Friday, 28 February 2014

Chapter 2.2 - Brave New World

The drive to Sims University was long, tiring and extremely monotonous. By the time they arrived at the dorm that was to be their home away from home, Chantia was already somewhat disillusioned by the whole university experience.

“It’s very...grey,” she stated uneasily while she looked at her surroundings. As someone who grew up in colourful Sunset Valley, the continuous greyness of Sims University was an instant dampener on her mood.
 “It’s utilitarian,” Mia replied. “And we’re here to study, not gape at the buildings around us.”  Despite her harsh words she looked over her shoulder and gave Chantia a slight smile, lessening the sting of her words. “But I’m sure we’ll do more than just study.”

Mia’s words didn’t reassure Chantia at all, so it was with a heavy heart that she followed Mia through the door, into the comfortingly homey and luckily not grey foyer of the building. The entire foyer was laid out in wood and cream with grand staircases leading up to the rooms above them, and the green plants scattered here and there provided some additional colour, causing Chantia’s spirits to lift instantly.
“See? It’s not that bad,” Mia said and disappeared up the stairs to find her room. After a second of hesitation, Chantia followed Mia upstairs in the search for her own room.
 They managed to find their rooms fairly easily. Their rooms were on the same floor, but Mia had the luxury of a private room while Chantia had to share one with a roommate. That was one of the perks Mia received from winning that full scholarship from the Landgraab Science Facility. Chantia was a bit jealous of Mia (and Mia’s private room), but as she looked around her room, she figured it could’ve been much worse. At least this one had some colour.

After packing her clothes away and hanging some of her personal achievements and photos on the walls of her half of the room to add additional colour, Chantia returned downstairs, where Mia was already chatting with one of the guys sharing the dorm, who had introduced himself as Gary. The poor guy looked like he couldn’t believe his luck that a pretty girl would talk to him, judging by the way he seemed to absolutely hang on every word Mia said.
“You’re blocking the door,” another girl pointed out with irritation to the obliviously chatting pair.

“Oh, sorry,” Mia apologized absent-mindedly and moved out of the way, providing just enough space for the girl to get in. In the time she was distracted, Gary used the time to take the opportunity presented to him.
“Hey, my eyes are up here,” Mia reminded him forcefully when she turned back to him. Gary blushed to the roots of his hair at being caught and with a lot of stammering, excused himself from her company. It was clear to anyone looking that he was completely mortified.

Chantia chuckled at the guy, totally amused by his embarrassment. Gary wasn’t the first guy to leave Mia’s presence with a stutter and a blush. People could say what they wanted, but the fact remained that Mia was extremely pretty. And, of course, the way the younger girl dressed certainly didn’t help.
“Let’s go; it’s time for the meet-and-greet to start,” Chantia reminded her sister.
 At the meet-and-greet the girls took the time to study all the information available to them. The university had certainly gone out of its way to ensure the new students were well-prepared for the term lying ahead of them.

“Hmm, let’s see,” Chantia muttered while she looked at her class schedule. “Classes are on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes consist out of…what? This can’t be right,” she said with a frown and gave her schedule to Mia for a second opinion.
Mia sped-read through the schedule Chantia handed her. She quirked an eyebrow when she noticed the reason for Chantia’s disbelief.
“The Physics of Girls. Interesting,” she replied and gave the schedule back. “Don’t worry; I have my own weird subject,” Mia consoled her sister. “The Psychology of Traveling.”
Chantia gave her sister a sceptical glance. “No. Really?” Mia’s only response was to nod seriously and show her schedule to Chantia. Sure enough, the schedule had classes for The Psychology of Traveling 202.
The girls spend a long time at the event, trying out the various activities available to them…
 …or meeting their new classmates and professors. Mia’s new professor was a lecherous old man in Chantia’s view, but Mia apparently didn’t think so, or maybe just didn’t care. She was still standing too close to the man though, in Chantia’s opinion.
 It was late evening by the time the girls returned to the dorm. The girls were tired from both the meet and the journey to the university, so they decided to retreat to Mia’s room for the evening, especially since Mia’s private room was bigger than Chantia’s half of her shared room. They could’ve gone to the common room, but neither girl was in the mood for other people.
“I think I’m going to enjoy university,” Chantia declared with a small smile playing on her face. “The sky and the buildings are very grey, but the people are very nice.”

