Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Learning Curve: Chapter 4

The room was the nicest one CC had seen on the campus. It was not very spacious, but it was much friendlier than any of the dorm rooms she had seen. The walls were plastered and painted a faint blue color; which was a great departure from the off-white block walls of the regular dorms. The private bathroom was a luxury after having to share a bathroom with eleven other girls on her floor. She took a long, hot shower and then retired to the bed. She drifted off quickly.

The events of the evening had raced through her mind before sleep finally claimed her. Encountering James Ellison, the party, Steve, whatever the hell had happened back in her room. Mostly she thought of Tonya. She was not sure what had happened. She wanted answers. She felt angry at the whole situation, and it seemed as if circumstance was attempting to make her a victim in series of events playing out. That notion flat out galled her.

Her sleep was restless. She woke up more than once in the middle of the night. When dawn finally arrived she still felt tired. She got up and dressed herself in the same clothes she had wore the night before. She was not sure what to do with the key Chad had given her. She was sure the use of the room was not a permanent thing, but she liked the thought of it. CC debated leaving the key on the dresser, but pocketed it instead.

She exited the room and went down the stairs to the lounge that was at the entrance. It was still early and there was no activity in the building, but she heard a few radios and TV fainting from the various rooms. Chad was sitting at a table with a cup of coffee that was obviously from a venting machine. He looked up from the book he was reading and saw her.

“Morning, Miss Tucker. How did you sleep?” He smiled warmly.

“Not very well. Chad, right?” She approached the table.

“That’s right, Chad Armstrong, at your service.” He offered her his hand, and she took it. He then gestured for here to sit. “You want some coffee. It’s not Starbucks, but it’s hot and does the trick.”

“Um… yeah. Cream and sugar, please.”

“Coming up.” Chad got up and went down a hallway to the vending machines. “Sorry you didn’t sleep very well, but after your night, I don’t blame you.”

“Yeah, it was pretty weird.” CC did not want to ask, but the thought was driving her to distraction. “Speaking of weird, what kind of name is Chad Armstrong for a Chinese guy?”

“The kind a Chinese guy gets when he’s adopted.” Chad answered as he returned to the table with her coffee. He set the cup in front of her and sat back down. “Now, I imagine you want to go back to your room and you have a ton of questions about what happened and about your roommate.”

“Well… yeah.” CC was a little put off by the fact that it seemed like Chad had done this many times before.

“First off, your roommate is fine. She’s still at the hospital, but she’ll be released today. I called about her a little bit before you came down.”

“That’s good.”

“Now, about your room, I have to ask you not to go back there for a while.”

“What? How long is a while?” CC snapped at him. She was still tired and her temper was starting to flare. Chad raised a hand gently to calm her.

“Just a few hours. We’re going to make sure that everything’s alright in the room.” Chad spoke evenly and calmly in an attempt to use his tone to try to sooth CC.

“Who’s ‘we’? What the hell happened? What the hell’s happening now?” CC snapped again, and her face was starting to redden.

“Miss Tucker,” Chad speech was firmer now. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you what happened in your room, but I can assure you that the people who are there now will make sure it doesn’t happen again. Think of them as cleaners.”

“Like I should think of you as security.” CC got up and took up her dup of coffee. Chad thought for a moment that she was going to throw it at him. “Thanks for the coffee.” CC turned and began towards the door.

“It’s just a few hours Miss Tucker.” Chad got up from the table and started to follow her. She spun towards him.

“I’m going to get some breakfast.” She said curtly. Her tone let Chad know that she was no longer interested in anything he had to say. She was in no mood for secrets or people thinking they were clever for having them. She left the building and went to the dining hall.

There were not many people up at that hour on a Saturday morning. She passed a handful on her way to breakfast. The morning air was cool on her skin and finished the job the coffee had started in waking her up. The sky was clear and the sun was casting long shadows along the old buildings of Lazlo University. She sat alone at the dining hall and ate silently. She did not particularly care for the food there, but had learned to live with it.

She weighed her options the entire time she ate. CC’s first instinct was to return to her room despite Chad’s warning. She thought about making her way to the hospital to check on Tonya. She tried to call her with her cell phone, but the call went straight to Tonya’s voice mail. Either her phone was off or it just had no signal in the hospital. CC wanted to know what had happened. She wanted answers. She wanted to be able to tell Tonya what was happening when she saw her.

She headed for her dorm room. She walked quickly, practically stomping all the way. Her frustration showed on her face. She was out of patience.

She got to her dormitory building and saw some girls gathered in the lobby. She paused for a moment and recognized the girls as the ones from her floor. She went into the lobby and spotted Liza, a girl she had chatted with a few times before.

“Hey Liza, what’s everyone doing down here?”

“Oh, hey CC! You just getting in?” Liza responded with a smirk suspecting that CC was returning from a tryst.

“Yeah, after the commotion last night, I didn’t want to stay in the room so I stayed with a friend.”

“Oh, that’s right! That was your room?”

“Yeah. So, what’s everyone doing down here?’

“Oh, some faculty guys said they needed us to leave the floor for a little while. Something about checking for a gas leak.” Liza said with a shrug.

“A gas leak?” CC cocked an eyebrow. She did not believe that for a second. “My entire ass.” CC marched past the group of girls. Liza said something, but CC was not listening. She went from the lobby to the staircase that led to her floor. She muttered obscenities under her breath with every step.

She got to her floor and the moment she stepped out of the stairwell she felt it again, the cold. She saw her breath mist in the air. She heard shouting. It was coming from her room. She heard words she did not recognize. It sounded like Latin, but she was not sure.

“Gabe, duck!”

“Dammit! Hurry this up, Doc!” They were male voices, angry and guttural. She heard things crashing. Wood was breaking. Glass was shattering. She had not heard any of that in the stairwell. For an instant she wanted to retreat back to the lobby. Her resolve to find the truth overcame that urge. She rushed down the hallway and turned the corner to she her room door wide open. CC came to the doorway.

It was like a miniature tornado in her room. Her and Tonya’s personal items were flying in all directions. The beds were overturned. The mirror was shattered. In the middle of the storm were Mister Gunther and Tommy Ellison. Both were trying to protect themselves with their arms. Tommy’s ponytail was whipping in the indoor cyclone. There was another man in the room who was seemingly unaffected by the event in the room. He wore a gray business suit and faced away from her. He was speaking in the language CC had heard but did not understand. He had dark hair that was cropped close and was not moving in the wind whipping through the room.
There was no wind in the hallway where CC stood. She was frozen there, transfixed by the sight in front of her. The air around her was completely calm until Tommy looked at her.

“RUN!” He shouted as the wind exploded from her room and blasted her back into the room behind her.

About this month's artist: Linda Jean made the time to get this piece done despite a very demanding schedule. Thanks, Linda!

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