So my short one-shot for @elsewhereuniversity has become a 7,000 words and counting story. Since I’m still working on it I figured I’d give ya guys a sneak peak at it!
Your new roommate greets you with a smile, clothes like a bunch of sharpies threw up on them, and an extended hand.
“Hi, I’m Reagan!”
You take the hand, note the faint scars crisscrossing like a maze across the skin.
They are so short they have to tip toe to look over your shoulder. “Do you need any help with your stuff?” You shake your head and Reagan nods, still smiling, before leaving the door open and going back to their side. “Kay, just let me know if you do.”
They are wearing the shoes that light up when you walk and you had no idea those came in adult sizes. Or maybe their feet are small? You pick up your first bag and enter the dorm, prepared for your first year at university.
You are not prepared, however, for the cat that sits on your roommate’s bed.
“Uh… we’re allowed pets here?”
Reagan looks up from their laptop, looking confused. “Pets?”
You put your bag down on your side of the room and point to the black long haired cat curled up on their tie dye sheets. Reagan follows your finger and blinks at the cat.
“That’s not a pet. That’s Skooma.”
Pause. “Like in Skyrim?”
Reagan gives you another grin. “Naw, I played Morrowind.” Nervous laughter. “I’m old.”
“I’m still pretty sure we’re not allowed cats.”
Their face goes blank and they stare. If it weren’t for the blinking you would think they’d died or something.
Clearly, you aren’t getting anywhere about this. You’d just wait for an RA to find out or a teacher or something. It would be sad but you didn’t want to get into trouble. You put your first bag down and go to grab your other two. The meeting is at noon so you have some time to unpack and get things situated. You glance over at your roommate’s side, wondering how they’ve set their stuff up. Reagan is sitting against the wall, laptop on their lap and typing with a speed that sort of intimidates you. They haven’t even removed their shoes. Actually… now that you’re looking at their side it’s kinda… bare. Their sheets are bright tie dye that hurts to look at, there’s a rolling Hello Kitty suitcase beside the bed, and their desk is empty except for a brown, round bed, supposedly for the cat still curled up on the sheets. Other than those things the entire side of their room has no trinkets, posters, not even a litter box.
You wonder if it would be rude to put up your own posters. You eye your small framed photo’s and the Furby you’d brought. No, no, you couldn’t let something like this intimidate you. It was stupid. Who cared what your roommate did. You pull out your posters and sticky tack and try to artfully arrange them on the walls. The photos and Furby are put on your desk along with your brand new Graduation laptop.
“You might want to take the batteries out.”
You jump, in the middle of pulling out clothes and hanging them in the shared closet. “Uh… what?”
Reagan has a pair of thick, expensive looking headphones around their neck, squooshing their face. “That Furby. You should take out the batteries. Might end up hearing things you don’t want to.”
You can only stare at such a weird request.
Reagan smiles. “Just a suggestion.” They put the headphones back on and continue working on their laptop. Somehow, the cat has migrated to their lap and the computer is almost falling off their knees but they don’t seem bothered.
You wait but when they don’t do anything else you put away the last of your clothes. Reagan’s side of the closet isn’t as bare as their side of the room, at least. Just… very bright. You think some of the sneakers are heely’s for goodness sake. Who even wears those anymore? You check the time. It’s almost noon and you just know you’ll get lost on your way to the freshman meeting. You put on a new t-shirt and grab a small jacket just in case. You’re out the door before pausing. Wait… You poke your head back in.
“Uh…” Can they even hear you with those headphones on? Yet Reagan pulls them off and looks up expectantly. “Um, are you coming?”
The smiling is starting to creep you out. “To what? The freshman meeting? God no, I’m definitely not a freshman!”
“Pffft, the look… no, no, my old roommate, uh, left and I guess they had to stick someone in here.” They reach down and scratch the cat’s ears. “If you don’t like bein’ my roommate just give it a bit and I’m sure some rooms will open up.”
“Um… kay. Well, I guess I’ll see you later?”
Reagan waves with their unoccupied hand then yelps as their laptop takes a tip. You leave to muttered cursing and something that sounds like hissing air.
You only get lost once on your way to the meeting and so you’re quite early. A cheerful older student comes up and gives you a nametag. She tells you to write your name on it, but not your true name. Whatever that means. You’re staring at the nametag in confusion (do you put your full name? What the heck is a true name?) When another student comes up to you. He’s got a bit of a beard and his curly hair barely fits under his University cap.
“Havin’ some issues?”
“Uh, yeah. I was told to put my name on it but… not my true name?”
He wrinkles his nose and sighs. “Best to go with a nickname. Make ‘em happy, eh?”
It’s still weird but you put a nickname anyways and peel off the back to stick it to your t-shirt.
“Well, anyways, my name’s Harris.” You shake his hand, calloused and rough.
‘Uh, well, you already know mine.” You point to your tag.
“Now I do. What’s your room number? I’m pretty sure I can find your RA for you, I know ‘em all.”
You have to pull the crumpled piece of paper from your pocket and peer at your writing. “Um… I’m in room fourty-four floor four.”
When you look back up from putting the paper away you freeze. Because he’s… he’s staring at you with something like fear or pity.
“So, uh, fourty-four floor four, huh. Um… you met your roommate yet?”
He nods shakily. “Good. That’s… good.”
“Is… is something wrong? They’re not some sort of murderer or something are they?”
“What? No, no.” He wipes his hands on his jeans. “Just… be careful, kay?”
“Is this about the ca-”
His hands clap around your mouth and holy shit you thought people only did that in movies.
