I pace back and forth outside the doors of the Student Recreation Center arena trying to relax my nerves before entering. Today is the day that could make or break the rest of my college career: today are the tryouts to be the iconic Scotty the Bear mascot.
In the middle of the gym sits a lonely table with a man and a woman chatting casually. Interestingly, they both have hair as white as snow and a surprisingly youthful glow is radiating off of them. As I walk closer to their table I see that the man wears a name tag that reads Coach Nicholas and the woman has one that says Coach Carol.
“Hi, I’m here to try out for—”
“You got it, you’re the new Scotty,” he cut me off with an air of finality.
“What? Don’t you want to see me in action at least?” I ask.
Coach Nicholas’ whole body shakes with a jolly laugh, “No it’s fine, kid. I see the spirit within you, you’re perfect for the job. Meet us here back here tomorrow night and we can begin the process.”
The next night I arrive to a dark and lifeless SRC north building; it’s a strange sight seeing all the empty machines and courts. As I turn right to walk toward the arena, I see a shadowy figure at the end of the hall. I can barely make out who it is under the light of the moon.
It’s Scotty. Who could be in the costume this late at night? I thought.
But as soon as Scotty turns to face me my blood runs cold. An enormous gash runs from Scotty’s chin all the way down to the bottom of his stomach. Terrifyingly intense amber-colored streaks of light were flowing out of the tear and his eyes.
“Run.” Scotty takes a step towards me.
What? Run from what?
“RUN. AWAY. BEFORE IT’S—” Scotty doesn’t finish before he starts sprinting towards me.
Oh my gosh … OH MY GOSH. I don’t wait a second longer before racing back toward the entrance. The cool night air feels harsh against my skin as I run in the direction of the hill leading to the Aberdeen-Inverness Residence Hall. Adrenaline is flooding through my veins and I refuse to spare a single glance backward. As I near the top of the hill, I crash into somebody.
“Watch. Out. Scotty chasing me,” I panted, barely able to get the words out. I look up and see that it is Coach Carol. A wave of relief comes over me and I grip onto her arm for dear life.
Coach Carol places a hand on my forehead, “Are you feeling well? There’s no way that could have happened. The Scotty suit has been with me all night.” Coach Carol opens the bag she’s holding to reveal the suit in question.
“But-but I swear — ” I’m at a loss for words. What did I see in the hallway then?
Coach Carol chuckles, “Save the theatrics for practice, now come on.” She begins to make her way toward the SRC and I follow closely behind, not willing to take any more chances tonight.
At the end of practice, I fall to the ground of the locker room. I’m drenched in sweat and my body refuses to move, screaming every time I budge even the tiniest bit. That was the most intense practice I’ve ever had in my entire life. Coach Carol and Coach Nicholas didn’t let up one bit. I drag my dead body onto a bench and let my head fall into my hands.
I shut my eyes for a brief moment of peace. But when I open them once more I notice the lights are starting to flicker, then they shut off completely. I feel the panic rising within me; I open my mouth to yell for the coaches but it runs dry when I see who is in the doorway.
Scotty is back and he is looking worse for wear. His fur is matted and he is missing a part of his right arm and leg. His hat and clothes are tattered and stained with a dark liquid. He begins to stumble toward me, reaching out with his remaining arm.
Unable to run, I close my eyes and let out a shrill screech. I hear footsteps and the door being flung open. The lights are back on and the coaches are looking at me wide-eyed. Scotty is nowhere in sight.
I’m shaking uncontrollably and my vision blurs from the tears forming in my eyes. Coach Carol comes to my side and wraps her arms around me. “Shh, don’t cry, we need your spirits up,” she wipes away the tear that has fallen onto my cheek. “Hey, do you know what will cheer you up? Trying on your mascot suit for the first time! Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
I nod my head slowly. That’s actually the last thing I want to do right now.
Coach Nicholas brings in the Scotty suit and I can barely even look at it. Calm down, it’s just an empty suit. I slowly step into the suit and the coaches help me slip my arms into the sleeves. Coach Nicholas zips up the back for me and hands me the last piece of the costume, Scotty’s head.
“Whenever you’re ready,” he says with a warm smile. I feel a sense of reassurance for the first time that night and muster a grin before placing the head over my own.
As soon as I have the suit completely on, I immediately know something is wrong.
I can’t breathe, I can’t move. My body begins to radiate a brilliant yellow; a sight that I would consider beautiful if it wasn’t for the fact that I was growing weaker. It feels like I’m being drained. As if the suit is stealing a part of me, as if it is consuming me. I try to struggle, but I have no energy left to fight back.
Everything goes dark.
When I come to, my body feels heavy. I’m sitting in a chilly room I don’t recognize. I think there’s something missing. I don’t feel scared or confused. I can’t feel anything. I am just empty. I lift my head but the effort to move feels so burdensome. The world around me has become dull, but I can still tell that it is Coach Carol and Coach Nicholas sitting in front of me.
They’re deep in conversation; a shimmering yellow jar sits between them. Coach Nicholas looks joyful as he says, “I’m surprised by how much we collected tonight.”
“I know,” agrees Coach Carol, “This is enough spirit to keep us running for weeks, we picked out a good one.” Coach Nicholas labels the jar and places it on a shelf full of matching jars. A crash comes from somewhere outside the room. Coach Nicholas frowns and flings open the door.
“Hey, we have no time for mistakes,” he hollers, “It’s less than two months until D-Day.”
He shuts the door and finally faces me, “And you, what are you still doing here? Get out there and start working.”