A Demonic History Lesson
Mr. Thompson's History class is usually a vibrant place filled with funky jazz music and Mr. T's larger-than-life personality. This morning, however, the classroom is dark, Mr. Thompson is nowhere to be seen, and an eerie feeling permeates the air. The fact today is Halloween certainly adds an extra spooky feel.
Everyone makes their way to their seats and the inevitable chatter breaks out. I usually don't partake in the common ninth-grade gossip of who's dating, so I bury my nose in a book. My current selection: Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is Halloween, after all.
No matter how hard I try, it's completely impossible to drown out all of the conversations and I catch snippets of what's being said. My ears especially perk up when I hear my brother's voice.
"So where do you think Mr. T is?" Mike asks.
Mike's my overly popular twin brother. Yes, I said "twin", but aside from having similar hair color, we're nothing alike.
"Who cares?" Jimmy Macintyre comments snidely with a flip of his wavy dark-brown hair.
Most of the girls in the class shoot Jimmy an adoring glance. I certainly don't. Jimmy's my brother's best friend. I've known him since we were both in diapers. Heck, I've seen him pick his nose. I can't possibly see him as the class heartthrob like the other girls. He's just Jimmy to me, but even though he's "just Jimmy" I have to admit he's grown rather attractive over the last few months. Puberty. It does a body good.
"If Stephanie drools over Jimmy any more we'll need a canoe to get out of here," a hushed voice snarks. I don't respond right away so the speaker directs continuing snarkiness at me, "Earth to Shelly. Come in, Shelly."
A momentary pause allows me to quickly read the last few words on the page. I hate stopping halfway through a page.
"Attention, Michelle Marks. This is your wake-up call. Please respond." I look up from my book to see my best friend Maggie Floyd rolling her eyes at me. Her rolling eyes don't stop at me, they continue descending until they locate their desired target. Stephanie Farland, one of the school's pretty, popular girls. "Jimmy's too smart to date such a Barbie-wannabe. Stephanie should just give it up."
I snicker at Maggie, but then my gaze catches her wild accessory pick for the day and my smile grows Cheshire big. She has miniature skeletons dangling from her earlobes. Maggie always finds a way to stand out while wearing the same outfit as everyone.
We have to wear uniforms here at Deacon Preparatory School. Pressed white button-down shirts and navy-colored dress pants or skirts. The girls can wear navy cardigan sweaters. The boys can wear navy sports coats and they have to wear ties. I don't mind the uniforms much. I like the ability to blend in with the crowd.
On the other hand, Maggie detests the uniforms. She's by far the best artist and most creative in the school. She invents ways to express her creativity even with the drabness of the uniform. Her long-standing joke is that because she is one of only three Asian students in the school, she can get away with a little more flare than everyone else.
"The school likes to claim it's a diverse private school. You can't really be diverse with just a handful of black kids. They need to keep the Asian happy." This was Maggie's usual comment. I'm sure Maggie's ethnicity is part of it, but it probably has more to do with her brother, Victor.
Victor Floyd is an icon around Deacon Prep. Most of the trophy cases lining the school are set up as a shrine to Victor. He is a Pennsylvania All-State Athlete in both football and baseball. He is also brilliant, having received a full-ride to Harvard. Plus, he is gorgeous. Tall, well built, blonde hair, blue eyes, square jaw. To top it off, he's a genuinely nice guy. Everybody loves Victor. It's easy to understand why Maggie has an inferiority complex, especially when you add the fact she was adopted and Victor is her parents' real child. I know Maggie's parents never treated her differently from Victor, but it's still a lot to live up to.
I honestly believe having a similar sibling situation creates the connection between me and Maggie. We are absolutely nothing alike. Maggie is flashy and outgoing. While I do my best to blend in, a complete introvert. Sure, Maggie and I are nothing alike, but we have similar brothers. My twin brother is already being labeled "The Next Victor Floyd".
Michael Marks, my bro, is only in ninth grade and already he's a starting Varsity player for football, basketball, and baseball. Mike also has such a fun lighthearted personality everyone instantly likes him upon meeting him. He always has a smile on his face and is easily one of the most popular kids at Deacon Prep. When people find out Mike has a twin sister they don't believe it because they have no clue I even exist.
