“You see, it’s a portal, and it can take you two places.” Morgan was telling us as we left the dining hall, Johnny holding his shoulder so his light frame wouldn’t get swept away in the raging tide of students. “When you step inside, there’s a spot you’re supposed to stand in, then take either a step to the right or left. I can’t remember...”
“Okay, and why are we going there?” Johnny asked.
“That, is where our dorms are.” he said, “But, I just can’t remember which way to step for the Novice dorms, because if you step the wrong way the system has a security procedure.” We all waited for him to say more, but he just looked at us like it wasn’t good.
“Then where are the peeper’s dorms?” I asked as we stepped out of the front doors, all of us squinting into the bright sunlight.
He shook his head and said, “I don’t know, I couldn’t find it in any of my books.”
“Well it’s nice to know some things are still a mystery about this place.” said a voice behind us and we turned to see Sydney walking up to us with another boy as they fell into step beside us.
“Though of course, the fact that there are books out there with details about our school concerns me.” said the boy. He was about the same height as Sydney, had dark brown hair gelled in that perfectly messy look, and leaf green eyes with a little brown around the inner and outer edges. “Might have to pull them off the shelf.”
“Morgan, what books did you read about Atlas?” asked Sydney, both of them looking at him quizzically. “And where did you even get them?”
“You can’t pull books off the shelf just like that!” Morgan said desperately. “You have to go through the system and get a lawyer and everything.”
They looked at each other, in unison saying, “Hmm.”
“We could use…” the other boy trailed off, but Sydney knew who he meant.
“Yeah… he was going into the business side anyway…” They looked at each other, mulling it over, then Sydney smiled, looking at them sideways. Morgan was looking nervous that only made them laugh. “Guys, this is Sawyer Pierce. Sawyer, this is my little brother and sister, Mickey and Morgan, then Johnny, Buddy, and…” He paused at my name when he got to me and Sawyer’s eyes looked a little surprised.
“Rylee Damien.” he finished for him.
“Yeah, hi.” I said, still feeling the shy blush at how everyone knew my name.
“I’m Sawyer.” he said, “You know, our parents worked together for some time when I was young, so I can personally tell you how much you resemble your mother.” He smiled and we shook hands.
“Well c’mon man, we gotta hurry or he’ll have our hides.” Sydney pulled on his friend’s shoulder and they quickened their pace.
“Okay, okay,” he said, “Nice meeting you all, and Morgan, you can’t hide those books from us forever.”
“You can’t do that!” Morgan called after them.
They just laughed and Sydney called back, “We’ll be watching!” They continued past the academy building and towards what looked like an extremely old shed at the edge of the forest surrounding the clearing, hidden in the trees’ shadows. Then, with one last wave, they disappeared inside the small building.
I looked questioningly over at Morgan and he said, “That’s where the portal for the dorms are.”
“Well we better hurry, ‘cause we don’t have much time before class starts.” Johnny warned, looking at a small watch on his wrist.
We hurried to the dingy and condemned-looking shed, which looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time. In its shadows, I saw decomposing boxes and ancient rusty tools against the walls. “Where do we stand?” Buddy asked, and everyone looked at Morgan.
“Umm,” he looked at the ground for a moment, and then pointed at one spot. “Right there, I think. Look, there’s a shoe print.” He stepped forward and directly on the shoe print, said “Umm”, then stepped to the left. He disappeared and we all gasped and smiled, Buddy about to go next when they heard a sound like electric discharges and a grunt. Morgan reappeared again with a yell to only disappear to the right, looking like something had thrown him into the other portal, leaving a burning smell in his wake. We looked at each other and then Buddy quickly stepped forward and disappeared after him to the right, quickly followed by the rest of us. A fuzzy static feeling and a second later, I found myself almost falling on Morgan.
He was lying on the ground and smoking, his uniform singed in some places, and looking like he’d been electrocuted, his hair standing on end. “Wait ‘til I tell mom ‘n dad you ruined your uniform on the first day back.” Mickey said with a devious grin.
“If you do, I’ll tell them what you did last summer.” he said as Johnny and Buddy picked him up and helped dust him off. “And I’m pretty sure they’ll be more interested in that than this, which is a pretty common occurrence among scientists.” Everyone looked at her curiously and she gave a nervous half laugh.
“Fine, have it your way.” she said, but her eyes were threatening.
He smiled and turned around and said, “Well, here we are. These first two buildings are ours.”
Like everything else at the academy, it took my breath away. We were in a large courtyard with thick green grass and three shade trees, and on either side of us were three large buildings. This entire place looked like it came from an old English time period, vines climbing up the buildings’ faded blue walls and up to the green roofs. They were several stories high and had green shuttered windows running up its length.
“Just down that trail there is a pond and a couple more trails through the forest.” Morgan said, sounding like a tour guide again, though kind of tired from the electric shock.
“Okay, c’mon genius.” Buddy said, steering his shoulders away and towards the first building on the right. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”
Mickey and I headed to the first building on the left and upon ascending the steps on the medium sized stoop, saw the green door bore ‘Novice 1stClass’ in black lettering and then below that ‘Girls’. Inside, the walls were a light green beadboard with brown molding, its floor a sand colored carpet. There was a huge sectional sofa to my right and a loveseat abut to the wall, all a blue-gray brushed leather and centered around a big flat screen TV. To the left were four long mahogany study tables.
There were a few girls sitting on the sofas watching a movie, already dressed in their red workout uniforms, their rank’s insignia stitched into the shirt’s chest and the pant’s hip. A woman stood at our arrival, wearing a white blouse over a red skirt. “Hi, welcome to Atlas. What are your names?” she asked, smiling friendly as her pen poised over her clipboard.
When we told her our names, her eyes lingered on me a second longer before she said, “Well ladies, my name is Mrs. Morrison and I’m the head of this dorm . If you’ll follow me?” She led us to the back of the room where we stopped at the mouth of a hall leading to the back of the building with doors on each side. “On each side of this hall, against the wall, are the elevators that will take you to and from your dorm halls. All you have to do is step on it and say your room number. Now, you two are actually going to be rooming together this year, so your dorm will be on the top floor and to the very front of the building. Room 813.”
Then with one last smile she went back to the door as more girls came in and we did as she had said. As soon as we’d uttered the room number, a spot in the ceiling opened up for us and our invisible elevators shot us upward. It startled me so much I thought for a second I was going to fall off, but that would have been impossible because as we went up through the ceiling we were suddenly ascending in little shoots. As we ascended, I saw floor after floor go in and out of sight with more girls going about their own business, and a second later we came to a stop in little stalls that separated each elevator.
“Wow.” Mickey said as we stepped out and started down the hall. “That was awesome.”
“We better hurry.” I said, remembering class was about to start as a few girls left a dorm a few feet in front of us wearing their workout uniforms. She nodded and we hurried down the hall to the very front and through a door with813on it.