The Sacrificial Lamb
H. Turnip Smith
Biting her nails, Amy unpacked her collection of bulky sweaters and size twelve jeans and stacked them neatly in the bureau. Who would her dorm partner be? She hoped somebody nice with a weight problem like herself, not somebody with a size-six foot who lived on carrots and spent hours in the gym.
She held up the photograph of Pierce Brosnan she intended to put on the wall. It didn't matter what others said about her being bourgeois in her tastes, she found him well--"exciting." And gosh, starting college was the most exciting thing she'd done since she'd won the best salesperson award during the Girl Scout cookie sale her ninth grade year.
She had just stashed Poogy, her favorite blue teddy bear, where no one would see what a small town hick and romantic softy she was when the door suddenly flung open.
"Hi! I'm Lovie Barrow, your new roommate. I'm feeling hearty and ready to party. Are you ready for some action?" Amy's eyes nearly jumped out of her head. The knockout standing in the doorway was a wasp-waisted red-head in a black spandex workout outfit.
Hands bursting into a sweat, Amy shyly took Lovie's outstretched fingers with scarlet nails.
"Hi, I'm Amy Jackson from Sealsburg," she managed to say with a blush. She'd always hated the hick name of the village she'd grown up in, thinking it sounded like a place where people kept broken refrigerators on their front porches.
"Don't apologize," Lovie said, flinging herself on the bed opposite Amy's. "Somebody has to be from the boondocks. We can't help it if we grew up listening to fiddle music. That's what diversity's all about, honey."
Amy didn't know whether to laugh or try to poke Lovie's eyes out, but not being the fighting type, she simply said, "What are you going to major in?"
"Major in? Sex, drugs, rock n'roll, and professors with easy morals!" Lovie grinned, revealing fabulous white teeth.
Amy gulped, trying to hide her shock, not at all certain she was going to like living with this girl with immoral goals. Fumblingly regaining her composure, Amy said, "Well I'm just an old boring biology major."
"You mean bugs and revolting creatures that live in the sink and crawl under microscopes?" Lovie laughed out loud. "Spare me, Lord."
"I think microscopes are interesting," Amy pretended to dust some lint off the dresser.
"I was afraid of that," Lovie replied, casually lighting a joint. "Looks like I've got a project on my hands with you, girl. You don't mind if I smoke?"
Amy ground her back teeth. What was she supposed to say? It was a smoke-free dorm, and she was scared to death a dorm counselor might walk in the room, busting Lovie and her on their first day at Franklin Clinton College.
"I've got to go out to the car and check some stuff," Amy alibied in order to get away from the sweet, rubbery smell that she'd rarely had to deal with back in Sealsburg.
"Hey, while you're out there, see if you can find a good-looking stud to drag my stuff in," Lovie grinned. "Tell him I'll show him a good time as his reward."
For the next twenty minutes, Amy stood in the lobby of Harmony Hall, thumbing magazines, asking herself how she was going to cope with a roommate like Lovie.
The first month of classes rolled by with Amy struggling in the classroom and desperately studying six and eight hours a day under a load of formulas and papers to write, while Lovie seemed content to scrape by with C's, doing no discernible school work. However, by now Amy realized Lovie hadn't been kidding when she said she was majoring in sex, drugs, and rock n'roll.
Despite dorm rules forbidding men in women's rooms after eleven, Lovie seemed to regard that as a suggestion rather than a rule. By October 10th, Amy had counted nine different men who had hidden in the closet at room-check time and finally spent the night with Lovie. The whole sordid sex scene had come as an unpleasant shock to Amy whose wildest venture along those lines had been a wrestling match she'd won her senior year in the front seat of Richard Coonrod's Chevrolet as they were presumably watching "Godzilla's Revenge" at the Sealsburg Star-lite Drive-In.
Meanwhile the empty beer cartons, discarded wine bottles, odoriferous pizza boxes, and suspicious looking pills and roach clips threatened to drown the room in unwelcome debris as the quarter rolled on. Finally after blowing a trig exam as a result of one of Lovie's all-night parties, Amy determined to confront her room mate.
Marching back from the library where she'd been driven to find a quiet place to study through a stiff October wind, Amy got her nerve up. She was going to have it out with Lovie.
When Amy stormed in and threw down her books, Lovie, clad only in a silver bullet bra and a black thong, was just sending a whipped-looking sexual partner down the hallway with one last caress.
"Lovie," Amy shrilled nervously, her hands trembling,"this has got to end. I can't study here. I can't stand all this mess and this parade of guys you're dragging in here for sex. It's sick."
Lovie threw herself back on the bed and smiled confidently. "Dear heart, let me ask you this. Who's having the most fun at college? Me or you?"
"That's not the issue," Amy said, confused by Lovie's strange response. "We're going to get in all kinds of trouble over your escapades." Amy's confidence began to falter. She felt sick at her stomach.
"Yeah?" Lovie said with a raised eyebrow.
"Well, my folks have shelled out six thousand dollars to pay for this year. I don't want to get booted out of here." Suddenly Amy was afraid she was going to cry.
