312: What’s In A Name

on November 10, 2008 in Book 11

In Which Steff Would Rather Not Be Herself

Two was staring out at the sheets of water streaming down the glass doors, her face a mess of twitching cogitation. I knew what was bothering her… Weyland Hall was a boys’ dorm, and the time was creeping up on midnight.

“It’s an emergency,” I told her. “We shouldn’t go out in weather like this.”

“We shouldn’t,” she agreed, and her face grew calmer with that decided.

Another thunderbolt lit up the sky and rattled the glass.

“Come on, let’s get away from the windows,” Amaranth said. “Are you on the second floor, Ian?”

“Yeah,” he said. “My roommate’s out, so we can just hang in my room if it comes down to it. Though people might still be up… it is Saturday.”

“I don’t know how anybody could sleep through this,” Amaranth said, as the wind continued to howl.

“Aren’t you used to sleeping outdoors?” Ian asked.

“Well, yeah, kinda… but when I’m in my field, I can… stop being separate from it,” she said. “And rain doesn’t really bother me.”

We headed down the hall, past an empty reception area and into the lift. Weyland Hall didn’t seem to have a big downstairs common area; there were dorm rooms on the ground floor.

“Baby, let me see your mirror,” Amaranth said as the doors slid closed. “I need to let Viktor know we’re okay, and make sure it’s… I mean, tell him we’re not going to be back to Harlowe for a while.”

“Okay,” I said, pulling out my mirror and handing it to her.

“I should talk to him,” Steff said, reaching for it. Amaranth held her off.

“Wait, let me talk to him first,” Amaranth said. She gave his name and room address as the doors were sliding open for the second floor, then stepped off the lift and headed down the hall a ways. I could just hear her side of the conversation. “Hello… no, we’re at Ian’s dorm. We got caught in the… yeah, we were going to stay here. I thought it made sense… yeah. You want to talk to her?” She turned around and held the mirror out. “Steff?”

“Yeah,” Steff said, grabbing the mirror and hurrying past Amaranth, down the hallway and out of earshot. I looked at Amaranth expectantly.

“Viktor says it’s fine, as long as Steff’s safe,” Amaranth said. “He says the weather people are saying the storm came up out of nowhere.”

“Do they have any idea when it’s going to die down?”

“I don’t know,” Amaranth said. “I think we should probably find a TV. If it settles down in an hour or two, I guess we could head back to Harlowe?”

“If it doesn’t, what are we going to do about sleeping arrangements?” I asked.

“Do we have to do anything?” Steff called from down the hall. “I mean, it is Saturday night.”

“I don’t know if I’ve ever stayed up all night in my life, on purpose,” I said. “Anyway, I’ve got stuff to do tomorrow.”

“Well, I definitely need some sleep, and I’m definitely not leaving you to fend for yourselves,” Ian said. “My roommate’s out of town for the skirmish match… I don’t think he’d mind if a nymph slept on top of his covers.”

“Why wouldn’t she just sleep with us?” I asked. “We’ve piled three in a bed before.”

“You think Two’s going to sleep on somebody’s bed who isn’t there to give her permission?” Ian asked. “You and her get my bed. I’ll sleep on the floor, or on the couch in the lounge.”

“What about Steff?” I asked.

“It’s a big enough floor,” Ian said.

“I’ll just stay up and watch TV if you all are going to bed,” Steff called. “I’ll be fine.”

“We’ll stay up with you,” I said, not liking the thought of Steff alone in a dorm full of unfamiliar human men on a Saturday night… particularly in wet, clingy garments, but even if she had been one hundred percent presentable as physically female, there were still too many ways for that to go horribly wrong.

“Mackenzie, I’m going to need to get some sleep before too long,” Ian said to me quietly. “I don’t want to leave you alone here.”

“We’ll be fine,” I said. “We aren’t alone, we’re together.”

“A nymph, a golem, a half-demon, and a cross-dresser,” Ian said. “Take a minute and think about all the ways this could go south. Tell her,” he said to Amaranth, who was listening carefully and chewing on her lip.

Even without Amaranth weighing in, I had to admit that he had a large number of points.

“Viktor says I’m answerable to you for the duration, Amy-kins,” Steff said, rejoining us and handing me back my mirror. She snapped off a salute. “And don’t think I didn’t hear that whole conversation.”

“Mackenzie, you’ve met some of the sages who live on this floor,” Ian said. “Tell me I’m not right.”

I sighed.

“You’re right,” I said. “We should stick together.”

“Well, before we do anything else we need to find out what’s going on with the weather,” Amaranth said. “Ian, honey, you don’t mind if we settle down in the lounge first?”

“Long as I can get off my feet,” he said.

“Sounds like it’s already occupied,” Steff said. By dint of not being half-dead on her feet, she ended up leading the way instead of Ian. We followed.