“They are nice,” Mia agreed and gave the fire one last poke before straightening and turning to Chantia. “But we’ve only been here about a day. Living with someone is very different to just talking to them.”
“I know that,” Chantia agreed and walked to the window, staring at the rain falling in a slow methodical rhythm outside. The rain obscured the stars that should’ve been showing, and Chantia felt a sudden pang of homesickness. Back home, the stars were so bright.
“I’m going back to my room,” Chantia informed Mia. “I’m rather tired, and I promised Sam I’d call him.”
“Go ahead,” was Mia’s uninterested reply. She was already preoccupied by the book in her hand.
“Hey, it’s me,” Chantia greeted Sam when he picked up the phone. “I promised I’d call every night, so here I am.” She smiled nervously and stared at the leaves rustling outside the window, feeling her heart-beat speed up slightly in anticipation. She had seen Sam only the previous day, but right now he felt so very far away. She smiled happily when he replied and sank into the armchair by the window, relishing in the rich tenor tones of his voice.

They talked for a long time, but eventually it had to come to an end. It was starting to get very late, and Chantia’s first class started early the next morning, so she had to get some sleep. In addition, Chantia’s roommate had arrived in the room and Chantia preferred to keep her conversations with her boyfriend private.
The next morning dawned grey and rainy, signalling a wet start to the beginning of classes. The weather was miserable and Chantia’s spirits fell even further when she realised she had left her umbrella at home. She would have to dash through the rain and the puddles to get to her class.
By the time she reached her class, she was sopping wet and shivering from the cold. Her first day of classes was so much worse than she had imagined.

Cold and miserable, she slipped into her chair just as the professor arrived.
“Welcome to your first class in the Parapsychology degree,” the professor welcomed them after taking his place by the podium.
“If you decided to major in this degree because you thought it would be interesting or easy, think again,” the professor declared. “Parapsychology, or ghost huntery, as it’s often called, is not for the faint-hearted. It is hard work. It is frightening work. There will be times that your very lives itself might be in danger. The hours are extremely long, and you’ll often work until very late in the night.
“Some of you will not be able to make the cut,” he continued. “Some of you will give up after your first term, while others of you might be able to hold out until your first paranormal experience, where the experience will prove to be too much to handle.

“But to those of you who are serious about this program, and are doing this for the right reasons, I believe you’ll find it’s one of the most satisfying jobs to do.
“So, I heartily welcome all of you, and hope to see the majority of you out there in the field after graduation.
“Now, without further ado, let’s start with the coursework…”
The coursework was a lot more difficult than Chantia had expected. They had to study all kinds of different equipment and readings and statistics and interpretations, but Chantia found she also enjoyed it a lot more than she had expected. She had always thought she knew everything there was to know about ghosts through her interactions with Charlotte and the others, but she soon realised she knew extremely little. True, all the ghosts could be classified into the two main categories Charlotte had told her about (Lost and Damned, although the professor called the categories Ghosts and Spirits), but there were so many subcategories that Chantia had never heard of. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fascinating work.

