This year’s Fictory is in partnership with BRUMULTIVERSE, a fictional multiple universe with dimensions, realms and parallel realities where amazing stories happen. All fics use the prompt: “The Main Character wakes up on the first day of school, late for their classes in a university to which they don’t remember enrolling.”
Why are they chasing me? Who are they? I am completely losing my breath. I can feel my knees weakening, but I must keep running. I don’t know what they want from me. Where am I? What is this place? I can’t seem to find anyone around. I need to get in somewhere and lock myself away from them.
There! The lights are open. There must be someone inside. I need to get help. Run, run, run! Oh noooooo! Help!
* * *
“Help! Help! I can’t see anything. It is so dark! Please, help! Aaaaaah!”
“Chloe! What’s going on? Hey!” Tessa shook Chloe’s shoulders, trying to wake her up from a bad dream. Chloe grumbled as she got out from under her comforter.
“What was it in your dream? It was like somebody was scaring you and you were begging for your dear life.”
“You summed it all up. That was surreal!”
Still staring at the ceiling, Chloe was relieved but bothered at the same time. It was just a dream but because it was so vivid, it terrified her if she were caught by the person chasing her, something bad would happen.
“Come on! Get up. We are late for class. The first subject is Developmental Psychology! Exciting, right?” Tessa changed to her uniform and arranged her books inside her shoulder bag.
“Wait, what? Did you say, class? Developmental Psychology? Tessa, why are you inside my room at this hour? What is that uniform?”
Chloe did not understand what Tessa was talking about. She had no idea she was in their dorm room in Berkeley-Reagan University, with her best friend, who was also her assigned roommate.
“Freshmen, College, BRU, BS Psych? Did the people in your nightmare take your memory away”, Tessa explained. “And you can’t remember that we are in the same dorm? We’re roommates! Same classes, same schedule, same professors, and yeah, same uniform! So, please get up now because I don’t want to enter our first class alone. I know you don’t want to be late to any of your classes either!”
Tessa grabbed Chloe from the bed and handed her their uniform, her sneakers, and her backpack.
A song suddenly began playing from the speakers. “You hear that? ‘Because at BRU We are brave. We are great. We’ll succeed in whatever path our hearts will pave…’’ Tessa sang their Alma Mater Song, played 15 minutes before the first subject.
“Of course! That loud? What does that mean?”
“That means you have to move fast! Girl, we still have to run across the campus. We don’t want to arrive sweaty in class. C’mon, Chloe, hurry!”
Chloe had no choice but to wear the uniform as fast as she could. Tessa kept bugging her to hurry.
Chloe was still in limbo as she tied her shoelaces and grabbed her backpack. She didn’t even know when she enrolled in this university. One thing she was sure of, which brought her so much relief, was that she took the course that she longed to take. Did her parents enroll her in Psychology?
She tried to recall what had happened before she slept but all she had in mind was the dream.
Things were blurry as to how and why she woke up in this unfamiliar place, but she was glad she had Tessa around, enough for now to make her sane.
The weather was fine and as they passed through the main lobby of Reagan Hall, Chloe observed what was happening around her. There were a number of students loitering in the corridors of the hall. The faces were all but strangers to her.
They walked through the rocky path surrounded by bushes, leading them to the Grand Theatre, all classic-looking like the medieval amphitheaters in Rome. They also passed through the smaller buildings surrounding the theater which were also quaint but picturesque. Then, they reached the Lualhati Library and the Museum. Both buildings looked like a combination of modern and classic architecture—they looked dilapidated outside but anybody could see a touch of high-technology in some of their details, such as a biometrics station at the entrance and CCTVs in every corner.
“Wait, Tessa. I recalled when we were passing by the Grand Theatre… Didn’t you say you wanted to meet some guy in the library? I need to check, too, if they have the books I need for class.”
This wasn’t true. Chloe just wanted to look for some history of this place. Some of the buildings they passed by were vivid in her dream. She wanted to know what this place had to do with those guys chasing her.
“Yeah, after Dev Psych. We have four hours before our next subject. We can then go to the lib and the museum,” Tessa confirmed. “But can we eat first? Because I would be starving after our class. You woke up late and you almost made us miss our class. You owe me a meal!”
“And you owe me an explanation of how I got here.” Chloe assumed Tessa had an idea about it.
“Are you teasing me? Are you sure you have no idea that we are enrolled in the same class, and that we chose our dorm room? Really?”
