Something was wrong. My eyes scanned the classroom, resting last on the new girl, Milaya. I had anticipated problems with her. I stepped closer. Her gaze was down and vacant. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. This, I had not expected.
The bell rang and she started. A tinge of red spread over her cheeks and she hurried for the door. I waited until the room was quiet before leaving. My steps echoed around the room, bouncing unnaturally as though hinting of unseen watchers.
The teachers’ lounge was already darkened. Only flickers of orange broke the blackness here and there, and incense hung heavy in my nostrils.
“You are tense.”
I knew the voice and my dread grew stronger.
“Yes.” I forced the sound through my dry throat. “There is one who has come who is…” I could not continue.
“…who is in league with the enemy.” He finished for me. “What will you do, Ms. Stene?”
It was a test. My future hung before me on a mere thread. In my few months teaching at this school I had been tolerated. That was all. It was my own fault, for I had stood in the background and observed.
This was my chance. “I will not let this spirit stay. It will be banished.” I raised my chin and looked into his shadowed face.
For once he seemed pleased. “Tonight I will request your guide.”
My time had come. I would be chosen. I would be part of something.
I stepped out of the room, intent on hurrying to my cottage to grade papers before the meeting tonight. I nearly ran over Milaya.
“Ms. Stene, I was wondering if you could help me with the writing assignment.” Her eyes darted back and forth between me and the room I had just exited. She shifted.
I hesitated. Perhaps this would give me the in I needed to release the poor girl of the oppression she struggled under. “All right.”
“Could we go outside to study?” Her back twitched with a hint of a shudder. “I can think better in the sun and fresh air.”
She didn’t fool me. I knew what she was attempting to flee. It would do no good. They surrounded us. I could feel them, encouraging, urging.
“I was unsure what you wanted us to write about.”
“What do you feel you want to write?”
She shook her head. “I thought you wanted us to write something about questions in the back of the science book--to answer them. But I’m not sure of all the answers.”
“Milaya,” I leaned forward, finding her eyes with mine. “Let your spirit rest. Forget about ‘the right answer’.” Taking a stick, I drew it through the sand at our feet, leaving patterns in the texture of golden grains. “Empty your mind and let what you have learned speak to you.”
She straightened and I let the branch fall from my fingers, expecting to see her eyes veiled. But there was no dullness in her face. Indeed, her blue eyes flashed and bore into mine until I felt naked. Even the spirits abandoned me in the strength of her gaze.
“Who are you to tell truth to flee?”
A coldness clutched at my bones. I knew we were no longer talking about school.
“God has given us a spirit of love and power and sound mind.” Her voice was clear, reaching to my very gut. “I refuse to join your answerless society, because I have the answer. I will not empty myself, because I have within me God Himself, before whom this school’s spirits tremble and flee.”
Though her voice was soft, it was as though the heavens had opened and spoken with a voice of thunder. The air around me trembled with fear. Trembled with power.
“How dare you speak to a teacher in such a way!” I gasped the words, drawing around me a thin vestige of dignity. I could feel them again, the familiar spirits rallying around me, angry and mocking. I had been accepted by them. This child could not win.
But she was not finished. “In the name of Jesus Christ, get away from us. She is not yours.”
The words again brought an instant vacantness. “No!”
“Turn to Him. He waits for you, Ms. Stene.” Her face was calm. Confident. Full of a perfect belonging. She had something within her.
2 Timothy 1:7
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