Life settled into a comfortable rhythm. Even though life at university was pretty hectic between classes and practicals and study sessions, Chantia enjoyed learning more about ghosts and the science behind them and Mia enjoyed being able to study the human body in more detail.
The practicals and classes sparked even more ideas in Mia’s mind, driving her to keep up on her research whenever she had time. It felt to Chantia that Mia was always off somewhere on her own, pursuing her research, while Chantia herself felt like she never had time to do anything she enjoyed. She was often forced to study until very late in the night just to keep up with her studies, and slowly but steady she could feel the stress building up.
 It was only to her frequent phone conversations with Sam that she felt she could still cope. Even though she wished to see him every day, just hearing his voice was able to give her enough strength to keep going.
 Of course, it wasn’t long before the girls discovered the wonders of roommates. The bathroom was always dirty, some people never showered and dirty clothes were strewn all over the dorm. Literally every room had dirty clothes somewhere on the floor. The girls tried their best to keep a semblance of cleanliness in the dorm, but it usually held only a day before the dorm looked like a pigsty again.
 Chantia, on the other hand, had to deal with more than just dirty surroundings. Her roommate, Tiffany, was a sweet girl, but she had two fatal flaws. One, she snored – loudly. Two, she had friends who had no respect to privacy.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my room?” Chantia questioned the stranger crossly. She normally wouldn’t have such a big issues with strangers being in the room, but she did have an issue with people being in her room while she sleeping.

“It’s Tiffany’s room,” the stranger replied as if it was obvious. Chantia grinded her teeth at the answer, trying to keep her temper from boiling over.
“I know that,” Chantia explained slightly impatiently. “But it’s my room too and Tiffany’s not here,” she pointed out. Tiffany’s friend just shrugged.
“So, get out!” Chantia ordered crossly, finally losing her patience. The girl sniffed indignantly and left the room, taking Chantia’s bar of nougat with her when she left.
Besides the problems, it wasn’t all bad. The definite upside was that there was always someone willing to join them at the breakfast table or play video games with them when they wanted to forget about university for one night.
Then, of course, there was the comic relief. Poor Gary blushed to the roots of his hair the first time he encountered Cora in only her underwear, causing all three girls to burst out in laughter. From that day on Cora tried to get a rise out of him by constantly walking around in her underwear.

Before the girls noticed, the final exams of their first term had arrived. Both girls tried their best and to Chantia’s surprise and utmost pleasure, both had managed to reach the Dean’s List.
Chantia celebrated by going to her room and calling Sam, but Mia celebrated by trying out something new.
Gary was a sweet, naively innocent guy, and the perfect target for practise. Mia had time, and since she had missed out on the flirting game as a teen, she decided it was the perfect time for trying her hand at romance. Besides, she was curious. She had been introduced to some…questionable literature during her time at university, and the more she read it the more curious she had become.

Chantia of course, remained blissfully unaware. She too busy packing her bags. The vacation had officially arrived and they were returning home the next day. She’d finally be able to see Sam again.
The next morning finally arrived, but with it came bad news. Sunset Valley had been hit by a massive blizzard, causing all the passes to the valley to be blocked off by snow. There was no way the girls would be able to return home for the vacation.
“I have bad news,” she informed Sam after she heard the news.
He instantly seemed to realise what she was talking about. “You’re not coming home, are you,” was his reply. Chantia shook her head numbly.

“They say all the passes are snowed close. There’s no way to reach Sunset Valley.” She heard Sam sigh softly through the phone.
“I heard. I just hoped…well, it doesn’t matter. Stay safe, okay?”
“I will,” Chantia promised earnestly before closing off the conversation with “You too.”
That night, Mia threw a bonfire party. Several people were unable to go home, so Mia had decided to throw the party to console the people who had been stuck at the university like her.
It was chaos, but everybody seemed to enjoy the party. Mia had drafted the help of two guys to carry the stereo outside, something the partygoers appreciated a lot. They talked and danced and threw vials into the fire, laughing when it erupted into fireworks or grimacing when it spat foul odours all over their clothes. Still, everybody enjoyed it and Chantia even felt her spirits lift slightly.

But that was soon driven to the back of her mind.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Chapter 2.1 - Seperation

The day was warm, but not uncomfortably so. The clouds drifted lazily across the sky, forming figures and forms that only the most imaginative of minds could discern. The warm summer wind bought with it the sounds of cicadas chirping and birds singing and along with those, the promise of more perfect summer days to follow.

