496: Postlogue and Epilude

on March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which Every New Beginning Is Some Other Beginning’s End Horrible Cliche

Callahan showed up at the salle on Thursday wearing an eyepatch. She said she had a special prize for the first person who asked her what happened.

Nobody took her up on it that I saw.

She seemed to be in a bad mood, but it was hard to say since most of the time she seemed to be both incredibly pissed off and having the time of her life. It was also hard to say if the speed and directness with which she got down to business was part of her mood, or part of the curriculum… she’d made it clear in our previous classes that we’d reached a sort of tipping point and the pace was going to pick up.

She started calling names and setting people to exercises and moved around the room with an efficiency she’d never shown before. Callahan’s style of teaching had never exactly been “no-nonsense”, though her threatening manner could give you the impression it was. The thing was, there’s a difference between “no-nonsense” and “in your face”. Nonsense can get in your face pretty easily. It’s not necessarily big on personal space.

“I’m surprised to see you’re still with us, Emo Kid,” she said to me at one point during the class.

“I told you I’d be here and ready to learn,” I said.

“Well, at least I know your weekend was worse than mine,” she said. Cold prickles ran down my spine as another interpretation of her opening line presented itself in my mind: still with us. Had she had some reason to think I’d be gone after the past weekend?

“Why do you say that?” I asked her. Not “How do you know?”, which was the first thing that popped into my head but which didn’t seem to be able to pop out of my mouth.

“Because your life sucks,” she said. “Keep it up. The learning, not the sucking.”

Those were the only words she had for me personally during the class, apart from a few shouted directions. By next Tuesday, she’d had her eye regenerated or otherwise taken care of, if there’d ever been anything wrong underneath the patch at all.

The next day was my third session with Teddi.

“I have a note here to remind you to talk about Puddy,” she said.

“Puddy,” I repeated. “I was kind of hoping you would have forgotten about that.”

“Not a chance,” she said. “If you don’t want to talk about Puddy, we can talk about why you don’t want to.”

“What if I don’t want to talk about that?”

“Then there is going to come a point when there’s no longer any purpose in you being here,” Teddi said. “I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but I know you’re predisposed to think in those terms. We’re not there yet, and there’s nothing unusual in taking time and a few sessions to really open up… but, well, it’s an active process. You have to participate. You have to open. I can reach out all I want, but it won’t do any good if you don’t reach back.”

I sighed.

“Do you know who Puddy is?” I asked. I wasn’t sure which answer I was hoping for here. If she did, then maybe I wouldn’t have to go into things as deeply. If she didn’t, then maybe I could spend more time working my way up to the real issues. Not that I wanted to stall, exactly… more like build up speed.

“Who is she to you?” Teddi asked.

“Well… she was my roommate,” I said. “And I suppose she was my friend, in some ways. I mean, in a formal sort of way. I don’t think she was actually friendly to me. But she called herself my friend, and I felt… well, that meant something. It probably sounds stupid to say that I let her treat me like shit because she was my friend. I mean, it would be one thing if we had a whole big history together where she’d earned some kind of trust or slack and then abused it, but I literally just met her at the start of the semester.”

“That sort of thing is really not uncommon,” Teddi said. “The mind contains concepts, labels that we use for relating to the world around us, and the people in it. Even with people you’ve known for years, there are limits to how well you can ‘know’ them. So you sort them into boxes. Someone who gets labeled ‘friend’… they are a friend, emotionally. You’ll react to them through that filter.”

“There’s probably more to it than that,” I said. “I mean… well, I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up. After I, you know, turned, I didn’t have any, but it wasn’t like I lost friends. It was like I went from not having any friends to having no friends, if that makes sense.”

“You’re talking about active animosity,” Teddi said. “People treated you differently.”

“Yeah,” I said. “They were different people, but it was definitely a different reaction. I went from being the weird quiet kid to being the scary dangerous one.”

“Were you lonely?” Teddi asked. “Before that, I mean.”

“I was pretty happy as a kid. Content,” I said. “I had my imagination, and I had my mother. On some level I sort of labeled everybody in my class at school as being my friends. I saw them every weekday. We did things together… at school. I wasn’t completely shunned, at any level that I could tell. Though I’ve never exactly been the most socially aware person. I was just starting to get the picture before I left my old school.”

“What picture was that?”

“That the other kids… they did stuff together outside of class,” I said. “They hung out. They shared secrets that weren’t the property of the playground. I was tolerated, but not liked. At least, that’s how it seemed to me later on when I thought back on it… but I also thought that I’d go back to that in a heartbeat. It was comfortable, at least.”

“It can be a bit of a double-bind,” Teddi said. “If you’re not a social person, I mean. If you don’t learn to recognize the cues early on, you don’t know when you’re missing them.”

“Well, lucky for me, people aren’t very subtle about how they feel about me these days,” I said. “Anyway, Puddy seemed friendly enough, when I first met her.”

“Did she?”

“Well, she kind of pressured me into telling her my racial background,” I said. “I hadn’t exactly planned on doing that. Though maybe it wasn’t realistic to expect to keep it a secret.”

“Realistic or not, it was your decision,” Teddi said. “What sort of pressure did she use?”

“Nothing bad, then,” I said. “She wasn’t violent about it. She just said that I should trust her… really, I think it was my eagerness to have a friend, to be a friend.”

“She took advantage of that?”

“I don’t know if I’d put it that way,” I said. Why was I defending Puddy? I thought I was just trying to be accurate, but it came out like I was trying to convince myself she wasn’t all that bad. “I mean, okay, yes, she benefited from it, but it’s not like she knew my background, or planned to have a roommate who would be a pushover.”

As soon as I said it, I realized that Puddy had planned exactly that. She couldn’t have known about my friendless years, or my submissive streak… but she’d set about establishing dominance anyway. I doubted Puddy thought of people in terms of dominant and submissive, or outgoing and retiring, as personality traits or states. These things were actions to her. Dominate, or be dominated… be big and loud or risk fading into the background.

“You look like you don’t quite believe what you’re saying,” Teddi said. “Would you like to share your thoughts?”

“Puddy’s goal is to be the ‘big dog’,” I said. “It’s like she’s always got to be the most important person, the leader, the center of attention. She’s not happy if she doesn’t feel like the biggest, baddest, and strongest person in the room. She was learning how to trigger my wards from the beginning, but after she learned what I was… well, she really kind of swung from hot to cold, you know? Like she was afraid of me, but that just made her push me harder.”

“Can you give me an example?”

“I woke up and she was holding a pillow over me,” I said. “I mean, over my face. She tried to laugh it off… I don’t think she was actually trying to kill me, but I don’t think it was just a joke, either. She waited until I was awake to start pressing down. I think she wanted to see what I would do… how I would react. I guess to see if I was a threat.”

“How did you react, then?”

“I panicked… flailed around. I lit up a little, but that was involuntary,” I said. “And after she let me up, I yelled a bunch but I didn’t exactly stand my ground. I still did what she said. Things just got worse from there.”

When I’d decided to talk about Puddy at the end of my last session, I’d thought that it might give Teddi some useful background on where I was now, and that in some nebulous way it would help me work through some non-specific issues… I hadn’t really thought about what I would say or how it would help me. I didn’t really know what my issues were.

But once I got moving, I ended up telling her about the hitting that happened when I’d tried to switch the burned pillow back from my own, Puddy’s attempts at “leadership” of the cluster of people that formed around us, the disastrous pizza night… we were just getting to Barley when we ran out of time.

Spilling everything about Puddy, and the way she’d made me feel… even without a clear agenda, it did help. Not only did I feel better about the experiences, after the initial discomfort of talking about them, but I felt closer to Teddi afterwards. She didn’t know me. She’d spent less time in my company than Puddy had. But she knew these things about me, she knew about the things I’d gone through.

It wasn’t like I’d never told anyone about Puddy before. Amaranth knew. But… in some ways it was good to have a near-stranger to talk to.

Outside of the healing sessions, it seemed like there was a shift going on in all of my classes that mirrored the increased pace in mixed melee on an intellectual plane. Part of it might have come from my own outlook changing, though I knew that the semester really was gathering speed. The instructors in my more complicated classes… the labs and my logic class… started to give both more work and more complicated work. Assignments started having more requirements and fewer instructions.

After mid-terms, we even got past the basic stuff in thaumatology and I had to start doing reading in order to know what Goldman was talking about.

