Bruin Creative Writing Stories


ast September, we announced a creative writing assignment with a simple premise: In less than 500 words, tell us a story that begins with "I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and it took me..." Several Bruin creatives had fun with it and submitted these stories that capture the imagination. Can you guess which was generated by A.I.?

Shoshi Buge, M.A. ʼ02

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and it took me...deep below campus to a dream world of memories. But I didn't know that when I asked a passing student for directions to the nearest bathroom. “Around the corner and down the hall.” Following her suggestion, I turned and saw a simple wooden door glimmering in the shadows of a dark hall. I walked forward, grabbing the handle. The door creaked but didn’t move. I tried again, putting my weight into it. Last thing I remember was stumbling forward and down, down, down.

I landed in a concrete tunnel, damp and chill. 1960s protest graffiti was scrawled across the walls and exposed pipes covered in stickers for punk bands ran along the ceiling. “This must be one of the tunnels that runs under campus.” I’d heard the stories, but I thought they’d all been sealed shut. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I made out a wooden bookshelf up against the far wall. I gasped as I realized that the shelves stretched down the tunnel and as far as I could see, filled with books of all shapes and sizes.

Books are made to be opened so I grabbed one at random, a slim book with a black cloth cover. I opened it and was startled by the sound of a math lecture. The next book held nothing but the wind whispering through the trees and a scent of ocean breeze, interrupted suddenly by the sudden roar of something large and angry. I slammed it shut. A blue and gold book held the voice of Coach Wooden, “Never allow anyone else to define your success.” A basketball bounced in the background. 

I kept going, opening books to sounds of a conversation, a protest or a study session. I wandered from book to book, overwhelmed. Some books made me angry, some made me cry. It dawned on me slowly, “Memories. This is where they keep the memories.” The sounds of water dripping in the tunnel turned into tapping, it got louder and closer. I blinked - opening my eyes to light streaming through my dorm room windows. 

The tapping turned to knocking. “Hey. Are you in there?”

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, “I’ll be right there.” Shaking off the groggy feeling, I reassured myself it was all just a very vivid dream. As I started getting ready for the day I noticed a small green book perched on my desk that hadn’t been there before. I cracked it open and read the first line, “I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff.”

Aletta Cooke ʼ19

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff, and it led me to an abandoned room. The shelves were haphazardly lined with news clippings, memorabilia and awards. A spinning, smoke-colored orb catches my eye. Its mystical aura obviously out of place, I reach out to touch it and the walls of the room ripple like quicksand, folding in on themselves.

The floor disappears underneath me and I plummet into a void, falling so fast that I can only scream, until... SMACK!

The ground of a green tennis court meets me, and the roar of a crowd fills my ears. Scrambling to my feet, I feel the cool grip of a racket being thrust into my hand. A lean, athletic man exuding distinct grace, smiles down at me. "You're... Arthur Ashe?" I gasp.

He chuckles. "Last time I checked, I was. You ready to return the serve?"

“Me? Uh, I’m not a tennis player,” I stammer.

He grins, already getting into position. Feeling inspired, I toss the ball up. Just as I bring the racket down, the court's sunlight dims theatrically.

A single spotlight flares to life, illuminating a figure with fiery red hair, poised on stage. She effortlessly delivers one comedic line after another, receiving escalating laughter and applause. "You there! Fancy being part of the fun?" It’s the unmistakably gifted Carol Burnett, and I’ve just been invited to be a part of her act. Nervous, I stand on shaky legs, encouraged by the claps and cheers of the crowd, and slowly walk forward.

“Have a seat, kid,” she says, gesturing to a chair. As I sit, my chair shakes violently, hurtling me through a green light as the crowd becomes pixelated, one by one.

A team clusters around an early computer, green lights casting an eerie glow. Amidst the soft hum and key taps, a commanding voice stands out. When he turns, I recognize it’s Leonard Kleinrock. A nudge from behind. "We're sending the message," comes an excited whisper. Kleinrock locks eyes with me, smiles, and nods. "Press send." Trembling, I comply. Cheers erupt. Overwhelmed, I sink into the chair, realizing I've just aided in the birth of the internet. The computer's bright light dissolves, plunging me back into the abandoned room. My heart hammers with the reality that a time portal exists hidden in Kerckhoff! A resounding crack breaks the silence, and an ancient leather-bound book launches out of thin air, landing at my feet with a thud. Its title gleams in worn gold leaf: “The Ghosts of Royce Hall.” Coldness grips the room, and as I lunge for the book, a ghostly hand snatches it away, hissing, “You tread where only ghosts should dwell!” Sinister shadows yank me backwards with unearthly strength, forcing me out of the room. The door slams shut with finality, its handle vanishing before my eyes. As modern-day Kerckhoff Hall reappears before me once more, I know that this is only the beginning.

