A Peculiar Initiation

In this prose fiction a freshman at her first year of college, Jane, goes to recruitment night for her school’s sororities not expecting much to happen, until she discovers that a group of sorority presidents are secretly witches.

Ava Smith

I slowly opened the door, and had to cover my hand to keep my gasp from being audible. A group of people stood in red and black cloaks, surrounded by a pot of some sort. They were throwing things into the pot, a frog, a black liquid, candy corn. I was frozen in shock, and all I could do was stare until one of the people throwing in ingredients saw me. “Guys…” She said, and they all stared at me, until the one closest to me sprinted toward me at the speed of light. 

6 hours earlier: I was finally here. Even after the hellish process of applying to colleges, getting the decisions back, and overanalyzing which university would be the best to attend, I didn’t regret going through any of it because it led me here. A small university that I never even heard of before applying to colleges, Annalee University in New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s known for its beautiful campus that looks like a mix of Hogwarts and a royal palace in England, and an amazing biomedical engineering program. It’s everything I could want in a school. I really loved how my side of the dorm was coming along. I brought some old posters and polaroids from home and hung them on my wall, and used part of my shelf that came with the dorm to store my favorite books. I wondered what my roommate would do with her side of the dorm, or who she even was for that matter. It’s like I summoned her, because as soon as I thought that the door unlocked, and through it came a tall girl with bright red hair in braids. “Hi, is this room E3?” She asked. She seemed friendly, I really liked her style. “Yeah, it’s nice to meet you, my name is Jane.” I replied with a smile. As she unpacked her things, she introduced herself to me. Her name was Amara, and she was a freshman like me. She moved here from New Jersey, and chose to study at Annalee University for its Greek life. I didn’t research much about it, but apparently Annalee University has a lot of sororities that are really popular amongst students. The selection process is competitive, but members say that it’s worth it and that it adds to the experience of being in a sorority. I understood the appeal of Greek life, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted to focus on my studies and getting my degree. “You know, recruitment for all of the sororities begins tonight around seven… Do you want to come with me? It’s totally fine if you don’t want to, but it would be a little less nerve wracking with someone I recognize there.” Amara asked. “Hmmm…” I thought aloud. It’s not like I was required to join a sorority if I came to recruitment, plus the chances of me getting accepted into any of the sororities are low, especially if I’m not trying to get in. Regardless, I had a gut feeling that I shouldn’t go. But I dismissed it, I wanted to be there for a possible new friend of mine. “Sure! Once I finish unpacking I’ll start getting ready.” Geez, what was I even supposed to wear to sorority recruitment? This was something that was way out of my comfort zone. 

After putting on makeup, a pastel pink slip dress, white mary jane heels, and doing my hair, Amara and I left our dorm and walked to where the sororities and fraternities were. The houses were huge and beautiful, with pearly white pillars and huge, mosaic doors. “Woah…” I said in awe. The house to our left had groups of girls welcoming people inside, with some music that I could briefly hear in the background. “Oh! This is the best sorority at school, Kappa Delta Mu. I heard they have amazing parties!” Amara says, she had a gleam in her eye and a bright smile on her face. I knew that sororities had long, Greek names but Kappa Delta Mu sounded fake, like someone put a ton of random Greek words together. “Mu? As in the cow?” I asked Amara. She laughed at the comment, still dragging me by the arm towards Kappa Delta Mu.

