Ingle was looking at the buildings. Nobody noticed.
They picked their way along the cold, snow packed sidewalk together: Ingle, Lisa, and Cordelia. Lisa and Ingle held hands. They always held hands. The sidewalk wasn’t wide enough, so Cordelia trailed behind them, like a lost child. She wanted to spend some time with her best friend Lisa as they navigated this strange new land together. But as Cordelia was starting to discover, you can’t have everything you want, not even for a princess.
“Okay!” Ingle said over his shoulder. “C. We got to come up with some kind of plan.”
Ingle was not telepathic, however, he seemed to have a sense for when Cordelia was starting to feel sorry for herself. Cordelia’s audition was in seven minutes. Ingle was right after her.”
“Our other brothers want you to look them directly in the eye. They may not be telepathic, but they can sense when something is not right. Don’t ask me how I know, I just know. Then, when they say yes, we’ll steal all the secrets to this planet and conquer it.”
“Just be yourself, C,” Lisa said.
Her red hair was pulled back in curls. Somehow it made it worse that Lisa has been always so nice to her.
Cordelia had been studying human literature for months. She knew what kind of scene she wanted to do. Hamlet had become her favorite piece of literature and she was going to act that scene out for her audition.
“Hamlet is such a dry piece of storytelling. You sure you want to do that Cordelia?” Ingle asked. “Why not something from say Interview with a Vampire. Now that’s a novel I can sink my teeth into.” He started to laugh, “See what I did there? My first human joke. What do you think?”
“Don’t give up your day job,” Lisa said.
It was kind of incredible how long this had been going on Cordelia thought. They were only seventeen, at the start of their lives, but she felt like she’d known Lisa and Ingle forever. The school systems in the Colonial home world sorted the students out by how many people are with their families. The more people you have in your family the higher your class. For Cordelia, her family had nine hundred and eighty-five people and her mother’s side had three thousand five hundred people, hence why she landed in the first class in the Colonial home world. Cordelia was always a gifted student. She loved the arts, theater, music, but as a princess in Colonial society, she never got the chance to chase her dream of being on the tele-monitor acting on various programs she had watched growing up. Lisa and Ingle (that was not their names in the Colonial world) had been running into her in the same programs as they matured and aged. Their world got turned upside down when an unknown force attacked their world and drove eight hundred thousand of them into ships that traveled the galaxy searching for a new home until they found Earth. It was a terrifying journey traveling across millions of miles of dark, cold space without encountering the force that attacked and chased them from the Colonial System. During their five-year journey to Earth, Lisa, Cordelia, and Ingle got to know each other and deepened their bond of friendship. Lisa – pale, freckled, dreamy, Lisa wanted to play an instrument, her favorite was the trumpet. Ingle wanted to sing. He had fallen in love with Earth music and wanted to be famous among the humans. Cordelia had a crush on Ingle but knew that he would never sleep with her.
Cordelia was thin and tall, unusual traits for a woman, but not unusual for Colonial females. Cordelia habitually hunched her shoulders in a piss poor attempt to brace herself against whatever blow was coming that the heavens were preparing for her. As a tall, good looking female, she always felt that karma was going to attack her first. Her shoulder-length hair was blowing hard against the Chicago wind. She wanted to wash it badly but knew that could wait until after the interview, but for some reason – maybe she was in a self-destructive mood today. It had stopped snowing for an hour, but the skies continued to get grayer which suggested more snow was on the way. It seemed to Cordelia like the world was trying to give her a fresh start, would she be woman enough to open the door, walk through the entrance, hold her arms out and accept whatever destiny was going to give her.
“By the Lords of Colonial, I am so full,” Ingles said, “Earth food is going to make me fat. Why do I eat too much?”
“Because you are a man who thinks that the more you eat, the higher your profile will be in our society?” Lisa said brightly. “Because we have been eating nothing but rations for five years and you miss having solid food in your system?”
Ingles put his hands-on top of his head like he was waiting for a police officer to come pat him down. He then let out a large fart. Lisa and Cordelia nearly covered their mouths, “Damn, when someone before you let one of them life killing farts out.”
Cordelia hated the cold. Maybe it was a family trait, but every time it got cold, she would get sick. Winter has been never her favorite time of the year, neither of Colonial World nor here on Earth.
Ingles sang, to a tune somewhere between, “Where oh Where are you tonight?” the famous song that was performed on the Earth show, He-haw.”
