Emma had never been particularly adept at climbing trees. Idlewild’s trees, however, insisted upon being climbed. They were so twisted, knotted and solid, they practically had stairs.
She treasured these times, when the campus peaceful because all her peers had gone to class. Something was so alive, almost cognizant, about the grounds there. No one else ever noticed because they were so preoccupied with visceral thoughts, aching inward thoughts, or old grudges. But at these times, amongst the musky ponds and dragonflies, when all frightening and beautiful preternatural noises tolled from the forest, all of reality seemed to resonate, even Emma.
Emma always found that skipped class time was always the advantageous for studying. There in the branches she thumbed absently though the book she had stolen from Prof. Renwick’s* office. It had looked fascinating when she slipped it into her bookbag, but now she found the contents of the gorgeous leather-bound volume nearly unintelligible – masking simple concepts with bombastic, confused text. She had read deeper thoughts written in the margins of Clio Kinkaid’s notebook she thought scornfully.** The more she pursued study of the tome the heavier her eyelids become, the more comfortable her tenuous perch.
She found herself drifting off, literally. She jerked awake realizing she nearly fell. She had dropped the book and watching its plummet made her suddenly very lightheaded. She looked up realizing her serene environment had changed. The branches seemed darker, more fragile. They framed the sky, which now had a sinister crimson glow. Buildings in the distance looked somber, like ruins. Her tree seemed to shift, almost as if it was steeling itself for the violent oncoming wind, which suddenly shrieked through the terrace towards the gardens.
Emma began to dismount the bough cautiously, stopping several times, holding tightly to the trunk as the unnatural gales beat against her. Finally she made it to the turf now moist and infirm. She recovered the book, kneeling solemnly to assess the damage. Another squall roared through the darkening campus. Emma shielded the book with her body, shutting her eyes tightly against all the pebbles the wind carried.
When she opened her eyes she saw it before her emerging from the pond. How could it be so fleshy and so phantomlike at the same time? It was grotesque. It’s eyes were static, sightless but somehow it seemed to perceive her - formlessly slithering, walking, skulking in her direction. Before she had the gall to run it had appeared in a flash before her.
Just as she was about to scream she was choked off by a violent tug at the collar of her shirt. Swung back, she found her face in the grass. A gruff voice called out an unfamiliar spell. When she turned to see who it was she was blinded by a terrible white light. An aberrant wail pierced her ears. Something of the monster, something foul and thick dissipated into the air. Her hands flailed unsure whether to shield he ears or mouth.
When the caustic atmosphere passed she sat up coughing violently. ”What the Hell was that?! What kind of campus is this?!”
Professor Renwick surveyed her coolly. “It is not part of the campus, I assure you, Ms. Donaco.” He said quickly seizing his book off her lap flipping the pages briefly and closing it with a snap. “Maybe if you attended class more often, you could control your powers enough to avoid shifting in another dimension.” He casually thwacked the girl in the back of the head sharply with the large volume.
She cursed and cringed a moment, then looked up at him in shock, mumbling: “What are you doing? That’s not even legal. Don’t you know how easily you could lose your job doing something like that? Someone could sue you.”
”We’re a little out of their jurisdiction.” He said settling sighing and settling next to the surly teen.***
“What are you doing, Emilia? You don’t want to go back to your other school. Do you?”
She shook her head.
”I didn’t think so. You know you’re better that. I’ll be honest with you; you’re better then most of the kids here – more persceptive, more powerful. But you have to come to class. Otherwise, what is the point of being here?”
Frustrated with the question, she threw herself back down into the grass, looking over her restored sanctuary.
Sighing she began, “What’s the point of going? None of you have answers. All you have is theories. Theories a bunch of dead guys couldn’t prove enough to save their lives. But you teach them like they’re true - theories that just generate a ton of questions, a lot of dumb, derivative questions. I’d rather be looking for answers, out here, on my own, then be spoon-fed a bunch of dogmatic theories.”
Her answer was more articulate then either thought the reticent girl was capable of being.
Renwick off-guard, could only reply, “That’s a very noble idea Emilia, but not completely planted in reality. If you want to succeed in the world, you have to follow the world’s course.”
She glared at him a moment dubiously. He coughed awkwardly.
“It’s past curfew. Get Inside.” He dismissed her brusquely.
He lingered, massaged his temples; the speech had bleed with their
The other thing I'm writing is becoming a little more involved. I thought this was a peaceful break from the dark, gritty grown-up world angle I've been working on. Feel free to make proof changes, comment, critique, whatever...
* Renwick is supposed to be the British teacher. It's only a temporary name. (I'm fond of the "wick" ending for witches.) He's a lot more more cynical, more assertive and less straightlaced then I originally envisioned him. I rather like it, but as he is a shared character feel free to veto it.
** Clio stikes me as a black paper, Gel pen kinda gal for some reason... That'd really piss Emma off.
*** He was was also going to add "Besides that's what they used to do in the old days. A sound blow to the head - releases all shamanic potential." But I thought it killed the scenes tension...
****My icon, the Grail Maiden, is a referance to Emma. Love of Arthurian legend is one of the few things Emma and her father have in common. Of course, they like it for entirely different reasons. Gregory is attracted to the idea of chivalry, purity, hail-the-conquering-hero sort of tales where leaders are wise, the line between good and evil is clearly drawn. Emma, on the other hand, is drawn to the religious apocrypha, endless, unblessed seaches for sacred artifacts, fatal women, and of course the human frailty displayed by the saintly knights.