Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maeser Hill

This is the last horror story I wrote for the BYU 38th Ward Book Club in its inaugural year.[1] As with the other stories I wrote that year, I drew heavily from other sources. In this case, I based the story on something that happened to my mother when she was an undergraduate at BYU. She had to stay in Provo by herself during Christmas and she was nervous because they had a peeping Tom. They could see his footprints in the snow outside of one of her roommate's windows. Fortunately nothing happened…to my mom, that is. Her fictional counterpart might not be so lucky… Read on if you dare! Happy Hallowe'en!

NOTE: I've annotated this story, but I recommend you read it all the way through before reading the notes.

A cold breeze blew across BYU campus. Jackie Munz bunched her coat up around her, shivered, and hurried on. There weren’t very many people around these days—most had gone home for Christmas break. Because of her work, Jackie wouldn’t be able to go home for the holidays. The most she’d be able to would be to call her family on Christmas and on New Year’s Eve. Other than that, she’d be spending three lonely weeks in Provo, wishing she were at home. Night had already fallen and a light snowfall was drifting haphazardly to the ground.

When Jackie came to the JSB, she saw a boy sitting on one of the benches. He didn’t stir as she walked past, so she ignored him. She hurried between the JSB and the Benson building and began walking down the stairs south of the JSB. She lived in a house at the bottom of Maeser Hill (colloquially known as ‘Rape Hill’ [2]), across from the duck pond. Even though there were several signs warning her not to walk down there after dark, Jackie began making her way down one of the dark trails. The shadows of the trees, crisscrossing the downward sloping path, were ominous and chilling.

When Jackie reached the bottom, she almost didn’t stop to see if any cars were coming—there weren’t. She ran to the house where she lived and began fumbling with her keys. Glancing down involuntarily, Jackie noticed the footprints in the snow around the house. For the last two weeks, they’d been having problems with a peeping tom. They had no idea who it was. The police were investigating it—but that was no comfort to Jackie. The lock clicked back. Jackie opened the door in a rush and stumbled into the house. She quickly turned and shut the door, locking it behind her. She listened for a moment, but heard nothing besides the fluttering of her heart. Catching her breath, Jackie turned on the lights and checked all the windows to make sure they were locked and the blinds drawn. Once sure of that, she went to her room and got ready for bed. After brushing her teeth, reading her scriptures, and saying her prayers, Jackie snuggled under the covers. But even though the house was locked up, Jackie fell asleep with an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

The next morning, Jackie woke up feeling better. Sunlight poured through the blinds of her window, bathing her in warmth. She stretched luxuriously and climbed out of bed to say her morning prayers. After that she went into the bathroom and began taking a shower. She was humming softly to herself as she lathered up. She turned to set her bar of soap on the windowsill and saw a shadow flash past the window.

Jackie screamed and tried to back away. She got caught up in the shower curtain and fell out of the bathtub, dragging the shower curtain down on top of her. Fortunately, Jackie wasn’t hurt and immediately jumped back to her feet. Her pulse raced so hard that she could hear a dull roar in her ears. She watched the window for several minutes and saw nothing more. Cautiously, she replaced the shower curtain and finished washing the soap off of her body. The window was small and a mottled translucent, so if some had been peaking in, they wouldn’t have seen much more than a multi-colored blur. But it still sent chills up Jackie’s spine.

After quickly dressing, Jackie ventured outside and peaked around the house. A fresh blanket of snow covered the ground from the night before…and a new set of footprints could be seen making their way around to the back of the house. Jackie’s heart began beating wildly, again. She rushed back into the house and called the police.

Fifteen minutes later, Officer Davies and Officer Gentle arrived. They surveyed the area, checked the footprints, took photographs, and did what they could to comfort Jackie. But they also informed her that it was unlikely that they would catch the culprit. As they left, they advised her to be sure and call them if anything else happened.

A few hours later, Jackie went to work. She decided not to tell anyone about the peeping tom—she was rather embarrassed about the whole situation. As it was, she didn’t usually have to interact with very many people at her job. Jackie worked as a research assistant for Dr. Linda Rhodes, who was investigating female composers in Vienna from the 18th century.[3] Most of the time, Jackie was alone in her tiny office reading through obscure books and papers, looking for useful information. On most days, she only saw Dr. Rhodes once or twice and rarely anyone else. The research had to be finished before the end of the year and they were still a little behind. So, Jackie was asked to stay and help finish the project. She wasn’t very happy about the idea, but she knew how badly Dr. Rhodes needed her.

Before she knew it, lunchtime had come and gone, and it was time to go home. She stepped out into the cold evening air. Jackie shivered at the prospect of having to walk home again through the shady park on the south edge of campus. As she came to the JSB, she saw the same young man sitting on one of the benches. As she walked past him, he looked up at her.

“Hello,” he said, casually.

Jackie stopped. “Hello,” she returned.

