What Lurks Beneath the Polio Pit

Jacob Akey, Class of 2024

They tell us swimming at Polio Pit ended because of insurance problems. That is a lie. You see, until just a few short years ago, there was no fence around the pond by Dominic Hall. Instead, there was a lifeguard and a dock; students went swimming during the warmer months. It was idyllic—a dip beneath the leaves, surrounded by our Hilltop home. There was only one flaw. One… hiccup. You couldn’t see the bottom. 

This is where truth intersects with lies. The College tells us insurers refused to provide liability for a swimming hole where leaves and darkness disguise the bottom. The real reason the pond was sealed off is because something lurks below the leaves. Something hungry.

On September 14, 2011, a sophomore disappeared in what we now call Polio Pit. He went with his friends, but the water was cold, so they stayed on the surrounding lawn. Only he dived into the chilly murk. A breeze carried the scents of that copse between Gadbois and Dominic. The earth. The pollen. It also chilled skin as it brushed the students talking around the pond. That breeze was not then sinister, but it is now remembered as such. The birds were silent. No shrike, nor nuthatch, not even a common grackle made a peep. Perhaps they sensed the presence of a predator. It was four o’clock or so. 

The sophomore, the victim of this tale, was floating. Face, palms, and breast facing the sky like Jesus being nailed to the cross. His feet fluttered below. Back and forth; lazily. With just enough force to disturb the twilight beneath him. Slowly, tentatively, a hand reached up through the leaves and the murk towards the young man above. It was dainty and pale, attached to a woman equally so. A white dress floated around her in that beautiful silence beneath the surface. Her face bore no malice, but her intention was crystalline. She would seize the sophomore, and he would cease to be and be hers alone, like a dream. Just as her delicate fingertips closed towards his bare ankle, he jerked. A friend ashore had lobbed a pinecone at the sophomore. The woman, the predator, retreated; hunters must time their strikes.

“You missed!” he shouted to his friend as he threw the waterlogged pinecone back ashore. The students’ voices were unrecognizably distorted when they reached the pale woman stalking her prey. Then, after a few moments, the voices stopped, calm returned, and the pale woman moved. She swam upwards. Her arm was outstretched towards the sophomore. She grabbed his left ankle, her grip cold and unbreakable. He, startled, kicked downward with a yelp. His left heel connected with the pale woman’s face. It did no good. She dragged him to her depths. His body would not be found, and the fence we see today was soon erected. Occasionally, a squirrel or some critter will slip through. They too feed what lurks beneath Polio Pit.