January 23, 2013 by Lyn
Sunday, January 18, 2004
He needed more blank CDs.
It had been getting to be more and more of a pain in the ass to get out to the Store, lately. Something was going on, Shang supposed. He didn’t know, and he didn’t want to know; as far as he could tell, it was more of the magic shit. Ghosts, Lee kept saying. Armed camp, Wylie had whispered. Something that had the teachers in a frenzy, Noam had reported. Kyle wouldn’t say anything at all.
And that was getting to be a problem, too, getting his friends to talk to him, or, he supposed, getting his friends’ girlfriends (and/or boyfriends) to let them talk to him. So he’d decided to start a music club.
Clubs were safe, right? First, he needed more blank CD’s, so he could burn off a demo CD for everyone he wanted to invite. And then he probably needed a staff advisor…
…maybe he should do that first. Professor VanderLinden had been really supportive, lately, and he’d probably help Shang out. He’d said he was usually in his office on the weekends.
And he had more chance getting out of his room if he was going to visit a teacher. This place was getting to be more and more of a prison.
He headed upstairs instead of down the stairs, noting that, prison or not, there wasn’t a single person in the halls. Not even a teacher telling him to go back to his room, not even a pushy upperclassman. The halls were silent.
So silent, so creepy, that Shang actually decided to use a little bit of magic. He hated the stuff, but sometimes – like now – it was more useful than bumbling around in the dark.
“Idu Intinn,” he muttered. Were there minds around here? Anywhere? The whole school can’t have left him, abandoned him, could they have?
Need fish. Need some blood, fast. O-kay, there was someone over there. Shang backed up and tried another hallway. He didn’t want to be near someone who needed blood fast. This place was full of freaks.
So there was a fish vampire in the halls. He wasn’t entirely alone, he was just alone except for a vampire who wanted fish blood. Shang had never been so glad he hadn’t Changed yet.
“Idu Intinn?” he muttered again. Someone besides the fish vampire, please.
Arundel was supposed to meet me here. I hope he didn’t get distracted. I hope he didn’t get hurt. I hope he’s okay.
Shang veered off as he saw the owner of the “voice.” Timora had seemed like a nice girl and everything, but he didn’t want to eavesdrop on her relationship troubles. Plus, she had hooves, and her voice was the most horrid thing he’d ever heard. And he couldn’t find the speaker she was using to do the effect, awful as it was.
He had to go around another set of halls to get to VanderLinden’s voices to avoid her. The halls were clearly not empty, but he still muttered another Idu Intinn. It was like chips. You couldn’t Know just one.
Gotta get… zzzzuuup…. Timora before something…. Zzzzzupp…. Gets her worried. The mental voice bounced around, like pinball, to Shang’s left, to his right, somewhere behind him. Wish Bel weren’t… “Hi, Shang. Lost? Underclassmen aren’t supposed to be out like this.”
“Just going to visit Professor VanderLinden.” Porter was a nice guy, for a magical Siberian tiger person, or someone with a lot of plastic surgery and theatre glue. But Shang just wanted to start his club. He tilted his head at the professor’s office door. “I’m fine, thanks.”
“If you’re sure. Just don’t go wandering too much.” The tiger guy stepped through a door that shouldn’t be there and vanished.
Don’t go wandering. It wasn’t like he was looking for trouble. He just wanted to have some nice, normal fun.
He didn’t put up another Idu Intinn. There were things he really didn’t want to know, and even he had noticed that Professor VanderLinden liked to have inappropriate fun.
(He’d written about that in a letter to his mother. Her answer had made him blush for a week, and he’d skipped two weeks of writing, too. His mother, his married mother, should not be thinking about Professor VanderLinden’s ass. And her next letter hadn’t been any better, either: “You know, Mike can be Michelle, too.” Not helping. But Professor VanderLinden was the one that took care of music.)
Shang shook his head. Not what he wanted to be thinking about. For all he knew, the Professor could read his mind. Stupid school full of stupid alien people with funny tech. Stupid place he didn’t belong.
He knocked grumpily on the Professor’s door, his good mood thoroughly ruined.
