The Spring Fling formal is the most important event on Salem University’s social calendar: a night when the entire school comes together to show off dresses, dance moves, and dates. But this year, just as the party is getting started, the stench of rotten eggs washes over the crowd. In the rush to escape the awful smell, a riot nearly breaks out. Somebody tossed a stink bomb to ruin the dance—but who would pull such a prank? Quinn Hadley doesn’t know anything about it; she couldn’t get a date, and she slept through the dance. But when she awakes, she finds one of her jackets reeking of sulfur. Quinn knows she has a problem with sleepwalking, and she worries that she tossed the stink bomb while unconscious. As the tricks escalate, Quinn comes unhinged. For the girl who fears sleep, madness is not far off. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Diane Hoh including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
About the Author
Diane Hoh (b. 1937) is a bestselling author of young adult fiction. Born in Warren, Pennsylvania, Hoh began her first novel, Loving That O’Connor Boy (1985), after seeing an ad in a publishing trade magazine requesting submissions for a line of young adult fiction. After contributing novels to two popular series, Cheerleaders and the Girls of Canby Hall, Hoh found great success writing thrillers, beginning with Funhouse (1990), a Point Horror novel that became a national bestseller. Following its success, Hoh created the Nightmare Hall series, whose twenty-nine installments chronicle a university plagued by dark secrets, and the seven-volume Med Center series, about the challenges and mysteries in a Massachusetts hospital. In 1998, Hoh had a runaway hit with Titanic: The Long Night and Remembering the Titanic, a pair of novels about two couples’ escape from the doomed ocean liner. She now lives and writes in Austin.
Read an Excerpt
The Night Walker
By Diane Hoh
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Diane Hoh
All rights reserved.
Suddenly, there was a hand on Quinn Hadley's left arm, its cool fingers encircling her wrist. A familiar voice said with a hint of irritation, "Oh, Quinn, not again! How am I supposed to get any sleep if I have to hunt down my roommate in the middle of the night? I've got a heavy-duty psych exam tomorrow morning at eight. At eight, Quinn!"
Quinn, her dark brown eyes open but glazed, turned to face the voice. But she really didn't see the small, thin girl with very short ginger-colored hair and sleep-swollen green eyes. "I was asleep, Quinn! The way you should be. Well, I guess you still are, in a way. I know I'm not supposed to wake you up, so come on," she said, beginning to lead Quinn down the darkened hallway on the sixth floor in Devereaux dorm at Salem University. "Can we please go back to bed now?"
They padded quietly down the hallway, a tiny girl in a white T-shirt leading a tall, slender, silent figure who moved mechanically, robotlike. Because the girl named Quinn didn't argue or make any noise, no doors opened, no curious heads peered out to see what was going on.
"I specifically asked for a nonsmoking roommate," the small girl grumbled as she reached out to turn a doorknob. "It never occurred to me to request a nonsleepwalker! Who'd think of something like that?"
The door opened. Quinn was led inside and deposited firmly on one of a pair of long, narrow beds set against opposite walls. "Now, stay there," Quinn was told. "Please! I need my rest."
Quinn obediently lay down on the bed, curling her freezing feet tightly inside the blankets to warm them.
"This can't keep up," the voice continued, as bedsprings creaked across the room. "I get so cranky when I don't get enough sleep. The worst part is, you probably won't even remember this in the morning ..." The voice trailed off and became deep, even breathing. Asleep.
Quinn lay very still on her bed, her eyes closed. She was completely awake now. The sound of the door closing behind them had snapped her back to reality. The voice, she knew, belonged to Tobie Thomason, her roommate in room 602. She knew, too, although she hated to admit it, that Tobie had just rescued her from a sleepwalking episode.
Quinn tingled with shame. A college freshman, sleepwalking! Just like when she was a little kid in footed pajamas, wandering around in the dark looking for ... for what? She'd never figured that out. Looking for her parents? For safety? No, her room had always felt perfectly safe. She'd never been afraid of the dark.