“My name is Nathan.” He held out his hand. “Nathan White.”

Jackie shook hands with him.

“I’m Jackie Munz.”

“Nice to meet you,” Nathan said. He had a friendly voice and a nice smile.

“What brings you here?”

“Oh, I’m working as a custodian in the JSB over the break. I’m just waiting for my roommate.”

“Well, nice meeting you.”

“Nice meeting you, too, Jackie.”

Jackie turned and began walking down the trail towards the duck pond. The dark trees stuck out in stark contrast to the star-sprinkled sky and gibbous moon. A penetrating breeze rushed past her and through her. Her breath came out in short bursts. Jackie’s feet crunched softly in the snow.

Then she thought she heard crunching behind her. Jackie spun around, her eyes scanning the trial behind her. There was no one there. She gasped in relief and put a hand to her heart, trying to quell it.

Then she heard another crunch.

Immediately her heartbeats doubled in frequency. She turned, searching the poorly-lit park with her eyes. She couldn’t make out anyone, but there were a dozen shadows large enough to hide someone.

Jackie turned and began walking quickly towards the bottom of the hill, watching behind her. Suddenly a shadow separated from the rest of the darkness and began moving towards her, quickly, its feet a staccato blur in the snow.

Jackie let out a low scream and began running. The shadow closed the distance between them. Jackie reached the street below in seconds and raced across it, the shadow in close pursuit. An oncoming car, which Jackie hadn’t bothered to look for, slammed on its brakes and honked. It missed her by inches, but cut off her pursuer. He tried to stop and slid on the ice, crashing into the car.

“I’ll get you!” he screamed in a harsh voice.

The car honked again.

Jackie continued running until she reached her house. As she fumbled for her keys, she glanced down the street—he was still coming. She plunged the key into the lock, opened the door, and quickly rushed inside. She slammed the door behind her and locked it again. Moments later, her pursuer arrived and began pounding on the door.

Jackie rushed into her living room and picked up the phone. Relief flooded into her heart when she heard that there was still a dial tone—she’d seen too many scary movies where the first thing the ‘bad guy’ did was cut the telephone lines. Jackie quickly dialed the police and asked that they send Officers Davies and Gentle. The woman on the line informed her that the officers had been dispatched to her house. Soon after that the pounding on her door stopped.

A couple of minutes later, Officer Davies and Officer Gentle arrived. Jackie told them, still gasping for breath, what had happened.

Officer Gentle chided her for walking down Maeser Hill after dark.

“But Officer, how else am I to get home? No matter which way I go, it’s going to be dark.”

“True,” he conceded. “But if you go around, there are street lights that make it not quite so dark. Please don’t go into the park after dark again.”

He seemed so adamant and nice that Jackie finally nodded her consent.

“Good. Now, Jackie, tomorrow night Officer Davies and I will be parked across the street from your house in a normal-looking car. We’re going to try and catch this guy. If he comes again tomorrow night, we’ll see him and nail him. If you have any problems, I want you to come out and get us, right away. Understood?”

Jackie nodded again.

“Good. We have to go, now. Goodnight, Jackie.”

“Goodnight, officers,” Jackie said, feeling much better.

Before going to bed, she watched Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to calm her nerves. As she checked the doors and windows, again, to make sure they were all locked, she noticed that it was snowing outside. She performed her nightly rituals and went to sleep.

The next morning, Jackie was distracted while showering—she was waiting for a shadow to move past the window, again. But, to her immense relief, the shadow never came. However, as she left her house, she noticed that there were footprints in the freshly fallen snow around her house. She sucked in her breath and glanced around, making sure he wasn’t around.

As Jackie was walking up to campus, a man approached her and began walking beside her. It was Officer Gently in civilian clothes.

“Hi, Jackie,” he whispered. “How are you?”

“I’m fine. Where’s Officer Davies?”

“He had a family emergency last night, so he won’t be here, today. But I will be. I’m going to be in a dark red, four-door car parked directly across the street from your house.”

“Officer?”

“Yes?”

“He was back, last night. There were footprints around my house, this morning.”

“Okay, Jackie. Thanks for letting me know. I think I’ll stake out your house for the whole day, just in case. Sound okay to you?”

Jackie nodded emphatically. Officer Gentle smiled and walked away.

After work, Jackie started making her way home. She’d committed to take another route home, but that didn’t make her feel any safer. In fact, she felt more vulnerable because she wasn’t as familiar with her surroundings.

Jackie walked down the sidewalk past the MARB, the Widtsoe, and the Clyde, made her way down the stairs, and made a right at the Sinclair Station. As she walked towards her house, she kept a wary eye—she didn’t want any shadows getting the jump on her tonight. In the end, her walk home turned out to be uneventful. As she reached her house, she noticed the red car parked where Officer Gentle had promised it would be. It appeared empty, but as she walked past she saw the officer’s hand come slightly out of the shadows and wave to her. Reassured that her house was safe, Jackie continued on to her door.

