Chapter One: The Wheel of Misfortune
The clock strikes eight. It is time. We sardine ourselves on our crumb-crusted couch, breathy and blissfully ignorant of the psychological terrors which await us. I am wearing a fluffy pink bathrobe. This would become my uniform for the sadistic virtual obstacle course created by the Silliman Housing Committee in what was probably a dark grotto with stalactites dripping acid onto the floor, or perhaps a haunted 1950s bomb shelter under PWG. They probably all have little mustaches they fondle as they plan the demise of half of Silliman’s relationships. They probably all stroke little ugly bald cats.
We log onto the Zoom. Names, faces, it’s all a blur. 11 groups, nine quads. Friends are foes; up is down; trust is a luxury of a past life.
“Ashley,” if that’s even her real name, pops up all too cheerfully, shattering the sublimity of our virtual purgatory. She explains the rules of Round 1 to us: a wheel, segmented by the representatives of each housing group, will be spun twice. The chosen sacrifices will be forced to disband and regroup with four terrifyingly anonymous stragglers. What the fuck. How is this legal. May the odds be ever in our favor.
The wheel is spun; the first foursome felled. Just to twist the rusty, corrugated knife, the Chosen One’s name is brought onto the screen in a flutter of confetti. The computer shouts, “Congratulations to the winner!”
“Ashley” unmutes herself: “Unfortunately, in this case, you are not a winner. Your suite is disbanded.” This is dystopian. Whatever, we’re still in the game. Every Sillimander for themself. Eat or be eaten, baby.
The Wheel of Death is spun once more; it slows, it slows, it DOESN’T SLOW FAST ENOUGH, IT’S COMING RIGHT FOR US, I CAN’T LIVE IN A CO-ED SUITE, AND OH GOD we’re safe. By an eighth of an inch, the only three women in this Zoom room who know my shower schedule will remain my suitemates. I’m going to worship Ashley as my new god. I’m going to send Ashley an Edible Arrangement. I’m going to offer up a kidney at the Altar of Ashley, whether she needs it or not.
Chapter Two: The Open House of Horrors
We’ve made it through the prelims, and now even more unspeakable tragedies loom over us. Of the nine quads, four are literally worse than our current hovel. Like L-Dub level travesties.
It is the Hour of the Open House. We’ve snagged the fifth lottery spot, narrowly escaping sleeping butt-to-butt in the inexplicably long and narrow dorms of A Tower. Were people taller and skinnier when Silliman was built in the ‘20s? Who did this?
The Silliman courtyard buzzes with wide-eyed innocents; the top lottery-pick royalty refuse to make eye contact with the last-place pondscum. It feels like the Stanford Prison Experiment, when a bunch of psychiatrists arbitrarily gave a couple of student participants guard privileges and they started beating up their classmates. The Algorithm has decided our lots in life for us. All hail the StarRez overlords.
My suite, comfortably occupying the middle echelons of the Silliman room hierarchy, flits from quad to quad, indignant when we are not afforded our God-given right of snooping around in random strangers’ rooms that we might-but-probably-won’t live in next year. One of the second-pickers toys with us, mercilessly refusing to tell us where her group plans to live. We genuflect, we beseech, we exhort. Nada. Suddenly, we are mere feudal peasants, Sid from “Toy Story’s” deformed playthings. We are worms. I think I get what Marx was on about.
Chapter Three: Fallout
We’ve secured it: perfectly mediocre housing. We are sharing a suite of two doubles with a two-stall bathroom that will be used by at least six other floormates, and for some reason our suite has three fireplaces ???, but so be it. We mourn the fallen soldiers who will remain trapped in the inferno of bunk-bed housing and common-room desks. We realize why people move off campus.
A text dings on the suite groupchat: one of the bedrooms has two windows, the other only one. Let the games begin again.