Everything started with the earthquake.
We were having our recitation on Criminal Law when the floor and the walls around us began to shake. I did not notice it at first. It was a small tremble, really. I experienced worse. Anyway, Dainah was having her recitation – I think it was about mitigating circumstances, but fat chance, I was not really listening – when our professor told her to stop. Dainah’s face dropped and sat back on her seat.
The professor held one of her fingers up. Don’t worry, the finger told us.
The professor bowed her head as the earthquake continued to roll. We stared dead ahead, on the dirty whiteboard in front of the room. Surprisingly, there were no giggles, no murmur, no relieving sigh as the recitation stopped for a while. There was only silence and a strange feeling of apprehension.
After a minute, the teacher stood up from her desk, confused.
“Jesus Christ,” she whispered to herself, but loud enough for us to hear. Although we can recognize a slight tremble in her voice, that broke the tension. We looked around and talk among ourselves. Some joked about the earthquake. The nerds bowed their heads and read their notes. Dainah asked her seatmate if her answers were right. I overheard her seatmate saying that it was not, that it should have been ‘four’, not ‘three’.
I let out a sigh of relief. I don’t like silence.
The professor clapped her hands, calling our attention. “Okay, guys. Let’s get out. Forget about packing your things. We’ll be returning soon.”
There were some cheers as we stood up from our seats and walked outside the room. It was 7 PM then. Darkness had already set in. The earthquake rolled around us; the tremors weak, steady, intimidating. My seatmate, Mark, timed the entire deal. It had been 8 minutes since the earthquake started.
There was no one in the hallway. It was not unusual, considering it was 7pm, but the silent, rolling earthquake was making everything quite eerie.
The professor walked toward the classroom next to us – Room 302 – and peeked on the window. I never forgot her next reaction. She stepped back, fell, and crawled away from the door. Her face was deadly white and her eyes were bulging from their sockets. She was shivering and her right hand was doing the sign of the cross over and over again.
We ran toward her.
As they tried to comfort her back to her senses, Mark and I walked toward Room 302 and took a short glance. Mark screamed. I would have too, but I was too frozen with fright that I cannot even open my mouth. We turned around and ran toward the safety of our classmates. I tried to tell them what we saw, but all I could mutter were short indiscernible grunts.
They took a look. Of course they took a look.
They screamed as well. We rushed back to our room and locked the door.
Room 302 was not empty.
There were some twenty or thirty students sitting on the seats, and the teacher, a woman, was sitting behind the desk. She was holding a small stack of yellow index cards. The scene would have been ordinary, except that all of them were looking at us. They were sitting there, body straight forward, except their heads were directly looking at us at the window.
We screamed not of that. Far from it.
We screamed because all of them do not have any faces. They do not have eyes, or nose, or eyebrows or mouth. They were staring at us with blank brown faces that would be our nightmares for years to come.
The earthquake stopped minutes later after we crowded back on our room.
The teacher after Criminal Law would find us, sitting quietly on our seats, praying. Our professor was with us, silent as a rock, her right hand still making the sign of the cross without pause. She would later become recluse and quit teaching months later.
As for the rest of us, we tried to forget what happened. The weird thing was that no one felt the earthquake except us, and there was supposed to be no class on 302 that night. Well, there was one other thing. I did not mention this to my classmates, but when I took a look at that fateful room that night, I noticed something else entirely.
They may be wearing different clothes, but I know, without an inkling of a doubt, that all of the students, including the professor, on that room were us. We were looking at ourselves.