The screech across the chalkboard nearly put me over the edge.
“Ms. Phenny?” I asked through clenched teeth.
She flipped around, her wild orange hair singeing the board as she turned, and I wrinkled my nose at the pungent whiff of melted slate. Why’d they have to give us a phoenix as a substitute teacher?
“Yes, Loki? What is it?”
I leaned over, putting the back of my hand against my cheek so the girl next to me couldn’t read my lips. I mouthed, she’s doing it again.
Of course, Ms. Phenny had no idea what I was talking about. A Greek god had no business with the Norse. So I pointed, excessively, to Gilly, the blond-haired girl who was now narrowing her eyes at me.
Thor jabbed me in the ribs. “Leave her alone already,” he hissed.
Ms. Phenny clicked her tongue and small puffs of smoke trickled out of her nostrils. My shoulders tensed. The last time I’d seen her do that, she’d molted. I’d get detention for a week if I made our local phoenix go into rebirth again.
I leaned back, shaking my head. Fine, let them leave Gilly to her mischief. I’d take care of it myself. Mischief was my specialty anyway.
Ms. Phenny widened her flaming auburn eyes at me, a warning, before turning back to the board. She sighed when she saw the charred lines cast by her flaming hair.
I suppressed a chuckle, and then took a look at Gilly.
Already past the accusation of working unapproved magic in the classroom, she buried her face in her famous leathery book. The only evidence she wasn’t taking the opportunity to nap was a tiny red pen that poked out the top, swiveling this way and that as she scribbled secrets only Heimdallr, the gatekeeper’s daughter, would know.
I looked down to my own work, which I had attempted to keep on topic to today’s lesson. It was only two lines long, an equation for how to concoct a truth serum from fairy dust and gnome beards. I was pretty sure I’d gotten it completely wrong, and when I would be forced to sip it myself, I’d prattle nonsense about toadstools for a week. This is what happened when a phoenix tried to teach long forgotten fairytales.
Ms. Phenny took an aged spray bottle and squirted holy water onto the board. I didn’t know why she thought it’d cure the blackened scars. Holy water only worked on demon-fire, not phoenix idiocy. This experiment for Asgard Middle School to take on some diversity was a complete disaster.
As she scrubbed on the board with increasing plumes of smoke drifting about her head, the other children hummed in friendly conversation. Then I realized Thor was trying to talk to me too.
“—and that’s what he said, can you believe it?”
“Hm, yeah, crazy,” I replied.
He shoved me. “You’re not listening. I can tell.”
He was right. My eyes were locked on Gilly who now shuffled toward the door with a wrinkled bathroom pass in one hand, and her leathery book tight against her chest with the other.
“If anyone asks, I’m stuck in an invisibility spell again,” I said, waving Thor away as I rose to my feet.
I kept a safe distance and tracked Gilly down the empty halls. She descended three flights of stairs, and I kept on my tiptoes to make sure I didn’t make a sound.
When she disappeared around a corner, I scooted across the polished floors, hoping I hadn’t lost her.
But just as I rounded the bend, the first thing I saw was Gilly’s face shoved into mine.
“Why’re you following me?” she asked.
I blinked at her. “To tell you the truth, I think you’re cute.”
She blushed, clearly not expecting such a reply. “I-I, um, really?”
I smiled, putting on all my charm. “Yes, didn’t you notice?”
She pushed her thumb on her lip and scrunched up her brows. “Well, you do watch me a lot. But you keep trying to get the teachers to take my books and—”
I waved my hands. “Oh no no, you’ve gotten it all wrong. I just wanted to see your work for myself. I’ve heard you’re such an amazing artist.”
She wrapped her arms around the withered tome, as if she was trying to push it into herself. “You really don’t want to see it.”
I put on the best smile of my life, hoping by all odds she’d fall for the scheme. “Just a peek?”
“My Pa said I really shouldn’t—”
“Do you always listen to your Pa?”
“Then let me see. It’s only because I like you.”
She squirmed, cornered by her admittance and mine. “Fine,” she said, kneeling and gently placing the treasure to the ground.
I knelt too, clenching my jaw so she couldn’t see me choking on a giddy laugh.
She ran her finger across the threaded edge. “It’s just for a second, okay?”
I nodded emphatically. “Just a second,” I agreed.
Only Gilly could have opened that book, and if she had ever known what I’d truly planned, she’d have run in horror.
But as the pages opened, and I laid my eyes on the first sketch, it was too late.
Never listen to a Loki.
I jumped into the image, laughing hysterically as Gilly screamed after me.
Was it sheer dumb luck, or fate, that the first page would be the one place I wanted to go? The single society free from such changes being forced upon my education. I didn’t care to learn about faeries, unicorns, gargoyle beasts, or even harpies. I wanted to explore lands untouched by magic, because really, I had none. I only had my wiles, and there’s only one place in the universe where quick wit and cunning is considered the greatest power of all.
Goodbye Asgard Middle School. Hello Earth!
This story is inspired after my read of The Lost Gate, by Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card. I suppose what drew me in was the idea of the possible stories one can come up with by using the mythology surrounding Loki and the other Norse gods. But really, why stop there? Why not mix and match and see how Loki, a phoenix, and holy water all fit on the same page when placed in a middle school? I’m glad I went through with the experiment, and am pleased with the result!
In case you’re wondering if The Lost Gate is something you’d like to read, be sure to read the spoiler-free A.J. book review by clicking here.