Chapter 1: Dorm of the New Sun
Joseph Summers walked by the lake on his way back to his dorm. His first semester at Forrester University in New Jersey was going fairly well. He was an English major with a focus in Creative Writing, but there was something innately strange about going to a school of higher learning with the initials "FU." His dorm was Wolfe Hall, in the Severian Wing. The side that got blasted with the intense rays of sunlight every morning. It wasn't so bad, except his roommate, an engineering student named Aaron Stein, had the side of the room away from the window. Joe got a blast of sunshine every morning, which would always wake him up, even before the alarm clock. Either that, or one of Aaron's pranks. Joe couldn't blame his roommate, as he was an Evil Engineering major, eventually going for a doctorate in Mad Science.
Looking over the lake, he remembered some strange stories about it. As rumor had it, there was a pure humponium deposit underneath it, which had mutated the local aquatic life. What humponium was, and how it mutated things, was something Joe didn't care to know.
He was just getting back from Pewkov Hall, the main dining facility on campus. He had seen one of the only non-human, sentient entities on campus he knew of: Al Zabo the Talking Cockroach. Al Zabo was a roach of the PFM variety. PFM, of course, meant Psychic Fecal Matter. Zabo would "do his business" into school food, and the students would unknowingly ingest the stuff, and it allowed Zabo to read their minds.
He had been here for a semester, but still had not gotten a hang of the college life. At this age, more people preferred to drink alcohol, smoke God-only-knows-what, and believe in ideologies that propagated like mental viruses and turned their hosts into mindless carriers. Joe had barely survived some encounters with people who screamed things like: "Join the Revolution against the capitalist pigs!" or "Ia! Ia! Cthulhu R'lyeh ftaghn!" or "Come save Christian America from the plague of Godless liberalism!" or (mercifully) least commonly, "God told me to skin you alive!"
It was late in the afternoon on a Friday. Normally the time college socialites went out with alcohol, sex, drugs, and other things on their mind. Not Joe nor his roommate. They had boring lives, and did not care to complicate them. Aaron had his engineering work, engineering professional society, martial arts, and invoking Elder Gods. Joe had his writing, role-playing, and generally trying to maintain a grip on the shattered remnants of his sanity.
As he walked past the lake, he expected to hear the normal sonata of drunken couples doing private things, B-movie monsters chasing said couples from their cars, and various other noises from the night. This night, however, there was none of that. So, like the curious student he was, Joe entered the forest.
Now, Joe was not very stealthy. He trampled through branches, crunched old leaves, and all sorts of things. He saw smoke and fire ahead of him, plus several creepy shadows and rustling in the brush. Realizing it was just his imagination, he looked closer, and saw it was merely a circle of people in black robes standing around a campfire inside a toilet bowl, and chanting in both Latin and German.
It was either a secret society or cult on campus, or some German-speaking Jesuit plumber-monks lost in the woods. However, since there were few small boys on campus, he began to doubt very much it was the Jesuits. Almost on cue, the group turned to look at him. One of the cultists turned to a large, imposing robed cultist. "An intruder has seen us! He must not be allowed to live!" she hissed. The master cultist looked directly at Joe. He lowered his hood, revealing a vintage World War II gasmask covering his face. "No one sees the Children of the Porcelain God and survives! Kill him and throw him on the fire!"
The cult leader, however, pointed to a nearby goose. "Kill him! That intruder's our dinner!" Joe breathed a sigh of relief as the cultists chased the bird as it squawked, "Honk, eh?" Joe looked at it. "It just said, "Honky?" What kind of racist goose is that?"
The grandmaster of the cult, however, turned to face Joe. "No, it's Canadian. We're sacrificing it to appease the Elder Gods of Hockey."
"What the hell kind of cult is this?" Joe asked. "Aren't you supposed to worship the Porcelain God?"
"Nah, that's just our name. Doesn't it sound evil?" the grandmaster snickered behind his gasmask. "Ever heard of the German word schadenfreude?"
"Yeah. It means 'happiness at the misfortune of others,' from what I've read," the hapless student responded.
"That is a founding principle of our order. We enjoy things to scare the hell out of people," he explained. "Like things involving gasmasks, sharp objects, and fire. Now, unless you want to find out, I'd recommend leaving."
"You sure are restrained for an evil cult leader," Joe noted. There was something very familiar about this guy.
"Uh, I mean… Ia! Ia! Cthulhu ftaghn! Scram or I'll make you read…" the head cultist paused for a second. "…L. Ron Hubbard."
"NNNOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Joe turned and run as fast as his legs would carry him, out of the forest and back to his door. He would spend the next hour washing his ear out to remove the taint of hearing that name.
The cult leader, meanwhile, was laughing so hard, his gasmask fogged up. He removed it, and revealed the face of Aaron, Joe's roommate. A cultist came up to him with a cooked goose. "Smells like maple syrup," he noted.
"Yes, master," the Porcelain God cultist bowed his head in agreement.
"Relax. We freaked out my roommate big time!" Aaron Stein snickered. "Okay, our cover, remember, is we were at an Evil Engineering professional society meeting."
Another cultist grabbed his chin. "That's not too far out there. After all, that's what we were before you reorganized the group."
Stein smirked a bit. "I know. Now, everyone, let's call it a night. Next week, we'll meet in the same cult spot, and same cult time."
And so, the other evil engineering students parted ways, and vanished into study rooms for the duration of the weekend. After all, as everyone knows, engineers do not have fun.