I wake up panicked. That dream I’ve had it before. Me sitting in the tree, watching Mrs. Bishop being prepared to be hanged for the crime of witchcraft. I hate that dream. Willing my heart rate to slow down, I crawl out of bed and make my way to the shower. Crap, I’m gonna be late if I don’t get moving.
Mrs. Bishop’s class is always interesting. I’ve never really liked history before but this year I think it’s going to be different. She seems to make it come alive.
“The past is much different than you might think. It’s about people and what they felt was real at the time,” says Mrs. Bishop.
I never thought of it that way.
“Isn’t it just about people who are dead and didn’t know anything?” someone shouts from the back of the room.
“Ha! You may think that at first, at least that’s how the textbooks seem to present it, isn’t it? But history, our history, is built on real people, who felt real things. Passion, desire, fear, love, anger. All of these things are part of society. It’s our job to look back and piece together what they may have gone through and felt, in order to truly understand why things happened the way that they did.”
Mrs. Bishop is building up her momentum. The excitement in her looks like it’s going to explode. My other teacher’s should take notes, this lady is different. She really seems to get into what she wants to teach.
“Okay, so this year we are going to be learning a lot about not just historical events, but the people themselves and how their lives led to the major events within them. So, since it’s the fall and Halloween will be coming up in another month, we are going to study one of the most controversial time periods in American History, the Salem Witch Trials.”
My head shot up. What did she just say? It’s gotta be a coincidence. I mean, who dreams about their teacher being hung as a witch and then that same teacher, in real life, decides we are going to study about witches. This can’t be happening. I pinch myself to make sure I’m really awake and not just having another nightmare. My hands start tingling and my pen falls from my hand. I try to will myself to settle down.
I sneak a look at my one and only friend in the class, Becca. Okay, let’s be honest, she is my one and only friend anywhere. When I catch her eye I mouth, “She’s got to be kidding!”
“The what? I’ve never even heard of those.” That same idiot from the back needs to get a clue.
“We learned about this back in 8th grade, but what I don’t get is why we have to cover it again,” Becca wonders.
“That’s a great statement Becca. You’ve been taught that the trials happened, but you never had to really dig into why they happened. That’s going to be your job for the next month. In October you will have to make a presentation about what you learned about the people who lived through it all.”
Groans throughout the room. I hate presentations. Super embarrassing. Now not only is this whole thing really weird, but I have to talk about it all in front of the class. How am I going to talk about something like this with my hands always vibrating. I won’t be able to hold any index cards and the other kids will notice. Great, another thing to be made fun of for. My stomach is already getting knotted up.
“Oh come on. Give it a chance. We will be learning the history behind it all here in class, you just need to do some research on the people that it happened to. Maybe you will even find something that surprises you.”
Mrs. Bishop starts assigning all of us the people we are going to be researching.
“Temperance, you have Bridget Bishop. I think you will find some interesting things about her, she was one of the first women to be executed, and she is one of my ancestors. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.” Gee thanks Mrs. Bishop. No pressure. I notice all the kids in class turn to stare at me. Some giggles travel through the room. Why can’t the floor just open up and swallow me? I should have stayed in bed. The dread starts building up. Here we go.
After class, Becca and I sit together for our break period in a far corner of the common.
“I can’t believe this is happening to me!” I say.
“To you? To all of us! I mean, why study something again? To figure out things about the people? That’s dumb. I think Mrs. Bishop doesn’t have a clue how to teach and that’s why she gave us this lame assignment. I mean, why not call it a biography report. That’s what it is.”
Becca is always ragging about teachers and their assignments.
“Give me a break, Bec. We both know you love this kind of assignment.”
“That’s true,” Becca agrees while taking a bite out of her bagel. “But what is going on with you. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Nervously I start fiddling with my fingernails. “Yeah, well….it just seemed like a really odd topic.”
“Whatever. Don’t give me some lame line. What’s the deal?”
Sigh. I guess I could tell her. She is the only one who may understand, since we’ve been friends forever.
“Uh…I’ve been having these strange dreams lately.”
“Oh yeah? What does that have to do with history class?”
“Well, they have been about hanging someone who was being accused of being a witch.” I glance up at her, hoping she doesn’t think I’m crazy.
Becca is looking at me with a confused look on her face. “What do you mean, about someone being hung for being a witch? Like the witch trials? That’s not a big deal, you’ve always been interested in the witch trials. You’ve read The Crucible and that Physick Book of whatever like a thousand times.”
I start picking at my nails. “Yeah I know, but this is different. It’s the same dream over and over again, with the same people. It’s not during 1692 though, it’s like….now.” I shoot her a quick look.
“Now!? That’s nuts, it can’t happen now. So who’s in it? Is it that Barbie blonde, Tara, from first period? Or maybe that goth girl, Maureen?”
“Um, well, no, neither of them. Uh, a bunch of people from our town, and I’m sitting off in this tree in the distance. But, uh, well, Mrs. Bishop is in it too.”
Becca’s bagel has now been completely abandoned in her lap and she is sitting there just staring at me. “What? Mrs. Bishop?!”
My hands start that weird tingling again. What is wrong with me?
“Yeah, Mrs. Bishop is the one who is being hanged for being a witch.”
“Temp, that’s just crazy. Why would she be accused of being a witch?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, it’s the same dream over and over again. It always seems to end after the town accuses her of being a witch and the noose is around her neck. I always wake up at that point. It always seems so real.” I can’t believe I’m telling Becca this. She probably thinks I have officially lost my mind.
“Well, it is weird, but I mean, come on. It’s just a dream. I’ve had dreams over and over again before. Remember that one I told you about that helicopter that would fly around at night and seemed to be landing in some strange city. That dream bugged the crap out of me, but it wasn’t real. Dreams are just dreams. They don’t mean anything.”
“But don’t you think it’s bizarre to be dreaming about Mrs. Bishop being accused of being a witch and being hung for it and then she assigns us this project?” I stare at her hoping she won’t just blow me off.
“Yeah, it definitely bizarre, but don’t worry about it. It’s just a dream. I gotta get my stuff for class.” With that, Becca gets up and walks off, leaving me sitting there alone.
I get up, dust off the dirt from my jeans and in my most convincing voice I say, “It’s just a dream. No biggie.” All of a sudden this huge gust of wind comes out of nowhere and blows my hair in my face.
Yeah, I don’t believe me either.