Dulcinea del Toboso, M.A. ʼ98

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff. Before I opened it, I was a naive, nerdy girl who wandered the campus in awe. After going through that door, I became a married woman, to my high school sweetheart. Years later, none of the sweet heart remained. How could a UCLA graduate end up in a relationship like this one? Toxic and abusive. Well, it happened gradually. 

It was a subtle journey, masked in hopes and dreams. He went to war, was diagnosed with PTSD. He was often angry. His frustration made sense. He was so smart and the world was a mess. Incompetence, ignorance and bureaucracy exasperated him. He went out less, isolated himself more. I felt my duty was to be a supportive, understanding wife. Always and forever, right? In sickness and in health, I promised. Years went by then somehow, I became the trigger. How could I feed that to our children?! Black skulls drawn with sharpies appeared on our milk carton. Strawberries would make our children gay, he claimed. Why would we watch those dumb shows?! No more Disney or Sponge Bob. We were forced to watch obscure documentaries that talked of conspiracy theories designed to brainwash us. He was our self-proclaimed savior. 

How could I be so stupid as to believe in religion?! All priests were pedophiles! Why did I call that number so many times?! Was I having an affair?! Why did I question his financial decisions regarding our money?! Didn’t I trust him?! Why was I emasculating him?!  Belligerent woman, he called me. It was my fault he was unfaithful. It was my fault his career was over. It was my fault our daughter wore crop tops and our son wasn’t an alpha male. How ungrateful I was! To not appreciate all that he did for us?! Broken glass, dirty words, splattered vitriol, shattered dreams. There was no physical violence, it couldn’t be that bad I told myself. I was loyal and idealistic. Why not run toward the door? Because it happened gradually. Because it made my head spin. Because it paralyzed me. I was in a house of mirrors, there were doors everywhere, but they seemed out of reach.

People judged me for staying. But they did not live my life. He’s not the only one to call me stupid. I saw it in everyone’s eyes–their frustration, their pity. He’s just the only one to say it out loud. I went through the Domestic Abuse Door. Never would I have expected to find that door in Kerckhoff. Education was supposed to protect me. Don’t be fooled! You can run into a door like that anywhere! It took me years, but I was able to find my way out. Before I went through the door, and unbeknownst to me, I had acquired what it took to survive what awaited me. Education was what grounded me, helped me develop a strategy and an exit plan. Education was the key that eventually got me out.

Darlene Gaston, MBA ʼ82

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and it took me to a long dark corridor that stretched 25 feet until it met a down staircase. A faraway dim light below illuminated the outlines of the stairs. Muffled voices floated up from the light. What is this place? Why had I never seen it before?

Is that laughter I hear? First a chuckle, then titters and now belly laughs. Should I see what’s going on? There was only one answer to that question. I crept closer, clutching the side of the wall, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dim pen light while I tiptoed in that direction.

“What topic should we select for our public argument this year?” said a voice.

“I don’t know. Why can’t we use the same topic, “Which school is better?” said another.

“That’s the same discussion that we always use.”

“I know. Because it works. Okay, what about which school has the better NIL, Name, Image and Likeness program?”

The first voice sounded like Joe Bruin, but who was the second voice? I inched closer and I was close enough now to see a large room bathed in light. At the door jam, I edged my head around the corner. One eye had an obstructed view of the room, but I could see most of the room’s occupants.

It was arranged like a banquet hall with food laden tables reminiscent of Thanksgiving. Several people sat at the tables. I saw Joe Bruin, his sister Josephine, Josie and a couple of toddler Bruins chasing each other around the room. No one noticed me.

“Is that… no, it can’t be. It is. That’s Tommy Trojan. What’s he doing here?

“Uncle Joe, can we ride Traveler?” said the toddler girl Bruin.”

“Ask your dad,” Joe Bruin bristled.

“Dad, can we?”

Who is their dad, I thought? I looked around the room. Why was everyone looking at Tommy Trojan? Holy Cow! Was he their father? Wait, who was their mother?

“Kids, remember what your dad and I discussed with you?” said Josie Bruin. “You’re too young for Traveler now.”

My head is going to explode. Tommy Trojan and Josie Bruin are married, with toddler Bruins? How does no one know about this?

“Alright, let’s pack up everyone,” said Joe Bruin.

