Shaking Sam’s hand outside Mr. Hunter’s office, I realized where I had seen the guy before. In one of my visions. I tried to remember which vision but unfortunately couldn’t. “Th–thanks,” I said, realizing he was giving me a slightly strange look that I assumed was cause I hadn’t said anything for nearly fifteen seconds after his welcome.
“A couple things before we proceed. Did you grow up in a supernatural community?”
“Ummm… n–no?” I offered.
He held up a very long, very slender finger. “I’m an elf. I don’t make shoes, I don’t know Santa, and I sure as hell don’t shoot any arrows. Got it? Good.”
I couldn’t help but grin. “Dude, if my sister ever heard me insinuate any of those things she’d bend time and space to teleport here and smack me upside the head. Probably with a wrench, knowing her.” He looked a bit confused so I added, “My sister’s part elf. Oh. Half-sister, obviously. I’m not part elf.”
His entire face lit up. “No stupid assumptions because of pop culture or literature? You’re my new friend. I can’t tell you how many morons crack those jokes. Some of them still do, knowing it pisses me off. Apollo, was it?”
“Yep. Just… Apollo.”
“Cool. Come on. Gotta give you a tour of the manor within fifteen minutes. Doable, though. This is the second floor.” He waved his arms. “Mr. Hunter’s office and private rooms, some classrooms over that way… and chill-out place, obvs. Several teacher offices too.” He began walking past the grand staircase to the right and it felt like my father’s eyes followed me. Zaid, that is; the picture. “There’s some more chill-out places, the movie theater, and the library.”
“Movie theater?!” I gasped out, staring at the closed door.
Sam beamed. “Yep. That’s just the start. Mr. Hunter made this place aaaaa-mazing. No joke. If I could live here year-round I would.” He took me up a spiral staircase. “This is the boys’ side. Girls are on the opposite. This is the third floor so it’s groups A and B–we’re currently group B. I’d say first years, second years, etc, etc. But we don’t get moved around to different floors so… groups A and B.” He jabbed his finger at a door at the end of the hall. “That’s my dorm–our dorm, I guess. There’s the bathroom there. Toilets and showers. There’s the boys’ kitchen. No stoves, just microwaves and hot plates. Come along.” He led me down a narrow hallway. “Private teacher rooms annnnd the common room. Main chill out place. Fireplace, board games, and arcade games!”
“And a zebra,” I said, staring in disbelief at a zebra knocking over chairs as someone chased it. “There’s a… zebra. With a bra. In its mouth.”
“Reh-rehREHREH!” the zebra shrieked, making a majestic leap over one of the couches.
“Damnit Ottoline, give me it back!” the girl yelled.
“REHREHREH!” The zebra took off down the other hall, the girl chasing it.
I turned to Sam and he was shaking with laughter. “Oh Watcher! Ottoline is so dead when Gem catches her.”
“Oh, that’s Ottoline. She’s a selkie with some super powers, man. If she’s a zebra or dressed like one, it’s not so bad. Watch the hell out if she’s a bear though, dude.”
I swallowed. “Duly noted.”
“Okay the hall they ran down is the girls’ side, we’re not really allowed over there.” He took me back to the spiral staircase but instead of upstairs we went back down to the second. “The fourth floor and attic are just more dorms and private teacher rooms. Pretty much identical to this, minus the common room. No reason to go up there unless you get friendly with an older student and want to hang out with one of them in their dorm but… usually friendships are same year, for the most part.”
The spiral staircase didn’t go to the first floor so we had to go over to another spiraled staircase behind a wall near the grand staircase. “First floor!” he said though the staircase went farther. We went out and he began pointing at doors. “Dining room is there, the main one where proper meals are served. Kitchen. Another hangout room. There’s the bulletin board where important things and notices are posted, as well as the chore list.”