“Who is it?” The Professor sounded breathless and rushed.
“It’s Shang, sir.” Maybe he ought to go do something else. “You said I could come by?”
“Ah, come on in, Shang.”
The Professor was fully dressed, which was a blessing, and the curtain drawn across the back part of his office. Notably, he was wearing a long leather jacket, tailored, over dark jeans. Shang had never seen any of the teachers – except Luke, of course – in jeans. “Ah, Shang. This is about the music club you mentioned after class, yes?”
The Professor did not normally have an accent. None of them did. But today, there was certainly something in his voice that was not middle-America. Shang tilted his head, trying to pick up the music of it.
“Yes, Professor. I was hoping you could act as a faculty advisor? I know this school doesn’t have many clubs, but that was Ms. Hayley’s suggestion.” Of every adult in the place, the Director’s secretary had been the most helpful, and the most understanding.
“We’ve had a few, from time to time. They don’t often last past the student’s first or second year here. But if you would wish to do this, I can certainly help you out.” German, maybe? No, not quite.
“I need to do something around here, or I’m going to go nuts. Luke’s cancelled our last two training sessions, and the people here…”
“You know.” Professor VanderLinden tried a serious expression. “Part of the point of Addergoole is to make friends.”
“I know, sir, and I’m trying. Music club.” He held up his notebook as proof, even though he was pretty sure that the professor meant “making friends” in a more naked way.
He was not going to say to the very nice teacher – whose help he needed – that he preferred dating humans, even if it was the complete and utter truth. Or that the girls here creeped him out, even if that, too, was the complete and utter truth.
Shang had never, before he came to Addergoole, been chased by girls, and certainly not by girls, guys, and a squirrel. Nobody at his old school had so much as given him a second glance. He wanted to be flattered, but the truth was, he was pretty sure it had nothing to do with him.
So, music club. Something he understood. Something tidy and fun and, most of all, not involving sex.
He hoped. There’d been that time with Naberius, after all. That had worked out okay, in the end, but still. Whoever thought inviting someone to listen to your mix CD’s could turn into a come-on?
“Music club. Yes.” Danish, maybe? It seemed kind of archaic – an affectation, to go along with the fairies-live-forever shit that they kept selling? “Ah, I was just heading out, Shang; perhaps we could talk later?”
Of course he was. Shang sighed. “Yeah, sure, Professor. How about after classes tomorrow?”
“How about Tuesday? I have an… appointment… on Mondays.”
Yeah. Shang could guess what kind of appointment. Any normal school…
This was definitely not a normal school. “Sure, Professor. Should I bring my CD’s?”
“My dear boy, bring whatever you want. Now, you should be getting back to your room, and I need to get going.” The professor shooed him out the door and into the hall. “Go on. The halls aren’t very safe right now, you know.”
The halls weren’t safe. Shang rolled his eyes at the professor’s back. Sure, there were dragons and griffins wandering around, right? “All right, sir.”
“Please, call me Mike.” The professor threw over his shoulder, and he was gone in a flap of coattails.
So, he couldn’t deal with getting an advisor. Well, he could go get the blank CD’s he’d been meaning to get, and then maybe he could see if any of his friends’ girlfriends would let them out to talk with him about the club.
Shang didn’t mind having friends with girlfriends (or even boyfriends), but the people here took possessiveness to a whole new level. And people wondered why Shang didn’t want a girlfriend.
Cue girl, of course. And he hadn’t even been talking to himself, singing, or trying to work on his Idu Intinn. He was pretty sure one of the fairy superpowers was “show up when you’re not wanted.”
“Shang!” Tiny Eirena waved up at him. “Still single, I see?”
“Uh, yeah.” He wasn’t wearing a collar; he supposed it must make it really obvious. He’d thought about buying one, just to throw people off the scent, but the girl behind the counter had not only refused to sell him one, she’d offered to buy one and put it on herself. No, thank you (although, being one of the ones that went around looking human, she was pretty cute).
So was Eirena, even with the pointy ears, really-pointy fingers, et al. Mongolian in ancestry, she’d confessed to Shang, when he, feeling lonely for any sort of kinship, had asked.
