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War Drums and Laughter
Mishel lifted the leaf-woven blanket from her olive eyes just as the sun was stretching its arms. The prickly, jade grass danced with her toes as she spiraled out of her hammock. She carelessly climbed down the vine ladder resting on the side of her home. As she descended the forest tree, her sandals clashed against a puddle. Somewhere beyond the peaks of the green shawl-covered forest, a centaur laughed and tapped his hooves on the cool earth. Her child-like features reflected on the muddy puddles. Brown tousled curls escaped the grip of rubber chains that viciously captured the rest of her hair.
Mishel had no use for a book bag. She secured her paint-splashed palette and wooden paintbrush in her velvet pouch; with one swift motion, she threw it on her back. That was all she needed.
Bells yelled for mercy while gates leapt to life. Swarms of kids entered the main gates of Farr A’Gut Sorcery Guild. Mishel eyed them apprehensively.
Some classmates were shorter than a foot, while others bowed their heads through the gateways to prevent painful head injuries. A couple students glanced at Mishel. Their piercing sunny eyes sunk deep into her skin. While the line to the inner gates advanced, Mishel could faintly hear the rasping and scratching of claws against the floor. In contrast, some students possessed no legs; they enjoyed the delights of floating in air like genies but without the magic carpets. Classes were starting to begin and the pressure was mounting. Hooves and feet alike began stepping on one another in order to squeeze through the inner gates.
While holding her paintbrush and the palette, Mishel twirled through the inner gates. No sound.
The silence of the gates signaled that she was worthy of entering onto the great halls ahead. As she sang a little song of triumph, Mishel realized that the proctors were still in the horizon.
Mishel eyed the gnome beside her. He tapped his finger on his hand and carefully reciting a list in half-concealed whispers,” Black pants…check…clear book bag…check…white shirt…oh my…” The gnome’s red face was suddenly imprisoned with an iron look of dismay.
“Oh may!” the tiny gnome repeated and clenched his hands to avoid revealing his drenched in sweat fingers.
Reluctant to see anything around her, she hung on to her paintbrush through the outside of her pouch.
There was a time in the distant past when she aggravated her mind over the rules of the Guild. She was like Atlantis; she was lost and many questioned if she ever even existed.
The robed, pointy -fingered proctors scanned each individual with their beaming eyes.
Proctors were like ice cream. There was bound to be more than a few that made your stomach sick. Other proctors were like sprinkles on the ice cream of students’ hearts, showering them with compassion and understanding generously.
As she passed the proctors, Mishel slowed her pace and looked back at the inner gates. Her vantage changed from this day to the days past as her mind regressed to the day she had challenged the proctors.
“You gotta take off that shirt, it’s not uniform.”
Mishel, reluctant and confident, stated, “There’s bone-chilling winds outside and snow creeping up to our heels; Since our bodies are not accustomed to always being engulfed in bitter cold, unlike some people, some of us do feel the cold.”
“Take off the shirt, I need to confiscate it and give me your ID too,” the lady replied condescendingly, while failing to make eye contact with Mishel.
“But, this is my property; how can you simply take something that’s not yours? I have rights as a student of Far A’ Gut and as a human.”
“You know what!” the female proctor scrunched her teeth at Mishel, “I don’t want your pro-per-tyy!” The last word beckoned the worthlessness of Mishel’s thermal shirt, which she wore under her uniform shirt.
She continued, “Give me your ID and go take off that shirt in the bathroom.”
“This is not right.”
Mishel felt hopelessly lost.
She rested her elbow by the bathroom mirror and peered into her reflection.
“Why do they put so much emphasis on what type and what color undershirt a student has on, while less emphasis is placed on the racial tensions in our school or the drug business going on inside or the 50% drop-out rates in our school?!”
She pounded her fist against the glass, “Why?”
She recalled that she was confronted with two options at that point: she could have either complied with rules she didn’t believe in, in order to receive an education she so desperately sought after or she could have abandoned the building and their rules.
Mishel stared into the ground as she continued reminiscing. Some students walked around her, others pounded her sides as they galloped along with their clear bags.
Her mind continued through the messy fields of the past.
She continued on her path to her first period class, general band, carrying a slow melancholy-stricken stride.
A sigh flowed from her heart as she gracefully placed her wand on the last available lily pad. This particular lily pad had apparently suffered a great deal of stress and was now strewn with gray bandages.
As soon as band began bellowing beautiful ballads, two black-robed proctors appeared in the halls near the portal entrance.
As the two figures stood waiting for the elevator, they glanced about. Two bulging red eyes stumbled upon Mishel through the open music room doors.
While Mishel blew her hair from her forehead to reveal the half notes and quarter notes waltzing on the music lines, her green eyes reflected the two figures in the hall.
Mishel shook her head as if shaking off the previous ordeal.
As she examined the music notes in front of her, her gaze was drawn to the two eyes staring back at her from the hall.
The flashing eyes accompanied a smirked. The proctor patted her fellow coworker’s arm, like a playful cat, and whispered some apparently outrageous comment in her ear. At that moment, they both turned their heads in Mishel’s direction.
“What’s going on?” Mishel thought.
“Now, all together! Until we get it right!” the music instructor’s voice projected from his mouth like foaming liquid from a pressured soda.
In the distance, the two ladies cackled and burned their eyes into Mishel’s now shaking body.
She could no longer concentrate on her instructor’s voice or on the spiraling notes flying off her music book.
Mishel knew she was the pun in the “secret” joke of the ladies in the hall.
Their laughter grew like incessant fungus on a tree.
The volume of their cackles seemed to persevere over the beating of the drums. Mishel’s heart ran through a hazardous jungle amidst war drums and cackles.
“But…they are supposed to help students…supposed to aid them on the quest called ‘high school’…” Mishel tried desperately to reason why a staff member would ridicule a student.
The music notes now leaped out of the page and Mishel couldn’t catch them.
A hand plopped up, interrupting the beating of the lily pads, “Mr. Lakes? May I be excused to the bathroom?”
As Mishel reached the music doors, her tears had already clouded her.
The two proctors were gone but their laughter lingered on. The proctors’ expressions and wrongdoing towards Mishel remained stuck in the small crevices of the hall, as well as the crevices of her mind.
Mishel turned her head towards the inner gates and witnessed a kid being detained from class for apparently wearing the wrong type of book bag. “Funny…” she pondered, “transparent book bags are enforced while they do not enforce transparent hearts.”
She set her palette down and violently mixed blue shades with fresh purple paint. As her brush ran over the canvas, she pronounced to the air, “The content of our bags is revealed while the content of our hearts is concealed.”
Her words were carried by tiny air sprites to a vacant lot. There they were murdered. She heard the echoes of the main doors closing.
“Perhaps, yet another kid is exiting the school building.”
“Another statistic,” she shook her head and continued painting.
As disillusioned students left the building, the doors screeched and cried as if trying to warn them of something. Days passed and Mishel came and went through those doors. She always carried her velvet pouch on her back. Within it lay her world.
She had given up on reality.
She was no longer a student at General High but instead she was a sorcerer at Far A’ Gut Guild. She created the world she wished to see now. Through her paintbrush and palette, she dwelt in a magic-filled world where anything was possible. The remarkable world of hammocks, nature, mysterious gates, fairies, centaurs, wishes, forests and magic were alive in her paintings. Her mind flew and swam to lands that were only imaginable to souls in search of something comforting and sweet to hold onto…like dreams.