Thriller Mystery Crime

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

He was following her again.

Luna wove her way around other students as she made her escape; her black hair and tall stature usually made it difficult to blend in, but the fall weather cast a filter across the halls and dulled their business casual clothes. In the spring and summer, she was like a polarized photograph: whites and blacks against the bright, happy colors of nature. In the fall and winter, she was simply camouflage.

Eventually, he spotted her. Luna had no choice but to duck into the large library on the second floor, a place she’s never found respite in before (as a cinematography major, she didn’t much care for the silent atmosphere a university library provided). A labyrinth of bookshelves awaited her, and she unknowingly explored them for a hiding spot. Fellow students glared at her as she passed by them quickly, disrupting their early morning studying. 

The smell of old pages and coffee mingled together, but as she strode by quickly, all scents were overpowered by the smell of her own perfume. She was sweating. She could hear footsteps echo softly around her, but she couldn’t tell where they came from. The further into the library she strode, the quieter it became; it did nothing for her nerves.

She caught a glance of his golden hair over a shelf of non-fiction books. Panicked, Luna slid between the closest bookshelf and the brick wall. 

Sweat collected on her brow and on her legs, sticking her tights uncomfortably to her skin. Her sweater felt suffocating. She immediately sought more space for her arms, and after fumbling around, she found a button behind the bookshelf; not thinking about the consequences, she pressed it.

It all happened in a flash; suddenly, she had fallen sideways onto cold, hard flooring. Pain exploded in her shoulder and her temple. She crawled into a crouch and used the wall on her left to pull herself to her feet and glance back—a narrow door had apparently opened and allowed her through.

Strange. A hidden bunker of sorts in a prestigious university library. Luna’s curiosity and fear of being found by pesky Rami caused her feet to move before she could command them. She walked the small corridor of cement floors and walls, jumping with every flicker of the fluorescent lights.

The hall eventually expanded into a small, cramped room that reminded her of an American bomb shelter. A shabby table sat in the middle of the room, framed by chairs occupying space only on one side. A light was aimed at the display. The walls were padded by a strange foam material.

Luna pulled her camcorder out of her bag and recorded the scene. It wouldn't be as high-quality as her usual films; in fact, the camcorder she carried with her all the time was her mum’s. Her expensive camera was locked away in her dormitory room, safe and unreachable to all but herself.

“It is not the fancy equipment that makes a film, Luna. A true artist could capture the likeness of a scene using sticks and dirt if the characteristics are distinct enough.” Her first cinematography professor, Jameson, came to her mind; his words a comforting lull as she took a grainy wide-shot of the table. “Your style carries across every form of media seamlessly…it's honest, if not a bit grisly. Distinct. You find detail in the strangest things.”

She was, to say, one of his favorite students.

Luna closed the camcorder, elated by ideas of clips she could include to stretch it into a short film.

The first film she had ever shared at university was probably her most daring. Her parents had a row about it, fearful that she’d be expelled for it. They weren’t submerged in the world of film like she had been her whole life—her parents didn’t understand that cinematographers were drawn toward the taboo; if anything, to admire the small features that a lens could capture better than a human eye ever could.

She had gotten extra credit on that film: for the guts it took to share, Professor Jameson had claimed. Ironically, the film had actually featured guts.

Ever since then, she’s tried to replicate her genius, all to no avail. Though the short films she’d shot were good, they simply weren’t great; not like her first.

“Luna?” a voice called, echoing against the cramped walls. “Blimey, what is this place?”

Luna spun to face Rami. His blue eyes were round as he took in the scene, incredulous, until they narrowed on her in revulsion.

“Give it back,” he demanded, stretching out his hand. “If you hand it over now, I won’t tell anyone that you broke into my room.”

Luna looked at his hand, then his face. She sneered. “Oh, right; you won’t tell. How do you know I haven’t already handed it in?”

Rami took a step forward. A warning.

“It has been over a week, you know,” she said slowly, smoothing down her skirt nervously, then hitching her slipping tote bag back over her shoulder. “I don’t know why you’re so persistent. Are you planning on doing something significant with it?”

His face flared a bright red. “No, I would never! It was my dad’s. I have a license, I’m over twenty-one, and I have a right—”

“Not in a university, and especially not in this country,” she corrected him, smugly. “You’ll be expelled, maybe even fined or locked up. Besides, who in their right mind would keep something like that in a shoebox? Maybe you’ll even get to lodge in the loony bin.”

“Luna, just give it back.” His voice was becoming increasingly more scratchy and desperate. “I’ll let bygones be bygones. Please.”

She regarded Rami curiously, allowing her eyes to flicker toward the table for a millisecond before making her decision.

Luna nodded, placating him. She reached into her tote and pulled out the revered metal object he sought.

Then, she held it steady to his forehead and let it empty with a loud bang.

Nobody would hear, of course; she’d seen to that just hours before when she padded the walls with sound-absorbing foam. Her ears didn’t ring, either, due to the earplugs she’d slid in at the sound of his footsteps when he entered.

Quickly, she tossed the weapon aside and fished out her camcorder. The first take will be the Establishing Shot, she thought to herself, positioning herself for a brilliant Mise-en-Scéne. Rami’s head turned away, his arm outstretched; blood slowly pooling, making a trail toward the perfectly positioned table. Everything was within shot.

It was a return of sorts to the first film she’d ever shot on her own, the one that had given her such a spectacular grade. A room she’d claimed was her family’s old cellar—only then, it held no table or chairs. Maria, a clever girl only weeks away from graduation, suddenly goes missing a month before. A film so awfully tasteless that it was tasteful.

No one suspected her, and why would they? Plenty of cinema students make strange and disturbing films. There was no proof of any connection to Maria. Luna herself had been a young, enigmatic eighteen-year-old. It was viewed as a strange, distorted piece of art; perhaps even a film depicting the grisly side of grief—after all, Maria had been a cinematography student like Luna herself.

She closed the camcorder once again and pocketed it. She’d blur Rami’s body slightly in editing, maybe change the color of his hair; it was all anyone could see of him, anyway. She’d clean the scene later. She was more focused on how she’d piece together the shots she’d taken.

When she later submitted the film, a fellow classmate asked her how she made the blood look so real. 

Luna, of course, lied.

November 10, 2023 17:00

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Sophia Leitch
19:37 Nov 10, 2023

Gave me the chills !!!


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Faith Marier
18:14 Nov 10, 2023

WOW! I love this!!!


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18:04 Nov 16, 2023

Omg!!! That did not go the way I expected. I loved this: "Nobody would hear, of course; she’d seen to that just hours before when she padded the walls with sound-absorbing foam." Great work!


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