“I wish you’d do something about that.” She clucked her tongue unhappily up at him. “Or at least not wander the halls alone like a newb.”
“I still count as new here.” As far as he was concerned, he could count as new until he graduated. “And you’re wandering around alone.”
“Just for the moment. Besides I’m very good at vanishing, and you keep claiming you don’t believe in magic at all.”
“I don’t. Not really.” He gestured around. “I know, with all of this, but I could do nine tenths of this with the right equipment and fake the remaining tenth.” More or less. He still wasn’t totally sure about the mind-reading.
Eirena smiled at him, although she could have been laughing silently. “So, yeah. I have magic, and you don’t believe in it, which makes it at least twice as dangerous for you to be in the halls alone as it is for me.”
“Except I know it’s all a hoax, and you don’t, which makes it twice as safe for me to be here as you,” he countered. “Besides, what would me getting a girlfriend do about my safety?”
“More than you can imagine, boyo. Especially what with that big blind spot of yours.” She shook her head and patted his arm. “I’ve got an appointment to get to. Why don’t you get back to your room so I don’t worry?”
“Seems like everyone has appointments today.” Except him, of course.
“Yeah, well.” She rolled her shoulders and looked away from him. “Things are happening. Look, seriously, look into getting yourself a girlfriend, okay?”
“Oh. Hunh. Well, you’re not really my type.”
“You don’t date Chinese guys?” He’d gotten that more than a few times, back home.
She looked a bit abashed, at least, when she answered. “I don’t date humans. Sorry. Birgit, maybe?”
“Hunh.” Considering the number of times he’d said he only dated humans, he couldn’t really argue. By the time he thought of something to say, Eirena was gone.
He still needed more blank CD’s. He headed down the stairs, only to be nearly knocked over by another tiny person zipping by him at what seemed like a cartoon-ridiculous speed, followed quickly by a blonde blur and another one right after that. Something scraped across his arm, like running through the trees, although he wasn’t moving. What the… It had looked, in passing, like the last blur was carrying someone.
Shang rubbed at his arms and kept heading down the stairs. Things are happening, indeed. It was like the whole school was out to get him, or something, or at least to confuse him as much as possible.
He thought about stopping by some of his friends’ rooms – or, at least, their girlfriends’ and boyfriends’ rooms – first, but decided to head down the stairs while he wasn’t being stopped, stalked, or stomped (or stabbed. It wasn’t like he didn’t know things weren’t safe here, really).
The halls were still mostly empty. Looking at people’s minds hadn’t worked too well the last time. Maybe he could… no, his other Words were a lot crappier than his Intinn. With Kwxe, he could barely manage a spark. Besides, he didn’t really want to set the place on fire or anything.
“Idu Kwxe,” he muttered anyway. There should be heat over there, right, even if the dorms did buffer it, and then not much on the third floor, although the giant bubble of Absolutely No Heat At All was a little strange. Maybe like a walk-in freezer? He was focusing so hard on the Working that he nearly walked into a group of people.
“No.” Luke said it before Shang had even said anything. His wings flared open – wings, ha. Prosthetic toys, probably. Maybe? They moved awfully smoothly. Really, really nice electronics? Either way, they were blocking his view of the rest of the group. “You have your ambassadors. This one is just a passing student. Shang, pass.”
“Go into the Store, Shang, and stay there.”
“Uh?” Going into the Store seemed like a fine idea. Shang sidled away from the wing-prosthetics and headed into the Store.
Noam was working. That was nice, at least. “Hey.”
“Hey, is there a crowd outside?”
“Yeah, a bit, I guess?” He really hadn’t seen anything but the back of Luke’s wings. “Someone move in another walk-in freezer down by the Library?”
“Walk-in…” Noam shook his head. “Shang, you’re aware you’re crazy, right?”
“I’m in a school full of people that insist they’re magical fairies, talking to a guy who thinks he’s in a D&D game, and I’m crazy?” Shang shook his head. “Look, I know where reality is. I’d say that makes me the sanest guy in the room.”
“There’s two of us in the room, and I’m not sure I’d argue the point.” Noam shrugged. “Brenna… well, anyway.”