“Yeah, every week one group is chosen. Everyone is given a chore to do. Like, four students will be asked to clean the dining room, a couple to vacuum, tidy, etc, etc. It’s not really that bad, honest. It goes quick.” He took me over to the other side of the first floor. Ground floor? Main floor? “Classrooms, storage, another room to hang out in, and some more offices. Now to the best part.” We returned to the stairs and went down. I gasped out loud when I saw the room we ended up in.
Sam stepped in and flung his arms out. “Welcome to the club!”
It wasn’t something super awe-inspiring, but definitely a club. Dance floor, stereo system, lots of couches, and probably strobe lights or something. “Seriously?”
“Yep. Mr. Hunter says he wants to give us the best experience we can get,” Sam said brightly. “Especially for the ones that don’t pass as human and don’t even really go into town. Hence the movie theater and arcade games and stuff. Pool is over there.” He pointed at the glass doors. “Gym is here.” We went through the open doorways and then paused at the stairs while he waved his hand at some other open doorways. “And that way is the vampire section. Bedrooms, bathrooms–so on and so forth. People usually don’t go there unless they have to.”
Back upstairs we went, past the first floor and to the second one. Ten minutes to tour the school. Sam plopped down in a seat and I sank down nervously as well. Sam sprawled out, gaze going over to the two people playing fooseball. Fooseball. Movie theater. Mini-club. This place was insane.
“So, what do you do?” Sam asked.
“Like, you use magic? A wizard? I know it’s rude to ask but if we’re gonna be roommates…” He looked a bit chagrined. “But you don’t need to tell me.”
I shifted in my seat knowing this was one of the moments I had been dreading. Mr. Hunter seemed okay with me being here but would the other students? My voice dropped super low when I said, “I have visions.”
“What was that?”
“I have visions,” I said a bit louder but hopefully not loud enough for the two kids over there could hear me.
Sam sat straight upwards. “Excuse me? You see the future?”
“Like, reading palms and tea leaves?”
Now I felt angry. “Do you make shoes?”
Instead of getting angry too he just burst into laughter. “Touche. But that’s how the other one here works too and I was just thinking if you did that too, she’d get mad.”
Now he got my attention. “Other one? Mr. Hunter did say there were two psychics attending as students. I didn’t ask him what they were like.”
Sam flapped his hand. “Well there’s Li Song. Xe’s in group D so sixteen years old. I don’t know much about xem, really. I think xe reads minds. Then there’s Shanna. She’s our age. She can see things through objects by channeling, or something like that. How do you do it? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Dreams,” I mumbled, feeling a bit self-conscious. “I, uh, sometimes have dreams. I see things that will eventually happen…” Should I tell him everything? He’d be my roommate so he’d have to know sooner or later. “I usually say what’s going on out loud. Sometimes I fall asleep without meaning to and have the dreams which is why I was homeschooled… because when I was in, like, first grade I’d fall asleep and start yelling about horrible things. So my dad took me out to homeschool me.”
Sam’s eyes got very big. “Dude, that sucks.”
“Um, so I yell sometimes in the middle of the night.” I began picking at a loose thread on my shirt’s hem, not wanting to talk about this but knowing if we were gonna be bunking together for four years he deserved to know. “I’ll try not to but I can’t help it.”
“Meh.” Another flap of his hand. “I barely sleep anyway so it’s no biggie.”
That’s it? “You don’t understand. I can start yelling about horrible things in the middle of the night…” Stop, just stop! “It’s a huge bother to everyone.” Great idea there, Apollo–throw everything at him like that. Though he will be my roommate so…
Sam’s head cocked far to one side. “Dude. I told you. I barely sleep.”
I gave him a half-smile, pretty sure after the first night he’d want me to sleep somewhere else. I wondered what happened with people who couldn’t be roommates. Would I be kicked out or put somewhere else? Maybe down with the vampires since they’d be awake all night and it wouldn’t be much of an issue there.
The door to Mr. Hunter’s office opened. “Come back in, Apollo,” Mr. Hunter said. “Thank you for giving him a tour, Samuel.”
