If I ever meet the person who invented “after hours,” I’d like to throw the hot chocolate I’m sipping right now in their face. It’s all non-paid time for time that I should be paid for and time that the student should have spent paying attention in class when I gave the lecture.
Instead, I’m sitting here, spinning in a scratchy leftover office chair from professor whose position I took over. What am I supposed to be doing here, anyway? It’s raining. No student is going to come through my door. Not in this weather. They don’t even brother come to class. It’s all just a big waste of time. I could be catching up on Jane the Virgin by now. I bet she’s still not even a virgin.
Yet someone’s gentle knock sounds at my door and calls my name, preventing any hope of escape. “Professor Lannigham?”
I mask my groan with a cough and take another sip of hot chocolate. “Yes, come in.”
She slips inside, tilting her pink-and-black polka dot umbrella next to my trash can and dusting off her pink-and-polka dot poodle skirt. She is Sheila Renaud, the one student I’d never expect to come here. An ace student. Never asks any questions, yet gets perfect scores on all of the assignments I manage to give her.
I gesture to the chair in front of my desk and try to sound as pleasant as possible. “Please. Sit. How can I help you?”
She takes her seat. “Thank you very much, Professor Lanningham.” Oh, god, she’s laying it on thick. This had better be good. “I was wondering if you could tell me about the spells in chapter thirteen. Why do so many of them require newts instead of the usual lizard snail varieties? It seems like an incredible jump to go from one creature to another.”
“I thought you already understood chapter thirteen, Sheila. You aced the quiz for it.”
Sheila sighs, her shoulders sagging with the weight of something unbearable yet intangible. “That’s what I thought.”
I blink behind my spectacles.
She bites her lips. “Professor Lannigham, the reason I’m asking you about chapter thirteen is because I don’t remember it. I don’t remember taking the test for it. I don’t remember reading it. I don’t remember reading chapter twelve. I don’t remember any of it. But every now and then, I get feelings or flashes that involve me sitting and taking a test, but it doesn’t feel like it’s me taking them.”
“Do you have a history of memory loss in your family?”
She shakes her head and brushes the bangs from her face. “No.”
“Then…” I look around the room. “You think it’s… magically-related?”
She nods. “Or spiritually-related.”
“On the dad’s side of my family, I’ve got vodoo priests. On my mom’s side, I’ve got Japanese exorcists.”
“I just… wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going crazy or anything by asking you.”
“Of course. Possession is no reason to be discriminated or looked down upon in the magical world. Many magicians do it.”
“I know, but…” She sniffles. “Just ’cause there’s a big Civil Rights movement for people likely to be possessed doesn’t mean everything changes all at once. It’s a slow process.”
“I completely understand. Is there anything that I can do to help you? I’d be happy to send an email to your parents and tell them I’m aware of your — ”
“Yeah, that’d be fine. But also, if you see anything unusual from me in class, let me know so that I get an idea for what happens.”
She rises from the chair and smiles. “Thank you so much, Professor Lannigham. I’m really glad you had office hours. I didn’t want to talk to you right after class, ’cause I didn’t want people to think I’d hurt them or anything.”
My empty hand briefly glows blue. “Of course not. If they did, I’d dangle them over the rafters.”
Sheila’s eyes widen. “Professor, I don’t think — ”
“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” I smile, waving her out. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll keep an eye out.”
“Thank you, Professor!” She takes her umbrella and leaves, hand on the door. “Erm, should I close — ”
“Keep it open,” I say.
She nods, then leaves it ajar.
Just like my newfound perception.
Hey, everybody! Thanks for reading to the end. This piece came from a freewrite I did in April of this year. I think I got the prompt for after-hours on a daily prompter of some kind. The freewrite itself, though, is nothing like what I wrote here. I completely opened things up. I feel like this would be a good start to a story, to be honest.
Also, one last thing. Please leave in the comments below what you liked about this piece, what you were confused by, and/or what you wanted more of. Constructive criticism for all fiction pieces posted here is welcome. I want to learn how to craft better stories and write better overall, and I can’t do that without help from readers like you or critiques on sites like Scribophile. The creative aspect of writing might be a solitary act, but improvement for writing certainly doesn’t happen alone. Writers always need feedback.
Anyhow, that’s it from me. See you on the next post!