Inside the building the first space they encountered was a huge circular hall with marble pillars, a sweeping staircase and a massive vending machine, offering everything from caramel and rhubarb milkshakes to stew and dumpling smoothies. Podium and Wagget were already halfway up the broad, winding staircase. Podium glanced back at them and gestured up the stairs with his head. They followed. They went up two floors to a door that led down a narrow corridor. The corridor was lined on a both sides with a myriad of variously shaped doors, like something out of a fairground attraction. Podium took them down this corridor and stopped at one of the many rooms that led off it. He turned the handle and threw the door wide.
‘You sleep here,’ said Podium.
The two second formers had taken Tiberius and Normal to a small bedroom with beams across the ceiling, oak panelled walls that all looked lopsided and a wood-tiled floor that was crooked and sloped away from the door.
Podium pointed to a rickety sink, a wobbly desk and two crooked bunks.
‘You wash there, work there, sleep there, don’t get that mixed up.’ he said.
Normal stared at the bed and frowned. ‘You’re kidding, it’ll fall down.’
Podium laughed. ‘Hardly. First year’s have been sleeping on this for decades.’
‘But the room, it’s all sort of skewed,’ said Tiberius.
‘Yes, it slopes all over the place. I’ll feel seasick getting up in the morning.’
Podium made his way across to the old cracked sink in the far corner. He admired himself in the mirror on the wall above it.
‘You’ll get used to it,’ he said. ‘It’s called character. The whole grange is full of it.’
Podium yawned. ‘Come on Wagget, now that we’ve made these two new arrivals feel at home, let’s go and find somewhere to skive.’
He winked at Normal. Normal didn’t wink back. The two older boys wandered out and left them.
Tiberius, who had been carrying both bags plonked one on the top bunk and one on the bed below. He dropped his large body onto the lower bunk and the whole room creaked really loudly. Normal grabbed at the wall in case the room collapsed in on itself. But nothing happened.