If there was any doubt that we weren’t in the non-human dorm, the Khersian iconography on a lot of the doors was a pretty big giveaway. The fliers and posters and such didn’t bother me so much, but I felt pressure from the sides as we passed actual holy symbols. At one point I had to squeeze sideways down the middle of the hall, as two opposite doors were warded with Khersians eggs.

“We should have just gone back to Harlowe,” Amaranth said. “It was closer, anyway.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “There shouldn’t be any symbols in the lounge.”

We weren’t the only distaff refugees in Weyland that night… three guys and two girls were in the lounge when we got there, watching TV. One of the guys was sitting alone on a chair, and the other four were on a couch, which was quite a bit larger than the ones in our dorm. I realized when I saw them that I’d been expecting to see some combination of Mike, Tyler, and/or Gabe, the three guys I’d met on my previous visit to Weyland. Of course, it was a pretty big dorm.

“Uh, hey, everyone,” Ian said. “These are… my friends who got caught in the rain.”

“Hi!” Amaranth said when nobody responded. “Does anybody mind if we put on the weather?”

The way everybody stared, you might have thought that a naked six foot blonde nymph had just walked in and asked if she could put on the weather. Nobody said anything.

“Oh, hey, it’s already on,” she said, looking at the TV. “Great!” She sat down in the middle of an empty couch. “Come here, baby,” she said, patting her lap. All eyes went from her to me and I blushed as I crept over towards her and tried to climb into her embrace in a casual, nonchalant sort of way… you know, the sort of way that doesn’t exist.

Ian, too tired for self-consciousness, simply plopped down next to us.

“Oh, wow… look at their TV!” Steff said, running up to it and looking around the back of the flat frame. “It’s so skinny!” She stuck her arm through the front, feeling around. “Bigger on the inside… that’s so weird. Do you think I could fit in here?”

“Steff, hon, we’re trying to watch it,” Amaranth said. “Could you turn up the sound?”

“Oh, sure,” she said.

The scene inside the TV was that of the campus viewed from above, from somewhere behind the student union. It was hard to make out the details through the driving rain, but I could make out the shape of the pent at the top of the image.

“…storm with divine and extraplanar characteristics, which is making scrying difficult. We do have a fix, as you can see, this is the scene from a dedicated orb on top of one of the tower dorms, looking out over the campus. Again, the storm is localized entirely over the Magisterius University grounds… here in Enwich, the sky’s clear as can be.”

“So, is this a student prank, then?” another voice asked.

“I tell you, we’re not sure who or what kicked it up. At this point, nobody’s taken credit for the alteration in the forecast.”

“Well, you know what they say, Bob: everybody does something about the weather but nobody talks about it.”

“On that subject, wizards from the Imperial Weather Service are on standby for deployment to the greater Enwich area if the storm has not dissipated by four a.m. Plains Time.”

“Why so long, Bob?”

“Well, as I mentioned, this storm has some divine features, and in cases like that, the IWS really tries to maintain a hands-off approach, unless intervention is absolutely necessary. The sorts of beings that can command this kind of response from the heavens, well… let’s just say you don’t want to get on their bad side.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Steff said, settling down onto the couch next to us. “Whoever did it, I’d hate to be the idiot who pissed them off.”

“We are getting word that a number of people who were on campus for the regularly scheduled gladiatorial matches have now taken refuge in the athletic center. Folks, students, if you’re watching, please stay indoors until the whole thing blows over. The IWS has issued a warning…”

“Well, now we know it’ll probably be over shortly after four, at the latest,” Amaranth said.

“Oh, shit,” I said. “I’m supposed to be getting together with Dee at six. I’m going to be sooo tired, even if we do go to bed.”

“Well, we’ll just tell her…”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. “She’s going to be ready to go. I don’t want to keep putting this stuff off. I can go back to bed after that… anyway, if I put off Dee, I’d have to put off Sooni, too. I can go back to sleep after all that.”

“Okay, baby,” Amaranth said. “It’s your decision.”

We watched some more scenes of the storm, along with commentary from the unseen anchors. They cut to the night sky over Enwich, then a view over the town walls which swung around to the west and then focused on a churning black mass of clouds on the horizon.

“Oh, wow,” Steff said, awed. “I think I’m in the wrong major.”

“So… are you guys the Harlowe kids?” one of the girls asked. When I heard her voice, I realized that I knew her… her and her frizzy reddish-blonde hair. La Belle, from history class. Since I didn’t socialize with her outside of class I wasn’t used to seeing her face except at angles.

“We’re from Harlowe, yes,” Amaranth said.

“What are you doing here?” La Belle asked.

“Well, we were walking Ian home,” Amaranth said, nodding towards him, “and the storm was worse than we expected. So… here we are. I’m Amaranth, by the way, and this is Mack, and Steff, and Two.”

