Put up wards, she said. It will be fine, she said. Well, fuck no!
I’d set up my shrine, as any good pagan will do. I then prayed to the Goddess and God and asked them to protect my room from oogie boogie activity. Then, even though I was exhausted, I sprinkled salt all around my room. So far, it seemed good. Sure, the window looked cold and menacing, but a curtain would surely fix that.
I went to bed damned and determined to be positive about this venture. Sure, the place was haunted. But we were Wiccans! That shouldn’t be a problem. Witches unite! What good were we if we constantly fled from supernatural activity?
This, I decided, was going to be a great venture. I put my head on the pillow, closed my eyes, and told myself that yes, all was going to be good.
And then the nightmares struck.
I was in a dark corridor in a school. Monsters crawled over the walls, hanging with caterpillar like bodies and moth like faces with wings for mouths. Wow, I thought, the children have grown.
I pushed a door, and entered a classroom. There, the seats were filled with monsters. Saliva drooling, axe-bearing, monsters. They watched me with fly-like eyes, their large bodies bulging from the seats.
Wow, I thought. Still not combing their hair, I see. What brats!
‘Brats’ stuck in my mind as I jolted awake.
Sitting up in bed, I looked around. What the hot fuckery was that? What the-?
My tiny room looked back at me. Suddenly, I was envious of the principal for having a service dog. Something alive to keep her company when she woke up.
I rolled out of bed and stood, stretching. What time was it? Was it too early? What had woken me up, aside from the nightmare?
Checking my cellphone, I found it to be six am. Fabulous. Just a tad bit early, but not too bad, really.
Trying not to sulk about the sleep I lost, I kneeled before my shrine for a moment of prayer. I closed my eyes and relaxed, focusing my thoughts on the God and Goddess, asking them for insight about the dream. A state of peace came over me and I felt revelations flowing to me, like a gateway was opening. I remembered the principal speaking about the residential school and-
It was brutally interrupted by a viking voice roaring “RAGNAROOOOOOK”.
Metal guitars chimed in and music began wailing from the room next to mine, then was silenced mid-riff.
“Sorry!” our residential viking’s voice called out. “Forgot to turn off my alarm!”
I wanted to slam my head against the wall. Alright, I was cranky now. Very cranky. I hated getting interrupted mid-prayer, mid-ritual, mid-sacred stuff.
Okay, okay. I tried to refocus. Ground, channel my thoughts, and focus on the God and Goddess. But my mojo was broken. I couldn’t stop thinking about Ragnarooooook. Ugh.
Giving up, I shed my sleep gear (not a onesie, normal respectable pajamas) and dressed in the first thing that touched my hand. Jeans and a plain black t-shirt. Then, in my socks, I walked out to go to the bathroom at the end of the hall.
In the hallway, I crossed paths with the principal walking away from the bathroom. She was in a long-sleeved shirt and pressed pants, and shoes. “Good morning,” we chimed in at each other, her in a steely voice and me drowsy. Then, over her shoulder, she called at me. “Shoes!”
Oh, goodness. I pinched the brow of my nose and fairly ran into the bathroom.
In the eating hall, half an hour later, I was sitting across a table from the ‘viking dude’.
“I’m so sorry about the alarm,” he said for the umpteenth time.
I chewed on that, deciding about hexing him or not. I’m joking. Of course I shouldn’t be hexing. Plus it was against the rules of this damned place.
“No problem,” I muttered before taking another bite of cereal.
“I’m really, so sorry,” he said.
“That alarm has got to go,” said Crystal as she dropped her tray down next to him. “Hi Thunder,” she said to me.
I grunted around my cereals.
The viking began apologizing again. Crystal nodded, propping her feet up on the bench beside me. Bare feet.
“You need shoes,” I said, gulping down my mouthful.
Crystal winked at me. “She won’t notice if I keep my feet up like this.”
That might have worked if the staff weren’t all congregating around the same table, being ours. Aurora arrived, the cook left the kitchen to come sit, and I found myself sitting in the middle of everyone with what looked like an empty spot beside me.
Once more, people introduced themselves. I began trying to keep track of names. Amethyst was the shawled woman – still wearing so much black and silver. Bjorn was the viking. Cheryl was the chef.
“Shoes,” announced the principal, seemingly appearing out of nowhere with her tray.
Crystal lowered her feet guiltily. The principal plopped her tray next to me, her corgi shuffling to lay down beneath her. The principal sat, straight-backed and cold of aura. Her hair was impeccable, there was a hint of eyeliner, and her lips were a sraight line.
I tried not to stare. She looked tired, but strict as ever. Butterflies did their thing in my stomach. I focused on my cereal, hoping not to spill them on myself.
Chatter resumed, somewhat quieter. Hahaha. As if.
“I had such bad dreams last night!” announced Amethyst tearfully for the whole world and the other ones beyond to hear. It would have been an excellent summoning.
The principal looked completely nonplussed as she buttered her toast.
“Those poor children! I couldn’t help but think of them all night-”
The principal opened a sachet of sugar and dumped it into her coffee.
One by one, voices chimed in. Most hadn’t slept well. All felt terrible for the ‘poor children’. The principal focused on her food, nodding as she listened.
“I dreamed I was teaching a class full of monsters,” I piped in.
“Hopefully not a prediction,” said the principal dryly, knocking twice on the wooden table.
“How can you say that?” wailed Amethyst. “Children have died and suffered here!”
I’m a teacher, I thought groggily. That’s why.