It had only been an hour, but it felt like centuries. I was standing in a corner, drinking some soda I found in a cooler. Don’t get me wrong, I really did try my hardest to get along with everyone, but I just didn’t get along with any of the sorority sisters. You could tell they didn’t like me either, but they did seem to really like Amara. I hadn’t seen her for a while now, but last I checked she was laughing and talking to some of the Kappa Delta Mu presidents. Chances were she was going to pass all the initiation tests and join this sorority. Hopefully we’ll have some classes together, and become friends. She did seem really nice, and I hoped my new roommate was as friendly as her. I went to text Amara and ask her where she was, but realized I never got her number. “Crap.” I muttered. I couldn’t leave, I didn’t want Amara to worry about where I am. I tried to enjoy the music and people watched as two girls came closer to me. One of them tells a joke and shoves the other a bit too hard, causing her to trip. She caught herself from falling, but spilled her drink on me. “Oh my god! I’m so sorry!” She apologized profusely. She offered to help get rid of the stain some other time, but that was the tipping point for me. I just wanted to get out of there. “It’s alright, don’t worry about it.” I tried to say it without seeming upset, but I really did love this dress and didn’t want it to stain. I quickly moved past her, waving goodbye as I left to go back to my dorm for the night. I walked, searching up how to get rid of beer stains on the way, when something caught my eye. I almost missed it, because it was tucked away behind some trees and was smaller than all the other houses. It looked like a rundown, Victorian cottage with beige brick walls. I felt so drawn to it, but at the same time I had a gut feeling that I should just go home. I stood and stared at the house, debating whether or not I should look at it further. I slowly walk toward the house, looking at the nearby trees, and vines hanging from the roof of the cottage. “This place is so beautiful and eerie.” I thought aloud. The dark night sky and clouds covering the moon overhead amplified this. I was now far away from the other sorority houses and route back to the dorms. Can I go in the house? The bad gut feeling and my curiosity intensified. My curiosity outweighed my suspicions, so I slowly turned the door knob. 

I peeked my head inside the house, it didn’t look nearly as run down inside as it does outside. Inside, the lights were already on and the house looked well kept and clean. It also had a mix of modern and Victorian appliances and furniture. The walls were a maroon velvet in the room I was in, the rest of the rooms walls were creamy white. Clearly, I was not the first person who’s been here since the house was originally built. One thing in particular caught my eye, there were several mosaics on the walls. The first seemed to be from Colonial times, then the Industrial Revolution, up until now. There were groups of women on the mosaics, some women showed up more than once. The mosaics were enchanting, and I felt as if I could look at them forever. My favorite was the most recent one, it had a dark blue and purple background with four girls that looked to be my age. Next to my favorite mosaic was a bookshelf, with both fiction and non fiction novels of many different categories. Many of the books were either historic fiction or truthful documents about witchcraft and the Salem Witch Trials. I even saw a spellbook. Clearly, whoever has been here is very obsessed with witches. Out of curiosity, I picked up the spellbook and started reading. Majority of the pages were blank, except for one, which was in a language I couldn’t translate, maybe Latin? Click. As I was putting the spellbook back, it latched into part of the bookshelf. I quickly took several steps back as the bookshelf swung open. It looked like something out of a movie, a secret lair, with brown brick walls and wooden, windy stairs that led down to… what? It looked like it went down forever. The only light in the room were torch lanterns that hung from the wall next to the stairs, definitely a fire hazard. The more I explored this house, the more dangerous it seemed. I definitely should leave, I thought. I felt like Alice, from Alice in Wonderland. Would I venture down the rabbit hole, see where it takes me? Tumble down into some kind of Wonderland? Would it be good, or bad like Alice’s? Would I be able to leave, or would I get locked in there until someone finds me? Would I die there? Okay, that was a bit much. Chances are I wouldn’t die, someone would probably stumble upon this cottage on their way home from recruitment, or later, and accidentally open the secret door like me. But, how has nobody said anything about it yet if other people have discovered it? The house was in a pretty populated area. I hadn’t even realized I was walking down the stairs until the trap door shut behind me. I gasped and sprinted back up the stairs, trying to open the door. “No, no, no!” I exclaimed, pounding on the door, pushing it, pulling it with all my might just trying to get it to budge. But, I was locked in. What was I doing? I should have learned from Alice to not go into places where I don’t belong. This creepy hallway should have been enough reason for me to go running to security as soon as I found it. Luckily, I had my phone on me. I reached into my pocket to call someone, anyone, but there was no reception. “Ughhh” I groaned in frustration. I slowly slid down to the floor, put my head in my hands, and tried to calm myself down. After going through every logical thing to do, I picked what was probably the least logical thing anyone could do in this situation, go down the stairs and further explore. I felt uneasy, maybe I should just stay up here until someone finds the house and explores it. It was unlikely because of how thick the brick walls were, but maybe I’d be able to hear through the door. Okay… but is the person on the other side of the wall going to be able to hear me? God, Amara and my family were going to be worried sick. I was technically a missing person. Maybe I could find a friendly person, or friendly people, downstairs. Yeah, I should probably go downstairs, see what I can find, and go from there. Going down long flights of stairs in pumps is not ideal, but I had to make do. I turned on my phone flashlight for further guidance, and looked around. The walls had carvings on them, a star inside a circle carved on several parts of the muddy red brick wall. The ceiling was getting increasingly lower and lower, to the point where I had to sit and slide down the stairs, the wooden stairs gave my legs splinters. “Geez.” I muttered. Is the ceiling going to get even lower from here, speaking of, how many more stairs are there? The torches were now completely gone, and the only light I had was from my phone. This was definitely not a good idea, but I was too far away from the trap door entry to go back now. After having to slide on my stomach down the stairs, they ended, and the wall shot back up to a height where I could stand. “Hallelujah.” I thought, as I slowly stood up. There was a small door, with the symbols carved in the walls as the key to get in. This is eerily similar to Alice in Wonderland, next thing I knew I would have to eat a cookie that shrinks me to fit through the door. I tried to open the door, but it was locked. I sighed, feeling overwhelmed, fearful, and exasperated. I came too far to not go through now… so how? How am I supposed to get through a locked door? Bing, an idea. This is the most cliche thing ever, but I had bobby pins in my hair. I desperately tugged one of the bobby pins out of my hair and kneeled down to the lock. I carefully bent it, slowly stuck it in… and turned. I felt the lock click. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I cheered, removing the bobby pin and swiftly opened the door. I layed down on my back, and slowly put my arms, then my head, torso, and legs through the door. It was the only way I could fit. I learned my lesson the first time with doors, and lodged it open with my shoes. I couldn’t be very stealthy with them on. The area I was in had lots of light, and lavender walls. It was wide, and open, with several tables lining the walls containing flower bouquets, a kitchen in the corner with an oven and everything, and two other doors. One to the right, and one straight ahead of me next to the kitchen. This room almost looked like an apartment. Did someone live down here? I continued to tiptoe down to the door on the right, and slowly opened it. It was a grey and white bathroom with marble flooring. The room felt warm, and the shower door and mirror on the sink had steam on it. Someone just took a shower in here, I was not alone. There was some light noise coming from somewhere outside the room, chanting. I whipped my head behind me and listened closer. There were multiple voices, some chanting and some speaking in a foreign language. The Latin in the spellbook. Did these same people write that spellbook I saw earlier? I wanted to find out, maybe they can help me out of here. I slowly opened the door… 

