A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "The Enlightened Ones"
Having recruits spread out through all the classes in the school—freshmen through seniors—sounds kind of neat, but you would prefer not to be constrained by having to use the Mentors' Club. That's what you tell Sydney.
"I was hoping you'd say that," she says, sounding relieved. "That's what I was leaning toward, actually."
"So how do we get to any of the kids in the other classes?"
"Do you know any?"
"Then we should use a couple of teachers," she promptly replies, as though she expected that to be the answer you were going to give. She takes out her phone. "I, uh, already did some research there."
Huh, you think. You really were set up to do it this way.
"You know this guy?" Sydney asks, showing you a picture on her phone.
Mr. Hagerman? Dur! "Sure. He was my English teacher last year."
"Well, he looks pretty good, right?"
Sure, in the picture he looks fine, and you know he looks even better in person. Mr. Hagerman is a young dude, with strong arms, rugged good looks, and crinkly blonde hair. All the girls in your class had a hard crush on him, and there were rumors—how serious you were never sure—that he finger-banged at least some of them when they came to him for after-school tutoring.
"I mean," Sydney continues, "you wouldn't mind being him, would you?"
"No," you admit with a small gulp.
"Okay then. So he could get us some of the students in the junior class. And this one—" She slides screens around on her phone. "You probably remember her, too."
The new image is of a very young and pretty Asian woman, with glasses and auburn bangs. Hot teacher. With a little more exaggeration, she could be an anime character.
Of course you know who she is, because you see her sometimes in the hallways. But Ms. Cho started at Westside after you had already taken freshman English, which is what she teaches.
"Well, I never had her," you tell Sydney, and explain how she's new to the school. "But she teaches the freshman English class—"
"Exactly." She scrolls back to the previous screen. "They'd be a cute couple, right? Her and Mr. Hagerman? I mean, they could be, even if they're not banging each other stupid already."
You swallow and it goes down the wrong tube. Sydney only laughs with cruel amusement as you explode in a coughing fit.
"So, I think that should be us," she concludes when you recover. "He can help us get recruits in the junior class, she can help us get them in the freshman class. We can handle the senior class ourselves."
"And the sophomore class?"
Sydney shrugs. "Maybe we'll skip them for now." She cocks her head thoughtfully. "Two teachers, two juniors, two freshmen. Four seniors. That would be the ten we need. I would rather there be two sophomores and two seniors instead of four. That way it's two in each class, plus the teachers. But maybe we'll find a way of getting some sophomores yet."
So the business is settled as far as you're concerned, particularly after Sydney suggests you start by capturing the teachers on Monday after classes have let out. "Or at least one of them. If they are banging each other—" She casts you a sly glance. "If they are banging each other, we can use one to catch the other. Mmm!" She shivers with obvious delight. "Come on, let's get to work on some more masks!"
You move down to the basement, and resume work.
* * * * *
There's nothing else to do that weekend—no other friends to hang out with—so you finish it out by making a total of eight masks and eight memory strips, which is enough for four impersonations. "We'll probably take it slower than that," Sydney says on Saturday, while you're still making up the initial supply. "I think we'll want to spend a couple of days being each of impersonations before we make a new one." When you ask her why she says that, she shrugs.
But maybe the answer comes on Sunday afternoon, when she meets you at the school to continue working on the masks. "Here," she says when you're down in the basement, and she unzips her pack. "It's about time I showed these to you."
She is holding out two wooden rods, each about ten inches long. They are round and smoothly polished, with an inch-thick shaft. She is holding them by the carved handles at one end; the other end, each is tipped with a bulbous ball.
Only after you've taken one does it hit you what it is. "Oh my God!" you exclaim as you drop it like it scalded your palm.
She laughs. "Stop it, Will," she says. "That's not what it is, only what it looks like. It's a meditation wand."
Gingerly you pick it up again. Even after you've got it clasped by the hilt, which fits comfortably into your hand, you regard the thing with disdain. It is too close in size, heft, and shape to a dildo.
"Don't worry, it will come naturally to you," Sydney says with undisguised amusement. "You hold it like that, and—" She cups her wand and rubs it up and down, squeezing and releasing it. "Like this."
You blanch. "Why?"
"I told, you it's a meditation wand. Something the Brotherhood uses. For novices, to start with, but there are really advanced techniques that adepts can use. For now, you need to learn how to use it so you can get, mm, synchronized with—" She squints thoughtfully. "Well, with the plane wherein Baphomet dwells. At least," she adds, "that's how my dad's old notes put it."
"I don't understand."
"Like I said, it's a meditation technique. See—"
She cocks her head. You wait patiently for her to find the words.
"Okay, I don't want to spook you, because I can tell this stuff kind of makes you jumpy. So I won't talk about, um, opening a doorway for Baphomet. Because this is all just psychology. It's just a method for self-actualization. You see, most people don't get what they want because they can't picture it, and even when they picture it, they can't picture themselves going out and getting it."
She interrupts herself to give you a narrow look.
"That's the difference between someone like you and someone like Blake, you know," she says. "You know how come he's on the football squad, and gets girls, and is someone not to fuck with? Because he pictures himself being that kind of person, and he goes out and he works at doing the things that makes him that kind of person. Working out, playing football, fucking over guys who he gets pissed at. Whereas you, Will—"
She breaks off, probably because he has noticed the flush that you feel creeping up your neck and cheeks.
"I mean," she says when she resumes, "Did you ever say to yourself, 'I want that' about something, and then fight like hell to get it? Or did you just noodle around and daydream? I'm not trying to imply you are anything, like, a loser," she says. "No more a loser than ninety percent of everyone out there. But to be honest, Will, until you got into this stuff, I get the impression you just drifted along like everyone else."
"Yeah, well," you admit.
She smiles. "But then you've changed. Changed since you got into this stuff, changed since you met me. And you met me because you were changing, right?"
That's right, you want to say. I saw you and I said, "I want that" and I used magic to get you.
But you say nothing. From her expression, you guess she can read your thought.
"Anyway," she says, "these wands are part of a technique to get you to think in a, um, fruitful way. That's what the Brotherhood is about, at bottom. It's a way of unlocking all kinds of potentials inside you, so that you get the willpower to go out and get what you want. Though first you have to know what you want. Then you have to make yourself hard enough to go after."
I'm plenty hard now, you vixen! you want to growl at her. But you just listen and stare at her from eyes that are watering with desire.
* * * * *
She explains to you how to make a "doorway for Baphomet," which is part of the technique for empowering your imagination, and then describes how to meditate by holding and stroking the wand as though masturbating it. Her instructions are clear enough that you are certain that you've done it correctly when you go home and, inside your closet, behind your hanging clothes, you trace on the wall with the bulbous tip of the wand the outline of a doorway and inscribe the edges with symbols. That night you take the wand to bed with you, gripping it with both hands. But you fall asleep very quickly, so you don't get a chance to do more with it.
Sydney is waiting for you in the school parking lot on Monday morning. "Ready for the first day of your new life?" she asks as she leans in through the driver's side window of your truck to kiss you. "Why don't you skip school today and come back after class. That's when we'll get Mr. Hagerman for you."
That sounds good. And yet, before you can send an acknowledgement, you vividly remember the dream you had woken from, then promptly forgotten: Yourself, in a flimsy silk dress, smiling into a mirror that showed Ms. Cho's face. You—the freshman English teacher—were holding the meditation wand.
Was the dream telling you that that was what you really wanted? To be Ms. Cho rather than Mr. Hagerman?
Next: "The Cho-sen One"