He saved us from a fate worth than death
He traveled the world, calling himself Seth.
He drove a fast car and crash through the wall
And he had a sidekick, a man named Saul.
“By the lords of Colonial!” Lisa was getting annoyed. “Stop singing that bloody song!”
Ingle had written this song ten years ago on the Colonial home world for a middle-level school play that he had written. He had fancied himself a career in the arts as something like that of a playwright on Earth. Lisa shoved him, still single into a nearby wall, and when that did not make him stop with the single, she did the next best thing, she snatched the Chicago Bulls cap and started beating him with it.
“Jeepers girlfriend you just did not just mess up my perfect hair!”
Cordelia continued to rehearse the scene in her head.
“Guys, it’s time to start behaving like we’re in a professional workplace,” Cordelia said, “but we have two minutes.”
“Yeah, that’s not good,” Lisa twittered. “The queen’s going to have our ass if we mess this up.”
I should be happy, Cordelia thought. I’m young and alive and healthy. I am on a different planet than I was born on. I have two reasonably sound parents --- Dad, the King of our People, still trying to help us out with our issues, our problems, our society as we navigate in this strange new land and Mom, the Queen of our people, the ambassador to the people of this planet. While dad handles the day to day operations of our people, mom travels the world, fostering up good will as the Earth pours resources into building a new continent for our people to live on as we integrate into Earth Society. As they walked east bound on East Illinois Street, in her traditional Colonial red overcoat and her brown interview suit, Cordelia knew she wasn’t happy. Why not? She was certain she had everything she needed for true happiness, she rolled the dice, made the sacrifices. But happiness, like the winning lotto numbers to the power ball refused to come. She did not know what else to do.
She followed Ingle and Lisa past bodegas, Laundromat, a place called the Parker’s Grill, she saw computer stores lined with glass piping, past a bar where she thought it was unusual for people to be drinking at one forty-five in the afternoon, past a police sub-station where she saw a good looking white officer stuffing himself with a slice of pizza that smelled good. He waved at her, she waved back. He blew her a kiss, she blushed. She could date a police officer from Earth if she had the chance. If she could go and talk to the cosmic secretary and ask her to make a few alterations to her plan she would have a perfect life, back on the Colonial Home world.
Maybe his real life could turn up at this Earth School, this Arcadia Academy, which was a very popular school on Earth with those who had dreams of working in the arts on Earth.
“You got you’re a-game ready, Cordelia?” Ingle asked.
“I got my a-game ready.”
“Nothing to be ashamed of if you don’t have, you’re a-game ready.” Ingle clapped her on the shoulder. “Breathe, you got this. We’ve worked on this for weeks. You’re going to knock them dead.”
“I’m going to knock them dead,” Cordelia said as she mustered up the courage to go inside.
The wind bit through the thick material of Cordelia’s interview suit, but she did not want to button her coat. She let the cold fly through it. It didn’t matter, she wasn’t there anyway, she transported herself to a magical land.
She was in the land of Mount Arm-Joy.
Celeron Belgrave’s The Chronicles of Mount Arm-Joy is a series of five interactive novel programs published on the Colonial home world one hundred years ago. They describe the adventures of five Colonial children who get transported to a strange alien world they discover while on vacation with their eccentric grandmother and grandfather. They are not really on vacation, of course- their father is up to hip’s knee deep in a criminal robbing spree, and their mother had been diagnosed with X-disease which is why they had been packed off to their grandmothers for safe keeping.
All that unhappiness takes place in the background. In the foreground, every summer for three years, the children leave their various schools scattered through the Colonial solar system and return to Mount Arm-Joy, and each time they find their way back to this magical land where they have adventures and explore the villages they find all over the mountain. They would defend the mountain from various criminals, alien creatures who want to harvest the people’s souls. The most powerful and dangerous of their adversaries is a woman known as the Black Queen, whose enchantments threaten time itself, trapping the people of Mount Arm-Joy in a different dimension for the rest of their lives.
Like most people, Cordelia participated in those novels as the main character. Unlike most people --- unlike Lisa and Ingle – she never got over them. They were where she goes when she couldn’t deal with the real world, which was a lot. (The Mount Arm-Joy books were both a conversation starter for Ingle not really loving her and a reason why he did not.) There was a strong whiff of fifth class prose style about them, and Cordelia felt secretly embarrassed when she got to the parts about, the violent storms, the adults yelling at the children and the ground based vehicles from another world.