When the homework really started to pile up for the first time I wondered how I would cope with all of it on top of everything else in my life, but in the end the fact that I had to deal with it meant that there was less of “everything else in my life”. Well, maybe that’s not giving myself enough credit… I could have ignored it. Other people did. I overheard Trina talking on the mirror to Gladys about how badly her grades were slipping, starting around the middle of the term. Did she do anything different in response to this? Not that I could tell. She treated college as a strictly social arena and wondered why her grades didn’t reflect her general awesomeness.

That wasn’t to say that college ever became a purely academic environment for me during my freshman year. I was still dating three people. Sooni still managed to seriously distract me on at least a weekly basis, at least through the end of the first semester. I felt conflicted about her… I’d become so confident about my decision to shut Puddy and my father out of my life.

I did completely yield to the idea that he was my father, after the conversation with Art Kent. That didn’t mean I felt any differently towards him. He couldn’t be trusted to do anything except what he pleased, and to try to frame what he wanted in terms that made it seem like he was on my side. At his most charming he’d never managed to conceal his basic inherent creepiness, with the slaughter imagery and the talk of humanity as insects.

He didn’t come back into my dreams for some time after the night where he’d said he would leave me alone for a while. I figured he was afraid that if he pushed me I’d get serious about shutting him out. He didn’t know that I already was… after Teddi’s suggestion, I started working on waking myself up whenever I realized I was dreaming. Well, not quite every time… some dreams were worth staying in. But his dreams were always very lucid, so I figured that as long as I had some practice flexing the right “muscles” I’d be able to break out of them.

It took some effort, but when he showed up a couple of weeks after midterms I was able to throw him out, or throw myself out. The fact that I could feel him actively resisting my attempts to wake up only underscored how little regard he had for me and my wishes. It made it that much easier the next time.

Dealing with Sooni was more difficult. I knew she meant well, deep down inside… though it really was very deep. But we did have some common interests. I couldn’t say that she added nothing to my life.

Especially since the busier I got and the more pressure I felt in my classes, the more my earlier dreams of her recurred. They’d disappeared around the time I learned just how naive Sooni was, sexually, but my sleeping mind seemed to think that her and her giant sandals of doom were the perfect metaphor for whatever else was stressing me out at the moment. I felt guilty about these dreams, but there was so little feeling of control in them that I wasn’t able to wake myself up from them or stop them. I would have felt even more guilty dreaming about someone who I’d pointedly cut out of my life.

The other downside to erotic nightmares as a stress management technique was that the more I had them, the less comfortable Two was sharing a room with me. After the night I gave myself a screaming orgasm so intense that it woke me up, she became the most enthusiastic proponent of the suite idea for next year.

At the semester break, she officially became Dee’s roommate again. I didn’t take it personally. They suited each other better. They were both quiet. Neither of them had an active sex life, Two being asexual and Dee being uninterested in taking on any other lovers while she was on the surface. Two’s crying spells and insomnia… the main reasons she and Dee had split in the first place… had been mostly resolved, and Dee’s experience guiding her in meditation meant she could be more help than I or Amaranth could when Two did wake up in the middle of the night.

The sticking point with Sooni wasn’t how she treated me… that had become better over time, though it wasn’t ever perfect. It was how she treated her nekoyokai “friends”, and even more, the fact that she had them. Whether it was more economically enforced indentured servitude or a caste system or what, it was still little more than slavery. That she didn’t know better wasn’t really any excuse. It didn’t make the lives of her companions any better.

But at the same time, I couldn’t say that any of the three of them didn’t want to be at MU. Maliko was scarily devoted to Sooni. Kai wanted the chance to be educated. Suzi had a bullying streak in her that still came out from time to time, especially when she was with Maliko… but she alone among the three seemed to be genuinely making friends outside their original circle. She became a part of the circle that I thought of as Two’s friends, which overlapped “our” group but included people like Suzi, Pala, and Belinda… people who I could be friendly towards but who I probably never be completely comfortable being close to.

In the end I decided that it couldn’t be my job to inspire Sooni to change. I wouldn’t seek out her company or her friendship, but whenever she wasn’t actively being awful I wouldn’t spurn it, either.

Was I cutting her slack because I found her attractive? The thought troubled me from time to time, but I didn’t think it was the case. I wasn’t actively or consciously lusting after her any more. I had seen Sooni at her most confused and vulnerable, the night of our “date”… I think that made me more disposed to like her even as it made me less disposed to “like” her. Sooni had attacked me, but Puddy had beat me. They were both violent assaults, but somehow the distinction mattered.

I talked to Teddi about this and didn’t make much progress in sorting out how I felt about Sooni, or what to do about her. We ended up drifting apart by default as we both got busier. I couldn’t say if she was as involved with her classwork as I was with mine, but she did stick with the clothing design idea long enough for it to pay off… though it was really more of a costume design business than anything else.

I had to admit I’d been wrong to try to steer her away from that. I thought her fashion ideas were good, but people were apparently willing to pay serious coin for her character outfits. She got the ball rolling by putting some of her older Pretty Neko outfits up for sale on a tapestry.

My involvement in the project was practically non-existent. I started helping her make a weave site because I had, in fact, agreed to do that… but I only had the bare bones of it started before Kai stepped in and took over, to my relief… I had the impression she’d started learning by watching me, but she was a quick study. I would bet she also handled the business side of the business… I doubted Sooni had anything like a head for that.

Apparently they did well enough that Sooni either impressed her parents into reinstating her glamour allowance or she could afford to pay for it herself, because her previous flawless appearance was back well before winter break. She ended up completely changing her schedule for the spring semester at the last minute… during registration she’d contrived to be in three of the same classes as me, her best friend and rival, but she was so caught up in the costume business that she switched to a schedule heavy on glamour and design courses. She officially changed her major to that, keeping a minor in applied enchantment.

I kept my commitment to continue to do my best in mixed melee. The format we’d adopted, of working in small groups and critiquing each other, had its advantages and disadvantages for me. On the one hand, it suited me to have a more analytical approach, where I was fighting some of the time and standing back and thinking about what I’d done and what I was seeing other times. On the other hand, there was the inescapable social component.

Being one of the less capable fighters in most of the groups I cycled through didn’t do wonders for my confidence, when it came to giving criticism or even encouragement… and what Amaranth called my “two volumes” problem came up more than once. There were days where I pretty much had to get myself worked up just to speak up. Amaranth wouldn’t have been impressed, but Callahan was… letting loose verbally seemed to leave me better prepared to cut loose physically.

Teddi didn’t push me on the journal thing, since I was making progress without it. No matter how many times that she told me it wasn’t a homework assignment, though, I had a hard time letting go of it. It bothered me that I wasn’t able to just sit down and write. I couldn’t say that I’d ever been a great writer, but I had been a writer of some sort during high school and now I was finding it hard to sit down and even compose my thoughts about what was happening to me from day to day.

Teddi told me not to worry about it, but after we established that it wasn’t the inability to write the journals in particular that troubled me she didn’t mind talking about it.

“If it bothers you, then it’s a problem,” Teddi said. “Are you having trouble with papers for your classes, too?”

“No,” I said. “Well, sometimes finding the time to myself for them… but I manage that. I just have a hard time getting going when I sit down to write in the journal. And when I do… well, I know nobody’s necessarily going to read it but me, but I find myself feeling like there’s a lot of context missing when I try to describe what I’m feeling.”

“Then wouldn’t the solution be to describe the context?”

“Yeah, but… I mean, that would basically mean going back to the start of the year,” I said. “Going back over everything I’ve been through.”

“Is that something that gives you pause?”

“Well, not really,” I said. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to live through a lot of it again, but that doesn’t mean I can’t think about it, and that means I should be able to write about it. At that point, though, isn’t it kind of past a journal and straying into an autobiography?”

“Well, like you said: you’re the only one who has to read it,” she said. “It can be whatever you want.”

“The other thing is… it would be as much about the thoughts and emotions that were in my head as the things that happened,” I said. “I’m not really sure how to write that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well… okay, um, this is going to be kind of personal,” I said, blushing as I realized what the first example that had popped into my head was. But once it was there, it was so big and obvious and such a perfect example of the difficulty of writing about the past months that I couldn’t think of anything else.

“That isn’t ever going to be a problem for me, and I hope it won’t be one for you,” Teddi said.

“Well, I’d never… I was a virgin when I came here,” I said. “And the first time I, um… you know… had an orgasm… first times… I had no idea what was happening. It was like I didn’t have any frame of reference for what I was feeling. I could try to describe how it felt and what was running through my head, but… how do I write about that? Obviously it would be past tense, because I’m recording something that happened weeks ago… but then… well, from the perspective I’m writing it, I do know what happened.”

“Your concern is about tenses?”