"Nice earrings," I say, nodding my head in the direction of Maggie's lobes.
Maggie has multiple piercings reaching all the way up her ears - ten piercings total. The upper holes sport simple silver hoops, but she always puts something funky in the lowest holes. Today, it's the skeletons.
"In honor of Halloween," she says with a grin. She tries to tuck the chin-length strands of shiny black hair behind her ears, but they get hung up on her thick glasses. "I hate these things. I wish I could get contacts."
Maggie's eyesight is so poor she has to wear coke bottle thick glasses. I'm sure Maggie would be an even better artist if she could actually see. She takes it in stride though and wears hot pink, wide framed glasses that have the 1950's style wingtips at the corners. As outlandish as her glasses are, Maggie's most eccentric quality is her hair. The front pieces she keeps chin length and black, but the back is short and spiked out with gel. She dyes many of the spikes crazy florescent colors like pink, yellow, green, and blue.
I gasp loudly as a deep scream from the back of the room causes half the class to cry out in terror and the other half to burst into laughter. I swivel in my seat to see Mr. Thompson who had just leapt out of the closet. He sports a black cloak and ghoulish face paint covering his dark-mocha-colored skin.
"Good morning, my kiddos," Mr. T says in a deep spooky growl. Then he does his best Halloween laugh. "Mwwaahahaha! Today, for Halloween, I thought we'd deviate from learning about the U.S. Constitution."
Cheers erupt from the students.
"Instead I'm going to tell you about the history of the school."
Groans replace the cheers.
Mr. T lowers the hood of his cloak to reveal his long thick dreadlocked hair tied back with a rubber band. I swear Mr. Thompson usually looks like he just walked out of the Matrix with his dreadlocks and the fact he always wears black or grey high-fashion clothes, but today Mr. T looks downright haunting in his ghoulish getup.
Mr. T moves to the front of the room and flicks on the CD player, which usually has jazz music pouring from its speakers. Today, creepy Halloween sound effects meet my ears. Some of my classmates snicker.
"You guys can moan all you want, but the history of the school is actually an interesting story. In fact, it makes a good ghost story. Especially with the demons..."
Mr. T picks up a flashlight resting on his desk and shines it directly under his chin. The effect throws his facial features into a dark contrast. The light, coupling with the ghoul face paint, makes him appear almost frightening.
I drop Bram Stoker to my desk and cast my full attention on Mr. Thompson. I just love him. All the students do.
"Back in 1802, a man named Baron Dettmar Basse purchased ten thousand acres of land located about thirty miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The good Baron named the area Zelienople after his beloved daughter Zelie Basse who still lived in Germany. Zelie was engaged to marry Philip Louis Passavant and the Baron offered to give them the majority of the land if they moved to America. Philip and Zelie agreed and the Baron set out on an enormous construction project to make Zelienople ready for his daughter's arrival. He hired only the best builders he could find and, at that time, the best builders were the Amish," Mr. T says, with his theatrical spooky voice.
"When construction in the main part of the town was complete, the Barron gifted a nice sized plot of the northeastern corner of the land to Jeremiah Lapp. Jeremiah was Volliger Diener to the small band of Amish people who helped build Zelienople. Does anybody have a clue what a Volliger Diener is?"
"It's Amish, right? He's probably the guy who says electricity comes from the devil," Jimmy calls out with an air of arrogance to his voice. A bunch of kids--mostly girls--laugh. I can't help but think they aren't laughing because Jimmy's joke is necessarily funny, but because they want Jimmy to like them. Pathetic.
"Actually, Mr. Macintyre, your narrow-minded answer isn't too far off. The Amish people do not think electricity comes from the devil, but that's a lesson for another day. A Volliger Diener is a Bishop, the highest member of the church organization for the Amish people. So, Jeremiah Lapp was essentially the leader of this particular group of Amish people. Amish church organization typically has three main members. You already know about Jeremiah Lapp, he's the head. Under him would be the Diener zum Bush or Minister and, finally, the Armediener or Deacon. For our story, we don't need to worry about the Minister. We need to worry about Jeremiah and the Deacon, Isaac Yoder.
