Holy Smoke by Cam Jace Storykiller
Copyright©by Cameron Jace 2019
Lecture Hall, Oxford University, London
Time: 10:30 AM Mood: Scholastic
The class I taught, Mythbusters 101, began at 10 am. I arrived 10:30. The one person I’ve known to be always on time was Death⚰️. Not a tick too soon or a tock too late⏳. We’ve bumped into each other a couple of times. I cheated, and now he wished he could bring back time.
My boots echoed to an empty lecture hall. My students hadn’t arrived yet, and I didn’t care. All except that nerdy girl 👩🎓 with thick glasses and a bag full of books. A lousy student, if you asked me. She studied hard, argued a lot, and wished to write a book about a young wizard who was going to change the world. She definitely made me reconsider ear-plucks every time we chatted.
“You’re late, professor,” she scoffed in her eloquent British accent, tapping her watch.
“It’s not like I missed anything,” I waved my hookah at the vacant class.
“Students would show discipline if you’ve been a good role model yourself,” she pouted as if she were my mother. You don’t want to meet my mother, trust me. “In professor Prendergast’s class, the same students are obliged to arrive on time.”
“Professor who?” I took off my jacket and hung it carefully on my chair.
“Professor Brontegeest Prendergast.”
“Is that a name or a one-eyed witch’s spell?”
“You can’t possibly not know a fellow professor who is an icon in the field History & Economics.”
“No wonder the economy tanked,” I stretched my neck and arms. “Don’t you have anything better to do than attending my classes?”
“You claim history is full of lies. I’m curious,” she adjusted her glasses. “I wished you elaborated on the significance of the colors red, white, and black in the Snow White fairytale by the Brothers Grimm?”
“It’s a not a fairytale👸🏽. It’s a true story📖,” I sighed. “And the Brothers Grimm are…”
Other students thronged through the main door as if in unison. I appreciated their laughter and chatter over this Plumperblast girl—or whatever her favorite professor’s name was.
“Hey!” my student, Delilah Katt👩⚖️, seductively waved her nimble hands at me. She reminded me of flirty girls in Japanese manga, except her eyes weren’t as giddy or innocent. Delilah was a succubus, too young to recognize her full powers, yet old enough to seduce Dorian Grey.
I avoided her and checked on my hookah and welcomed other students inside.
“Are you avoiding me, professor Pillar?” she had a way with her lips, pronouncing Pillar. I rarely liked the letters P and L this much.
“Hey Garret,” I nodded over her shoulder at my most pessimistic student, Garret Gloom🙈, who believed the world was going to end tomorrow, everyday. It’s been two years now.
“Are you avoiding these?” Delilah’s boobies swung forward in my direction. Good control of muscular features, I had to admit.
“I wouldn’t avoid them,” I nodded at the bouncing pair🎈🎈. “If they come without you.”
She wasn’t offended, not the slightest. She briefly glanced behind her then whispered back to me, “You should ask me out sometime, Pi-lllll-ar?”
I swallowed then said, “But of course. Please get out.” I showed her to the door and gently pushed her outside and locked the door behind her, hardly listening to her muffled complaints behind the stained glass.
Turning around I met the Urlich Twins. Werewolves who always wore Metallica t-shirts, played guitar and loved to howl at full moons🦊🦊. Again, my students hadn’t been quite in touch with their powers yet. There was a reason for that. Thank you, Vatican. But more on that later.
“We were at a Metallica concert yesterday, professor,” one of them said. “How come they told us to say hi to you.”
“What can I say?” I motioned for them to hop back to their seats. “Long hookah nights,” I raised a leg and strummed an imaginary guitar with my hands🎸.
The class laughed.
“Garret,” I rapped my student’s shoulders. “You still think the world is going to end tomorrow?”
“If not today.” He said pessimistically.
“You said that yesterday.”
“Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't there!” the Ulrich Twins cheered, pointing at Garret and mocking him. “He wasn't there again today, Oh how I wish he'd go away.”
I said nothing and strolled back to my desk, wanting to fix my hookah again and giving them time to open their notes from last time.
“How come you smoke hookah 🚬 in class?” the Blendergrass girl said.
“I blackmailed the Dean,” I said, corking a screw on my hookah. “Polaroids of him cheating with a hot demon girl named Karma.”
The class chucked and snickered 😲.
“Can I see them?” a student smirked.
“Only if you let me show the class your polaroids.”
He shut up and sank deeper into his seat. I hadn’t the slightest idea about his worry, but didn't we all have secrets?
“Hey, prof! Did you hear about Father Williams and what happened to the church yesterday?” One of the Urlich Twins said.
“I told you it’s the end of the world,” Garret felt the need to comment.
I wasn’t going to respond to either students, so I clapped my hands together and addressed the class, “So what historical myth do you want me to bust today?”
And to clarify the name of my Mythbusters class, two brothers stole the name years later and turned it into a show on some National Geographic channel🏏.
A student girl raised a hand. “I’m still perplexed over the fact you mentioned last time about Shakespeare having stolen Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet and made them into his stories.”
“And they were true stories,” I replied, still screwing my hookah—that came out wrong.
“He stole Romeo and Juliet from Pyramus and Thisbe, a Greek true story,” the Bladderblast girl said.
“I can’t get over the fact that Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Dodgson,” another student shook his head in awe. “I mean what did he call his alter ego?”
“Carolus Ludovicus,” the Blasterpan girl offered her services.
“Such a gloomy name,” Garret said in all irony, tapping his foot against imaginary dust on the floor. “Was he part of a satanic cult or something?”
“Nah,” the Urlich Twins said in unison. “Lewis Carroll was high most of his life,” they high-fived each other and flashed a Heavy Metal sign with their forefingers and pinky. “On Mushrooms!”
