Chapter 2- College Communism
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared dream before.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
“Wake up!” Something hard hit the side of my head.
I groaned, prying my eyes open long enough to see Jesse running around the room like a chicken with its head cut off. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I snapped, rolling off the bed. My face felt like someone had taken a tire iron to it while I slept.
“It’s eight o’clock! We’re going to be late to class!” Jesse exclaimed in a panic, tugging his sneakers on. Jesse took scholastic integrity to a whole new level. I’d known the bastard since kindergarten, and he’d rather chew off his right foot than miss a homework assignment. Naturally, the thought of being late had him acting more moronic than usual.
Twenty minutes later, I’d showered and threw on clothes. It was a feat, considering our apartment was currently a mess of epic proportions. To say we’d slummed it over summer vacation would be an understatement.
Jesse was giving me a lecture about ‘first impressions’ and the negative something or other about black clothes. I was relieved when he had to go the opposite direction to get to the Economics building. I had Psychology, a class I’d had no choice but to take since I hadn’t signed up for classes until the very last second. It would be more than annoying than ever having to take it with a bunch of eager little freshman.
I opened the door, walking to a seat in the back of the spacious auditorium. After I’d climbed the stairs and slid into a seat in the back, the Professor, a middle-aged man with a white goatee and mismatched clothes, began speaking. “Welcome to Psychology 101. Those of you who enrolled because you thought this class would be an easy A, I suggest you drop the course immediately.”
People shifted in their seats restlessly. I snickered.
“This course has many facets. We will cover basic principles of the brain, cognitive behavior, yada yada. My TA’s are passing around the syllabus right now.”
Drumming my fingers loudly against the desk, I happily ignored the nasty glances sent my way. So far, this class was far more amusing than I could have hoped. Compared to the rest of my schedule, this was cake.
But then the Professor kept talking.
“While half of your grade is compromised of the final and midterm, you will have one group project due at the end of the semester. I’ve already split you into pairs, and no, you cannot switch or exchange partners. You get who you’re stuck with. But don’t worry, I grade on individual effort. I’ll assign and go over the first project of the semester on Thursday. Today I’d like you to meet and briefly get to know your partner.”
I groaned. Good to know communistic group projects never died. Professor Meyer started calling out names, and students shuffled to get to their partners. Soon the room looked like a large mixer, with students chatting and laughter filling the large room.
I wanted to ram my head through the bench.
“Landon Sinclair and Sophia Michaels.”
I considered staying in my seat and letting the girl wander around for a while, but Professor Meyer had his gaze trained on me. It was some special talent that made teachers hate me on sight. I walked to the front in no hurry. By the time I arrived, he’d already called another set of names. I hung at the side, figuring I’d done my duty by coming this far.
“Are you Landon Sinclair?”
I flicked my eyes forward lazily and stilled.
“Well I’ll be damned,” I said, raising a brow. “Cat
The girl whose cat had made Madison lose her shit crossed her arms across her chest defensively. “Peeper.”
“Peeper?” That was a new one.
. “Yeah, Peeper. The name of a guy who goes trolling the girls’ dorm while they’re unpacking. Figures in a class of one hundred I’d get saddled with a peeper.”
I grinned, and the movement felt foreign on my face.
She’d certainly grown bolder since yesterday’s nervous rambling. “Hardly. I was being a gentleman and helping bring in luggage. If that’s considered peeping, I worry for American chivalry.”
A smile curved her lips, and I found myself checking her out again. Long mahogany hair, hazel eyes, bow-shaped lips, and she was soft and curvy. Not to mention her ass would make angels weep. I was no angel and I was pretty close myself.
“Glad to have everything cleared up. And just so you know, I only have one cat, and I’d have to move heaven and hell to keep Poe from escaping occasionally and pilfering an underwear drawer.” Sophia shrugged, as if to say she couldn’t help cosmic law.
“My favorite poet,” she responded, absently tugging a strand of hair against her lips.
“Aren’t you just a barrel full of surprises, sweet cheeks?” I hadn’t meant to say the endearment, but when her hands formed little fists and her face flushed an angry red, I almost reached over to pat myself on the back.
“Sweet cheeks? Did you just roll off the set of Grease?”
“Nah…that was last week.” When I just continued to watch her with amusement, she huffed and kneaded her forehead. “This is going to be a long semester.”
“Au contraire,” I disagreed. “I think we won’t have enough minutes for all the fun we’ll have.”
Before Sophia could tear me a new one, Professor Meyer hit an obnoxiously loud buzzer and dismissed us. “Read the syllabus!” he shouted over the din. Sophia slung her book bag over her shoulder and stomped away, skulking from the auditorium like a peeved child.
Yawning, I pulled my phone from my pocket as I headed into the frigid outside. Jesse had left me three messages to meet him at the Sound. The Sound was reasonably empty during the day, since the bands and struggling artists didn’t come on until nighttime. I checked my watch. I had to go to work in thirty minutes.
Jesse was sitting on a table by the empty stage, three girls surrounding him. The weirdo had taken to studying here over the years, despite the funky smells and loud students. Jesse smiled nervously at the girls, seeming oblivious to the blatant flirting. I rolled my eyes. Jesse wasn’t an eyesore-not that I’d ever tell him- but he was about as suave with girls as a drowning ferret.
