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! 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 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. It was just a dream, but she was bothered at the same time because it was so vivid and it terrified her that someone was chasing her, and if she were caught, 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 dormmate.
“Freshmen, College, BRU, BS Psych? Did the people in your nightmare take your memory away”, Tessa explained. “And you can’t remember that we have 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?”
Chloe had no choice but to wear the uniform as fast as she could. Tessa kept bugging her to hurry.
“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 was still in limbo as she tied her shoelaces and grabbed her backpack. She didn’t even know when she enrolled to 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 was a number of students loitering at the corridors of the hall. The faces were all but strangers to her.
They walked through the rocky path surrounded by bushes, which led them to the Grand Theatre, all classic-looking like the medieval amphitheaters in Rome. They also passed through the smaller buildings surrounding the theater, and these buildings 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 biometrics station at the entrance and CCTVs in every corner.
“Wait, Tessa. I recalled when we were passing by the Grand Theatre… Did you say you want 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 go then 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 Chloe.
“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 in 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. Now, she was confused as to what to eat for breakfast. As they arrived at the hall, she noticed it was already full of their Dev Psych’s 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 completely 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 in 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, not to mention, his eyes were sparkling, and his face 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 planning to know 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 had led her to that dream and this university. That book 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 books.
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 looked 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 was 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 details. 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 that she woke up in an unfamiliar place, during an unknown timeline.
What she knew for sure was that the book was probably just inside the library, hidden somewhere. She just needed to figure it out.
“Yow, Chloe, what have you got? I borrowed some fiction books. There were quite a bunch! I got confused about what to read first. Glad Julio helped me get those at the top of the list.”
“Uhm, nada. I was interested to know about BRU and its founders. But there were so many books that appeared in the search. I was confused about which to get first to jumpstart my reading,” Chloe said. “But hey… You seem to have enjoyed your company there, huh?”
“Shut up!” Tessa hissed, understanding right away who Chloe meant. “Julio might hear us. When did you learn to ask me that question?”
Then, as they passed by Julio, she waved and pulled Chloe towards the exit hall of the library.
Their Mental Health class ended half an hour early because the Dean’s Office had an announcement to all students, professors, and university personnel. Dean George Whitman scheduled an emergency meeting at 2:00 p.m. in the Grand Hall. The announcement was about an unforeseen incident on the campus that happened past lunchtime.
Chloe and Tessa exchanged guesses about the incident while on their way to the Grand Hall. Tessa said it could be a change in the organization, or a new professor got kicked out for some unknown reason, or worse, a crocodile was found in the lagoon in World Park, which was apparently the university urban park with a lagoon in the middle.
“Did you just say this university has a World Park and it has a lagoon in it?” Chloe asked.
“Haven’t you studied the map of this 60-hectare university yet? Yes, the World Park in front of the Grand Hall! And yes, it has a lagoon. We’ll be passing by it soon!”
Chloe abruptly recalled her dream that ended with her falling into a deep, dark, watery place. A lagoon!
“There! Do you see that?” Tessa giggled as she pointed to the park. “Welcome to the World Park, Chloe!”
Chloe was stunned. The whole place moved in a blur, taking her back to the last scene of her dream. The World Park, the buildings around it. The Grand Hall was where she saw the light and where she was planning to run to, away from those people chasing her. But as she was about to cross World Park, she fell. Somewhere deep, dark, watery.
Why did I dream about this place? What was that book I was holding? Who were those people?
“Hey, what’s wrong? You turned pale. Are you okay?” Tessa asked, worry in her voice. “Let’s slow down and drink water first. The meeting won’t start right away. We still have time.”
“Tessa,” Chloe said, trembling, “this place appeared in my nightmare.”
“Really? Tell me more. What happened?”
As they were nearing the Grand Hall, Chloe described her nightmare as vividly as she could remember.
“And when I was in the library, I searched for that book. There were millions of references with that title, but only one, just this one book, caught my attention,” she continued. “A book in the restricted section. Why would they keep a history book in the restricted section and for executives only?”
“Right, you got a valid point right there. Perhaps Julio can help us find out stuff. After the meeting, okay?” Tessa said as she grabbed Chloe’s arm towards the vacant seats in the Grand Hall.
“Good day, everyone. I am calling out everyone’s attention to remind you to be vigilant starting today.” Dean Whitman’s voice echoed all over the Grand Hall. “There has been a breach of security at the library past lunchtime. One of our valuable assets was declared stolen. We will be calling all the students, professors, and school personnel, who came by and stayed in Lualhati between 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.”
Chloe and Tessa looked at each other. They both recalled the time they were in the library hours ago. What could have been stolen that caused this commotion?
The dean announced that a group of security agents would be asking questions to aid with the investigation. “I am asking for your full cooperation and support to expedite the investigation,” he went on. “The asset is of great value. If not found, multiple lives will be at risk. Thank you very much, and please stay safe always. You may now proceed to your next class.”
Chloe got worried about this sudden turn of events. It made her want to look for that book even more and find out the answers to her questions about this place.