“Is this one of those times where I ask you why you don’t just break up with her and you glare at me?” If he hadn’t had the conversation with Noam, he’d had it with Lee, or Wylie, or Quintus, or Nilam.
“What?” Noam blinked at him. “Well, um. Maybe, except I can probably skip the glaring. I actually like her. I’m not sure I’m not crazy for liking her, but I like her.” He shrugged. “Look, life here is weird, Shang.”
“Yeah. I got that. Fairies and monsters and dragons, right?”
“Shit, I hope there aren’t … oh, you were kidding.” Noam rolled his eyes. “Yes, Shang, it’s all an elaborate conspiracy plot. You and Lee should get together and talk.”
“I’d love to, but he’s all tied up in that threesome thing he has going on.” Shang twitched.
“Threesome… oh, with Tess and Lucian. Yeah, ‘tied up’ is probably the right phrase.” Noam shook his head. “Look, all I can tell you is, don’t feel too left out.”
“I really don’t.” Except on nights like this, when he just wanted to talk to someone. “Look, I was thinking of starting a music club.” He held up the spool of blank CD’s. “You know, hang around and trade music, listen to music, make music, that sort of thing?”
“Yeah? That sounds cool. You’ve got a big collection, don’t you?”
Shang had a collection bigger than most people had wardrobes, easily. “Yeah. I’ve got a few. Do you think…” your girlfriend would let you? “…you’d be interested?”
“Yeah, that sounds kind of cool.” He looked thoughtful, though. “You know, if you wanted a club that everyone’s… girlfriend… would let them join, you ought to start a cooking club.”
“I don’t know how to cook, though. I mean, beyond your basic stuff.”
“Well,” Noam grinned at him. “It seems like a good way to learn, doesn’t it? I know I should learn some more.”
“Hrrm. I guess.” He shrugged. “It’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone, though. You know, Eirena told me I should get a girlfriend today.”
“Surprised everyone isn’t telling you that.”
“Yeah, but she doesn’t want me.” He shrugged. It had stung more than he’d wanted to admit. “I mean, I don’t want anyone around here, either. No offense, or anything, but I want to date humans.”
“None taken. More Ellehemaei for me.”
“Isn’t one enough?”
“Well, right now, yeah.” Noam shrugged. “Look, if you want to do the cooking club thing, I’ll help you out. But if you want to do the music club, yeah, I’ll come by. Do you think I could bring Bren? I think she’d like it.”
Augh. No, the whole idea was to see his friends away from their clingy, overbearing SO’s. Bringing their girlfriends would ruin the whole idea.
“No, look, I guess that’s cool. It’s just… well. Not Hera?” He could probably get away with that.
“Ha. Yes, not Hera. I can probably pull that off.”
Shang breathed a sigh of relief. At least his friends weren’t completely, totally, off their rockers. “Awesome. I’ll let you know. When, you know, people have time to talk to me. You’d think this place wasn’t even pretending to be a school.”
“Shang… you know there’s stuff going on, right?”
“Stuff. Of course.” He rolled his eyes. “Big massive important stuff that is more important than being in school.”
“Well… yes. I mean…” Noam changed the subject abruptly. “Amadeus, right? What do you need?”
Amadeus was another one Shang didn’t get. The big guy was older than most of the rest of the school, bigger, and looked stronger. So why was he wandering around with a collar around his neck?
“I have a list.” He sounded very angry about that. He was holding his notebook in front of him like a shield – or a spear.
“Again?” Noam sounded sympathetic. Shang wasn’t sure how much sympathy he could have for a guy that let himself get whupped that badly. “Let’s see it, big man.”
“Thanks.” He shoved the list at Noam.
“Tea… cufflinks… end table… she’s really trying to keep you busy, isn’t she? What’s she up to? See you, Shang. Try not to run into any conspiracies on the way out the door…” Noam started wandering into the back of the story with the wolfish upperclassman. “Really, she wants a single red silk rose with a black stem? Is she really yanking your chain that much, man?”