“It’s about honesty,” I said. “Emotional honesty, I guess. I mean, if I’m going to do this right… and I know you’re going to tell me that there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, but if I’m not doing it in a way that makes sense to me then it isn’t right… I’d need it to capture the way I felt in that moment. You know?”

“That makes sense,” Teddi said. “Do you think talking your way through the problem some more might help you get around that block?”

“I guess. Maybe… yeah,” I said. In fact, in putting it into words and saying it out loud, I felt like I was getting closer to it.

“It seems to me like you’re coming at this from the point of view of a writer more so than a journalist,” she said. “A storyteller, I mean.”

“Well, all the writing I’ve done in my life so far has either been fiction or course work,” I said. “And I can’t really view myself as an academic subject, you know? This is my story we’re talking about.”

“So let’s talk about it.”

And we did. I left that session feeling a little more confident of my ability to write about what I’d gone through… it seemed like the most emotionally truthful way to do it would be to use past tense, but keep things mostly centered in the “present” of the story rather than on how things looked in hindsight.

I gave it a try that evening, writing out a short account of my arrival at MU. It was… well, it was kind of startling to recall how painfully awkward my first day was. It wasn’t like I was Ms. Suave these days, but remembering the feeling of burning with embarrassment at having walked into the nexus thinking it was Harlowe’s front door… and all the other minor missteps… well, I wondered how I’d ever managed to apply to a school or get on a coach by myself.

“I suspect you did what you had to,” Teddi said when I shared that with her in my next session. “Sometimes we do things that seem impossible to us because the alternative is even harder.”

“It seems like a huge overreaction to me now,” I said. “Though it’s not like I’m not prone to those… still, I can’t imagine beating myself up quite that much for stopping on the wrong floor these days.”

“Are you celebrating your progress or castigating your past self?” she asked.

“I don’t really think I’m castigating,” I said. “I’m not like, ‘Oh, how could I be so stupid?’ or anything… except on maybe on a practical level. I’m wondering how I functioned.”

“As best as you could, I would bet,” Teddi said. “You know, I was ready to suggest you give up on the journal-writing, but I suspect this will be good for you in the long run. You seem to be very centered in the present.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” I asked. “I mean, if I were all stuck in the past, wouldn’t you be telling me to live in the moment?”

“Very possibly,” Teddi said. “But I wouldn’t rate the past, present, or future as a better place than the others to be ‘all stuck in’. A healthy perspective integrates all three.”

“It’s not like I never think about the past,” I said. “I mean, I can’t really get away from it, can I?”

“Well, there’s thinking and there’s thinking,” Teddi said. “I’ve got the sense that you deal with things by thinking them through, sometimes at a level that approaches excessive… but when it comes to the past, it seems like you’re more bounded by feelings than thoughts. When you ‘think’ about mistakes you’ve made in the past, it’s really the feeling that comes up, and your ‘thought’ is a response to that. Did you really think that you were a loser for turning off on the wrong floor your first day, or did you feel like a loser and give that feeling shape as a thought?”

“I suppose it’s more the latter,” I said. “I mean, when I wrote it out… or when I try to talk about it… I really can’t explain why I feel that way, and I can think of all kinds of reasons why it’s silly. I still feel it, though.”

“Feelings happen,” Teddi said. “They aren’t everything, though. What you think about your feelings… how you think about them… and what you do about them are important, too.”

“It’s funny… Amaranth and Steff told me that I think too much,” I said.

“I believe I know what they meant. Words are imprecise for dealing with these things,” Teddi said. “Telepaths have a ‘language’ to describe thought processes that we’ve been sadly remiss in translating into verbal terms, probably because we usually don’t need to… I can really empathize with you struggling to put things into words, because I usually don’t have to. Anyway, just as it’s not intrinsically better to dwell exclusively in the past or the present, thought isn’t necessarily superior to feeling. It’s possible to be trapped in a circle of thought. I wouldn’t call that ‘thinking too much’, though… it’s more like ‘thinking not enough, over and over again’.”

“Words really aren’t precise for this,” I said. “I had a thought one time about talking about emotions as a way of processing them… the things I feel seem so big and complicated, and words are by definition limited. I mean, that’s what ‘definition’ means, right? Limitation. Boundary.”

“I’d never realized that, but I suppose you’re right,” Teddi said. “De-finite.”

“So… when you put what you’re feeling into words, you have to shrink it down to fit,” I said. “Talking about feelings doesn’t just help you make sense of what you’re feeling, it helps it make sense in the first place.”

“That’s very perceptive,” Teddi said. “And it’s among the reasons why I think this journaling project… or autobiography, if you prefer… could be good for you. You’re becoming a lot more articulate when talking about your emotions, you know.”

“I just chalked that up to practice.”

“I’m sure that’s part of it,” Teddi said. “Looking for single causes is tempting in this profession, but it’s important to remember that people and life are both complicated. For instance, your grandmother did you no favors with regards to your socialization, but that doesn’t mean you’d be a social butterfly if not for her.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess… to be honest… my mother didn’t really push me towards socializing, either. But she did a lot more for my confidence. I’m pretty sure that if she had lived… and I’d been able to stay with her… I’d be better at the whole social thing now. I mean, at the very least I wouldn’t be so uncomfortable with attention from strangers, or so concerned with doing things wrong. Though… I guess if my half-demon nature was still widely known after I turned, my school life might have been the same whether I was with my mother or my grandmother, and so… well…”

“Like I said, no single causes,” Teddi said. “Forgive me, this is the first time you’ve really mentioned this so I hope you don’t mind if I explore it a little. You said if she had lived and if you’d been able to stay with her… did your grandmother take you away before she died?”

“It was at the same time,” I said.

“Are you not comfortable talking about this?”

“It wasn’t my fault, if that’s what you’re asking,” I said.

“I can tell you mean that,” she said. “Though it isn’t what I asked.”

“There isn’t really much to talk about,” I said. “Okay, yes, there is a shit-ton of feelings to work through but in terms of what happened…” I shrugged. “There’s just not much to say.”

“Okay,” Teddi said. “On another subject, then, I’ve continued looking into safer telepathic alternatives so that we can connect more deeply in these sessions. There’s an institute on the east coast that specializes in, well, I suppose ‘trickier’ applications of the subtle arts. They aren’t mental healers, but they are experts.”

“You think they’ll be able to help?”

“They already have, a little,” she said. “I’ve gotten some helpful information and a lot of reference material. I haven’t been able to get a hold of their main expert on infernal minds yet, but when I do I think we’ll be able to work out a treatment protocol that will satisfy your safety concerns.”

“Cool,” I said. I was a little nervous about the prospect, and not just from the standpoint about being worried about damaging Teddi’s mind. While she could pick up on my radiated feelings, I’d grown used to dealing with her verbally.

The idea that she could look inside my head to clarify what I was trying to say was appealing… the idea that she might see something I wasn’t ready to share was a little scary. Still seductive in its own way, though… if I didn’t actually have to make the decision to share something we might get farther, faster.

“You’re quiet again,” Teddi said.

“Sorry,” I said. I still lapsed into thought just as often in my everyday life, but I’d become better at letting what I was thinking spill out of my mouth in front of Teddi. “I’m thinking about how much easier it might be if I could just open my mind and let you see everything, instead of having to work up the courage to say it… well, that’s not even the extent of it. It’s more like I’m thinking about how easier it would be if I could just give up control and let things flow out.”

“Your submissive streak,” she said.

I nodded. We hadn’t talked about it a lot… I still wasn’t at a place where I felt totally comfortable talking to Teddi about sexual things, especially the stuff about my sex life that I regarded as non-standard, if not exactly perverted or deviant anymore… but it had come up. And she would probably have to be a very poor empath to not have noticed it.

“It’s good for you to have some direction of where we go,” Teddi said. “But I would posit that letting yourself go with the flow is not always a passive decision, and fighting against it’s not always an active one. When you’re not being submissive, what’s controlling you? Yourself? Your thoughts? Your fear and anger?”

“Fear and anger, sometimes,” I said.

“Do you feel afraid when you’re submitting?”

“Not usually, no,” I said. “I mean… I ‘submitted’ to Puddy because I was afraid of her anger, but that wasn’t the same ‘submitting’ I do to Amaranth. Same word. You could probably find a definition that would cover both situations, too. But… very different experience.”

“That, again, is why so many telepaths prefer telepathy to words,” Teddi said. “I’m close enough to you to understand your meaning.”

That exchange helped me open up more about my sex life in future sessions, though I never did feel comfortable talking about the details, and I’m not sure if Teddi would have been comfortable hearing about them, or what would have been gained by doing so.

