AN: And here are Evelyn and Lilith, remember them if you actually plan on reading any of my other stories.
Ms. Cider knew all the tricks; twenty years of teaching hadn't left her a novice. She stood facing the blackboard (which was smeared with the ghosts of hundreds of misspelled two syllable words and disciplinary lines that all began with "I will not") fully aware that Alisa Pike was passing notes to Darleen Shears, Georgia Hare was sneaking her lunch beneath her desk, Lilith and Evelyn Monroe had switched seats and Megan Hart was throwing the sign of the wolf towards the back of the class.
Ms. Cider would allow this to go on for a bit longer than usual; her thoughts were not all together just yet. She was thinking of the boys, the seven black-haired sheepish little boys who were sitting like china dolls in the very rear of the classroom. They sat not at individual desks but at a low rounded wooden table that was at least eighty years their senior. They sat according to the tabletop's intricate design. Michael, the youngest, sat before a carving bearing his name and a series of asterisms forming the rough shape of a sleeping lamb. To his left sat Raphael, whose name was forged above a scroll with seven seals, the first two broken and the last five intact. And to his left, Uriel, before his name and seven shattered bowls. Next was Raguel with his name and seven trumpets, then Zerachiel with several crying women kneeling and praying steadfastly while the ground beneath them crumbled away into nothingness. Remiel sat beside him, with four men mounting four sickly horses. Finally, Gabriel, the oldest at the age of twelve, was before a second lamb, this one was be speckled with seven eyes of omnipresence and seven horns of omnipotence with a line of blood drawn at his throat. They all wore black, they were always still, were always silent, complete foils for the restless girls in their sky-blue school dresses and wide mischievous smiles. When Ms. Cider was a young audacious girl herself, she had looked back at that very same table in this very same room, throwing the sign of the wolf (that dreadful gesture, although every woman in their village had thrown it at least once, as Ms. Cider got older she would wince at its usage) because the girl next to her was doing the same, she would look at those withdrawn little boys who always bore the same names and she would feel guilty. They looked like they were dressed to lie in their caskets, although the very thought of this was absurd. Her people did not wear black when they died, they wore white gauzy shrouds, the color of heaven to which they would soon ascend- and they did not bury their dead. Burials were impossible, and so the dead were burned to ashes at their wakes- every woman knew that the wolves slunk from the forest at the scent of a corpse; they would cross the sacred boundaries drawn by the Prophets for this rare and extraordinary meal. They would dig up the bodies and feast. And while the wolves were in their village, eating their dead, what was to stop them from eating their live? Corpses were devil's food and did the devil not deserve starvation? She nearly rang the beige envelope in her hands at the thought of the dark beasts in their village and thought briefly let the Prophets save us, more out of habit than fright.
Somewhere behind her, a clutch of three or four girls had began to chant the childhood hymns that Ms. Cider herself had sung at their age. "I beheld three sly wolves at the river," they sang in low secretive voices with childish delight. "At the boundary of the endworld, at the place where the forest is not forest and the waters run rancid. Fed me poison, fed me night, fed me darkness, fed them light."
Ms. Cider felt an old switch flip into place, and she cleared her throat loudly. "Lilith and Evelyn, please sit in your own seats."
The song died out with a rush of whispers as Ms. Cider heard the scrape of chairs and the embarrassed dragging footsteps on the polished classroom floors. "Thank you," She said as she turned to face her students. Her eyes, a pale grey-blue, settled sharply on one girl towards the back of the class, a single row of empty desks separating her from the seven boys. "I have news," she smiled brightly. "Joyous news. Ophelia, dear." She kept her eyes on the girl who was now staring back in bewilderment. "You've been chosen by our Prophets."
A few of the older girls looked back solemnly and knowingly, and the others strained to keep their faces from appearing covetous. Ophelia felt the blood rush to her cheeks and bowed her head, masking her freckled porcelain face with angelic blonde hair.
"Come now, Ophelia. This is for you." Ms. Cider waved the envelope in the air briefly.
Ophelia pushed back her chair and began the seemingly endless trek to the front of the room. Her emerald eyes studied the intricate patterns on the ochre-stained pinewood flooring of the classroom for a while, then she shifted her gaze to the single window of the classroom that took up most of three quarters of the wall. Outside she could see the dried goods store, the nurses' offices, the home of Darleen Sheers in its tattered glory, and the very edge of the distant and forbidden forest. She could see the wild plum trees with their numerous bursts of explosively sweet pink blossoms peppering their amethyst leaved branches. It was early spring, and Ophelia longed to abandon the classroom and disappear into the sweetly perfumed forest, wolves or not. Instead, she would continue to walk the yellowing floor of this old schoolhouse, the rows of girls on either side of her staring with wide equestrian (or, Ophelia suspected, covertly envious vulpine) eyes. Ophelia reached Ms. Cider's desk and took the envelope with shaking hesitant hands.
"You'll commune with them on the second month of summer."
"Who is it?" Ophelia asked, her eyes willing to land anyplace other than the teacher's face.
"I'm sorry dear?"
"Which one, which Prophet wants me?" Ophelia's voice became a soft whisper as she wedged her thumb in the crevice of the envelope, only to find that its seal had already been broken.
"Ah," Ms. Cider bit her tongue in thought, and then smiled with false reassurance. "They are one and the same, the Prophets."
"This is an honor, Ophelia. An honor."
"I know." Ophelia ducked her head and retreated to her seat.
"Now," Ms. Cider's voice boomed. "Arithmetic."
Both Ophelia and the teacher were quite glad to her the predictable groan rise from the class.
AN: not writing is a difficult and pointless task. I do not suggest it.