Thesis Revised: A Short Story, p.1Jennifer McMurrain / Horror
By Jennifer McMurrain
©2012 by Jennifer McMurrain
All rights reserved.
This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without prior written permission of the copyright owner and/or publisher of this book, except as provided by United States of America copyright law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Published by LilyBear House, LLC
Interior Design: Jennifer McMurrain
Cover Design: Brandy Walker
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To my overactive imagination, may you always give me goose bumps.
Joella spun around. She was sure she’d heard broken voices dancing on the desert wind. Scanning the horizon, she looked for the owners of the phantom conversation. Possibly some early evening hikers just getting in or maybe people from the campground down the road. The canyon did like to carry sounds. She was being silly. Shaking it off, she continued down the path.
“It’s probably just the sage brush against your pant leg,” she muttered to herself. “Stop freaking out. If you don’t check these trap cameras, you can say good-bye to your thesis project. It’s not like you’ve never walked this trail before.”
She had gone as far as she could with her book research, and now she needed some hands on data to prove her point. She had already switched out the memory cards on nine cameras and only had one left. Glancing at the horizon, she chastised herself for spending too much time in the library studying for her last round of finals. The sun would be down before she even reached the camera; it would be down before she reached the abandoned mine house.
Goosebumps took over her arms as she heard the voices again. No, not voices, but a wail. Joella paused and listened hard. Could it be the creature she was determined to prove was in the area? Possibly the same cougar she had spotted crossing the highway eleven months ago? The one her thesis professor adamantly insisted she couldn’t have seen because, “there are no cougars in this region." Her grade was solely reliant on one quick flash of the cougar on one of these cameras. Three months of photos hadn’t revealed a hint that the elusive cat made the canyon home, but Joella wasn’t giving up.
Hearing nothing more, she continued down the path. In the twilight, she could make out the broken down outline of the mine house. The canyon was full of old mines and forsaken buildings, but for some reason this particular house gave Joella the "willies". Rumors ran rampant on what happened to the old miner that built the place. Some said he was crushed to death in a cave-in, while others insisted he disappeared in the woods screaming about a banshee that haunted the mines.
Joella paid no attention to rumors. Banshees and ghosts were folklore told to keep kids in bed at night. They had no place in science. Nonetheless, she kept her eyes on the path, careful not to look at the rundown building. The last thing she needed was to have her eyes play tricks on her and spook her any more than she already was.
Another moan caressed the air, causing Joella to pick up her step. She could see the camera just a few yards ahead.
“Just switch out the memory card and be done with it,” she encouraged herself.
A scream echoed on the canyon walls, and Joella returned it with her own. Picking up speed, she raced to the camera. The shutter clicked twice just before she opened the weather proof cover and exchanged the cards as fast as her jittery fingers would allow. Slamming the cover shut, she ran back down the trail, concentrating on the path ahead. Reality blurred with fear as the screaming continued.
Nearing her car, she threw her hand in her pocket and grabbed her keys, clicking the unlock button over and over until she was within range and the headlights came on. She jerked the door open, threw her bag into the passenger side seat, and peeled out of the dirt parking lot. Joella maintained her tunnel vision well after she reached the highway, afraid a glance in any direction would send her tail spinning into another fit of panic.
Seeing the lights of her small college town, she rolled her neck and tried to relax. Thinking back, she laughed at herself. The screams were probably just a barn owl calling to his mate. She had been silly to get so worked up. She would never make it as a wildlife biologist if she couldn’t handle a little evening hike. Taking a deep breath, she vowed to never let her fear get the better of her again.