Lovie laughed. "Booted out. Surely you don't think my boy friends are going to rat me out, do you? Anyway this dump wants your money."
Tears pooled in Amy's eyes. It was too embarrassing to tell Lovie that she disapproved of her sexual mores and drugs and drinking, and she knew she was on shaky grounds arguing that they'd get in trouble because she discovered by now such behavior was commonplace on campus.
"Well I don't like the marijuana smell in here," Amy said in what she knew was a last ditch losing effort.
"Sweetheart, my dear little thing from the land of cows and 4-H, sit down on the side of my bed for a minute." Lovie took Amy's hand.
Touched, Amy suddenly began to cry hard as Lovie talked to her very patiently. "You've got this college thing all wrong, Amy. The purpose of college is to find a rich grind to marry you soon after you graduate. In the meantime you need to take the easiest possible courses, cheat in every way possible, and have all the fun you could ever cram into four years. The trick is to not get HIV and stay away from bad trips. You understand me? Here take one of these. It'll help you calm down and put things in a new perspective."
Amy stared at the harmless-looking green pill in Lovie's palm. Never in her life had she taken a mind-altering substance stronger than Tylenol. Maybe all those dire warnings from guidance counselors and parents were a bunch of baloney. After all, like Lovie said, who was having more fun? Lovie was obviously was.
"C'mon, I'll get you a glass of water," Lovie said in a kindly voice. "Just swallow it. It'll do wonders for your outlook."
"What is it?" Amy said.
"You don't have to ask, sweetheart. Just swallow it."
Hating her own weakness, and fearing that God would strike her dead, Amy obediently swallowed the pill. For a second nothing was changed, and then she was floating above the room, new and altered in her outlook. It was as though she'd suddenly been made whole. She stared at Lovie's slinky body and felt something strange. What was it? My God, she was turned on! Maybe this was why she'd never had crushes on boys; maybe she'd just discovered her true sexuality. Lovie's sweet-smelling body, was close to her, stroking her hair.
"Do you like the way you feel now?" Lovie murmured, her hand going to Amy's breast.
"Yes," Amy murmured. She felt defenseless. "I love the way I feel now. Would you kiss me?"
"Of course, you little dope," Lovie said, her hand caressing Amy's thigh. "I'll do anything you want."
That night as she slept with Lovie clasped in her arms, Amy had a strange dream. She saw a boy (or was he a man?) who was in her English class whose name she knew to be Kirk. He was a tall, handsome fellow with olive skin and jet black hair that rose up and up like the crown of a rooster. Barefoot, with an earring in his nose, strange piercing eyes, and camouflage Army fatigues like something out of the sixties, he'd struck her as vaguely repulsive until now. But in the dream she saw a strange aura of light circling his head, and she knew she must find out more about him.
The next morning Lovie was gone when Amy awakened with a strange sensation of having been transformed. She went straight to her footlocker and threw Poogy in the garbage can as a hunched gargoyle crouched on the corner of her bed and silently leered at her. Gratefully, she discovered Lovie had left another green pill on the sink in the bathroom; and without caring about the consequences, she swallowed it.
During her eight-o-clock English class, Amy's eyes studied Kirk. He sat hypnotically staring at the professor, and she was certain now she could see the strange aura of white light circling Kirk's head. When class was over, she did the second strangest thing she'd ever done in her life. She went straight to Kirk in the hall.
"Could I buy you a cup of coffee?" she said.
"I was just on my way," Kirk said in a virile voice. "You can tag along."
"I've never known a person like you," Amy murmured excitedly a few minutes later as they carried their coffee to a table. "I'm from a small town. We didn't have many people that were different there."
Kirk smiled at her knowingly. "You ever hear of the radical left?" he said.
"I've heard of it. I don't know what it means," Amy said feeling foolishly na´ve.
"Good," Kirk said, dark eyes flashing, his silver aura glowing. "You've got a lot to learn, but you'll learn fast. Here it is in a nutshell. This country of yours is the most repressive, lying, unfair to minorities and the little man nation in the world. What the radical left is about is holding the mirror of truth up to this sick society. Everything this bloated capitalist energy hog teaches its children is a lie. You do know about Enron, right? Now--are you still interested or do you want your cup of coffee back?"
Enron? Enron? Amy went blank, thinking of the little house with the picket fence in Sealsburg where her mother taught kindergarten, and her father was principal of the junior high. "Kirk, I am interested in learning the truth. You've got to tell me more. I think maybe I was brought up on all those lies."
"Don't worry, sister. You were."
That afternoon back in the dorm room, Lovie was disgusted when Amy told her about Kirk and the doctrine of social equality and governmental malfeasance he preached.
"I know that creep," Lovie said. "You realize he doesn't even take showers because he feels it's unnatural. He stinks!"
"I think he's beautiful. He's a prophet, Lovie," Amy said dreamily. "Remember, people scorned Jesus."
"Well Jesus he ain't!" Lovie said. "Kirk's a tree hugger who only sees the bad in things. Stay away from him, Amy. Next thing you know he'll be trying to recruit you into his witch's coven. The big geek!"
"What's a coven?" Amy said.
