Chapter 9: Path

          The classroom they entered was just as lavish as any other part of the institute. The desks were large and made of well-polished oak while the seats were finely cushioned. A large black slate was hanged on the front wall of the classroom with chalk sitting nearby. Adam’s old school was held inside the nave of the church. They didn’t even have desks, let alone a chalkboard!

          At almost all of the desks, there were families sitting as everyone waited for the first day to start. Vivienne led Adam over to an empty desk as she explained everything she saw. Adam did his best to envision it as he bounced up and down on the soft cushion of his seat.

          A dull murmur could be heard across the classroom as everyone talked among themselves. Adam asked: “When does class start?”

          “It should be soon. We arrived early, but it took us a little longer than I thought to get through Admissions.” Vivienne responded.

          Just as she finished talking, the door to the classroom opened and a lady in a richly adorned blue robe walked in. Everyone in class quieted down as she stopped in front of the slate chalkboard at the front of the classroom. Everyone but Adam could now clearly see her. With her gray hair, you would think that she was rather old. However, she only had a few wrinkles gracing her face. Behind her eyes wasn’t a tired wisdom, but a youthful vigor.

          After everyone’s attention had been gathered on her, she spoke: “My name is Catherine. My rank as a Spiritualist with Heider is Magister. It is respectful to refer to me as Magister Catherine. You are all here today in hopes that one of you might become a Novice Spiritualist. Let me clarify a couple things about this process. First, you are in no way guaranteed to become a Spiritualist by attending this class. Second, our plan of study follows an unconventional method that is the most reliable in helping others to become Spiritualists. This method requires constant study, most of which can only be accomplished here at SIH. You will find out why in a moment.”

          Catherine held her hand in the air for a moment, before sweeping it in a large motion in front of her. Clicking sounds echoed out across the entire class as a drawer at each desk was unlocked! However, Adam was the only one to hear a different sound behind all the clicking. Another one of those faint sounds that accompanied the fantastical things that Spiritualists do.

          Catherine calmly spoke to her stunned audience: “Open up the top right drawer of your desks. Pull out the book held within and place it on the desk, but please do not open it yet.”

          Like everyone else, Vivienne opened up the drawer, only to pause when they saw the book! Carefully, Vivienne pulled out the surprisingly heavy book and placed it on the desk. Just at a glance, Vivienne believed the book to easily be worth more than The Dancery and all the income it had made since she opened the business!

          The book had an odd cover. The edges were gilded in gold, while the face itself was richly colored. On a black backdrop, a dark mountain sat rising out of a swirling lake of water. Flames seemed to rise behind the mountain, while a black skull stared up from the depths of the water. In the sky full of blue lighting that crackled among clouds, a white sun hung. It was both fantastical and terrible. The scene seemed ready to come alive at any moment! Everyone stared at the covers, even Adam noticed a difference after the books were brought out, as another subtle song sang at the back of his mind.

          Catherine spoke, bringing everyone out of their staring contest with the books: “These books are called: A Spiritualist’s Path. They are the reason why you can only study here. As you can well imagine, these books are quite expensive and are not allowed to be taken out of SIH. The Path of a Spiritualist starts with the cover of this book!”

          “The cover is very symbolic and many of the images it uses are also used to represent different types of Spirit Essence. I’ll start with the easy ones; the lake represents Water, the mountain represents Earth, the flames behind the mountain represent Fire, the clouds above represent Air.”

          As she spoke, Catherine walked to the chalkboard and started scrawling upon it. She drew simple symbols representing the different types with their names by it. She drew them in a circular pattern, but it seemed holes were left at the top and bottom of the pattern.

          She continued: “Now, for the more obscure ones; The white sun above represents Life, while the black skull below represents Death!”

          Catherine then drew those two types in, filling the gaps in the circle.

Again, she spoke: “The cover represents our world as it is; disordered and in chaos! There appears to be no structure to the way the Spirit Essence mixes and lightning seems ready to crash down and destroy everything! As a Spiritualist, you take this chaos and put it in order!” She pointed to the circle diagram she drew: “Water and Earth are grouped with Life while Fire and Air are grouped with Death. Each type is placed on the other side of the circle from their opposite. Life opposes Death, Earth opposes Air, Water opposes Fire. You all should have seen this diagram before, on the admission medallions you were each given!”

          Adam clutched the medallion in his pocket. He couldn’t see the book and Vivienne hadn’t had any time to describe it to him. Luckily, Catherine was describing things in just enough detail for him to make his own image in his mind. Still, fear started creeping up on him: ‘I feel like I’m already barely keeping up, even though we’ve just begun!’

          “This book has quite a few chapters in it, and they all just touch on the most basics of what a Spiritualist should know. The library further down the hall has more books that get deeper into these subjects. It is your individual job to come here and study whenever you can. There is no method that can force someone to become a Spiritualist. You can only become one based on your own ability and hard work. There is one element provided by this book that is necessary to becoming a Spiritualist. Open your books up to the center two pages.”