I finished my first semester with a 3.5 GPA. The only class I got an A in was Goldman’s. I got an A+, in fact, but MU didn’t weight that any higher than a 4.0. My lowest grade was Bohd’s, where I got a B. It wasn’t that I did poorly in her class compared to the others… she just had stricter standards and higher expectations. Given all that she’d done for me, I couldn’t really gripe about it, though it didn’t leave me any more enthusiastic about the thought of spending my summer in her service.

On the subject of teachers doing a lot for me, I had to admit that Callahan giving me a pass in melee really saved my ass. I was glad I’d decided to hold off on taking the second melee class I’d promised Callahan instead of getting it over with, though, because I needed to finish the year with at least a 3.75 to keep all my scholarship money, and that meant I had to nail a 4.0 for the second semester.

It was in the second semester that necessity really proved to be the mother of concentration… I started my second semester with more classes that were work-heavy from the beginning, a more acute sense of the stakes, and a better sense of what it would take to succeed. By the end of the year I was totally on board with the plan to move dorms… Puddy didn’t exactly hound me, but it’s hard to cut someone out of your life when you keep bumping into them.

It wasn’t just Puddy, either… I wanted to get away from Trina and the Leightons, too. I had to admit that the rest of the fifth floor girls had become easier to get along with, whether it was because of the examples of Two and Hazel and Belinda in their attempts to basically make friends with everyone or because everybody was just getting comfortable with the realities of dorm life, but things in general got a lot more pleasant as time passed, but that only seemed to make the twins and Trina that much bitchier.

And then… Feejee.

What could I say about Feejee? She seemed so lost and haunted in the wake of Iona’s disappearance. I was the only one who really knew why, but I couldn’t talk to her about it… I could barely even manage to look at her. It wasn’t that I had any interest in continuing our friendship, or pursuing further intimate moments with her… though she and her teeth, too, pervaded my dreams during my more stressful nights… but knowing that she was a person-eating monster who’d actively plotted my death didn’t diminish my sympathy for her pain.

That sympathy didn’t obligate me to help her, but it made it hard not to. A change of scenery really seemed like the best idea.

My sessions with Teddi became less regular. I went to see her when there was something on my mind, but school work became my first focus, and my social life… such as it was… came second, because if I had to give that up I would really need mental healing. It wasn’t that I thought I was done needing her help, but I had to keep some priorities.

Especially since some distractions couldn’t be avoided, like my case against the school. When Lee didn’t hear back from me immediately, he’d kept working on it and a few weeks later I started receiving periodic a-mail updates from him and then eventually he’d started reflecting me. It wasn’t quite like nothing had happened… it was like something had happened and neither one of us was going to acknowledge it but we tried our best to keep doing what we were doing. There were three meetings with the school’s lawyers and Philomenes the arbiter during the second semester.

The arbiter didn’t speak much at all during them, and his face betrayed nothing of what he might have been thinking or feeling. Lee told me that it was typical for him to be slow to reach any conclusion and this was a good thing, but I almost would have preferred a swift defeat to the unendurable stasis.

Then in the third meeting… which was more like a hearing than the previous two… Embries walked in halfway through and sat down next to Philomenes. He said nothing. He just sat there. When I asked Lee about it, he would only say that as a representative of the school he had the right to be there and he thought it might not be a bad sign.

We entered that third meeting with what Lee called an agreement of the facts and left it with two proposals on the table for a settlement, one that Lee had crafted with input drawn out of me and one that the school had offered. Ours called for the office of the Dean of Non-Human Students to be reserved for a non-human and the powers and duties of the office to be redefined to actually serve the interests of that portion of the student body instead of just sort of “managing” us.

We were also calling for changes in how the university recruited and housed non-human students. Even though the proceedings were supposed to be confidential, that part either got out somehow or else there were some eerily accurate guessers in the student-run media, because there were headlines blaring things like “THE END OF HARLOWE?” We weren’t actually calling for anything like that, but the speculation was there.

I would actually have bet that the school didn’t leak anything there… as I’d noted before, privacy was hard to come by on a college campus and it wasn’t like I never talked about the settlement with Ian and Amaranth. A few overheard tidbits coupled with our not-exactly-secret plans to move into another dorm the following year were probably enough to power speculation.

We ended up settling on Gilcrease Hall as our definite first pick. The shared suites with private bathrooms appealed to me… Amaranth and I and Two and Dee could keep our current situations relative to each other, more or less, but Two and I would be able to have the sense of living together without having to share sleeping space. With four people we were told it was all but certain we’d be able to lock down a suite… it was less certain that we’d be able to be on the same floor as Ian, but that didn’t matter. The mere fact that neither of us would have to go outside to find the other would mean more time spent together, in and out of bed.

Ian kept up the gladiator thing for the rest of the year. The need to attend his games at least some of the time was part of why I had less time for Teddi during the second semester. He kept the promise he’d made to Callahan, which was to start fighting women as well as men. This let him actually compete in the ladders. He didn’t come close to finishing the season on top, but he ended respectably near the top of the middle.

I had to admit that there was something hot about watching him fighting female combatants… and imagining myself in the position of his opponents. At least, when he was winning. I filed this under “things I’m not ready to talk to Teddi about”. I got that it wasn’t her place to judge me, but I wasn’t sure I didn’t judge me for that. I couldn’t help it, though.

Before the year was up he’d made the decision not to fight again next year, though he told me he’d still want to attend the games as a spectator and he hoped I’d come along sometimes. Callahan received this news with much less reaction than I’d expected.

“You’d never be the best,” was what she told him, “but you’re better than you might have been.”

That was about how I felt about the time I’d spent in Kessherrakh Salle. He seemed to be at peace with it. I was more than at peace with it, and was even willing to sit through more games with him, because of the reason he gave for quitting… now that he’d proven to himself that he could do it, he wanted to focus more on his music. Also, he’d agreed to take a history class with me, so we’d be having class together in Smith Hall, the building named after his namesake. Or named after the person he was the namesake of. Or however that works… are namesakes transitive? The point is that I thought it was a neat that we’d be having history class in a building that tied into his family’s history.

I only started to have second thoughts about moving dorms near the end of the year, after we’d put in our housing applications. It was starting to hit me that starting over with a new dorm would be starting over, whereas coming back to Harlowe would be coming back. It would be familiar. The problems would still be there but they’d be familiar problems. Gilcrease wasn’t divided up by year, so I’d be surrounded by people who’d been at MU for longer, many of whom would already have an established presence in the tower itself. And it wasn’t freshman housing, so there wouldn’t be anybody there with less experience than me.

But I got over it. Everybody in Gilcrease was there because they wanted to be there, and the private bathrooms meant there was no enforced sense of community. Amaranth had spent the most time there and she said that it seemed like people just formed into their own groups and it was very live and let live. I hoped that would prove to be true.

Ian had some misgivings about moving into what would be a smaller dorm room. It would be even more of a downsize for us… one of the reasons Harlowe had ended up on being the main non-human dorm was that it was built to an old-style institutional floor plan, with wide corridors and big boxy rooms. The tower rooms were deeper but much narrower, and irregularly shaped. As a claustrophile, I didn’t mind. Neither did Dee or Two. Amaranth called it “cozy” and said she’d adjust.

It was the room size that convinced Steff not to follow us… Viktor would have had a hard time living in such a small space, and they couldn’t have taken their elaborate set-up with them even if he could have. I was sad to hear this, but I knew I’d still see her. We were moving across campus… it wasn’t like we were changing schools.

And that was how I convinced myself that things would be okay. Some things would be new, but not only would I be coming back to the same school, I never actually left it. I did end up taking a few extra enchantment classes over the summer break. Paradox Tower… which was on the same floorplan as Gilcrease… was one of the halls that stayed open for summer sessions, but I would have been thrown into a suite with three strangers so I opted to pay for a single room in one of the smaller dorms. I think the months of being on my own and doing nothing but enchantment work were good for me, personally and academically. It gave me the kind of experience I might have had if I’d gone to a two or three year institution and just focused on getting certified. It gave me a taste of college minus the social stuff, good and bad.

Oh, and I did turn down Bohd’s offer but told her I’d keep it in mind for next year. I found it was pretty easy to broker my extra energy on campus myself to get some extra money. Power-hungry grad students abounded during the summer session, and they were willing to pay because I was cheaper than buying it from off-campus sources and it was convenient for everyone. I just had to make sure that I scheduled around my periods, since it’s so easy to overdraw at those times. Learning to use the ethereal bulletin board to advertise and coordinate sales helped me learn how to locate blood for myself, too. I also learned that an appreciable number of grad students are still virgins, which made things even easier.

