To say I was shaken by what I had seen in the utility room of the apartment building’s basement would have been under stating things a little. I desperately wanted to tell someone. I thought that maybe by sharing what I’d seen, I could gain some power over it. But Monster wasn’t answering his phone.

Saturday morning came and I had to leave for the university to attend Kate’s session. Kate had recruited eight of us. Ash was there, the girl from my Victorian Lit class. The other’s I didn’t know. Kate herself was conspicuously absent. We all sat around kind of quiet and awkward. None of us really knew what we had signed up for.

Ash sidled up to me. “Hey, you look kind of rough. Is everything all right?”

“Yeah, fine,” I lied. “Any idea what to expect with this?” My gesture took in the room.

“I only know what was on that sheet of paper. Drama therapy or whatever. I’m here to get the research participation credit. And because Kate’s awesome.”

“I heard she was almost kicked out of the university,” said a student I didn’t know. He was blond and pudgy and wore glasses. “She almost got a student killed, I heard. There was an article about it in the student newspaper.”

“Really?” Ash asked. “You don’t believe that, do you?”

“I’m going to find out,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

“Right,” Ash said. “Good luck with that.”

“My name’s Miles,” he said. “Who are you two?”

“Ash,” said Ash.

“Laura,” I said.

“Oh, I know you,” Miles said. “You’re Brian Lafayette’s new girl.”

I blushed. Ash said, “He is so hot.”

Miles snorted. “He has a new date every month. Likes to keep things fresh, Lafayette.”

“I’m sensing some hostility,” Ash said sarcastically. “Are you one of his discarded lovers?”

Miles shook his head and snickered. “There was an article I saw about him assaulting two of his dates. He paid someone to bury it.”

“You’re full of shit.” I was surprised to hear my own voice. What was even more surprising was the anger I felt. Usually it really took a lot to stir my temper up.

“Touched a nerve?” Miles asked. “An open wound, maybe?”

Before I could retort, the door opened and Kate came in. “Sorry sorry sorry,” she said. “I know I’m late. Are we all here?” She counted us. “Yes.” She clapped her hands. “Thank you guys so much. Umm…” She looked around. “Before I forget, you’re going to want to bring a notebook and pencil for next time. Or use your phone, whatever works. You’ll want to keep track of your stats and score. And anything else about your character you think is important. But today,” she spread her arms, “today, I’m going to read you a story. Something to get us in the mood. Everyone get comfortable.”

Some of us sat on the floor. Others lounged against the walls. Kate sat with her back against a wall. She opened her red binder on her lap. “All right,” she said. “I wrote this myself, so fair warning.” She began to read in a strong, clear voice that I thought I could feel resonating in the pit of my stomach. I closed my eyes. I felt tranquil for the first time in a long time. I felt like I had the last time I’d really listened to my Dad’s old records.

“Once upon a time,” Kate said. “There was a story.”

Edmonton-based writer of scifi, fantasy, horror, and other weird fictions. No publication credits. Read at your own risk.

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