Obey

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Chapter 5: Genesis Hall

Nearing the grounds of Genesis Hall…

“God-”

“Damn,” Brandon cut Hailey off.

“This place is huge!” said Tina.

“From your reactions, I take it that neither of you read my email last week.” Roscoe exhaled and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Shoot! I knew I forgot something,” his Guardian whispered and nursed what was left of her precious stimulant.

“Genesis Hall, huh?” a tenor-like voice questioned toward the back of the group. “Someone was a bible-thumper.”

Tina pivoted, took in a nearly unrecognizable Denzel. He had his hair and unicorn eyes hidden by a white cap, assuringTina that she wouldn’t have noticed him if he hadn’t spoken.

Though his markers help.

Tina bypassed Denzel’s layers of a woolly long-sleeve, patterned t-shirt, and tapered jogging pants for the small cross and stack of ornamental bracelets she has yet to see him without.

As the ex-athlete raced over, Roscoe transformed into a tour guide.

“Genesis Hall is where incoming students take their classes, where their academic journey begins, hence the moniker.”

Tina spoke aloud, “So, we-”

“Negative.”

Ashley jumped in after her boyfriend. “Since we’re in the Advanced program we take classes separate from everyone else. We’re over in the, what’s the name again,” she wondered, “De- No that’s wrong, D… Desi Hall? No. Didi Hall? Wait, no.”

“Dje-Dje-Djedi,” Roscoe stammered between hard inhales.

“Glad I could entertain you.” Ashley scowled.

With a smile, Roscoe pulled himself together. “It is Djedi Hall.”

“Who?” asked Hailey.

“Djedi,” Roscoe answered. “Though there is no archaeological or historical evidence that he ever existed, Djedi is believed to have been a commoner of extraordinary age, a man who was endowed with magical powers and talented in making prophecies. The fourth story of the Westcar Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian text that contains five stories about miracles performed by priests and magicians, notes him as having hailed from Egypt in the B.C.s.” With each sentence, the human encyclopedia became giddier. “Djedi has been an object of interest for many historians and Egyptologists. His magic tricks have been thought to be connected to later cultural perceptions of King Khufu, the pharaoh who commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.”

“You know you light up when you talk about your tomes, Mr. Bookworm?” His curly-haired friend poked fun at him.

“A magician, huh?” Hailey crossed her arms. “Someone’s got a sense of humor. It’s messed up. They’re tryna say we don’t exist, that what we experience isn’t real, right?”

“Bingo.” Ashley nodded and continued walking the overly flowered maze she’d found herself in.

As they traversed the path, the group began hearing live music, a jazzy beat riding the cool breeze that also swayed colorful balloons.

“At least someone knows how to get down.” Hailey bobbed her head.

“Because of its population and the fact that the university works on a cohort and Fall semester-only enrollment model, Genesis Hall is the largest building on campus.” Roscoe ran through more superfluous information until he felt a tug on his arm. He turned to see both Ashley and Tina taking a literal moment to stop and smell the roses.

“Rose colors are emblematic; did either of you know that?” Roscoe queried. “Yellow roses are said to represent new beginnings. Oftentimes they are used in welcoming someone’s return, or to be remembered, one will give a yellow rose.” Roscoe saw the two women share a confused look. “The university wants students to realize this formation will be their genesis, the beginning of a new life. It wants students to feel welcome every time they attend class and, in the end, remember where their learning began since graduations are held in the expanded courtyard out back.”

Hailey snickered. “Where we start, we end…”

“I find it acutely morbid”—Roscoe smiled—“a parallel birth and death.”

“Or an evolution,” Brandon groused.

“Point taken,” the lynx Protected commented. An impressed smile graced his face before his gaze returned to the wide erection of Genesis Hall. Its historic, delicate ledge stone, great cathedral-like windows, and lengthy staircase and ramp combo looked goofy outlined with floating spheres and banners.

Alright, now those are cool.

Tina looked upon impressive double doors. As she spun to ask Roscoe about the lion-shaped knockers, the brunette saw that he was preoccupied, his hands full of all kinds of free crap Ashley apparently couldn’t turn down.

Suckers, Tina thought with a smile, remembering a few moments earlier, when they’d all been swarmed by diligent welcome committee members who were distributing pamphlets, sweets, and goodie bags.

