(Originally published on The Daily Campus)
On the first day of the course, my symbology professor introduced herself with only one name and no honorific. Lucy’s nine a.m. class touched upon archaic myths of religious symbols and other iconography. Every morning to start off the class she would play a video of the planet Venus, or as she would rather describe the planet as, “My favorite morning star.” I needed to pass that class in order to graduate, but unfortunately, class itself was not helping, due in part to Lucy’s unconventional teaching methods but mostly because of two obnoxious students who never stopped talking. On top of that, my roommates would always make ridiculous noises every night, so, sleep was scarce and nine a.m. was hell.
When I finally made an appointment and met with Lucy, it wasn’t long until my lecture inquiries turned into a venting session about my daily school problems. Strangely, as odd as Lucy was, she was a great listener.
Her office was strangest of all. Various antiquated ornaments surrounded her desk space like scattered sticky notes, and on the wall behind her chair hung two large paintings - one depicting a white horse galloping through a medieval setting and the other showing what looked like a foggy, shadowy figure wearing a bird-looking mask, the ones plague doctors used to wear in old Europe. But she had another one, a small-scale painting, on her desk staring right back at me that was the most peculiar of all - a skeleton wearing a navy blue hat, black jeans with a white t-shirt and Adidas sneakers. Compared to the rest of her spooky office decorations, the skeleton painting seemed very out of place.
When Lucy noticed my unusual attraction to the painting, she looked at me and smiled, picked up the painting and handed it to me. “Out of these three paintings, why do you think this one emits such unnaturalness?”
“I don’t know, I just feel like the skeleton’s clothes don’t match the aesthetic of the other paintings,” I said.
She nodded, seemingly agreeing. “Do you know what these paintings mean, Joshua?”
When she asked me that question my mind was someplace else. I was still thinking about the painting, but I couldn’t help but notice that the skeleton’s clothes had suddenly changed; he was now wearing a yellow-tinted jacket and his hat was gone, his sneakers now loafers.
When I was about to respond, Lucy chimed in while looking at the two paintings behind her. “I’m sorry, Joshua. I’m afraid something just presented itself. Let’s meet next week if you still have some questions.”
The next day in Lucy’s class, the obnoxious ever-talking students were absent; apparently they had caught the flu. That night, not one of my roommates slept at the dorm. I figured they’d spent the night at their girlfriends’ apartments. Nevertheless, that night I slept like a baby.
The week continued noise-free, and roommate-free, and finally Lucy’s nine a.m. class felt like heaven. Still, while my week was flowing smoothly, I couldn’t erase the skeleton painting from my mind and I soon met with Lucy again.
“I don’t understand,” I said, looking at the skeleton painting. “How come there’s more than one skeleton now? Did you get a new painting, Lucy?”
“I want you to look at the painting very closely, Joshua, and think about the past week since we last met,” she said. “What does the painting mean?”
Right then and there, an uncomfortable and terrible aura swept within me. I looked at Lucy, then quickly looked back at the painting, then back at Lucy again. Feet trembling and hands shaking, I grasped how the clothes on the skeletons matched the clothes of my roommates from when I last saw them, as well as the two obnoxious students from Lucy’s class. Completely petrified, I realized that all that time I was not speaking with my symbology professor, I was actually consulting with someone or, something, not from this world. I was staring not at a mere skeleton painting but at the trapped souls of those I had unknowingly condemned.
“Now you understand, Joshua. I suppose you now know what ‘Lucy’ is short for?”