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Editors Note

Editor’s Note

Writing can be a liberating outlet for feelings, thoughts, or just energy in general.  This month’s issue focuses on all things creepy, spooky, and science fiction.  The worlds created in the imagination of a writer are some of the most fantastical and most complicated.  All of the writers within these pages channeled their creativity into imagining the unknown.  I invited you to join them and imagine as you read the haunted worlds their minds have created.

These frightening tales are meant to get you in the spirit for Halloween and Fall in general.  autumn is a beautiful season full of colors and flavors.  Walking in the crisp air can be topped off with a delicious pumpkin-flavored treat and a warm beverage.  Curly up and get cozy as you read this month’s issue of The Collegian and enjoy all the season has to bring!

Best,

Abby Schwartz

2012-2013 Collegian Staff

Editor-in-Chief

Abigail Schwartz ’13

Senior Layout Editor

Zulekha Abu ’14

Layout Editor

Sam Bitzelberger ’14

Senior Copy Editors

Catherine Sykes ’13

Alissa Vecchio ’13

Photography Editor

Gary Fenstanmaker ’13

Copy Editors

Aileen Gray ’14

Kaitlyn Mortimer ’13

Emma Spence ’14

Staff Writers

Rachel Brown ’14

Valerie Dunn ’15

Alexander  Vidiani ’15

Comic Artist

Jenna Schmaljohn ’13

A special thank you to our contributing photographers and authors:

Laura Lord, Parker McIntosh, Julia Smith, Rebecca Sussman, Katie Sykes, Michael Canavan, and the Washington College Photography Club.

Cobwebs

Offseason

by Valerie Dunn ’15, Staff Writer

Where the streets have no numbers
a haunted house looms, grimy with sea salt,
among the creaking groans of a deserted boardwalk.
A head without a man sends
the tinny recording of a Transylvanian accent
to the gulls, some foreigners, my father and me.
Ocean City, Maryland in October
[offseason]
is mostly boarded up.

The house stands crooked and shrieking
as it did when I was a kid who knew
no better than to fear
for fear itself was reason
enough to clamor onto my father’s shoulders,
cling, and cry my way through the darkness.
Somewhere around seven years old
my arms outgrew my father,
large as the threat of a haunted home.

All grown up and all fears realized
my father and I confuse
obligation with vacation
which is why I offer to pay
the price to see inside my childhood fear.
He grumbles at the cost,
maybe thinks I’m too old,
he’s too old, or it’s too cold
to linger this long at an abandoned beach.
Ocean City, Maryland in October
[offseason]
is mostly boarded up.

This haunted house runs year round.

Costumes

by Valerie Dunn ’15, Staff Writer

In my closet
I have a few skeletons

who like to dress in drag.

They call it Halloween.
I do not judge them.

They keep the cobwebs off
my corsets and polish my boots.

If I listen, they’ll sing to me
an after-death rattle of bones
which goes:

“Everyone’s a little bit gay
unless you’re a skel-e-ton, hey!
Then loving your life
disguised as your wife
is just about Halloween.”

The skeletons do not entertain
anything phobic. They entertain
fancies, dances, and dalliances.

One wears a bowtie and says
her name is Delilah.
She gives me a top hat and tells
me to smile.

Clack alack go her taps,
and between finger snaps,
I welcome another costume.

Factory

Ghost Story

by Julia Smith ’15

There are ghosts in this town. We cannot decide which one did it.

It could have been the colonial men who were hung in the square for their crimes. Or the orphans who burned in the fire. It might have been the old, bitter people who just passed away. Or the woman they found in the well.

I think it was me.

Or what will be me one day: a poor, lonely soul who just so happens to be walking by the train tracks at three o’clock and accidently trips into the path of the oncoming train.
That seems the type to have caused all the trouble. Only a suicide ghost would murder a bully.

They found the body hanging upside down, all but the feet submerged, the cord bound around the ankles looped and knotted on the oak limb above it. Anyone would have recognized the old rope swing, the one the parents always forbade and the children always used anyway.

When they pulled the body up they were relieved to see all the clothes still there. At least the killer wasn’t that type of sicko. The face was a mess, as was the skin. Mottled and bloated. Chewed upon by the water-dwellers. Something had happened to that face. It was missing in a way that animals couldn’t have managed: scraped off, as if skinned, the whole thing like a massive scab. Nobody in the small town, they decided, could have done this.

“It had to be one of the ghosts.”

I don’t remember who said it first, but it was said a great deal in the days after the finding. Whispered hushes in the classrooms as people moved more freely, spines tingling with a quiet guilt.
It is a terrible thing when someone you know dies, and everyone knew the body in the water. I don’t know what others called him, but I called him Monster.

