154: Red Letter Day

on February 9, 2008 in 06: A Period of Conflict

In Which Mackenzie Saves An Angel

After lunch, I still had time to kill before my logic class so I headed back to the dorm. I had the thought that I might try to come up with a follow-up letter for my student senate campaign.

After the past weekend, though, what could I actually say? I’d spooked the shit out of Trina with my burning eyes, tried to eat Rocky, and… well, I didn’t really understand what I’d done to Hissy. Of course, it was pretty likely that none of those girls had been among my ardent supporters to begin with.

In fact, I was sure Trina had voted against me. As a triclops, she was half-human, and she seemed to believe the most outlandish rumors about demonkind that were around. Not that the truth was a whole lot better, but I sure as hell hadn’t eaten somebody’s face to gain human appearance.

I got another surprise when I came out of the stairwell and into the fifth floor hallway. The door to the R.A.’s room actually opened, and Kiersta started to come out with a little sticky note in her hand.

She froze when she saw me, looking guilty for some reason.

“Uh, hi,” I said.

“Um… I was going to put a note on your door?” she said, her voice high and quavery. “Gwen says you haven’t been checking your mail?”

“Yeah, well, I haven’t been expecting any,” I said, wondering how they knew who checked their mail and if I should be worried or offended.

“She said the box is getting full and you need to go down and pick it up,” Kiersta said.

“What is it, coupons and stuff?” I asked. “They can just dump it.”

“I’m just saying what she told me to say,” Kiersta said, and I believed her. Outside of floor meetings, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen our residence advisor. She’d gone from forcefully chipper on the first night to a nervous wreck in record time.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll go down and get it, then.”

She backed into her room and shut the door. I heard it lock, and then what sounded like a chain sliding into place.

If she was that afraid of her residents, why didn’t she quit or ask to be reassigned?

When Celia had questioned the presence of a human R.A. in the non-human dorm, I’d put it down to the same knee-jerk anti-humanism that had made her suspicious of me in the beginning. Now I could see a little bit of wisdom in her view. At the very least, they should have made sure their Harlowe R.A. candidates were prepared to co-exist with a variety of races.

The mailboxes were in the basement by the front desk, which had three pizza boxes stacked up at one end. A bunch of empties were on the floor beside it… the remains of the free meal catered in to give the non-human students an alternative to using the cafeteria and disturbing the more sheltered humans.

There were some people sitting in the chairs closest to the big TV, at the far end of the room. They were talking and eating. I thought one of them might have been Trina, but I couldn’t tell from just the top of the back of her head, and I didn’t want to draw their attention by staring.

The desk attendant on duty was a hobgoblin, with floppy ears and a mottled green-gray complexion like Oru up on my floor, only about as tall as a human. I wondered if he was actually an R.A., or if he was just in on some kind of work-study program.

“Um, how do I know which mailbox is mine?” I asked him, after staring at the mailboxes and realizing that despite having been given a key, I hadn’t been told which box it went with.

“They’re by room number,” he said.

“Oh, right,” I said, feeling profoundly stupid. “Thanks.”

“You’re Blaise?” he asked “Mackenzie Blaise?”

“Yeah,” I said, wondering what wild rumor I was about to be treated to.

“You should check your mail more often,” he said. “It’s getting really hard to jam stuff in there.”

“It’s only been two weeks,” I said. “How much could I have?”

He shrugged.

There were four rows of boxes. The 400s were on the bottom, thankfully. If they’d been the top row, I would have had to stand on my toes. How did the shorter races manage? That was something else to think about.

I found the one labeled 417 and opened it.

I knew who was sending me mail as soon as I opened the box and saw red… the same thick red paper envelopes I’d used to send off my college applications, with the same return address stamped in the corner:

M. Blaise
823 Hawthorne St.
Little Turning, Treholme Province

There were eleven of them… eleven letters for two weeks. The first one was dated from the day I left. There were also some coupons and promotional flyers that had probably been stuck in everybody’s mailbox, but those eleven letters in their bulky, hard-to-fold envelopes constituted the extent of my personal mail.

I started to dump the whole thing in the little wastebasket that sat on the floor beside the mailboxes, but it was close to overflowing with other peoples’ junk mail, and it occurred to me that to somebody like Trina or Sooni, the lure of somebody else’s unopened mail might prove irresistible, even before they saw who it was addressed to.

