In the last installment of School of Sight, our fearless protagonist was discovering an astounding magical secret beneath the surface of Seattle society. We’re very excited to be bringing you a sneak peek of the second installment of Alisha A. Knaff’s fantastic new novel.
Subscribers will be getting their copies of Four Windows: Seattle (Part 2) on November 30th.
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The trouble with being caught up in the middle of a maybe-kind-of secret club that had a full-scale supernatural mystery on its hands was that, since it was maybe-kind-of secret, the world didn’t shut down for us to figure out what was going on. I still had work. I still had school. I still had to go about my daily business. The only real difference I noticed was that Dr. Sternquist seemed to be a little dimmer when I went to class. She was clearly upset about something, and I had to wonder how involved the vampires were with other supernatural creatures. Finn had said that they liked to keep mostly to themselves.
This might sound weird, but it made me a little sad to know that. Everybody else seemed to be relatively close. Steve had described it like a family. For all her frizz and cardigans, Dr. Sternquist was a pretty good person–or whatever you considered vampires–and even though I knew she had a partner, it bothered me to think of her dealing with this alone. It didn’t seem right, somehow. Creepface might have been one of the bad ones, but as far as I could tell, Sternquist wasn’t anything that deserved to be isolated like that. Maybe all the community spirit since the vigil had been getting to me. Probably I should have talked to her to see if she was okay, but that felt like crossing a line. If vampires wanted to be left alone, who was I to ruin that for her?
I at least made an effort to smile at her when I left class that week.
My Personal Writing class was still going too, and that week Dr. Pearce decided it would be a good idea to assign us dream journals.
“Sometimes,” he said, pacing the front of the classroom and nudging his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his forefinger, “when the world seems to be in such…such turmoil, the subconscious is much better at making sense of things than our conscious mind can afford to be.” He rubbed chalk-stained fingers over his elbow, leaving a spread of white dust on his shirt. How someone with this particular tic ended up in one of the few classrooms on campus to still have chalkboards was beyond me. By the end of any given class, he had streaks of white covering both elbows, dusted along the hem of his shirt, and peppered throughout his prematurely thinning hair.
“I know a lot of you are still trying to come to grips with the disappearance of Mr. Jefferson. I think keeping track of your dreams might help with that. Now,” he continued, passing out a stack of forms with questions like, ‘What symbols recur in the dream?’ and ‘What was the prevailing emotion?’ complete with helpful suggestions, “whenever I give this assignment, I have students who tell me that they don’t remember their dreams. A lot of people don’t, and that’s okay, but I want you to try. Keep your dream journal forms by your bed, and when you wake up after a dream, immediately write down anything from the dream that you remember–even if it’s gibberish, even if it’s only snippets. You may find that, after a few times jotting blurred details down, your dreams become more vivid and you remember them better. It’s an exercise in strengthening your subconscious.”
Awesome. Just what I needed was for my dreams to get more vivid and more memorable.
As I left class that day, he stopped me. “Hey, how are you doing?”
I was so taken aback by the question that it took me a moment to come up with any sort of answer, and even when I did, it was only, “Um…fine? I mean…yeah, okay.”
He reached across to touch my elbow briefly, leaving us with matching smudges of white on our shirts.. “I know it’s been a rough few days for everyone. Were you close to Eli?”
“I…no, not really,” I stammered. I guess it must have been more obvious than I thought that I was not okay with this dream journal thing. Maybe finding people who didn’t think I was crazy was making me lose my edge, robbing me of my ability to hide what was going on in my head.
“Well, if you need to talk, I’m here,” he said after an awkward pause. “Or if you’re not comfortable talking to me, the counseling center is open late all week for anyone who needs them.”
There was no way in hell I was going to the counseling center to tell them why a simple journaling assignment had me so rattled. I was likely to end up committed if I did. “Yeah, thanks,” I muttered, hitching my bag up higher on my shoulder.
He nodded and raked his hand through his hair, leaving a streak of white across his forehead, and I hustled out of there.
My first journal was complete bullshit:
I’m sitting in my elementary school playground on the merry-go-round. All around me my classmates are holding hands, forming a circle that wheels around and around. They’re whistling something. I can’t tell what it is, but it’s creepy. My first grade teacher, Miss Jessup, comes out and blows her whistle and everybody scatters on the breeze.
My next one wasn’t much better:
I’m standing on a hill, and there’s this windy, Seussical conveyor belt all around me, covered with miles and miles of turkey sandwiches on plates. They’re all making their way into a tiny opening in a beehive-shaped building, and I know that it’s my job to get all the sandwiches into the hive, but I know that there’s no way they will all fit.
By the third night, I was running out of bullshit ideas, so when I woke up at two in the morning, I just wrote down what I had actually dreamt, though I didn’t intend to turn it in.
Everything is quiet and dark, but I can hear something breathing, and I can see the tendrils of vines climbing up a wall.
I open my eyes.
He’s standing there, beckoning me forward with one hand, smiling benevolently. His voice is calm, much more soothing, much more appealing than it ever really has been. “Don’t be afraid, gorgeous. You and I, we’re going to do amazing things. Incredible things. Things you have never dreamed of. Just stop fighting, stop resisting what you know is inevitable, what you know is right.”
Everything he says seems so true. I know it down to my bones.
Behind me, I hear a deep, resonant voice, saying, “We’re here for you, if you need us, if you want us. You’re not alone in this.”
I turn to see who’s talking, but I can’t see anyone, and when I turn back again, he’s gone.
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