I stood on the street corner, waiting for my lift. I had my bags piled around me, and was wearing my black trenchcoat to try and retain some semblance of normalcy. Still, people were giving me weird looks. Must be… I wasn’t sure what, actually. My aura? I’d cleansed and smudged though! Plus my pentacle was hidden.
Then ‘the car’ arrived.
Of course, I knew which one was my lift the minute it pulled up. I could hear it coming too, and that wasn’t because I was psychic or anything. It was the blaring folk metal music that tipped me off.
“Nice hat!” the passenger called out as the car pulled to a stop before me. “Circlet school, am I right?”
Oh right, my hat. It was black too, and was a steampunk thing. Maybe that’s why people were staring.
“Yup,” I nodded, hefting up one of my three bags. “Circlet school indeed.”
The passenger jumped out to help me. She was scrawny, but full of energy. She was barefoot, in hippie peasant skirts, and a purple tank top. Her dreadlocks fell all the way down her back.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether dreadlocks were considered ‘professional’. But hey, this was Circlet school. Maybe, probably, things were different there than in most schools.
Bags packed in the trunk, more like squished in with their bags, I let myself into the back seat. The passenger hopped back into the front.
“I’m Emma,” said the woman who had helped me out, “And this is Aurora.”
Aurora nodded curtly at me. Okay, fellow goth in the house! She had thick black lines around her eyes, red eyebrows painted on, and lolita curls. And a corset. She shoved the car forward aggressively, punting our way into oncoming traffic.
“I’m uh, Thunder,” I said half-heartedly. Was I going to be the only male teacher at this school? Maybe, actually.
“Nice!” said Emma, turning around. “Is that your magical name? Mine is Crystal!”
“Hi Crystal,” I said with a forced smile.
“So, you excited?” asked Aurora.
“Very excited,” I said. “very much so.” Yeah, there I go, repeating myself. Wow, social skills.
“I mean, this is a Wiccan school!” cheered out Crystal. “Can you believe it? I can’t?”
“I feel very lucky to have this opportunity,” I said, sounding like something off a pamphlet.
“Yeah,” chimed in Aurora.
Then, the fateful question. “What do you think of her?”
“Who?” I asked, trying to buy myself more time.
They both looked at me in the rearview mirror. “The principal. Didn’t you meet her?” asked Crystal happily.
“Oh, yeah, I met her,” and I tried not to turn red in the face. “She’s uh,” I cleared my throat. I half heartedly hoped they would inject something. No such luck. They waited.
“She’s special,” I said feebly.
“Good special or bad special?” asked Crystal peppily.
“She kind of makes me want to follow her into battle,” popped in Aurora before slamming the brakes.
“Well uh,” I searched my mind to think of something professional to say. “She’s-” I shrugged and decided for honesty. “She seems in charge. Seems really smart.”
They nodded in unison. We wove through traffic, then eeked out onto a highway. There, trees began running past, just beyond the massive Quebec ditches.
“So are you both Wiccan?” I ask eventually. After all, we knew our craft names, we could talk about that, right?
“Eclectic!” chirped Crystal, raising her hands in the air as if to represent.
“I’m a druid,” said Aurora coolly. “I used to be a wiccan though, so I know all about it.”
“Oh yeah? Were you in a coven or group?”
“No coven,” she snorted. “I’m a solitary.”
“Oh,” I felt myself depress a little.
“You?” Aurora stabbed with those eyes and that eyeliner. “Coven or no?”
“Coven born and raised,” I said, trying to sound cheerful, but actually managing ‘sheepish’. “Gardnerian.”
Crystal turned around in her chair at that. “Whoah! You were raised wiccan?”
“Yeah,” I admitted with a grin. “It was nice.”
“Nice,” said Aurora with solid approval. “I was raised Protestant.”
“Yeah?” I nod along.
“I was atheist,” chirps in Crystal. “Not bad though.”
Aurora scowls but nods. I intuit that her upraising wasn’t ‘not bad’.
“Hey,” I pipe up. “The principal, she must be Wiccan, right? I guess? I mean, she’s starting this school?”
