Trying to maintain my peppy tone, I reminded him, “You don’t need to answer in the form of a question, but if you want to earn a point, you do have to say an answer! You don’t score just for being the first one to get your hand in the air!” The student defeatedly lowered his arm back down to his desk, and inwardly, I gritted my teeth. When I designed this review session game, I thought the rules were pretty straightforward, but I had to repeat that guideline several times in each class that day, and it was sixth period! At least some of my pupils seemed to be enjoying themselves! Those children wore bright colors and all flocked to one side of the room while the other half dressed like rejected new characters from The Adams Family, and the latter usually refused to participate in the merriment I offered the class. If they did reply to an inquiry, their responses were typically very depressing- even when the topic was fun like my bonus category featuring my worst dad jokes (apparently, I missed a whole bunch that should have been on there according to my class attendees!), which only added to the non-FAUKers’ distress after their eerie mannerisms spooked them! It was hard enough to trying to keep those who wanted to have a ball’s spirits up with the somberness that some of their peers presented, but coupling that with the lack of adherence that a few had for the rules made this whole day aggravating! I did my best to make their lesson entertaining so that no one else would feel motivated to drop out, but unfortunately, I doubted that I had done much to prevent more of these teens from following in the footsteps of the rapidly growing number of those leaving Rosemary King permanently! “Anyone else know? What are the go-to subjects to bring up with your clients in order to get to know them?” One of the shadowy youths indicated that she had the solution. “This isn’t going to be another dreary statement, is it?” She shrugged, but because no one else seemed to have a guess, so I permitted her, “Go ahead, Yurei.”
Yurei opined, “I would discuss the underworld takeover by wondering if they would be excited to reunite with people in their family who have long been deceased.”
The room go uncomfortably quiet at the picture she painted, and once I had overcome the hurdles of digesting that bleak image myself, I attempted to smooth things over with a chuckle, “Ah, yeah. Relatives is one of them, so I’ll give you a half point for that, which brings the total for Team A to four and Team to one half. Okay, I believe we can squeeze in one more…” The bell rang, and I didn’t sound very convincing when I commiserated, “Oh darn, the game is over! Team A gets the bonus points on tomorrow’s test!” Nobody looked pleased or disappointed by the results- everyone concentrated on grabbing their belongings and scrambling out of there! I can’t say I blamed them, but it frustrated me that my gesture didn’t have the effect that I aimed to generate! Prior to Ismeray being able to zip off of the campus, I stopped her, “Ismeray, I need to have a chat with you!”
“Ooh, somebody’s busted!” one child taunted her.
“Somebody else will be too if they keep harassing their classmates!” I retorted. His face fell, and he trudged into the hallway dejectedly. I could not have allowed him to continue with that misbehavior, but I felt bad for taking the wind out of his sails! I crossed my fingers that I hadn’t been the final straw for him an ambition to exit the educational system!
Roxy remained glued to her seat, and I instantly got filled with dread! Normally, when she hung out at a random location, it signified that Damon was close by and a fear monger attack was eminent, so her presence right then was unsettling! I glanced around the room to see if there was any suspicious objects, and when it looked like the coast was clear, I told Roxy, “Uh, I need to speak to Ismeray privately…”
With wide, panicky eyes, Roxy objected, “But…! I gotta…!” I gave her a stern stare, so she relented, “Alright, fine! I’ll wait outside.”
“She’s my ride home,” Ismeray notified me as Roxy marched out of our earshot.
“Ohhh!” I breathed a sigh of relief. We didn’t have any strange incidents at any juncture in the school day, so it really felt inevitable to deal with one when I assumed that Roxy behavior signaled Damon’s proximity to the area! It struck me as odd that my colleagues in the Ghost League and I went an entire shift without battling any sort of paranormal nuisances! Damon ordinarily didn’t take breaks from his vengeful plots, so I wondered what his motivations for this pause could have been! I didn’t buy for a second that he meant to convenience us in any fashion, so his absence could not have portended anything beneficial for us! Something else about the tidbit that Ismeray conveyed to me bothered me as well… “Roxy has a car?” The notion of a person with so many airheaded tendencies getting behind the wheel terrified me! It made me speculate whether or not a fear monger had chosen me as its victim…
Ismeray clarified, “Well, technically, her mom is giving me a lift, but I can’t exactly show up at her van without Roxy!”
I exhaled in alleviation, and then I acknowledged, “That makes sense!”
“She does have her drivers license though,” Ismeray brought up.
“Listen, I didn’t call this meeting to gab about your buddy!” I let her know mainly because I grew alarmed by this fact and didn’t wish to learn anything else about her in case it disturbed me even further. I did have an important matter to hash out with Ismeray, but I didn’t anticipate it being a pleasant interaction, so if she had gathered any inclination to converse about anything but that, I probably would have let her carry on to put her more at ease. It was really too bad that I had to take away that opportunity and dive right into the main objective of this one-on-one, and I beseeched the universe that cutting straight to the chase wouldn’t mar my odds for a victory! “Tell me about this FAUK’ing rally you’re hosting.”
Ismeray bristled at my use of the phrase FAUK, but I got the impression that it was popular enough amongst her fellow juveniles that she had given up on individuals uttering it in that manner. She folded her arms and refused my request, “I’m not saying anything to a non-believer! You’ll just use what I say to shut down our plans!”
Drats! She caught on to my ploy way too fast! This process would have been so much easier if Roxy had organized this event! Still, I used to win over very stubborn sales targets who acted a lot like her, so I felt confident that I could draw out something useful from Ismeray! I boldly assured her, “It’s fine! You don’t have to say a word. I already know what’s on your agenda!”