“Yes.” Shang could hear the older boy’s rumbling grumble even as he turned to leave. Try not to run into any conspiracies. No wonder he didn’t have a social life here. Everyone was nuts. Or an asshole. Or both.
“Hello. Did you know that you’re bleeding?”
The voice came from somewhere below eye level, and sounded like a cross between a little child and a horror movie. Shang looked down. Nuts or an asshole. The girl was dressed up like a doll – she wasn’t actually that much shorter than him, maybe up to his shoulder – with pink cheek make-up and ridiculous curls, and then a fluffy dress thing. He’d seen her around, Lily or Lolly or Lonnie or something.
“Bleeding. Here.” She touched his arm, just lightly, with two fingers. Stabbing pain shot from the spot, and when she pulled her hand back, her fingers were bloody. She stuck them in her mouth and sucked on them.
“I an ix ae oe oo.” She pulled her fingers out of her mouth and licked the nails off. “I can fix that for you.”
He remembered, suddenly and vividly, something he’d heard her boyfriend say about her. “Lolly likes to play doctor. Luckily, around here, somebody can usually fix the messes she makes. I still haven’t determined if she does it on purpose.”
“No, thank you.” He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wrapped it around his arm. “I’ll go up to the Doctor’s.” When had he gotten hurt? He’d been at Professor VanderLinden’s office, and then talked to Eirena… it had to have been when those people zoomed past him. Stupid costume props. Stupid realistically sharp and painful costume props.
“I’ve never met anyone else who uses handkerchiefs. Do they have your name on them?”
“What? Not really.” Just his initial.
“Can I have it? For my collection?”
“You have a collection when you don’t know anyone else who uses them?”
“It’s a very small collection.”
“No, I need this one.” He held his hand over his arm. It stung a lot, now that he was paying attention to it. “I’ve got to get going.”
“Watch out for the dragon.” She blinked at him. “And the yeti and the griffin.”
“Griffin, check.” She was really just insane, wasn’t she? Shang was beginning to think that he’d gotten stuck in an asylum by accident. “Anything else I should watch out for, Miss?”
“It’s not Miss, it’s Jay.”
“Anything else I should look out for, Jay?” He might as well ask the nutjob for advice. Set a thief to catch a thief, set a nutcase to catch a crazy place?
“Jay Lolly. You really are silly, aren’t you?”
“I’m new here.”
“Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all new here.” She flapped a hand at him. “Just remember to believe the impossible at least seven times before breakfast and you should get along just fine.”
“Miss… Jay Lolly. This place makes you believe the impossible before you even get out of bed.”
“There’s a trick to that.” She stood on her toes so she could whisper in his ear, leaning on his bleeding arm for support. Shang bit his tongue and listened. Mad people, mad house. Right? “If you still think it’s impossible, you’re doing it wrong.”
Shang leaned back in disgust. She smelled like peppermints and something else, something sort of creepy. “Right. Thanks. I’m going to the doctor’s now.”
“Dr. Mendosa’s office is right next to Dr. Caitrin’s.”
“What?” Shang shook his head. “I’m not the crazy one.”
“Expecting the world to be the same as it is in your dreams? That’s boring and crazy. You could at least come up with an interesting way to be crazy.” She clucked her tongue against her teeth. “Go get healed, silly boy. The world will be no different, but you’ll have changed.”
“Who are you calling silly?” he grumbled.
“If you don’t know, you’re definitely doing something wrong.” She gave him a little shove. “Hurry, before the halls are impassable again.”
That, that was actually good advice. “Thanks.” He muttered it, considering she’d poked him and called him crazy, but she’d pointed out he was bleeding, too, and reminded him that things were weirder than normal out there.
The hall outside the Store was pitch black. Not black like that second Saturday, when everyone had gone playing Hallowe’en early, but total-absence-of-light black. Shang was no good with the light-and-fire Word, but he could do a little bit with the walls-and-floors Word, and a lot with the Air Word. He muttered a Working, very quietly, to tell him where the air was going and where the walls were.
The stairs up were, thankfully, right where they should be. The stairs down were right next to them.
Stairs down? He sent his senses down the stairs. The air got chiller and chiller down that way. Maybe that’s where they’d put the freezer? He knew Professor Akatil kept some stuff in the basement.
