Thursday, September 14, 2000
Leofric squinted one eye, the other still buried in his pillow, and peered through his hair at the digital clock across the room. A seven, a five, a one… which blinked over into a two as he watched. Seven fifty two.
First period started at eight o’clock.
“Shit!” In a flurry of limbs, long hair and blankets, Leofric scrambled out of bed and hastily threw on clothes — shirt, change of pants, socks that don’t match but who cares, one shoe — and spent a good minute frantically searching for his other shoe. No time to brush his teeth; if he made it out of the labyrinthine dormitory level in only five minutes, he’d be lucky.
The door slammed shut behind him as he hurried out into the hallways, hitching his backpack over one shoulder while trying to tie up his hair one-handed. It was only the second week of classes and he’d already slept through his alarm – again. Breakfast was out of the question (ten bucks said Zita was going to scold him about that again) and at this point, if he didn’t hurry, he was going to be late for history. Again. History was a hard enough subject without pissing off the teacher. At least Valerian’s lectures were crazy enough that no one had time to pay attention to the late kid, and Howard would save him his seat. …Probably.
As he came up to an intersection, he slowed, then came to a stop and looked down both the halls.
He had no idea where he was.
More importantly, he had no idea where the stairs were.
“…Shit.” Despite a sinking feeling that he was doomed — did they expel students for being late, or just give detention? — Leofric took the opportunity to finish tying back his hair. There was only so much he could do without a mirror and a comb; it was probably a disaster, but at least he could give it a shot and look a tiny bit less like he’d just rolled out of bed. Finishing that, he settled his backpack more comfortably on his shoulder, looked down the halls a second time, then picked a random direction and headed left.
He’d gone about ten feet when someone whispered something unintelligible.
“Sorry, I—” He turned to look at the sound — towards where he thought was the sound — and stumbled to a stop in surprise. There was no one there…?
Great; now I’m not just late, I’m hallucinating. He grimaced and started continuing down the hall — and there it was again. He couldn’t make out any words, but it definitely sounded like a whispering voice behind him. In an empty hallway.
Either he was hallucinating, someone was playing some elaborate magical prank, or the school was haunted. He wouldn’t be surprised if it was; after all, it really was school for the X-Men. If you already have magic and fairies and super-powered mutants, adding in ghosts isn’t much of a stretch.
Then again, if you already have magic and fairies and super-powered mutants, Occam’s Razor said it was one of those.
Either way, if it was a ghost and trying to tell him something, maybe that something was you’re going the wrong way.
“Can’t hurt to try,” he muttered to himself and turned around, heading back to the intersection. Whatever he did at this point, he was going to be late. Heck, he might already be late, he didn’t know how long he’d been lost. If he was really unlucky, his clock was running slow, too.
Looking down the other two halls at the intersection, he paused for a moment to listen — it seemed only fair to give the mysterious whisperer a chance to tell him which way to go. Not too much of a chance, though, in case it was a prank and they were just trying to make him lost.
After waiting through a moment of silence, he shrugged and picked one of the other halls, only for the faint whisper to come from behind him again. From the intersection…?
Leofric looked over the halls again. Maybe he should just go back to his room and start again; if he was lucky, he’d remember the way correctly this time.
“There you are!” A familiar melodic voice curved around the corner as he jogged out of the intersection and back the way he’d first come, pulling him to a stop. The pretty Japanese-American girl in his history class — the one who’d turned out last Friday to have peacock hair and eyes to match — was just coming around the corner from where he’d originally headed.
“Oh.” He mentally scrambled for her name; she sat practically next to him, it was embarrassing it took so long to remember what to call her. “Hi, Eriko. What—”
“I noticed you didn’t show up for breakfast.” She smiled timidly at him. “And class is about to start…?”
“Yeah, I know.” Leofric sighed woefully. “I forget how to get to the stairs…”
“I thought that must be it. You really are hopeless.” The tiny bluenette gave him a brighter smile, taking the sting out of the criticism as she took his hand and led him down the hall. “Here, it’s this way. You really don’t want to be late for class; the teachers get upset.”
“I know, but it’s not like I’m doing it on purpose…” He followed her lead, thankful for the guidance. Most of the older students really were nice, whatever Howard and Zita said. “Thanks for coming to get me, by the way; I hope I don’t make you late, too.”
“I do too, I’d hate to get in trouble.” She tugged at his hand as they went around another corner. “The stairs are right here. I think we’ll make it in time.”
“You’re a lifesaver.” Leofric grinned.
She smiled demurely back. “I’m only trying to be helpful.”
“I really appreciate it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you?”
“Really?” Her smile brightened even more and she practically sparkled at him. (Not literally, although there probably was someone at Addergoole who did.) “That’s so thoughtful of you, Leofric. I will.”