“Tessa, can you call Julio? We need to ask him first about this right now.”
“Calm down, Chloe. We have a class in 15 minutes. Are you planning to cut class?”
“It’s just an elective subject. We can have this event as an excuse. We will surely receive an email because we were there in the library during those times.”
Tessa called Julio. They agreed to meet on the benches situated between Lualhati Library and the Museum.
“Hi, thanks for making time for this. We….”
“We just wanted to know how serious this unforeseen incident is. And what is this asset, that if not found, would bring risk to the safety of the campus?” Chloe interrupted Tessa, interrogating Julio.
“Whoa! I’m sure you’re as anxious as me because you’re also going to be asked by the agents about your first stay in the library. But at least let me tell you this… There was a lot of suspicious movement in the campus lately.”
“Like what? And why suspicious?” Chloe felt these events were closely related to her nightmare and that book.
“Before someone stole that book, there was a couple of attempted robberies inside the library that…”
“Wait, a book? This stolen asset was a book?” Chloe cut off Julio.
“Oops. Wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Please don’t tell anyone I broke this top university secret with you. I just knew this from the previous librarian, but the university expelled her after the Dean knew she told people about the book. The Dean didn’t know I knew about the book. Don’t tell the security agency you knew about the asset.”
“Julio, maybe you could help us. This morning, Chloe woke up from a bad dream. She was in this place, running for her life. People were chasing her, and she was holding a book,” Tessa jumped in. “It was entitled History: Berkeley and Reagan. Right, Chloe?”
“That’s the exact book that was stolen! What did these people look like? Did they look as old as Dean Whitman?”
It seemed that Julio knew about these people, and he knew about the book, but Chloe could hardly believe what Julio was telling them.
“I can’t remember much…” Chloe said. “I just need you to tell me about the book.”
“The previous librarian told me there were people who want to rule over the university,” Julio explained quickly. “They wanted to get access to the contents of the book. Maybe they were the ones who showed in your dream. And they can claim lives if they don’t get what they want.”
“I didn’t see them clearly in my dream, Julio. What I saw were buildings and the book. I fell into the lagoon, and then I woke up, not remembering anything about this place!”
“They must have erased your memory, Chloe. Or something like that…”
Julio sounded worried and Tessa looked confused, but Chloe felt enlightened. She knew she would be getting the answers soon, that she was right about this place. She didn’t have amnesia. There was something strange about this place.
“What is that book, Julio? And if that was why they were chasing me, why do they need the book? What is in that book?”
“I’m uncertain, Chloe. I was just assuming the people in your dreams must have something to do with the history of this university,” he answered. “These people could be like you, looking for answers, too. And the answer could be in that book.”
“I am not sure how you got the book in your dream, Chloe. I wasn’t told about what’s in that book. But one thing is for sure, the dean, and the rest of the executives are willing to risk their lives just to get it back.”
“Look, this is a bit overwhelming hearing all of this, Julio. But thank you for trusting us. I still have a lot of questions in my mind, though,” Chloe pressed on. “Why me? Who are these people? What is this place?”
“Chloe!” Tessa interrupted. “I think we have to go to the Student Council Office now. I already received the email notification for the interrogation. You can go with us, Julio. We can figure things out afterward. Ah, this is giving me a migraine!”
“Have you seen Kristoff, Tessa? I haven’t seen him since the Grand Hall meeting.”
“Maybe he was just seated somewhere far from us. He’ll be there, too, in the Student Council Office. We’ll just meet him there.”
Chloe wondered where Kristoff was because the last time they talked, she sensed something suspicious about him.
It was a brief interrogation. The security agents asked them standard questions like what they did in the library during those hours, who they were with, did they find anything suspicious during their stay, and the like. Nothing alarming or intimidating.
At 6:00 p.m., Chloe and Tessa returned to the library with food.
“I was asked why I searched for that history book,” Chloe said over dinner. “I just told them I saw it in one of the catalogs and randomly keyed in the search. Nothing particular about it. But they insisted and kept asking if I was sure I did not have anything specific that I needed to know about the book. Did any of you tell them that I was looking for it?”
Both Julio and Tessa shook their heads.
It dawned on Chloe. “Oh! I bet it was Kristoff. He saw me searching for that book. He must have told the agent about what I was doing in the library. But why would he do that? I need to talk to him.”
“Yes, tomorrow, Chloe, okay?” Tessa looked exhausted. “We will go ahead, Julio. It’s getting late, and we must be out on the premises by 7:00 p.m. See you tomorrow, same time, same place.”
As she lay in bed, Chloe continued to speculate about the day and the clues they got. Her first day in the university was a roller-coaster adventure, and while she may not have found all the answers yet as to why these things happened, she looked forward to waking up tomorrow to unravel the mysteries.
Our first day in BRU was long and eventful, but I enjoyed it. I’m not sure what really happened to the book, what was that about, what my dream last night meant and most importantly, how I ended up being a student here. But I do hope that when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll still be here. I will figure these things out, that’s for sure. ☁️