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 is everything so pink?” murmured Mira as her eyes squinted at the bright morning light filling the room. Her eyelids were too heavy that she had a hard time focusing. All she could make out of were blurry pink hues.
It took a few more seconds before her eyes adjusted. Her gaze shifted from one corner of the room to the other. The entire wall was covered with cream-colored wallpaper with alternating pink floral patterns. The drapes on the windows were also pink and cream.
Did I part those drapes? No wonder it is too bright here… Wait, I don’t have drapes!
Mira’s eyes shifted from the bed cover to the lamp shade on the bedside table, which was also pink. She could see a pink wall clock on the far side of the room that looked like it was shaped like a peach or a heart.
Why is everything so pink? Mira closed her eyes and tried to remember what happened the night before. Where exactly am I? This is not my room!
Her hands started to get clammy. With her heart racing, she got out of the bed. She felt something furry touch her ankles and she shrieked. It turned out to be bunny slippers. A loud knock on the door made her shriek a second time.
“Who’s there?” Mira asked as she took a couple of steps back. She scanned the room for something she could use as a weapon. Not finding any, she grabbed the lamp shade.
“Who’s there?” she repeated.
“What are you doing there?” the person outside the room yelled. It was a woman. “Why are you still there? You’re late, young lady!”
“Who are you?” Mira asked, inching towards the door while clasping the lamp shade with both hands.
A loud crashing sound followed as the lamp shade she was holding fell, breaking into fragments. Mira was astounded. She looked at the broken lamp, with its cord still plugged in the outlet.
“Alright, that does it. I’m going in!” the woman outside the door announced.
A jingle of keys followed, and the doorknob turned.
“Don’t come closer!” Mira warned, this time holding a chair. Her eyes searched the room for something lighter.
The woman who opened the door was probably in her mid-forties. She was tall and fair-skinned. Her eyes were deep set, and her lips were nude. Her graying hair was tied in a tight bun that hung down onto the back of her head. She was wearing a white apron on top of a black dress, the collar of her white inner blouse adding an accent to her long neck.
“What have you done?” the woman asked almost in a yell.
“You haven’t answered my question. Who are you?” Mira demanded.
“I’m the cleaning lady, Manang Ising. I was cleaning this floor when I heard someone scream. Nobody should be here at this hour. You should be at the campus tour!”
“I have no idea where I am,” Mira blurted out. “This isn’t my room!”
The two stood there in silence a little longer than what should have been, each one trying to make sense of what the other was saying.
“Where is this place?” Mira asked again, this time in a much softer tone.
“What do you mean where is this place? You are in the dormitory. Where else could you be while in your nightgown?” Manang Ising replied, not a bit surprised by Mira’s bewilderment. This had happened before to a lot of students who attended the Acquaintance Party the night before the campus tour. Some students would sneak out of the campus during the party and go to the nearby clubs instead. “Kids these days,” she muttered.
Mira looked at her attire. She was indeed in her favorite yellow nightgown with sunflower prints, but everything else about the room did not make any sense to her.
“I, uhm, I really don’t remember my room being, uhm, pink,” she stammered. “This isn’t my room. I think. I don’t really remember—”
Manang Ising did not allow her to finish. “All of the rooms here are pink by default. You probably did not remember it being pink because you, together with all the residents, checked in last night when the power was still out in this building. Apparently, a rat found its way in one of those electrical boxes and caused a power outage in the building. No worries, everything was restored after the Acquaintance Party.”
Mira was about to say something else but decided not to.
“Now, if you don’t have any more questions, I shall start cleaning this mess. You would probably be charged for it, but I don’t think that would matter much. You should hurry to the Grand Hall. You’re already thirteen minutes late,” said Manang Ising, pointing to the wall clock with her lips.
Mira glanced at the clock. It was neither heart nor a peach. It was a strawberry. Mira groaned and went to the drawer to get some fresh towels. She groaned again as the floral scent of the fabric conditioner used on the towel reached her nose. The strong aroma reminded her of those spring commercials with falling cherry blossom petals.
Ugh! Why does everything have to be so pink?
* * *
At least the uniform isn’t pink!
Mira went down the incline and landed into the dormitory’s lobby, where the two wings of the Berkeley Residence Hall merged. From the entrance going to the right was the Kamagong Wing for males, and the left was Sanggumay Wing for females. Manang Ising told her that the turnstiles in the whole building were operated using the student biometrics. That way, only students occupying their respective wings were allowed to enter. Manang Ising also gave her instructions on how to reach the Grand Hall.
Mira stepped out of the residence hall and into a sprawling lawn of carabao grass with cobblestone pathways. She glanced at the digital display on her yellow wristwatch and ran towards the tree-lined avenue leading to the Grand Hall. She ran past the infirmary and the chapel and turned right at the corner of the observatory. She knew she was nearing the Grand Hall because she could hear the crowd. A hymn was also playing softly in the background, broadcast through the main speaker at the venue.
Beads of sweat rolled down her cheeks but she did not show any sign of exhaustion. At nineteen and with five years of experience in the track team back in her high school, Mia knew that running towards the Grand Hall was a good way to start the day.
However, since it was already thirty minutes past eight in the morning, the sun was already glaring at her as if scolding her for being late. She removed her black coat, revealing a white long-sleeved shirt. Her blue checkered necktie, which matched her above-the-knee checkered skirt, flapped side-to-side with her every stride. She folded her coat in half and carefully tucked it under her left arm as she continued to run towards the Grand Hall.
When Mira arrived, she noticed a lot of students grouped per uniform. The group of students closest to the entrance of the Grand Hall wore almost the same uniform that she was wearing, except it was in red instead of blue. The group on the far side wore it in purple, and the group closest to her wore it in blue. The males all wore ash-colored slacks and white long-sleeved shirts with a necktie matching the color of the female uniforms. Mira casually joined the group matching her uniform.
“You’re late,” someone whispered behind her.
Mira turned around to see a girl her age. She was wearing the same uniform and she had her flaxen hair in twin pigtails. A well-kept fringe covered her forehead up to her brows. Her eyes were like almonds, and her pupils were deep purple.
“You have beautiful eyes,” Mira couldn’t help blurt out.
“Thank you,” the girl said. “But you’re late!”
“I know,” Mira said. “What is it to you?”
The girl scoffed. “Are you for real? In case you already forgot, I’m Jessica, the Senior Class Governor of the Biology Program, and it is my responsibility to monitor everyone in our program.”
“Wait. What? How did you know which program I belong to?” Mira asked. She unfolded her coat and looked for a nametag or any identifying mark. She found none. “And what’s that you said? Biology? I’m in the Biology program?”
“Yes. Oh, my god!” Jessica stepped closer to Mira and reached for her forehead.
Mira sidestepped. “What are you doing?”
Jessica squinted. “Are you sick or something? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Mira answered. “So, how did you know that we are in the same program?”
“You told me last night. We live in the same dormitory. Your room is right next to mine.”
Mira was about to ask another question when she was cut off by a woman’s voice through the speakers.
“Good morning, everyone! Thank you for your patience. We shall now continue with our program. I won’t keep you waiting. To formally welcome every student here today, let us all welcome Dean George Whitman of the Office of Student Affairs.”
Mira glanced over at the Grand Hall entrance and saw an old man, probably in his fifties walking towards the podium with a cane.
“Good morning, everyone!” the dean remarked. He was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with gold ornate patterns at the cuffs and collar, his white hair pulled back neatly and his beard of the same color trimmed nicely. One could tell from a distance that his black slacks were freshly ironed, which added a dignified look to his attire.
“As the Dean of the Office of Student Affairs, let me welcome everyone to Berkeley-Reagan University. This year we have twenty-five new senior high school students,” he continued, motioning to the group in red uniforms, “fifty new students under the Reagan cluster of programs”—he nods to those in purple uniforms—“and thirty-seven new students under the Berkeley cluster of programs.” The dean looked towards the direction of Mira.
“Since this is your first day here in the university, I asked all the Senior Class Governors to conduct a campus tour. You probably met some of these bright, young men and women at the Acquaintance Party last night. Anyway, I won’t keep you waiting. Let the campus tour begin, and I hope you’ll enjoy your stay here in Berkeley-Reagan University.”
With that, the dean turned around and went inside the Great Hall.
Last night? Mira recalled that Manang Ising also mentioned the Acquaintance Party.
“Mira!” Jessica. “Mira, are you listening? I said all those from the Biology program should follow me.”
She jogged towards Jessica and joined the group. “Wait, how come there are only four of us?” Mira asked.
“Most of the new students were accepted during the first semester. All of you deferred your enrollment last semester so there’s only a handful of you.”
“I deferred?” Mira repeated in disbelief.
She took a mental note of everything that happened so far. First, there was the nauseous pink room, the Acquaintance Party she did not remember attending, and now she was in a Biology program. If it were a Human Kinetics program, then she would just let things slide off, but Biology?