"Jeremiah Lapp moved his small Amish group to this plot of land and proceeded to set up a community. One of the first things they built was a one-roomed schoolhouse. I bet, if you think hard enough, you can figure out where that building is today. Any guesses?"
Mr. T has been weaving in and out of the rows of desks while telling the tale. He stops in front of my desk and he looks at me expectantly. The attention makes me nervous. I hate being on the spot, but I know the answer. Mr. T knows I know the answer.
I tentatively raise my hand in the air and Mr. Thompson nods at me.
"It's the Log House."
"Correct, Miss Marks." Mr. T smiles through his face paint, then he walks back toward the front of the room.
The Log House is a landmark in the heart of Deacon Prep's campus. Surrounded by the three main enormous classroom buildings, the visual and performing arts center, and the five buildings making up the athletic complex, the Log House is easily overlooked. It is only used for storage now, but the school governors refuse to tear it down because of its historical significance.
Often, I sit on the steps of the Log House after school to read or do homework while I wait for Mike to finish up with whatever sporting practice so we can walk home together. I'm sure this is why Mr. T knew I would have the correct answer.
"The Log House," Mr. T continues, "has been around for over two-hundred years. As the school grew and changed, the Log House was left as a reminder of those early days. Obviously, our school is no longer Amish, but we embrace the core values and strong morals of those humble Amish beginnings with our honor code.
"The school and this area remained an Amish community until 1895 when most of the Amish people either assimilated to the more modern culture or migrated westward into Ohio. The school was taken over by a Lutheran Christian group, and it remained a Christian school until 1973 when the board members decided to make the school secular. However, all of those details are pretty ordinary and I won't bore you with any more of them. What I am going to tell you about is what took place in 1811, just a few years after the Log House was built.
"Legend tells us a girl named Rebekah Miller--who was only a year or two younger than you guys--was helping her teacher clean the Log House one evening when she became possessed by an evil spirit. Her body violently jerked and she used harsh foul language never uttered in the Amish community. Chances are Rebekah had never even heard such words, but the demon spoke them through her. She also attacked her teacher--which I don't recommend any of you try right now because, demon possessed or not, I could totally take you." Mr. T faux-flexes his muscles under the black cloak and we all chuckle at him.
"The teacher, slightly bloodied and bruised, hurried to the church where she found both Bishop Jeremiah Lapp and Deacon Isaac Yoder. They rushed to the schoolhouse and found poor Rebekah in a terrible state. She had ripped off most of her clothing and was pulling out tufts of her pretty blonde hair by the fistful." Mr. Thompson pauses dramatically, and I take this opportunity to glance around the room.
All of my classmates are engrossed in Mr. T's story, even Jimmy who never pays attention to the teachers if he can help it. Jimmy has a "too cool for school" attitude, but he still manages to pull High Honor Roll every single semester. I'm sure Jimmy's higher-than-average intelligence helps him get the good grades, but the fact his father is a multimillionaire and donates a ton of money to the school every year certainly doesn't hurt.
"Jeremiah attempted to perform an exorcism but was unsuccessful. The legend tells us Jeremiah became possessed himself. The demon possessing Rebekah called itself Horde, meaning many demons resided inside the young girl, not just one. In fact, Jesus Himself encountered a similar demon. Does anybody know the name of that demon?"
"Legion." Maggie blurts out without even raising her hand. "Jesus sent the Legion demon out of a single man and it entered a herd of about two-thousand pigs." The students all cast odd glances at Maggie, and she scoffs, "What? My parents take me to church. Big deal."
I grin at my friend's cool flippancy because I know the truth. Maggie really enjoys her church and she loves being a Christian. I don't know much about religion or God or anything of that nature, but Maggie's certainly into it and she's cool, so it can't be too bad.
