Fear The Fog
I sit up in my bed suddenly. I look at the clock; 3.00, in the freaking night. Hmm… I glance around carefully. Nobody in my room, unless…. I grab the bed and bend down. No, nothing under it. Thanks to Greyscale’s impromptu attacks I have started to develop the ability to sleep with one eye open, literally in my case, an ability which right now seems to be screwing with me, giving me false-positives.
I look down on my hairy chest and spot the pink necklace. Verde…..! And I said I’d be talking to him often. I don’t think I have talked to him since last Sunday, and it’s Friday, a whole week around.
I touch the necklace, and I am instantly transported to that sunny place with the isles. This time Verde is in his Wyrm-Form, and his back is turned against me. His tail swishes around in an agitated dance, and he is shaking.
No, not shaking. Sobbing. If I felt bad before, I feel a thousand times worse now. “Hey, Verde.” “Have you come to taunt me in my misery, little mortal?”
Ouch. “I…” How do I tell him that I totally forgot about his existence? You don’t. “I swear that I will touch the necklace once every hour, and talk to you from now on.” Even to my own ears, the promise sounds hollow.
“See if I care.” The juvenile response almost makes me laugh, an impulse I quickly squash.” “I promise-” “Just go.” “But-”
“JUST GO!!” The internal world starts to shake and vibrate. The waters are no longer placid, and I see the beginning of a tsunami coming my direction. I release the necklace–
— and I am back in my bed. Okay, so he’s got the right to be mad. And I screwed up. I really screwed up. I throw my head back against the three pillows I have arranged in a pyramid and close my eyes. I am going to sleep, and then I am going to make good on my promise.
I wake much more slowly this time. I perform a routine check, as to see that Greyscale isn’t hiding somewhere. The clock is 8.00, and I better get up before I miss my first class. I enter the shower, and while simultaneusly washing myself, I hold one hand around the necklace, opening the bridge between me and Verde.
Hey, you listening? I get nothing but a sort of sense of grumpy attention. Now let me tell ya; showering with one hand is hard, but I make do. As I leave the shower, Verde speaks.
/Wyrms don’t usually shower. That’s something you smelly mammals do./ Talking now, are we?/Your childish attempt to get my attention is childish, and I want you to know that. Now leave me alone./ Fine.
Ha. Sucker. I got him to talk. That’s step one in social warfare. I rub my palms gleefully, and then enter the upper level of the villa. I walk slowly, with my senses fully alert, watching out for Greyscale.
Hermann takes a look at me and laughs.”He isn’t here. Don’t worry.” I sit down at the table and look up today’s offerings.I grab some oatmeal and raspberry, something light, considering what my first lesson is. I and Hermann exchange the usual small talk. Hermann deviates somewhat, and asks me about Nevena.
I smile at him. “We’ve got a second date scheduled for tomorrow.” Hermann pauses. His body-language changes subtly. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that he is embarassed. He puts a hand inside his tailored vest, and puts it on the table between us, leaving something. Before I have had time to look at it, whatever it is, he starts to speak. ” You two…. you are using protection, right?” I finally glance down at the item. A condom.
“Geez, Hermann!” I go from being a olive-skinned male to a true tomato in ten seconds. “We haven’t…. we haven’t gone that far. I am not sure we’re ever going to go that far. Hell, I am not sure that she even likes me.” “Still. Take the condom.” “Hermann, I am not taking the condom. I am eating, and that thing is icky.”
Hermann shakes his head and pockets the condom. “Hmm… ‘icky’ is it? That’s not a very natural attitude towards sex. You know, it’s normal for…” I put two hands around my ears, that sensation of being traumatized close around the corner. I swallow the last of the oatmeal and make my escape to the lower plane.
I don’t have a unnatural attitude towards sex, do I? I grab a warmer sweater seeing as we’re halfway into September, and that combined with the mountainous location of Fallowfell has conspired to make this a chilly autumn.
I make sure that my bag is packed, my clothes are appropiate and that I have put some wax in my hair.
I exit the house and get up on my bike. Going down the three kilometers to Ochre, I consider the unjustness of the world. The unfairness that I have to get up at 8.00, whereas the rest of my class have their first lesson at 10.00.
“What do you mean”, I ask with great emphasis,” that I have to pick Drama?” I am sitting in the Student Councillor’s room, staring at him. Jan Hass’ normally unflappable manner is a bit disturbed.
“What I mean is that you didn’t sign up for an arts elective-” “Because I didn’t know about them!” “… and you have to have an arts elective.” He rubs his ridiculous goatee. “Drama is fun, I assure you.” His brown eyes twinkle at me. “Why can’t I have Art? I am actually somewhat good when it comes to drawing. Drama, not so much.”
