(All characters and places appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or places is purely coincidental. *moon emoji*)

It was the dawn of a new era. Little humanlings took a step further away from the nest, brewing bad-ass dreams to conquer the world. Some even went as far as trying to ‘turn a new leaf’ and ‘make the world a better place’. A hot March morning where the skies didn’t look their happiest and a gust of wind rarely blew past. Glass panels shot down cold black stares and the first visible link bridge had a strange melancholic look about it. Despite eager youngsters galloping about inquisitively, a yellow-grey eeriness seemed to linger. The colorful welcome signs and flags seemed like they were trying too hard to conceal something.

The gates of Nomash University were wide open as young dreamers from everywhere made several beelines and forced greetings towards members of their new home. Let the madness begin! With as much determination as everyone else stepped in five people.

Five people with passion, beginners-integrity and a twinkle in their eyes

Five people with sky high expectations

Five people ready to hike to the top

Five people who will be the only freshmen to witness a vision on Day – 01.

Five people who will soon hang onto each other for dear life, for if they didn’t, their schizophrenic nightmares would become unbearable.

For the literary castle was alive. It was home to many secrets. No amount of whitewashing and rebuilding could erase its past. Shoals of students trespassed on wretched grounds. The stories would remain. Every cry, every beating, all the lust and all the jealousy saturated the air. The literary castle was very much alive.

Calvin didn’t share the happiness that most of his peers did on his first day in uni. It had been a long morning at home and he was just glad that it was time for him to catch a break for a few hours. He pushed his long Bieber hair to a corner of his forehead, only to have it spring back to its initial place. Clad in a crisp brown tee and black jeans he entered the gates as he pushed up his thick framed glasses. An empty backpack hung limply from one shoulder. With every step he took towards the snobbish buildings, he felt uncomfortable. It was probably the rough morning. He thought he would have gotten used to it by now after 17 wounded years. Guess not. He carried himself towards a hall for a welcome speech.

An overzealous young man stood several seats in front of Amandi, hyping the academic wonderland that was university, and the ways to get away from the constant course-work demands to have some fun. He made making friends sound way too easy for the young African introvert seeking comfort under the layers of her blue silk hijab. She found it pointless. High school was a testament to her loneliness, a feeling she had grown to love over the years. She just wanted to get it over with and grab some of that free lunch. Eyes glued to her phone, she chewed a wad of gum rather conspicuously, not letting up any chances for an eyeroll, every time the emcee made a not-so-funny joke that got the rest of the newbies to chuckle.

The talk went on for two hours. Saif and Nadia walked out in each others arms. They loved how welcoming and warm the talk was. She clutched his arm tightly trying to use the remainder of the “it’s sooo cold” excuse. He knew what she was doing, but he played along to enjoy another cute relationship moment that would be forgotten in the next five minutes. They met during their year long struggle to get in to Nomash and they finally did. They couldn’t have been happier that the first day was going oh so well. Nadia kept reminding Saif that they should probably part with each other and do their own mingling. They knew what it was like to be labeled as the annoying lovey-dovey couple- a reputation they would try not to continue. She left her tall good-looking Middle Eastern Aladdin to take a peek at the lunch options while he immediately encapsulated a relatively large circle of boys, the guy’s-guy that he was. She wasn’t very picky. She came from a home of mixed cultures and interests. In a gastronomical representation, her roots joined together in a plate of beef rendang over idlis with a side of dumplings.

Cheery and gleaming with satisfaction she skipped with a bowl of noodle soup in her thin strapped dress and leather sandals, to find her boyfriend. She flipped back a strand of her hair that bothered her. From the corner of her eye she saw a short, pale feeble looking woman in a scarf standing still at a distance staring directly at her, unbothered by the commotion of busy students. Nadia looked back to confirm the vision from her hair flip. The woman was gone.

“She was just there a second ago..?”

It was only a few milliseconds, but enough for her to register the woman’s face. It weighed her down with melancholy, anxiety and fear. “Did she need help? Was she actually staring at me?”

She continued to skip towards Saif, sat under the shade of an umbrella with his buds. He was looking past his noisy friends with obvious confusion. His eyes also landed on a smallish woman staring at him with a heavy expression.

“She’s gonna be back dude geez…” announced one of his homeboys, referring to his girlfriend. The laughter in his group that followed broke his concentration. The sad woman was gone. Before he could mull over it or discuss it, Nadia was back. His vision escaped his mind, and he was ready for more socializing.

In a different part of the university, elevators worked non-stop, but not fast enough. The lady on the recording chirped every few seconds as the doors opened. Rajvi and her new friend Lakmi were rushing to grab a front seat at the hall for the next speech. With a question mark on her face, Rajvi nudged Lakmi on the shoulder to show her the strange petite woman looking right at her. Lakmi was too busy texting as they walked towards an elevator.

Rajvi looked at her friend to get her attention. “Eh, you see that ah? Why she looking at me like that”.

Lakmi raised her head, “What are you talking about? Where?”

The woman was gone. “So weird lah.. She was just there… Anyway. Building 6.”

Too fascinated by the soon-to-happen talk on biotechnology, Rajvi let go of what happened and rushed with her friend to figure out the room number. Small gold domes with gold tassels swayed from her ears. A round black sticker sat proudly in the middle of her forehead.

Amandi found herself a neat little secluded space to sit with her lunch and as she took a bite of her chicken, she saw the mysterious woman. She stared long enough, eyebrows contracted and jaws stopped munching. Before she could connect telepathically to the sad, anxious woman, she noticed how the fellow hijabi’s expression turned from fear to a slight haughty smile.

A drop of her fork diverted her attention. There was a mess on the floor with grains of rice scattered near her feet. Screw that. She looked back up to spot the woman. Amandi was about to throw herself at the woman with a less powerful version of “what’s your problem bitch”, but the woman was no longer there. She noticed that the Chinese boy sitting a few tables away shared the same line of sight. He caught her looking at him and they both shared a mutual “wtf was that” expression. He also noticed that she spilled her food and walked over to her.

“Hi I’m Calvin, do you want some help?”

“Thanks” *awkward smile upon meeting* “Amandi”.

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