Her parents had never come up with an answer, either. When the problem worsened in Quinn's adolescence, her slightly embarrassed mother had taken her to a psychiatrist.
"Stress," he had announced firmly. "Alleviate the girl's stress and the problem will end."
And her mother had responded heatedly, "She's a teenager, doctor. Her entire life is stressful. Should we lock her in her room until she's twenty-one?"
Quinn had smiled, but the doctor hadn't. "No," he had said seriously, "that would be too drastic. However, it might be prudent to try locking her bedroom door at night. Just, of course, until she's over this crisis."
Her first visit with the good doctor had been the last.
Her parents had, though, locked her bedroom door, after installing a very expensive smoke alarm.
Several months later, the episodes had ended, for no apparent reason, just as they'd begun.
There had been a second siege shortly after her fifteenth birthday, and a third when she was sixteen. Each time, her parents had begun locking her bedroom door again until the episodes abruptly ended.
There had been no more since she was sixteen.
So it had been a terrible shock when Tobie had told Quinn about the first incident at Salem.
It was back at the beginning of the year. Orientation was behind them and their room had achieved some semblance of order. Their personalities were very different. Quinn was almost hyperactive, always on the move. If she was sitting still, her fingers were busy doodling or fidgeting with a paper clip or a pen or, in a restaurant, the salt and pepper shakers. Tobie was quieter and had a lot less energy. She often took naps after classes, and many evenings she was "too tired" to go out. The running joke in the dorm was that the two were "The Odd Couple" because Quinn, who needed to be occupied at all times, was a neat freak, and Tobie was the complete opposite.
"You're a dropper," Quinn had joked when they'd been in the room less than a week. "You come in and drop your books on your bed, you take your clothes off and drop them on the floor, and you drop your wet towels on the tile in the bathroom. My mother calls that a dropper."
Tobie's excuse was that it took too much energy to put things away.
But because Quinn appreciated having a calmer, quieter roommate to offset her own restless energy, and because Tobie liked the idea of having someone else keep things reasonably neat, they had settled into their new routine without too much effort.
Until Tobie told Quinn, one brisk September morning, "You were walking in your sleep last night."
Quinn had stared at her, awash with dismay.
"I woke up and your bed was empty," Tobie explained hesitantly, aware of Quinn's embarrassment. "At first, I thought you were in the bathroom. But when you didn't come back, I went hunting for you. You were just about to go down the fire stairs when I spotted you. You'd already opened the door. That really scared me. That stairway is dark. You could have fallen."
Quinn had had such a hard time dealing with this new episode, she'd talked to one of the school counselors. He, too, had mentioned "stress," but had been more understanding than the first doctor. "I know it's hard, now that you're at college. So much to do. But you must try to get plenty of sleep, don't wear yourself out studying or partying, and try some deep breathing exercises to help you relax before you go to sleep."
The advice was sound, and had seemed to be working.
So it was a bitter disappointment to realize that she had once again been prowling around the halls in her sleep.
Tears of frustration stabbed at Quinn's eyelids. There was no way in the world to keep every ounce of stress out of her life. That wasn't possible, not for anyone. Unless you lived in a bubble. This business with Simon, was that what had triggered this latest episode? She'd taken a nocturnal walk in the cold darkness because Simon Kent had suddenly and without explanation lost all interest in her?
No. No! That couldn't be what it was! She refused to believe that anyone had that kind of power over her. Not even someone as terrific as Simon had seemed to be.
It had to be something else. Maybe it was her killer calculus class. Maybe she was homesick. It could be anything. It wasn't Simon Kent.
Forcing herself to breathe deeply, Quinn pushed from her mind the nasty shock of finding herself sleepwalking again. Sleep ... she needed sleep.
She needed sleep because this weekend was Spring Fling. A very big deal at Salem University. There were parties, bands, and activities out on the Commons, and the big formal dance ...
She wasn't going to the dance. Not now.
But she'd be going to all of the other events, and she didn't want to be too tired.
