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Chapter 5: Life on the Campus

"My name is Mark Gossett, and I'm a campus security officer," he told them. He had a deep, soothing voice. "This is a really safe campus, so you can tell your parents not to worry, but I still have to go over a few ground rules with you. First, we get a lot of fog here. If you see that it's foggy out, check the voicemail on your dorm phones; we'll leave a message with the fog safety rating, telling you if it's okay to go out. Sometimes the fog will be so bad that it's dangerous to come in from town, and then we'll cancel classes since your teachers can't make it." He smiled at the cheers. "Very occasionally the fog will be so bad that we don't allow anyone out of the buildings. We really mean it when we say that. Students have vanished when the fog is that bad and never been seen again." There were a few gasps at that, one of them coming from Edie.

Mark surveyed the crowd, as if to evaluate how seriously they took his words, then nodded with satisfaction. "Then there's the woods around campus. That is totally off-limits. It only belongs to the college about twenty yards around, and it's deep enough to get confusing and dangerous. The only times students are allowed in are when the advanced magic classes go on field trips." Dawn glanced at Edie at the mention of magic. The curly-haired girl didn't seem perturbed, but maybe she was busy listening to the security tips. Dawn herself was faintly surprised at the security officer's matter-of-fact mention of magic. She was used to the concept, but her aunt had never been the most down-to-earth person, and she would have thought most people would have a little more trouble with it.

"The third thing is the campus' main gates--they're locked from sunset to sunrise. You can get in and out using your ID cards, but if you have any guests or order pizza after dark, you'll have to go to the front to let them in. Finally, there are security phones all over campus and one outside the gate. You'll know them when you see them; they have red lights on top to make them visible when it's dark or foggy. Just pick up the phone and press the button to call security if you feel threatened. We're always available for you." He smiled and waved as he opened the common room door, and the students clapped for him.

Lorelei stood up again when Mark had left. "Does anyone not have their ID cards yet?" A few people raised their hands. "You'll want to go to the admin building and get them first thing in the morning. You pretty much use them for everything. I assume you all know about the special freshmen activities planned for this week, but if not, here's the schedule." She held up a stack of yellow papers and put them down on top of the TV. "If you want to do any of the community service events tomorrow morning, you have to be at the gate by nine or the buses will leave without you. Believe me--it happened to me my freshman year!" That got a few giggles. "Okay, let's try going around the room and introducing ourselves, so we can all start getting to know each other. We'll all say our names, where we're from, where in Gilkey we live, what our major is, and one interesting fact about ourselves. I'll go first. I'm Lorelei, I'm from Texas, I live in room 101--I know it's far away from you, my fourth and fifth floor constituents, but they didn't put singles anywhere else--and if you forget my name after how many times I've told you all, I won't tell you when we get free pizza."

Dawn knew she wouldn't be able to remember everyone's names, so she just listened politely as they went around the crowded room, noticing a few people: a quiet-voiced, fair-haired girl named Annie, a girl with blue hair and a chest tattoo of oak leaves who said her name was Ever and yes, her tattoo was real, and a pudgy Hispanic boy named Rico with a sweet smile. Corrie's interesting fact was that all of the jewelry she owned had the motif of either leaves or flowers. Edie's was that she liked to knit. Dawn tried to spend the time between introductions thinking of a unique fact, but ended up saying, feeling kind of unimaginative, that she was a vegetarian.

When Lorelei declared the meeting over, the noise level in the room suddenly increased, and people started to straggle out. Corrie went straight to the TV to grab a schedule, and the three of them headed up the stairs, going slowly behind a heavily-built girl who leaned on the freshly-painted brown railing. "Are you two going to do the community service thing tomorrow morning?" Corrie asked.

Dawn shook her head, grinning. "I'd love to--except there's no way I'm getting up that early! Besides, there's a job fair at noon, and I want to make sure I don't miss it."

"What about you, Edie?"

Edie shrugged quietly. "Come on, Edie," Corrie needled. "It'll be fun. And it's not like you're going to be by yourself or anything; I'll go with you."

Edie managed a smile at that. "Well, all right. Will you wake me up in time to get breakfast?"

Corrie nodded. "Sure. I'll be up at six to go for a run anyway. I'll try not to wake you then, but it might take some getting used to."

"I can't believe we seriously have a forbidden forest here," Dawn said. "This school is so weird."

Corrie laughed. "I know! I love it already."

"I love it too," Dawn said, grinning. Magic classes, forbidden places... it was like something out of a book. And she was living it! "I'm a little disappointed, though. I was hoping to go for walks and hikes in the forest. I guess that's an inducement to become a magic major, so I can take whatever advanced magic class gets to go in it."

"It might not really be forbidden," Corrie said thoughtfully. "I mean, not as dangerous as Mark tried to make it sound. We could try sneaking in sometime..." That was definitely an idea to remember, Dawn thought.

They had reached Corrie and Edie's room. "I'm about to wilt," said Corrie. She opened the door, flicked on the light, and moaned. "And I haven't put the sheets on my bed yet. See you tomorrow, Dawn."

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