I could start at the beginning: I got up that morning, ate a homely breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, went to school, daydreamed about my Archaeology professor, ate lunch while giggling with some women from my Archaeology class, went out onto the grounds to do my homework and take advantage of the gorgeousness of the day—it was autumn and crisp, the sky a perfect blue backdrop to the riotous red change of leaves, and the air smelled fresh and dark, like well-turned earth—but the beginning is boring, as beginnings often are. You yourself have lived a hundred such beginnings.
I will give a brief description and history of the grounds. Given what has happened to me, the history has made the leap from quaint to sinister: the grounds are rolling and green, thick with trees and populated with secret trails. There’s a stream that sprouts up somewhere in the middle of all that verdure and flows out through a cleft in the low hills until it reaches a giant culvert. The culvert directs the busy waters to a muddy eddy in the local river. In the early 1980s the administration put a huge screen over the culvert to prevent drunk Uni students from using it as a waterslide. The groundskeepers are always cleaning clots of string bikinis and rejected boxer shorts out of that same grate; the stream cascades in a waterfall and fills up a deep clear pool before continuing its roar to the culvert. The land came as part of a bequest, the legacy of an old man in an oil painting that hangs in the building named after him. I think often now of that portrait and wonder at the tilt in the old man’s smile. He knew something about all of this, the crafty bastard.
I’d heard the stories. Everyone heard the stories. They were as part of the initiation into college life as keg parties and cram sessions. The student folklorists picked them apart with an avidity reserved for teenage fangirls. Those who followed the course of the stream up to the pool and had their drunken bonfire parties told their silly stories, but with a tinge of uncertainty: the one girl who was sure there were long-robed ghosts watching her in the woods, the guy who heard a bunch of men muttering in a guttural language, the unexplained lights flickering through distant trees. Archaeology students and Criminal Justice majors made forays into the woods by day, attempting to investigate the sources of nighttime disturbances. Linguistics students did their best to unravel approximations of the overheard languages. All of them looked for traces of fires, disturbed earth, fibers and fallen buttons that might’ve been left behind. Parapsychology majors left tape recorders and video cameras rigged up in the branches overnight. Most of the stories got laughed off and blamed on the interference of alcohol and psychedelic drugs. I laughed them off.
I’m not laughing now.
I’ll begin with the action. That’s the part you want to read. How I, a nice girl, ended up in a place like this—Middle-fuckin-earth.