We never did go back to the Tomb of Horrors. Amaranth and I could have made good money, sure, and it might have been fun to explore the BDSM life more in depth, but I had no interest in belonging to a club that would have Mercy as a member.

Mercy never did leave me completely alone, and neither did my grandmother or my father. They all mostly bothered me from a distance, though.

Mostly.

The summer semester wasn’t a very interesting time, but it was a pleasant one… and it meant that when I moved into Gilcrease at the start of my next year, moving dorms was already a familiar experience. I was also able to move in almost a week before most students had even arrived, which gave me a lot of help in the area of feeling like I belonged. I’d been there kicking around the lounges and using the laundry room and gazing the weave in the ground floor ballroom for days before I took a coach to meet Steff and Viktor at Osborn Air Harbor on that Thursday, and it wasn’t until the next day that the bulk of the students really started flooding in. People asked me where things were and how things worked. It was weird, but not uncool.

I was also one of the first people to get to check out the new student life building, which had been donated to the school by an elven alum. Work had begun on a site next to the Lazar Bardic Arts building during the second semester, and with modern construction magic the Archimedes Center was finished early in the summer. By summer’s end, the Arch… pronounced with a “k”… was not only open for business but had acquired a cool nickname that those of us who’d haunted campus since Convallaria already knew about.

I know I’m skipping ahead a bunch here. Look, it’s not that nothing important happened during the rest of my freshman year. It wasn’t that none of it was exciting or scary or revelatory or fun. It’s not like I never got attacked again, or pulled into an embarrassing situation. It’s not like I didn’t learn any important new life lessons… it’s not even like I didn’t learn any of the same important life lessons I’d learned five or six times before.

“Things happen” is an axiom of life. They happen and they keep happening, and I could do nothing but try to get through them as best as I could. The first couple months of my college career really set the stage for the rest of the year to come, but I had other things I needed to get done.

In so many ways my entire freshman year was like a never-ending prologue for the rest of my life. It was like a lengthy transitional period between who I was before and who I was going to become. You can only spend so much time dressing a stage, you know? Eventually you’ve got to put on a show.

Oh, and the autobiography/journal thing? It’s one of the things that fell by the wayside early on, though it might have done so anyway… it kind of served a purpose while I was still figuring out what I was doing in the healing sessions and learning how to open up to Teddi, but after that… it just wasn’t my thing. I filled maybe seventeen pages with stuff before giving up. I did find that it sort of broke down some barriers in terms of getting me to write again. I did find time to pound out some really pretty good fan fic during those months, and by the time of my summer residency at the university I was starting to think about ways to turn my original characters into something more… well… original.

The weave was really starting to come into its own, and I was starting to get some idea of how it might be used to produce and promote original works of fiction.

It might never amount to anything, but you never know until you try, right?


Soon:

On Monday, Tales of MU Volume 2: Sophomore Effort begins. Between now and then there’s going to be another incentive OT and the start of a fundraiser for April in which you’ll be able to help decide what the main back up story should be for the next year: Jamie and the original MoarMU cast, Dee’s underworld lovers and kin, or the newly discovered Harris clan across the seas. More details tomorrow.


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

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115 Responses to “496: Postlogue and Epilude”

  1. Calia says:

    Autobiography fell by the wayside, huh? Suuuuuure 🙂
    /snerk

    Great way to end the first volume. Very, very satisfying.

    Current score: 4
    • Calia says:

      Also, because it hasn’t been done in forever and I appear to be the first commenter: OOK!

      Current score: 1
      • beappleby says:

        Oh, don’t start that again…

        Current score: 1
        • Calia says:

          I figured it’d be appropriate for the last chapter of the first volume, as a bit of nostalgia and a reminder of how far AE has come 😉

          Current score: 4
        • fman0801 says:

          OOK!

          Current score: 2
  2. Erm says:

    She said she had a special prize for the first person who asked her what happened.

    The special prize is one free eyepatch with accompanying injury. 😛

    Current score: 1
  3. Fairyblue says:

    Ah, very nice wrapping job you’ve done here.

    A wonderful ending to a beginning, and the best part is that there’s more to come.

    Current score: 0
    • Sapphite says:

      My thoughts exactly. I supported the “restart” to change up the pacing – it’s hard to tell a plotted story when it takes 100 parts to move a week. However I was concerned the fast forward would feel awkward.

      You pulled it off masterfully, smoothly, all those nice adjectives that mean a great job.

      Bravo, and here’s to Volume 2! *cheers with a diet coke*

      Current score: 1
  4. Kallio says:

    Wow. I wasn’t expecting that.
    I mean, it takes almost five hundred chapters to get through a few months, and then suddenly the whole first year is over.
    Massive change of pace, but you certainly pulled it off. I can’t wait for Volume 2.

    Current score: 2
    • Massive change of pace, but you certainly pulled it off.

      Thank you for saying so!

      I can’t wait for Volume 2.

      And for saying that!

      Current score: 1
      • Christy says:

        I don’t know… It seemed a bit anticlimactic to me. I mean, will it really take more than a few months in-world to figure out something’s up with Lorellon, what with the way Mack’s life works? It seems unrealistic.

        Current score: 0
    • jc says:

      Oh, I dunno; when I reached the “Outside of the healing sessions, …” paragraph, I quickly got a bit confused. How did this relate to her session with Teddi? Finally, after a few more paragraphs, I realized that it didn’t, because the story had shifted without warning to a “10,000 foot” viewpoint, and was summarizing the year. So I went back and reread those paragraphs from that higher perspective.

      I wonder if the initial Teddi session should be split off from the summary, as two separate chapters. Or maybe the transition should be reworded a bit so that readers understand what’s happening.

      Current score: 0
      • Thanks for the feedback! I’ve added a paragraph after the initial session with Teddi:

        Outside of the healing sessions, it seemed like there was a shift going on in all of my classes that mirrored the increased pace in mixed melee on an intellectual plane. Part of it might have come from my own outlook changing, though I knew that the semester really was gathering speed. The instructors in my more complicated classes… the labs and my logic class… started to give both more work and more complicated work. Assignments started having more requirements and fewer instructions.

        It starts with “Outside of the healing sessions” to signal to readers that we’re now dealing with what happens after/in between her sessions with Teddi.

        I added phrases like “a shift going on in all my classes” to help establish the fact that she’s talking about an overview of time rather than individual discrete events.

        I also went back and added a bit before the session with Teddi where there’s a quick vignette of Mackenzie’s melee class that skips directly from Thursday to next Tuesday and then transitions to the following day and her session with Teddi, to sort of ease the reader into the changed pace. Now it’s no longer like the chapter opens like a normal chapter that’s only one scene. Right away you can see that we’re jumping around more.

        And then I went back and completely rewrote the previous chapter so that it also employs a quicker passage-of-time than I normally use, so that this chapter’s even faster pace doesn’t come out of left field.

        Of course, it’s possible that even with all of these changes an incautious reader who’s not expecting the speed-up might trip and stumble, but in that case I expect they won’t get more than a few paragraphs past the transition before they realize what’s going on, and go back and reread those paragraphs.

        Current score: 0
        • Lyssa says:

          Augh. It’s kind of hard to read it on the kindle with all these changes happening. The subscription’s cheap enough that I don’t mind, but as much as I like the chapters to come up as quickly as possible, don’t you think that much editing should be done in the construction section, before putting up the revised versions?

          Current score: 0
          • You’re absolutely right. That’s why I went back and made those changes before posting either chapter.

            Current score: 0
            • Lyssa says:

              Oooh, good. I must have misread your post, because I thought you added stuff afterward. 🙂

              Current score: 0
            • Brenda (beappleby) says:

              That’s what I thought was meant as well.

              Current score: 0
  5. Richard says:

    Well I’m rather impressed, to say the least. almost 4years and over 500 chapters (including OT’s). Congratulations on the completion of Volume One.

    Current score: 0
  6. GrosaPrap says:

    She started calling names and setting people to exercises and moved around the room with an efficiency she’d never shown before. I

    Callahan’s style of teaching had never exactly been “no-nonsense”, though her threatening manner could give you the impression it was. The thing was, there’s a difference between “no-nonsense” and “in your face”.

    ………….

    I think there is something missing there.

    Current score: 0
  7. C8H9NO2 says:

    “She started calling names and setting people to exercises and moved around the room with an efficiency she’d never shown before. I”

    That “I” ending there seems like it’s either the beginning of a missing sentence or a remnant of an earlier sentence that was changed.

