Imagine, if you will ….
A beat-up burgundy ‘74 Chevy Nova coupe bounces along I-68 toward Morgantown, W.V. Behind the wheel is a young man in his early 20s. Chipmunk cheeks and bright eyes, the boy is thrilled to be on the road.
“I don’t know how you aren’t leaping out of your shirt, Pete,” he says. “Don’t you understand where we’re headed?”
“Mardi gras in the middle of nowhere is what I was promised,” says Pete, a scruffy looking, tousled 20-something sporting a thinning Frank Zappa T-shirt. “Tell me, are we getting close, Ray? Because it feels like we’ve been driving through the beginning of nowhere for a long time.”
“Athens, Ohio, considered one of the most haunted places on Earth!” Ray says. “It has an asylum, Venkman, where they still do lobotomies! One of the dormitories has a sealed room. A sealed room! With disembodied voices and phantom footsteps! And we’re going on Halloween!”
“Ray,” Pete says in a deadpan voice, but with widening eyes. “We’re drifting, Ray.”
“And get this,” Ray continues, mesmerized by this dissemination of information. “Quintuple cemeteries ring the campus. When you interlace those cemeteries with a line on a map, it reveals a pentagram! Here, I can show … “
Ray reaches into the backseat of the car, letting go the steering wheel. The Nova slips into the median.
Venkman grabs the wheel, jerking it to the right, bringing the car back up onto the highway. A Ford Fairmont squeals to a halt and an 18-wheeler nearly jackknifes as the Nova settles in to its lane.
“I believe this is yours,” Venkman says, indicating the wheel and his white knuckles.
Ray Stantz sheepishly settles back into the driver’s seat.
“Ten and two, Ray. Ten and two.”
So you live in a lab
“You’ll find adequate space for sleep on the floor, though you will most likely only achieve stage three - and only then if your alcoholic intake remains below 32 ounces of fermented beverage or four ounces of distilled, clear liquor.”
“Peter Venkman. Egon Spengler,” Ray says, introducing his travel companion to his long-time chum.
Pete gives Egon a solid palm squeeze. “So, you live a lab. That’s different.”
“Egon’s a quantum physics major,” Ray says.
Egon clears pizza boxes and petrie dishes from a stainless steel lab table. “It’s only for the weekend. My roommate is hosting several friends in our dorm room. There is little doubt our personal space would be regularly violated.”
“Pete’s undecided,” Ray says. He sets his knapsack on the table, unbuckling the leather strap and reaching inside. “How is Lorraine anyway?”
Pete’s eyebrows raise. “Your roommate is a woman?”
“Recuperating from work in Costa Rica,” Egon says, collecting three Erlenmeyer flasks from a bin. “And, yes, she is female.”
“Science work?” Pete asks. “How does she look in a lab coat?”
“Cute,” Egon says, unruffled.
“That’s funny, Pete,” Ray says with a chuckle. He slips a bottle of cheap whiskey from his bag. “No, Lorraine models jeans for that new denim company … what’s it called?”
“Model?” Pete says.
“Jordache,” Egon answers.
“And her friends?” Pete says.
“Not models,” Egon answers.
“Aspiring models,” Ray continues. “Most from the cheerleading squad, isn’t that right, Ray?”
Pete continues nodding. He tugs the whiskey from Ray’s hand, twists off the top. He snatches the flasks from Egon and pours two fingers in each.
“You know, gentleman,” Pete says, handing each a flask. “I’d really like to see Egon’s dorm room. Get a real feel for his roommate’s personal space.”
Floating-point feedback elements
“Is this a plasma disk phase generator?” Ray says, turning over the chunky metal orb, a kind of techno-melon with a pair of switches and spindly wires.
“With a phaselock reducer,” Egon adds. “I have a floating-point feedback element coming via mailorder.”
“Are you thinking …?”
“If I garner enough power, I might have a working ….”
“Ecto-containment unit. Amazing.”