“The one fact that really shattered my childhood to pieces,” another girl in the back said, “was that the Brothers Grimm never actually travelled from door to door to collect fairytales.”
The class booed. This had been the most terrifying reveal I’ve proposed in my studies. Realizing that one’s childhood fairytales weren’t originally meant for children was one thing, but knowing that all beheading and killing and gore had actually happened in real life was a whole other lesson in false history.
“So have you found the 🎶Singing Bone☠️, professor Pillar?” the Pesternag girl finally asked me.
Silence hung thick in the air, and I almost choked on my hookah’s smoke. I had just made it work. I coughed a ‘no’ and stared at her for a long moment. “Let’s not talk about it today.”
“Why?” She insisted with her daring nerd-eyes, adjusting her glasses as if she were shooting accusatory laser beams at me. “Is it because the Singing Bone doesn’t exist?”
“What was it supposed to do again, that Singing Bone?” The Urlich Twins said.
“It’s like the Holy Grail,” Garret said. “If you find it, the world ends.”
“Enough,” I fisted a hand in the air. I was fun and all in class, but they knew I was an asshole when I needed be. I turned to the Pendergast girl and said, “What did you want to know about Snow White again?”
“Ah, right,” she tucked her pen in the corner of mouth and flipped through notes. “In the so-called fairytales, Snow White is described as skin pale as snow⚪, lips red as blood🍎, hair black as a window frame. But in your notes, you debunk it as false.”
“Of course,” I said. “The phrase you read is one of the most inaccurate in the history of mankind. In the original first-published, documented tale by the Brothers Grimm, it only says white as snow, red as blood, and as black as the wood like this window frame. No one ever mentioned lips, hair, or skin.”
“I read that,” she said. “But if the colors didn’t refer to her physical appearance, why were they mentioned?”
“In the 1800s, traditional German beliefs considered the colors black, red and white a metaphor to the three stages of womanhood,” I sat back and crossed my legs on the desk with the hookah in my mouth.
“Womanhood?” a few girls murmured suspiciously. I certainly had their attention.
“A motif repeatedly mentioned in Paganism as well,” I elaborated. “Let me try to simplify it,” I lay the hookah back on the table and picked up a chalk and stood up.
Nothing excited me like this stuff. I drew a young girl on the blackboard. “A girl was believed to be a maiden until her first period, hence the red color🍎,” I used red chalk to draw blood then picked up a black color and continued. “Then she became a mother until she had her last period, depicted as black,” I drew an older woman in the color black.
“Why black?” A girl asked.
“Presumably aging turned women jealous of other maidens🖤,” I answered, picking up the white chalk again. “And then later in life, the girl who once was a maiden then a mother becomes what?” I drew an older stooping hag, similar to a witch with a flying broom.
“An old woman?” A girl said.
“No,” I pointed at them, begging for an answer.
“A dead woman?” Garret said.
I didn’t even consider his answer.
“A crone!” the Pendergast girl said.
I stopped. Well, she had me. This girl was something. I said, “Yes, but how did you know? Why use the word ‘crone’?”
“Because of the drawing,” she pointed at the blackboard. “The white color of her hair⚪,” she clicked her fingers together. “This explains the red, black, and white colors in the Snow White story,” then her face dimmed. “But what does it really mean?”
“The story is a metaphor for something bigger🔖,” I explained. “If you read the original text, Snow White was seven years in the castle, a maiden, a virgin, then all of a sudden sixteen in the forest — with hints to her pregnancy in the coffin and the presence of dwarves who resemble children. A mother.”
“But she never turned into a crone or a hag?” One of the Ulrich Brothers said.
I cocked my head at him, hoping he would get it.
He didn’t, but the door to the class burst open. Delilah managed to pick the lock somehow. Angry and devastated she said, “The Evil Queen was the crone you fools!” 👑
“True,” I said. “The evil queen could also be considered the mother, closer to her last period and losing her chance of fertility and ever bearing a child.”
“It explains why she was bitter and jealous of Snow White’s beauty,” the Pendergast girl said. “So the story is a deeper metaphor to a woman’s psyche?”
This was when I had to correct her, “The story is a puzzle for incidents that really happened but could not be told for some reason.”
Heading back to my room, a man in a priest’s outfit stood watching me from Christ’s Church’s front door. He must have been one of Father Mathews acquaintances. Of course, now that I duped him into telling me about the bookmark puzzle, which I needed to solve before all hell broke loose.
Rain drizzled as we stood facing each other while the bells rang from the Tom Tower on my left.
“Professor Pillar?” someone called.
I turned around and saw the Pendergast girl again.
“What now, Ms Poopitfast?” I said.
She cupped a laugh with one hand, “I’m Joanne, by the way.”
“Joanne, eh? I was going for Gertrude, Naggy Maggie, or Painhole.”
“I wanted to thank you for answering my questions,” she said sincerely.
“Just don’t mistake it for me liking you. It’s my job,” I said, but realized her dedication to learn reminded me of myself. The haunting need to know the truth. “You did good.”
Her smile stretched wide enough to disrupt the balance of her thick glasses. Smiling people made me feel awkward. Smiles proposed the expectation to say something nice afterward, and I was a man who needed a mental floss after talking to humans everyday.
An idea proposed itself, so I dipped my hand into my pocket and pulled out Father Mathews’ bookmark🔖. Her eagerness to look worried me but she had already read it aloud: “Tom Bodley and Tom Tower. Get inside, right on the hour. One-hundred-and-one strikes. Are the limits of their power.”
“Can you solve it?”
“But of course,” she snatched it from me and walked away, reading and counting imaginary things on her fingers.
“You!” I waved at her. “What was your name again?”
“Joanne, professor,” she said without looking back. “Joanne Rowling.”