In case you missed the reading last night, here's the flash fiction piece I read! It's about a failed seance in a dorm room on a Wednesday night...
“It’s quiet tonight,” Sydney says, laying on the floor of co-RA Zach’s room.
“Ee-yup,” Zach says. He’s arranged his pillows into a pile behind his back that he reclines and slouches against while reading a magazine.
“Where is everyone?” Though they weren’t on duty tonight the quiet still made Sydney want to stalk the hallway of the Sycamore building and check.
“They’re probably in Amy’s room.” Zach flips another page and then scratches his knee where his jeans have torn.
“Doing what?” Sydney asks.
“I don’t know, she’s doing some witchy bullshit or something tonight.”
“Oh.” Zach puts down his magazine and looks at Sydney, sitting on a yoga mat on the floor, her arms wrapped around her knees. Her pointer finger is tapping against her shin.
“Chew some gum or something, you’re getting all twitchy.” Sydney glares and then sits on her hands, stretching her legs out in front of her so that her heels are on the edge of the yoga mat. Zach picks up his magazine again and continues reading.
Outside Zach’s room, the Sycamore building, the oldest on campus, creaks. It creaks like the walls are biting down on the floor boards. Down the hall is 2C. It’s far enough away that Sydney and Zach can’t hear the door quietly opening and closing as one pair of feet at a time shuffle in.
Tyler, from room 2A, is the last of the Sycamore second floor to enter into 2C. The room, lit only with dollar store prayer candles is filled with the sweet, gagging smell of sage.
“So, what’s going o—”
“Don’t slam it!”
“Put the towel back!”
Tyler hushes the hissing from the circle of cross legged freshman on the floor whispering, “Okay, okay” as he slowly closes 2C’s door until the soft click sounds. Bending down he shoves the towel, spotted with bleach and run off of black hair dye, into the space between the floor and the door. The circle shifts and opens up a space for him, which he has to squeeze into. He tries to flatten his crossed legs and the circle rumbles again, expanding to house his him.
Tyler sits between Kelly and Carmen who are both in pajama pants. They put out their hands. Tyler hesitates for a second before linking himself with them. He notices that their hands are cooler than his, smoother, like how a cucumber tastes.
The room rises and falls between whispers and silencing. No one reaches to smooth out a crease in one of the scarves on the floor in the middle of circle. Amy sits across from Tyler, her eyes closed as if in meditation.
Amy had told everyone on move in day that “Amy” was short for “Amethyst.” It wasn’t. But she made sure everyone thought otherwise.
“Tonight we contact the spirits of those lost in the the shuffle of adulthood and adolescence. The ones who continue to wander. The ones—”
“I thought we were just looking for that kid who died in the ’98,” Kara, the red head from 2F says.
Amy shoots her a look and says, “Would you like to be reminded you were dead if you were a ghost? Have some tact.” Kara, while not totally convinced bites her lip and sighs.
Amy closes her eyes again lifting her hands, the rest of the circle, linked with her, follows the motion, unsure what else to do.
On Tuesday Amy announced she was doing a seance to speak to one Rufus Moore, a freshman who was found dead in the nearby woods under “mysterious circumstances” in 1998. He lived on the second floor and Amy claimed she felt a certain undeniable connection to him. Amy also, however, told everyone she had seen the Jersey Devil herself last summer, but on a Wednesday night, under age and still mostly friendless what was the the second floor of the Sycamore dorm building to do?
“Spirits! Lead us to Rufus Moore’s truth! Reveal yourselves!”
Carmen sneezes, causing the snapping and realigning of heads.
“Gesundheit,” Tyler says.
“Sorry,” Carmen whispers before sneezing once more, and then another time.
“Gesundheit,” Tyler repeats.
“A sign!” Amy shouts. She blows out three of the five candles. “Give me my cards!”
Anthony, the only one on the floor with a sports scholarship (for tennis, if you were curious), unclasps his hands from her and Kara, and hands Amy a deck of tarot cards. Amy releases her grip on Sara to her left and begins to shuffle the cards. No one is sure if they should keep holding hands, but they do, Sara and Kelly giving each other a pulsing squeeze, a silent confirmation that this was a mistake.
Amy “Amethyst” Branson, who’s parents flirted with a Strawberry Switchblade goth/new wave phase in the 80’s and who were now both dentists in the suburbs of LA, pulls her first card.
“The eight of wands! He was being attacked from all sides, unsure where to turn. Friends, professors, family, they all turned on him, leaving him helpless, unable to escape and overcome the struggles of life.” Everyone in the circle leans in to examine the card. It showed what looked more like sticks than wands to Tyler, all pointing towards the lower right hand corner, seemingly in flight. Amy slams down the next card.
“The Hermit!” An old man is revealed holding a lantern. “he felt alone. Isolated.”
The next card came, a skeleton knight on a white horse.
“Death! Suicide!” The circle didn’t exactly gasp, but there was definitely a visceral, uncomfortable reaction.
Amy picked up her sage, still smoking and stood shaking it’s ashes around the circle, “Spirit, thank you for this insight, we now ask to see Rufus and understand him, to help him move on to his next journey!”
“Do you smell that?” Sydney asks. Zach stops reading for a moment to sniff the air.
“I guess? Someone’s just burning some incense probably.” He looks back down at the article, if you could call it that, and flips the page.
“I think it’s time we break up the coven meeting, that smell is going to make me sick.” Zach sighs, but gets up anyways, following Sydney out the door to go down the hall to room 2C. The smell only gets stronger and Zach fans the air in front of his face with the magazine.
“I hate this fucking job,” he says as Sydney raps on the door. Amy’s voice is audible inside, saying “Rufus, show yourself!”
Sydney calls, “guys, open the door,” but tries the handle anyways, finding it unlocked, opening it to reveal the circle in candlelight Amy standing with her arms in the air, eyes closed facing the low ceiling.
“Rufus!” Amy yells. Everyone in the circle looks at them. Zach reaches in and turns on the light and Sydney tells Amy to put out the sage before she sets off the fire alarm.
“We’re in the middle of a seance,” Amy snaps, “Rufus is coming. I can feel him. Join our circle and see for yourself.”
“Okay, okay, seance is over, everyone please return to your rooms or… something,” Zach says pinching the bridge of his nose. The circle, lead by Anthony, breaks apart without a singular groan of disappointment. Zach and Sydney part to allow their charges to go back to their rooms (they hoped).
“Coven meeting next week, same place, same time! Next time you can bring snacks!” Amy calls out after them.
“Goodnight Amy,” Sydney says before closing the door to 2C.
“A seance, really?” Sydney asks when they get back to Zach’s room.
“It’s a brave new world,” Zach replies, already reclining back into his pile of pillows with his magazine, “Want to know what your love forecast is this month?”
Sydney sighs and deflates onto his bed, “I guess so.”
In the corner, by the ceiling air vent, Rufus sneezes, “I fucking hate sage.”