"Fat girls with pimples," Lovie sneered. "You don't need his type, kiddo. Find yourself a rich guy who drives a Maserati."
"No," Amy said. "I don't want money. I want someone spiritual. I saw this white glow around his head."
"For God's sakes," Lovie said. "That's from taking pills. You stop taking greenies, and the only thing you'll see around Kirk's head is lice."
"That's not fair!" Amy balled up her fists.
"Don't worry about fair," Lovie replied. "Here drink some wine, and get your shit together."
However, Amy's shit would not get back together. On a steady diet of greenies, by the end of October, she was failing anatomy and calculus, and barely pulling a C in English.
"So you're not going to pursue bourgeois goals any more?" Kirk consoled her. "That's beautiful. Don't worry about your parents. They're part of the problem in this nation. You break free of their notions about the necessity of acquisitiveness, and you'll be free to strip the blinders off the eyes of the sheep."
"Right, blinders off the eyes of the sheep," Amy said. "I was a sheep until a month ago."
"Well tonight, child, you will officially end your sheep status. It's Halloween eve, and I want to take you into my coven. You game?"
"I'm game, Kirk," Amy said, thinking maybe she'd fallen in love.
"OK, tonight at the Chapel in the Woods, you're going to have your eyes opened."
"Good, I want to grow up. I want to know the truth. I've been so sheltered."
That evening as dusk fell, Amy, holding Kirk's strong, confident hand with its long, filthy fingernails, followed her guru, who was now clad in a dark robe, into the woods. A sickly breeze sighed through the remaining leaves as Kirk and her feet crunched along over desiccated sycamore and oak leaves.
Despite Kirk's touch, a weird feeling of impending doom nagged at Amy. At length, they reached a clearing where a circle of dark, hooded figures stood in the gloom holding hands and chanting. To her surprise, Amy could see witches' hats and broomsticks and other appurtenances of witchcraft that she had once thought were nothing but mythology.
In the middle of the circle someone had built a small fire that glowed an eerie orange. Kirk led her directly amidst the dark, silent coven that stood waiting expectantly.
"Tonight, fellow worshippers," Kirk said, "as the moon reaches the sacred stage of pregnancy, we are blessed to have the opportunity to take a new witch into our circle. Amy Jackson has chosen to become one of us, to have the blinders removed from her eyes. And now with the blessing of Astarte let the sacrificial lamb be led into the circle."
From the shadows a dark, hooded figure, in what Amy could dimly make out were jogging shoes, led a tiny, white lamb forward out of the gloom. The poor thing bleated as it was brought forward. Amy, who had raised lambs as 4-H projects all through junior high, felt sweat trickle down her armpits.
Then she watched as with ritual slowness, Kirk reached under his robes and revealed a long-handled knife, which he placed in Amy's hands.
"Now child," Kirk murmured, "in the name of the Father of Darkness, we instruct you to show your allegiance to the coven by slitting the throat of this lamb."
A cry of revulsion suddenly escaped Amy's throat. "No, I can't hurt that poor thing!" she cried.
Kirk suddenly wheeled. The silvery aura above his hair was gone now. "You can't what, slacker? You told me you wanted to become one of us."
"I didn't know I'd have to hurt something innocent."
"Those who are afraid to destroy the innocent are too weak to cleanse society. Are they not, my fellow witches?"
"Aye!" murmured the coven in unison.
"In that case we should slit this weakling's throat, should we not?" Kirk said.
"Aye!" murmured the witches as a sullen breeze undulated through the forest.
Amy turned to flee, but her knees became jelly as several members of the coven grabbed her by the arms and hair, yanking her head backwards to reveal the lines of her throat.
"Then let it be done!" Kirk said, raising the knife which glittered in the glow of the fire.
"Hold it right there, you son-of-a-bitch!" a voice from the darkness cried.
Amy wrenched her head in terror in the direction of the intruder. There was no doubt about it. Though it couldn't be, it was Lovie who was moving through the circle in Kirk's direction, brandishing a revolver.
"Just let the farm girl go," Lovie said to Kirk in her supremely confident voice. "She's going with me, you rotten radical slime."
Suddenly Amy felt herself released as she scrambled to get behind Lovie's gun.
"Take her, you reactionary whore!" Kirk hissed in Lovie's face. "We'll never miss her just like we never missed you."
"Touche, butthead!" Lovie sneered, firing a shot into the darkness that elicited a gasp of fear from the coven and sent them scattering like frightened chickens into the woods.
Then Lovie took a weeping Amy by the arm and led her in the direction of the dormitory, her voice working slow and seductively in the darkness. "That's it for you, Country Chick," Lovie said. "No more greenies in your mouth. Some people are just not cut out for the fast lane. I'm getting myself a new roommate. You hear me?"
"I hear you," Amy said, glad to be alive, realizing that Lovie was right this time, and wishing somehow, just some way, she could once more cradle Poogy in her arms and begin being a college freshman all over again.
H. Turnip Smith resides beneath an ancient graveyard where he monitors worm movements and scratches stories in the mud with his long fingernails. Every autumn he arises at the Equinox to inflict his fiction on the unsuspecting public.
Published by permission of the author.