After a quick dinner, Jackie changed into her pajamas and went into the bathroom to brush her teeth. As she watched herself in the mirror, she heard the sound of breaking glass. It sounded like it came from the back of the house, so Jackie ran to the front door and flung it open. As she charged out onto the porch she looked to the red car across the street, hoping Officer Gentle would respond.

But Jackie quickly realized that she couldn’t count on any help from Officer Gentle. The driver side door was open and the interior light was on. By its light she could see Officer Gentle lying face down on the asphalt, unmoving. Moments later, the sound of someone fumbling around in the living room reached her ears. Not meaning to, Jackie let out a desperate shriek and ran out into the road, barefoot. Mere seconds passed before she heard her door crash open, spurring her on.

In only a few seconds more, Jackie had fled across the street and plunged into the darkness of the park on Maeser Hill. No cars were on the street and the footfalls of her pursuer quickly followed. Jackie made her way over to the other side of the duck pond as quietly as she could and crouched in the darkness, breathing shallowly.

She watched as the shadow of her stalker looked around uncertainly at the park. He slowly began walking into the cover of darkness, but from Jackie’s vantage point he was still visible against the ambient starlight that gave the sky a glowing contrast to the utter blackness of the trees and shadows of the park. As he came nearer, she held her breath, praying that he wouldn’t find her. Then he stopped.

“Hello, Jackie.”

Jackie let out another scream and ran past him, shoving at him. He immediately turned to follow. She’d just barely made it past the end of the duck pond when another shadow came hurtling out of the night. It crashed into her attacker, knocking him into the semi-frozen water. The thrashing sounds of a fight soon caused Jackie to stop running and turn around to investigate. In spite of her fear, Jackie turned around and went back to see what was happening.

Seconds later she was joined by Officer Gentle. Blood was seeping from a deep gash on his forehead. Jackie flinched. Officer Gentle drew his pistol and raised it with his flashlight, illuminating the struggling pair.

“Freeze! Police!” he bellowed.

The two figures in the water stopped struggling and slowly extricated themselves from each other. Her rescuer was Nathan White; her assailant was—

“Mark Peterson?” Jackie’s mind reeled. She’d gone to high school with Mark. Before she could stop herself, Jackie turned around and vomited in the snow.

Carefully keeping his gun on the two, Officer ordered them out of the water.

“Jackie, can you tell me which one of those men attacked you?”

She pointed to Mark.

“All right. I’ll need to take both of you in for questioning.” At that point Officer Gentle called in for backup. Minutes later red and blue lights were flashing all over the park. Mark and Nathan were both escorted away in hand cuffs as their Miranda rights were being read to them. Officer Gentle was taken away in an ambulance because of his head injury.


Jackie followed Nathan to the squad car that would convey him to police headquarters.

“Thank you,” she said.

Nathan grinned sheepishly.

“When I didn’t see you walk past, tonight, I got a little worried. My roommate had to work late, so I stuck around waiting. When I heard someone scream down on Rape Hill I ran to help. I’m just glad nothing happened to you.”

Jackie smiled back at him. “Me too.”

A week and a half later, Jackie was decorating her house for New Year’s Eve. She’d invited Nathan over and was excited to see him again. She hummed softly to herself, happy that she wouldn’t be spending the holiday alone. She went into the kitchen to take some brownies out of the oven. As she was doing so, the doorbell rang. Her heart gave a skip—that must be Nathan!

“Come in!” Jackie called out, gaily.

But it wasn’t Nathan who came through the door.

“Hello, Jackie.”


Notes:

[1] Read my first horror story from that year at my post Lightbearer.

[2] This is a wooded park on the side of the hill that houses the Maeser Building. It gained this disreputable name because girls were often assaulted while walking there in the dark. Steps have since been taken to prevent such occurrences and the nickname is largely historical these days.

[3] I actually heard about a girl on campus a few years ago who was awarded a BYU research grant (called an ORCA grant) to travel to Austria for just such a project).

Image attributions:

Northern Lights is by Rich and Rose Primmer at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and exists in the public domain. It is available at http://www.public-domain-image.com/nature-landscapes-public-domain-images-pictures/moonlight-public-domain-images-pictures/green-lights-on-sky-at-night-northern-lights.jpg.html.

Night Trees is by Jon Sullivan and exists in the public domain. It is available at http://www.public-domain-image.com/nature-landscapes-public-domain-images-pictures/forest-public-domain-images-pictures/night-trees-forest.jpg.html.

Moon Reflection is by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and exists in the public domain. It is available at http://www.public-domain-image.com/nature-landscapes-public-domain-images-pictures/moonlight-public-domain-images-pictures/moonscape-scenic-landscape.jpg.html.

No comments:

Post a Comment