Which building was it? Which cult was it?

Freshman year. The year of the fresh man. Anything can happen. Something definitely will. 

That’s what I was told before coming to campus, both by my older friends and by my paranoia. It became an anxious revolution of oh yes I’m gonna slay everything I do and oh no I’m gonna be so fucked when I get there. It became a problem. 

Unlike most sane people, I was incapable of dealing with this problem while conscious. But my helpless computer-science-majoring, algorithm-writing, problem-solving brain, in an act of what can only be called generosity, gave me a crisp second chance to solve it while subconscious

Freshman year materialized into my dreams. And it quite literally killed me. 

In my dream, the Columbia campus looked like my high school campus. The president of Columbia was not Minouche; it was my high school principal. The sky was intermittently turning gray. The campus was inhabited by at most 200 people (and a cult, but more on that later). 

In my dream, I was determined to “make the most of college,” powered by some sort of embarrassing desperation and the YOLO agenda. 

Because college is meant for exploration. If my idea of exploration happened to fall outside of Columbia rules and regulations, I guessed I would just have to ignore said rules and regulations. 

We don’t need to get into the details of exactly what I did. The most interesting part is what happened after I had already done it. My high school principal sentenced me to:


Was I happy to find out that one of the glorious pillars of the American high school experience also held up college walls? No. But was I going to let this stop me? NO. 

Detention was on the fourth floor of some building, I don’t remember which. The principal personally dropped me off at the room and then left (I wonder if that was any indication of how good of a principal, er, president she was). I was the only kid there, which kind of crushed my Breakfast Club dreams. I should mention that I’m not American, and also I had never been threatened by or sentenced to detention before. The concept escaped me. 

So when I was done taking in the views, I decided to leave. I don’t remember what I was thinking, but I ended up opening the window and leaning over it. Ah, a gentle breeze. It was enough to break my fall… or rather, my masterful jump. Out of the window. I would be just fine, I told myself. 

Currently, as a highly experienced Columbian who knows the campus like the back of her hand, I realize that the windows do not open far enough to let a human through. But in that building, back then, in the dream, they sure did.

Anyways, I leapt out of the window, my form no less than an Olympic gymnast’s.

Still, it was still four floors up, so you may ask, how did I survive this? By being smart and jumping into a dumpster. As I lay there, limbs shocked, glasses lopsided, and olfactory glands assailed, I wondered if the rest of the year would be like this (a valid concern, and how relatable). 

It was then, as I slowly pulled myself out of the dumpster, that I saw the first of them. Canary yellow and oxblood, a blur, motion, a smirk beneath an eye mask, the gait of a peacock, all very terrifying stuff. 

But alas, my dream self was set on “seizing every opportunity”, so she set off behind them, being dragged to the deep, dark underbelly of Columbia. 

Now, dreams are obscure, and I would like to refrain from making things up. So while I can’t provide a detailed description of what I saw in the basement, I can tell you it was all very cult-y. It scared my dream self, and it scared my conscious self after I had woken up and it’s scaring me now as I recall what I saw. What’s even scarier is that they saw me. They saw me seeing them

With my trembling freshman legs and exploding freshman brain, I couldn’t move. So they got me. Since I had seen everything, of course, they had to get rid of my existence. Of course

(Well, I hate to do this, but I’m going to…) 

And then I woke up. 

Before you come for my throat like the cult people did, I would like to declare that I am #notlikeotherandtheniwokeuptropes. Didn’t I clearly specify that it was all a dream beforehand? I did not mean to trick you, dear reader. I meant to light within you a sizzling spark of curiosity. Let me explain. 

No instance in my life so far has indicated that I might have clairvoyant abilities, but I let my optimism (pessimism?) get the better of me and thought, “Maybe I am clairvoyant.”

Maybe the dream was a cautionary tale—don’t ignore Columbia rules and regulations, kid. Or maybe my brain is a crystal ball (feels like one sometimes), and the dream was a message from the universe, intended to lead me to the cult that actually exists in that building. 

I convinced myself of this. I started to sweat. The first few days on campus, I casted nervous, paranoid glances behind me every few minutes, and purposefully avoided JJ’s, NOT because I was trying to eat healthy. Because it’s in the BASEMENT. 

I quoted Walt Disney in a speech I gave in middle school, when I did not know the definition of a cult. Enlightened, I will quote him again here: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Do I? Do I have the courage to pursue my dreams? 


But you can do it for me. 

Put on your detective hat/gloves/coat, fearlessly surf the cobbled Columbia walkways until you find yourself inside a building where the windows open all the way. Do NOT jump out of it like a gymnast (unless you really are one). Use the stairs, go outside, find the dumpster and hide inside it. Once there, don’t forget to text me the name of the building. Then wait. Who knows? Maybe you only have to sit in the stench for five hours before you, too, discover a cult in Columbia!

Scary Liminal Space via Wikimedia Commons