“You’re lying!” Ismeray vehemently declared. “Nobody outside of the F-A-U-K knows what we have in store for that rally! How did you find out?”
“That doesn’t matter!” I sat down in a casual way in hopes of establishing a more relaxed atmosphere for this conference. “It doesn’t matter why or how I know, I just do! And hey, I’m not trying to get you to cancel it either! No, seriously! All I wanna know is why you have to make the ceremony so grim!”
She gazed at me in perplexedly. “We deal with elements of the dead and the undead! What are we supposed to do? Wear cute pastel shades and gush about how adorable the afterlife is?”
I countered, “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s adorable! But the afterlife isn’t a terrible place! The souls who go there sustain an eternity of peace, do they not?”
“Well, yeah…” Ismeray admitted. “But-.”
“So, if a person is set to revel in infinite years of serenity, why would the afterlife be so doom and gloom?”
To my delight, I could see Ismeray contemplating my argument! “Maybe… But if the afterlife was so amazing, why would our leader tell us to respect the fallen with funeral attire?”
We were starting to broach on a substance of interest now! I had to persuade her to divulge more details on whoever this leader may have been in order to put a halt to the crooked FAUK’ing scheme! “Why do you think this leader would require you to spend the rest of your life in perpetual mourning?”
“They don’t want us to constantly cry over the departed!” Ismeray debated me. “They’re preparing us for what’s to come so we can embrace this change instead of running from it! They want us to feel peaceful too!”
“And what makes you so sure of this?” I contested. “What makes you so sure that this change will even come?”
With a slight aghast, she protested, “Well… they have a deep set of knowledge about this realm! There’s been a lot of strange occurrences happening lately, which only makes their prediction of the uprising have that much more merit!”
I brought up, “Predictions are merely guesses though! You can’t guarantee anything from that! What if you go through all this trouble and the uprising never happens?”
For a minute, I reckoned that I had her sold, but then she shook her head and gathered her belongings in agitation. “You’re trying to confuse me now! The leader said doubters would do that kind of thing to bring down our glorious empire!”
“Hold on!” I directed her before she could rush out the door. She desisted her steps, but she didn’t turn back around to face me. I appealed to her, “Just promise me that you won’t let anyone get hurt!”
“Huh?” She puzzled and glimpsed over her shoulders to give me a quizzical look. “Why would anyone be harmed?”
I explained, “All of this glorification of those who’ve passed on. I don’t want any kids believing that joining that crowd would make them cool or anything!”
Her eyes grew wide at the possibility of this concept. “I highly doubt that our leader would have us go that far!”
“But if they did, promise me you won’t go through with it!” I urged her.
“Well…” she ruminated on this proposition, which completely disconcerted me! The essence of her not immediately agreeing to not cause true damage to any living being was horrifying, but I blamed whoever this leader was for this disposition! What could they have possibly done to convince their devotees for this unwavering loyalty, and exactly how far would they manipulate these youngsters to go? Imsmeray eventually concluded, “Well, if there were any serious injuries, Principal Palillo probably wouldn’t let us hold another rally, so fine, I promise that everyone will stay safe!”
Her motives for doing the right action were questionable, but it alleviated my jangled nerves that no innocent bystanders would unjustly fall into peril! I therefore took this as a small win and remarked, “Smart choice! It’s like I mentioned in a recent lesson- security is vital for business! If your customers feel protected, they’re more likely to maintain faith in your establishment, but if you can’t prove that you have their backs, you’ll lose people in a heartbeat!”
Ismeray laughed, “You’re talking about the afterlife like it’s some kind of business! Can you imagine showing up to the underworld and having to fill out forms with their secretary or something?” She almost doubled over in a fit of giggles at this scenario.
“Umm, those skills are universal! Any enterprise will use them to achieve success! Would Hell have any demons if they weren’t good at recruitment?” I kidded. She chortled even more heartily, and then she made her way towards the exit again. Before she vanished off of the premises, I asked her, “Hang on! One more thing before you go… I need your advice on something…”
“You need my advice?” Ismeray answered in astonishment.
With as much indifference as I could possibly muster, I conveyed to her, “Yeah. Let’s say someone enacted a spell that made an animal speak, how would one go about reversing that? It’s for a play I’m writing!” That last part was a fib, but I didn’t want her to give gossip to Roxy regarding how effective her magic had been! I inwardly prayed that her witchy bestie didn’t already brag about what she had done!
Thankfully, Ismeray furrowed her brows at this “hypothetical,” which could only have meant that she hadn’t heard it previously! She posed to me, “What kind of weirdo would wanna do that?”
“That’s an excellent question!” I had to stifle my smirk at her reaction. “I’m still working that one out!”
“I see…” Ismeray tapped her noggin as she chewed this over. “Hmm… Well, it sounds like that castor altered something in the animal’s brain to give it that ability. It’s a complex jinx, so you would need to do complicated hex to undo it. I recommend getting a spell-book to give your character realistic dialogue for something like that. You could look online, but you gotta be ‘cause there’s a lot of crap on the internet!”
Envisaging this social media group that evolved into the mass movement known as the FAUK club, I concurred, “Tell me about it!” She grinned and swiveled back towards the hall to leave. I was preparing myself to depart as well until I heard a flurry of screams in the building! My pulse began to race- Damon must have decided to strike after all! I ran down to where I heard the cacophony of shrieks expecting to encounter the worst… What I didn’t expect to cross paths with was…