“Where the fuck am I?” you mumble, your voice loud in the silence of the room. Warm skin brushes against your own. It makes you shiver. A blindfold is tightly wound around your eyes and your arms are restrained in front of you, trying to move doesn’t help so you stay seated on your knees.
The air is stifling and you wonder if it’s because of your panicked state or because of the dustiness of the room itself. It smells like spilled wine, cigarette smoke, books collecting dust on the shelves. You wonder if you’re in the academy’s library but you doubt it. The librarian would have never agreed to holding hostages in there, the books were too precious to risk ruination.
Your boyfriend, James, had invited you to meet him under the big oak tree on the campus’ edge in the late evening. You often study there, a red pen between your teeth for taking notes, the grass pricking into your thighs familiarly. James rarely sits with you there to study; he finds the grass stains not worth the peacefulness of the rustling of the wind through the leaves, the birds happily chirping in the background to keep you company. He rather studies elsewhere and you wonder if this was the place he frequents.
You should have realised that when James asked you to meet him there, it was suspicious behaviour. But you had trusted him wholly and now you’re here, on your knees, another person next to you in probably the same position. You wonder if James had something to do with this. You don’t have to wonder for long.
The blindfold is ripped away from your eyes and you blink rapidly to get rid of the spots that float in front of them. You don’t see much but hooded figures looming over you dangerously, objects in hand that you can’t quite make out. You glance to the side then and make out curly hair, a collared shirt with a chain dangling against the brown sweater layered above. It glints in the light of the candles surrounding you.
“Sol Omnia Regit.”
“What is happening?” you ask, thrashing around a little in your restraints. A hooded figure suddenly leans close and shushes you. There is a split second where you think you recognise the figure’s eyes but then the person is moving away again, leaving you with a pounding heart.
Someone leans forward again, sticking out a hand behind themselves to signal something. An object is pressed into their hand and then held out to you. For second, you think it’s a knife or a gun, something to kill you with. There was no other explanation for why you were here but some crazy ritual that you fell victim to. But then...
"Drink," the person tells you and a crystal glass filled with a dark liquid is pressed to your lips.
you think but when it’s finally pushed past your lips and tilted so you can’t do anything but drink, it proves to be wine. The bitter taste doesn’t leave your mouth even though the glass does.
Another figure crouches down in front of you then, something long glinting in the candlelight. It takes you a few seconds to recognise the object but it’s unmistakably a knife and it’s inching closer to your bound hands. You look up to the hooded figure in panic and the familiar eyes are back, this time they’re closer than before and you can place them easily.
“James?” you whisper, your voice hoarse and shaking. James would never hurt you, right? He is your boyfriend, he loves you…
Did he ever?
Your mind races as your hands are tugged up so your wrists can rest in the familiar hand which you hold daily. It usually doesn’t feel quite as malicious, sometimes it does, never with other people around.
The person next to you, Corpse, you’re guessing, is holding his breath when you hold it. He can probably see the knife too, twisting expertly in James’ hand.
Without deigning you with a response, James cuts into the palm of your hand and you hiss at the sting, You want to say that it is stupid to cut someone there, the palm of a hand has too many nerve endings and you could do a lot of damage but the deed has already been done.
Your palm is pressed against a sheet of paper with writing that you can’t quite make out and you realise that it is a contract. It’s unethical, you try to protest, you can’t make someone sign something they haven’t read, but you’re pushed back again and Corpse sucks in his breath next to you.
"Welcome to Sol Regnum, Y/N and Corpse. You have completed your initiation."
The lights are turned on and you squint against the sudden brightness blinding you. It takes you a few moments before you can finally look around again, the figures clad fully in black with golden threads running through the mantels they’re wearing finally take off their hoods and James is smirking down at you both.
“My girlfriend and best friend, finally initiated,” he says, opening his arms as if he has just won the greatest victory. It feels nothing like that.
You exchange a look with Corpse, one filled with confusion and worry, before you let your eyes wander around the room. Heavy curtains hang in front of the tall windows, blocking out every possible source of light from the outside. Even the moon can’t shine through. The room is cast in shadows from the now dulled lighting. Your eyes are used to the light again and it is not as bright as it was when someone had snapped them on. The lights have a yellow cast over them, making everyone look just a little bit sick. There are books strewn around the room, the bookcases, which run along one big wall, are all stuffed full so the makeshift piles of books in the corners are there not for aesthetic purposes, but for necessity. Broken busts sit on the floor sadly, some missing a nose, other half of their head. You wonder if it’s a metaphor for something, if the busts represent the brokenness of the secret society you were now initiated in.