The room is not much more than 20 feet by 20 feet. Bunk beds line one of the walls. Pete lies on the bottom mattress, his hands behind his head, his feet up on the pillow.
“Which is yours, Spengler?”
Egon fiddles with the metal orb. He flips a switch and the ball shakes and hums. “She likes it on top.”
“Such a shame she’s not home,” Pete mutters.
“I said, ‘How does a fella get to room with a Jordache jeans model at a public university?’”
“I’m officially documented as non-threatening by University officials,” Egon says. He flips the second switch and the ball glows, then levitates three feet above the ground.
“Where can we test it out?” Ray says. “Can we go test it out? Can we?”
“Down boy,” Pete says.
“There’s a grotto near the art building that is purring with PKE activity.”
“Venkman, you coming?”
“You couldn’t keep me away,” Pete says, swinging his legs and sitting up on the bunk bed. “But you know what, I’m beat. I think I’ll, you know, hang out here and see what develops.”
“It’s field research,” Ray says with smile. “You might like it.”
“I’ll leave the ghoulies to you, Ray,” Pete says. “If you leave the girlies to me.”
That kinda racket
“That kinda racket’ll wake the dead.”
The voice startles Pete awake. He hollers, sits bolt upright, banging his head on the bars of the bottom bunk. He tumbles off the mattress and on to the concrete floor in pain.
“What’d you go and do that for?” Pete grumbles, still unsure who he’s speaking to. His hand covers a tiny gash on his head. Blood seeps through his fingers.
She’s beautiful, though, the woman in the doorway. Her ruffled pixie-cut fits her wine-colored hair well, Pete notices.
“Your snoring,” she says, stepping into the room. “It was like a backfiring truck.”
The woman kneels down and gently pulls his hand aside. He feels a warm trickle of blood ooze along the crook of his eye socket and into his eye. He blinks.
Even with impaired vision, even through the woman’s Halloween make-up - smeared, dirty streaks of black along her pale face powder - Peter Venkman sees how beautiful she is.
He’s smitten. As smitten as a kitten.
“You might need a stitch,” she says.
“A stitch in time …” Pete says, reaching up on to the bed.
“... saves nine? I don’t follow,” the woman says.
“... calls for some whiskey,” Pete replies. He pulls the bottle from among the blanket folds. Half the bottle is gone, but “There’s plenty left for two.”
The woman stands up, brushes off her short, blue dress with the paisley pattern. “Thanks, but no. I should head home.”
“C’mon,” says Pete. “One won’t hurt. Two, maybe.”
The woman looks at Pete. He flutters his eyes.
“Look,” he says. “I’m cute. And harmless. The university says so. Well, not about me, but about someone I met tonight. Plus, models live in this room. How dangerous can a room that houses models be?”
The woman can’t hold back a smile. It’s small, barely an upward crease of her blue lips, but it’s there.
“Ahhhh, see,” Pete says. He pours a shot of whiskey in a Dixie cup. “Just one.”
“Because two would be dangerous,” the woman says.
“Right,” Pete says. He laughs. Genuinely laughs. And his eyes beam with the authentic luster of happiness.
No clearance to land
They finish the bottle of course. It takes more than an hour and at least three locations.
A few drinks in the dorm room. Pete tells her how he grew up in Albany and decided to go attend Columbia University to finally see the big city. His ambition is big, Pete tells her, but his rudder is directionless.
She tells him how the secluded college town of Athens lured her from the hustle and bustle of Chicago. She needed some wide-open space to thrive.
When Pete tries to kiss her, the woman leads him Uptown to Court Street, where they get lost in the hundreds of Halloween revelers. They have taken over the college town, moving in and out of local bars and through the brick streets dressed as spooks and spectres and things that go bump in the night.
She leads him to Simms Cemetery. It’s Halloween after all, she says, so why wouldn’t you finish a bottle of whiskey among the dead?
Makes sense to him, Pete tells her. After all, anything she says would make sense to him.
