I don't know why, but that day I felt as if I was recruited to the Special Forces or I got into a camp with the most severe régime. We were told that on our first year of studying we don't have to understand anything, since we're too 'green' and inexperienced. Let it be so. I was brought up so, that it is not my prerogative to contradict people who are older than me and are on the different stair of the social ladder. At least I thought so in the beginning.
The second thing that astonished me was my course. Maybe I got into some kind of convent, but in the certain moment something went wrong and all things became reversed immediately. I was the only representative of the 'strong' part of our population. Personally, I did not pray to anybody to receive this gift. Anyway, at the same instant I realized that I am not the only who doesn't know all people around. I noticed that there were some people who as if chatted with each other, in the end it was easier for them to find some things in common. Vanquishing my embarrassment, I chose my place and I landed in it. Yet, I felt the lucid atmosphere of tension and suspicion. We were few in quantity. I suppose we were 14 all in all.
Finally the crucial moment has come, ''Represent you''. I have never loved this process. My previous experience, at least as much as I can remember indicated that more than a half of people around do not care about you and some of them even do not accept your existence at all. So we began. Each person stared timidly at the unknown audience and endeavoured to utter a sound. As I understood we were so miserable and pathetic that nobody bothered to remember our names. Perhaps we were small and unnecessary particles of something formidable, yet we were so proud. Our list consisted out of: L, A, A, M, K, M, L, A, A, J, L, E and O.
What could be better than your inevitable location in the core of serpentarium and understanding of the hopelessness for any kind of perspectives? Do not ask me, because I knew what I have to attain in the end, since nothing is everlasting and there must be some resolution. The only thing that was dim for me was the duration. I did not know how and why I got here and how much time I have got at my disposal. So I clenched my teeth together and decided to stay Unvanquished. I cannot say that I succeeded, but I did not fail.
After our incredibly entertaining lecture and apprehension of our place among these walls, we spread all over in various directions, waiting for another day to come.
When I came to my room, I ran into two people. As I understood they were my soul or roommates. We shook hands and got acquainted with each other, so that A, A and J took their seats in the room. One of them was an adept, since he almost graduated from this gloomy and creepy University if I dare to say so. But the second guy was approximately of my age, but due to his height and hefty body, he looked older than me. These two guys were like enormously big columns that I encountered when I entered my room each time. As always, despite the fact that we didn't know each other we had to cope with our condition and collaborate.
I forgot to mention one more peculiarity of our dormitory. We had bars on the windows. But they were not something like ordinary iron bars. They created a shell around them and since we were stuck in between true life and a place which is inhabited by repentant souls, we could not get through them. We were physically dead, but we existed like wisps. At least I thought so. Anyway, there was no way out. Maybe we were souls, but we felt like something more material than abstract.
In the aisle, I frequently met other hollow people that frightened me a little, but they seemed so indifferent of what was going on that they merely traversed each tile with a reserved countenance. Fortunately, among these people I managed to distinguish one who emitted a tiny ray of enthusiasm to escape, i.e. graduate from this place. Once he came to ask for the information about our studying process I guess and thanks to this occasion we became friends. He was one more J in my collection. Afterwards we all became friends. In the end, how far the term 'male friendship’ could be extended? We were friends, we shared with our worries and problems, but simultaneously there hovered an atmosphere of bizarre tension. I always thought that we lacked somewhat. Yet we have been one team. I am glad that our cooperation created amicable resonance.
So here it is, my University, my room, my mates, my premature expectations and thoughts. Even now I am trying to match several pieces of this sophisticated puzzle. Nevertheless, first day came to the end and a pale sun was ready to set. I was waiting for another day to come.
My second day began with a light touch of the chilly breeze. It was weird. I mean the fact that we did not shut our windows. ''What's the point if we're void already'', was the argument. Relatively, it is true. Who cares about the weather outside if it cannot harm him or her? When I got up A and J were sleeping and snoring. Sometimes they did it in unison so it contented me. With this accompaniment I brushed my teeth, checked out my schedule and went out. Morning sun did not heat; instead I got under the press of summer, or autumnal or spring gale. As much as I can remember I loved getting up early in the morning while the entire world is still sleeping. Each morning is like a revival. Birds twit, people are like giant drowsy snails and tortoises, which endeavour to move their limbs in various directions. Sun gets out of the horizon and even wind blows so lazy and unwillingly. For me morning is something exquisite.