He stalked the halls and cast shadows outward. He liked to be violent – often to the smaller students. He also enjoyed disrespecting the elders. Nobody could control the Monster. He wasn’t afraid of anything.

Not even the ghosts.

It’s silly not to be, because everyone knows they exist. They have caused enough problems to prove their existence. Maybe he would still be here if he had thought otherwise. At least, that is what some people think.

So now kids walk around unafraid, or at least a bit less so now that the Monster won’t be jumping out of the dark.

Soon, more speculation crept out about it. The mother was too weak, the father out of town. And nobody, or so the police thought, was big enough to do what had been done. And what was done was strange.
Cause of death was not drowning. It was not even trauma to the face. There was one narrow bruise stretching around the neck, and it looked deep. But no blood had been drawn.

“It was the hanging ghosts” my grandmother said, over breakfast one Sunday. “Those marks around his neck are the kind that come from a hanging.” But the bones that shatter and snap during a hanging were all intact.

“Fire,” some people whispered. But there was no evidence for it.

“The elderly.” But there was less evidence still.

A large group of townspeople argued for the woman in the well. Water had been the dump site, but if it had been the well ghost, then why not dump the Monster in the well? The arguments went on, but nobody could figure out which ghost had done it or how.

But I know how it happened.

How out of the bushes behind the school the Monster had stomped, the moonlight half hidden in the dark stretch of clouds. He wanted to steal things; the DVD players used for instructional videos would fetch a price.

A suicide ghost was watching, waiting in the dark, glistening just a b. The Monster never made it inside. The ghost ran him down.

Not with a car; ghosts don’t need them. The ghost just snuck up quickly, quietly. The Monster was on the top stair, and around his neck the ghost looped the leg of some tights. The Monster coughed, scratched at the fabric while the ghost held on. Lifted his feet off the stairs and hung on by the nylon.

People are not ghosts. People need to breathe.

The face came off as the poor, tiny ghost dragged the Monster along gravel and pavement and through the woods to the rope swing. It scraped and peeled and tore. The ghost didn’t seem to notice. The blood trail was how the body was found in the first place, so maybe it was on purpose. Then the ghost tied the ropes around the ankles and pushed.

But not everyone remembers the suicide ghost, and I don’t plan on bringing it up. The Monster had never been a friend of mine.

I hear the town is bringing in some fancy forensics-savvy folks to look into the death. People find it pointless; they know a ghost did it. Though there’s no official agreement still on which one. I won’t be meeting them, I want no part in bringing justice to the fallen Monster.

And I have a three o’clock train to catch.

 

Photograph by Cara Murray ’14.

Strings

by Alexander Vidiani ’15, Staff Writer

This world is imploding,
Walls caving in where
The puppeteer’s strings pull outward,
His greedy fingers tapping a steady
Staccato beat on our skulls,
On this fe-fi-fo-humdrum
Existence that he lives out
Vicariously, viciously, masochistically
Through us.

We can’t even slip through the cracks – piégé
In this web; a spider’s eyes on his face now,
Spindly fingers plucking a malevolent pizzicato
On the lines, feeling for good vibrations,
But for all our temptations
We cannot swan-dive the hell out of here.

Eventually he draws us in a line,
A broken chord,
And rails us through a straw.

Photograph by Cara Murray ’14.

In a Haze Lifted

by Rebecca Sussman ’13

The green grass swayed with the rhythm in my head.
The branches bent to kiss me as I walked past.
All I could do was look up at the light between the leaves.
I couldn’t thank them, but I appreciated them.
The gentle drizzle mixed with the vomit on the brick walkways.
I danced around the puddles as I made my way towards the voice,
that still cry, silently shouting through the haze.

They were all walking past me, around me, avoiding me;
their eyes shielded by their phones,
letting me know that they are important, and I am but a passing object.
I bent my neck to the clouds, letting the rain wash off the sweat and blood from my face.
I closed my eyes, grateful for the gentle touch.
But I couldn’t stop to enjoy it. I had to get there in time.

The soles of my feet became numb as I continued to walk.
The blisters split, painting a new color on the brick.
My black dress clung to my skin, chafing it, scratching it, but I couldn’t feel it.

Then I saw him.

He was standing next to the statue on the green,
beneath the flowering poplar tree.
His uniform clung to his beaten, beautiful body.
He saw me and called me.
“Can you see me? Did you find me?”

He kept moving farther as I grew closer. My heart swelled, and I fell.
I fell down,
down, down,
down past the layer of air and rain,
past the tips of the irises, past the blades of grass—
Then he caught me.
“I found you. But where have you been?” he whispered in my ear as he set me on my feet.
“I have been to war. I survived only to live until I die.”
He kissed my bruised eyelids as I slipped into his warm, stiff body.

We stayed like that, beneath the tree and statue, for all eternity.