There was something more seductive, more dangerous to the world of Mount Arm-Joy that Cordelia couldn’t let go of. It was almost like the Arm-Joy Holo-novels --- especially the first one, The Secret of Mount Arm-Joy --- was about reading it. When the program begins, the oldest child Melios, cracks the secret combination code to his grandfather’s cabinet of his kitchen, there is a note that is posted on the door that says Enter at your own risk and when she cracked the code and open it into Mount Arm-Joy (Cordelia always felt strange pushing aside the door) it always felt as though she was opening the cover to the first page of a grand adventure she was about to start.
The world Melios discovers while exploring her grandmother’s house is a world of magic, a world of modern technology, a landscape that is as foreign as it is dangerous. In Mount Arm-Joy, the moon rises for twenty minutes and when winter comes, it lasts for several hundred years. The oceans are clean, the food is fresh and healthy and the people enjoy their lives, dull as they can be at times. The one thing about Mount Arm-Joy that stood out to Cordelia was that when the author wanted you to have an emotional connection to an event, you felt it. It stayed with you for years and years.
They finally made it to their destination. A recently constructed house. The neighborhood was a busy one, with wide sidewalks and new business going up all around them. The smell of pizza from the nearby Angelo’s Pizza caught their attention. Cordelia was now craving pizza and everyone knew it. The house was a brownstone house. It was constructed to match all the buildings in this part of Chicago.
“So,” Lisa said, “May the Lords of the Colonial protect us all.”
She wore a blue coat with a round collar that made her look as though she was from France.
“See you on the other side of the galaxy, maybe,” Cordelia said
“Let’s do this thing,” Ingle said as he jumped up and down three times. “What, I’m working on my Earth slang.”
One of the cute customs they picked up was the bumping of fist. They did it as a sign of luck. Cordelia dropped her gaze, embarrassed. She knew how all three of them felt and she knew that there was nothing more to say or do. She waited, pretending to check out a Chicago Police Car going by. One officer with, the driver, one officer black, older who blew her a kiss. She certainly could pick them. One by one, they all walked up the cement path to the front door.
Ingle put his arm around Cordelia’s shoulders.
“I know what you are thinking Cordelia,” he said gruffly. Cordelia was taller, but Ingle was broader, built like a football player and he pulled her off balance. “The humans of this world are not like the humans of our world. They won’t judge us harshly.” He squeezed Cordelia’s shoulder in almost a big brotherly way, “We got this, we’re going to this school. Trust me.”
If this was a Mount Arm-Joy Holo-novel--- Cordelia thought, just for the record – the house would contain a secret pad where she could beam to anywhere in the solar system that her heart wanted her to go. Cordelia kept picturing herself, finding that cabinet, keying in that nine-digit code and going to her favorite place.
But this wasn’t a Mount Arm-Joy novel. This was real life.
Cordelia said nothing. You could envy Ingle, but you couldn’t hate him because along with being handsome, and hot according to numerous Earth girls, he also had a good heart, he’d give you the clothes off his back. More than anyone else she met in her class, Ingle reminded Cordelia of Sh’tan from the novel and that made her the sidekick eventual love interest.
Cordelia rang the doorbell. A soft, tiny thump erupted from somewhere deep in the house. She had researched older homes with character thanks to HGTV which was her favorite channel to watch when she was at home. She rehearsed a mental list of her personal goals, what she would do in her spare time in every conceivable way, except maybe her strange hair do, now that all that time she put into making sure her hair was perfect was now ruined. She wasn’t surprised. She was used to the feeling of feeling useless. She had it all the time. It was one of the few things she could count on.
The doorway was guarded by a storm door. It was designed in such a way to match the décor of the house. She noticed flowers in the window sills. The administrators took care to make sure the inside of the house has been just as pleasing as the outside of the house. Cordelia thought, with no curiosity at all, that they could not be in December. It was still November. Then, without warning, it began to rain. She smiled, at least it would melt some of the snow already on the ground.
It was still raining five minutes later and it was starting to rain heavier now. The door finally opened, and a wave of nice warm air rushed out. The warm, delicious smell of a stranger’s house. A stranger’s house on a planet that was not her own.
“Hello?” Cordelia called. She and Lisa exchanged glances. Then she looked over to Ingle, who seemed equally confused. She pushed the door all the way open.
“Did you hear anyone say you could come in?” asked Lisa.
“No” Cordelia answered back, still unsure. “Do we go in or do we stand out here and wait a little more.”
