5: Fifth Floor Girls

on June 9, 2007 in 01: Welcome Weekend

In Which Mackenzie Embarrasses A Triclops

A little bit about the layout of Harlowe Hall: the four floors of  dorm rooms were each a single long hallway that had been divided into two halves, one for men and one for women. Both sides had their own set of stairs. Inside certain hours, there was no rule that we couldn’t go into each others’ areas, but the dormitories had been laid out by previous generations who’d followed different rules and had made damned sure that never the twain should have to meet. There were twelve dorm rooms in the girls’ side, numbered from 410 to 421. At first, I’d wondered what happened to 400 to 409, since the boys’ rooms should logically continue counting on from ours. I later found out those number belonged to a hallway in a building that jutted out behind ours. It had once been counted as part of Harlowe Hall, but had been given to a fraternity when Harlowe was repurposed for its current use.

The door to the stairwell was set into the wall near one end of the hall, directly across from a room with no number but simply the words “Resident Advisor” stenciled on its door. The door to the bathrooms and a small cleaning supply closet were set into the wall at that end of the hall. For those paying attention, yes, this meant that the R.A. always got the room closest to the bathroom. Rank hath its privileges, dothn’t it? There were six more sets of doors along each wall, and then the hallway widened to the full width of the building. There was a bare, ugly space here with a few vending cupboards, and then the proper lounge behind a glass wall.

If you didn’t know the building was twice as long as the hallway (well, a little longer, with the bathrooms), you’d think that was the end of it. There was no direct communication between the two halves… the men might as well have been in a different world from us. You had to go all the way down the first floor and go to their stairwell if you wanted to visit the opposite sex.

Like I said, different times.

At the moment, there was a piece of white poster board hung up on the glass, with the words “First Day Floor Meeting In Here” written on it in red and blue balloon letters, with little squiggly lines drawn all around it. I never understand people who feel the need to make such things.

A few dozen people could fit into it, but it was obviously not meant to be used by the whole floor at once. There was no way everybody would have a place to sit. I wondered why we didn’t just congregate in the wasted space in front of the lounge. I wondered, for that matter, why it was wasted. There was enough room for a couple of cheap round tables and folding chairs. It would have made for a decent study lounge. Not that you couldn’t study in the lounge, but I guessed it would have people eating, talking, and watching TV at most hours of the night… and, as I said, it clearly wasn’t intended to accommodate everybody at once.

There was a rather institutional-looking couch that was wide enough for about three and a half human-sized people, and a pair of matching chairs, all arranged facing a very modestly sized television set with elaborate fake gold and jewel inlay around the window… it looked like a cheesy treasure chest with a rectangular hole cut into the side. I knew that the lounge furnishings all had to be purchased on a budget, but I wondered why they couldn’t have got a larger but plainer-looking model for the same price.

Directly behind the couch and dividing the lounge into two distinct areas was a wooden table with one end pushed up against the wall. It had three seats along each side. There was no chair at the head of the table, probably to keep people from tripping over it.  On its other side was the kitchenette… cabinets, full-sized fridge, sink, warmer, toaster, and–surprisingly–an actual oven and cooking range. Later, I’d find out that the boys’ lounge, which was right on the other side of the wall from our kitchenette, differed from ours in that it had a bigger TV but only had the toaster and warmer for cooking. Sexist? You betcha. I knew I’d never cook anything that took more than three minutes to warm up in the box, so I would have much rather had the bigger TV.

Puddy was already in the lounge when I got there, sitting on the end of the couch with a slender, four-armed and silver-haired girl on her lap. I’d never seen one before, but I figured she had to be the “hot sylph” that Puddy had mentioned before.

It was hard to tell, but she looked like she must be a few inches taller than Puddy… which would put her a few inches shorter than me, though she couldn’t have weighed a third of what I did and most of that was in her ankle length hair. She was so pale and thin she almost seemed insubstantial. Puddy was pawing at her, groping beneath her too-short white slip dress in a very obvious fashion while openly leering at the other women in the room.