Chloe heaved a sigh. “Yeah. Anyway, we’re running late. Let’s get going!” It was 7:50 a.m., and their class began at 8:00 a.m. Now, Chloe knew that her best friend, too, had no clue at all.
Chloe felt that something was strange. It was like she existed in a different dimension or woke up in a parallel universe. She didn’t have any idea when or how this place existed nor could she recall somebody telling her about this until this morning.
She and Tessa arrived in their classroom in time. Chloe looked around. Still, no familiar faces. A few minutes later, a woman entered the room and called out everyone’s attention.
“Good day, everyone. I’m your professor for this class. Welcome to Reagan Arts and Humanities. Dev Psych is your first subject for this semester. Before I start, please introduce yourselves to the class.”
Chloe and Tessa introduced themselves one after the other, and they were the only students in class who knew each other since primary school.
Chloe’s seatmate caught her attention as he introduced himself after her.
“Hello, I am Kristoff Carlos Vegas. I am a cross-enrollee from the International Robotics Institute of the Philippines. I will be joining you for the rest of the semester, but only for the Psychology subjects. Nice meeting you all!”
He sounded a bit timid but he looked intelligent and his smile was bright. Chloe watched him speak, and when he finished, their eyes met as Kristoff sat back down. Chloe instantly pretended to divert her gaze to the professor, who started to give them an overview of their class syllabus.
This hour-long class felt like an eternity as Chloe started feeling hungry. She woke up from an exhausting nightmare and was still questioning how she ended up in this university. But she also couldn’t wait to feast on the buffet that Tessa was telling her earlier. Her stomach grumbled louder than her thoughts.
Kristoff grinned and looked at Chloe. “You must be starving right now, seatmate.”
“Oops, sorry…” Chloe blushed, wishing she could disappear at that moment. Just in time, she heard the last bell, signaling the end of their first class. Kristoff smiled as he got up and went ahead.
“See you around!” He walked past Tessa, who was approaching Chloe, with a grin on her face.
“Chloe Sophia Salazar! What was that? New cute guy on the block was smiling and saying see you around? You are totally—”
“Starving, yes! Tessa Marie Isidro, take me to that buffet palace you were ecstatically telling me an hour ago. Please!” Chloe grabbed her things and rushed out of the room.
“It’s not a palace, girl! It’s just a cafeteria serving buffet. Your starvation brings your fantasy-filled mind to a higher level!”
As they approached the entrance of the mess hall, Chloe could already smell the delicious aroma of the food and felt confused as to what to eat for breakfast. Arriving at the hall, she noticed it was already full of their Dev Psych classmates. They’d better keep going and secure their seats now, before the other classes finish and fill the hall.
“Right here they serve Asian meals and on the second floor, they serve Western. What will you be feasting today, dear?” Tessa seemed to have studied all the nooks and corners of this university. Chloe, however, was still wondering why she couldn’t recall anything about this place.
“I miss eating bacon and pancakes! Let’s go upstairs,” Chloe said.
“Okay, let’s go! I might get their best-selling salad and sandwich and yogurt!” Tessa responded. “Then, after eating, let’s go to the library. I need to get some books for this week. I signed up for BRU Bibliophiles.”
Both Tessa and Chloe were book lovers but Chloe couldn’t trace her memories of signing up for the club.
“Yeah, sure. When did you sign up for the club? Why didn’t you sign me up?” Chloe was getting annoyed at being so clueless.
“Oh, we signed up together! Girl, I didn’t know nightmares and starvation could cause amnesia! Are you okay?”
“Ugh, this mental block thing is not my thing! Please tell me, did I pass out yesterday, or just went into a deep sleep? I only remember that freaky nightmare. Why did I wake up with a blank slate in my head?”
Chloe was still stuck with the thought that all those chasing and running in her dream last night might be a clue as to why she was at BRU.
Tessa finished eating ahead of Chloe. She could have enjoyed her brunch more, but Tessa was getting on her nerves, bugging her to hurry so they could stay longer in the library. For the record, Manang Tey-tey, the resident cook in the mess hall, surely was loved by everyone because she cooked and served the most delicious bacon and pancakes Chloe had ever eaten in her lifetime.
* * *
“Welcome to Lualhati Library. Is this your first time here?”
Julio greeted them with so much charisma, with his sparkling eyes and a face that could change any stereotypes about librarians.