    Current score: 0
    • I think that must have been an incomplete deletion (I took something out but missed the beginning of the sentence), because I can’t see anything missing there and I was generally pretty good at leaving my standard placeholder characters (“[]”) any time I skipped something or left a thought unfinished.

      Current score: 0
  8. This makes me happy.

    Current score: 0
  9. Potatohead says:

    Holy timeskip, Batman…er..AE!

    Hopefully the fourth wall recovers from being leaned on so hard in time for Book 2 to start, what between Embries’s geas and the ‘journal’. 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • If you think I abused the fourth wall here, you’ve never read any Star Harbor Nights.

      Current score: 0
      • jc says:

        Heh. The whole first-person narrative approach is an utter violation of the fourth wall, isn’t it? What I’d wonder is: The first-person approach implies that Mack has been writing a journal of some sort all along. The fact that we’re reading it means that eventually she comes back to it, otherwise how can this story even exist? So she stopped writing her journal at about this point in her freshman year, or maybe went back and rewrote the rest of the year as this summary. More likely she didn’t have the time any more, but eventually found time to write the summary. This was apparently during the gap between the summer session and the start of the fall term. And pretty soon, we’ll be reading what she wrote during her sophomore year.

        But maybe I’m confusing my “meta” levels …

        Current score: 1
        • Sapphite says:

          I was seeing it more (before the end section) as she wrote the journal/autobio up to the point where she started seeing Teddi. Which *took* her most of the year/summer. After that, there was fewer reasons to writing it, as Teddi knew what was going on (more or less of course) from that point. Thus the summary to “present”.

          Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        Intentional breakage of the fourth wall is fine, I actually like it, it’s when the fourth wall is broken by mistake that thing look bad.

        also:

        The fourth wall is there to be abused.

        Current score: 0
  10. Bau says:

    Aww. I was looking forward to more Hart lectures, but I suppose the story was in a bit of a lull zone. The specifics wouldn’t have been as interesting as the overall explanation.

    And, well, at least Mack doesn’t have to save the world to end a school year…

    Current score: 1
    • Bau says:

      Oh! And since I was an idiot and forgot, CONGRATULATIONS to AE for these years of MU and finishing the volume! It’s been a blast.

      Here’s for another 500 chapters!

      Current score: 0
    • Hart is not definitively written out of the story yet. When I decided to end the volume with a time jump, I left myself some backdoors to keep the teachers Mackenzie might not have again in the picture (hence Callahan’s deal with her.)

      Current score: 1
  11. Tyler says:

    The math doesn’t work out for her grades… I think you meant that she got a C in Bohd’s class… that would work out to a 3.5 with the A.

    Current score: 0
    • Sapphite says:

      You’re right that it doesn’t work out, but she actually needs *higher* grades. You can’t get a 3.5 with only one A and 4 classes that count. Need two A’s and 2 B’s, or 3 A’s and 1 C.

      Current score: 0
    • Rethic says:

      If she only got 1 A then it’d probably be imposible to get a C and still have a 3.5 If she’s only taking 2 classes a B and an A average out to a 3.5

      Current score: 0
      • Rethic says:

        Apparently I need to refresh the page between finihsing the story and reading the comments as to not repeat other people.

        Current score: 0
      • Right. One A and one B average out to 3.5. So what must her other three graded classes be to not throw that average off?

        Current score: 0
        • Rethic says:

          I don’t know!! Lol, in my school we have AB’s so in my opinion it must be that, because she only got 1 A. That might be an A- or a B+ in other people’s school, not sure what those grades are in the GPA scale.

          Current score: 0
          • Jennifer says:

            Hmmm, I can’t figure it out either.

            My school had a A-=3.667, and B+=3.333 (4.0=A and 3.0=B). With an A and a B, and this system, I don’t think you CAN get a 3.5 with 3 other classes and no more A’s. (For example A A- A- B+ B gives her a 3.533; and a A A- B+ B+ B gives her a 3.467). Note: even if she DID have another A or two I can’t get this to work out.

            So, I guess MU must have a different system? Or perhaps they just round more.

            Current score: 0
            • Stonefoot says:

              But she got a “pass” in melee, so that doesn’t affect the average. One A, one A-, one B+, and one B comes out to 3.5 – unless the classes are not all the same number of “credit hours” – i.e. all the same “weight”. With some classes counting more than others toward the over-all GPA there are any number of possibilities.

              And since when does it do any good to try to apply logic to grading systems? (OK, sometimes, but not often.)

              Current score: 1
            • Jennifer says:

              No, I took the fact she took a “pass” into account.

              She’s been taking Mixed Melee, Basic Enchantments (lab), Elemental Invocation (lab), Introduction to Logic, General Thaumatology, and Early Republican History.

              Current score: 0
            • You make a very strong case for the fact that MU doesn’t use the same system as your school but you seem reluctant to accept that as a conclusion.

              Current score: 1
            • Brenda says:

              Sometimes it’s easy to tell when things work differently in the MUniverse. Sometimes they sneak up on us.

              Considering that different universities just in our world use different systems, it’s understandable to not quite get this one right away – I attended three different colleges at one point or another, and none of them had anything beyond “A” or “B”, no plus or minuses. The various scores went into the GPA, but there wasn’t any change in the letters. So it threw me when I read “I only got one A. My lowest grade was a B.” It makes it sound like some kind of riddle!

              Current score: 0
            • Jennifer says:

              Ah, I was not familiar with the A, AB, B system that I just looked up on Wikipedia.

              Gotcha.

              Current score: 0
  12. Abeo says:

    I’m surprised Gladys can use mirrors. I’d have thought you need a reflection.

    Current score: 1
    • Luke Licens says:

      I’m pretty sure that’s the whole “Mack doesn’t know Gladys is invisible, and assumes Trina’s using a mirror and not just talking to herself” thing. ^_^

      Current score: 1
      • Frelance says:

        wait, what?

        Current score: 0
        • arsenic says:

          If Mack saw Trina talking without any visible other person around, she’d probably assume Trina was holding a small mirror and talking/listening to it. I mean, if you hear a conversation but only see one person, you assume the person has their cell phone on speakerphone; you don’t consider the possibility that there’s an invisible person right there.

          It’d be hilarious if every time we heard about Trina and the mirror, Gladys was actually right there and no mirrors were involved.

          From AE’s comment below about Glady’s being able to use mirrors, though, I don’t think that’s the case.

          Current score: 1
    • That’s an interesting point and one I almost wish I’d thought of when I first started writing around Gladys.

      Current score: 2
  13. tigr says:

    Typos:

    “Okay, yes, there is a shit-ton of feelings to work throgh but in terms of what happened…” -> “through”
    “I got a an A+, in fact, but MU didn’t weight that any higher than a 4.0.” -> just “I got an A+”
    “He kept the promsie he’d made to Callahan, which was to start fighting women as well as men.” -> “promise”
    “At least, when he was winning.” -> no comma?
    “I guess to see if I was a threat..” -> three or one periods, not two.

    Alexandra, do you have a copy of Word or OpenOffice or so? It might be helpful to just copy the text into that and run it through the spellchecker. That’s how I found some more after I couldn’t remember what the typo had been 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • tigr says:

      Also, I loved the chapter, and in hindsight I don’t mind waiting anymore 🙂 wonderful, thanks!!

      Current score: 0
    • I’ve made more and worse errors that way than by not spellchecking.

      Current score: 0
      • tigr says:

        I find that interesting… if you don’t mind the question, is it because you would accept spellchecker’s suggestions even if they were actually wrong rather than helpful, or how does it introduce more errors?

        Current score: 0
    • beappleby says:

      I noticed a couple more:

      Was I cutting her slack because found her attractive?
      (Needs an “I”?)

      I can really empathize with you struggling to put things into words, because I usually don’t have to.
      (I’m assuming you mean “can’t” and not “can”, because otherwise it completely contradicts what she just said!)

      And not a typo, but I am blanking:

      “That was about how I felt about the time I’d spent in Kessherrakh Salle.”

      What was Kessherakh Salle?

      Current score: 0
      • The “can” is correct. She sympathizes because she *usually* doesn’t have to.

        Kessherrakh Salle is the fighting classroom.

        Current score: 0
    • tigr says:

      “promsie” could still do with a letter-swap. (And I appreciate the ‘typo credit’, that’s very kind of you!) 🙂

      Current score: 0
      • Unless magic typo elves fixed it in the middle of the night, I’m afraid you’re mistaken. It reads “promise”.