"That's right, Miss Floyd. The Legion demon said to Jesus, 'My name is Legion, for we are many.' The Horde demon possessing Rebekah seemed to be made up of many demons just like the Legion demon. The legend also tells us Rebekah and Jeremiah started to demonstrate peculiar abilities while possessed by Horde."
"What kind of abilities?" Cooper Lewis asks from his seat at the far side of the room.
"No one knows for sure, Mr. Lewis, but I have my guesses," Mr. Thompson says. "So, with Bishop Jeremiah possessed, it was left up to Deacon Isaac to help the two people. You see, at this time, Deacons were pretty low on the religious totem pole. His only responsibility was to read Bible verses during the church services. And our friend Isaac was very young, only nineteen at the time, but he put his faith in God and started reciting the Bible verses he had memorized.
"The stories passed down tell us that, because of his pure faith, Isaac was able to, first, pull the abilities--or they've also been called powers--out of the two people and, second, cast the Horde demon to the depths."
"Where did the powers go when they left the people?" Mike asks.
I turn in my seat and smile warmly at her brother. His usually grinning, happy-go-lucky face is currently gaping in awe. I have to admit even though Michael Marks casts a very large shadow, I certainly don't mind hiding in it. No matter how different Mike and I are, he's my brother and I love him.
"Well, Mr. Marks," Mr. Thompson begins with a sly smile on his ghoulishly painted face, "no one really knows. Some people guess they slipped away into the void. Others believe Deacon Isaac was able to capture the powers by some means and hide them away. Another group suggests Isaac took the powers for himself and performed many good deeds with them, but I have a different theory..." Mr. T pauses, looking around the room at each student. "I believe the powers are... right... here!" Bright white sparks and small flames erupt from Mr. Thompson's hands, and every student in the room jumps in their seats. Some of them even scream.
"Ha! A magic trick!" Cooper Lewis exclaims, and bursts out laughing. He rocks uncontrollably in his chair.
Coop is my good friend and my brow creases in concern because I'm not sure if he's rocking from his laughter or if it's flared one of his Tourette's Syndrome ticks. If it is a tick, I hope it passes quickly, or at least stops with rocking and doesn't increase into something more. Poor Cooper is so embarrassed when his ticks have him doing things he can't control. It's bad enough he needs braces to help him walk, but the facial twitches and body jerks really make him feel like a freak.
"Yes, Mr. Lewis, a simple Dollar Store pyrotechnic for theatrical effect." Mr. Thompson dusts his hands off over the garbage can.
Luckily, Cooper stops rocking. I catch his eye and offer him a soft smile. He returns it with one of his own. Although it's an embarrassed smile, I think it makes his face look so bright. Dazzling white teeth surrounded by dark brown skin. Cooper is a smallish boy and very skinny. He looks frail, especially with the crutches. It breaks my heart when Cooper refers to himself as a freak, because I certainly don't think of him that way. He has such a big heart. He's such a sweet guy. How can he be a freak?
"What a load of crap," Jimmy mutters from the back of the room. He pushes the sleeves of his white dress-shirt up to the elbows, exposing his tanned, muscled forearms.
"You might be right, Mr. Macintyre, the legend of our school could be a complete 'load of crap', as you put it, but remember this; there is a reason why we are called Deacon Prep, and there is a reason why our mascot is the Deacon Demon." Mr. Thompson casts Jimmy a knowing look before flipping on the overhead lights. Most of the students groan and rub their eyes against the harsh fluorescents.
"So, the school is named after Deacon Isaac Yoder?" a melodic voice asks from directly behind me.
I swivel around to look at Caitlyn Avery, a pretty girl with long silky golden hair and big green eyes. Caitlyn is new to Deacon Prep this year and, because of her flawless good looks, she instantly fell into the popular crowd, but she is quiet and seems kind. At least she seems nice to me, Maggie, and Cooper... so far. Most of the popular girls at this school can be pretty catty. The popular boys are okay, but that might be because if Mike catches them messing with me he'll beat the crap out of them. That's one plus to having a super popular twin.
"Exactly, Miss Avery, exactly," Mr. T says, taking out the CD of Halloween music and replacing it with the usual jazz.