“Guys,” Ingle said as he started shivering, “the rain is seriously starting to pick up now. Can we go inside?”
“I guess we don’t have any other choice.”
The foyer was simple, bamboo floors flanked by custom designed rugs and one that had the word Welcome. Cordelia leaned on the doorbell. Again, no one answer.
“Maybe we got the wrong house,” Lisa said. The fact that she said that and the fact that Ingle wasn’t moving inside made Cordelia want to go inside more. If the interviewer turned out to be the guardian of Mount Arm-Joy, she thought, that would be the find of the life time, but her feet were starting to get wet as the rain started getting heavier.
On the right-side across from the front door, a sign read “Interviewers please go to the second floor.” On the left, was a cozen den with leather chairs, a television could be heard coming from that room. Cordelia saw a bunch of kids watching television. They waved at her, she waved back. Interesting.
All the blinds were up. The quality of the darkness was less like a house that you find in a Steven King horror novel. Was it done like that on purpose to intimidate candidates? Cordelia felt like one of those actresses that were slow motion walking towards the camera in a Law and Order series. She had to at least look. The darkness reminded her of the first time she got on a cruiser.
One of the kids who were watching television in the den walked over to them and said, “You’re supposed to go upstairs.”
“Right,” Cordelia said nervously, “upstairs. Got it.”
All three of the alien visitors walked upstairs to the second floor. When they got to the second floor, there was a room where the door was opened. Cordelia got braved and opened the door. It was unlocked. This is just like my favorite holo-novel only real Cordelia thought to herself. Her hands trembled. She could not help herself. It felt like the world around her was ending. But, everything you have been training for is leading up to this moment.
Cordelia was now starting to worry. The room was big and dark. She had seen pictures of the house online, but she did not know it would be this big. The room felt dark and cold, like something evil, something scary, something dangerous was lurking inside. She closed the door, breathing hard, her face glowing in the darkness. It was then when she nearly tripped over the body, lying on the floor, dead.
Fifteen minutes later the foyer was full of people and activity. Cordelia sat in the corner, in a leather chair, like someone who had seen something in a Stephen King novel. She was frozen with fear and confusion. Lisa sat beside her while Ingle stood trying to make sense of what was going on.
The old man was flat on his back on the floor. His stomach was as big as a doughnut, his hair black almost like it was dying. Two paramedics were crouched over him, one man and one woman. The woman was pretty, by earth standards. She had a little bit of meat on her bones. She did look out of place like she was an administrator who was training someone on a new job. The paramedics worked the scene as they were supposed to. Cordelia had seen reality television and she was disappointed that it wasn’t like what she had seen on the networks. They were talking in low voices, packing up, taking off patches, finishing up the contaminated scenes and getting rid of items that they did not leave.
They were examining the body with the training that they had received. The old man’s mouth was open, and Cordelia noticed the decaying tongue. It nearly made her throw up. She smelled something that confirmed that the man had performed a shit on himself prior to his death.
“I have never seen a dead Earther body. At least not in real life.”
“Yes,” Cordelia said thickly, “I have never seen one either.” Her lips and teeth felt numb. She wanted to call her dad and tell him the news.
The male paramedic stood up from where he was squatting by the body. Cordelia watched him stretch, he started tipping his head again checking one more thing. Then he walked in their direction, gently removing the rubber gloves from his hands.
“Well,” he announced with a smile, “we have us here, a dead body!” By his accent, he sounded like he was from down south. Tennessee.
Cordelia cleared her throat. The man placed the gloves in a nearby trash can by the door.
“What happened to him?”
“Looks like he may have had a heart attack. Not the way I would want to go, but if you must go and he did, a heart attack is the quickest.”
He was trying to suppress a grin, which made Cordelia wonder how could someone laugh or even smile in their line of work. He might have been twenty-six, maybe twenty-seven, the uniform was blue with the words Chicago Medical Center on their shoulder patches. Cordelia thought the man was attractive and if she wasn’t getting ready to go to college, she would consider asking if he was available.
“Well” and Cordelia was trying to figure out what to say, she did not know Earth customs that well, “I am sorry. I’m not from here.”
“Why are you sorry?” he asked. “You did not kill him, did you? Do I need to call Chicago PD?”
“Oh no,” and now Cordelia was getting nervous, her defense mechanism, “I’m just here for an interview for this drama school that is supposed to be the best in the country.”
“You’re here to interview for a school?” The second paramedic overheard her.