Sam gave Mr. Hunter a salute, winked at me, and wandered off. I slipped back into the office to sit next to Dad. We exchanged a few quiet words… mostly me telling him how incredible the school is. His eyebrows went up high when I mentioned the club and Mr. Hunter chuckled. “I saw other supernaturals unable to go out, unable to experience the fun things others could. I wanted to make this place somewhere that supernaturals of all kinds could have some sort of experience. The club might just be a small room but it was the first thing I put in this school and one of the favorites. It just isn’t fair that faeries and pixies and nymphs and all those with non-human appearances can’t go out and… boogie down. Especially faeries. They have a particular penchant for dancing. Well, most do.”
Then he gave a poignant look to Dad and I turned to him too, realizing that now it was the moment for Dad to decide for sure. Please, please, please, please! “Apollo…” Dad reached over and put his hand on my shoulder.
“I think this place will be very good for you.”
Dad left after a while. He went to my new dorm with me and got to properly meet Sam. Sam promised to keep an eye on me and make sure I didn’t get into too much trouble, but ‘no major promises’. Dad just laughed. After he got to see some of the school we all went outside to join the bus that would be taking the parents back into town. Dad hugged me tightly and then Uncle Max and Uncle Royce both gave me quick hugs since their kids had already wandered off.
“Keep an eye on the litter, wouldja?” Uncle Max whispered. “I’m a bit worried about the girls and Zaid.”
I repressed the shock that tried to spill out of my mouth. Clifford was the one I was most worried about. “I will,” I said.
Then Uncle Max licked my cheek, pat my head, and hopped on the bus. Uncle Royce punched my arm before following his husband. Dad hugged me one last time, making me promises to call a lot and reminded me to also call Grandpa separately and my sisters too, so they knew I was thinking of them and not lumping everyone in at once. I told him to make sure that he and Suzanne send me constant updates and pictures about Angel. I realized only after the bus left that I’d be missing her first birthday. Probably her walking. First words. My baby sister… I already missed her so much.
The moment I stepped back into the manor I was besieged by two pairs of arms. “Polllyyyy!” Anni shrieked. “Isn’t this awesome?”
“I am so excited to be here!” Paris chimed in.
“Don’t call me that!” I snapped though I knew they’d ignore me. Only Zaid out of the wolf-cat cousins called me Apollo. Urgh. Oh Watcher and Sam had overheard since he was a few feet away and grinning from ear-to-ear. I would probably forever be known as Polly now to him. Oh Watcher no.
“Popular with the girls, eh?” he snickered.
“EW!” Anni yelped. “He’s our cousin! That’s incest!”
“We’re not technically related to them by blood,” Paris reminded her. “It’s not incest at all. But it is kinda gross.”
“In any case I’m in love with someone else,” Anni said with a flap of her hand. “Not my cousin, blood or not.” Anni fell in love with someone new about once every two to three weeks so that news wasn’t exactly news. “So!” She wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “What do we do around here till class starts?”
Sam shrugged. “Whatever, really. My suggestion is to unpack and get your dorm the way you want. Do you have roomies already or are you sharing?”
“Sharing,” Paris said. “I don’t want to inflict any poor soul with my sister and Watcher knows we shouldn’t let Cliffie go with a random person.”
Anni and I nodded in agreement with that. “Poor Zaid,” we said at the same time.
“The oldest of our litter is a bit…” Paris trailed off and glanced at her sister for help.
“Insane?” offered Anni. “Sometimes we think he was actually born a cat with the ability to shapeshift into a human. Ohhh, we can shape shift into kitties.” Without warning she began morphing very quickly until a cat with long, fluffy black fur sat on the floor swishing her tail, all pleased with herself. Soon a short-haired calico joined her.
“Annnnd they’ll be staying like that for a while,” I said, trying not to fall as the girls wound their way around my ankles. “Watcher, girls, stop trying to murder me!”