But the haze lifted, and I woke up only to realize that he never would.

October 27th

by Valerie Dunn ’15, Staff Writer

We have a ghost
whom we like to call
Sylvia.
Sometimes we find her
in the mirrors
where she lingers below

our widened eyes
in dark pools of regret.
She rattles at the desperate hour,
shaking our doorknob
with her last words:
“I know I made you up inside my head.”
She gives up
—a helpless groan,
a final shudder
like a breath against the door.
Sometimes she sinks,
melting into us and welding to us
the burden of 30 years.
We use our electric oven
sparsely and when we do,
popcorn thrashes to escape
itself. She throbs inside
of us and shakes
like the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Hughes.

Cinderella’s Day Off

by Laura A. Lord ’14

“Cinderelllllaaaaa…!”

The scream echoed down the hallways. It ripped through the floorboards, scampered up the stairs, and shoved its way under her door. Sliding under the blanket, every drawn out syllable of the scream caressed her bare skin until it reached her ears, where it crawled inside and planted itself for a stay. Cindy popped up out of bed, her eyes wide at the sudden intrusion in her dreams and her muscles stiff and sore. Yesterday had been hell.

She rubbed her tired eyes, smearing the streaks of dirt on her face, before climbing out of the bed. Her bare feet hit the floor and she shivered briefly.

“Ciiinnnnddddyyyy!”

“Cinderrrrreeellllaaaaa!”

More screams, more noise, more racket filled the room. Cindy’s bare heel stomped at the floor boards. “Oh, I’m coming, I’m coming.” No patience, her family. Not a lick.

Passing the mirror as she walked to the door, Cindy saw her disgruntled appearance multiple times in the broken pieces. I should bathe, she thought, before hearing another chorus of screams. Suppose I don’t have time for that. With a sigh, she grabbed a dress and a ribbon, and quickly threw both on. Tying the ribbon around her knotted hair, she managed to get it back into some sort of messy bun. A cloth dunked in a basin of cold water was all she could manage, scrubbing her face, neck, and arms as she raced down the steps. One landing and the dirt was gone. By the second, her skin was turning a rosy pink. At the third, so was the cloth.

The kitchen was still warm from the embers of last night’s fire. Cindy set about pulling trays down, putting a kettle on, stoking the fire higher, and pouring bowls of oats and fruit. Another scream, this one more high pitched than the last tore through the house. Mother is awake.

Cindy was rushing now. Can’t keep Mother waiting. She quickly filled the cups with hot water, allowing the tea to steep. Then, grabbing the trays, she balanced them in her arms and pushed the kitchen door open with her hip. She climbed one flight of stairs and reached her sisters’ room. Cindy set her mother’s tray down and slipped in with the other two.

From one of the girls came a sobbing sound.

“Don’t get all upset, silly. I’ve got your breakfast right here.” Setting the trays down, Cindy rolled her eyes at the girls. “I’ll be back soon to get you cleaned up for your lessons.”

She made her way to the door as her older sister called out her name. “I have to get this to Mother. You’ll just have to wait.” Turning to close the door, she caught sight of the two girls, lying flat back in their beds and still not touching their food. “Eat up, while it’s hot.”

Closing the door, Cindy grabbed the other tray and ignored the girls’ constant hollering for her to come back.

No time. Mother’s waiting.

Her little knuckles knocked lightly at her mother’s door, before pushing it open. “I’ve brought breakfast, Mother.” Her lips broke apart into a wide smile, as she scooted around the bed and set the tray on the stand beside it. She had to step on her tip-toes to pull the curtain back from her mother’s bed, but finally it was done.

“Cin…” her mother choked out, before Cindy put a finger against her mother’s dry, cracked lips.

“Shhh now. Time to eat, Mother.”

Plopping down on the edge of the bed, she pushed her mother over slightly with her hip, making the bonds pull tightly on her mother’s arm. A small cry escaped the older woman and she turned bloodshot, rheumy eyes on Cindy.

“Please…Cinderella…”

Cindy raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Of course, let me help you, Mother.”

Taking the cup of tea, steam still rising out of it in small grey pillars, Cindy tilted the cup all the way up, spilling the scalding liquid straight onto her mother’s lips, into her mouth, and down her throat. The old woman’s choked screams filled the house as bright red blisters appeared and flakes of flesh peeled off her cheeks. Blood ran from the cracks in her lips and pooled at the corners of her mouth.
“I do hope I got it to you before it got too cold, Mother.”

Cindy put the cup gently back onto the tray as the woman writhed against her bonds; her screaming had turned into a gurgle of barely smothered pain.

