[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]
Everybody knows that the hours between three and five o’clock are the doldrums of the day. What most people don’t know is that they are an especially fertile time for psychic visions. If I had a theory on this phenomenon, it would be that perhaps it’s during these lazy hours that our exhausted toes briefly loosen their death grip on the earth.
Earlier in the day, a timeless sort of hustler in Ray-Bans and an idler’s cap had sold me a vial filled with oil and flotsam to promote third eye vision. Sitting in the students’ lounge between workshops with a miraculously procured cup of coffee, I tipped some oil onto my finger, dotted the space between my eyes, and awaited illumination.
Twenty uneventful minutes later I tried not to be too disappointed. I pulled the charlatan’s potion out of my pocket and shook it to watch its contents settle. I thought I saw a toenail. In a short while I intended to see a featured presenter who had just written a memoir about the century she spent trapped in an elevator. I downed my now cold coffee with a shudder. Under the spell of the afternoon, I paused to watch my coffee grounds slowly arrange themselves into a picture.
The woman in the mug had her back to me. She was sitting at a table and the floor around her was littered with something. She was wearing a floral print housedress and a scarf covered her hair. I felt the languor of the lounge thicken around me as my eyes drooped and the woman in the mug turned my way. She was impossibly old. With an animal hunger, she was eating a raw potato. She turned the potato around in her hand, and when she had eaten all the skin off it, she threw it on the ground. She picked up another potato from the table and began again. I realized how hungry I was. By the time she picked up a third potato, I was starving. By the fourth, the pain was almost too great to bear. Dimly, I thought of sleeping to escape that monstrous hunger.
My eyes closed just as the old woman’s wild eyes rose to meet mine. The next thing I remember was being shaken awake by Professor Algernon Dogwood, Professor of Ghost-o-logy, emeritus.