Was It Just A Dream?
Damien smashed his hand against his alarm. He felt as if he had just fallen asleep, but he hadn’t really slept too well last night. His dream had been so real that he could have sworn it hadn’t been a dream at all. He stared at the surrounding room. His books sat stacked on the shelves, his clothes hamper lay overfilled beside his nearly empty dresser, and all his pictures stood as they always had on his paper-cluttered desk – everything was exactly as he had left it.
Damien stood up and threw off the covers. He kind of wished it hadn’t been a dream. Wished he could go back to Demiria. Everything there had seemed so vivid, so magical, so… perfect.
Damien got up and checked his reflection in the mirror. He yanked open the drawer, grabbed the first shirt he could find, and pulled it over his head. He stretched out his arms and headed to the window to raise his blinds.
BANG… BANG! Damien jumped. The only person who knocked this early in the morning on their apartment door was the landlord, Jim. He was early though, the end of the month was still a few days away.
BANG… BANG! Usually it was his father, who answered the door, especially to talk to Jim. Damien grabbed a pair of pants and slipped them on as another pair of knocks sounded at the door. His father must have left early for work today. It wouldn’t be the first time Damien awoke to an empty home.
More knocks. Jim was seriously inpatient. Could he really not wait 2 minutes? Damien glanced in the mirror at his hair. It often amazed him how straight it could be in the morning. With one last look in the mirror Damien pushed open his bedroom door, headed down the tiny hallway past the kitchen, and towards the front entrance. The metal of the knob was surprisingly cool to the touch. It was almost as if the coolness of the handle was actually moving through his body. Damien pushed the thought from his mind. Between the dream about some world with magical creatures in the clouds, and now this, he really needed to get to bed at an earlier hour.
To Damien’s surprise it wasn’t Jim’s face at the door, but two boys who appeared to be about Damien’s age. They were both wearing jeans and dress shirts with a sweater vest on top. The vest depicted the logo of a dragon and a minotaur engaged in a fierce battle. At first glance they reminded Damien of his least favorite classmate Jeff and Jeff’s equally annoying best friend Tom. Only these two were smaller and had identical shoulder length brown hair. In fact the only difference between the two boys standing at his door was the color of their eyes.
“Hey there, you must be the new kid. My name is Gabe, and this is Balatro.”
Damien stared past them. The endless apartment doors that usually greeted him were gone, and in their place were houses similar to those he had seen in the town Alexia had brought him to. Damien peered cautiously out the door and glanced to either side. Houses lined the street on both sides of a thin stone path. Each house looked the same as the one next to it. Bricks stacked up to the thatched roofs, and smoke billowed from the chimneys of a few. There were no cars on the street, only children playing, and the occasional grownup going for a stroll.
“You look a little confused there, kid. What’s your name?”
As much as he wanted to respond, Damien couldn’t find the words to speak. His mind was too preoccupied with trying to figure out what was going on.
“If I didn’t know any better I’d say this creep was a maleic,” Gabe said, nudging his friend.
Balatro sniggered. “Sure seems that way,”
Damien had awoken in his bedroom. It made no sense that this was real. He wanted to know what was going on, but he remembered what the Dean had told him – ‘never let on that you’re not from here’. “Sorry, I’m Damien,” he said, breaking the silence.
Gabe eyed Damien. “Seems a little strange, hey,”
Damien’s heart dropped.
“What do you mean?”
“Well all these whispers around of the darkness rising up. They even took to reopening these residence buildings closed since the first Great War for kids from outside Fidelia to stay. Said it was easier, but my guess is they were scared he’d find a way in if people came and left at will. And then all of a sudden two weeks into school you just happen to show up. Where you been?”
It was becoming clear that keeping his secret was not going to be as easy as it had sounded. He had no idea what to say. If he lied Gabe was sure to see through it, and if he told him the truth his secret would be out. Although Alexia did say that no cherub has been able to pass through to Earth. So maybe.
“I’m from Earth,” Damien said. It was a long shot, but the truth was so farfetched it could be taken as a joke.
“Right,” Gabe laughed. “I still don’t trust you, but you got a sense of humor, and I respect that.”
“Thanks,” Damien replied.
Gabe raised his index finger to his cheek, and tapped it as he gazed at Damien’s attire. “I got my eye on you, Damien,” He pointed to his eyes, and then to Damien before he turned, and headed down the street with Balatro in tow.
Damien closed the door. He stared behind him at his apartment. It was still the same as it had been in New York. Desperate to find an answer Damien ran to his father’s room and flung open the door. Inside his father’s bed was neatly tucked, and his books stacked against the back shelf. He ran to the window and threw open the blinds. Instead of the bustling streets of New York a forest greeted his eyes.
Damien eyed the phone by his father’s bed. He picked it up in hopes of calling his father. Silence greeted him.
He couldn’t deny it any longer. Even though he stood in this place that felt, and looked so much like home, he was nowhere near it. And if this was real then he needed to find the Dean. He was the only one Damien could safely ask about what was going on.
By the time Damien re-entered the streets they were even more crowded than before. Even with the droves of people, or cherubs, very few were older than him. There were a few adults walking up and down the street, but they walked alone and seemed content to just observe the scene around them. Damien reached the end of the street and watched as two minotaurs identical to the ones he had seen last night eyed a group of nearby girls skipping past them. The girls turned back towards the minotaurs and giggled wildly.