When I reached already familiar stairs, I stopped for a moment and remarked petit alterations in the building. I did not know how and in what way, but it changed. I was too pleased with my morning to investigate any alterations. This day I had two lectures, where I faced other teachers. Our meeting added I(i) and I(i) in my list. These two people looked more attractive than previous dictator and the subjects were not so indistinct and vague, so I plunged into studying with enthusiasm. Why I did so? Be logical. There are always two options in life, whereas you are the person on whom all other people and circumstances depend or there are definite circumstances to which you must conform. Therefore, you have to choose your side and deal with 'defeat', but be ready for the strike back that could change the outcome. Because of that I adopted to my entourage. Besides, I had nothing against doing what I liked and be interested in what was curious and beneficial to me. Obviously, there were people who expressed total discontent and muttered somewhat. This was only our second day in the University, so we were not so friendly yet. By the way, straight after our first lecture, two people decided to flee. Sorry, I should have said that they acted wisely and changed the program. I do not blame them, at least they weren't tantalized by our local eccentric and unpredictable tyrant.
Our second day of mental and physical imprisonment was over. Everything was endurable and facile and superficial. Well, what could be expected from the very beginning? Delight most probably. But my third day gave me a hint that it will not be a place to rest and lay off. Our first week served us as a shove from the bank of mature infancy, and we dived into the abyss of deathly (what does not concern place) vital knowledge. Unfortunately, we did not have scuba with us.
Next day commenced with a heavy air in the room. But my mates easily endured it, since even if I would shoot with cannons near them it will not wake them up. I met one more regular morning: fog on my way to the University. This day was not so fruitful and diverting but I got in touch with B and A. I would say that these people were simply grand masters, if not, and then they looked so. It is not right to say so, but I think that they were born between the walls of this University. Oh, I forgot to list one more person, it was Z. She complements the Saint Trinity of sages.
Overall, during my first week I got acquainted with my tutors and they, in turn, already despised us. Logic dominates in the realm. Yet, there was one thing that bothered me. Already one week of our existence has passed, but I did not find a common language with my mates. The other guys were more fortunate, i.e. they were not the only representatives of their gender in the groups. But I had to enjoy hours of pointless dialogues during the breaks and stories of their lives, who they were and what they did. I was just hit with simply intonation and emphasis of their speech. But as I already mentioned, one has to adopt before he or she strikes back. Most probably due to this fact, I endeavoured to let all talks dissolve somewhere among the halls. It was hard to attain, but I accomplished.
However, I noted one more A, who looked frustrated and lost. She analyzed our group and stood apart. Perhaps especially this particular attitude appealed directly to me. Nevertheless, it was not so easy to begin a conversation. We knew our names; we knew that we are mates, that is all. Not a lot, even for people who did not know each other. Though, most probably unconsciously we formed divisions. Each had a couple to sit with. And I chose to take my place near her. Apparently she had nothing against, maybe because she simply didn't care or it was so because there was no vacant seat in the rooms. Who knows?
Step by step I tried to inquire her about her past life, what she was and how did she get here. At the very beginning her response was indisposed, but I suppose that she realized the whole picture of a current situation and, under the overwhelming circumstances of unity I got an advantage over her.
In the similar situations it was better to have allies than enemies. Therefore, I had to fortify my mental positions at least. There were already four footprints on the humid pavement in the morning.
After several weeks of one and the same irritating and tedious routine, amazing, but I felt myself revived. On the one side, I was in the permanent contact with a weird and unchanging reality where I knew people with whom we were as if friends. Nevertheless, the other side of the coin represented something yet unexplored and unknown, it enchanted me and I desired to investigate these strange tides. I was eager to attain any result and tempt every consequence possible.
