Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 2

Walking down the road to her first day at university, Echo’s mind was still full of the night before. She had felt so free, liberated from her temporary isolation, and felt more in tune with herself than she had done since arriving in the city. She had seen the city through fresh eyes last night, seen it for the new and exciting place it was, and rather than making her long for the open space of home, Becoming had made her want to explore this strange place further in her normal form. 

She turned the corner and was faced with the giant building of the Humanities department of the University of North London. The campus seemed daunting to her, with its libraries, blocks of lecture theatres and seminar rooms, and halls of residence buildings. In a way, Echo wished she’d lived on campus, at least to start, to truly get to know what it would be like, but her father had not allowed it. No one from Stony Oaks had ever lived with Lu before, and there was know way that the eldest daughter of the Zagmi would be the first to try it out, so, at least for the time being, Echo would live alone.

Glancing down at the map of the campus she had received in the post, Echo determined where about she needed to be. It wasn’t proper class today though, just an introduction to the course, and to the people. They had the introductory lecture at 11:20am in room 364B, which gave Echo nearly seven minutes to find the mysterious room. Walking through the maze of buildings, Echo saw one with a sign declaring it as B building. From there she found her room, and took a seat in the left corner of the middle row of the lecture theatre. Still a little bit early, not many people were in yet, and Echo wondered if she had the right room, though she found herself too shy to ask the handful of people scattered throughout the seats.

 Gradually, the room began to fill up with students, piling in either on their own and quietly, or in chattering groups. Echo wondered how so many people knew each other already, before they had even started, and her mind flashed back to the times she had spent with the Stony Oaks kids at Oaksmead Bridge School, coming in every day in their group of about 30, spanning all the age groups, and always having someone to talk to. She thought of the days where, when they were old enough, they would Become in the school bathrooms to skip lessons, and how during sports they would go off to transform, and see who could run past the class most often.

 The teachers there, as well as the other students, must have known something was different about those from Stony Oaks, with heir strange saying, scruffy and haphazard attempts at school uniform, and the way they always went round together, all taking the same days off of school for “Religious Observances” for the Apsu Festivals. From a young age, when asked, the Apsu children at Stony Oaks were told to say, when asked, they Stony Oaks was a kind of religious community, for the Apsu people and thir culture. An Apsu did not take on their other for the first time until sometime in their adolescence, so there was little worry of children transforming into lions and eating their teachers and the like. At home at Stony Oaks, being an Apsu was very much like a religion, especially for the child of a Zagmi as Echo was. Her time at home was taken up with lessons of their culture’s history, and stories from the past, and lessons in using magic and telepathy, as well as preparation for Becoming.

All Apsus are born with a natural aptitude for magic, but some take to it more quickly and strongly than others. While some just have a basic ground for telepathy and spell casting, other more accomplished, such as Echo, had begun on advanced studies, hearing the thoughts of the Lu as well as the Apsu, and control over the elements, as well as advanced spell casting. Echo was out of practice, though. Her summer had been spent both teaching the children of the Community, and spending as much time being free as she could, Becoming with her friends and taking adventures, them trying to convince her not to leave with all the things she would not be able to do in the city, away from them and away from the Community. She had tried to send them messages to talk to the old group, but it took so much out of her to send even the shortest greeting form this distance, that she had settled on writing letters to them. Her parent’s house was, as far as she knew and much to her father’s dismay, the only one in Stony Oaks with internet access, and using the phone outside of for emergency circumstances was generally discouraged. No one went far enough away to not be able to hear each another telepathically, and when they did, such as when Alder went away on business, they always travelled to other Apsu settlings to make their power stronger;  the more Apsu in the area, the easier it is to gain the power to hear long distance.

