BY MICHAEL DORSEY
Gather closer, children, and beware: what you are about to hear is not for the faint of heart. This is the tale of Albert Firstyear; may his tragic loss serve to warn you against repeating his mistake.
It was a temperate day, not unlike this one, and Albert was running late for his Good Life discussion. He checked his watch, quickening his pace as he continued up the tree-lined street. Still frazzled from hitting snooze too many times, he didn’t realize where he was heading until it was too late.
But then he heard it—the raised voices blending together into a low roar. As he turned the corner, the unshaded stretch of campus dreaded by every UF student came into view.
Albert was at a crossroads. He could continue on and brave what lay ahead, or double back and risk being late.
But, he had actually read Siddhartha this week and couldn’t afford to lose the attendance points.
Checking his watch again, Albert confirmed the urgency of his situation. He sucked in a deep breath and decided to push forward. He recycled the remains of his iced coffee, nudged his sunglasses to a more secure position on his nose, hitched his thumbs into the straps of his backpack, and, reassuring himself that the whispers and warnings of evil spirits haunting that ground he’d heard were dramatic exaggerations, he took his first step forward.
Just before entering the sinister square, his hand entered his pocket, seeking his only means of protection against the danger ahead.
He stopped dead in his tracks. His fingers trembled as he realized there was nothing in their grip. Panicking now, he checked his other pocket. Nothing.
His breath seized in his throat. He checked the ground around him in the hope that what he was seeking simply fell out.
How could he have forgotten his earphones?
But it was too late for Albert. The spirits had already discovered their prey.
“HEY!” The ear-splitting shriek of a banshee.
Blood pounding in his ears, knees wobbling uncontrollably, he slowly lifted his gaze to meet hers.
Somewhere between fight and flight, he froze.
“Would you like to donate to Dance Marathon?”
She—the baggy T-shirt and leggings-clad sorority girl—asked him with a display of her teeth that sent a shiver down his spine.
“Uh—“ his voice caught in his throat. “Uh, I don’t have any change on me. Sorry.”
“Oh.” Her eyes narrowed, her long fingernails rapped hungrily against her clipboard. She sensed his fear. “That’s okay, we take Venm—“
“GottagoLATEFORCLASS!” He blurted out as he spun around her and rushed forward, nearly tripping over himself in the process.
Albert glanced quickly over his shoulder to see if she would follow, but she had already cornered her next victim. A narrow escape. He cursed under his breath as he remembers leaving his Airpods on his nightstand. Why did he think crossing through Turlington without earphones would be a good idea?!
Too late, he realized his fatal mistake: he—Fuchs bless his idiot soul—danced around the Dance Marathon-er straight into the middle of the plaza.
He was surrounded.
“Are you registered to vote?”
“Are you premed?”
“Come to Israel!”
“Have you heard of Impact party?”
“SINNERS LIKE YOU ARE GOING TO HELL!”
“Buy your Gator Growl ticket!”
His head began to spin as they closed in around him. There was no escape. He let out a blood-curdling scream before collapsing to the ground, trembling and murmuring nonsense. He never made it out of the plaza; the last thing he ever saw was their pale faces and soulless eyes crowding over him, blotting out the sun and plunging him into darkness.
To this day, it is said that the ghost of Albert Firstyear remains rooted to that very spot…
…as a tabler HIMSELF!