My eye had gone to Puddy first because I’d been looking for her and because she was a spectacle. Now, I found myself looking around at the others I was going to be sharing hallways and bathrooms with for the next nine months. After being considered the class freak for the last thirteen years, it was kind of shocking to realize I was the most normal looking person in the room, with Puddy right behind me. I was a little short, but she was short enough to make a certain kind of person wonder about the caliber of one’s parentage.

On the subject of short, the two shirelings that Puddy had harassed in the hall were already there, sitting side by side in one of the TV chairs which seemed ready to swallow them. The anxious looks on their faces suggested they’d accept being eaten by any manner of furniture, just to get out of that room. The other chair was occupied by a bald girl with yellow, slit-pupiled eyes. Her long, thin tongue flicked out briefly as I came into the room. Leaning against the wall behind the two chairs, in the path that led from the door past all the furniture to the kitchen area, was a mountain of a woman with grayish leathery skin, bristly hair and a pronounced underbite. I figured she had to be at least half ogre.

She stood with her arms folded, staring straight ahead with a defiant, focused look at nothing in particular. She might have been guarding that particular stretch of wall. Sort of standing around looking uncertainly at the empty couch seats were a girl with short upward-curving horns and one with two heads. Or maybe it was two girls with one body. I’m not sure how they counted. Neither one looked eager to join Puddy, who was patting the seat next to her enthusiastically.

They ended up going around and taking two of the chairs which faced across the table to the back of the room. Seated across from the horned girl, a dark elf tried to look haughty and aloof but only managed to pull off sulky. Sitting bolt upright at the table right next to the moody dark elf was the golem Puddy had told me about. She was made in the image of a waifish blonde teenaged girl, and could have passed for one except for the three runes carved into her forehead. Though the enchantment that gave her life had transformed her clay body into flesh, she was so still that she might have been carved from stone. The look set into her face matched that of the tiny little burrow gnomes.

Puddy looked up and saw me watching all this from just inside the doorway. A tall girl with muscular but still relatively normal human proportions and a hard, rocky complexion shouldered her way past me without a word of apology. I hastily stepped sideways, out of the way of a scaly-skinned girl (I assumed it was a girl, since this was the women’s’ dorm, but without any mammalian features like hair, lips, or… mammalian features… it was hard to tell.) who came in right behind her.

“Hey, Mack, come here… I saved you a seat,” Puddy said, waving to me.

“Please don’t call me that,” I said, though I came over to sit beside her anyway.

“Who’s she?” Puddy’s lap-friend asked, braiding all four of her arms together and looking down the end of her nose at me.

“That’s Mack,” Puddy said. “My roomy. She’s cool.” She added in an awed but not especially hushed tone, “She’s a…”

“Applied enchantment major,” I said, scowling at Puddy, who didn’t notice.

The sylph scowled right back at me, then giggled and gasped as Puddy did something with her hand underneath her. “Stop it!” she squealed. “Not in public.” I thought her modesty was a little bit forced considering the hem of her dress couldn’t possibly fall beneath the curve of her ass when she was standing. Non-humans tended to keep their own standards of decency about such things even when they entered into human culture.

Case in point were the next two to enter. They wouldn’t have immediately stood out as non-human, except by virtue of both being completely naked. Well, one of them wore a pair of glasses with oddly thick eyepieces. They were either nymphs or serious exhibitionists. Given that this was Harlowe Hall, and they seemed comfortable with their nudity to the point of obliviousness, and they both had hair that was neither blonde nor brown but the shade of a field of grain in autumn, I figured they were probably nymphs. They’d clearly been to the welcome festival: one of them had temporary prism tattoos on her chest, cheek, forehead, and inner thigh. The other, the one with the glasses, had a Khersian badge pinned to–pinned to!– her chest.

You know those big heavy-duty metal ones, where most of the egg has got a roughed-up texture to make it look more like crystal, but they leave the figure of Khersis in the center polished smooth? And the whole thing looks like it weighs about ten pounds and when you see somebody with it pinned to a shirt or jacket or robe, it’s so heavy that it always looks like it’s only moments away from tearing free of the material? She had one of those with the pin jammed through her left tit.