“Traveler and I have on our Bruin costume disguises, so we’ll leave first. Next month, let’s meet at Kerckhoff Hall at USC. Good night,” said Tommy Trojan. “Let’s go kids.”

“I want to ride Traveler.”

Charlene Gupta, J.D. ʼ96

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff, and it took me on an unexpected journey through time and space. It all started on a drizzly afternoon at UCLA, when I was exploring the labyrinthine corridors of Kerckhoff Hall, that venerable, ivy-covered building on campus known for its mysterious passageways and hidden secrets.

I had always been a curious soul, so when I stumbled upon a peculiar, ornate door tucked away in a dimly lit corner of the basement, I couldn't resist the urge to turn the ancient brass knob. To my amazement, it creaked open, revealing a swirling vortex of colors that seemed to defy the laws of physics. My heart raced, and with an exhilarating mix of trepidation and excitement, I stepped through.

The instant I crossed the threshold, I was transported to a bustling 1920s jazz club, the air thick with the sultry sounds of a saxophone. I was dressed in a dapper pinstripe suit and flapper dancers twirled around me, their beaded dresses shimmering. The club's name, "The Time Slip Lounge," was emblazoned in neon lights. People sipped Prohibition-era cocktails, and I found myself chatting with a charismatic, fedora-wearing bartender who spoke in witty, rapid-fire banter.

As the night progressed, I learned that this was no ordinary speakeasy; it was a place where time travelers from all eras convened to share stories of their journeys through history. I listened in awe as a Victorian explorer recounted his encounters with dinosaurs and pirates, while a space traveler from the distant future described the wonders of distant galaxies.

Eventually, I met a mysterious woman named Isabella, who claimed to be from a time yet to come. She had an air of enigmatic knowledge about her and possessed a small device that allowed her to navigate through time. With her guidance, I embarked on a series of adventures that took us from ancient Egypt to the moon landing, all the while learning the intricacies of time travel.

However, our escapades were not without peril. We narrowly escaped being trapped in the French Revolution, and during a detour to a post-apocalyptic future, we encountered a fierce robot uprising. Each adventure was a thrill, an exploration of different times and cultures.

As my journeys through time and space continued, I grew more attached to Isabella, and the connection between us deepened. We witnessed historical events and significant moments together, but the price of time travel became evident. Paradoxes threatened the fabric of reality, and the responsibility of preserving the timeline weighed heavily on our shoulders.

One fateful day, as we ventured to the distant past, we encountered a paradox so monumental that it threatened to unravel all of history. To set things right, Isabella had to make an unimaginable sacrifice, erasing herself from existence to mend the rift. With tears in her eyes, she whispered a heartfelt goodbye and vanished before my eyes.

I returned through the hidden door in Kerckhoff, alone and profoundly changed by my extraordinary journey. The world I had known would never be the same, and my heart was filled with a mixture of gratitude and grief.

I often visited that enigmatic door, but it remained sealed, an eternal testament to the adventures that awaited me on the other side. My life had been transformed by the hidden door in Kerckhoff, an experience that showed me the boundless wonders of time and space, and the profound impact of human connection.

Hon Hoang ʼ14

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and as I passed through the corridor it took me a moment to realize there was a man writing on the chalkboard. He appeared to be a young professor or perhaps a grad student. I couldn’t tell, but from his outfit, demeanor and the age of his face or at least what I can see with his back turned, he wasn’t an undergrad like me. “Please have a seat anywhere,” he said without missing a beat, his chalk continued rhythmically on the board.

“I’m sorry, do you have a class in a bit? I was just looking for a quiet place to study,” I said sheepishly as to minimize my intrusion.

“Please have a seat anywhere,” he said again as if my words had evaporated throughout the lecture hall before it reached his ears. I found a spot in one of the hundreds of available seats. As I began unpacking, I realized that I was in a lecture hall within Kerckhoff. I didn’t realize the building even had a lecture hall let alone one of this scale. I tried to retrace my steps as to which hallway and staircase brought me here, but I couldn’t really recall. It’s as if in a daze or the distractions of my everyday life drifted me here.

I look up to ask the chalk-dusted man, but before a word can leave my lips, “Why are you here?” he asked, clearly vexed by my presence.

“If you want an honest answer, I don’t know.” I said.

“That’s not really an answer, let alone an honest one now is it?” he responded without missing a stroke of smooth scratching. I was silent for a time as I realized he had taken up most of the board with his scribbles. I couldn’t make out what he had written, it was what might’ve been a strange mix of chemical formulas and a foreign language for all I knew. I was never quite good at anything academic and I was surprised that I ever found myself here, at a place like this with other people who seem to be better than the person I am.