But I had to admit. Compared to everyone else’s overflowing sympathy, my dream was terribly badly placed.
“Ritual has been done,” said the principal crisply. “But if you feel more needs to be done, you are welcome to do so.” She nodded at the chef. “I’m sure there is enough salt in the kitchen for everyone to use-”
“Oh but we must use himalayan salt!” squeaked Amethyst. “And, you know, it’s supposed to sit on the altar for a moon’s cycle for it to be blessed!”
The principal’s face remained stoically neutral. “If you feel the need-”
“We should do a ritual!” Amethyst fanned her hands (and arms, and shawls) around herself as if to draw in everyone’s aura to her. “We must!”
Bjorn didn’t seem completely thrilled. We exchanged a look, but shrugged. Crystal was alert and nodding quickly. Farther down, the chef was captivated and Aurora seemed interested.
“The souls of these children need to be released!” wailed Amethyst.
The principal’s eyebrows rose, but she bit into her toast.
“Let me see, we will have to do a banishing of all negativity,” Amethyst said, looking up at the ceiling as if answers were written there. “We will have to invoke Demeter-”
“Evoke, I hope you mean,” said the principal starchly.
“Sorry?” said Amethyst, totally not sorry.
“You’re not allowed to bring a deity into yourself,” said the principal while stirring her coffee. “But you may summon, so that means evoking, not invoking.”
“Oh, yes,” said Amethyst feebly. But then she waved her arms and re-invigorated herself. “A banishing! What moon phase are we in?”
There was a rustle of phones being drawn out.
“Waxing,” someone announced.
Amethyst sighed loudly. “That will not do! We will have to wait for the waning!”
“Or you could just do it tonight,” said the principal. “The students will be arriving in three days, you don’t have much time to do this.”
“On a waxing moon?” Amethyst was gaping as if, well, as if someone had contradicted her.
“Some would say it doesn’t matter,” said the principal flatly.
“I agree,” chirped in the chef, Cheryl.
“If we raise enough energy, it should be fine,” said Crystal happily.
Amethyst was still gaping. “but the moon-”
“Or wait,” said the principal, standing. “but you all have three days before the students get here. I suggest you get your classes in order, as well as familiarize yourself with their names and faces. It’s all in the emails.”
The principal walked away, and something inside me sighed wistfully. But then she was out of the hall, and it was silent.
Amethyst was flustered. “I can’t believe she isn’t staying to help!”
“She probably still has plenty to do,” I mumbled. Like the rest of us, actually. This wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
“But we have spirits here!” Amethyst’s eyes grew wide. “These poor children-”
“Well,” Bjorn leaned back in his chair, massive frame stretching his shirt out as he straightened. “Didn’t she say she’d already had the place cleansed? It can probably wait.”
I nodded at that.
But Amethyst did certainly not nod. “I feel like this is pressing. These children, all this pain- it is going to transfer into our school year if we are not careful!”
Crystal nodded empathetically. I sensed drama. Then came the kicker.
“I’ll write out the ritual,” said Amethyst with a haughty sniff. “I’m a high priestess, I can do that.”
I almost smacked my face with a palm. Oh, good gods. As if it took a special Goddess-given stamp to be able to write rituals. But okay, sure.
“In my coven,” began Amethyst, and my eyes wanted to glaze over.
But, as it turned out, most of us didn’t have covens. So everyone listened with rapt attention, thoroughly impressed or at least interested. I have to say, I was curious. I didn’t attend other rituals aside from those of my coven that often, and sometimes I found their going-ons to be thoroughly dramatic and binge-worthy.
Amethyst went on and on about how, in her coven this and in her coven that. “There must always be the high priest and the high priestess,” she went on so passionately. “Otherwise the whole ritual will be imbalanced and the whole energy will be just so off and-”
Okay, my eyes did glaze over for a few minutes there. Did she think we didn’t know any of this?
A foot nudged me under the table, drawing me out of my thoughts. The whole table was staring at me.
“Will you?” asked Amethyst.
I blinked, looking around. “What?”
Amethyst was leaning earnestly over the table, eyes glued to me. “Will you be the priest for the ritual?”
I looked to Bjorn, offering him with a palm. Look! Wayyyy more manly manly over there-> but he was shaking his head and leaning back with his beefy arms crossed over his chest. “I ain’t Wiccan,” he said cheekily. Then, for added victory (or to deal a death-blow to me maybe) he said “I’ve never led ritual.”
“He’s not even a first grade,” said Amethyst passionately. “You’re third grade, right? You can help me lead!”
Help her? Oh, good gods no. I looked down the table. Ah. Hah hah. Bjorn and I were the two only males here. “No one else male-identifying?” I asked hopefully, fishing out there for some trans or non-binary person to step forward and take the spot from me.
No such luck.
“We need a priest in order to bring balance to this out of balance place, so full of male toxicity-”
“Okay, I’ll do it,” I said, feeling it was my duty. Of course, I regretted it the instant I said it.
“Oh good!” Amethyst said dramatically. “We’ll have to wait for the full moon, of course, if not the waning, but I’ll write it out and get the material- and we will need to be thirteen, so she will have to be there-”
“What’s her name? By the way?” I asked suddenly.
All heads turned. “I forgot,” I said, feeling stupid. I knew her last name was on the contract somewhere, but I wanted to know her magical name.
Amethyst smiled forgivingly at me. “Sapphire. Her name is Sapphire.”
Oh, okay. Sapphire.