“Yes, sir. Where can we find the shelf for the most recommended books for BRU Bibliophiles? Can you lead us there, please?”
Chloe was stunned when Tessa confidently conversed with the librarian. She must have planned for this encounter.
“Julio. Just call me Julio. Most of the students in your club call me that.”
Julio gestured towards the first pile of books near the library reception area. Tessa excitedly followed, mouthing “See you later!” to Chloe.
“Okay! Meet you in the lobby. Enjoy!”
Julio and Tessa proceeded to the pile while Chloe went to the opposite row labeled HISTORY AND POLITICS. Chloe thought of searching for the topic she was curious about before they went to their class a while ago—BRU’s history and the people behind it.
From the nightmare, there was one thing she could still recall she had on hand while she was running away from those who were chasing her: a history book. There was nothing on its front page, except the words in vintage font that said History: Berkeley and Reagan.
She had a feeling that the book might have led her to that dream and this university, that it must be something of great value. It was the one they were chasing after, not her. What was written in there? Why was she carrying it? She needed to look for the book, whatever and wherever it was.
She browsed through the titles. She could not fathom how many thousands of books were under history and politics. This row must have been the category in the library with the most works.
If this were an old-fashioned university, it would have taken her months or years to find the book. No way that this library wasn’t high-tech! They had a smart home system in their dorm room, with smart switches and Alexa in the corner, so yes, there must have been a digital search tool or online catalog for this library!
There! Chloe found the line of computers. Thank heavens! As soon as she sat down, she clicked on the digital catalog and searched for the words from the cover page of the book.
The screen showed:
Search: “History: Berkeley and Reagan”
About 5,770,000 results (0.79 seconds)
Whoa! That was fast but too many. The results included books, magazines, pamphlets, posters, and digital assets that included DVDs and online archives. Overwhelming. Chloe tried to filter the results into ‘books only,’ but the search returned to three million results. She scanned through the images of the books and matched her vivid memory with each of them.
“Hi, need help?”
The voice sounded familiar. Chloe turned around and was surprised to see Kristoff standing behind her.
“Oh, hello, what’s up? I was just looking for some historical stuff to dig through while waiting for my next class.”
“Next class, which is Mental Health?”
“Uhm, yes. You’ll be in that class, too? Awesome.”
Kristoff enrolled in all Psychology subjects, which were technically Chloe’s major subjects. Thus, they would be classmates in most of Kristoff’s subjects for the whole semester.
Chloe hoped he would leave her alone because she couldn’t move if there were someone lurking near her. It seemed that Kristoff was also planning to spend the rest of the time waiting for their next class in the library. So she started conversing with him, thinking she might get some clues from this cross-enrollee. She wanted to find out if she was the only one who had no idea about the university’s whereabouts.
“Do you know anything about this university? You know, its origins, its founders?” Chloe asked.
Kristoff had this smirk on his face. “Hmm… Is something about the school bothering you?”
Chloe felt there was something suspicious about him. She wanted to shrug this thought off because this was their first time interacting with each other. It was rude to judge him like that. But it felt like he knew something.
“Well, it helps me to be more productive and motivated to study if I know this school better. Does that make sense?” Chloe answered.
“Of course! I don’t mean to intrude on your search or anything, okay. I’m sorry if you find me lurking or what. I’ll just leave you here, and see you in our next class.”
“Uhm, no, I don’t mind. You can stay.” But Chloe didn’t mean that. She would be happy if he would just leave.
“Thanks, but I also have to get my textbooks for my other elective subjects. See you then!” Kristoff hurried off before she could say anything else.
Chloe continued to browse through the search results again, and she found a book with no image attached to it. Among all the results, this was the only one without any other detail. Only the title and the place where the book was kept were on the screen, plus the fact that it was archived and stored in the “Restricted: For Executives Only” section in the library.
Chloe clicked the link to the section, but it displayed: “Unauthorized. Please login to your admin account before accessing. Thank you.”
Oh my! What kind of library keeps books under the restricted section and not make them publicly available for reference? What is this book?
Her curiosity grew a level higher when she found out about the hidden section in the library, which was only limited to the executives. And who, by the way, were these executives? Did they mean the professors? These thoughts made her more curious about her dream and that moment she woke up in an unfamiliar place during an unknown timeline.
What she knew for sure was that the book was probably inside the library, hidden somewhere. She just needed to figure it out.