The Further Adventures of A. Teague: Chapter 5
Disclaimer: I do not, nor have I ever owned any part of the book, "Blood and Chocolate," by Annette Curtis Klause. I do, however, love her characters, and I hope she doesn't mind me writing a story about them. It should also be noted that the locations described in this story are fictionalized versions of real places. The city of La Mesa, NM exists, but it is not the city that I am writing about. Thank you, and enjoy.
In the noisy vortex of Rollings Dining Center, Aiden Teague slumped over his breakfast, exhausted to the point of stupor. The mug of coffee before him, his third of the day, was doing little to help. He hadn't actually slept since his nap Saturday afternoon. His last full night's rest lay three days behind him, in a cheap roadside hotel along I-25.
Aiden brought a forkful of industrial eggs to his mouth. They were more plastic than protein, but he swallowed, either ignoring or unaware of the taste. Aiden glanced at the clock, and rolled his eyes. 8:30. Great. Half an hour until his first class of his first semester. Grabbing his coffee, he chugged half of the cup and grimaced. First class, first day, and I'm going to fall asleep, he mused. Thanks a lot, Charles, whatever you are.
Aiden shuddered, thinking back on the past two nights. Nothing in his life, not even that midnight encounter in the Maryland woods, had prepared him for this. Facing down lycanthropes in the darkness is nothing compared to being locked in with a d…"
Demons don't exist, dummy. Ah. There it was. The voice of reason. It may run screaming when boogeymen go bump in the night, but it could always be depended upon to provide sanity in the light of day. Demons don't exist. Demons DON'T EXIST!
Just like werewolves don't exist? The voice, a tiny pinprick in the back of his mind, spoke up like a smartass. Right, he groaned, just like werewolves.
Stuffing the remaining slices of bacon into his mouth, Aiden picked up his tray, sent it to the dishroom, and started walking. Well, "walking", is a relative term. After two days without sleep, no one really "walks" anymore. They weave, and by some footnote in physics, they usually manage to stay on their feet. So, under a sun gearing up for blistering heat, Aiden wove his way across campus.
Naturally, Wauneka Hall was as far away as possible while still remaining "on campus". Of course, Aiden chuckled, the universe is punishing me. Why wouldn't it be light-years away? The building, a squat red-brick affront to architecture, was the combined home of the psychology and history departments. On the first floor, in the mercifully easy to locate lecture hall, Aiden found History 100.
Even ten minutes early, Aiden was far from the first to arrive. Overachievers already packed the front rows, books out, pens ready. Aiden, a habitual back-row slacker, aimed for a seat in the middle, hoping the human camouflage would mask any sudden, unavoidable naps. Pulling out a notebook, he waited as the trickle of students grew to a flood. Twice, he found himself closing his eyes, head tilting toward his chest. Bad, Aiden thought as he shook himself awake, this is very bad. The teacher isn't even here yet, and I'm already dozing.
As though it had been waiting for this cue, the lecture hall's door opened once more, and this time admitted a short, gray-haired woman with a laptop case, followed closely by another short, dark haired woman whose loose braids bounced against her back as she made her way down the auditorium's steps. Abiah. Near catatonia or no, Aiden still recognized her. He chuckled; wonder if she realizes there are no seats left up front?
But, no. It seemed that wouldn't be a problem. Abiah followed the woman up to the podium and began wrangling with the lights and projector system.
Oh, he thought to himself, she's not a student, she's the TA.
Marveling at his complete idiocy, Aiden tried to sink into his seat when Abiah came by to pass out the syllabi. Thankfully, she didn't notice him, and as the passed by, the woman at the front opened her PowerPoint and addressed the assembly.
"Good morning, and welcome to History 100. My name is Dr. Finch, and if this is not the class you were expecting, now would be a fine time to make a quick exit."
She continued , discussing the content of the syllabus and moving on to an introduction to prehistory. To Dr. Finch's credit, the material was interesting, and the presentation engaging. Unfortunately, Dr. Finch had a rich, soothing voice. This sufficed to turn a fifty minute lecture into a fifty minute lullaby. In his nigh comatose state, Aiden didn't stand a chance.
He woke often, each time promising himself it was the last. He tried doodling, writing haiku, and even stabbing himself in the palm with his Bic, all to no avail. Five minutes to class end, Aiden awoke again. Nobody was looking at him, so apparently he hadn't snored. Still, the first page of his notebook was a mass of stick figures and increasingly illegible poetry.
Great, he groaned, just great. What an auspicious start to your higher education. Thanks so much, Charles. Aiden grimaced. Charles. Asshole extraordinaire and possible hellbeast. What the hell was wrong with him any…"
Aiden trailed off as he realized he'd been staring at Abiah. Abiah. His thoughts flashed back to Saturday, to that strangely icy encounter at the fair. Abiah had treated Charles like medical waste. She hadn't even wanted to touch him.
"She knew." Aiden didn't grasp that he'd whispered the last until his neighbors shot him strange looks. He didn't care. Suddenly, he wasn't longing for sleep. Suddenly, he was positively riveted, feet tapping on the floor, waiting for the moment class ended. She knew.
"Alright, class dismissed. See you Wednesday." Those words, those magical words rocketed Aiden out of his seat. His escape plans, however, were thwarted by the presence of about one hundred other people with the same idea.
Fortunately, Abiah and Dr. Finch also had to wait out the mass exodus, so when Aiden fought his way to the podium, neither had a chance to leave.
Dr. Finch noticed him first. "Did you have a question?"
Aiden shook his head. "No. I mean, yes. I actually have a question for, um, Abiah. About History Club."
"Oh, alright then. If you'll excuse me." She picked up her laptop case and headed for the door. Abiah turned to him and smiled. "Oh! Bookstore guy! Hi! So, you're thinking about History Club?"
"Actually," he admitted, "I lied. I need to ask you about something else."
"That guy you met at the fair, my roommate? You didn't like him. Why?"
She tried to hide it, but Aiden saw her expression grow forced. "I'm not sure who you mean."
"You remember. Short, blonde, tan. Reeks of douchebaggery. You looked at him like he was roadkill. Why?"
"I'm sorry, but the next class is coming in, and I really need to be getting on." She made a move for the stairs, but Aiden blocked her.
"Abiah, please. There's something really wrong with this guy, and if it's something dangerous, I need to know about it. What do you know about him?"
Abiah looked around warily. "Can we discuss this in the hallway?"
"Sure." Aiden stepped back and followed her out of the lecture hall. It was no more private out there, but at least they were no longer the focal point of the room.
"Okay. What's wrong with Charles?"
Abiah bit her lip. "I can't tell you. I'm sorry, but I just can't. The only thing that matters now is that you stay out of his way and get away from him as soon as you can. You're right. He is dangerous, but as long as you don't provoke him, you're likely to be left alone."
"Why can't you tell me?"
She sighed. "Because it's best if you don't know. Besides, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Abiah," Aiden looked around to check for eavesdroppers, then leaned in to whisper, "My ex-girlfriend was a werewolf. A Were-Wolf. Fur, claws, the whole deal." He paused to let that sink in. "Nothing you could say would surprise me."
Abiah's eyes widened, astonished, but she heard nothing but sincerity. "Okay then. Your roommate is being possessed by a demon."
Vindication washed over him. "I knew it. I KNEW it! But…" A question buzzed across his mind. Once thought, it could not be ignored. "How did you know?"
"I… uh…" Abiah faltered, groping for words.
A light clicked on in Aiden's head. "You're not human, are you?"
Sheepishly, Abiah smiled. "Not exactly."