“Hey… um… do you have a vanisher back there?” I asked the guy behind the desk, holding up the letters. Upon second thought, it seemed like a good idea to at least look at the coupons and stuff. Who knew? There could be something good there.

“Yeah,” he said. He held out a hand for the envelopes. “You don’t even want to open them?”

“Just vanish them, please?” I said.

He shrugged again, and started feeding them one by one into something beneath the counter. Little puffs of reddish-pink smoke drifted up.

“All gone,” he said.

“Thanks…”

“Moeli,” he supplied.

“Thanks, Moeli,” I said. “Um, is there any way you could just do that if any more of those come for me?”

“Couldn’t,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t sort the mail every day, anyway.”

“Oh, okay,” I said.

“Bad break-up?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“The letters,” he said.

“I guess you could say it’s something like that,” I said. “Anyway, thanks.”

“No problem,” he said. “I’m always on duty. Well, not really. In a little bit I get to go to lunch, and then I have class.”

“You didn’t eat the pizza?” I asked.

“Dairy gives me stomach cramps,” he said. “Most goblinfolk can’t handle the tit juice, you know. I usually just get something from the store, anyway.”

“You ever eat in the dining hall?” I asked.

He gave me an incredulous look, as if to say, “Seriously? Me?” and then waved one big floppy hand dismissively.

“It’s got more choices than the corner store,” I said.

“I show my face there and they’re going to be shish kebabing me,” he said. “Anyway, I got in the habit of going to the store last year and just kept it up. What’s that saying about hobgoblins and foolish consistency?”

“Isn’t that a stereotype?” I asked.

Moeli shrugged.

“When I applied for this job, the lady looked right at me and said, ‘At least we know you’ll always show up,'” he said. “If I’m going to be stereotyped for something, consistency’s not a bad one. It beats bad hygiene. I picked out all my clothes to look the same because I can’t see in color, but a lot of people assume I’m just not changing them. Yet, you could go around wearing the same thing every day and nobody would…”

“Hey, I don’t wear the same clothes every day,” I said, my mouth running ahead before my brain registered the “could.”

“Huh, what?” Moeli said, a little shaken. “Sorry. I was speaking, what’s the word? Hypothetically.”

“Sorry,” I said, blushing. I’d have to tell Amaranth I’d lost my temper at somebody. That was automatic punishment. I’d been getting better at it, though. “Um, I should probably get going.”

“Alright,” Moeli said. “Nice talking to you.”

“Bye.”

I started to head back up to the fifth floor, but I stopped halfway up and went back down to the first floor hallway. I did have time to kill, and I needed to do something if I wanted to have any chance of winning the election. If nothing else, I could try to write some kind of damage control letter.

This time, the ballroom wasn’t empty. Twyla, the horned girl from my floor, was sitting in front of one of the crystal balls. Horns aside, she looked pretty human… a little on the heavy side, but she seemed to carry it well.

I wasn’t really looking at her, though. Suspended in the air in front of her was an image of a beautiful ivory-colored woman… no, an angel or other celestial of some kind.

I knew the school’s balls didn’t have projection abilities on their own which meant that she was evoking it herself somehow. I vaguely remembered that she was a divination major. The crystal balls that were mass-produced for ethernet gazing were just good enough that even an untrained scryer could see into the ethereal plane and then follow the network of silver threads to other nodes.

With sufficient practice, or a better ball, a diviner could pierce the veil twice in order to spy on distant locations. By law, ethernet balls had that blocked, but “h3xx0rz” usually figured out how to work around that. Twyla didn’t seem the type, but if she really had a talent for divination she’d probably be able to get a standard issue crystal ball to do all sorts of cool things.

She hadn’t heard me coming in, but when the door swung shut behind me, she jumped and started waving the image away.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Just… it’s just something I was working on,” she said, as the last of the picture faded.

“You made that?” I asked, amazed.

“I envisioned it,” she said.

“What’d you erase it for?” I asked, dumbfounded. “It was beautiful!”

“It… it w-was nothing,” she stammered. She grabbed up her books. “I have to go. Excuse me.”

She tried to stand without pushing her chair back first and almost toppled it over, then got her leg tangled up with it and nearly tripped before she finally made it to the door.

I was looking at the ball she’d left behind, though. She’d cleared the image out of the air, but the original figure was still visible within the orb, bobbing up and down in the ether. Without her focusing on it, it started to fade around the edges. I quickly touched my hands to the orb and willed it to scribe off a copy.

