Vibrant Night - Chapter 1

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Vibrant Night
By Okami Carroll

Chapter 1

Lacie could tell it would be dull without leaving her dorm room, and she lied in bed staring at the dust on the windowsill, illuminated by bright rays of light.  Her brown, shoulder-length hair was as messy as her bed, and her shady but sociable roommate was as distant as desirable food in the mini-fridge.  And for a groggy second it seemed like there was color in the dust, until her alarm remedied her comatose state.  So the pale white girl let out a zombie-like moan and forced herself to sit up.

The eighteen-year-old girl, Lacie, rubbed her eyes wishing she could sleep in and take her chances with dreams instead of going to class.  The room was cheaply decorated around her but now its initial charm was wearing.  She reached for her glasses, feeling around the table next to her bed for the familiar sensation of the glossy frames.  After knocking over a notepad and prescription bottle stacked on the top of other notepads and books, she located her spectacles and restored vision to her brown eyes.  

Lacie rose lazily.  She immediately went sifting through the closet shared with her distant roommate.  The brunette grabbed what she needed including an old shirt; it had the white-lettered name of a restaurant from the South on it.  Then, she retreated to the restroom to get ready and try out the strawberry shampoo she had bought the night before.

After Lacie got her class materials and outfitted herself in comfortable clothes and the familiarity of her trusty brown boots, she headed off into the residential halls.  There were fewer people drifting around the campus than usual this Tuesday-- probably staying in, sleeping in, or already in class.  Various information was posted along the white brick of the walls.  Lacie would peer at the posters on occasion, but she was still taking in her environment with a dose of anxiety.

A blond-haired girl around Lacie's age approached; the girl was the resident assistant who was in charge of watching over the hall, though she wasn't any taller than Lacie.  The R.A. was wearing well-ironed professional clothing and always had her long hair in a braid.  Lacie sometimes thought Amanda might drink expensive liquor along with her appearance, all to keep in tune with her major.

"Lacie!  Just who I wanted to see.  I like your shirt." The R.A. smiled as a group of other students walked past.

"Thanks.. its green." Lacie replied awkwardly.

Amanda laughed but it came across as somewhat faked or rehearsed, "Okay, just a heads up.  But your roommate is leaving college.  Apparently something happened and she's going to rehab."

"Oh." Lacie let out a sigh as though she wasn't surprised.

"But there's a girl that should be coming to move in with you tonight or tomorrow."

"Alright," Lacie couldn't help but smirk at Amanda's optimism. "Thanks.. for the heads up."

"No problem." Amanda beamed.  Lacie picked up on some kind of glimmer of blue and green, like the thinnest lines of color in Amanda's eyes.. and then a flash of red and maybe yellow, and then orange.  It all happened quickly and then disappeared, and it startled Lacie so much she couldn't say anything back to the young woman.

“Well you have a good day.” The resident assistant said.

After parting ways with Amanda, Lacie ventured through the nearest exit into the bright outdoors.

It was a beautiful Summer day pardoning that it had rained the night before and showed in the parking lot.  Puddles, some blindingly reflecting the sun, were scattered around, only to be hidden by stationary vehicles.  There was a fresh breeze in the air and students were hanging around underneath the shade of trees with books, phones, and sometimes tablets and laptops.  Regardless of the embracing weather, Lacie felt a lingering sense of isolation.  She couldn't help looking at the puddles and thinking of the rain the night before.

The English major made her way in a hurried walk, long past the students enjoying their breakfast, past the wide parking lot, and various buildings to where her class was.  She entered the corridors, similar to the resident halls, but with tiled floor hiding years of wear behind the last time they it been buffed and waxed.  And seeing that the door to the classroom was ajar Lacie simply let herself in.

The classroom was an average English college classroom but had nobody in it.  Lacie looked at the clock on the wall.  The young woman realized that she was early, but it was strange that nobody was around.  In the habit of being a private person, the girl made sure that the door behind her was almost closed.