Everything is starting to make sense now. How James had often disappeared at night, leaving you alone in his bed, wondering if he was with another girl. How there were whispers in the hallway wherever you went as of late, something you had blamed on your own insecurities haunting you rather than real people doing so. How James had looked at you in a way that sent shivers down your spine and not in a good way. It had felt malicious, like there was something waiting for you that you didn’t know anything about. But he did, he probably planned the whole thing.
Corpse is back up on his feet before you are and he rounds up on James, pulling him into a corner of the room with a firm hand. You blindly follow, avoiding the glances that the other members of this society throw you. It feels like they’re evaluating you even past your initiation. You want to scream at them that you never asked for this, that you didn’t even want to be initiated in a society that you know nothing about. You were forced here but you doubt they would care.
“No warning, nothing,” you hear from the corner. Corpse’s hand is still pressing into James’ shoulder, his other hand drumming restlessly on his thigh. There is a lone cigarette sticking out from Corpse’s curly hair, balancing dangerously on his ear. You step closer, take your place next to Corpse where it usually was next to James. You’re on Corpse’s side in this matter, though, and James can know that, no matter what the repercussions were.
You shake your head at James as he laughs good-naturedly. He is the star of the university, the golden boy, the popular guy everyone wants to either have or be friends with. After a year or so of being in a relationship with him, however, you know better than to trust his charismatic laugh, the crinkle in the skin next to his eyes that solidifies his position as the good guy. There was danger in his smile, a certain sense of disingenuousness in the sound of his laughter.
You step closer to Corpse.
“I agree, James. What were you thinking? You never even ask-”
“Why would I?” James asks and steps closer to you, the shadows casting over his face are making him look like he is the villain of a big play, ready to kill the main character.
Corpse, cast as the hero, places himself in front of you, half-shielding you with his body. Corpse’s hands are shaking next to his sides but he’s still there, back straight, shoulders down, his head raised which gives him the advantage of a few inches over James.
“She’s right, you should have asked if we even wanted this.”
“It’s the opportunity of a life-time! This society will ensure that you will have a good future, something to pass down to your children.”
You let a hollow laugh escape and the both of them turn to you. “We’re rich, James. All of us are. There was no need for a fucking society, we’re ensured a good future whether we even graduate or not.”
James shrugs and your hands clench into fists at his nonchalance. You gasp softly when you feel the wound in the palm of your hand. When you open it again, blood rolls from your fingers and drips onto the carpet, just barely missing your shoes.
“I’m going back to the dorms,” you say, desperate to get away from the claustrophobic feeling this room gives you. James shakes his head, though, and you stay in place, waiting for him to come up with one good reason for you to stay.
“The party is just getting started,” he says and music begins playing. It sounds as if it is played from an old record, the scratchiness that you would appreciate in other situations doing nothing but grating your ears. James pushes past you and Corpse both and returns with three glasses of the same wine you were forced to drink just minutes ago. It’s pushed into your hands before you can protest.
The other members raise their glasses, their eyes on you and Corpse who twitches uncomfortably next to you. It’s a toast but it feels more like a warning of what is to come.
“Come on, Y/N,” James says and wraps an arm around your waist. You shy away from the touch a little but his grip is hard, his fingertips possibly pressing bruises into your skin. “Corpse?” he adds, waiting for Corpse to hesitantly fall in line next to him. You briefly wish he was on your side instead of James’ but shake it off again. There were more important things to focus on.
James insists that they meet the others but every person you meet is not the type of person you would want to be friends with. Arrogance and coldness roll off of them in waves, sending you the clear message that you’re not wanted here. From the way Corpse barely answers the few questions they have for you both, you realise that he feels the same.
You met Corpse when you started dating James. He is James’ best friend after all, or was, depending on how Corpse feels about this all. He was a little shy when you met him, didn’t say a lot but when he opened up a little, he was charming, funny. Most notably, his voice is low, something that is whispered about in the hallways of Willow Creek Academy. Despite what others say about his voice, to you it’s not weird or unusual, it’s soothing, like melted chocolate. A balm for the soul.
Minutes pass by and as the alcohol flows freely, the inhibitions of people are lowered. There is a couple making out on the couch next to you, hands roaming each other’s body in a way that seems too private to be doing in front of a room full of people but nobody even bats an eye.
Corpse is nowhere to be found for a little while but eventually comes back to the loveseat you’re sitting on, pointedly taking James’s place next to you. “When can we leave?” he asks, sipping his wine. You wonder how many he had but you can’t fault him for drinking. You wish you could stomach it yourself.