Quinn rolled over on her side, wondering if Tobie would request a different roommate now. Her last thought before she finally fell into a deep sleep was, I don't want another roommate. She's not exactly Miss Excitement and she's as sloppy as a two-year-old, but I don't want to start all over again with someone new.
Quinn fell asleep envisioning a long line of new roommates, all of them staying in 602 only a night or two before packing their bags and jumping ship. Who wants to room with someone who haunts the halls at night like a vampire?
Quinn saw Simon twice the following Friday on the Commons. Both times, he hurried past her, his thin shoulders bent, his eyes on the ground as if he expected to find something of value there. But she knew he was only avoiding her eyes.
Her heartache was mixed with anger. It's your own fault, Simon Kent, she thought as she lifted her head very high. We were having such a wonderful time, and you ended it, just like that, without a word. I don't know if I'll ever forgive you.
At least he hadn't ruined Salem for her. She loved the campus, with its rolling green lawns, its huge old trees now beginning to bud, its old but sturdy brick and stone buildings, some covered with vines. She had felt at home here from the very first. And she had made so many other friends besides Simon.
"I'm sorry you're not going to the dance," Tobie told Quinn quietly as they walked back to the dorm that night. "I guess everyone still thinks you and Simon are an item. You could have asked someone, Quinn."
Quinn shook her head. "Not interested. And I don't want to talk about it. It's been a long day and I'm really tired." She forced a grin. "I don't think you have to worry about me waking you up tonight. I should sleep like the dead."
"I'm not worried. You've only walked in your sleep twice. Don't make it sound like you do it all the time."
"But I might," Quinn replied lightly, to hide the fear that had begun haunting her again, just as it had when she was in high school.
She couldn't believe it had started all over again.
Saturday was as busy as Friday, with a carnival out on the Commons. The events had been planned by Jessica Vogt and Ian Banion. They both lived at Nightingale Hall, an off-campus dorm a short distance from the university. A gloomy old brick house set high up on a hill, the place had been nicknamed "Nightmare Hall" following the tragic death of a girl who lived there.
Quinn liked both Jess and Ian. Jess was thin and pretty, with very short dark hair, and very nice. Ian was tall and good-looking, with shoulder-length hair the color of charcoal. They were a great couple.
All of it was fun. The hard part came later for Quinn, watching Tobie dress for the dance. And when a friend of theirs, Ivy Green, and her roommate, Suze Blythe, arrived from their room down the hall to "check out Tobie's dress," Quinn had to bite down hard on her lower lip to keep from crying out, "It's not fair! My first Spring Fling at Salem and I'm not even going to the big dance."
It's my own fault, she scolded silently. I was dumb enough to keep hoping until the last minute that Simon would recover from whatever was bugging him, and ask me. And he didn't. So here I am.
Ivy, her silky black hair swept sleekly away from her fair, oval face, said as she entered, "I can't believe you didn't invite someone to this dance, Quinn. I wouldn't have missed it for anything." Her tone of voice made it clear that fish would fly before Ivy Green sat alone in her room on a Saturday night.
Suze, who was short, with a great deal of blonde, curly hair, nodded. "Really, Quinn, you're not going to pine over Simon forever, are you?"
Quinn flushed. "I've got a handle on it," she said coolly. Right. Like anyone in the room believed that for a second.
"Simon Kent is a jerk," Ivy added emphatically.
"You could take my place at the dance," Tobie said softly. "I think I feel a headache coming on."
"Tobie!" Quinn sent her a stern glance. "Danny Collier's a nice guy. You'll have a great time."
"I know, but ... I just don't feel like dancing." The look in Tobie's green eyes was one Quinn had seen before and couldn't identify. Sadness? Fear? Simple homesickness?
"You will when you get there," Ivy promised. "Now, let's get this show on the road. See you later, Quinn. If you wait up, we'll tell you all about it when we get home."
"Oh, I won't be up," Quinn said, flopping down on her bed. "I'll hit the books for a while, then it's an early bedtime for me. Have fun, you three."