Upon taking a seat and opening her book to the page the class would probably start from, she found in the vacancy of her surroundings-- a perfect opportunity to sleep in.

Lacie knelt the side of her head against her now crossed arms and shut her eyes.  She remembered the colored dust; maybe it was the medicine she was taking, or maybe it was just a dream, or a fluke of the mind.  Then the whole world, or the last of it, seemed to slowly disappear into sleep-- like walking through an unknown door into a pitch black room, always with the hope that a light could be found.

* ~ *

Lacie awoke, lifting her head slightly.  Upon seeing her surroundings she jolted upright, which caused her glasses to almost fall off her nose.  She found herself in a clean-cut restaurant, but how did she get here?  Surrounding her were windows filled with darkness rather than daytime, and the artificial lights that accompanied it.  She remained unaware of her shirt, which now read, "Out of Business."

Lacie noticed a large desk in front of racks full of donuts.  Some of these pastries were floating.  Behind the desk there was a young woman who was of a complexion pale enough to compliment Lacie's lack of a tan.

Upon seeing Lacie bolt upright, the taller employee had a look of surprise, biting her lower lip and widening her eyes.  The strange girl behind the desk had ocean-blue eyes accented with eyeliner, long hair with red tips, and a solid black dress hidden by a crimson colored apron that was covered with a wash of donut residue.

Lacie looked down at her charred English book and then fixed her glasses, "Where am I?"

"Mr. Bagel's Donut Shop." The employee spoke with a meek British accent and donuts floated around as if they were underwater.

There was a pause where Lacie's mouth opened but nothing came out.  The young lady behind the counter stared off to the side, twirling the bottom of her long hair with her lower lip still in her mouth, as if she hadn't had a customer in months.

"Mr. Bagel's Donut Shop?" Lacie asked, in a condescending tone of disbelief.

The employee stared at a chair on the other side of the room.

Lacie looked back and forth before returning her gaze to the strange girl, "How.. what's-- what's your name?"

"Elizabeth." The employee stated directly.

"Where is this place?"

"Mr. Bagel-"

"No!  I mean the town, where is this?" Lacie almost demanded in confusion.

Elizabeth began cracking her knuckles from under the desk, "N'Qevna."

"Mr. Bagel's Donut Shop?  N'Qevna?" Lacie sat back down and sighed. "I must be dreaming."

Elizabeth had finished cracking her knuckles and stood in silent, attentive listening to the four-eyed girl across the room ramble on about her predicament.

"I was in college and I fell asleep in class.  I couldn't have woke up here.  Why does this feel so real?" Lacie looked down at the remains of her open English book lying on the table with the sudden urge to throw it across the restaurant.

"Usually.. usually people come in here to buy food." Elizabeth stated nervously.

Lacie stood up with her chair loudly sliding backwards across the tile which caused Elizabeth to squint her face with a tinge of fear.  The college girl ventured to the front of the counter, "Look, my name is Lacie.  Was there someone who brought me in here?"

"No..  One minute there was nobody here, then you appeared with your book, sleeping there." Elizabeth mused.

"Well.." Lacie glared at a floating, cherry-filled jelly donut.  She put her hands down on the hard counter as though it wasn't real. "How do I get back to where I was?"

Elizabeth looked to the upper right, holding the underside of her pointy chin in thought as if scrapping her mind for information, "You could speak to my dear Uncle Herbert.  He's very knowledgeable of such things."

"Can you take me to him?" Lacie pleaded, her hands forming into loose fists.

"I suppose, as long as you don't leave me out there alone.  Okay?"

Lacie pulled her hands from their negotiating stance letting them drop comfortably to her sides.  She smiled as if hoping to wake from a dream, "Okay."

Elizabeth slid her apron over her head and tried to pull it off in a comical struggle while Lacie waited by the door.  Then the black-clad girl turned off the machines in back and jumped repetitively trying to grab some object beyond her stature.  When Elizabeth was finally ready, she headed off with Lacie into the uncertainty of a most vibrant night.