“Mrowwwww!” Anni pounced at Paris and the two bounded off as they played tag.
Sam gave me a curious look and I just smiled. “That’s pretty common for them. All four of them like being in their cat forms. Do not repeat this to anyone but…” I leaned in very close and whispered, “Paris gets stuck in trees all the time.” Sam burst into laughter, promising he wouldn’t repeat it but agreeing that everyone would probably find out sooner or later.
I spent most the afternoon in the dorm with Sam. He helped me unpacked and told me some school rules which were printed in a small pamphlet in our desk drawer. The dorm sections were for those students only. Girls for girls, boys for boys, and mixed for the people who were in the mixed. Those dorms were for students who were transgender, agender, bigender, genderfluid, etc, etc, who just didn’t feel comfortable or want to be in a boy dorm or girl dorm. No running inside, no fighting, so on and so forth. No curfew, but classes for non-vampires start at eight-thirty in the morning. Miss too many classes or are tardy for too many and you’ll get in trouble.
“It’s all pretty straightforward,” Sam said, relaxing in a hanging chair. “Be a decent person and you shouldn’t get in trouble… alas, there are some not-so-decent kids here but meh. Oh, and if any fighting starts we don’t… really tell. No tattling. The person who started it would get in trouble but…” His hand went through the air rather gracefully. “You’ll like, get totally blackballed.”
After everything was unpacked I looked around the room at all the pictures. “These are awesome. They’re from a game, yeah?”
“Mhm. Skyrim.” Sam hopped up, hands firmly planted on his hips. “I love outdoorsy things. I need the outdoors. Hope it’s all right the pictures are up everywhere… I haven’t really had a roommate. My first roommate left about two months in last year so I was by myself the rest of the year… Oh, it’s fine,” he added when I winced a bit. “I figured I’d get a new roomie. If you want me to take the pics down…”
“Naw, it’s fine. I don’t really have anything to put up and I like the outdoors too. Somewhat of a problem with a dad and sister who hate the outside. Seriously they act like being outside longer than going from house to car will kill them.” Sam laughed at that and then his smile became a bit forced when I asked about his family. Ooooopsie. “S–sorry,” I tried to say but he shook his head and turned to look out the window.
“So you wouldn’t mind if I keep this open? I usually do unless it’s raining, like, super hard. Even in winter unless it’s snowing a lot…”
“I would definitely prefer it to be open,” I said.
He beamed as he flung the open wide open, letting in the warm summer breeze. “You and I are gonna become good friends, I can tell.”
The only other guy in our year already there made an appearance at dinner. It wasn’t so much as a proper dinner as Sam told me that this day since it was still waiting-for-everyone-to-show-up we just ate stuff in the third floor kitchen. So at about six we went in and microwaved some soup provided for us. Sam also gathered up some sandwich material and plopped some meat and cheese together after making sure I didn’t mind chicken. After we sat down with our ‘meal’ another boy came in. He stopped when he saw me then turned and ran off. I heard a nearby door slamming shut.
“That went better than expected,” Sam said, stuffing soup into his mouth. “That was Chase. He… errr… he’s a good kid.”
That’s all Sam would say about the boy but soon he appeared again. He watched me as if I might just leap out of the chair and attack him or something. He microwaved a small meal then sat in the corner as far from us as he could get. After a few minutes of awkward silence Sam said loudly, “Hey Chase. This is Apollo. He sees the future.” Chase looked over, studying me with slightly narrowed eyes but I could tell he visibly relaxed a bit. “Apollo, this is Chase.”
“Hi,” I offered but got no response. After he finished his food–quickly–he left without having said a single thing.
Sam sighed. “That’s normal Chase. It might seem rude but it’s not, really. He’s got some serious issues with the supernaturals. But since you’re fairly human-esque he should be okay around you.” Sam slurped at the soup then frowned. “He was bitten. So, not born into the supernatural world. Forced into it.”