There hadn’t been a stairway there before. Shang tried not to think about that too much. It was just more of the craziness.
Besides, he didn’t need a freezer, he needed a doctor. He headed up the normal stairs, and left the weirdness as behind as he could.
Sunday, January 18, 2004
Kay sat quietly in the corner of the room, watching Agravain while pretending to do her homework.
Agra was arguing with Kendon, in a low whisper he might think she couldn’t hear, and with Damaris, in a less-low whisper. The subjects appeared to be the other crewmate’s current lack of Kept, Kay’s viability as a bargaining chip, and the current what-have-you in the school.
“…No. Kendon, you don’t really need another Kept. And you’d lose, anyway.” Agra was clearly done arguing if he was throwing that one down. “And Damie, just hit the boy over the head with a stick and bring him home.”
“He doesn’t date fairies.” She spat the words out. Kay, remembering she wasn’t supposed to be listening, stopped herself from cringing back just in time. “Stupid little racist.”
“So?” Kendon’s shrug made Kay want to hit him more than she normally did. “What does that have to do with being Kept?”
It was a good question. Kay hadn’t found anything about Belonging to Agravain to be anything at all like dating.
Damaris looked between the two of them. “Seriously? I don’t know about the two of you guys, but I don’t really want a Kept who’s going to spend the next two years hating me, or the next three planning how to hunt me down and kill me when they graduate.”
Hunt me down and kill me. Kay looked down at her book and frowned at the math problem she’d been pretending to study. She’d never thought about quite that clearly. Hurt him, yes. Maybe collar him. But kill him?
“You wouldn’t hunt me down and kill me, would you, Kit-Kat?”
She blinked up at him. He was actually asking her that? She shook her head no. No, she wouldn’t hunt him down to kill him.
Damaris sighed. “Agra, if you would think once in a while. Remember being Kept. Remember being under Hemlock’s thumb, under the Bond…”
“She can’t lie to me.”
“No. But she can’t really want to hurt you too much either, can she?”
What was Damaris doing? Kat frowned into her notebook.
“You still can’t borrow her, Kendon. Figure out getting a Kept on your own.”
“Some Crew you guys are.” Kendon, sulking, left the room. Damaris paused by the doorway.
Kay looked up at the older girl. Her spots were standing out more than normal today.
“Damie?” Agra, Kay thought, sounded nervous.
“Just let us talk for a second, Agra, two girls together.” Damaris patted his shoulder, then turned the pat into a shove towards the door. Agravain balked and dug his heels in.
“It’s my room. My Kept.”
“Yes, Agra. And it’ll still be your room and your Kept when I’m done talking to one in the other. Scoot.”
“Agra, I said scoot. Oh, and tell her she can talk before you leave.”
“She’d not silenced today.”
Grumbling, Agravain left. Kay, in the meantime, had packed up her homework and turned her attention to Damaris. She didn’t know what the other girl wanted, and Agravain had, as always, not given her any limits.
“So, talk to me.”
Do what Damaris says. “What do you want me to talk about, ma’am?”
“You really wouldn’t want to kill him?”
“You’re his friend, and I’m his possession.” It wasn’t an answer, but she hadn’t been ordered to answer.
“I was someone’s possession last year, and I spent parts of it wanting to stab him.”
“Stabbing is different from killing.”
Damaris laughed. “It is, isn’t it? It’s a bit different now, when I’m not under the collar any more, but I’m not sure I could have answered that one honestly when I was Kept and not gotten shoved in a closet for a while.”
Kay twitched. She didn’t like the closet. “I don’t want to kill him.”
“That’s good. I don’t think he thinks about what’ll happen, when he frees you. But I’m his friend; I try to look after him.”
Kay pursed her lips. “I’ll keep that in mind. Next year.”
Damaris laughed. “I bet you will. And, Akaterina?”
“I’m not actually saying I’d get in the way of a little revenge.”
Oh. Oh! Kay found herself, much to her surprise, smiling. “Yes, ma’am.”
Addergoole: Year Nine updates every Wednesday evening EST. Want more?