During our spiritual refinement in the University we as students produced certain effects on our tutors and they, not to remain obliged did the same. It was sufficient with merely one month of stay there and somebody managed to get in the list of favorites and somebody was detested by the sovereigns of knowledge. I cannot claim that even after my death, I was unlucky. Conversely, in comparison with my previous life, here I was more than fortunate. But even so I made it. I unconsciously managed to exasperate some teachers. In fact, there were only two of them, I suppose; I will not call them letters even. However, in spite of the fact that our establishment did not depend on some governmental structures, both teachers and students had to demonstrate courtesy within the building at least. So that we lived on, peacefully among dusty corners, formidable columns, cobweb, furious and evil glances, jeer and artificial loyalty and esteem. All in all we lived in the same conditions as all people, just in between imposed boundaries.
Yet, each trait of our lives, each motion and feelings incorporated our 'living' community. It is impossible to escape natural order if you are dead already. We were not deprived of emotions at all. On the contrary, perhaps our receptors were modified. Our studies and existence flew smoothly without any obstacles almost half of the year. I cannot say precisely because I doubt if our dial comprised twenty-four hours. Who said that it was not thirty-three or fifteen? Well, the stream of daily matters brought us to 'Tribute', as they called it. In the end, I realized that it was something similar to examination and long and gruelling test.
What could happen in the worst case if you do not pass your test? You simply fail, yes? I thought it was so. But why here, in the reversed side of reality we had to have the same rules? No. The result of the 'Tribute' was quite unexpected and for me it was even unprecedented. During this operation I formulated several questions, but as all my friends and mates were in the same tumult as me, obviously I have received no logical response at all.
These people who did not pass the examination weren't charged or punished. Nobody blamed them. At the same instant it was not possible for them to pass the same examination one more time. The outcome of approximately half of a year led to havoc in their souls. It was my subjective point of view. We have changed during this time as well as our alma-mater. Some of us became more transparent. Under this I mean their physical appearance. Some traits of indifference turned up on their countenance. And after the list of those who have not passed examination was announced, these people step by step, in a queue, deliberately disappeared. No, that is not the proper word. They did not disappear, they simply vanished. I cannot claim that they died, since all of us here were already dead. Their spiritual and mental existence vanished with their form.
Even in the world of dead people it was too much. Does not it terrify or frighten? Although you are dead, you still can squeeze somewhat out of your soul-your 'shell'. But despite this absolutely non-scientific manifestation, you do not pass the 'Tribute' and what is the consequence? You barely cease to exist. You have done nothing substantial and prominent while you were a living human being and what now? How pathetic person has to be to fail when he or she was given a second chance? All these people have not managed to leave their prints among already dead people, where competitiveness was less rough by the way. Nobody knows where they are now. Maybe they were given one more possibility to live and to live right, with an aim and aspiration. Anyhow, it wasn't the last 'Tribute', I was sure about it. And I did not exclude a possibility that I could be the next in a row.
Our studies kept going on. Some lecturers changed, new subjects appeared, and unluckily N remained and elaborated her tortures. What concerns our group, I suppose now we were ten or nine. Rumors about those who vanished hovered in the air for a while, but soon nobody even remembered the names of our 'lost heroes'.
I was glad that some laws were still preserved here. It was like a survival of the fittest, but in a more intelligent way. It was the survival of the most creative, patient and pragmatic, as if evolution made a huge step forward and it was not sufficient for the surrounding society to accept simply powerful or rich people. Here everything was devalued and I was glad, because actually afterlife wasn't so priceless. We continued our existence in a wonderland among ordinary and common people and weird and unpredictable outcomes.
One day we were summoned to the headquarters to have a conversation about one particular topic. There I received information that we are welcomed, but obliged to take on a quest. Such an outmoded word. I had nothing against but why then I did not have a sword, armor, shield, sheath, banner, etc. in my disposal? Yet it was formulated so. Those who were not eager to hear further instructions had to leave the room. Immediately, after these words more than a half of gathering disciples left. Why to decline such a possibility for a little bit strangely presented, but adventure? I was taught to seize any chance that I could. Life is too short to decline its gifts. And as I understood now, my life was an exception. Why so? It was even shorter. Who knows whom to blame in it. I had my odds and I took all that I could. Moreover, life goes on. But even it is not the Perpetuum Mobile. In that way or another we have to admit it and cope with this fact. There is bright side of it, if I can say so. In the end you will be among us and hopefully you won't vanish. I really believe that it consoles you.
