After Professor Dogwood’s stirring tale about the secret, black heart of the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, there was a short break. Spirits naturally don’t go out much for pastries and coffee, but they are well rejuvenated by a good scent. We were directed to a nearby classroom, where we found vials of crumbling autumn leaves, bowls of white flour burned brown by a pan, mugs of leaded gasoline, trays of tarnished silverware, and other eccentricities. I nibbled a granola bar I’d found in my pocket.
Skulking deeper into a corner, I accidentally bumped into a heavy-breathing personage. He began to speak to me using shadow language, of which I happen to have some rudimentary understanding. He told me that ever since he’s been dead he’s been able to hear what the trees say, and knows where every bird is headed. He tells me he wishes he could fly south for the winter, but short of this conference he hardly ever goes anywhere, but mostly hangs around a Blockbuster they’ll be razing soon. He doesn’t know what’ll happen when they do, and frankly, he’s terrified. I tell him winters in Montreal used to be grim, then politely bow out of the conversation.
On the way to an outdoor workshop on well-water scrying by moonlight, I wondered if there are good and bad trees like there are humans. I decided that there must be. Thanks to Hans Christian Andersen, I know that when a tree dies all of its leaves turn into eyes, and for one blessed moment a tree is all-seeing. I can’t imagine how sad it would be to be a tree that dies in winter.
The description for the scrying class was this:
There is no deeper fount of foreknowledge than the neighborhood well. Uncover the secrets of the future with the inimitable shade, Maeve Widdershins. Since her untimely death in 1943, Miss Widdershins has warmed the spirit world with her cheery titter and sparkling eyes.
It was because of this description that I knew something was amiss when I reached the well and saw that Miss Widdershins’ eyes were completely black.
[Editor's Note: This is the fifth installment in the 'Notes from the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference' series. Trace our story's roots by catching up with the first, second, third and fourth posts.]