As the summer after high school wound down, Jesse Sternbean’s anticipation only built higher and higher. He had felt an immediate connection to UR ever since he had gone on a tour of campus with a similarly-named Meridian his junior year. On the long-awaited August day when it was finally time to make the drive from Philadelphia to Rochester for orientation, Jesse dragged his parents out the door to get on the road, eager to start the next phase of his life.
Five interminable hours later, when the family arrived at the River Campus, Mr. and Mrs. Sternbean nearly collapsed out of the car, weary from travel and the emotional toll of sending their little boy off to college. Jesse, on the other hand, leapt out of the car with unbounded enthusiasm. Jesse arrived on campus that day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and completely clueless as to how literally that idiom would soon apply to him.
Jesse had lived an entirely ordinary life up through his second month of college. He had grown up in a modest but comfortable townhouse in Philadelphia, embarrassed himself in front of his first crush at his Star Wars-themed bar mitzvah, gotten (mostly) decent grades in school, and experimented here and there with Mary Jane in his used car in the parking lot behind his high school. His first few weeks at UR included RA-mandated icebreakers, introductory classes, and the occasional frat party.
But Jesse’s life was about to change forever.
On Oct. 17, Jesse was lurking around Sage Art Center as part of a bet that he couldn’t find a single art major on the whole campus. As he rounded the corner of the building, intent on his goal, he didn’t notice the furry, brown creature whose burrow he was disturbing. Half an hour later, MERT received a call from the only art major on campus. She had found Jesse unconscious.
When he woke up, the MERT team told Jesse that he had sustained several bites to the calf from a non-radioactive groundboi, and they were taking him to the hospital. Refusing to pay the exorbitant ambulance fee, he walked all the way to the hospital on his own, despite his injury.
Discharged four hours later (three and three quarters of which were spent in the waiting room), Jesse went home, shaken by the experience. He had a bit of a limp for the next few days, but that went away quickly enough. What lasted longer was a newfound fear of the menacing groundbois that haunted him in both nightmares and his waking hours.
Constantly surrounded on campus by the mammalian monsters, Jesse’s life started to collapse around him. He stopped grooming. He stress-ate. Eventually he barely left his room, spending most of days bundled up in bed.
After a few weeks of this living hell, Jesse was taking a selfie for his Finsta story when he realized it was not a duckface looking back at him but that of his mortal fear, a groundboi himself. Shaggy from lack of shaving, gaining weight like his soon-to-be-hibernating counterparts, and holed up in his bedroom burrow, Jesse’s efforts to avoid the groudbois had literally turned him into one.
This realization was the last straw — he broke down, and the nascent groundboi within him took over. He has since become the UR-themed mammalian superhero, GroundMan. With the unparalleled ability to slowly trundle away at the first sight of humans, GroundMan can be seen around campus saving students from the ravages of overgrown grass, nibbling it down to size with expert form. The school’s obsession with all things groundboi has quickly made him a local celebrity, and he’s even challenged Rocky the Yellowjacket to a winner-takes-all fight for the title of UR’s official mascot.
The match will take place this Saturday, but GroundMan’s fans are encouraged not to attend, as too big of a crowd might scare him away before the fight even starts.