“Nope. Nothing to do with them. Or it. Or anything.” You duck away from his gross, sweaty hands and give him a dubious stare. “Well, uh, the RA for floor four is that girl in the blue jacket.” He takes off, giving you looks over his shoulder.
Your RA gives you an absent nod and a smile before returning to her phone and you sit in a provided chair. You thumb on your own phone, blessed anti-social device. Noon passes and when the stragglers thin, the RA claps to get attention and smiles at everyone. You half listen to the speech. Some of it seems odd (carrying iron? Salt? The bowls by the doors had to be filled with milk?) but most was the usual stuff you had already read in the papers they hand out. Yes, you read them.
“Oh, and who is staying in room fourty-four?”
You blink. What. Cautiously, you raise your hand and shrink when everyone looks at you.
The RA, you already forgot her name, smiles at you. “Excellent, I have to speak to you after the tour, okay?”
You nod, what else could you do? As the RA continues on, a girl beside you, glasses taking up half her face and hair pulled into a ponytail pokes you in the shoulder.
“What’s so special about room fourty-four?” She whispers through a lisp.
The boy on the other side of her leans over, almost falling into the girls’ lap and she pushes at his shoulder. “Do you have a single room?”
You shake your head. “No, I have a roommate.”
Both of them stare at you. The girl pulls at her skirt. “Who is it?”
“Um, they’re not a freshman. So… they’re not here.”
The boy smacks his hand on the back of the girls chair. “What? No way!”
The RA clears her throat, staring at them pointedly. The two shrink back, still giving you looks. You hope you can avoid them when the tour starts. As usual, it is not to be, and the two corner you as the group is herded together.
“So,” The girl starts. Her nametag says Bea in looping, over exaggerated cursive. “You have a roommate in a freshman dorm building who’s not a freshman?”
“Uh, yeah, that’s what I said.”
They stare at you. You stare back.
The boy, his nametag says Gary in blocky, thick pen, throws up his hands. “Well?! You can’t just say that and then not explain anything!”
You open your mouth, to say <i>i can’t tell if they’re female or male and everytime i think of asking i can’t they have a cat that doesn’t look like a cat and they smile too much</i> but the words catch in your throat and you don’t say anything.
Bea scowls at you, crossing her arms over her chest. “Whatever. C’mon, Gary, we’ll probably see this mystery roommate eventually.” she stalks off in her high heels, skirt swishing about her knees. Gary gives you a glare before following.
You wonder if you’ve lost some potential friends.
“Well, they were rude.”
You yelp and whirl around, your own hair smacking into your face.
Reagan smiles at you, wearing an eye searing orange hoodie and bright pink sweatpants. They are pulling their Hello Kitty suitcase behind them and you have no idea how you didn’t hear them approach.
“I was just heading out and saw you about to start your tour so I decided to say hi.” They tsk and shake their head. “But instead I hear some truly rude people. Those two won’t make any friends like that. Are you okay, though?”
You work your jaw and give them a watery smile. “Uh, yeah, I’m fine.” For some reason the question makes the two’s snubbing hurt even worse.
Reagan looks into the distance, seeming lost in thought. It goes on long enough you shuffle uncertainly. Just as you’re about to speak they meet your eyes and give you a grin. “Don’t worry about people like them. Oh! Here, you should wear this.” They reach into their hoodie pocket and pull out a bead bracelet. It’s made of those cheap plastic beads you get in kid jewellry making kits. All you can tell is that the colours are bright and many, pinning down the pattern or naming any makes your head hurt.
You accept it.
For some reason you slip it onto your wrist. It’s made of that stretchy string you get in the kits and easily fits. Against your wrist you can see some of the beads are the white letter ones and you flip them over.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your tour. See ya!” Reagan turns, the suitcase making no noise as it runs over the gravel. Their hood is bulging outwards and you can see a black, fluffy tail draped over the edge. Two bright yellow eyes stare at you.
You are not sure when you return to the group. The tour guide’s don’t mention it, in fact they avoid looking at you altogether. You listen to the speeches about the cafeteria and how to use meal points. You follow as they show everyone the library, the on site gym, hand out maps for campus. You rub the bracelet, feeling the square beads in between the round ones.
You… are pretty sure you never told anyone your full name.
Nothing you own has your full name on it.
Only your student number was on your assigned room sheet.
After the tour everyone is herded into the cafeteria for lunch (provided by the school specifically for the freshman). You find your floors RA and tap her on the shoulder. She turns, giving you a customer service generic smile.
“Uh, you wanted to see me after the tour?”
The other older students she was talking to peer at you curiously. Harris is the only one actively avoiding looking at you.
“Oh! Excellent, just give me a sec, you guys.” You follow when she walks into an unoccupied corner. “Okay, your roommate was there when you went to your room, right?”
“Thought so. So the… uh, previous roommate left some stuff and I figured you could use it.”
“What? Like… clothes? Shouldn’t that stuff be given to, um, someone else?”
She laughs and reaches into her pocket. “Not that kind of stuff.” She pulls out a bag of dried salmon cat treats, a small toy mouse, and a pair of glasses with one of the lenses cracked.You take it because she won’t stop holding the stuff out to you expectantly.
You stare at it. “Um, doesn’t this cat stuff belong to my roommate?”
She shakes her head. “You’ll need it. But don’t wear those,” she points to the glasses. “All the time. They’re brushed with iron. Don’t want to see stuff you shouldn’t!” She laughs, too bright, too loud. “Well, good luck!” And she leaves you standing there with an armful of weird cat things and a pair of useless glasses. You don’t even wear glasses. Actually… you touch the lenses. They’re plastic.