I remembered stories Uncle Royce had told me about his experiences with that. “I can’t imagine how difficult it is for someone to have to adjust to that.”
After dinner we went outside. Sam pointed out the flying arena for people who could use brooms or fly naturally, the gardens for those who needed to be one with nature, and the hedge maze. Then he pointed off into the distance. “That way is where the food gardens are. There’s a huge place, like with lots of vegetables and fruits and stuff. The nature supernaturals help take care of it. I’ve only been once. Farming doesn’t really interest me.” He went to the gardens and threw himself onto the ground, stretching out as if in bliss.
“Tomorrow,” Sam continued after I sat down, “the other kids will be arriving. Most everyone arrives on the second day except for the new kids and the…” He trailed off and frowned, rolling onto his stomach to examine the grass. “Wellll… most everyone arrives on the second day. Except vampires. They usually come tonight.”
I looked up at the building. The vast expanse of grey stone, the many closed curtains, the bright sky above. “It’s so awesome here. So glad my dad agreed to let me stay. What are the rest of the kids in our, er, group like?”
“Mmmm. Well you sort of met Chase. He is quiet. His roomie is Eidan who is also quiet. There’s Blake whose idea of a good time is dumping itching powder in your clothes. Eli explodes things. The vampires you probably won’t see much of except for Booker, who sleeps whenever he wants so he goes to class whenever he wants.” Sam went onto his back again and let out an amused laugh. “This entire school is thanks to his daddy so nobody says anything and lets him do what he pleases. Miaka doesn’t speak, she just uses sign language so you’ll need to learn some of that. She can hear fine, she just doesn’t feel comfortable speaking. Varuna is really nice but if you upset her then watch out. Shanna is a bit prissy and standoffish–she’s a seer though so she might just hate you for no reason. Lilah is like, my best friend. Romance is really quiet. Ginny is ar-ro-gant. Like, hugest ego you’ll ever see. But she can be super nice too. She likes making friends so.” Sam squinted and counted on his fingers. “Morgan is the most accident-prone person I’ve ever met. They can be a bit pessimistic at times but nice. I mean, almost everyone our age is pretty nice as long as you’re nice to them. Easy to get along with.” Sam sat up with a strange look on his face. “And finally there’s Kiley. Kiley is… well… Kiley.”
“That sounds warning-ish,” I said uncertainly.
“The best way to describe Kiley is to meet her, which you will at some point tomorrow.” Sam got on his knees to face me, spreading his arms out. “And finally, the most awesome kid in the entire school you’ve already met.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “And very modest too.”
“But even though those are who we’ll have class with, you can hang out with other students too. I spend a lot of time with Ana who is a year above me. She’s another elf so we go on walks together a lot.”
With that he gave a rather wistful look at the nearby trees. I stood up, brushing the grass off my shorts. “If you wanna go for a walk I have some stuff I should do. I want to call some of my family anyway.”
Sam hopped up, looking eager. “Thanks man. Can you find your way back to the dorm all right? Okay good. See ya later.”
I watched him go off then turned and headed back inside. It took a few minutes to remember where my dorm was but in the mean time I stopped to study the plaque under my father’s portrait, at the top of the big stairwell.
Zaid Kross Danevbie. b. 1-27-2177 d. 10-24-2208
He ended the chaotic unbalance and destroyed the darkness that would have consumed all in its path. He sacrificed himself to give all magical beings a future. A true hero whose life and death will always be remembered.
I shifted my weight from foot to foot, feeling rather uncomfortable. Was my dad that famous? How did the other students feel about him? What would happen if anyone found out he was my dad? Sam didn’t seem to act weird about me but… wait, did he know my last name? I suddenly couldn’t remember whether Mr. Hunter had mentioned it or not.
Nervously I made my way back to my room (only getting lost once) and stretched out on my bed, anxious for the next day when the rest of the students would arrive.