The Greek tragedy

The legend of Lexington’s downfall

Victoria Ernst, Staff Writer

I stumbled down what I came to recognize as the bridge along West Nelson Street. Clouds hung low on the gray sky to match the dull, cracked pavement below. Ash dusted the once-red Lexington brick, which had faded to a rusty brown. The bonfire last night must have been bigger than I remembered.
An old pick-up truck roared past me, temporarily awakening me from my daze. A Lexington cop would eat him up for speeding, I thought.
As the grumble of the engine faded into the distance, I found myself alone again. No one roamed the streets. No students, no townies, no one.
The town looked like it had been deserted, apart from a few usual townie hotspots. I saw the front of Blue Ridge Taps in the distance, but it was too early before opening for anyone to be there. I turned the corner of Main Street to find almost every storefront boarded up. The neon Southern Inn sign, like a half ripped off band-aid, hung off the abandoned building. Though, the puke green-yellow buildings of Virginia Military Institute still stood, complimenting the ugliness of this version of Lexington.
Maybe I was just sleep deprived and needed to wake up. I decided to walk by Lex Co for a coffee before heading back to my campus. Except, as I turned down West Washington Street, there was no campus. I could only see a concrete wall with a barbed wire fence surrounding its remains. I squinted and to get a closer look.
Now, I knew it wasn’t the brain fog I was feeling. It was real fog— smoke— that clouded any line of sight past the barbed wire
I walked into Lex Co. Four pairs of eyes darted at me as the ringing bell alerted the customers of my presence. No music was playing in the shop. The townies stared as I made my way to the counter, the wooden floor creaking with every step. Once I made it to the counter, they returned to their newspapers, all with the headline “Eightieth anniversary of the Rhoshevik Revolution.”
An elderly barista came to take my order, though he did not utter a word. I gave him my order and handed him my money. His shaky hand began pouring my coffee.
I asked the worker what had happened. His gaunt face turned directly at mine. Everyone in the shop turned to leer at me. I had never seen Southerners so angry before.
Coffee spilled over the edges as the barista continued to fill my cup. “Sir… I think…”
“GET OUT! Don’t you know they’re watching?” he shouted at me.
Who were they? The townies? And where was I to go if campus was apparently shut down?
Not a college student was in sight. I looked at my watch. March 23, 2123.
I needed answers. I went to the one place no student of my university would go: Stop In. I knew if VMI was still standing, it had to be standing too. The Veemees could give me answers.
I walked down toward Red Square, past the abandoned fraternity houses. As I approached the gas station, I saw a few rats in the parking lot sipping on a six-pack.
“Hey y’all,” I said, as their eyes darted. They fixed their uniforms and saluted me. They definitely hadn’t seen a girl their age in years. It was comforting to know that some things hadn’t changed.
They greeted me back, and I proceeded to ask them what happened. Either their alcohol tolerance was really low, or they were just so happy to see a girl, because they were willing to tell me everything.
“Well, it all started 100 years ago, when the Greek life crackdown started getting serious. The University hired this new guy, who was like, in charge of the Interfraternity Council or something. He got all the school riled up, claiming he was one of them. He insisted he participated in Greek Life and advocated for the organizations. He gave all these rallies and speeches for the so-called benefit and safety of the students; he forced all students to go.
And the worst part, from what I’ve heard, he encouraged rats. He wanted students to break the honor of their organizations. I don’t really get it, since the students wouldn’t have joined in the first place if they didn’t like the concept of Greek life. Or, they would have dropped.
Then what did he do next? He and his side-kick turned on them. Five investigations in one semester. The Greeks thought they all got off the hook, and legend says they were all innocent. But the guy couldn’t handle admitting he was wrong. He tried to drag out the cases as long as he could and prove everyone guilty. He knew that even if he couldn’t, he could at least instill fear.
His sidekick did get one of them, a sorority, pretty early on. That was the first big domino. He said they could come back in a year, but that didn’t happen. So much for philanthropy. That should’ve been a warning sign, especially since that chapter had so many members, it’s like they wanted the school to lose money. He was always looking for other reasons to stick ’em. The tick, tick, tick, one by one, together they tried to get them all.
My grandfather went to VMI during that time, and he said even he could get on Trav, the lines were so short. Except houses eventually stopped hosting parties. He and his friends once showed up to an empty hill. They said it was still the best night of their college experience, nevertheless.
As his next big act, the dictator imposed the Rhoshevik Revolution and confiscated all housing— Greek affiliated and non-Greek affiliated— within five miles off campus to supposedly ‘promote inclusion.’ He forced fraternities and sororities out of their houses and took ownership of every house, absolutely destroying the culture of campus (and the Chaner family business).
All students grew afraid to congregate anywhere, even in study groups. They feared they would be reported for ‘hazing’ for not including others. Some say he paid non-affiliated students to spy on Greek Life. He even canceled sports teams for discriminating against non-athletes. There was nothing left but classrooms and students. The only identity the students shared was that of repression.
That guy carried out his reign for a while until he died of a stroke. Then some new guy took his place. First, this new guy renamed the school the University for Salvaging Students from Relegation, or USSR. This new one developed a five-year plan. That’s when he made students build the wall to fulfill their PE requirement. He collectivized the student body, abolishing all clubs. Public Safety turned into the KGB, the Bureau of Komrades and Guards. Under his ‘New Economic Plan’, he drained every cent of the endowment trying to make the university a prison.
The implications of the five-year plan reduced the students to peasants. Each day they would take a three-hour mandatory class about egalitarianism and establishing a universal culture. They all took the same classes but were not permitted to interact with each other. And they used to make fun of us for being all the same! I can’t believe that place used to be known for a liberal arts education.
The USSR students somehow had an average education, but they were all miserable and even worse than their neighbors in social settings. No students could get jobs as a result. Rumors say some homeless graduates still live within the walls.
Alumni stopped donating to the USSR while the endowment trickled away. All small businesses in town, except for the townie and Veemee hubs, shut down. The livelihoods of most Lexington citizens perished with the memory of the once-renowned university. The city couldn’t afford to keep its maintenance staff or police force. It also lost a good chunk in taxes as the USSR collapsed. That’s why it looks the way it does now.
As a last-ditch effort, the dictator tried to make VMI his satellite, but we had the weapons to fight back– no arms race needed.
Nowadays no one talks about the collapse. All the townies are paranoid of lingering spies, or that there will be a similar revolution at VMI. But we’re already rats, there’s nothing more to rui—”
A bullet pierced through his chest. The crack of the gunshot jolted my body awake.
Thank God! It was all just a bad dream. Right?