She hated the look of pity in their eyes as they left the room.
She had only half-finished her paper when, although the night was warm, she was forced to get up and close the window to shut out the sounds of music coming from the dance.
She drew a stick figure, labeled it Simon Kent, stabbed it several dozen times with her pencil point and then, feeling better, threw the drawing away and finished her paper. Then she wrote briefly in her journal and went to bed, careful to remember her breathing exercises.
And she slept.CHAPTER 2
It was warm in the ballroom of the Student Center. So many people gathered together in one space raised the temperature in spite of the big doors open on both sides. The floral decorations on the round tables were beginning to wilt like discarded lettuce leaves, and only a few black ties hadn't been stuffed into back pockets of black trousers, only a few white shirt collars remained firmly fastened.
The music of the last dance was slow. Couples filled the dance floor, entwined, heads lying on shoulders.
Had they been asked, most would have agreed that the evening had been great, fun, a blast, super, even ... yes, even perfect.
But then it began.
It began slowly, entering the room in a mere whiff of ... something different ... something that didn't belong, that didn't fit.
A few noses wrinkled delicately and tried to dismiss it, reluctant to spoil the "perfect" evening by something that didn't fit.
But it wouldn't be dismissed.
It gathered strength, burgeoning quickly from a mere whiff to a definite presence that couldn't be ignored.
It began at a side wall, seeping out of a heat duct placed high above the floor. The people beneath the duct came to a sudden halt, as if stopped by a traffic cop. Coughing and choking broke out and eyes began to stream with tears as the foul odor enveloped them, wrapping them in its pungent fumes.
Leaving its mark on that group, it slithered further on into the room, dropping down to seize this couple, that couple, this group, that group, in its revolting grasp.
Shouts of "Oh, God, what is that?" sounded as feet stopped moving, eyes teared up, chests began to heave, hands flew to nostrils in an effort to escape the putrid smell.
Girls in brightly colored dresses stumbled backwards and guys in tuxedoes staggered helplessly as eyes were blinded by free-flowing tears from the sickening fumes. Bodies, spinning around in a frantic search for a way out, slammed into other bodies. Some fell to the worn wooden floor and were stepped on by other unseeing victims. Cries of pain echoed out into the huge room.
Members of the band, clutching their instruments, jumped down from the bandstand at the front of the room and raced for the open doors.
As the repugnant odor snaked its way into every corner of the room, the panic escalated into mayhem. Feet began running, pounding across the floorboards with urgency. Pushing and shoving were rampant. The smaller and weaker fell. Some were helped upright by others, some were not.
Jess and Ian stood in one corner and watched helplessly as the dance became a frenzied race for fresh, untainted air.
"It's like the running of the bulls," Jess said in disbelief, her own eyes beginning to tear as the foul odor reached their quiet little corner. "In Spain. When the bulls chase people down the street ..."
Then they, too, were wrapped in the stinging, burning fumes, and were seized by the same need to escape them.
Halfway across the room, she fell, her arms instinctively reaching out to break her fall. As she landed, a heavy, racing foot came down hard on her left wrist. There was a sharp, snapping sound, like a twig being broken in half, and Jess screamed in pain. Ian bent to scoop her up off the floor and, scarcely breaking his stride, aimed for the door.
In the doorway jam, people were toppling like dominoes. Frightened voices cried out for help.
"Four at a time!" a voice shouted then, and a huge guy with blond hair appeared in the doorway, barring it, thick arms outstretched on each side of him. Danny Collier shouted commandingly, "You go out of here four at a time or you don't go at all!"
The stern command broke the panic. Realizing that people were being hurt, the crowd obeyed.
Although it seemed to take forever, the ballroom cleared.
They all gathered outside, wiping their eyes with tissues or hands, staring back at the student center in horrified disbelief.
Excerpted from Nightmare Hall by Diane Hoh. Copyright © 1994 Diane Hoh. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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