At the school where I take graduate classes, Miami University, there is a seal at the exact center of campus. The rumor is that if you step on it, you’ll fail all your exams. Well, I find this a lot of nonsense, so my brain immediately went to ways that I could poke fun at it, and this story happened. Enjoy!
“Love and Honor”
At the very center of campus, where all paths meet and diverge, is a great circular seal in the cement. It must have once been shiny and bronze, but now it is weathered and green from oxidation the years have deposited. No one was ever really quite sure what is was supposed to “seal,” but it has been there as long as the university has been open, nearly two hundred years. Now, no one remembers that there was ever any question about what it “seals”—only the certainty remains that one should not step on the green iron surface, for no reason, not ever.
“Don’t step on that! You’ll fail all your exams!”
Aaron stopped, foot poised to fall on the seal. He hurriedly retracted his leg, his toe brushing the surface in his haste. He looked around for the person who had yelled. The center of campus, where all sidewalks met and crossed over the seal, was full of people scurrying to their next class or meeting. Despite the high volume of traffic, the circular symbol remained untouched by human feet. Whoever had shouted at him had apparently been absorbed by the throng.
He shrugged to himself and skirted the seal, hoisting his bag further up his shoulder. He wasn’t superstitious, but it couldn’t hurt. He could use all the help he could get to pass his first semester of classes. This school was old and weird, what with the spooky trees in the middle of campus and the ancient, technology-deficient buildings.
Just as he turned his back on the area where the paths met, he felt a rumble in the ground beneath him. It climbed through his heels and up the backs of his legs. He stopped and twisted to look behind him. Nothing, just people. He started to turn back around, but he felt it again, and this time it was accompanied by a noise—like a great iron gate creaking heavily open. The sound seemed to come from the seal.
No one else seemed to have heard the noise or felt the tremors. They all just kept on their ways, most looking down at their feet as they walked. Aaron approached, looking for the source of the sound. Miami University, 1807 Love and Honor was engraved on the jade green surface. He recognized the school’s motto. There were other letters below the engraving, but Aaron didn’t even recognize the alphabet, let alone the language.
The noise again. Louder this time. Still no one stopped or even looked at him.
I’m going to be late for class.
He turned, but out of the corner of his eye the seal suddenly slid under the earth, like the sliding doors at Kroger retracting into the walls. He opened his mouth to gasp and yell, but before he could get any words out, something struck him in the back of the head, and painful darkness latched onto him. Just before he fell unconscious, he thought he glimpsed huge brown tentacles reaching from the entrance to the underworld.
One hundred years later, a man arrived on campus. The trees were gone now, scattered as driftwood by storms in the intervening years. It was still a school, but not many students could be found inside its walls. The buildings, even older and more decrepit, squatted in solemn vigil around the seal, where the man immediately headed. He carried a folder labeled Miami Incidents under his arm.
The man was a historical linguist. He studied all the languages of the old world, real and fantastical. He took one look at the seal and the woods beneath the engraving, and he couldn’t help but laugh.
“Feed me freshmen,” he muttered. It was a rough translation, but appropriate, concerning the contents of the folder. “It’s a good thing I graduated college thirty years ago.”