          The center two pages were rather easy to pick out. They were actually thin gold plates located in the center of the book! The heavyweight of the book was obviously from these two plates. Carefully, Vivienne separated the two plates to get to the center of the book. When the two plates were separated, a gentle white light radiated from the inside of the plates! Startled, Vivienne quickly pulled her hands back from the book. A few others did the same across the room. Everyone stared at the wondrous gold plates. Across their surface, they could almost make out a symbol. However, it was shifting as though it were alive! The shape never stayed constant! Just staring at it, Vivienne felt something stir deep in her mind.

          Adam reached forward and quickly felt for the book on the desk. Finding it, he closed the book, before covering his ears. Vivienne became concerned: “What’s wrong Adam?”

          As soon as each of the books’ gold plates had been opened, the subtle song in the back of his mind had grown into a dull thrum that seemed to exist in his ears! Alone, the thrum from one book would have been fine, but each book sounded like it was in a different spot in a song than the others. Altogether, it made for a horribly wretched sound! It also seemed that covering his ears did nothing to halt the sound while his head started to pound from the onslaught of sound! Barely hearing his mother’s question, he responded in a voice loud enough to be heard over all the noise: “It’s loud, how can you stand this noise!?”

          Everyone in the room easily heard Adam and looked over at him. They had all been stunned into silence and were staring at their books. What noise was there to be heard? Catherine also stared at Adam, but with different thoughts in mind. Quickly, she once again held her hand up before sweeping it across the room. A small breeze blew across the room, causing all the books to suddenly flip closed under its gentle touch! As each book closed, the thrum receded back into the subtle sounds playing at the back of Adam’s mind. He let go of his ears with a relieved sigh.

          Catherine spoke: “Amadeus and Vivienne Finch, please stay after class has ended. There is much to talk about with your… unique situation.”

          Everyone stared at the two of them and a few whispers could be heard. Vivienne shifted uncomfortably under their stares and was unsure how to react to Adam’s sudden outburst. Adam merely cocked his head to the side, unsure of what to say. Catherine continued: “Let’s talk a little about those two golden pages. As you saw, there was a changing shape on the pages. This shape was a Spirit Formation! Spirit Formations are what Spiritualists use to order Spirit Essence and command it to do their bidding. That formation was written down in these books to help each of you on your Path to becoming a Spiritualist. Staring at the formation stirs the Spirit Essence in your soul and attracts more to it. The hope is that you will eventually learn to control the Spirit Essence that is attracted to you and use it to grow your soul further. Be warned, though. Extended use of the Formation over a short period of time can lead to death!”

          That last line caught everyone’s attention. Somebody cried out: “What are you saying!? Our son could die from this!?”

          Catherine shook her head: “Only if he stares at the Formation for longer than we allow. It is another reason why we don’t allow you to take the books home. We can control the length of time they stare at the formation, which prevents overexposure of their soul to Spirit Essence. He would also receive a terrible headache long before he would be killed, but many a desperate person has pushed past this only to die in the end.”

          Murmurs spread through the class: “You don’t have to stay if you don’t want to. There’s no guarantee that anyone in this class will be able to become a Spiritualist, anyway.”

          “You’ve said that before, but just what are the chances of them becoming Spiritualists?”

          Catherine turned to the father who had spoken up: “We get at least one-thousand applicants every year. As for the number who become Spiritualists… That’s two to five every year.”

          That number was dreadfully low! More than a few families stood up and walked out. There was far too much work and effort to put in. The chances of being rewarded for that effort was simply too low. Vivienne turned to her son: “Adam…”

          “I can only try. It’s better than doing nothing!”

          Vivienne nodded while holding onto Adam’s hand. She desperately hoped the effort Adam was going to put into this wouldn’t be in vain. Catherine looked across those remaining: “For the rest of today, I will be going over common terms for Spiritualists so you can better understand what it is being said when you join the regular classes.”

          This time, someone politely raised their hand instead of interrupting. Catherine motioned at them to speak: “So, is there actually no structure to the classes after this one? How are our children going to learn in future classes?”

          Catherine responded: “There really isn’t much of a structure. Each classroom is run by a Magister who teaches a particular subject. We each set our own curriculum and it is up to the student to keep up and research anything they don’t understand. Naturally, we accept questions during class, but they must pertain to the lesson at hand.”

Only allowed on

“This doesn’t seem very efficient.” Someone piped up.

Catherine nodded: “It is not normal, but a Spiritualist is not normal to begin with! It’s hard to explain. The threshold to becoming a Spiritualist is not something that is reached gradually over time. One moment you have no idea how to control Spirit Essence, the next something just clicks and you know how! Everything we teach has some impact towards reaching that moment where everything clicks. It is the accumulation of this knowledge that somehow just helps you to understand what cannot be truly explained in words. However, each Spiritualist is different. We each follow what we call a ‘Path’. Our Path is the way that we personally think and see. That is different for everyone and each of us has our own interests. Even in a particular element, such as fire, there are many uses. It can be used for cooking and heating, or to kill. There are so many things that could be taught that may or may not be useful to each student, so we don’t even try to set a standard curriculum. It is up to the student to find their own Path, we are only here to help.”

          Catherine’s class continued in much the same manner. Most the questions were being asked by the parents of those who came to learn, as they wished to know what their children were getting into. Finally, class ended after a few monotonous hours of study!

