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I picked up my books from my desk and stuffed them, nonchalantly, into my bag.


At eighteen, school had become as predictable as the sun rising. I probably took it for granted, but as I scrawled away on paper after paper for hours on end, I just kept wondering: what do I want from life? Life was filled with endless schooling and expectations. Every day I wondered where I belonged.


Sighing, I swung the bag over my shoulder and walked out of the classroom.


The sky was bright and cheerful, the sun illuminating the world below. While the day was quickly turning to dusk, the trees, in their vibrant greens, seemed to still be holding onto summer.


College or high school, it all looked and felt exactly the same. My parents said that if I gave it a few months here, I'd figure out what I really wanted to learn.


State university gave me two years to whittle away at general education requirements. Maybe, by then, I would figure it out. Too bad it would cost me more and more in student loans the longer I took to decide on my future.


Walking towards my dormitory, each step felt weighted with the enormity of deciding my entire life within the next few months.


Maybe I should have taken a gap year like my friend Kalie.


With the sun now gone, the sky shot through with vibrant reds and purples. The colors were like the sun's last fit of rage before yielding to the moon. Street lights blinked awake, and the trees rustled with the slight breeze that indicated autumn would soon be here.


I dragged my foot on the stone path for too long and kicked something metal. Thinking it was likely a quarter, I bent over to scoop it up. Yes, I was frugal. College beat it into us with the long hours we worked at terrible jobs to pay for fun things like coffee and non-cafeteria food.


Tilting the object in my grasp towards the only light on the cobbled path, I saw the intricate engravings of a tiny ornate brass key.


A younger me would have thought it was the key to a secret door or a hidden treasure.
It was probably a key to a student's diary, or maybe a cute lock box.


I slipped the key into my pocket. Either I can drop it off to the lost and found or just hold onto it a bit and see if anyone is looking for it.


After walking for over twenty minutes, I stepped through the entrance to my dorm room.
'You won't get the freshman fifteen on this campus!' The tour guide had jested when I arrived at the school.


All the exercise in the world couldn't combat the junk food in the dining halls –burgers and fries—or the time spent sitting reading page upon page of textbooks.


Peering over my shoulder, I was unsurprised to see my roommate still tucked in bed. Not only had she slept through all of her classes, Danielle was still there, wasting away the day.


I pulled the key out of my pocket and examined it in the light.


"Hey," Danielle roused from her blankets, dragging her feet to her tiny fridge and pulling it open to microwave. It was probably some pre-made snack her parents had sent as 'emergency food.' Too bad they didn't know that 'emergency food' was all she ate. My roommate shoved her dinner into the microwave and turned to me as the machines hummed and counted down the cooking time.


"So.." Danielle crossed her arms and leaned against the fridge. "My midterm grades came in." I sat quietly and waited for her to continue. Not that her grades had anything to do with me. "Since we take the same classes, I think you need to do a better job of waking me up in the morning." Danielle finished aggressively. "Plus, I'm going to need your notes from the last few weeks so that I can catch up."


Ha.
My eyes widened in shock and amusement.


I could have pointed out something annoying like how her stuff covered most of our room. Or the fact that her boyfriend practically lived here. Or worse, that I had to study elsewhere to not disturb her constant sleeping.


But, none of it really mattered. Danielle was the quintessential college roommate everyone told horror stories about. She was the epitome of the freshman dropout rate or the 'barely passing' rate, colleges and parents alike ignored.


"Your grades aren't my problem. Neither is waking you up." I laughed.


If she'd been kinder, maybe I would have found a way to help her. But after a few months of this, I was already done. I was just hoping to change roommates at the end of the semester.


"I can't believe you are so selfish. You're the reason I'm failing, and you can't even help me this much." Danielle pushed her blonde hair over her shoulder and stared at me.


"Again. Your laziness isn't my problem." I pushed the key into my pocket and shouldered my backpack that I had set down for a moment's respite.


I grabbed the notebook I had entered the room for and turned around, walking out the door. The student advisers would tell me something like 'talk out your problems' but, I'd given up talking to that brick wall about two days into the semester.


Conveniently, everything I needed or cared about for class or study was in my bag.


I climbed the steps that lead into a tiny dark study area that was set aside for students. They said it was so we could have a place separate from our rooms to do school work. To help us focus. But, as I looked into the haunted eyes of the students sitting there, I realized the truth. We all had pulled the short straw for roommates.


It was laughable. Some people had found life long friends in their roommates.


Not me. Definitely, not me. I'd be happy if I was transported to an alternate world where Danielle didn't exist.


I pulled open my textbook and stared mindlessly at the pages. Not much studying was going to be done tonight. Truthfully, I didn't like studying. I did it to get away from my roommate.


Time ticked by, and after a while, only I remained in the lounge. People seemed to have given up on avoiding their roommates and returned to their rooms in hopes that they'd be fast asleep.


My phone flashed 11:50pm.


Too bad, my roommate slept the day away. She'd still be awake for a while yet, which meant I'd be here wasting time.


Pulling the key out of my pocket, I placed it on the book. I was examining it and dragging it across the pages to mark where I was reading. Snapping my microeconomics book shut, I placed the key on top of it.


Letters were inscribed in the soft brass of the handle. I peered closer, trying to make them out, but they seemed to have faded too much over time.


My eyelids became heavy, and I felt myself drifting off to sleep. The key was held tightly in my hand.
It glowed faintly before sleep took me.


My dreams began to seep out into the real world because I felt like I was still in the same room, but I could hear a humming.

<Scanning…
Identifying target suitable for transition… Success…
Extracting soul… Success…
Erasing memory… target refuses memory wipe… Process failed…
Retrying… Process failed…
Transmigration… Success…
Constructing simulation…Success…>

It sounded like someone had the sound on their computer too high. I scrunched my eyes and blinked away sleep.

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