So, the quest. Its purpose was to 'cast' us in the unknown realm, so that we could obtain new experience. Also, we were encouraged by the speech that we, as the pioneers will promote future 'generations' to act similarly. ''Even if in the process, you will vanish, do not worry. You know that the dead hero has more value than a living one.''. Extremely cheering statement! I resolved that I must undertake this quest. Yes, this land or whatever it was, was undiscovered and what of it? It has to be my breakthrough; I could leave my own trace and legend among these hollow walls. It will be harsh, I knew it.
All in all we were about thirty. The bravest ones or the most reckless. Among all people I recognized A, J, A, A, and L. I knew their names, but I didn't have normal contact with them before. Each of us received a roll with a list of various realms. We had to pick out only one as a place of our preference. I put a tick and handed in the paper. Our meeting ended and I went home awaiting the result.
My friends were excited when I told them that perhaps I'd go somewhere else. We had some things in common, but as a person each of them preferred denoted boundaries to live by. Still, I was not sure about it. They congratulated me and landed in their seats as always. I went to my corner, sat on the bed, gradually fell on it and pressed myself against the mattress. I felt an exultation that mingled with anxiety. As a result, I had freaky and concerned mask on my face. I knew that some changes are coming, but I wasn't sure if I was ready to face them.
The next morning I woke up, I felt a striking relief. As if I had done something of vital importance, somewhat heroic. Undoubtedly I was a hero at least for myself. I would say that it was around six in the morning, but I'm not still so confident in guessing what time zone that reality had. Our 'soul bars' were open, consequently the whole room was overfilled with humidity and I noticed that one more neighbour decided to occupy or gently share this place with us. The nights before our walls were of pale, as everything here, ivory color. Now it was adorned with an almost shallow layer of mould. It resembled to a virus or some kind of venomous sprawling insect with incredibly long limbs. Never mind. I was lucky that I wasn't this poor person who had to 'enjoy' the landscape farther. Definitely we got rid of it afterwards, but it has incorporated our company for a while.
Routine didn't change at all. Perhaps our University has undergone some minor alterations. More cracks appeared, but they were rather small. Several days after I noticed that these small slots made one, but visible fault. ''But we won't die anyway, yes? Come on, we're already dead.'', it was my inner dialogue since it was always amusing to have a small talk with a clever person. Among our lecturers there were some who were happy that we boldly chose to explore strange tides. As for me these people were I and I. Maybe it was so because I felt something like affection towards them. I respected these people, they joked with me, encouraged me not to be afraid of saying or doing something what I wanted. I can confidently declare that they helped me throughout my way to 'success'. I will speak about it later. Do not lose the trace. I was gratified that at least somebody supported me, even if they did so merely out of ethics or principles. I had nothing against. These people created a mental fortress, a shelter where I could find my place, to wait when the N's tempest was over. I and I pushed me forward to the path of self-confidence.
During one more extremely comprehensible and touching lecture I heard the ringing. Its clink was so similar that I was confused and just after that I decided to inquire what it was. ''It's time to announce who and where will
vanish, sorry I meant that the results are going to be announced!''. Yes, I do not deny, that moment I was a little bit jumpy and curious. To fluxed into the corridor and met our counselor, she directed us downstairs and introduced us with the list. All at once, hundreds of eyes penetrated the wall. Even I felt how the pressure of somebody's look pierced me. I ran across the list, saw my name, saw the destination that said nothing to me, stepped aside, let the mob through and walked away. I was ready to meet tomorrow's me.