“We’ve been over this. All of the slots for Art have been filled. I can offer you a spot in Music if you want?” I groan. I am probably going to suck in a theatre class, but it would be infinitively much more worse in a music-class. Aspergers+ being tonedeaf has pretty much eliminated any chance I’ve ever had of being musician.
“I guess I have no choice”, I force out between gnashed teeth. Just when I have started to acclimatize to the schedule they go and change it! “Oh, I think you’re going to fit in a Drama-class. You’re already so melodramatic.” I glare at him.
I cross the Crimson Bridge and stop with my mouth open. The entire school is shrouded in fog! A thick blanket, which obscures even the red sandstone. Part of the white material is even sneaking above the surface of Hermannstadt.
As I put my bike in one of the stalls, I see a purple light flare to the left. Making sure that my bicycle is properly locked, I walk up to the source of the uncanny light. A bush has started to decay, and is emitting a purple light. Bioluminescence. I take a breath—
— and it feel it. Magic. Rotten and insipid. His magic. My first impulse is to go and scream that there is a murderer here. But then… the school is guarded. Between Perenelle, Corazon and Gomagog, there shouldn’t any trouble. I tell myself that is the way it is. Don’t worry. If I know that he’s here, then they know too.
Besides…..I glance at the clock. 8.25. Murderer or not, if I don’t go to class, I’ll be late. And I can never be late. Ever.
Ochre is built like two L:s meeting each other. There are three levels in Ochre, one for freshmen, the second for sophomores and the third for the seniors. There is the Hangar to the south. But the place I am supposed to go to, the Athenaeum… where da hell is that?
I decide to ask someone who would know. A janitor. I make my way to the middle-level of Ochre, and one office is particular. I pass Gomagog who strides through the hallways like boulder down a mountain. As we pass each other, he stops. “Fallowfell.”I turn, pensive. ” I know about your… history shall we say, with our visitor. But-” he stops as a gaggle of human-girls walk by”- now that I am aware of the problem, nothing untoward will happen. I will find him. I will grind him to dust and force the Hel-spawn behind all of this to reveal itself.” One glance at his face and I almost feel sorry for the barrowman and the would-be reanimator. Almost. He clasps me lightly on the shoulder. “So, relax. Go to your lesson. Take it easy. Because at the end of the day, it all be over.” I nod, feeling no small amount of relief thanks to Gomagog’s assurance, and we’re both on our respective ways.
The office looks like it was added much later than the rest of Ochre; it’s built of steel which glistens against the red backdrop the sandstone that Ochre is built of.
I knock on the door. An older woman with grey hair and blue eyes peers out. “What do you want?” Friendly. But I guess being a janitor doesn’t do much for one’s belief in mankind. “Could you tell me where the Athenaeum is?”
Her face scrunches up in a grimace. “The theatre? Nobody uses the word Athenaeum anymore. It’s on the first level, on the east wing, behind a door.” Without waiting for a response she shuts the door, right in my face.
I heed her advice and follow her directions. I arrive at a door that is built at an angle, slooping downwards. I grab it and open. An upsurge of cold air flows past me. I peer down into the darkness. Oh kaaay. I scent the air, recognizing Shirin’s and Nevena’s scent, on top of dozen others.
I grasp my pink necklace. Verde– can you do your dragon-thing and tell me something about these scents?/I am a wyrm!/ What you are is a very particular lizard when it comes to nomenclature. Verde sends me two pictures. One of a baboon shoving a finger up its ass and poking around, and one of a man in a expensive suit.Okay, I get it, names matter. Now the scents, please.
I ‘see’ Verde open his mouth and sniff the air with a long barbed tongue. Remind me to never get licked by one of those. /I heard that. Hmm… you have got a dozen and a half of human scents. There is a grandaughter of Lamia here. Also one of Umay’s favored. You know these./ I do? I see Nevena and Shirin before me. Aaaah. /There is an old Greek here. A young nymph. An even younger Malt-y-nos. A fae, a dwarf I think. Those are the non-human scents./ Thanks Verde. He shrugs and I release the necklace.
I walk down into the darkness. While I know that Ochre was built in the early 1700’s, I don’t often think of it. I mean, we got normal toilets, electricity, smartboards, rows of computers, a large library and all that. The school is modern, with a capital M. But as I walk down the spiral-stairway, I am beginning to think that there is so much I don’t know about it. And what’s up with the whispers I heard crossing Hermannstadt? Hah, the only way to make this school weirder would be if the headmaster kept a three-headed dog to protect a magical treasure.
The stairway segues into tiered seats to the left of me, framed by two balconies overlooking a large stage. A theatre. Ochre has a teatre.” And whom might you be?” I track the source of the voice up. An old man with glasses and a burst of white hair is looking down. “Rune Fallowfell. And who are you?”