“I don’t know, soon, I hope,” you answer and look around. There are people dancing to imaginary music that doesn’t match the one playing, people laughing in corners, hands pulling others behind furniture so they are just barely out of sight.
You hear Corpse curse and when your eyes meet his again, they look slightly panicked. There are manicured hands roaming down his chest for a second before Corpse is standing again, holding out his hand to you in a clear message that you happily read correctly.
Corpse helps you up and let’s go right away, something you unconsciously mourn. You would have liked to have Corpse’s hand in your own for a little bit longer. The touch of someone semi-familiar in a room filled with strange people would keep you from freaking out as you wade through the partying people.
Something in this all reminds you of a bacchanal; wine, freedom, ecstasy. It seems to live in the various people here, even James isn’t untouched as his tie is halfway down his chest when you find him, his body moving close with someone else.
You rarely get jealous but something about this leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
“We’re going,” Corpse announces and tries to pull away when James reaches out to catch his arm, he’s too slow. James whispers something to Corpse and you watch as his expression changes. You don’t dare to ask when you are led back outside. Corpse’s expression is thunderous and it only relaxes when he pulls out his cigarette from behind his ear with shaky fingers and lits it.
You watch as the smoke bellows and floats up to the sky in figures you try to form recognisable shapes out of. Corpse passes his cigarette to you and you happily take it, feeling the pressure of an impending migraine disappear a little.
“That was… Something,” you say for a lack of better words. Corpse nods but doesn’t say more. He doesn’t need to. You both know that it was insane what happened, you’re both scared for what this secret society will bring in the future, you both worry about the contract you couldn’t read in the privacy of your own minds.
Corpse passes the house which holds the male dorms and keeps walking next to you to the other end of the campus. You thank him softly, he nods in recognition. No place is safe for a woman to walk alone and with Corpse you feel strangely safe.
The early autumn leaves crunch under your shoes when you walk, your footsteps loud in the quiet of the evening. Your pace matches Corpse’s, though you feel like he’s letting you set the pace so you can keep up with each other.
The building of the women’s dorm is becoming more and more visible the further you walk down the path. It’s sitting stately behind a lush garden you often tend to in your free time, as do the other girls in the building. It brings liveliness into the place which is made solely out of brick outside of it. It’s an old building, you don’t know for sure what it was before it became a campus but you think it must have been a guest house on the castle grounds.
Corpse walks you to the door and takes a step back when you retrieve your key. You almost invite him up to take care of his hand. Instead you make him promise to take care of it himself.
“What do we do about the society thing?” you ask, stalling a little. You’re scared to be left alone with your thoughts right now. Corpse seems to guess it and leans against the pillar that holds up the front of the house, making no movement to leave.
He shrugs a little and looks off into the distance. You follow his gaze but there is nothing there. “Not much we can do. The contract, though… We need to know what was on there. Maybe we can get out of it.”
“I doubt it,” you laugh humourlessly but you nod anyways. “I’d rather see it first than give up immediately. I’m just not sure how to get to it.”
“We could ditch class,” Corpse suggests, a smirk now growing on his face. You know already that Corpse didn’t attend half of the classes that he should but you laugh a little anyways, this time it’s genuine.
“You’re an idiot,” you mumble and Corpse’s smirk grows wider, his eyes twinkling with amusement. “A smart one, though. I don’t think any of them will skip classes, even after a party like tonight.”
“What can I say? I’m a mastermind,” Corpse jokes and pulls out his phone, handing it to you demonstratively. You put in your number on automatic pilot. “Text me when you wake up, we’ll decide on a class together then.”
You accidentally leave a smear of blood behind on Corpse’s phone but he either hasn’t seen it or doesn’t care enough to mention it. “I’ll text you,” you promise and open the door fully now.
There is still laughter in the hallways, soft voices that make you relax a little. You suddenly feel bone tired now that you’re in a place that signifies comfort and rest. Corpse notices and waves you inside.
“Goodnight, Y/N. Take care of your wound.”
You watch Corpse walk away and become one with the darkness before you finally step inside. You sluggishly climb the stairs and make your way to your dorm room, an action that takes longer than it should have. You shrug off your coat and drop it somewhere, you’d care about the crinkles you put in it in the morning. You find your first aid kit in the bathroom and pour some alcohol on the wound. It makes tears spring in your eyes but it’s necessary so you get through it on pure willpower alone. After bandaging the wound, you shed most of your clothes and finally climb into bed. You don’t even have the energy to put out the light before you fall asleep, nightmares dragging you down with them.