Following her friends through the limestone entryway, Tina’s mouth hung open at the building’s directory. It was huge and advertised the Information Center, something akin to a library with plush seating, the Relaxation Lounge, a popular socialization area, and the Grub Spot, a small collection of eateries. Moving in awe of everything around her, Tina noticed small details like people traveling with purpose and the one-of-a-kind, biblical artwork filling Genesis’ walls to the brim.

“These lions are inescapable,” the freckled redhead whispered, looking at the silhouette paintings the landings of the stairs and the doors of the elevators sported. Two full-bodied kings of the jungle, one black, one white, faced their left and right, respectively. Sat in the middle of them was a roaring, golden face.

As her group inched to the building’s center, Tina made out the floor’s colorful mosaic, abstract animals, a reflection of the above stained-glass dome. As her eyes traced the vinyl’s creatures, the brunette eventually came upon a whistling Dee. She appeared to have traded her everyday comedic tees, leggings, and combat boots for something a bit classier, knitted thigh highs, a partially frayed sweater top that she’d tucked in a black skirt, and still, combat boots, but this time, combat boots with a tiny heel.

“Hilarious.” The obnoxious panda Guardian rolled her eyes at the impossible to miss Noah’s Ark. The graffiti was massive, the animals nearly to scale and covering two of the building’s five floors. As Dee cocked her head, the chunky braid at her crown and long peacock feather around her neck swung. She tied her distressed jean jacket around her waist, drawing attention to the jingling, inspirational messages around her wrists.

“Dee!” Denzel disrupted her peace, circling a splendid glass fountain, home to a variety of freshwater fish, to reach her. “Where’s the orientation?” he continued yelling.

Dee grumbled, looked past the fountain’s impressive hourly show to point at a corridor where colorful arrows were taped. “Stupid,” she murmured.

Inside Genesis Hall’s Announcement Center…

The group sat together near the front in a row of black auditorium seats that were embedded with the university’s lion logo. Before them, on a swollen stage, was a black podium, golden microphone, and row of white, leather chairs rimmed with gold studs, above them was an over-the-top sound system that any techie would drool over, and off to their side was a polychromatic flag wall.

With the orientation due to begin soon, Tina looked around.

There’s a lot of students here…

Roscoe, seemingly reading his friend’s mind, got close to her ear, made his voice the one she’d focus on with all the nearby shouting. “I heard this year’s class is a vest-pocket, barely one thousand.”

Hailey huffed. “This is just a glorified auditorium. Why call it an announcement center?”

“Sounds classier,” Denzel chimed in, smacking away a feline decorated beach ball a hyper welcome committee member had thrown in the crowd.

“Yo, Mo, over here,” Dee attempted to shout over the room’s commotion when she noticed Monáe’s head on a swivel, searching for the group in the sea of party decorations.

“Monáe! Looking good.” Denzel smiled wide, loving the fashionista’s attention-catching get-up, a formfitting bell sleeve top and loosely cuffed denims with embroidered roses. Moving his messenger bag from his lap, the man stood and preened. “Whaddya think of my fit?”

Dee pulled Denzel toward her so Monáe could slide into the saved seat between him and Hailey.

“Girl, you’re sooooo late to everything without me,” Hailey teased her Protected.

Removing her pink corduroy jacket, and vintage sunglasses, Monáe’s mouth fell open. She placed her designer tote at her moccasined feet. “You left me!”

“I told you I had to pee.” Hailey looked up with confusion. “And I thought you did too… Next time stop flirting long enough to listen.”

“Flirtin’?! Lil’ Bit, tell me it ain’t so.”

“Oh please,” Monáe responded to Denzel’s astonishment. “And you’re one to talk,” she chastised Hailey. The Guardian cracked a tiny smile.

“Why d’you still try with her?” Dee leaned into her armrest and shook her head at a deflated Denzel.

“I can’t help that I like what I like.” He pouted and slouched.

“You sad, sad man.” Dee rolled her eyes. “You don’t know how to take rejection.”

Denzel sprang to life. “Ya know, she hasn’t ever actually said no to me. That means I’m not benched yet. There’s still a chance, Dee.”

“Mo’s inability to directly refuse you doesn’t change the fact that you’re still a sad little man.” Dee let out a bitchy smirk.

“Harpy,” Denzel absentmindedly grumbled and turned to some scholarly-looking people taking the stage.

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