          Under her instruction, everyone placed their books back in the desk drawers before Catherine’s sweeping hand locked them back up. Before she dismissed them, she said: “You can get the class schedules from the receptionists and you are free to come back at any time. If there aren’t any classes being held, the library is always available for free study until SIH closes at night. Class is now dismissed, except for Vivienne and Amadeus. I still need to speak to you two.”

          Before leaving, everyone spared Adam and Vivienne a glance. He was the odd blind boy who screamed about something being loud when all was silent. Quickly, though, they all filed out of the classroom. It was starting to get late and it was just about time to eat dinner.

          Catherine closed the door behind everyone else before grabbing a chair and sitting in front of Adam and Vivienne’s desk. “So, Amadeus, I hear you are blind.”

          “I prefer Adam, and yes. At least, for now. I am hoping to change that by becoming a Spiritualist!”

          Catherine smiled gently at Adam’s enthusiasm, but it quickly faded away. “There is quite a bit to discuss, but let’s put most of that aside right now. Rather, I’m interested int why you said it was noisy earlier in class.”

          Vivienne reached out to her son’s hand: “Adam-”

          “-Let him speak on his own.” Catherine interrupted with a steady voice.

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          Adam paused due to the weird atmosphere: ‘Why is mom acting worried?’

          Catherine prompted him: “Please, speak.”

          “Well, it was a little loud, wasn’t it? I mean the, what are they- Spirit Formations! The sound of all the Spirit Formations together was a little crazy.”

          Vivienne was flabbergasted at Adam’s response, while Catherine shot him a quizzical look. Vivienne started: “Ad-”

          Catherine once again interrupted: “-Let me finish talking to him. This is important and I need to know the truth. It could be critical to his Path!”

          Vivienne was unsure of what to say. She could only cry out in her mind: ‘What is going on!?’

          Adam’s curiosity was thoroughly peaked: “What do you mean, Magister Catherine?”

          Catherine pulled out a copy of A Spiritualist’s Path from the desk behind her. She opened it up to the center two pages made of thin golden plates. She then asked: “You can hear this, Adam?”

          He nodded his head. Catherine continued: “Now, pretend as though neither I nor Vivienne could hear it. Could you replicate the sound for us?”

          Vivienne glanced at Adam with her worried filled heart. In a way, it seemed Catherine was just trying to call Adam out on a bluff. It wasn’t uncommon for kids to act out in weird ways to get attention. However, the seriousness Catherine was showing wasn’t the sternness of someone reprimanding a child. Instead, it seemed she was truly trying to get to the bottom of this! A sense of wonder mixed into her worry: ‘Does Adam really have some capability as a Spiritualist!?’

          Adam responded: “Uh, sure. Oh, let me use my flute! I think it will be better than me humming.”

          Adam pulled his flute out and placed it to his lips. He listened to the subtle song of the book that had risen from the back of his mind into a quiet thrum in his ears. It was oddly stirring. Adam felt somehow uplifted as he listened to it. Finding a spot where he could join in, Adam began to play along with the song. As he played, that feeling of being uplifted increased! However, Adam began to feel that the sound of the music he played didn’t do the song justice. Somehow, it was lacking and Adam wasn’t sure how to make it better.

          Catherine closed her eyes and concentrated. After listening for a minute, she frowned and shook her head. This only made Vivienne worried. Catherine interrupted Adam: “Adam, do you… feel anything while listening to this… song?”

          Adam nodded and told her of what he felt while playing the song. Catherine once again frowned: “I’m going to try one more thing. It will give you a little headache, but please continue trying to play the song.”

          “Okay?” Adam felt unsure of what exactly it was that Catherine was looking for. Still, he thought: ‘Well, she’s the teacher. There must be something to this.’

          Adam once again began playing with the tune he heard from the book. As he did so, Catherine stretched her hand out and placed the tips of her fingers against his forehead. Adam briefly flinched from surprise at the touch. His playing momentarily stuttered at the touch, and then again when he felt a sudden jolt go through his head! It felt to him as though something foreign was trying to invade his mind! He tried to continue playing, but the pain caused him to grit his teeth which prevented him from playing correctly. Then, as suddenly as it came, the pain went away.

          Catherine looked stunned as she said: “Remarkable, you really are reacting to the Spirit Formation.”

          Adam gave a confused look. Seeing this, Catherine elaborated: “Adam, we really can’t hear anything from the Spirit Formations. I have never heard of someone who could do this before! I had some doubts, but I thought you seemed too sincere to be playing tricks.”

          Adam was still lost: “What?”

          “Adam, when the classroom was noisy to you it was silent to the rest of us! No one can hear what you can from Spirit Formations! This is a remarkable start. You haven’t even become a Novice Spiritualist yet, but we already have clues to your Path as a Spiritualist! You just need to make that first step!”

          Catherine’s words resounded through him. He still didn’t fully know what was going on, but he understood enough to be truly excited! ‘I really can become a Spiritualist!’

          Then Catherine started mumbling; “Hmm, I’m not even sure how we are to go about teaching you though…”

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