        Current score: 0
        • tigr says:

          Yeah, you’re right… silly elves. I wish they’d fix MY mistakes too! 🙂

          Have a fun/relaxing/restful and sunny(?) Sunday 🙂

          Current score: 0
  14. Durragh says:

    Very cool AE, awesome first book overall. this wrap up though, it reads very differently, from a writing style perspective (at least to me). is this something you are working towards, something that just happened as this chapter developed, or does it reflect a change in the way future chapters will be narrated / told? I like it, I liked the other chapters too, and i don’t think one is better or worse then the other, i’m just curious.

    Thank you for 496 wonderful installments of MU (plus OT’s) 🙂

    Current score: 0
    • Point of order: The first book is “Welcome Weekend, chapters 1 through 22. This is the first volume, and it will probably comprise a bare minimum of 10 books by the time I’m done editing it. As a single book, it would be over 6,000 pages. Not to be pedantic about it, but the perception of chapters as “pages” and the whole thing as a “book” really undervalues the amount of work I do.

      As for the shift in voice here, I would think the most obvious explanation would be that this is a special chapter being told a special way.

      Current score: 2
      • Durragh says:

        🙂 thank you for clarifying. i was really unsure of how the overall structure and re-typed those terms numerous times.
        I like the shift in voice, it does make this chapter stand out even more. i think one of the things i like about you as a writer is the variety of styles you write with. there are several authors that i could take a random chapter or 2 of their work and (without knowing in advance) make a good guess as who wrote it, Anne McCaffrey springs to mind, the topic or story varies, but not the style. reading MU, Three Seas, and some of the others, i really like how your style changes with the story.

        Current score: 0
        • I figured it was innocent, and it’s not like most of the chapters in the volume are divided up into individual books (yet). It’s just something that’s a sore spot, having just typed a “page” with 8,600 words on it.

          Current score: 2
      • beappleby says:

        The sudden fast-forward pacing is a little jarring, but I don’t expect there would be another way to get through the rest of the semester, and the spring semester, and the summer!

        Current score: 1
      • Rethic says:

        Kudos for using the word pedantic not in a Family Guy referrence! That’s probably the first time I’ve seen it used IRL.

        Current score: 0
  15. SilasCova says:

    An awesome end to an awesome beginning. Very well written,a joy to read and so much more. I look forward to book two and learning more of Mack and her life.

    I haven’t been following any blogs or comments (Sorry! Too busy to do so! Reading your story is my only “me” time in life) so don’t know if you’ve said you are or not, but if you get this published, I for one will definately have a copy for my bookshelf, and it’ll be sitting proudly next to The Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
    I do so hope to see it available.

    So, I’m a fan, and look forward to this story’s future!

    Current score: 0
    • SilasCova says:

      Just read your previous comment, and I apologise. Reading it in weekly installments as I do misleads the amount of time actually spent reading them!
      This first series then, will have an entire shelf!

      Current score: 0
  16. Sarah says:

    Wonderful chapter ending, and congratulations!

    Teddi remains one of my favorite supporting characters, especially for this line: “It’s possible to be trapped in a circle of thought. I wouldn’t call that ‘thinking too much’, though… it’s more like ‘thinking not enough, over and over again’.”

    Current score: 1
  17. readaholic says:

    Awesome 🙂

    Current score: 0
  18. By the way, there are some teasers for Volume 2 up on my blog. Depending on your spoiler tolerance, they may count as spoilers.

    Current score: 0
  19. Thalgar says:

    Very satisfying wrap up of Volume 1 (not that I wouldn’t have minded more details, about pretty much any portion of the world you’ve crafted, but I realize the unstated or merely hinted also provide dramatic tension or contextual “white space” and are parts of your story, so I’m fine with waiting to see what develops).

    Also, “I also learned that an appreciable number of grad students are still virgins…” made me giggle out loud, and I’m definitely NOT a giggler;-)

    So glad you do what you do, AE!

    Current score: 1
    • zeel says:

      Yes that was probably the funniest part of the chapter, but it was so long that I can’t remember!

      Congrats on finishing volume 1! I had assumed you would jump to second semester, the jump to next year is mind blowing. Mackenzie Is going to have a bit of a personality shift I imagine, having gone through the entire summer semester without all her best friends, it already sounds like her maturity level is far higher.

      Cant’t wait for volume 2! Good work, keep it up!

      P.S. Will there be more information regarding details of semester 2, and summer as volume 2 continues?

      Current score: 0
  20. Iason says:

    After two cups of tea and much soul searching I have decided to skip the “spoilers”. Mostly to make a Monday all the more worth waiting for (unheard of!).
    Going from a pace where walking to history class can take several chapters of course this is going to seem like warp speed. But I don’t really find myself objecting to that. MU has been like one of those VERY dense 79% chocolate cakes. I feel ready to see what happens next (no “main course” -jokes).

    Current score: 0
    • Just to be clear, the spoilers aren’t necessarily for things that are going to come up for Monday. They’re more little tidbits of things that are going to come up in the sophomore year.

      Current score: 0
      • Iason says:

        Seductress, my conviction shall not falter (yeah, I just read it).
        Good point about the “clean entry point” vs “large archive” btw.
        I enjoyed chewing through massive amounts of MU when I first started reading but I can see why more casual readers might get a bit apprehensive. If you can manage to make the new beginning readable on it’s own I’m sure new readers will feel more inclined to invest their time (and then start looking through the archives in order to get more of the backstory before they even know they’re doing it).

        Current score: 0
        • But having read it… I’m curious if you personallyfind them to be spoilery? I’m trying to be mild in the warning both so people don’t get disappointed when they read them and so they don’t stay away, but I’m also warning because some people don’t even want a hint.

          Current score: 0
          • Iason says:

            Nah. My definition of a “spoliler” is when you reveal something that I would have liked to find out during the course of the story… by reading the story.
            What you’re doing is revealing a bit about themes and featured characters. It’s harmless.
            For all I care you can write that “a HUGE comet hits MU campus!!!” It’s only a spoiler if you tell us why.

            Current score: 0
            • Null Set says:

              I think I agree, and want to elaborate on why. If something is at some point revealed with no preamble in a story, its hardly different from knowing beforehand that it will happen. If at no point in reading was I likely to think “why did they build the new Student Life center?”, then knowing the reason before it is mentioned doesn’t greatly effect my experience.

              On the other hand, if the tidbit is related to some point of suspense or mystery, it “spoils” the fun of not knowing what happens next. If your spoiler was something like “Mackenzie never actually lost the pitchfork, it is still in her closet!!”, it would spoil the mystery of where it is now.

              Current score: 0
            • Author_Unknown says:

              Gravity? (Or MU equivalent)

              Current score: 0
            • Iason says:

              Eh… something with impetus and gravitating towards it’s level…

              Current score: 0
            • zeel says:

              I would agree, the only one that even approaches true spoilery is the one with the all caps text. It seems. . . disturbing. All the more so since she did NOT post that on April 1st.

              Current score: 0
  21. Dwight says:

    The idea that things got less pressing as she dived in to classes makes perfect sense. Our stories are constantly being re-constructed… also, the events that are most emotionally charged are most remembered and certainly things in that second semester were no where near as emotionally intense as any of what happened before.

    At first I was thinking it might have been nice to have had a few paragraphs more elaboration on summer semester since it would be an emotional shift being more on her own, but then I realized that in a way it was a shift back toward how things had been growing up in terms of being social, but without the traumatizing granny and peers. And for Mack, those intense enchantment classes which I find so fascinating would have been just normal education in the world. So I realized that wanting the elaboration was my projection on the world which would be at odds with our narrator’s viewpoint.

    So well done! And congrats. Not only have you created an impressive corpus of work, but you’ve also had to deal with the real life “fourth wall” disillusion that being an internet author causes. Fans certainly get emotionally invested and then start to feel a sense of ownership around what they’re reading, but I can imagine that being on the internet and dealing with real time feedback adds an extra aspect of distortion of the author-reader relationship. I respect that you’ve not let the emotions of readers who are just deep within their own story end up burning you out emotionally.

    Has it really been four years? Wow. Thanks for an entertaining and stimulating read.

    Current score: 2
  22. Kei says:

    My feelings toward this chapter… I found it satisfying to reach the conclusion of the first year, and I don’t find it as jarring as other people seem to. I’ve been reading MU for… 2 years, I think? So even if not a lot of time in the story has passed, plenty of time has passed with me. That’s not really the main thing that makes it not so jarring for me, though. It just seems to me like Mack got busy and individual events, no matter what they were, became less important than the whole. The first year or two of both my children’s lives are sort of a blur because of how completely swamped I was taking care of them and living life. Things that would have been more important in my mind if they happened during slower times got mentally relegated to the “shit that’s happening” slot in my mind along with everything else.