I don’t know what a nymph was doing with a Khersis Egg in the first place. Maybe she’d just thought it looked pretty. I was hoping she wasn’t going to make a habit of wearing it around the floor, because that would get awkward fast. I winced and looked away as she and her friend walked past the couch to take the remaining chairs at the table. The lizard, I saw, had staked out a stretch of wall just past the ogress. The stony skinned girl, whose racial background I couldn’t even hazard a guess at, was standing behind the dark elf and golem, leaning against the kitchen counter. It looked like she wanted to keep an eye on everybody at once. I noticed she had a sword strapped to her back.

Most of the people in the room were not visibly armed. We weren’t required to keep weapons with us inside our own residence halls, after all. The half-ogre had a double-bladed battle axe and the reptile had a spiky club thing, though. I found it interesting that the biggest and toughest looking girls in the room were the ones who felt the need to openly show that they were armed. I imagined what it must have been like going to a human or mixed school and looking so obviously different. Muscular as they were, they’d probably found it harder to avoid fights than members of a smaller, more agile, or less obtrusive race would have.

I was surprised that nobody seemed put off or intimidated by the three armed, somewhat hostile-looking loners who were effectively ringing the room. Maybe my thinking was just too human. I couldn’t help thinking of them as “monster races”, though I didn’t consider the term pejorative. I didn’t feel threatened, personally. I could handle being bullied by somebody bigger and scarier looking than myself.

Not that they’d shown themselves to be bullies. I tried to tell myself it wasn’t latent human chauvinism that made me size them up as such. They were obviously serious fighters, and high school had given me issues with jocks, no matter the texture of their skin.

Another could-almost-pass-for-human type came in, this one an auburn haired young woman with an outsized third eye on her forehead. I’d heard that happened when a male cyclops mated with a human woman… the children inherited their size and most of their looks from the human, but an extra eye from the father. It didn’t happen very often, as most such pairings involved rape and most of the women, if they survived, chose to abort. There was nothing overly humanistic about calling the cyclopes monsters.

“Hi, is anybody sitting here?” she asked me. I shook my head, trying not to stare at her forehead, and she took the last seat on the couch.

“So, are you… um… living in Harlowe?” she asked me.

“Isn’t everybody here?” I asked, a little surprised.

“Oh!” she said. She seemed a little embarrassed. “I didn’t… I just… well, you look a little… never mind,” she said, quickly looking away.

Great. It was another back-in-high-school moment. Even in a room full of non-humans and odd hybrids, I was still the freak.

A goblin came in next. She had no qualms about simply plopping down in the middle of the floor, between the couch and TV. She was followed by a tall, leggy girl with a neck that was as long as you could get before crossing the line between “elegant” and “ridiculous.” She moved like a ballet dancer, and instead of hair, she had a mane of shining silvery feathers trailing down her neck. She looked around the room once, then stood at the front, in front of but not touching the big glass window at her back. There was no sense that she was keeping an eye on the other occupants of the room. It was perfectly obvious she considered herself the only person worth watching. The worst thing was, she’d put herself directly in front of me. I had to choose between looking right at her or obviously not meeting her gaze. I felt smaller than the gnomes.

Like I said, it wasn’t the big strong scary-looking types that I couldn’t handle.

Puddy was no help. The slender, four-armed girl had turned around on her lap and they were noisily making out, which gave me another direction I couldn’t look in. The girl on my right was humming tunelessly and looking everywhere but at me. If life made any kind of sense, knowing I’d made her feel as awkward as I felt should have made me feel better instead of worse. I wished somebody had turned on the TV, because that would have given me somewhere to point my eyes. I settled for staring blankly out the glass, between the TV set and the swan princess. That’s how I managed to find out just how much my first year of college was going to suck a full twenty or thirty seconds before I otherwise would have.

Remember how a little bit earlier, I’d thought there was no way the foxy girl and her cat posse could be on my floor? You’d think after eighteen years of life, I’d have learned to stop giving the fates set-up lines like that.

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2 Responses to “5: Fifth Floor Girls”

  1. Moody Mudiaga says:

    This reads promising.

    When is there no table of contents for your story? It makes navigation very hard. I had to next from 400 plus down to get to page 1.

    Current score: 1
  2. bexxan says:

    upper right corner it says “First time here?” and then there is a link underneath saying “read from the beginning”… 😉

    Current score: 3