Now Cordelia was getting nervous.
“Spend a lot of time around dead people MS----”
“Cordelia.” She said, shaking, “Cordelia Alldice.”
The two paramedics exchanged looks. They studied Cordelia’s reaction.
“Listen,” Ingle cut in, “Maybe we should call the administrator and let them know about the situation.”
Nervously, Cordelia stood up, ready to bolt out of there like her life depended on it, “I think my friend here has the right idea.”
“What’s your hurry?” the male paramedic said. His eyes haven’t left a side. “I think the victim might have left something for you.”
On cue, the female paramedic picked up two manila envelopes, document-size, off a granite table top by the door. Cordelia frown.
“I really don’t think so.”
“Yeah, I agree with my friend, we should go,” Ingle was saying, “Thanks, and I don’t know earth customs all that well, but if he was alive and died, I am so, so sorry for the family. I hope I am saying that right.”
The pretty paramedic’s blonde hair was in two ropes of a braid. She wore a shiny red ring with the letter R on it. She was a pale, skinny angel of death who could kill a man with her smile. The envelopes were most likely transcripts, an offer letter may be. For some reason, maybe because she didn’t want to know or on some level, maybe she did, Cordelia took the one with her name on it.
“All right, goodbye sweet princess,” the male paramedic began to sing. He twisted his way back into the house and closed the door. The trio was outside in the front of the house and the rain had stopped by that point.
“What in the eight worlds just happened?” asked Lisa. “Were we just” she searched for the right word, “were we just punked?”
“I’m not sure,” Ingle said. He looked at the envelope, “what are we supposed to do with these?”
“I think we’re supposed to open these,” Cordelia said.
“Well, I got to be back at the house by five, it’s hamburger night and I am not missing my dad’s famous Earth burgers. See ya.”
They all shook hands formally. It felt strange to even do that. Cordelia walked away slowly back down East Illinois Avenue. A man had died in the house he just left. She was shaken up by that. But then she realized something as she noticed the same group of people staring at her as she reached the end of the street.
“Surprise.” They all yelled out, “That was your entrance test.” Said the male who she saw inside the house, “You just got admitted to Arcadia Academy.”
After all the hugs had been given and the crowd had disbursed, Cordelia opened the envelope. She saw right away that it wasn’t her transcript from her current school or an official document of any kind. The envelope held a notebook. It was odd-looking, its corners were worn like it had been around for a long time, its cover foxed.
The first page, handwritten in black ink, red:
BOOK ONE: A PRINCESS DISCOVERS
She passed a farmer’s market that was on the street, a triangular snippet of land too narrow and oddly shaped to be brought up by greedy developers. With its ownership in question, it had been taken over years ago by neighbors determined to make their street pretty. The sand had been transported to the street by ecofriendly citizens wanting to put their green footprint on the planet.
Winter was going to be harsh this year as all the plants on the outside were dead from the chilly weather, Chicago had been experiencing, her leather shoes crunch down on the sidewalk. It crossed her mind that the note might have personal information about the paramedic she met earlier.
She caught a glimpse of the note that was left for her, she did a double take when she saw her name written in big black letters. Before she walked over to grab it, her cell phone rang: her dad called. She ignored it. She was the only person among the Colonial population who could ignore a call from their sworn ruler and not be punished by it. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw something fly past the pole that was on the ground, but when she turned her head, it was gone.
She thought she would have seen the NBC Tower building by now. She shoved her wave even deeper towards the end of the street. All she wanted to do was explain to herself the incredible chain of events she had experienced. Cordelia was now starting to have a panic attack. She did not hear the phone, she did not hear the sirens, and her skin had that tingling sensation that she hated feeling so much when she got nervous. Her stomach felt sick, she started to sweat.
When she opened her eyes again, she was standing on a perfectly green lawn on the Colonial home world. The grass was freshly mowed and she felt at peace as the sun from their system shined brightly on her face.
The sun was different though, purple as if it was dying and the air was starting to smell funny, almost toxic, she had a challenging time breathing as the skies began to darken. Then, as if reality was messing with us, she returned to earth. She sneezed.
One moment she was in Chicago, admiring at the city, but the next moment she was on a lawn where a large mansion was in the background, the grass was fresh and the freezing air suddenly vanished leaving a nice warm fall day. In the center, the main house was tall and wide, about three miles from what she could tell. A tall clock dominated the area. There were several structures within her eyesight.