Crystal nods, but Aurora frowns. “I don’t know. Wicca is the largest branch, maybe it was just easier to start.”
“Oh, yeah,” I admit. Somehow that makes me feel kind of lonely. I was expecting to find other Gardnerians here, for some reason. Certainly not a lolita druid.
We cycled through farmlands after farmlands, fields and patches of forest plantations (and the odd unkept place). We were definitely going into the boonies, so to speak.
After nearly an hour of this (and talking about crystals and which chakra we thought we had that was blocked), we took a sharp turn down a dusty dirt road that was lined with pine trees. Then, like a revelation, it dawned on us. A vision – not exactly of splendor.
It was a long rectangular building. Gray, dilapidated, and it made me want to run off in the complete other direction.
There was a sense of doom to it as we circled around a giant (and I mean, giant) pine tree and took a turn into the crunchy gravel driveway.
There, pressed and ready, was the principal. And, oh crap, was she ever taller than I remembered her being. There was a security guard standing beside her, and I was more afraid of her, thank you very much.
So let me give you a picture. The principal was tall, but her aura was impressive. She was wearing a light gray suit, her silver hair hanging down to mid-chest and her pants pressed impeccably. Her mouth was set in a thin line. Beside her, heeling perfectly, was a fat-looking blonde-white corgi.
The security guard was slouching, balding, and was just missing a piece of grass in his mouth to complete the look.
And the building! It was… Gray. Overshadowed by giant pines. There was a miniature pond between the building and the road, and it looked dilapidated too. Beyond the building, a field stretched, hemmed in on all sides by thick pine trees.
Was I the only one reading this place as a miserable disaster in the making? Apparently. Crystal launched herself out of the car. She took two steps and twirled on herself, arms held out and face lifted to the sun. “Oh, this place is perfect! The aura here is incredible!”
Aurora and I stepped out of the car somewhat slower, but I was still the slowest. Aurora strolled around the car, and I saw that she was wearing a long gothic skirt and boots. I, forgetting my hat in the car, stepped out just in time to hear the principal fairly growl, pointing at Crystal’s bare feet.
“Oh,” Crystal looked down at her feet as if surprised to find them bare. Then, cocking a smile at the principal, she stepped back to the car and put on some eco-friendly leather somethings.
“Good,” and the principal nodded. Her eyes scanned the rest of us, checking our feet. Then she swept us up and down, probably checking everything else she had inscribed in our contracts. With a frown, she nodded as if we were barely passable. “Alright. Welcome.”
Yeah, welcome. I forced on a smile. “It’s nice to be here,” Aurora said.
“Yeah,” I chipped in lamely. The principal’s smile stiffened as she looked each of us over once more.
“Bring your bags,” she ordered. “Your rooms are this way.”
Okay, I hopped to it. Crystal and Aurora were somewhat slower, but I felt a miltary-esque sort of performance was wanted here.
Within seconds we had our bags out (my hat still forgotten in the car) and we were following our principal into the building.
Inside this entrance was a long corridor, simply put. Rooms lined either side, with doors every so often.
“This is the lowest floor,” the principal said as we walked past the cream painted walls. “This is where the early grades will have their classrooms. Second floor is the last two levels, and top floor is the laboratories and the library.”
Oh, you could sense excitement sparkle around us as she said that word. ‘Library’. I grinned, imagining what every pagan probably dreamed of, great big tomes of magic and volumes of folklore. As if reading my mind, Crystal piped up. “What sort of books will there be in the library?”
“For now, the standard,” said the principal. “Folklore, mythology, and several popular books. Unfortunately, we do not have a huge budget yet for books.”
I found myself still grinning, thinking that maybe my sense of doom was misplaced. This couldn’t be so bad, could it?
We reached a large dead left turn, and passed through a modern set of double doors. “This leads us to the rooms,” the principal said, gesturing to what looked very much like the rest of the building, just with more doors. “As the rest of the building, the students are divided by the floors, with the staff living on the highest floor.”
