BUT WHAT IF THERE REALLY ARE DRAGONS.
Holster pulls the cap off a Sharpie and circles three spots on the map.
“Aaaaaaaaaalll right. So, Giant bell tower penis in the dead center of campus? That’s Founder’s. Can’t miss it. You ever get lost, just think ‘giant penis’ and look up. What did Schmit say during our First Week, Rans? ‘Let the dong that ding-dongs guide you.’ Guy was a fucking genius. Now, to get from Founder’s to the rink…just go here and here, right? And—oh—the Haus is over there. River side. You live in Norris which is admittedly out of the way, but just know that everywhere you could ever possibly need to go is north. Just walk along the river and you’ll be fine. Well. Mostly—if you want to go to Stop-&-Shop, there’s one south of you. But that’s Smelly Stop-&-Shop, which may make you vom on a cashier. But ‘swawesome!” Holster smacks the map into Eric’s chest. “Bitty? You can now survive First Week.”
Eric nearly trips from the force of it and from simultaneously trying to stand on his tiptoes while keeping up with Holster’s strides. It’s 9AM and bright on the Monday of First Week, and campus is flush with thousands of Samwell students on their way to class. Oh, that would’ve been ‘swawesome. (Or whatever it was they kept saying.) Tripping in front of Ransom, Holster, and Shitty and every other person at Samwell. (“Hey, remember that time Bitty face-planted in the middle of Lake Quad on the first day of class? Claaassic Bittle.”)
Eric starts to study the map—which now has a few extra circles on it. “Thanks, Holst—”
Ransom plucks the map out of Eric’s hands.
“Dude, he doesn’t even know where his classes are,” says Ransom. “Yo Bits. You have English 114, right? That’s over here. And Tuesday’s Intro Psych lecture is in Gregory too this year. Spanish is across the river in Stiles and Math 112—Holster gimme that Sharpie—” (Yeah. Nope. No. Eric’s not getting any of this. Mostly because—again—Ransom’s not holding the map at a reasonable height for non-hockey giants. But also ‘cause everyone keeps calling him “Bitty” or “Bits” or some weird hockey-variant on his last name, and it’s for real throwing him off. ) “—Oh shit, but don’t go over that bridge because people get run over on it every year. Got all that?”
He slaps the map into Eric’s chest.
Shitty snatches the map out of Eric’s hands.
“The actual fuck—you guys didn’t mark the Forbidden Forest? This map is the basic-est shit in the world.”
“What are you gonna do, Shits, pull a Marauder Map out of your ass?” says Holster.
“He probably doesn’t know the Homonculous Charm,” says Ransom.
“Holy fuck, BRO, sick HP refs,” says a passing football player.
“Ten points to Ransom and Holster,” Holster calls back in an awful British accent.
Ransom and Holster high-five.
“Forbidden Forest?” asks Eric, looking away from the level of jock-nerdery exclusive only to Samwell. “Like from—”
“Yeah, remember when Jack thought the Forbidden Forest was a Hunger Games reference?” laughs Ransom.
“God! Fucking Jack,” sighs Holster. “I just want to sit the guy down and shove pop culture in his dumb Canadian face. Jesus.”
“Brah. All the shit in Samwell is haunted, right?” says Shitty as he drapes an arm over Eric’s shoulders and hands him back the map. “This is the haunted-est of all the haunted shit. Like ghosts, ‘chyeah, but actual motherfucking dragons and shit, I kid you the fuck not. But seriously don’t go up there alone at night—some freaky brouhaha goes down there on the reg.”
“The Quidditch team legit does human sacrifices up there,” says Ransom.
Holster shakes his head. “Bunch of sick fucks.”
“For realies, though—the fucking bell tower, the fucking steam tunnels, fucking everything is haunted, though. Oh shit.” Shitty punches Eric’s shoulder. “The Haus. The Haus is haunted.”
“NO it’s not—”
“Shutup, Rans.” says Holster.
They were now in the center of the Lake Quad—which Eric knows is the Lake Quad because he can see the lake behind them. (“Bro. Don’t say ‘The Lake Quad’—it’s just Lake Quad. And if you call The Pond ‘The Lake’ you might as well write ‘I’m a clueless frosh: on your forehead.) Shitty looks at his phone.
“Well, I got class. What about you dicks?”
“I got lab orientation,” groans Ransom.
“Sucks to be you, broski,” says Holster, grinning toothily.“I got nap orientation. At the Haus. In my bed.”
Holster sticks out his tongue. Ransom punches him in the stomach.
“Yup, you deserved that,” says Shitty, turning away. But right as he is about to walk off, he spins around. “Oh fuck. Bitty. You good, bro?”
He makes a thumbs up at Eric.
“Oh—yup! Definitely. Thank y’all so much.”
Ransom and Holster punch Eric in the shoulder (simultaneously) and Shitty winks at him. Then the boys disperse.
Eric looks down at the map, which is now slightly torn, dented, and has a bunch of frenzied circles and incomprehensible crazy-person writing on it. He looks around at the swarm of Samwell students walking purposefully to class—smiling, laughing—not a single map in sight. What was wrong with him? How did everyone already know what to do? He sniffs. Goddammit, Bittle, do not cry on the first day. This isn’t kindergarten. Or the first day of middle school. Or my first day of high school. Or my second first day of high school after we moved. Actually, wait.
That’s when his phone buzzes. He expects it to be from mother, but it’s from a number he doesn’t recognize. The text is terse:
“english 114 is in gregory. that’s on the N side of the lake quad”
Eric frowns down at his phone. And then seconds later, almost as an explanation:
“i get all the frog scheds and phone #s”
And then after Eric doesn’t move:
“go to *class* bittle.”
Eric puts the map away and runs.