“Yeah, we have WP together,” the other girl said. “Steff Johnson, right?” She rolled her eyes, and La Belle giggled. All three guys, including the two who were sitting with the girls, kept their eyes fixed on the TV and their mouths shut.

“What are your names?” Amaranth asked.

“I’m Keri… K-E-R-I,” La Belle said. “Nobody spells it right.”

“I’m Jody,” the other one said.

“Yeah, Callahan calls you Elbows,” Steff said.

“Shut up!” Jody said.

“Two, hon, come on and have a seat,” Amaranth said. She gave Steff a little push, and Steff scooted down a cushion. “There’s room for you, too.”

“Okay,” Two said, and she took the vacated seat.

“They let you have a golem?” Jody asked.

“Two is…” Amaranth started to say, but Two was already speaking for herself.

“I am a student,” she said. “Nobody has me. I belong to nobody.”

“But you’re still a golem,” Keri La Belle said.

“I’m a golem and I’m a person,” Two said.

“But you’re still a golem.”

“Yes, I am,” Two agreed.

“Well, there you go,” Keri said, smirking in a “I just proved something big and important” way. It was a very self-satisfied smirk, and a very familiar one.

“Yes, there I do go,” Two said.

“Excuse me… is ‘Keri’ short for something?” I asked her.

“Excuse me, but I wasn’t talking to you,” she said.

“I know,” I said. “I… I’m just asking.”

“Don’t be a bitch, Ker,” the guy I assumed was her boyfriend said.

“I’m not being a bitch, she’s being nosey,” Keri said. “My shitty first name isn’t any of her business. Anyway, she obviously already knows or she wouldn’t be asking. At least it’s a girl’s name. What kind of a name is Mack for a girl, anyway?”

“It’s short for Mackenzie,” I said.

“Still a boy’s name,” she said. “Did your parents know you were going to be a dyke when they named you that? Oh, that’s right. Your mom’s a demon and she ate your dad.”

“My mother was not a demon,” I said.

“The whole school knows,” she said. “You’ve been on the news and shit.”

“My mother was human, my father was a demon,” I said.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” she said. “He would have just eaten her when they were done fucking. It only works if the chick’s a demon.”

“Ignore her, baby,” Amaranth said, stroking my hair. “She doesn’t know.”

“Whatever, I do know,” Keri said. “I’m not stupid. I worked it out.”

“Keridwen,” I said. “You’re related to Puddy, aren’t you?”

Keri turned white and opened her mouth in a circle. Jody looked just as shocked.

“You told me you didn’t know her!” Jody said. “You said it was a coincidence!”

“Oh, shut up!” Keri said. “I don’t know her. She’s just my stupid cousin. That doesn’t mean I know her.” She grabbed her boyfriend’s hand and stood up, tugging on his arm. “Come on! Let’s go to bed.” He let himself be led out of the room, and a few moments later, Jody and her guy followed. Then the last guy, who looked like he was about ready to burst out laughing, left as well.

“I’m going to have to start whispering her name at her in history class,” Steff said.

“You know, since you’re the one who lives in this dorm, ” I said, turning around on Amaranth’s lap to face Ian as I spoke, “you might have said something… oh.”

He’d fallen asleep sitting up.

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10 Responses to “312: What’s In A Name”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Play nicely children

    Current score: 2
  2. MackSffrs says:

    I guess… it’s actually pretty easy to fall asleep sitting up?
    Kinda cross your arms, lean your head back if you have support, or rest it downwards, and scoot your butt forwards to keep your back from sliding around.

    Current score: 0
    • Predator says:

      I know for a fact that not only is is possible (and easy) to fall asleep sitting up, it’s possible to fall asleep standing up and not fall over.

      I have done both, more than once.

      Current score: 3
      • zeel says:

        Hah, I have a part time job as a cashier. One day I was so tired I fell asleep standing at my register. Some customer woke me up when they got in line and were like “uh, Hello?”. It’s weird that you can keep balance while sleeping, hell I was having a dream and everything.

        Current score: 1
        • CrackedOzy says:

          I have sleep apnea, which often makes my sleep unrestful, so I fall asleep during the day all the time. I’ve even fallen asleep driving. That was no fun, let me tell ya!

          Current score: 0
  3. MadnessMaiden says:

    “Bigger on the inside….do you think I could fit though here?” AE, do I sense a Persona 4 reference? đŸ˜€

    Current score: 0
  4. Erm says:

    Bigger on the inside… that’s so weird.

    I suppose it’s a Type 40 television, Gallifreyan-made?

    Current score: 3
  5. BlackWizard says:

    Bigger on the inside…I JUST got the Whovian reference lol

    Current score: 1
    • Jechtael says:

      Don’t be silly. It’s a television, not a TARDIS. It’s smaller on the outside.

      Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      This wouldn’t be the first extra-dimensional space to show up.

      Current score: 0