The man throws down a rope and rappels down in a smooth and practiced movement. ” My name is Isocrates Fotos, and I hold the dubious honor of being the Drama-teacher here at our most venerable, nay, esteemed institution.” He snaps his fingers in a sudden, startling gesture and walks up on the stage. Without knowing what to do, I follow him. His skin isn’t so different from mine– Mediterranean you could call it. His eyes are brown, and kind. “So, Rune Fallowfell, inheritor to the Fallowfell family, patriarch of the Fallowfell family, who founded Fallowfell….” He stops. “Hmm… no, too many ‘Fallowfells’ in one sentence. Now, Rune my hobbies are movies, wine and of course, women. A man who has lost his appetite for sex truly has lost his appetite for life. What are your hobbies?”
I open my mouth simultaneously as he screams. “Mordecai! Light!” Several spotlights zero in on me, and I can’t see. “Non,non. Mordecai, more precision.” The light centers on him. “Much better, Mordecai.” He walks past me. Then stops. I glance at him. “What?” “What do you mean, what? Help me carry the chairs.” He points at a stack of chairs next to the stage. So I help him.
“My hobbies are books, I don’t know– exercising, and maybe watching movies?” Isocrates smile. At first I think its me he’s smiling at, but listening to the multitude of voices that draws near I wonder.
We’re sitting in a circle, in the center of the stage, illuminated by spotlights. I have taken a spot next to the only person I know by name: Shirin. I frown. I smelled Nevena at the entrance, and yet she isn’t here. Maybe because she just happened to pass the entrance and decided to take a look? Most people wouldn’t dare to walk down an unknown stairway, but then again, I don’t think that Nevena thinks like most other people. I look at the other people in the circle. My protocol for situations like these is to shut-up, try to analyze the bonds between people as to not step on someone’s toes, think trice about what I say, and more silence.
Isocrates stands up. “For today’s class we’re doing improvisation. Rune, you’ll be excused this time, and this time only. Margot, please begin.” Words will not express my relief at that statement. Me, acting? Although come to think of it, maybe I can learn something. Learning to act here, will allow me to act in real-life, which in turn will allow me to pass as a neurotypical, a normal.
I look as each person in the class make their improvisation. It’s actually kinda cool. One thing bothers me though. Because Drama is an elective, the class is made up by freshmen from the entire grade. Thus, I only know Shirin, and I don’t really know her. I sniff the room.
Eiddwen Mordecai, the girl who works the light stands out. Her skin is white, albino-white, which makes her raven hair so much more pronounced. She has dark-brown eyes. But her scent…! It takes me a real long time to find a proper analogue for it. Not strange, because I haven’t been in a hospital for over a year. And that’s what she smells like. Like a waiting room filled with dying people, all terror-struck and just waiting for the end to come.
My eyes catch the glint of a pierced eye-brow. Samuel Mariksson smiles at me. With his sandy hair, his cosmetically torn clothes, and that ridiculous piercing, girls can’t get enough of him. Maybe I should introduce him to Signe. They both have piercings after all. His scent isn’t human; it smells like lust, and need, and what I think is sex. I guess that makes him the nymph Verde talked about.
Shirin gets up, smiles at me for some reason and starts to make a silent pantomine of a mimic. When she talks, there is always this… this hesitant feeling, like she is never certain as to what she wants to say. But when she moves, there is nothing like that. She looks confident. Shirin’s scent is feathery scent, like a bird. I take up my phone, and surreptously check, what was the phrase Verde used, Umay’s favored…
I get nothing but a bunch of links to a Turkish fertility god. Bah.
Through all of the improvisations, I can’t help but feel at edge. There is a murderer at large and I should… Should what? Help them catch him? Oh here Claire, a being out of Norse legends. That’ll work. Which brings me to the question– what happens when we catch him?It’s not like we can hand him over the cops, now can we?
I look around for the last person Verde mentioned. The dwarf. But all the people in the circle are human-tall. Although… like anyone who grew up in Sweden, I am familiar with the stories of the Fae, the Fey, the Fair Folk, whatever name you want to give them. The house-nome who lives beneath the cellar of the house, and who, if you forget him, will sour the milk, steal the children and kill the cows. The Näcken, the beautiful lady who sleeps in the middle of the stream, and who will entice men to dance and to love her until they have nothing left to give. And they all look like humans, even if they aren’t.
I take another good look, but I can’t tell who’s the dwarf. And that is pretty worrying. Because if one of the fae can do that, hide in plain sight, then what can the rest do?
The lesson reaches its end, and just as Isocrates is about to hand us our homework for the next week, the door to the theatre bangs open. It’s the janitor. She whistles. Loudly.
“They’re evacuating the school! There’s been another murder!!”