Leaning down, Cindy plucked at one of the threads on her mother’s gown. “Oh. I need to fix this stitch. Mother, dear, you must have pulled it loose.” Gripping the edge of the material, she yanked back the sleeve, the stitches ripping free one pop at a time, slowly at first and then steadily faster. Blood shot up, flecking Cindy’s apron, the bed curtains, and her mother’s face. Her mother’s thin skin had made the stitching easy, and it was all the easier really to undo the sewing with such a little tear. The cries continued for a moment, before her mother’s head simply dropped to the side and her eyes rolled up in her head.

Cindy lifted the sleeve from the nightgown and looked down at her mother with soft, gentle eyes.

“She sleeps…”

Aniket Gets Lost

by Rachel Brown ’16, Staff Writer

Aniket is standing in the front hall. His hope, savagely rooted in aorta and vein, burns and twists like the phoenix trees of Antares, like solar winds, like nothing on Earth he can remember. He feels as though vicious relief has turned his skin to glass. As if his viscera completely visible.

He moves to the quiet shrine of Lord Vishnu by the window through years of planet-thick memory. He seems to feel, cell by cell, each touch of his fingers on the smooth brass, as if the four hands of the god have bypassed his nervous system to lay directly on his brain. He clutches at the metal, as hard as he can bear. It is cool and afternoon—bright and implacable. He slides his hands over the picture frames, the stained wood table, the windowsill, the curtains, the milk walls. He drops to his knees and feels the carpet through his forehead. His hands clutch at his hair and his face, the expressions falling over each other anxiously, eagerly. Never before has he experienced anything with such reverence; his new religion becomes the touch of familiar things. The One Who Enters Everywhere presses in on his skull but is buoyed out by sensation.

His limbs start to spark and tingle as his blood remembers how to move with real oxygen, with the oxygen of home. His whole body wakes up from a numb sleep. He is made entirely of terror. He is made entirely of agonizing joy.

Nobody has come to see who is breathing the house’s air, weighing down the house’s floor, gulping down the house’s light. Why would anyone come when the front door has not opened?

Sita and Sanchali and Amir are here. The Aniket he has done everything to protect still lives, for them, in this house.

He tries to speak, to call out for them, but six years of permanent longing well up in his throat, without words.

It must have been a new hole, because there were no warnings, no police absently directing traffic and pedestrians away, no technicians fluttering around the air with delicate instruments and half-frightened, half-hungry expressions. To the mind of Aniket, father of two, the holes were like touch-screen smart-phones, unintelligible and unremarkable. But still, to Aniket the zookeeper, they were less machines, more tigers: savage, blank, beautiful, unpredictable in the way all living things are unpredictable, and sickeningly, terribly out of place.

And so because there was no warning—only an afternoon street, buildings cut open with sunlight—Aniket turned a corner and fell out of Earth.

It was as quick and ordinary as that; he took a step and maybe if he’d ever thought about slipping through a hole in the universe he might have thought of some cataclysmic astronomical sound, some whispering voice or an invasion of color and sensation into the brain, but there was nothing. He’d only walked home the same way he had every weekday for years, since his daughter was born, always through the same world, but today it lost its grip on itself if even for a moment and now here he was, gone, so far that he didn’t react for moments except to stand there.

Everything he saw was saturated with sensation. Planet spread out immensely around him, blue in every shade, radiating color and light like heat, plunging out into the horizon, blurring and twisting into the pale feathered sky. Far to each side, bronze glaciers slumped hugely into the plains like slope-shouldered bears lunging into snow. In the physical silence Aniket imagined that he could hear them moving, an echo of deep song pushed into cathedral stone, but it could have been blood in his ears, or the sound of the air as it shook with light. Foreignness enfolded him—the bite of citrus and rain in his throat, the tangible atmosphere, the complete absence of trees or birds, buildings, humans.

Aniket was wearing khakis and a polo, with no jacket—it had been June on Earth—his now lock-less keys, his useless wallet, his incomprehensible phone, and—and—disbelief, his entire body filled, shaking, dispossessed with disbelief. This doesn’t belong to me, this isn’t mine, the words rabbiting through his brain and maybe his tongue, he couldn’t tell, his ears were painfully tight, like ascending too quickly in an airplane, and his lungs seized, choked, gasped on air that was hot and sharp and thin but air, still, at least, he could breathe and see, he was alive. He was alive and he was entirely alone, alone like humans never are, never should be; he turned and took a step, hoping even as he knew there would be nothing there, even as he felt for himself that his world had vanished, the hole re-knit and the universe whole again with him the only casualty.

“I fell through a hole in the universe,” he said aloud, to prove that he still could. “I fell through a hole in the universe. I cannot go home.” The words felt no softer out of his body than they had in it, and as they fell to the ground Aniket sank down with them until his entire spine was strung out along the ground. Not earth, not Earth. He inhaled, held it, waited, gasped on an exhale and breathed in again, still waiting.