The resulting picture was two-dimensional and lacked some of the definition of the original, but I figured Twyla might be glad to have it anyway. If nothing else, she could use it as a reference if she ever wanted to re-create it.

I set the copy aside and got to work on my next letter. Where to begin, though? I didn’t want to come off defensive… and what if somebody hadn’t even paid attention to the latest rumors, until I went and put them in their face?

I decided to keep things vague.

By now you’ve probably heard some version of the events of this past weekend. I’m not about to drag a personal conflict out into the open, so all I’m going to say is that no matter what you heard, I was not the aggressor… and that I regret my part in it all the same.

There. I wasn’t exactly bucking responsibility but I wasn’t letting myself take the blame, either. It was a good enough opening, anyway, and I could use it to lead naturally into the next logical point, which obviously was… which was?

After a little more thought, it turned out to be this:

If these incidents have proven anything, it’s that we the non-human and marginalized students of Magisterius University should stand together instead of fighting among ourselves.

The fact is, we are all different. We all have different needs. The dining situation is only one example of that, but it’s a good one. Some of us can’t eat meat. Some of us might eat nothing but meat. Some of us like raw eggs and live rodents. Some of us can’t handle dairy products or wheat.
Some of us require a little bit of blood.

Yes, blood. That’s all I need to eat. Not a whole lot, and only once a month. If I forget, it can be dangerous, but that’s something I will be very careful about in the future. If I remember, I’m pretty safe, and no more likely to go around eating people than any of you are.

Of course, to some people on this campus, we all might as well go around eating people. We’re monsters. We’re ugly, scary, or just plain embarrassing. They let us come here to get an education because of an ideal of tolerance, and because of treaties and laws, but they don’t really want us here.

Not everybody feels that way, but if we don’t speak up… if we don’t act up… then it becomes that much easier for those who do to push us into a corner and keep us there.

We pay the same tuition as everybody else. Those of us who live in the I.R.M. are subject to the same taxes as everybody else. We have the same rights. We just need to remind people of that more often, and if you elect me as your student senator, that’s what I will do.

To those that I hurt

I stopped and erased those last five words, then began the paragraph again.

To those who were hurt attacking me, I offer my sincere apology. I really would have rather the whole thing hadn’t happened.

My composition teachers had always told me to avoid the passive voice, but it seemed the best fit here. I’d almost put “to those who hurt themselves”, but that didn’t sound right. The fact was Rocky and Hissy hadn’t hurt themselves, I had hurt them, and I did not feel great about it.

I tried not to think about it… the memory of Rocky’s flesh in my mouth, the crunch of her finger… the way Hissy had clawed at her face before she passed out…

I shuddered. Inside the orb, the letters began to writhe and curl, turning red. I regained my focus quickly and forced them to stabilize, then resumed writing.

I hope they can put it behind them, as I’ve put their actions behind me. When the re-vote is held on Friday, I hope that you all will vote for the candidate you think will do the best job, not the one who is the more socially acceptable race.

I scribed the letters off. I would add the signatures and salutations by hand for the personal touch. I wasn’t completely satisfied with it… the part about “those who were hurt” bothered me, and the whole “put it behind them” thing almost read as a threat; you blow the whistle on me and I’ll blow it on you. It seemed like it might be an effective letter, but it bothered me all the same.

I didn’t know how to get around those things, though. I really did want to put the last weekend behind me. I didn’t want to think about the things I’d thought about in my hungry state. I didn’t want to relive the things I’d fantasized about. I didn’t want to go through life remembering what blood hot and fresh from the vein was like. I didn’t want to remember the sweet candy taste of flesh or the crunch of bone between my teeth…

There was a wastebasket in the corner, and it received the remains of my sandwich and the lemon pudding. I hunched over it shaking for several minutes before I gathered up my things and headed upstairs.

I could finish the letters later. Right that minute, what I really wanted was a good, hot shower or bath… or failing that, an oblivion potion.

Well, not really. It would have been nice to forget, but probably dangerous, too. At least as long as I remembered, I knew I wouldn’t be making the same mistake again.


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3 Responses to “154: Red Letter Day”

  1. pedestrian says:

    true Our Mack is learning to not repeat her mistakes but just like all the rest of us, she keeps inventing new errors to commit.

    Current score: 5
    • nobody says:

      Also remembering your mistakes makes repeating them less likely but not impossible.

      Current score: 3
  2. Lara says:

    “h3xx0rz” made me laugh so hard.

    Current score: 2