[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.]
At a well in a field, night was falling fast. I had the feeling one gets when the houselights dim. The Professor had just hacked up a coin. In my peripheral vision I felt him slump to the ground with his back to the well, but a newcomer to the scene required the bulk of my attention.
A fresh Professor stepped into the moonlight. “You got my note. I was worried something might have spirited it away with all the strange goings-on. Where did you get off to last night, anyway?”
“I, uh, I had a bad feeling. I had to get out of those woods right away.”
“Yes, well, you gave me quite a fright. Now about the protective materials I was able to track down. Obviously you got the hazel branches and ironweed, but there were other items I didn’t feel safe leaving unattended. Finch eggs, bear root and inland seashells could be put to dangerous use in the wrong hands.”
Behind me the ailing Professor stirred. In a creaky voice he sang a little tune: “Where did you hide them you old fox? Did you bury them in your hidey hole?”
I moved aside to reveal the original Professor, visibly weakened since last he spoke. In the moment before the new Professor’s eyes conveyed shock, I saw fury. “What in the world? I didn’t expect to meet you here. I thought you were surveying tombs in Brazil.” And to me, “You’ll have to excuse us. My twin brother has a knack for failing to announce his arrivals. We’re a family of eccentrics — ”
“I’m not your brother! I’m not your brother!”shrieked the old Professor as he clawed his way up the well. When he had reached his feet, I saw the new Professor’s fists clench and unclench nervously.
“Well I won’t be insulted. You know where to find me when you’ve come to your senses.” The new Professor stalked off into the field, and though I raced after him, I lost track of him almost immediately. Back at the well, the old Professor was dusting himself off. When he saw me he grinned and held out his hand. In it was a hand-stamped coin with a big-eyed owl on it.
“Unfortunately for you, the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk.”