And yet, despite the beautiful weather, Chantia was stuck in a car with no air conditioning.
“Mia, it might be a bit easier to gear back when you’re struggling to get up the hill,” she advised the teen at the wheel. With a suffering sigh, Mia obeyed her sister’s instructions and pushed the car into a lower gear. The car emitted a slightly happier hum and managed to climb the hill with slightly more power.
“Mia, you can start slacking down now, there’s a stop sign at the bottom,” Chantia informed her sister again once they’ve cleared the hill. Mia sighed again, but obediently lifted her foot from the pedal and shifted it to the other pedal where she applied light pressure on it.
“Mia, you should –“
“Oh for crying out Chantia, I’m not completely clueless!” Mia burst out when Chantia started with another unwelcome piece of advice. “It’s not like this is the first time I’ve driven a car!” 
Chantia harrumphed with indignation. “Yes, well, you’re graduating high school in two months and you still haven’t got your license yet!”

Mia slammed her foot down on the brakes and brought the car to a sharp halt, fed-up with her sister’s comments.
“And you haven’t got a proper job yet!” she retorted sharply.
Chantia sniffed pretentiously at Mia’s retort. “I just haven’t made up my mind yet,” she informed the teen. “Besides, I still have time to decide. You, on the other hand, are graduating soon, and it is expected of you to graduate with a license.”
Mia let loose another suffering sigh before giving up on the argument. “Whatever,” she rolled her eyes and pushed the car into movement again, but couldn’t resist one parting comment. “You just care more about spending time with dear ‘Sammy’ than you do about getting a job.”

“At least I have a boyfriend,” Chantia pointed out, completely ignoring the accusation. “And don’t call him Sammy.”
Mia smirked in amusement at Chantia’s reply, but didn’t continue the conversation, deciding to let victory go to the older girl. After all, it wasn’t really a victory if she still got something (amusement) out of the argument.
 Several days later, Mia felt even more smug when she returned home with a license and Chantia still haven’t gotten her job, proving once and for all that Mia really was better than her sister. It was clear her success infuriated the older girl, but Mia felt no remorse at getting back at her sister.
“She’s just so infuriating!” Chantia complained to Samuel the next day. “Little Miss Perfect, already having a permanent job waiting for her when she comes back from the wonderful university where she’ll score perfect grades and be all around a typical teacher’s pet,” she mocked sarcastically. “And of course, she’ll be the centre of attention for having both brains and beauty and I won’t be able to say anything because she really is ‘Little Miss Perfect.” Chantia pouted and fell back on the grass, staring up at the rustling leaves above her.

Sam laughed at Chantia’s words, his warm tenor voice drifting into the air. “You’re so cute when you’re jealous,” he teased her good-heartedly. Chantia felt a slight blush warm her cheeks at his compliment and flipped over onto her side to look at him.
“I’m not jealous,” she protested. “I’m just…I don’t know. I think just it’s unfair that she already has her future laid out before her and I’m still stuck searching,” she explained with a slight pout gracing her lips. Sam laughed good-naturedly at her and touched a lock of her hair, letting the strands flit through his fingers.

“You’re jealous,” he repeated laughingly. “But really, I don’t blame you. She’s extremely lucky to be so successful already.”
 Chantia sighed heavily and turned on her stomach. “Yeah, I know,” she agreed. It wasn’t that she thought the younger girl didn’t deserve the future laid out for her – on the contrary, she was glad Mia was so successful. It was just that she wanted a bit of that success for herself.

For several minutes the couple relaxed in silence, merely enjoying the heat of the summer and the gentle wind rustling the leaves on the trees above their heads. Chantia was composing a tune in her head to test out later on her violin (which she had gotten really good at) while Sam drew nonsensical figures and patterns on the ground.
“You know, I heard something interesting the other day,” Sam stated a little while later, causing Chantia to stop focusing on her tune and look at Sam instead.

