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The Northerner

Horror Story Contest Winner: The Souvenir

Jenna Louden

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10:26.

I rubbed my eyes and stood up. I’d been in the darkroom at NKU for hours. I was exhausted, but I was still working thanks to strong coffee and some extremely loud music.

Suddenly, my heart stopped.

To my right I noticed the long black curtain that separated the darkroom from the rest of the well-lit photo lab was gently moving, as if someone has just walked through it.

I looked around at the empty room. The eerie light cast a red glow over square containers holding developing photographs on long tables in the center. The edges of the room faded into blackness. Touching my iPod, the thundering music ceased and silence quickly engulfed the room, giving the impression of all life rapidly being sucked from it. It was deafening.

“Hello?” I called out gingerly.

Nothing.

I slowly stepped toward the doorway. “Hello?”

Nothing.

I turned back around and looked at the dark room.

Nothing but creepy shadows in the corner, I thought to myself.

Suddenly, someone jumped at me, shrieking like a banshee. He was in all black and wearing a mask. I felt a rush of terror that changed from surprise to anger to sheepish laughter in seconds.

“Scott! You jerk! You scared me to death!” I scolded, punching his shoulder.

He stretched the rubber mask up over the top of his head, leaving his dark locks sticking out a little on the sides, and smiled widely.

“Uh,” he said, “that’s kinda the point, isn’t it?”

I was so caught up in my photos, I’d almost forgotten about Halloween. We put away my chemicals and decided to grab a cup of coffee with a few friends at the Starbucks in the Student Union before heading a party. After we’d sat down, my phone went off. It was from a local number I didn’t recognize. There were no words—just a picture of me walking on the plaza. Weird.

Later on, I realized I’d left my laptop back in the photo lab, so I told Scott I’d just meet him at the party. He dropped me off at the roundabout by the Fine Arts Center.

As I got out of the car into the quiet night, a cool breeze stung my cheeks. I hurried to the giant entrance outside of FA and stepped into the entryway. One of the doors to the theater was propped open and I could see a rows of chairs curving around the tremendous room. Taking out my camera quietly, I crept in and began taking pictures—the contour of the room and the textures on the chairs interested the photographer in me so much I hardly noticed anything else until the heavy door slammed shut.

I jerked my head up and looked around.

There was no one in the theater but me. Was it the wind that blew it closed?

Fumbling with my camera, I ran from the room and down the hall towards an elevator. I felt foolish but I also couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me either. As the doors were closing, I gave an exasperated sigh of relief. My phone went off again.

I opened it to see a message from Scott: “r u ok?”

I smiled and texted: “k.”

As soon as I closed my phone, it went off again. I flipped it open to see a picture of me, taken only moments ago as I was walking into FA. The photo was taken from the alley between the buildings.

But I smiled. Scott had been teasing me since our first date two months ago about how he could scare me. I wasn’t going to let him win.

The elevator doors opened up and I stepped onto the fourth floor. Although almost no lights were on, I confidently walked to the lab and was thrilled to see my laptop still sitting where I’d left it. After stuffing it into my backpack, I returned to the elevator. As I stepped onto the plaza, my phone went off again.

This time it was a picture of me…inside the theater, holding the camera up to my face. My heart pounded.

Reminding myself of Scott’s promise, I quickly walked past the lake and into the grove of trees lining the walk along BEP.

As I was walking, I listened to the soft trickle of the waterfall at the lake, but then I noticed I was also hearing footsteps. I stopped to listen but heard only the water. Just as I began to walk again, I received another message.

The photo was of us in the cafe earlier. It looked like it had been taken through the window: “i want to have fun too…”

I shivered and replied: “Scott—I know it’s you!”

“not scott.”

Shaking, I laughed out loud. “Stop it, Scott…”

“not scott.”

I’d had enough. I dropped my bag, whirled around, yelling  as loud as I could, “Enough! Who are you? What do you want?!”

My phone went off again and what I saw temporarily froze me in my tracks.

There must have been at least 25 photographs, all of me:

In class, watching TV in my apartment, walking across the plaza, one from my high school yearbook, at the grocery store in the cereal aisle, with my sister on my last visit home, in the darkroom earlier.

The last one scared me the most—me sleeping in bed. Scott was lying next to me.

“want to be scott.”

I could barely breathe. I ran towards the bus stop. Though I hadn’t actually seen him, I knew he was close behind. Just before the driver closed the doors, I fell into the cold, hard seat and closed my eyes. My phone went off again.

The last picture I received that night was of me getting on the bus. I could see a hand in the photo, reaching out towards my hair, a few strands wound around his fingers.

I hadn’t even felt it when he took his souvenir.

Creative Writing by Jenna Louden

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Horror Story Contest Winner: The Souvenir