Next morning began with a knock at our door. It amazed me, because nobody did it before, since no one cared. I opened the door and a piece of paper was before my eyes. I was told to sign it up. As always it was rather early, so 2/3 of my room was sleeping. I sat at the table, unclosed an envelope and read the letter through. It was an invitation to more private discussion of further plans. Our meeting held place at 571C. Strange number of the room that was located on the third floor. The thing that bothered me was that I haven't seen this door before. It could not appear in the wall itself, nor did somebody build it in.
When I came into the room, I saw my mates: J, A and A. They stared at me with a confused look. I sat nearby. We were given some papers each. All of us had one and the same paper with the instructions, dates, numbers, responsibilities, etc. The most interesting fact was that we had precisely 4,382.91 hours in our disposal. One has not to be a genius to realize what could happen if this limit will be exceeded. We had to sign all the papers and hand them in. Our coordinator, said that we will receive further instructions some days after. We burst out from the room and met other students who were waiting for their hour. I saw that some of them wanted to ask what did we do there and where we were going, but they stood silent and inert. At this instant I recalled that I did not pay attention to the destination. My mates already disappeared in the corridors, so that I didn't have a chance to ask them about our 'one-way' disposable journey.
I returned to the dormitory, buried my eyes in the ceiling and started to think about my quest. Was it hard to understand that I will leave my mates and friends here, that I will not see my relatives? Apparently not. The plain edge that separated the real friends and family now became something unattainable. I had to cope with it. Yet, deep inside I wanted to revive. Maybe I lacked exactly such an experience in my real life - to realize how one has to cherish what he or she possesses. Anyhow, we cannot predict what'd happen even in the next minutes. I decided to collect some information about the quests from those people who have gone through it. Fortunately, I have found such a person. I did not notice anything peculiar or odd about her. Personally, I thought that person who has experienced something alone should look at least a little bit otherwise. She told me briefly about her personal experience, calmed me down and said that there was nothing to be afraid of. It sounded so simple as if she travelled behind the corner and came back. Frankly speaking, I admired her confidence. At the same moment I thought, ''I am able to do the same, I can overcome my doubts.'', this little spark produced a bonfire of hope.
We didn't notice and nobody has told us that our first studying years have come to its verge, but not too close, since we had several months left. How these people knew everything about time? Personally, I even did not grip it. I was not acquainted with a quantity of hours and the cadence of ticking. Maybe freshmen were not supposed to be introduced with this singularity. I felt that I have to do something more before I depart in the unknown lands, but I could get what exactly I had to. The flux of our routine did not change, the attitude among my friends, mates and lecturers remained unchanged. Only the inanimate Giant remained constantly changing. Even the color of the walls became less sheer and cracks in some places shaped something like a creek. I was not so wearied not to pay attention to it. Occasionally it turned into the passion to investigate, to observe and make a research. But for this particular instant I eyed all modifications from the side. I started to count each second before my leaving. Every ticking of the hand resembled a clink of the falling raindrops to the wet pavement that is ornamented with puddles. Other chosen ones didn't express anything or it was just me who didn't notice it. Maybe they were too anxious to show it.
When our studying year's end was at hand, surrounding people somehow finally revived or woke up. I was glad. In comparison with earlier rife and indolent groove I started to remark some movement from the seats, I noted flicker in the pupil. It gratified me, I even felt more alive than I was before. Rather strange statement, but I felt so. Our dormitory turned into streaming hive and corridors became less withered. Every next morning was brighter and people became sometimes even too open hearted, amiable and benevolent. I almost forgot how it is when you are not the only who can enjoy life. Afterlife in our case. People became less transparent and scornful. That time I considered myself a vital particle of this lifeless engine.
University days were over. I understood that I will miss that pale sun, mumbling colleagues, mates and my dearest friends. At the same moment I experienced the ease. I realized what I had to do. I had to admit what I'd confront. I had to let my previous memories run away, disappearing in the history and irreversible flux of time. Clink increased with each day, until I grasped that I was already in the middle of the tremendous puddle and my feet have stuck in the dense liquid. I was not afraid. I knew that soon enough my everlasting sun will drain every fraction around me and will pave the way forward. I pressed myself against my mild pillow and switched off.