A girl with long, curly blonde hair in a short pink skirt and high heels came and sat two seats away from Echo. Echo looked up and smiled at her, and the blonde girl half smiled back, before turning away to talk to the girl behind her. Everyone seemed to know each other already, thought Echo, wondering how she would meet people if groups had already been drawn out. It annoyed her that it worried her. It reminded her of all those silly American television shows her younger sister, Starling liked to watch, with the awkward girk at school trying to find her place. But Echo was not trying to find her place so much to fit in, but more to observe. Although, someone to talk to would be nice too. As a child, Echo had had one friend who was a Lu. A girl named Janet that she had met, aged 13, in school. They had gone shopping and done each others hair, until one day, not more than a year after their friendship began, the Lu girl moved away across the country. It was soon after that that the Sorrel family got their first computer, and since then Echo and Janet had stayed, although fairly loosely, in touch. Echo tried to think back to how she had acted with Janet, how much she had told her, how she explained away strange things, but it was so long ago and the circumstances were so different, that Echo couldn’t even remember.

Echo glanced around, seeing the room had filled to it’s capacity ay around 70 students, close to the entire population of her Community back home, though still no one was sitting next to  Echo. A man in a beige suit jacket approached the front of the stage of the lecture theatre, and a steady hush fell over the room. The man began to speak, introducing himself as Jacob Foster, the head of the Sociology department in the University of North London. Echo took out her notebook and pen, ready for any important information that may come her way. Jacob Foster talked about what they could expect to do on the course, and how it was structured, as Echo wrote it down. They were handed out Course Handbooks, containing timetables and grading matrixes, as well as a whole host of other information that they could not fit into the welcome speech. They were told how the university worked, about living and parking on campus, about how their inductions to various classes would take place over the next week, about how they would enrol the next day, and, over and over again, about how this was the most exciting times of their young lives.

And though she tried to keep up, Echo could not take note of everything that was being said. She was listening, she was trying to listen, and yet all the while she found her attention drifting to a small voice at the back of the room. Whoever it was, they were talking, so quietly and slowly it was barely audible over the speech, but it was defiantly there. The voice was seductive, drawing Echo in to listen, almost as if it did not know it was speaking any more than Echo could decipher what it was saying. She tried to strain her ears to hear it and in doing so, she realised it would not help.

The voice she was hearing was not speaking. It was a message. Telepathy that did not know it was being sent. Alarmed and excited at the revelation, Echo sat up bolt upright, and, while trying not to draw more attention to herself, she tried to centre her breathing to listen more clearly. She had all but stopped listening to Jacob Foster now, but it hardly mattered with the prospect that there could be another like her in the room, another Apsu. Centring her breathing, she gathered her thoughts ready to send out a message to whoever was there to hear it.

“Who are you?” She asked, before looking round to see if anyone would respond. Over the other side of the room, she caught the eyes of a boy with bright green eyes and dark hair. Was it him? She smiled, and he looked away the second he realised they were holding eye contact.

“It that you?” She sent out again, into the abyss of minds that could not hear her. She waited for a response, pretending to be listening to Jacob Foster at the front of the class, who had now moved onto a Powerpoint presentation. None came. She wondered if she had been going mad, if perhaps she had not heard anything at all but just thought she had through wishful thinking. She tried to listen to the voice again but this time could not hear it. She went back to paying attention to the introduction, somewhat deflated.

It dragged on for another hour or so, with Echo periodically trying to tune back into the voice she was so sure she had heard. It was sort of like a radio, and finding a good station and then not remembering the station number and not quite being able to tune back into it. There was interference, and the signal was so weak to stat with. She knew that the chances of there being another Apsu in this class was slim, what with how rare it was to just bump into one, but she still clung to the hope.

The speech began to end, and people began collecting up their bags to leave. Hoping she had not missed anything important, Echo did the same, clicking her pen down and placing it back inside her bag. She stood up as everyone else did, and made her way to the end of the row. Then, there, amidst the crowd, she heard it again, louder and clearer than she had done before.

“Maybe there will be someone else like me.” The voice said. Echo was taken aback. It was so much like a child sending out their fist messages, so frail, like they weren’t even sure what they were doing. Echo looked around, to see that the green-eyed boy was right behind her.

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