The man cleared his throat to help gather my scattered attention, “How did you get here?”

Unsure of how to answer without repeating myself, I simply said “I don’t know.”

This, this, repetition is what made him break his chalky cadence. He calmly set his chalk down, dusted off his hands, straightened his two piece attire, adjusted his rolled up sleeves, and calmly started walking over to me. He kept the same pace as he walked up about 50 steps to the row I was sitting in, keeping the same steady and stern pace as he kept his eyes locked on my position for the entire duration. With each step echoing through the empty lecture hall, he eventually reached my row and as he towered over me, he asked, “What do you know?”

Anthony Izaguirre ʼ73

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff, and it took me on a journey beyond the boundaries of reality. My two-decade tenure as a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles had been marked by routine, predictability and the monotony of academic life. However, on this particular day, reality itself seemed to warp and shift.

Kerckhoff Hall had always been an enigmatic place, filled with the echoes of countless lectures and discussions. Yet, it was a sunlit afternoon, and as I wandered its timeless corridors, something peculiar tugged at my curiosity. A dimly lit passageway, overlooked for years, beckoned me with a peculiar aura. The light filtering through the aged windows painted strange patterns on the floor, and a subtle, otherworldly hum filled the air.

At the end of the corridor, I encountered an ornate wooden panel that appeared strangely out of place. Its intricate carvings hinted at a forgotten history. With a sense of déjà vu, I gave the panel a gentle push, and it swung open, revealing a passage that defied the laws of space and time.

I crossed the threshold into a chamber that existed at the intersection of dream and reality. The room was frozen in a surreal moment, with dusty relics from a past era scattered haphazardly. Old, forgotten books lined the shelves, pages of forgotten knowledge fluttering like the wings of phantom birds. Antique furniture whispered secrets of long-lost conversations, and a chalkboard bore equations and musings that danced between the rational and the inexplicable.

As I ventured further into this uncanny realm, I began to feel an inexplicable connection to the echoes of past scholars. Conversations of yesteryears lingered in the air, as if time had folded upon itself. The very essence of Kerckhoff Hall had transcended the boundaries of perception.

The surreal discovery of this hidden room was a portal to an alternate dimension, where the boundaries between past and present blurred. My journey into the hidden door became an exploration of the ineffable mysteries of existence, reminding me that even within the confines of the known world, there remained a vast universe of enigma waiting to be uncovered.

Delia Mizrahi, First Year Student

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and it took me… to Boelter Hall. There's a lot that I don’t understand about this passage, and a lot that I don’t know if I ever will understand. But let me tell you how I came across this odd passageway.

I started at UCLA two weeks ago; living on The Hill, taking classes at South Campus, and going to In-N-Out in Westwood. I grew up not far from here, so I worried that I wouldn’t feel the college life feeling, but I definitely do. It is hitting in every way possible. Most notably, my sleep schedule. I used to get nine hours every night, but now I find myself with less than a handful of hours. It’s been a rough transition, and one that has made me realize that I am in need of a supplement; coffee. I was never a coffee drinker, but now, it carries my day along, and a day without it is a hard one.

However, I didn’t realize this until too late. The first time I walked into Kerchoff my feet were dragging, I had large eye bags, and no clue where to go. I spent 15 minutes wandering the halls until I came across an ominous unnamed wooden door on the second floor. There was nowhere else to go. I pulled on the handle and it opened easily to a dimly lit hallway. I stepped forward. The door closed slowly behind me. I kept walking. After 20 steps I reached a door at the end of the hall. I turned the cold knob and stepped out into a blinding hallway. Where could I be? I walked out and began searching for signs. It was quiet here, no one in sight. There was a sign at the end of the hall that read “Boelter Hall Exit.” How was that possible?

For the next week I would enter a door at Kerckhoff and exit another at Boelter. I wanted to understand it. To explain it. I’d enter the door facing south, but I’d exit facing north. I confirmed that the hallway was straight by running my hands along the walls in case there was any slight curve. I tried the passage at different hours of the day, but all of them led to the first floor. I tried staying in the hallway for hours, waiting for the magic to run out, but it never did.

After weeks of exploring, I grew tired, the coffee was no longer a strong enough supplement. I was falling behind in my classes, and anyways, I ran out of new methods to try. So instead, I used the door to my favor. I would walk Kerckhoff each morning, enter the door, and cut six minutes off my walk. And after my whole first year, all that I could say was that maybe someone gifted this little magic trick to the STEM majors that need some help getting to their 8 A.M.’s.

