Link to previous chapter: http://radiomonash.com/scream1011-1-newbieland/
The pampering lasted a week. Everyone was expected to fit themselves in to their proper slots and get as much use as they can from the university experience. The free trip was over, the free goodie bags disappeared; the welcome signs (that were forgotten to be taken down) started to fade. The need to remember pages and pages of information and the urgency of deadlines wasted no time in materializing. But that wasn’t the issue. That was expected. Motivational phrases about ‘pain’ and ‘gain’ and ‘trying’ and ‘flying’ echoed in the average student’s head. They knew what was coming and they were ready. There were however, things they weren’t ready for.
The university maintained an excellent reputation for results. Students came naked and frightened and went every passing year with cloaks and certificates. The rooms and halls were stocked with knowledge providers feeding information and its receivers recording them rapidly. Of course there were other receivers who preferred to nap or doodle. Everyone was so caught up with the mechanics of the information machine that they hardly realized why the hallways were so lifeless even with students sprouting like ants. Why did the empty bathroom stall creak? Why did the food always taste bland? Why were the plants more brown than green? Why did it always feel like something was emotionally pulling you down? The lack of joie-de-vive did not bother anyone too much. Eventually it was either blamed on themselves or distracted by the work, from which there was no escape.
The five witnesses of the melancholic woman were too occupied with the newness of everything. They didn’t allow themselves to process what they saw, although it still lay in a corner of their minds. Calvin and Amandi saw each other more often than they thought after their first encounter. They shared two units and sat together at class. It took them a few days before they brought up the strange woman they had seen together. But they didn’t give it much thought. Amandi was just happy to have made a friend, something she didn’t think was possible on her first day. Calvin liked his exotic new friend too. He felt like she was always hiding something from him but not in an annoying way.
The two of them parked themselves forcefully in an Economics class. An hour in felt like an eternity and the loud lecturer was way too close to the microphone. Amandi no longer cared about the graphs on the screen. She was more interested in Twitter from her phone screen. Calvin positioned himself right under an air conditioning vent. He stared blankly thinking about his life. Why did parents have to be so problematic? Weren’t they supposed to be the problem solvers…?
The vent leaked suddenly and a droplet ran down his neck. He sighed. Amandi noticed his sudden jerk and a cruel smile bloomed. The boring lecture continued. It was unbearable so Calvin shut his eyes, stretched and swung his head back.
This time it landed right on his glasses. The impact made him open his eyes. He saw a pair of wet open lips and dirty black teeth. The mouth was smiling before it disappeared into the blackness of the vent.
“Whoa what the hell…” alarmed, he jumped from his chair.
The class paused and stared at him.
“Air con leak” he muttered still startled. Everyone giggled and the class continued.
He turned to Amandi. “I think someone’s up there. And they spat on me”
“Gross… are you sure”
He showed her his glasses. A viscous pungent liquid dripped from the lens.
She looked up at the vent but there was no one. Calvin left through the back door to clean up the goo. He could’ve sworn he heard a muffled laugh as he turned the corner in the hallway to the bathroom. As he rinsed his lenses at the sink, he heard a female laugh of just one syllable. He looked at the mirror in front of him and his unaided myopic vision showed him a woman walking behind him towards the stalls. What was the amused woman doing in the men’s room?
“Umm… Excuse me, but…”
She was gone.
Rajvi was ecstatic. She knew how much of a nerd she was and she embraced it proudly. Every new strain of bacteria she read about transformed her. She was always at the front of the class taking notes frantically. On one of her 8am classes where most others were dosing off or mumbling grumpily, Rajvi drank in every slide with an internal smile. However she wasn’t too drunk on the functions of lymph nodes to notice the pretty new girl who walked in confidently to the empty front row and sat besides Rajvi. The lecturer was oblivious to the newcomer, unlike most of the students whose eyes followed the slim, olive skinned, brown haired vision. Rajvi felt a warmness she had never felt before.
“Hey I’m sorry but have I missed too much? Nice earrings” the stranger breathed out in one string of minty fresh words and looked deeply at Rajvi. Rajvi froze.