3: Welcome Festival

on June 7, 2007 in 01: Welcome Weekend

In Which Mackenzie Forms A Resolution

When I said I wanted to take a walk, what I really wanted to do was be alone. It turned out there’s not really any place to do that on a university campus that’s just opened for the new term… the hallways were packed, the lounges were packed, the grounds were packed… even the library, which I’d hoped would be deserted as nobody had any classes yet, was full of volunteers leading groups around on tours, discussing the finer points of indexing in very un-library-like tones.

So, I just kind of wandered. I’ve never really had a problem being alone in a crowd. Puddy had talked about a welcome festival. She hadn’t been exaggerating. The big five-sided common area between the clusters of dormitory buildings and the student union was full of tables and tents. Every student organization and activity, local merchant, and employer seemed to have representation. As Puddy had said, there seemed to be plenty of food floating around among all the other swag. That was kind of academic to me, since I don’t really eat that often.

The only thing it lacked as a carnival was a troupe of entertainers, but there were so many magical demonstrations and showy illusions going on that it hardly seemed to matter. As I watched, three partially translucent sea-green dragons circled overhead, with showers of sparks exploding all around them. Some of the flame bursts looked like they were deliberately aimed at the mascots. Some irreverent soul had tried to put novelty glasses with a big nose and mustache on one of them, too, but the illusions didn’t quite mesh and one of the arms of the spectacles was very obviously poking through the dragon’s head. A fez flickered and appeared on one of the other dragons, only to vanish and be replaced with a ten gallon (or maybe thousand gallon) hat.

The spirit of one-upsmanship was also being expressed in other ways. The Prism Pride Coalition tried sending a magical rainbow arching from their table all the way to the other end of the gathering, where the Campus Crusade for Khersis quickly repelled and evaporated it. The pride group tried this again a few more times before they gave up and went back to passing out ribbons (and decals and tattoos that looked like ribbons) which cycled through the colors of the visible spectrum. There were a lot more people congregating around the fundies’ table than there were at the gays’. Not unexpected, but still somehow disappointing.

“Hey, don’t you know you’re not supposed to go unarmed on campus grounds?” a voice called. Since most everybody else was carrying large, highly visible swords, maces, spears, and assorted other gleaming pointy metal penis substitutes, I assumed the voice was referring to me. I turned and saw a group of sickeningly perfect-looking warrior jocks grouped around a table. There was a banner hanging off the front of their table that read “The Most Just And Pious Brethren of the Blue-White Rose.” The guys standing behind it all wore ceremonial tabards over their sweater vests and jeans.

Great, I thought… frat boys.

“We’d be happy to let you borrow one of our blades,” one of them said.

“I’ve got one, thanks,” I said, opening my jacket just enough to show the knife hilt concealed inside.

“It’s not going to do you much good tucked away like that,” one of the brothers said. He lifted his only gleaming broadsword… not quite brandishing it, just showing it off. I guessed either he or his frat as a whole had been given a talking to at some point about the fine difference between the two. “What would happen if somebody came after you with a proper sword and you didn’t have time to get your little pigsticker out?”

“I don’t know,” I said closing my jacket. “Would you like to find out?”

This drew a collective “oooo” from most of the other brothers, but one of them didn’t join in.

“Forget her, bro,” he said. I looked and saw that it was the “Hey, frosh!” guy from earlier. He was scowling, but wouldn’t look right at me. “She’s a Harlot.”

“I’m a what?” I asked, but several of his buddies made the Arms of Khersis, so I just backed away. I can’t stand zealots.

I’d been planning on just kind of skirting the festival, but now I was mindful of the brothers’ eyes on me. If they saw me walking away, I knew they’d think their disapproval had driven me off. I swallowed a sigh and headed through the crowd. I decided to confirm their worst fears and head over to the rainbow-bedecked table first… in for a penny, in for a platinum, as the saying goes. I accepted a ribbon from an overly chipper half-elf of indeterminate gender and signed a petition that sounded more like a formally worded snit than a call for any real action.

Despite the chilly reception I’d been given by a few people simply on the basis of my residence hall, I figured the MU campus had to be at least a halfway tolerant place, officially. You can usually tell that sort of thing by the pettiness of the oppressed minorities’ complaints. I waved off the half-elf’s attempts to give me a whole hand full of stickers and walked away through the crowd, figuring I’d made my point. I could duck out of the pent at the side farthest away from the sneering Roses and find somewhere slightly quieter.

Strangely, it ended up being the bottom floor of Harlowe Hall, that had been so packed when I’d checked in. Once registration was over, it was practically deserted. There was one volunteer on duty behind the desk, and nobody in the big lounge area. I sat there with the TV on, not really watching it. It was just background noise.

I’ve always felt out of place everywhere I go. I hadn’t really expected college to be much different from high school in this respect. So far, it hadn’t been… but it was a different sort of out of place. In high school, I’d always felt like I was intruding against my will on somebody else’s space. I’d let myself be pushed aside or ignored because it was easier than standing up for my rights… especially as I hadn’t really felt like I had any to begin with. It hadn’t been my choice to be there, and I would’ve jumped at any alternative.

The one thought that had got me through high school had been that when it was over, I’d be in college, and everything would be different. Okay, so it turned out the world hadn’t magically changed when I’d graduated, and neither had the people in it. That didn’t mean I had to be the same.

I’d signed up to be here. I’d had to prove that I deserved it. I’d got a scholarship–merit based–that covered most of the actual school expenses and worked to earn the money for the rest. No matter how awkward or out of place I felt, I’d chosen to be here… and I’d earned the right to do it, too. Sitting there in the TV lounge, I decided that if somebody wanted to get up in my face or keep me from doing something I really wanted to do, I was definitely going to stand up for myself.

Probably.


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8 Responses to “3: Welcome Festival”

  1. Erm says:

    I’m reading through the old chapters again, and trying to catch early references…

    > overly chipper half-elf of indeterminate gender

    Is that Steff?

    Current score: 0
  2. fastfinge says:

    I’m rereading all the old chapters. Is it too late for typo reports? If not:
    “The one thought that had got me the through high school”
    has an extra the. Should be:
    “The one thought that had got me through high school ”
    I think.

    Current score: 0
  3. I really liked your writing but perhaps this time you may have been too sick when writing because your writing it feels rushed.

    Current score: 0
  4. pedestrian says:

    I am also beginning to re-read this epic accomplishment.

    “The Most Just And Pious Brethren of the Blue-White Rose.”

    – Take the context out of any religion and all you are left with are the hypocrisy’s.

    Current score: 0
  5. NikkiNQ says:

    I love how Mackenzie appears uncertain about standing up for herself. 🙂 She sounds just like someone new to life where you can choose your own things.

    Current score: 1
  6. aqua says:

    first time reading through. hmm i wonder who lance is. either the guy showing off the sword or the one who called her a harlot. hopping its the show off guy, seems less of a jerk

    Current score: 0
  7. Mickey says:

    Possible typo…”He lifted his only gleaming broadsword… not quite brandishing it, just showing it off.” The word “only” seems out of place there, although I’m not sure precisely what is intended.

    Wonderful writing! I’m reading it for the third or fourth time, and it is, as they say, even better than I’d remembered.

    Current score: 0