I visited UVM’s recently unveiled haunted maze, the Living and Learning Centre, on Monday. Entering through the heavy glass doors straight up to the reception desk, two women sat, sifting through papers.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m here for the haunted maze?”
They looked up from their papers, then at each other, before stifling a laugh.
“Sure,” one of them said, “It’s that way, I guess.”
Of course, I thought, I don’t need permission to enter the building, stupid. This was the first horror I encountered, humiliation, which set the tone for the rest of my visit. There was a painting on the wall. But then I realised it was a senseless map. The rooms looked like obstacles, and there were no walls outlining the floorplan. I needed help navigating this already tricky building.
Initially, section C seemed safe enough, with this dull yet relaxing sense. I noticed quotes on the wall. “The way you speak to yourself matters.”
“I don’t speak to myself,” I said.
It was a little strange. Then, another –
“Welcome to occupational therapy.”
I ran from Section C as fast as I could.
The walls in the commons advertised “curiosity, community, advocacy.” I shuddered at its generic aimlessness. The room was almost empty, beside a man sat by the fireplace. He looked at me. I glanced simply but noticed his following eyes from the corner of mine as I hastened away.
Section B took me downstairs, a ‘Welcome’ sign foregrounded a myriad of languages informed me that I was in the International Office of Education. A man appeared–I recognised from the international orientation.
“Jake Turner Chan?” he said.
“There’s been some trouble processing your visa,” he said, “I’m going to need you to come with me.”
“What’s wrong with it?” I asked, withdrawing slowly.
He grinned sinisterly, “I need you to fill out some more paperwork.”
I dashed up the stairs, and he followed, shouting out various forms, “DS-2019, I-94, SEVIS…” until it faded to silence. I was safe, for now. I must’ve been in a new section, as I’d been running in a straight line, but it looked identical to section C. I powered on and found myself back in the commons. The man was no longer by the fireplace. Something was incredibly off. Overwhelmed by it all, I ducked into a men’s bathroom to pull myself together. I splashed my face and stared at my reflection. An opened Yerba can was on the sinktop. I tutted, shaking my head at the litter. Picking it up, I realised – it was half full. No one would surely leave a Yerba half full. I glanced over to the stalls and suddenly realised I was not alone. The door creaked open, revealing the same ghostly man from the fireplace.
“Shu Yee Chan?” He asked, pronouncing my Cantonese name better than me.
“Yes?” I replied apprehensively.
“I’m Hunter,” he said, bowing oddly.
Then I realised.
“Hunter Johansson?” I asked, “Brother to Scarlett Johansson? What’re you doing here?”
“I used to go here,” he said. “I want to promote some of the culture UVM has to offer. You know it’s the most diverse it’s ever been.”
He began slowly walking towards me, so I backed out of the bathroom before sprinting down the corridors. He was onto me, faster than the other guy. I needed to escape, but this place was impossible to navigate. What would he do if he caught me? I burst into section E, where I finally saw a new face, a woman holding open the door to the Mosaic Centre.
“Come on, quick!” she said.
I nodded and followed through, her closing and locking the door behind me. A host of students rammed chairs and tables against the door. We all backed off with relief despite Hunter’s banging at the glass.
“Let me in!” He pleaded, “I could do some good with my leadership! Scarlett wants to get involved too!”
“I told them not to involve us in this maze nonsense,” said one woman, “are you okay?”
I nodded and thanked them, and they kindly revealed the exit.