Chapter Seven

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My two remaining morning classes are a lot less noteworthy. I don't come across anyone I know, which is simultaneously good and bad for various reasons. On the one hand, I'm glad to avoid any encounters with specters from my past—looking at you, Morningstar children numbers one, two, five, and six—but I'm also just prolonging the inevitable. I'll see them eventually and the stress of that looming proposition is compounded by the minute.

In terms of content, the classes seem to follow a typical first-day structure. Each professor introduces themselves, gives an overview of the course, and then forces us to complete an incredibly awkward icebreaker.

In the Weapons class, Professor Elvira—she has no knowledge of the movie character, I asked—makes us play a game of "Would You Rather" and all of the options are morbid. Standing in front of thirty other students, I have to tell everyone that I'd rather get my eyeballs scooped out with a rusty spoon than have my legs amputated with an iron sword. There's no real reasoning involved, both sound terrible.

In Earth Creatures and Customs, Professor Raqib has us share the craziest thing we've ever heard about humans or other animals on Earth. The angels and demons come up with some interesting answers like that humans can't kiss each other until they're married. Someone claims that there are animals who eat and poop out of the same hole, which I seriously hope is not true. As a joke, I talk about how gremlins are household pets who murder their owners if they're fed after midnight. Professor Raqib understands the reference, everyone else is horrified.

When my stomach starts growling, I'm grateful for Professor Raqib's early dismissal. While the rest of my classmates poof out of existence, I cut through the woods outside of the Hell building and walk until I reach the cafeteria.

It's in that white-and-gold monstrosity that I finally run into trouble.

I'm waiting in line, tray in hand when I feel the small hairs at the back of my neck bristle in a warning. My muscles tense, and I clutch the tray more firmly as some sort of barrier between my body and whatever evil approaches.

"Something wicked this way comes," I murmur to myself.

A presence lurks behind my back.

"What was that, mortal? It's so hard to hear you over the sound of your aggressive mouth breathing."

That voice. That familiar, annoying, grates-on-the-ears-like-shredded-cheese voice. I relax, slightly. She's not the biggest bad I can encounter in this place.

Like most situations that require confrontation, I ask myself, WWED? What would Elizabeth do?

I speak to the space in front of me rather than give her the satisfaction of my full attention.

"I'd breathe through my nose, Gwen, but I wouldn't want to risk smelling you."

She gasps while the few students around us laugh. She must not be the most well-liked person here. How shocking.

In retaliation for my insult, Gwen yanks the hair of my ponytail until my only view is the ceiling.

"Ouch!" I instinctively shout.

My tray drops to the floor with a clang while I try to remove her grubby fingers. I slap and pinch them repeatedly, but she holds on tight.

"Let go of me, you demented leper," I grit out.

I doubt she knows what the word 'leper' means, but my tone is enough to indicate that it's an insult.

"You deserve it, ugly slut."

Prying her fingers off with every ounce of strength I possess, I tell her, "Slut-shaming isn't cool, dude. Even about people you don't like."

My short soap-box moment goes unappreciated.

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