Deborah Rapaport Ishida, M.D. ʼ69

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff, and it took me to a platform that was elevated above the ground. All the noise I had experienced inside the hall completely vanished, and the silence was deafening. I decided that I didn’t want to be here, but when I looked at the door, there was no handle to let me back inside. I beat furiously against the door, and screamed at the top of my lungs, but nobody came to my assistance. I was petrified, sweat poured down my face, and under my armpits. Terror engulfed my whole being.

Suddenly a whooshing sound startled me, and a strong wind blew at my hair and clothes. I looked up, and saw a shiny saucer like entity bearing down onto the platform. Myriad lights flashed multiple colors, red, blue and yellow. They were not operating in a random manner, but seemed coordinated, like some kind of speech, or music rhythm.

I tried to run, to get away, but my feet were fixed to the platform. My heart beat out of my chest, I was petrified, my whole life flashed before my eyes.

A door opened in the unidentified flying object, and I felt a force pulling me towards it. I tried to resist, but it was of no help.

My feet, previously glued to the ground, lifted off of the platform, and I was sucked into the vessel, kicking and screaming. The door closed; I was doomed. 

I heard a sound like a fierce tornado, and then we were airborne in a split second.

Where was I going? Would I be harmed? Why me?

All those questions were to be answered very soon.

Nick Todd ʼ85, M.A. ʼ87

I found a hidden door in Kerckhoff and it took me a few moments to even recognize it as such, because it was disguised as part of a mural in the storage room behind the Baskin Robbins counter. This door, typically obscured by shelves, had finally become accessible as the space underwent reconfiguration.

My connection to this corner of Kerckhoff was twofold: as an ice cream enthusiast and later as an employee, striving to fund my way through college during the academic year of 1984-85, when tuition had skyrocketed to an unthinkable $455 per quarter. This enigmatic door seemed incongruous – too small for a closet, yet too insignificant to lead anywhere substantial.

Upon discovery, I attempted to open it, but a sturdy padlock thwarted my curiosity. An attached brass plate bore the inscription, "Do not open until 1970. For access, contact Chair, Department of History."

Determined to unearth the door's secrets, I embarked on an investigative journey to Bunche Hall, where I hoped to uncover why the history department was linked to a previously hidden artifact in Kerckhoff. Alas, the trail went cold, and my pursuit necessitated further detective work. The accommodating staff offered a list of history department chairs dating back to the 1950s, alongside their contact information.

A fortuitous call connected me with Dr. Bruce Pederson, a history professor who had chaired the department from 1960 to 1962. His revelation was astonishing – the door and its contents were components of an experiment initiated in 1960. Pederson had tasked his students with predicting the state of the world in 1970 for a time capsule he intended to bury at UCLA. The second part of his experiment was determining how long it would take for someone to attempt to unlock the door and contact him for the combination. He had begun to lose hope that this would occur in his lifetime.

Since he had never reviewed the predictions submitted by his students, his excitement was palpable. In his late seventies and ailing, he entrusted me with the task of opening the door and retrieving the time capsule's contents.

The next day, armed with the combination (32-39-42), I successfully unlocked the door. Inside, I found a tall metal box filled with hundreds of sheets of paper. After a restless night, I brought this trove to Pederson's home, and we eagerly delved into the predictions made by Bruins from a bygone era.

The forecasts were a mix of fun and foreboding. Mickey Mantle, who would have been 38 during the 1970 baseball season, was, by one baseball fan, projected to be closing in on Babe Ruth’s cherished record of 714 career homeruns (Mantle retired after the 1968 season with 536).  A few thought Elvis Presley, newly released from the military, would reestablish his dominance of the record charts.  Rock and roll would still be popular, but not as popular as Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin, one student opined.

Some students anticipated a world ravaged by World War III, while many expected flying cars and videophones by 1970.

As we explored these fascinating insights, Pederson instructed me to retrieve the last sheet, which bore his name and a visionary proclamation: "I, Bruce Pederson, predict that this time capsule of predictions will eventually be found, that the world will have moved beyond the differences threatening our very existence in 1960, that as we learn more about ourselves, we will become more tolerant, and that the next century will usher in an era free from war, poverty and disease – a new age of enlightenment."

Submitted for your consideration, to quote “The Twilight Zone,” with no further comment necessary.


Charlene Gupta aka Chat GPT

Anthony Izaguirre aka A.I.

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