Contamination: Discovery

By Electra Arnade

Serena Summers finally managed to leave her room for the first time in a few days to find, disappointingly, that the temperature had absolutely plummeted. She sighed wistfully into the gray skies but trudged on happily to experience fresh air.

The food poisoning had hit her hard. She had become bedridden for a few days with stomach cramps and could only manage to swallow tea and microwave ramen. It was utter chaos to the extent she has never seen at university. Rumors were spreading about the safety of campus food, and she herself had been dependant on 50-cent ramen for several days at this point.

But no matter, right now all she had to do was go back to the garden. As far as she was aware, nobody had checked up on the basil in a long time. On top of the chaotic condition of the campus commons, the upperclassmen had all been running around with homework and responsibilities and the freshman were just … slacking. However, when she entered the garden, it didn’t matter anymore. It was her own space and she loved it, forgetting the discomfort of the past week.

The plants looked well hydrated in the mist. Finally, it had begun to rain again after the long dry spell. The basil leaves had sprouted marvelously, and a lot of the plants looked right on track for growth despite there being quite a bit of weeds. Serena took to plucking the weeds, pulling them sharply from the roots.

That’s when the smell— sharp and repugnant—was wafted across her nose by the wind. She reeled and stood up to sniff the air. Her immediate thought was that something was rotting—perhaps a dead squirrel left behind by a hawk? She cautiously went towards the scents, which led her to a rough pile of soil and fertilizer that had been placed at the start of the term and had been used recently to supplement the herbs and vegetables. It did look messier than last time somehow, and the closer she got, the worse the smell became.

Her heart pounded in her chest, and an overwhelming feeling of dread began to enclose around her. She plucked a shovel from the tool rack and gently scooped off some of the top layer of dirt. The suffocating odor seeped out, worse than normal compost. She dug again and felt something soft against her shovel. An unmoving finger poked out of the dark soil. It took a moment for the image to fully hit her, but when it did, she shrieked—a horrible noise escaping her throat and echoing around campus.

She fell backwards and numbly reached for her phone.

She heard someone call to her from a distance, “Hey, are you okay?” as she numbly dialed security and whispered into her phone, “the garden … help.

“Campus Safety, what can we do for you?” said a stiff and professional voice across the phone.”

“I think there’s a body. In the garden. A human body.”

“What?! Can you elaborate? We’re on our way,” he boomed, but her vision began to blur, and sweat broke out across her skin in flashes of hot and cold. She heard footsteps thudding behind her as someone answered her cries. Then she felt herself lose consciousness.