I flipped the seat across him and straddled it, watching the girls wince at the scraping noise. Three sets of eyes were drawn to me, and I was given the once-over.
“Hi there,” the nearest one chirped. “I’m Brianna.”
“Landon. Listen ladies, do you mind if I steal this guy for a few minutes? He’s never got a spare moment to talk, this one. Busy as a gosh darn bee.”
Brianna’s friend tossed her hair over her shoulder. “But, like, the semester just started. It’s still technically summer. I don’t know why we start in August, I want to enjoy my summer and go to school in September. We’re not robots, you know?”
Jesse sent me a murderous and panicky look as I stood, already bored. I shrugged innocently. Hey, I’d given it a shot. But he was clearly needed for some venting. “Can’t be late to work, right?” Jesse managed to discreetly flip me off, and I gladly repaid the gesture.
Grimm was opening when I entered, and the bar was completely empty of patrons. It wouldn’t be long before world-weary students began to filter in. I leaned against the counter, taking in the scene. Grimm wasn’t a fancy bar, but it wasn’t shoddy either. During the daylight, the velvet booths and colored tables pushed against the walls, ceiling lanterns, and corner lights appeared tacky, but at night they transformed the place into something dark and tempting.
I’d been trying to land a job here since I was a freshman. Sadly, there was this whole law about minors and alcohol, so I’d kept applying simply to keep my name at the top of the owner’s list. When I’d turned twenty-one this July, he’d rapidly accepted my offer. Probably to maintain his sanity.
“Landon Sinclair?” a gruff voice drew my attention to the approaching man.
I accepted his outstretched hand. “That’s the name.”
“I’m Doug, the manager. I’ll show you the ropes today so you don’t screw anything up.”
“I’m touched,” I drawled. Trying to tone down my sarcasm was like trying to amputate a chunk of my brain. Maybe Jesse was onto something with the whole first impressions thing.
After another hour of showing me where each drink was, which glass to use with each drink, and proper customer etiquette, I was ready to strangle Doug with the towel he’d thrown over my shoulder. Clearly, I wouldn’t have applied to the job if I didn’t know what I was doing.
“Listen, your resume was impressive, or else I’d never have hired you. Don’t want to know how, since you’re barely scratching legal drinking age. You know how many Franklin pretty boys apply to be a bartender? An assload. I wouldn’t have hired you if you weren’t good. But this job isn’t just mixing and pouring drinks. You have to talk to the customers, make sure you take the keys from any drunken morons and give them to the DD, and be part security. I read the little comments on your resume, so I know you can handle a bar fight, but don’t spill any blood on my floor, got it? You break up a fight without causing one.”
I left Grimm after that spiel, rubbing my temples. My first shift was tomorrow, and I wasn’t sure my temper would stay dormant until then. At least now I was getting paid to deal with drunken assholes, maybe even lay out a few creeps too.
Night had fallen, and I’d gotten another three texts from Jesse telling me he was at the apartment and he’d bought dinner, so I needed to hurry.
The university-owned apartments were a block away from campus, and upperclassmen were given priority.
Luckily, we’d managed to snag one as sophomores, and now that we were third years, we knew the routine well. Jesse was sitting on his damn puke-green bean bag, a slice of pizza hanging from his mouth and the remote in his hand as he switched channels. I spent the next few hours sitting with Jesse, eating greasy and slick pizza and watching shitty T.V. Because I knew he was itching to tell me how his classes went, I asked. Unlike me, Jesse had loaded his schedule to capacity. I had four relatively difficult classes and I’d chosen them so I rarely had two classes in the same day.
At the embarrassing hour of nine, I crashed. I’d planned on walking around campus and throwing peanuts at lost freshman, but I was wrecked. Jesse crashed because he had to wake up at the ungodly hour of seven for a seminar.
I was sitting by the water, in the Death Zone. The stars looked almost malevolent, and instead of feeling soothed by their presence, I wanted to run away as fast as I could.
Suddenly, hands broke through the surface of the water, wrapping around my ankle and dragging me across the dirt. I clawed at the ground, but the hands were unnaturally strong. I hit the freezing water, my body sinking like a stone. Red. Everything was red.
I choked on the metallic liquid, and bubbles rose from my mouth as I tried to spit out the blood. But I couldn’t. I was sinking in it. I was drowning in blood.
Faces appeared, their lifeless eyes chilling. Maggots had eaten at their flesh, leaving gaping holes in their place.
Hands reached for me, and I struggled to escape in the murky liquid, but I couldn’t move. Bubbles erupted from my mouth as I screamed, and I was dragged into the blood.
“Landon! Lan, wake up!” I was shaken awake,
Jesse’s pale face looming over me. I gasped, sitting up. I was coated with sweat, and I felt the onset of a merciless headache.
“Another nightmare?” Jesse asked tiredly, sitting on the edge of my bed. “I thought you said those stopped.”
I scowled. “They did. I don’t know what brought this one on.”
“New year, moldy apartment, greasy pizza. Plenty of nightmare-inducing stuff.” Jesse stood and clapped me on the shoulder before heading back to his bed. He knew better than to ask what the nightmare was about.
I scrubbed my face roughly. “Thanks, man,” I muttered.
“You’re welcome, Landon.”
I smothered my face in the pillow, shut my eyes, and prayed not to drown.