Cult Illustration #24, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.





Her energy had changed. She was lighter and more sprightly. Her look had changed too. Her clothes seemed to fit better and she paid more attention to color combinations. The kids were treating her better, so much so that when she greeted acquaintances at the store or library, and they asked her how subbing was going she would say,


“I have been very lucky so far.” She said this to the principals and administrators too, when they asked her how her day had been.


When she hiked into the woods, and came upon the cave, she would give offerings of gratitude, sprinkling herbs in the sacred place, and as she walked away, a powerful message would come to her. Once, it said “One wouldn’t really know what one really wanted.” And she thought about this very deeply and she thought about what other people in the world might want. She thought about the people of Sudan and Iraq and Afghanistan, and Palestine, and then she thought about herself and her own people and what she wanted so very badly out of life. She had wanted to be a great healer, a guru, and she wanted to make a good living at it. That was what she had wanted and it never came to her no matter how hard she tried. But she understood that it was okay and she kept walking, contemplative, in a rare and pure state.


For ten days, her life as a sub seemed charmed. She had procured all high school classes, sometimes becoming a floater, giving teachers a break during testing, or taking over classes where the sick teacher was greatly honored by his or her students. There were a few difficult classes where she had to struggle but her struggle led to learning for herself and for the kids. Many hours she spent quietly reading while the students quietly worked. She was grateful that she brought along good reading material to help while- away-the-day.


She may have become a little complacent when she took up 8th grade Math, going into the day and the school with an elevated view on subbing. And of all the tricks that could be played on her, the cruelest was the demeanor of her 1st period class. They were so quiet, so considerate, so helpful, that Ms. X renewed her feeling that life as a sub was definitely worth it.


All of the rest of the periods proved her wrong as the overgrown, adult looking students made out, threw things across the room, talked vulgar, spat sunflower seeds about, sloshed done sugary drinks, flipped each other on the floor, jabbed at abdomens, screamed and guffawed through the 40 minute class. After the third bout of this ignorant mess, Ms. X was resorting to the power trip indignation tactics used at various frantic times the year before, forgetting completely how futile these were. They would bring a slight reprieve and then a storm afterward. The Substitute Teacher’s manual was explicit about this formula. It was not to be done! And training one out of it was about training one out of a justifiable sense of anger.


Forgetting all of that, she sent a couple of pupils to the office, had an administrator come and pick up another, made eloquent and grave speeches, but it was no use. In the end the same things occurred only at fever pitch. Indignation was useless. The tuning fork of her being could not tune it out and to depreciate her standing among them even further, she vowed to all that would listen that she would never ever set foot in that school again. They won!


She wondered who had won and lost in her own struggle with her masters at the Foundation. She remembered the stewing indignation she felt in that pressure-cooked year at the Concealment. It was not fierce and chaotic and desperate like 8th grade math, it was cool and calculated like a chess game. When the Guru threatened her with check mate, saying that she could not participate in the sacrifices until she confessed her flaws, it was instigation enough for her to make the final move. And maybe it was because the wife felt intimidated by some of the things that Ms. X said, or she felt betrayed when others enveloped Ms. X with smiles and questions and laughter. That was like moving into the wife’s square on the board, no room for two.


The wife and the Guru were discussing Ms. X more often in those days. Ms. X knew this, the monarch pair could not hide it. She was allowed to continue to sand and bead and paint the rough hewn sculptures shipped in from other continents and she was employed to clean, but she would be held far away from the rituals until she became more understandable and predictable and safe, and even then her position was not guaranteed. She had crossed a line somewhere, a line that needed to be discovered and that would take time. Ms. X had become the root of their unease in some subverted way. It was there, somewhere.











© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved