Sixth in a series of character-building vignettes following a bunch of characters through their time at Addergoole & beyond.
We haven’t seen Durjaya before, but her mother, Akaterina, is in Addergoole: Year 9.
Addergoole, Year 31
“Have a good time at school. I’ll be right here in four years to pick you up.” Durjaya’s mother kissed her forehead and gave her a little shove. “Take care of yourself, honey. And remember – it only looks safer.”
The bunker that was the Addergoole school certainly looked safer than the outside world, even than the pretty refuge Durjaya’s mother had created. It was out in the middle of nowhere – a two-day drive each way, a major investment in time and gas and a major risk on the untended roads – and Dar wasn’t entirely certain why her mother had bothered. Not for the safety; that was the seventeenth time in two days she’d warned Dar it wouldn’t really be safe.
“I’ll be careful, Mom.” She kissed her mom’s cheek. “You be careful, too.”
The school looked like something out of a novel. It had thick carpeting, the sort that the upper levels of Mom’s hotel had, wooden paneling, and kids wandering around in clothes that looked new. Plucking at her skirt, Dar understood why her mother had pulled out all the stops in getting her dressed for her first day underground. They all looked like the world hadn’t ended. They all looked clean.
The first week was a series of things like that: not quite shocks but not quite comfortable things. They would mention the world-ending war in classes, then go home through their electrically-lit halls to their hot-water-heated showers and their fresh food. Dar’s mom’s hotel had had all those things, sure, but most of the people around them hadn’t, and it had been a constant effort to keep everything working. Here, here everything seemed simple, effortless, and taken for granted, like the very few years Dar remembered before the war.
The Store provided new-seeming clothes with labels that looked genuine, food that might have been fresh in season somewhere but certainly not in the northern mid-west of the former US, shoes that looked mass-produced. What was more, the food, the clothes, none of it was rationed – they could buy as much of it as they wanted. The teachers were providing an education that seemed more thorough than anything Dar had ever seen. And there was no work. There was homework, and she could make her own meals if she wanted to, but that was it.
Finding out all her classmates were fae-demons was almost a letdown after all of that. Finding out they had dances was almost weirder. Dances every few weeks. The village around her mother’s hotel had held two parties a year, done-snowing and going-to-snow-soon. The dance was loud, and there was alcohol. Dar drank too much and slipped out before her brother – or anyone else – could bother her.
By the end of the second week, she’d almost adjusted to the strangeness, to the bounty of food, to the idle time. She’d almost gotten used to hot showers every day, to the heavy homework load, to the quiet, when the second Saturday found the halls a riot of noise and strange sparkling lights.
She bounced off a lizard-man, ducked into what she thought was a shortcut upstairs, and found herself being pressed up against the walls but some sort of nightmare monster.
“Say you belong to me and everything will be all right.” He made it sound reasonable. He made it sound tempting. He made the alternative sound terrifying.
It was too much like home. “No,” she snapped. “You say you belong to me.”
“I belong to you.” He dropped her on the floor. “What the hell?”
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