At the end of the corridor we were let into a brightly lit stairwell. Up we went. My bag’s straps were digging into my shoulders as we walked up. Crystal was puffing and Aurora was red in the face, but their general mood was good.
Up on the third floor, there was more fresh paint and more and more rooms. It really was a ‘one scene’ building. One picture, and you’d have seen the whole thing. There were no posters, no colors, no nothing.
Oh wait, there was one poster. The principal marched us up to it and made a point of pointing at it, turning to face us as she stood beside it. It was a giant (and I mean, it was as tall as she but stuck up on the wall) poster of a black and white printing of rules that I vaguely remembered from the contract. “The rules you’ve all agreed to,” she said crisply. “I expect you all to adhere to them at all time. If you forget them,” she gestured with her hand. “They’re right here.”
She turned and began pointing out rooms. “You’ve all been assigned rooms already, by order of your time of contract signing. You are not permitted to change or swap rooms, and you are solely responsible for the contents of your rooms and the cleanliness thereof.”
“Are we allowed animals?” Crystal chirped happily.
Snap! Like a robot, the principal pointed to a rule mid-way through the paper. “No,” she said dryly. Then, pointing down at her corgi, she said “Service animal.”
“Ohh,” said Crystal. Then, stooping over, she pulled a huge grin at the dog. “What’s your name? What do you do?”
“None of your concern,” said the principal with a hint of impatience. She checked her watch on her wrist. “Now, deposit your luggage. Unpack. In half an hour, we will hold circle out back, around the fire pit with the rest of the staff. You should be able to find it, it’s the only thing there.”
O-kay. Okay, sure.
“Don’t be late,” she said sharply before turning around and marching to the stairwell.
For a moment, we all just stood there, watching her go with the security guard. Then, as soon as that door shut and her footsteps died away, we all exhaled.
“I didn’t remember her being that strict,” said Crystal wistfully.
“Me neither,” said Aurora, shocked. “But I guess she is the principal.”
“What’s her name again?” I asked. “I don’t remember it.”
The two stared at me, then down at their shoes. “Don’t remember,” said Aurora.
“Hmm,” Crystal said, nodding to herself.
“Oh, okay,” I said to myself. “Well,” and I set down my bags with a thud. “Let’s do this.”
The doors that were unclaimed had our names on them. Apparently the rest of the staff was already here, for apart from us, there were no other names stuck on the doors.
My room was smack beside Crystal’s. Whether that was a good or a bad thing, I was going to find out soon.
It was a medium sized room, obviously having housed two bunkbeds and a chest or so before. Now it housed a bed, a desk, and a small handtable.
Quickly, I unpacked the essentials, laying out my altar hastily on the handtable and checking to be sure nothing had broken. I shoved my clothing bag at the foot of my bed, moving on to unpack my essential teaching basics onto my desk.
No matter what though, I checked my phone for the time every five minutes. I absolutely did not want to be late for- circle? Were we doing a ritual? Already?
After fifteen minutes I declared myself done. Leaving my room behind, I locked it (the key had been on the desk), and found Aurora already waiting for me in the hallway. She was staring at the giant poster.
“I didn’t know we weren’t allowed to wear colored belts,” she said with a frown.
“Oh,” I said. I vaguely remembered it being in the rules, along with a host of other things. Such as no cursing. No pointing fingers or wands at students. No spitting or throwing salt at people. No hex jars. No spinning counter-clockwise. No poppet dolls of fellow staff or students.
The list seemed to go on and on and on as we stood there and read them.
“What denomination do you pin her as?” Aurora asked under her breath.
“Seems like a ritual magician,” I muttered.
“Hey!” Crystal whisked over as Aurora snorted to herself. “Are we ready to go?”
Aurora pointed to Crystal’s feet. “Shoes.”
“Oh!” Crystal laughed and ran back into her room. When she returned, she had her leather things back on. “Do you think she’s really strict about everything?” she asked hopefully. “Maybe she’s just trying to make an impression, you know?”
I seriously doubted that. I did, however, have the feeling that we had been reeled into more than we had planned.