“Like what?” she asked, humouring him, as he was clearly waiting for a response.
“It’s about that house up on the hill,” he answered with a slight tilt of his head towards the house in question. “You know, the one up there by the waterfall?”
His words caused Chantia to sit up straight again. She knew exactly which house he was talking about. It was, after all, the house Charlotte and the other ghosts lived in.
At Chantia’s nod, Sam continued. “I heard the real estate agent called in a team of ghost hunters,” he stated with a slight hint of amusement in his voice. “Apparently, the reason the house has stood vacant for all these years is because nobody wants to buy a ‘haunted house’. So now the agent asked a team of ghost hunters to get rid of the ghosts. They seem pretty desperate to get rid of that house, if you ask me.”

Chantia focused on the one part of his words that stood out. “Vacant?” she asked, slightly confused. “The house isn’t vacant; the ghosts live there.”
Sam laughed at her statement, clearly thinking she was joking. “That’s kind of the point of hiring ghost hunters,” he pointed out with a confused half-smile. Chantia shook her head, desperately trying to get him to see her point.

“No, you don’t understand,” she argued. “That house – it’s the ghosts’. It belongs to them. It’s their home, always have been. Who does this agent think he or she is?!” Chantia questioned angrily. “They can’t just force the ghosts to leave!” With that Chantia stood up to leave, anxious to get to the house in question and see if her friends were still alright.
Sam grabbed her arm, trying to prevent her from leaving. “Chantia, what’s going on? Why are you so worried about this? It was just a random bit of information I got; I thought you’d find it interesting, not -”

“– freak out? Is that what you’re trying to say?” Chantia accused. “Well yes, I do find it interesting; very interesting in fact. As would you if it were your friends in danger.”
Her words caused silence to fall around them. Sam stared at her with an unemotional expression, seemingly trying to make sense of her accusation. Chantia bit her lip slightly. She honestly hadn’t meant to say that. Now he would think she’s a freak and break up with her and –
“That story,” Sam interrupted her mid-thought, “the one you told me back when we were still in school, the one about the ghosts and the magic and the different worlds. That was real, wasn’t it? The girl in that tale – that was you, wasn’t it?”
Chantia stared at him, flabbergasted that he made the connection. Slowly and hesitantly, she nodded, confirming his suspicions.
Sam raised his eyebrows at her silent confirmation. “That’s…pretty cool,” he admitted. “Why didn’t you tell me it was real?”
 “You don’t think it’s weird?” Chantia asked disbelievingly. Sam shook his head.

“Of course not,” he assured her. “I love those kinds of things; you know, paranormal and supernatural stuff. I think it’s pretty cool that you managed to get involved in it.” He gave a short laugh. “Aisha has been trying for years to get involved without success,” he admitted with amusement in his voice.
Chantia stared at him, unable to believe her luck. She had always been afraid of what her friends would think of her when they found out about her abilities, and yet it seemed she had worried unnecessarily.
 “Oh,” was her eloquent response.

Sam laughed at her and snaked his arm around her waist, pulling her towards him. “Come, let’s go see those ‘ghost friends’ of yours,” he suggested, smiling warmly. This time, Chantia allowed him to pull her away, incredibly glad he had come into her life.
The house was still as she had left it when she had last visited it and the ghosts were all still fine, much to Chantia’s relief. She warned them about the rumours and left with a lighter heart when they promised her they’d be careful. Still, she couldn’t help but be worried that they would be placed in danger again, so she made a decision then and there. She was going to buy the house.

But first she needed to find a job, and once again it was her sister that offered a possible solution.
“Why don’t you specialise in parapsychology?” Mia suggested when Chantia tore apart another newspaper she had accidently handled too rough. “With your existent skills and abilities, I’m sure you’ll be able to make a success of it.”

Chantia looked up from newspaper. “Para-what?” she asked, confused by the unknown word.
“Parapsychology,” Mia repeated promptly. “The study of psychic and paranormal phenomena and the resolution there-of. Including, but not limited to, apparitional experiences, extra-sensory perception and psychokinesis.”
 Chantia mentally cut out the scientific jargon. “So you’re suggesting I become a ghost hunter,” she concluded incredulously once Mia finished talking, having years of experience in translating Mia-talk to normal-talk.

