Locked in: A short story from a vintage SFU photo

Photo: The Peak (1989)

By: Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

What do you think SFU students were doing on campus 40, 50 years ago? In honour of National Novel Writing Month and inspired by the New York Time’s segment ‘Past Tense,’ The Peak asked writers to spin short stories based off of archival photos of SFU. Real photos. Fictional stories. All written by SFU students.

 

Brielle Chung woke up with highlighter splotching her cheeks. Groaning, her eyes sleepily adjusted to the dimly lit concrete walls. ‘Right, the AQ, Brielle thought, looking ruefully at her colourful notes. A university freshman, Brielle had just learned the secrets of plowing through time like a champion procrastinator. She had been stationed at the Education Building’s study lounge for a while, slaving away at a paper. It was easy to lose time here.

‘Wait . . . how long have I been here?’ Brielle thought, looking at a nearby clock. The hands pointed to the number two. She was on campus at 2 a.m.

Another long groan. Was there even a bus that would take her home this late? Brielle packed up her things, made her way towards an exit, and lazily pushed against the door. To her chagrin, the door stood stubbornly in place.

Oh no.Brielle tried the other doors along the walls, and realized yet again, they were locked. 

Walking toward an elevator, Brielle found a fire escape map of the AQ. Closely studying it, Brielle took out her notebook and scrawled down a quick layout of the floor and its exits, hoping one hadn’t been locked yet. She started walking and tried to open each door she found, one by one. Brielle crossed out every door that didn’t open on her diagram.

Soon, they were all crossed off. Brielle willed herself to shake off her escalating fears. 

‘The worst thing that will happen to you is that someone is going to unlock the campus at 6 a.m.,’ she reasoned. ‘You just have to wait four hours.’

She took in a deep breath in and continued walking forward, keeping herself busy. How long could four hours be anyway?

During the day, getting lost in the AQ would have been irritating at most. But at night, it unnerved Brielle. Accompanied by nothing but her backpack and the squeak of her sneakers against the tile flooring, she couldn’t help but notice how creepy campus was in the dark. The moon illuminated the shadows of plants and chairs. They jutted out, lurking in the corners of Brielle’s vision. 

How many times had she passed this corner? Had she been here before? She felt like she was going around in a circle, the floor looping almost seamlessly. Concrete blended into wood as she passed the same tables and chairs. It was hard to tell — the halls looked and felt the same.

Every time she turned her head, Brielle noted how many hiding places were around. Brielle’s eyes kept looking back and forth, paranoid. Whenever she passed a lecture hall, she peered inside to make sure there wasn’t someone there. Her eyes, red from exhaustion and alert from fear, couldn’t quite tell if there really wasn’t someone lurking in the dark with her.

Time passed slowly in the AQ. It was only after several laps or so into her exploration of the AQ that Brielle noticed the hall looked… different. Had the lounge chairs moved? Although that could just be her, she reasoned. It had to be her imagination. It had to.

But then, she heard a noise.

‘Maybe it was a raccoon,’ she thought. ‘They’d probably be scurrying around this time, right?’

But the noise continued, persistent. Thump. Thump.

Not willing to take any chances, Brielle stealthily made her way to Robert C. Brown Hall.

The building, with its low ceilings and tightly wound corners, was too quiet for Brielle. She felt her veins fill with adrenaline as she registered the thumps as what they really were; footsteps. Someone was with her.

She snuck quickly through the halls. She passed stairs and empty offices as she ran down further and further. The footsteps were more insistent now. Shit. Whoever was there, they knew she was here.

When she hit a dead end, Brielle realised she couldn’t evade the stranger any longer. Seeing a bathroom on her left, Brielle fled into it and made a beeline for one of the stalls. Carefully, she raised her feet onto the toilet seat, and waited. 

The claustrophobia of the stall was eating at her; the teal walls boxed her in, making her feel like trapped prey. She hugged her backpack closely for reassurance, willing herself to calm down. 

Just then, her notebook tumbled out of her backpack.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Brielle quietly swore, picking it up as quietly as she could. It was then she heard the bathroom door quietly creak open. Had she not seen them trail behind her? How could she be so careless? How— 

“You need to get out now,” a gruff voice spoke suddenly.

Brielle stayed quiet, trying to conceal her cover. Her heart threatened to leap out of her chest, afraid of her impending doom. She was sweating bullets now — there was nowhere to run.

“I know it’s midterm season, but kids like you can’t be staying on campus! I need to clean these toilets,” the person declared, in a more annoyed voice.

Oh.