It’s among the gravestones that the woman lets Pete get close enough to breathe her in. He breathes deep, too, overwhelmed by her earthiness.
His head swirls. He’s drunk. And not just by way of too much Old Heaven Hill. She has intoxicated him. Overwhelmed him. Possessed him.
But again, she does not give him clearance to land.
“Take me home,” she says.
“Already? We just started up a very insightful conversation.”
She looks at him with those eyes and says again, “Take me home.”
“Oh, right. That take me home.”
Lucky by all accounts
She lives on the fourth floor of Wilson Hall on the campus’ west green.
“Here we are,” she sing-songs, almost slurs, her green eyes warm, even while her eyelids hang low.
“Here we are,” Pete repeats. “Room 428. That’s a great number, by the way. Lucky, by all accounts.”
The woman giggles. Then sighs. And the moment grows serious.
She closes her eyes, leans forward.
Pete does the same. He puckers his lips reaches out for her. He knows already that this is the woman he will marry. The woman he will have children with. Who he’ll argue with, make up with, grow old and retire with. She will appreciate the Mrs. Butterworth treatment.
He bangs his head once more, opening the cut on his forehead, as he falls into the door of Room 428. A dot of blood covers the letters on a sticker pasted to the door.
"Permanently sealed by decree of the Office of the President, Ohio University, 1968."
Pete stumbles backward, bumping into the brick wall on the opposite side of the hall.
Pete spins around on his heels, looking down the hall for the young woman with the wine-colored pixie cut. She is no where to be found.
At least a class three
“Here it is,” Egon shouts over the drunken laughter of Lorraine and her friends. “Room 428, Wilson Hall. PKE readings in the red.”
“What does that mean?” Pete says. A scantily-clad cheerleader tumbles into his lap and he pushes her away. “Translation, Ray?”
“Whoa, in the red?” Ray says. “That’s a phantasm for sure.”
“You’re saying my girl was a ghost.”
“At least a class three,” Egon answers.
The sound of laughter and music and clinking beer bottles fades to a hum for Peter Venkman. He can see nothing but a blur of lights.
Wilson Hall, Room 428
Ray finds Pete asleep in front of Room 428, Wilson Hall, his back against the door. He gently shakes his shoulder.
“Wake up, bud,” he says. “Time to head home.”
Pete takes a deep breath, fills his lungs. He shakes his head in agreement.
The friends stand up together. Ray pats Pete on the shoulder again, gives him a sheepish smile.
“One minute,” Pete says.
He stands in front of the door to Room 428. Pete inhales, takes a step backward, then kicks in the door.
“Venkman!” Ray yells.
Pete looks over at Ray, his face tight and angry. He walks into the room.
The room is not only empty, it is abandoned. A thin layer of dust covers the linoleum floor. Rust eats away at the single bed frame. The mattress faded gray from distilled sunlight squeaking through a single grimy window. Lint collects in the edges of a skeletal bookcase.
Venkman opens the small closet in the corner. A paltry collection of wire hangers swing on steel rod. It is empty, the closet, except for one item. A threadbare blue dress with a paisley pattern.
There is a small name plate from a local restaurant pinned to the dress.
“Nina,” Peter whispers.
Ray sits behind the wheel of the beat-up burgundy ‘74 Chevy Nova coupe as it bounces along I-68 east toward New York. Peter sits silently next to him. The friends haven’t spoken since the car crossed the Ohio state line.
“You know, Ray,” Pete says. “I like that Egon. He’s a good egg.”
Ray smiles. “He is, Pete. A really good guy.”
“We should get him to move out to New York. Maybe do his graduate work at Columbia.”
“Sounds like a real deal.”
“And you, I think I might give the whole parapsychology thing a run. Seems like a pretty good con, right? Spooks and spectres,” he laughs. “There’s a fortune to be made selling that snake oil.”
“Sure, Pete, there is.”
Ray smiles, turns up the radio and rolls down the window.