Greg Benet

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Greg Benet

Julia Akre, Staff Writer

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Greg Benet was a loner throughout high school. He came to loathe the solitude and so promised himself that isolation would not follow him into college. He would jump at the first chance he got at making a connection. The first few days were rough. He knew that somewhere, on his floor or in another part of the campus people where already bonding and making connections. But his anxiety would not allow him to enter a conversation uninvited. It did not feel like he belonged unless asked to be there.

He sat in the third row in his theology classroom in Oldenburg hall. People were changing seats to be with people they met with in the first four days of classes. Out of nowhere, someone sat next to him. He looked and to his surprise, it was a rather attractive girl with strawberry blond hair pulled back into a ponytail, she had glasses and wore a ripped black cardigan. He noticed on her backpack was a red cross pin. “It’s from my work,” the girl said.

His eyes shot up at her; her blue-green eyes watched him. Her look bored into him. “Sorry, didn’t mean to stare.” He turned and looked back at the front of the room. The teacher was saying something to the class. Greg asked her as the thought came to mind, “Where do you work?”

“I’m a lifeguard at my local pool back home.” This was it! He found a common conversation thread.  He had spent his last two years at high school on the swim team. It wasn’t much but it started a small conversation before class.

When the day was over, and he and the girl had long said goodbye when he received a message from GroupMe, a messaging app his RA made him get. The message read: “hey, it’s Ashley Plum from Theology class. Some of us are going to explore the Ecolab tonight. Wanna come?” Greg was ecstatic and nervous out of his mind when he replied: “I’m down.”

The day passed in a haze for Greg. Nightfall, everyone met up at the St. Francis statue. “Some of us,” included a thin, fit guy with buzzed black hair named Chase Murray. He came to the school with a cycling scholarship. Joining him was another guy, with shaggy brown hair named Theodor Barkly, and next to him, a short girl with blond hair hanging in loose waves named Cassie O’Hair. Both Theo and Cassi were members of the cheer team.

Ashley ushered the group down the stairs next to the statue as the sun made its last descent under the horizon. The woods gradually shifted into shadow and the dark came fast to the adventurers in the forest. The time they walked was alive with conversation. They walked over bridge after bridge, through a soccer field, and next to rivers. After a fun night, Greg was confident in this new group of his and owed it all to Ashley for finding his name and inviting him.

That was why he agreed to do this most dangerous task. On the walk back Ashley had  taken out her flashlight and pointed it through the trees. Soon she found the old ruins of ages past. She led the group to the first building. Her thirst for adventure led them to the even larger crumbling structure farther down the path. The walls were falling apart and the intricate tiles and art, though chipped away by the countless seasons it had to endure, they deduced it was once a bathhouse. “So, where is the water?” Cassie asked.

Ashley looked and soon uncovered the entrance to the basement. The water was flooded to the brim and pooled out onto the entrance; it was so dark and murky you couldn’t see three inches in. It was clear that older students had come down to the water to discard their bottles and cans when they finished with them. The liquid covering the floor looked like a mug and beer can soup.

“I wonder what’s at the bottom?” Ashley said with great wonder.

“A wheelchair” Theodor suggested.

“A dead body,” Cassie said miserably. She had lost all interest in this excursion as soon as they found the body of water.

“Go in and find out lifeguard.” Chase grinned, “you’re the best swimmer out of all of us.” It was meant to be a joke; she took it as a legitimate suggestion. She looked towards Greg.

“That’s not true! Greg you want to know what’s at the bottom too, right? You are the best out of all of us. And I’m lifeguard, if something happens, I can bring you up and you give you CPR.” Her smile was mischievous in its beauty. Greg thought about the idea and all the possible outcomes. He thought about going down and forever being the bravest person in the group or being given CPR by Ashley. The poor fool didn’t stand a chance. He agreed to the dismay of Cassie and Chase.

He took off most of his clothes and shoes to better move in the freezing water.

He jumped in.

The shock was paralyzing and painful. This water had never seen sunlight, with the earth as insulation, it was the coldest body of water he had ever been in. But he had a mission. He could hear the cheers and screams from his new friends above him. He swam down ‘til his blind hand touched the ground. Bottles and cans and some other substances passed over his body as he moved. The ground was covered in settled dirt. He felt around desperately for something to grab to bring back to the surface. His hand found something rough and cold. He tugged. The thing felt like stone as he yanked it out of where it was stuck. He moved his body to launch himself up with his legs, but as he placed his feet on the ground near where the rock was, something hard and stinging crashed down over his foot. He thrashed and pulled to get his foot back.

But Greg was stuck.

He bent over to try and release himself and that’s when he felt the gash running all down his leg. Blood was gushing out and his head was light without oxygen. His lungs burned as he struggled to get free or signal for help, he wasn’t sure.

Both failed.

No saving hand reached down to save him. No relieving pressure set him free.

That is where his body died, and his soul stayed.

~to be continued~