naked and stimulated – surely her subconscious could have done better than come up with that!
Upon rising, she noticed that her feet were dirty and that she had a few odd scratches on her back and arms. She muted the chiming alarm bells and convinced herself of their insignificance.
At breakfast her friend flopped down beside her, looking decidedly worse for wear. She was still dressed in her party clothes from the night before, but had added accessories: sunglasses, sweat stains and a large hangover.
“How can I feel so rotten when I haven’t even gone to bed yet?” she moaned. “What a night!” Her friend leaned forward conspiratorially, “Hey, guess what I did?”
“Who was it this time?” the girl asked wearily, barely looking up from her anatomy textbook. She had even less interest than usual in her friend’s ‘s sexual adventures.
“Set off the fire alarm!”
The girl stopped reading.
“I’d drunk maybe a dozen beers and I was looking at the fire alarm button – you know, the one in the little box which says, ‘In case of fire, break glass’ and I thought, ‘I wonder how hard you have to press for the glass to break?’ ”
Just the kind of inspired idea that alcohol is so good at unleashing, the girl mused.
“I pressed gently – nothing happened. Pressed harder – still nothing. So I gave it a good old whack and it broke. Fire engines came, people evacuated and everything!”
“Really? I slept right through it. Did have a fire alarm in my dream though. Must have heard it while I was asleep and incorporated it into my dream.”
“You missed out on some excitement, let me tell you. They don’t know it was me that set off the alarm thank God. Don’t tell anyone, will you? I’d get into massive trouble! Apparently the fire department fines you and everything.”
Duly promising to keep her mouth shut, the girl hurried off to her anatomy exam, all the while valiantly attempting to banish this curious coincidence from her mind…
Dinner time rolled around. Some niggling doubts were still bouncing around her head when she was jolted out of her reverie by the conversation of a couple of vet students who were standing behind her in the cafeteria queue.
“It was a real person! She was tall and gorgeous. Had really pale skin and long flowing blond hair.”
“A beer-induced apparition more likely. A gorgeous blond ghost eh? Half ya luck!”
With a now racing heart and dry mouth, she could no longer keep ignoring the evidence – but she certainly wasn’t going to confess to anything. She snuck out of line, her appetite gone, carefully avoiding the gaze of the guy vehemently trying to insist that she existed.
Safely back in her room, she weighed up her options. Attack or defence? Avoidance? Denial if confronted? Coming clean was out of the question. Ducking the one who had the most to gain from outing her seemed the preferable tactic – steering clear of the dining hall should do the trick. Who needed to eat?
Shit. She’d forgotten about the night security guard. Another one to avoid – no coming out of her room between 10pm and 7am. Do-able. She was leaving college for the summer break in just under a week. If she could avoid exposure of her exposure for this time, she should be OK, surely?
There was always relocation if it all went pear shaped. A new identity. Witness protection perhaps.
But wait. Hang on. A word struggled up through the thick layer of panic and floated on top, luxuriously: gorgeous. He described her as gorgeous! This spoonful of sugar really helped elevate the down student of medicine. She smiled to herself…
The story of the mysterious naked woman went viral over the college grapevine. It went something like this: Three vet students had ended up in the gutter of the college’s driveway after a big night of celebration. They’d heard the fire alarm alright but were missing the coordination required to request that their lower limbs carry them to the evacuation area. (“We were leg-less”, they boasted.) However, one of the trio had inexplicably found his lost legs when, through his alcoholic haze, he’d spotted a naked woman walking out of one of the dorm buildings. He’d leapt up, excitedly gesticulating, but by the time his fellow foggy celebrants had processed the message she’d disappeared. Hence the legend of the blond ghost was born.
For the remaining year of her college residency, the girl was not infrequently reminded of that evening. She received the occasional lascivious wink or cryptic comment from a certain night security guard, but to her great relief the incident itself was never directly mentioned.
The vet student in question acquired the nickname BG (blond ghost), a victim of the strange and often illogical process involved in deciding college nicknames. (Interestingly, the girl heard on good authority that he was still known as BG several years later, when practising as a fully qualified veterinarian). In the months following the sighting, BG remained adamant that the girl had been real but, wistfully perhaps, he’d never been unable to identify her.
No one ever suspected her. She was a well behaved nerd who didn’t drink, for starters, and the last person anyone would expect to be running around naked in the middle of the night – or at any other time for that matter. Secondly, she was neither blond nor gorgeous, except in the moonlight, apparently. Yes, it would appear that the moonlight that had bleached the colour out her dorm room carpet and given her cramped quarters a modicum of aesthetic appeal had bestowed the same treatment on her hair and figure.
Ask any filmmaker or photographer and they’ll attest to the fact that lighting is everything. Now I don’t know much about visual art but this girl’s experience suggests to me that if you’re going to get caught naked in public, it would be far better to be bathed in warm gentle moonlight than in the cold hard light of day.