Cordelia was sure that if she just stood there for a few seconds everything would come back to normal. She had yet to experiment with earth drugs. She had heard through her friends that Earth drugs could take you on a “wild trip” through time and space. She looked cautiously back over her shoulders. Expecting trouble. There was no sign of the city street she was on. How did she get all the way out here?
Cordelia dropped her bag on the ground and came out of her coat just as a bird dropped some of its shit right on her shoulder. Seventy feet away, a tall skinny black teenager was watching her. He was eating a hamburger.
He looked about Cordelia’s age. He wore a school uniform of some kind. A blue pair of pants with a blue shirt. He had on a red shirt. The heat didn’t bother the student as he was mumbling something in the distance. He was rehearsing a scene.
“Hi,” Cordelia called.
She was not comfortable with Earth customs yet. She wasn’t sure if she was addressing the young man properly.
Now he looked over. He raised his chin at Cordelia, once, flashes a peace sign at her but didn’t answer.
Cordelia was starting to freak out now as she walked over, as casual as she could. She did not want to look like anyone who had no idea what was going on. Even without her coat, she was sweating, not used to the heat. She felt like Paul Sandscrill when he first discovered he Colonial system four thousand years ago. But, there was something she had to ask.
“Is this---?” Cordelia cleared her throat. “This is Mount Arm-Joy?” She squinted her eyes against the bright sun.
The young man started to laugh a little at the newcomer. He took another bite of his hamburger, then shook his head slowly, finishing up the burger.
“Nope,” he said, he then wiped his mouth clean, “You’re in Eastern Georgia.”
He did not laugh at her. Cordelia would appreciate that later.
“Eastern Georgia?” Cordelia asked. “I’m sorry I’m not familiar with Earth all that well.”
“I saw you when you transported to the grounds,” the young man said. “Your people gave us beaming technology as a peace offering when you arrived five years ago.”
“Right, I was with my dad when he offered it to the leaders of Earth.” She took a deep breath, “do you know who I am?”
The man smiled at her and shook his head, “No. Come with me, they are expecting you in the main campus.”
He snapped away from the napkin that continued the hamburger he was eating and set across the wide green lawn. He didn’t even look back to see if Cordelia was following, which at first Cordelia didn’t, but suddenly being left alone in a strange place was enough to get her moving and running along to catch up.
The green was huge, the size of a half a dozen football fields. It seemed to take forever for them to get across it. The sun was raining down on Cordelia’s neck. It also brought back painful memories of the day the Colonial home world was attacked.
“What is your name?” the young man asked, in a tone that made Cordelia think he really did not want to know what her name was.
“Interesting. Where from?”
“The Colonial system.” Cordelia then shrugged her shoulders and gave it another answer, “Well, formally from the Colonial system.”
“That part I get,” the young man said, trying to suppress a laugh, “where on Earth are you from?”
“Oh, right, Chicago.”
“I’m Damien. Don’t tell me anything else, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to become friends. I’m trying to get up out of here as fast as possible.”
Cordelia had to increase her pace to keep up with Damien. There was something strange about Damien’s face. His posture was straight, but his mouth looked odd, even by human standards. Maybe he had some surgery done to him in his youth that caused him to look like this. Cordelia did not want to pry into Damien’s personal business.
But despite his strange appearance, Damien had an air of confidence that made Cordelia wanted to be his friend. Confident people seem to bring out the strong side of her personality. He was obviously one of those people who knew what he wanted out of life --- he was naturally in control of himself always, where Cordelia felt like she had to constantly hit the reset button trying to get the outcome that she wanted.
“Excuse me,” Cordelia said awkwardly, “what is this place? Do you live here?”
“You mean here at the academy?” he said airily. “Well, I suppose the answer to that question is yes.” They had reached the far side of the lawn. “If you call it living. I feel like I have a full-time job here. The only thing about it, we don’t get paid, yet.”
Damien led Cordelia through a gap in a tall hedge and into a bright, labyrinth. The bushes had been recently trimmed as the corridors that opened into various buildings that led to various parts of the campus. If you were a new student at the academy, you could easily get lost trying to find your way out of it. They past the water fountain that had the statue of their greatest performer John Kline displayed.
It was a good five minutes before they made it out of the maze. Cordelia hated it as the maze had reminded her of the time she got lost in the bowls of her dad’s cruiser and could not get out. That was the most terrifying eight hours of her life. A breeze finally impacted with her skin and made her feel much better.