The vacant stares of the minotaurs met with Damien’s as he passed, but neither made a move to stop him. A side street shot off in both directions, and the road in front ran for only half of a block before it twisted from view. It seemed tracking down the Dean was going to be harder than Damien had realized.
“Excuse me. Do you know where Dean Inzageal’s office is?” Damien asked a lady who was walking by with her two kids.
The lady gave Damien a dirty look and continued on without a word.
“People aren’t going to trust you if you go around asking questions that every cherub knows the answer to.”
Damien turned to see the last person he wanted to see coming up behind him. “It’s Gabe right. I didn’t mean to offend anybody, I just got in late last night, and forgot where the Dean said his office was.”
Gabe raised his right eyebrow. “Right. Well listen why don’t you come with us we’ll show you to his office. Heading that way anyways, Earth studies class starts soon, and I have no interest in being late for one of Restenta’s classes.
“Earth studies?” Damien asked.
“Yeah, you didn’t have that where you went to school?”
Damien doubted he could do a better job of backing himself into a corner if he was trying. Everything he said seemed to make Gabe question him more and more.
“Uh yeah, we had it. I just didn’t think it was a problem missing it. That class is the easiest.”
“I wouldn’t say easiest. Magical aura in first year is a thousand times easier. It’s not the class though it’s the teacher. Restenta’s the guy who runs the residence area,” Gabe pointed to the street where Damien had just come from before continuing. “I don’t know if I can blame him, dealing with kids without their parents being here, but he’s kind of strict.”
“Kind of,” Baltro laughed.
“Yeah, okay. He is the last person you want to cross here. If I can give you some advice don’t get on his bad side.”
“Thanks,” Damien replied.
Gabe led the way down a flight of stairs, and into a giant square, filled with tents, and thousands of people.”
“What’s this?” Damien asked, before he could stop himself.
“It’s Fidelia’s centrum. Let me guess, this mystical place you came from before didn’t have this either?”
“Just not this big,” Damien replied.
“Most of the older cherubs who go to Fidelia Percium come here for lunch, but its pretty pricy if you don’t have a job. The Cafe in the school’s your best bet for a cheap meal.”
“Don’t mention it. Now look, school is just down this street, big building on the right, and the offices of all the administrators, and professors is on the left. Ignore the sign on the door. It’s just for non-students. You’ll be waiting all day if you follow it. Just head through the door and catch the transport chamber in the back left to the Dean’s office.”
The school put Damien’s old school to utter shame. It looked like a palace, with a tower on each outer corner, and a two-story brick wall surrounding the building on the inside. From where he stood, Damien could only make out the peak of the fortress inside the walls. It felt like a castle, or a church, or a government office. Really any place of royalty – not a school.
Snapping back to reality Damien went to thank Gabe for his direction, only he was nowhere to be seen. “Another strike in the what’s this guys problem column,” Damien muttered to himself, as he walked towards the Administration Building.
The Administration Building was impressive in its own right. It didn’t have any fancy turrets, or walls surrounding it, but it did tower above everything else around it. At its apex was a large clock face that read out the time. 8:57. Damien remembered what the Dean had said to him, class starts at nine. He was going to be late. Although it really wasn’t his fault, the Dean couldn’t have expected him to find his way on his own to the school, this town was massive, and its roads were more of a maze than anything else.
Damien admired the massive marble pillars that supported an overhang leading towards the building. A garden lined either side, filled with flowers whose petals came in every color imaginable. The wooden doors were etched with the same logo that Damien had seen on Gabe’s sweater. Everything in this place was built with such precision and detail. Damien pushed open the wooden door so preoccupied by his surroundings that he didn’t even see the sign beside the door that read No entry for students without administrative escort.
Two steps inside the door Damien ran smack into a very large, and very angry looking cherub.
“Sorry I didn’t see you there?” Damien gasped, as he caught his breath.
The cherub grunted. “What are you doing in here by yourself?”
“I was just going to see the Dean,” Damien replied.
The veins in the cherubs overly muscular arms bulged in time with the ones on his forehead. “The sign says no entry without administrative escort, and I don’t see your escort.”
Damien’s stomach turned. He had completely missed the sign when he was coming in. Only Gabe had told him to ignore it. Maybe he wasn’t being nice after all.
“Sorry,” Damien muttered.
“Imagine my anger, when one of my students informed me that the newest addition to my class was not only skipping, but trespassing in the administrative building as well.”
“Which means you’re Restenta?”
“I am. The student who came forth was concerned that the strange boy who showed up two months late to the start of the school year, unannounced was snooping off on his own. Especially amongst the whispers that Electus is near.”
“You think I’m Electus?”
“All I know is that the Senate has denied any rumors of the return of this darkness, yet they’ve closed off our walls, and won’t let any townsfolk leave the fortified city without escort from a member of the Senate or his army. Dean Inzageal trusts you, so I trust you, but if you give people reason they will turn on you in times like this.”
“I just wanted to see the Dean, I had some questions.”
“Well lucky for you, you can see him right before he gives you griffin duty for trespassing!”
Before Damien had a chance to respond Professor Restenta grabbed Damien by his collar and started to drag him down the hall.