[Editor's Note: This is the ninth installment of 'Notes from the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
When little Lily Bennett began her presentation on telekinetics, I believe I felt the thrill of the early American Puritans when their glazed and righteous eyes first fell upon a midnight coven’s debauchery.
Lily’s presence was electric and her words hit the floor like the tattered and live end of a downed wire:
“I live in a hole in the ceiling at the top of some stairs. The stairs are in the eastern wing of a college that wasn’t always a college. I am the only one who really knows what used to be in the eastern wing, and I write riddles about it. At night I scratch my riddles into the tin of the air vents. I feel it like a blow when a sleeping student snaps awake because they’ve dreamed the answer to my riddle.
“They never remember the answer, but they come to find me. I am never asleep. From my hole in the ceiling I can see the top of their heads and sometimes I can see their hopes, which are hissing, circling snakes. I reach down and take these snakes to my breast so they can rest. I return the snake-halos, but now they are cold and slow.
“I have always lived in the hole in the ceiling, but in 1976 someone must have said it aloud to someone else, because suddenly it was news. I had visitors and the visitors weren’t all friendly. They’d call me by name and ask me to sing or scratch. I would never sing or scratch, but sometimes I would cry. My tears are venom and when they dripped from the ceiling they etched the cement walls. The etched walls made more news and more visitors. When the visitors began to whisper about taking down my ceiling tiles, I knew I needed to write a riddle that would stop them dead in their tracks.”