Sooo, Jo and I were chatting about a week ago, and somehow the conversation turned to hazing rituals… and magic schools… and what hazing rituals in magic schools would look like…
And so being the writers that we are, we dared each other to write magic school hazing scenes. Jo’s got hers up here and mine is down below:
I don’t know who started them, but the whispers tagged us all day. We shared the news behind raised hands as we ate our accustomed breakfast of oatmeal—lumpy, not mashed like what the First Years got. We passed it along in the white hallways, our words sinking into the padded grey carpet. The news made us squirm, tugged our attention from Master Nyssa in Colors.
Rol’s got a Senses Box! An Upper Level Senses Box!
Master Nyssa took us through the greyscale, then rapped her pointer, just hard enough to make us wince. “Pay attention, class. This next swatch”—she tapped at the black-covered board—“is 5% red in white. We call this tint pink. Prepare your mental walls.”
Our first exposure to a primary color! We all straightened, donned our most focused expressions, clasped our (grey) gloved hands and set up our mental walls against the onslaught.
Master Nyssa went around the room, checking posture, mentally scrutinizing blocks, murmuring reassurances that at our level of training, a tint would not cause permanent damage.
Then she removed the black covering.
Red screamed off the swatch and arrowed for my eyes. My mental blocks were too small, too pathetic. The color pierced my membrane, seared through the liquid in my eyeballs, targeted my nerve. It electrified its way up to my brain, shattered my barriers one by one…
…. hit my primary defenses. And stopped.
I panted. Sweat trickled down my back. Slowly, I came back to my surroundings, dazed, crouched over. Many of my peers had collapsed. Trig was a heap on the floor, several classmates held their heads and moaned. Retching sounds came from behind me. Only Ava looked serene as usual, though her hands clenched each other so hard it was a wonder her nails hadn’t poked through.
Master Nyssa briskly administered restoratives. “Not bad for your first time. Good work, Ava and Fali. Run along to Master Derk now. He’ll understand.”
Master Derk had been warned; he was unsurprised to see only the two of us out of the entire Second Year class. We spent Sounds listening to single musical notes, separated by vast spaces of silence.
Lunch was mashed potatoes without even a shake of salt. Someone had judged that the Second Years had suffered too much sensory assault already.
Back to baby food. I sulked, craving the tingle of salt crystals on my tongue.
The Masters had warned us about addiction to the senses. It was a common failing of those of us born to see the world in all its riotous glory, and to manipulate the fabric of its being. Most of our kind didn’t make it out of babyhood, burned to the core by the colors and curves of everyday things, driven to anguish by the touch of a mother’s hand or the crocheted trim of a blanket. Those who survived shut themselves up in their minds behind walls of impenetrable darkness or abandoned their bodies for a brief passionate life entangled in a wall-hanging, a flower, a sunbeam.
They tell us that we are the lucky ones, kept in ascetic surroundings since our babyhood. The Masters slowly introduced us to sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures, and coached us to not be overcome by them. Afterwards, we’d move on to the Collegium where we’d learn to manipulate what our senses perceived.
Rol swaggered by with his tray, dramatically tripped on my chair leg (perhaps an inch or two out of its regulated space—Sounds always made me hungry), and sent his dishes flying. Carrot chunks pattered onto carpet, gobs of applesauce rained on Kiri, who beat at the clinging ooze on her robes with rising hysteria. The Second Years let out whispered shrieks at the clatter of bowls and tray and the fleshly thump of Rol hitting ground.
I looked down, mashed potato halfway to my mouth.
Rol grinned at me. His eyes were just shy of unacceptable coloration. “An hour after Lightsout. In the Smell Lab. The Senses Box.”
The Masters swooped down on silent feet. One clapped a mildly-scented washcloth on Kiri’s face, calming her down immediately. Another made a gathering gesture and the offending carrots disappeared. Master Derk hauled Rol to his feet.
“’Sokay, ’sall right. Thank’ee for asking.” Rol brushed his rumpled robe and spoke too loudly in the fake commoner’s accent he affected. He piled his tray haphazardly with bowls and sauntered off.
I stared after him. I’d been noticed. I’d been invited.
I was… somebody.
The lab was locked and they were late. I’d been trained—as we all had—to stand still for long periods of time, but it was hard not to fidget.
Rol’s gang didn’t make a pretense at being quiet. Their smothered laughter, the scuff of their feet, the scritch of their clothes made my heart beat faster. As Rol unlocked the door, the hulking Nar showed how he’d pinned paper on the inside of his robes to make them crinkle in that ear-grating way.
In spite of the greasy-feeling bespelled air, the ghosts of old scents lingered inside the Lab. I picked out something citrus, something metallic, and stinky feet.
“This way.” Rol strode to a smooth-surfaced white table and withdrew the Senses Box from his robes. We took in a collective deep breath. It was white and rectangular, with a Fourth Year sigil on the lid.
“How’d you get this, Rol?” breathed Fi, a wispy Third Year with a paler-than-normal complexion.
“I have my ways.” Rol stood up straight. “All right, let’s do this. Nar, you’re first.”
“Awww, Rol. Why me?” In spite of his grumbles, Nar stepped up to the table.
I stared fixedly at the signs on the sides.
WARNING—PRIMARY COLOR OVERLOAD
BEWARE—OLFACTORY AND GUSTATORY EFFECTS
And in the biggest letters of them all: MUTABLE
Which was code for organic. My palms grew sweaty.
Nar leaned forward; Rol flipped the lid open. Nar peeked in, eyes screwed almost shut, then reared back and hurried away. Rol shut the lid, but not before I caught its smell through the sluggish air…
Fi was next. One quick look, then her face took on an unhealthy tinge and she scuttled away, holding her stomach.
Flip, peek, hurry, flip. Flip, sway, get pushed aside, flip.
Then it was my turn. The foreign scent of the object inside, heavy and warm like a hand against my lips, fired my nerves. I wanted whatever it was. I wanted to taste it so badly my hands tremored.
So when Rol flipped the top open again, I thrust out my hands, grabbed the object—oh so wonderful and smooth, firm and yielding—and stuffed it into my mouth.
An explosion of color like sunglare in my eyes, rubbery sensation on my tongue that gave way to taste… by the One, the taste of the thing!
Last things I saw, before I was overcome with bliss, were Rol’s gaping mouth and rounded eyes.
Three weeks later, once the explosions stopped and the cacophony died to a murmur, they told me what happened. How Rol had fled to the Masters as his gangmates shrieked and scattered. How I’d been stripped and immersed in natal fluid like a baby. How I’d screamed at the light from a single candle, the sound of a whisper.
They told me what it was I put in my mouth. They pulled sad faces, spoke in weighty whispers, told me I’d learned my lesson.
When they left, all I could think of was what awaited me in the world beyond these walls. Of all the wonderful sights and smells, tastes and textures I was missing.
And how I could get my hands on another banana.