Timbra watched as I fidgeted in my chair during our Wednesday morning Intro to Craft class. For once the stand-in professor, Dean Miles, was the least of my concerns. She never missed an opportunity to humiliate me or make me feel inadequate in some way. Honestly, I would’ve welcomed the distraction. I smiled weakly at Timbra’s ever-forward way of navigating life. I was feeling significantly less positive about the situation.
“I just don’t know what to do next,” I said.
“Too bad you can’t divine some kind of plan or see the future through a spell or something,” Timbra mused.
“Timbra, that’s it!” I yelped.
“What’s it?” Her over-long black eyelashes blinked repeatedly with incomprehension.
“Obviously, I need help. And this place is crawling with clairvoyants, oracles, and seers of all kinds. I don’t know what to do, but surely someone could help me see what the right path is. Right?”
“Sure, I guess. Who do you think could help?”
“Hell, I don’t know. I’m new here. Don’t you know anyone?”
“I’m afraid my family’s not very magical. We excel more in the political arena. But I did hear our Elements professor saying she dabbled in pyro-osteomancy.”
“It’s a kind of divination that uses bones heated over a fire until they crack. Then someone trained in the craft reads the cracks to foretell the future.”
“What kind of bones?” I screeched.
“I dunno. Surely animal. I don’t think it has to be the pinkie toe of a virgin or anything.”
“Wait a minute,” I said slowly. “Layla. Layla once said her mother is a clairvoyant. A good one.”
“Miss Stonewall?” rang a sarcastically-pert singsong voice. Dean Miles. Perfect.
“I was just discussing how modern perceptions of witchcraft in other cultures were a convergence of science, superstition, and history. But you know that, of course, because you were listening so intently.”
“Tell me, Miss Stonewall, your particular thoughts on that image we’re all so familiar with of a cone-hatted witch riding a broom across a moonlit night. I’m sure your perspective is one we’d all love to hear.”
I knew she was being sarcastic, that she was taunting me, but what were my options at that point?
“Ah…okay.” I cleared my throat. “Well, as early as the 1300’s there’s evidence that people who practiced witchcraft made compounds—hallucinogenic compounds—from plants like nightshade, henbane, mandrake. And a natural progression of drug use has pretty much always been to discover how to get higher faster. These people discovered their compounds could be absorbed through sweat glands like the armpit or mucus membranes like…well, further south.
“Of course the primary benefit of these alternate routes was they bypassed the metabolizing function of the liver.”
I stopped to swallow. The odd subject matter had made me nervous.
“Ah, so, they stayed higher longer. Not to mention avoiding a righteous stomachache.
“Anyway,” I said, growing ever more uncomfortable as I progressed, “it’s documented that the compounds were applied with the end of a broomstick. Ah, you get the point. And as for the flying…well…yeah. Middle-Aged version of an acid trip.”
My classmates, who until then had sat in stunned disbelief or morbid curiosity—maybe both—erupted in raucous laughter.
I shrugged and swung an arm behind me before taking a little bow.
“Enough for today,” Dean Miles clipped out. A wicked grin pushed her mouth toward her cruel eyes. Despite the applause, she was distinctly pleased she’d forced me to publicly discuss broomsticks stuck in hairy places.
Timbra shook her head in astonishment as we made our way across campus. “How could you possibly know that?”
“About the hallucinogens and the brooms, you mean?”
“Of course that’s what I mean! Is it true?”
“I don’t know if it’s true or not. But I read about it in my extracurricular studies.”
“Phew,” she said and splayed fingers in front of her face. “Mind blown.”