21 January 2014

Jane at the University

Cris and I spent Saturday night playing board games with his friends. One game I really enjoyed was Betrayal at House on the Hill, which — along with the book I'm currently reading on American First Ladies — probably gets most of the credit for this dream I had the other night.

It was the 1800s. Jane Pierce (not the actual Jane Pierce) was a young woman who had come to the University to study chemistry, or something like that.

The University had a charred, half-collapsed old faculty and laboratory building that people said was haunted and/or cursed. Many years before, the University president at the time, Gunther Godfrey, had gone mad, claiming that he had been attacked by a mutant crocodile, and fled the campus, never to be seen or heard from again. Two days after Mr. Godfrey's disappearance, the Croc attacked another beloved teacher, Sarah Pullman (possibly Polk, but not the actual Sarah Polk), as well as two other faculty members in the lab. A portion of the lab was burned, and the bodies of Ms. Pullman and the other two faculty members were never found.

At the time of Jane's arrival at the University, campus legend had it that the lab was haunted by the spirits of the lost faculty members, unable to rest because their bodies had never been buried, and the Croc was still loose. Jane was fascinated by the building and, as an orphan, sometimes fantasized that the two other faculty members (never named in the dream) had been her parents. It's strange that no one at the University had been able to confirm this for her, but by the time of Jane's senior year, these mysteries remained unsolved.

Sometimes, Jane imagined that she had seen the Croc in the tall grass.

One day, an animal trainer came to the University to give some sort of demonstration, and afterward, she let the students play with the animals for a while. Jane played with some of the dogs and chased a long-haired, grumpy-looking orange cat toward the trophy case. While trying to get the cat to come out of the odd hole it had wedged itself into, Jane discovered a secret passage to some underground offices.

The first office looked like someone had left it in a hurry; things had been knocked over, and papers were strewn about. Jane discovered that the office had belonged to Gunther Godfrey. Among the papers, Jane found that someone had been threatening Mr. Godfrey. He had found out something about the Croc's origins, and this someone had threatened to sic the Croc on him if he didn't leave. There were claw marks on the walls and on the desk.

I guess Jane left because she heard a noise, but she went back to explore the underground offices the next day. This time, she found a person, the long-missing Sarah Pullman.

Fiercely bitter, Ms. Pullman confessed to Jane that she had created the Croc. She had been more popular than Mr. Godfrey and so had wanted the University presidency for herself. But after Mr. Godfrey's disappearance, the Croc had turned on her in the lab. In the middle of the struggle, the fire started, the other faculty members were lost, and one of them became the vengeful spirit that indeed haunted the old lab. The spirit had also cursed Ms. Pullman to live underground, unable to venture above for food without being able to feel as though acid was melting her flesh away.

Jane left her there and went to the old lab. Sensing her presence, the spirit was agitated and began collapsing the whole building, which also started to glow green and purple. The collapse extended to the underground offices, and, presumably, Sarah Pullman died there. It also pushed Jane into a narrow, tightly fenced yard behind the building, and at the dead end, she curled up into a ball and prepared to die as the building fell.

At the last second, however, Jane spotted a gap in the fence and a path in the tall grass, and she ran for it, not stopping as it took her away from the disaster.

It was morning by the time Jane found where the path ended: at a lonely wooden house, far out of the campus's sight. On the porch, in a rocking chair with a straw hat and a banjo, was a man with a crocodile's head. In that moment, Jane knew that this was her father.

The Croc had been one of the two unnamed faculty members and had been forced to become the Croc against his will. The vengeful spirit in the lab was the other one and Jane's mother, at rest now that Jane knew the truth. Her body was buried in a small plot beside the wooden house.

One year later, the Croc, Jane, and Jane's mustachioed gentleman were sitting around a table in the wooden house, watching with wonder and waiting for her eggs to hatch.

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