    Urgh, my thoughts aren’t very clear, but I think this makes enough sense.

    Current score: 0
  23. OhPun says:

    The change of pacing was a bit shocking, but once I adapted, I liked it.I loved the reason for TWO becoming a strong supporter of the suite idea. Does the suite idea include soundproofing for Mackenzie’s room?

    You covered most of the important stuff, but still I want to know what happened to Hazel.

    Current score: 0
  24. Robgonzo says:

    Huzzah! A great ending to this volume. Loved it. I understand the reason for the time shift and I totaly get it. You did a great job with it.
    I wonder though, stepping away from the machina of it, if we could say that Mack’s larger scope had something to do with Teddi’s influence. If perhaps having an outlet for that inner narrative that we the readers follow she spent less time in her head the remainder of the year. Perhaps the increased school work load and less drama stuff going on helped contribute to that sense of time speeding up for her too. After all if she were sitting next to me on a bus stop telling me this tale I’d expect it to flow the same way. First there was this, and then this and then this happened and finally there was this, and after that the rest of the year just sailed by.

    Current score: 0
  25. Kirine says:

    Beautifully done. It makes perfect sense that after midterm exams that she’d focus more on classes and less on the socializing.

    Looking forward to her sophomore year! 🙂

    Current score: 0
  26. Kinesthe says:

    Fantastically done, that was a real difference, and I can’t wait for volume 2!

    By the wayside, I think “I’d become so confident about my decision to shut Puddy and my father of my life.”

    should be

    “I’d become so confident about my decision to shut Puddy and my father out of my life.”

    Current score: 0
  27. Greenwood Goat says:

    Typo:

    I was also able to move in almost week before most students had even arrived,

    Almost a week?

    Current score: 0
  28. 'Nym-o-maniac says:

    Awesome. The end seemed a little too cheesy/fourth-wall tapping for me, but otherwise, I loved it.

    Current score: 0
  29. drudge says:

    You know, I really wish we could’ve seen Mackenzie force out her father. That’s a garunteed awesome confrontation right there.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda (beappleby) says:

      Maybe it’ll show up in an OT? Or as a flashback if she has to face him again…

      Current score: 0
  30. Anne says:

    I was also able to move in almost week before most students had even arrived,

    missing an ‘a’ between almost and week

    Current score: 0
  31. Anthony says:

    I’m excited about the suite and the roommates. So we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Dee and a lot les of Steff? Woohoo!

    Current score: 0
  32. Potatohead says:

    If you’re taking requests, I’d like to see the Mechanite worshippers/cultists make another appearance – it’s one of the details that make the world of MU seem real, but one worth learning more of if they weren’t just a one-off joke.

    Current score: 1
  33. Shwaggy says:

    Just wanted to add my congratulations on a great end to a wonderful beginning. I cannot wait to see how things differ going into the new volume, and new school year.

    Current score: 0
  34. Zathras IX says:

    No-Nonsense Nonsense:
    Not necessarily big
    On personal space

    Current score: 1
  35. Tomo says:

    so, this whole first book was her journal?
    very “catcher in the rye” of you.

    still, much as I hated that book, this was a really interesting read. looking forward to part 2.

    also, my vote is for the Harris family.

    Current score: 0
    • Brenda (beappleby) says:

      It was more “James and the Giant Peach” for me (although I’ve never read Catcher in the Rye…)

      Current score: 0
  36. The Dark Master says:

    When reading this, I noticed that there was no mention of how Mackenzie’s body changed over the course of the year. Is that going to be addresed?

    Current score: 1
    • Brenda (beappleby) says:

      You mean the way she was filling out after having started eating on a regular basis?

      Current score: 0
      • The Dark Master says:

        Yes, exactly. I was hoping AE would fill us in.

        Current score: 1
  37. Zergonapal says:

    A nice wrap up AE, you’ve done well to close this volume so neatly, trying up plot lines in a neat little bow, such as Mack’s ongoing dependency on virgin blood among other things.
    So is the freshman year done and dusted, or will you be coming back to it in OT shorts?

    Current score: 0
    • I’m closing the door in neither direction, in terms of Mackenzie’s freshman year. No commitment to go back, no declaration that I won’t.

      Current score: 0
  38. Jennifer says:

    As a celebration of the end of the volume, I decided to actually post the Pre-MU timeline I’ve been working on to the Wiki. I don’t swear to it’s accuracy (I need to update it for some of the newer info) but I did the best I could for now. If anyone sees something obviously wrong, let me know!

    http://talesofmu.nfshost.com/wiki/index.php/PreHistory_Timeline

    Current score: 0
    • drudge says:

      Nice, this must’ve taken a whole lot of constant effort to go through.

      Current score: 0
      • Jennifer says:

        Thanks! It did, but I found going through it quite satisfying. Plus, I find sorting through this type of thing can be somewhat meditative.

        Current score: 0
    • Frelance says:

      You need to disable anonymous editing at that wiki, it’s infested with spambots

      Current score: 0
  39. zeel says:

    So I think this is a great time to start a new re-read of volume one. This will be my third complete read through, my original got me up to the first discussion of “two’s day”. The second I don’t remember what the current chapter had been, but it was after the tomb of horrors.

    So lets see how far into volume two it will be when I catch back up.

    If anyone wants to join me:
    http://www.talesofmu.com/story/book01/1
    *Clicks his own link.

    Current score: 1
  40. ArteminKhaldrem says:

    Well.

    Seems like you’ve gone a long way since the first few chapters appeared on Livejournal. I think I started when Chapt. 7 was new (or somewhere around there). It’s been a very fun and enjoyable read, and I definitely plan to read more. I know I haven’t commented that often, but it’s been exciting to see how far your series has built from the early stages. Can’t wait to start volume 2.

    -AK

    Current score: 0
    • Thanks for commenting! It’s always great to hear from someone who’s been here from practically the beginning.

      Current score: 0
  41. Eric M. says:

    I’m a bit disappointed to see a semester plus fly by in one chapter, but you probably have a good reason for that decision.

    Current score: 1
  42. Kalistri says:

    “I had to admit I’d been wrong to try to steer her away from that. I thought her fashion ideas were good, but people were apparently willing to pay serious coin for her character outfits. She got the ball rolling by putting some of her older Pretty Neko outfits up for sale on a tapestry.”

    With the second sentence here, maybe it’s just me, but I feel it’s slightly unclear because you don’t mention that Mack didn’t expect people to be willing to pay serious coin. I mean, once I thought about it, it became clear that the sentence is made up of two separate statements, but my point is that I did have to pause to think about it, and I think that broke up the narrative slightly. The fix could be simply: “I thought her fashion ideas were good, but people were apparently willing to pay serious coin for her character outfits, which I didn’t expect.” But I guess you might want to do it better than that.

    Incidentally, I had a similar problem to Mack with journal writing once upon a time. That is, the problem with context. My eventual solution was to go the other way, avoiding context altogether. I just started thinking that since it was completely for myself and no one else, there was no need to write it in a way that would allow someone else to understand it. So after that, my journal became about writing my thoughts and ideas relating to whatever situation I was concerned about, but rarely using any details on the situation itself. Guess I thought I’d relate that for people who have the same problem :).

    –Josh.

    Current score: 0
  43. LogicSwitch says:

    So did Mack ever go into town and buy her own staff, or is she still borrowing that defensive one? Did she ever write anything in her day planer besides that first entry?

    Current score: 0
  44. Cadnawes says:

    Doing a reread and since I’m getting this all kind of condensed, a few things jumped out at me. I started getting a slightly different perspective.

    First thought; if I were a semi immortal member of a powerful race with similarly powerful allies, and Embries was messing with me this bad, his years would be numbered. I know its weird that I’m seizing on him as the biggest menace here but there it is. Martha will die on her own, Dad will meddle but can be thwarted gently since he doesn’t actually mean Mack HARM. Mercy will piss off dozens of people on a monthly basis. I don’t like her odds reaching Khaele’s level. Embries can casually mind control and thinks nothing of eating thhe people he is supposed to be looking out for. Eff that guy.

    Second thought… commenters really seem to love the more polished charactes who know how to behave in public. Whatever, I like Steff best. She’s interesting.

    Current score: 0
  45. crate rib says:

    what happened to the pitchfork?

    Current score: 0
  46. jack v says:

    Just got this far on another re-read, and I still love how Mack has slowly got things more together in her life over the previous year and in this chapter. Thank you AE!

    Current score: 0