Mia nodded. “There’s more to it than that, of course, but basically, yes. Your sensitivity to ghosts makes you ideal for it. I just think it’s worth looking at.”
Chantia stared sceptically at Mia. “Ghost huntery,” she repeated flatly. “As in, throw the ghosts out of the house they live in, ghost huntery.”
“As I said, there’s more to it than that. Parapsychology isn’t only the study of ghosts and spirits, but also of mind-based abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy or clairvoyance, since a lot of ‘ghost hauntings’ are actually caused by such powers,” Mia explained. “Besides, I’ve heard from Charlotte that a lot of ghosts don’t move on simply because they’re unable to let go of their problems. So, if you help them resolve their issues, they’ll be able to move on of free will and you’ll be able to prevent them from falling into Damnation.”

Chantia looked at Mia, wordlessly mulling over the suggestion. It was definitely something she’s never thought of, mainly because ghosts were such an integral part of her life that she couldn’t imagine a life without them. She’d never stopped to consider how they affected the lives of people who couldn’t see ghosts, only their effects. It was something she hadn’t thought of, but Mia was right. It was definitely worth looking at.
A trip to the library later she had her answers. It was something she could see herself doing, and to her surprise, the best university in the country offered several classes on the subject. With her future in mind and her dream of buying the house her friends lived in, she applied for University and to her greatest relief, was accepted into the program without problem.
“I’m going to university,” she informed Sam when she saw him again, “starting next semester. I’ve decided I want to become a ghost hunter, and it seems a degree in parapsychology is the best way to get in.”

Sam was silent for a bit while he mulled over her words. “Well, if that’s you really want to do, then I’m glad for you and wish you the best of luck,” he stated. “Just promise me you’ll keep in contact with me and won’t party so hard you’ll forget about me,” he requested with a teasing smile.
 Chantia laughed and threw her arms around his neck. “No worries about that,” she assured him. “There’s no way I’ll ever forget you. I’ll call you every night and visit you every vacation,” she promised. She really wanted him to join her at university, but she knew there was no way he would be able to. Sam was an orphan, so he didn’t have any family who’d be able to sponsor him through university, and his marks from school weren’t nearly high enough to allow him to qualify for a scholarship the way Mia had done.
Soon enough, the day signalling the start of the new semester arrived. As had been expected of her, Mia graduated from high school with perfect marks. She was also declared as Valedictorian and voted ‘Most Likely to Take Over the World’, something Chantia found quite amusing since she herself had been voted ‘Most Likely to Save the World’.

 “I think that’s the last of it,” Mia said as she placed the last of her clothes in the suitcase and closed the lid. “Whatever’s not packed at the moment will just have to stay here,” she concluded when she heard their ride arrive to take them to the university. Chantia was still packing some stuff into her suitcase, but before the driver could get impatient, she finished packing and followed Mia down the stairs.
For the first time ever, the girls were going to be away from the house they were raised in for more than a couple of days. It was something new and unexplored, and both girls were eager for the next part of their lives to start.
Evelyn on the other hand, wasn’t nearly as eager. Even with Gustave sharing the house with her, the house was going to be far too empty without the two girls around.

“Be careful, both of you,” she admonished the girls as she gave them their farewell hugs. “Study hard, enjoy it, and don’t do stupid things.”

Chantia laughed and tightened her arms around her mother. “We’ll be good,” she promised her mother. The driver closed the boot of the car after he placed the last of the luggage in it and waited impatiently for the girls to complete their farewells. Chantia bade her father goodbye while Mia did the same to Evelyn and within minutes, the girls were in the car and on their way to university.

In truth, Chantia won’t really pull any benefit from going to university, since she’s going to have a profession and not a typical job (at least that’s what it looks like. Not sure if that’s true or not). But I’ve never played a sim in university before (at least, not in TS3) and I’m not ready to let Mia go just yet, so to university they go.