Present: Running away did not work. The people in cloaks tied me up to what I discovered was a cauldron. “Please, please don’t hurt me. I won’t say a word about this to anyone. Please let me go.” I pleaded. “I just want to go home, I want to go back to my dorm.” I begged some more. They all stared at me for a while, until the girl who originally saw me spoke up. “What’s your name?” She asked. The others looked at her, bewildered. I debated if I should tell her my real name or not, or say my name at all. Should I continue pleading? No, ignoring the people who could seriously harm me does no good. Honesty is the best policy, right? “I’m Jane…” I decided not to tell her my last name. “I just started attending Annalee. I’m a Freshman.” Maybe they’ll decide I’m interesting, ask me more about myself, and decide to let me go. What is the most interesting thing about myself… “Jane?” Another girl asked, surprised. “No.” Another one said. “Is it her?” The only other girl who hasn’t said anything yet asked the other girls. “Eh, I thought she would look… different.” That’s rich, coming from a girl who was hiding her face behind a cloak. “What’s your full name?” The first girl who showed surprise in my name questioned. “Um, Merryweather. No middle name, just Jane Merryweather.” I answered. Why do they want to know my full name? What are their ulterior motives? This whole situation left me with so many questions. “Did you originally live in Salem before transferring to Annalee?” The same girl asked. I started to get paranoid. They’re going to kill me, and search for my family, and no one will ever find me down here because I’m going to be killed in this weird cellar by witches who definitely know how to properly dispose of a body. “Yes.” I said. I should have lied about where my family lives, so they maybe wouldn’t find them. They might have a potion or spell for finding people though. They all glanced at each other, and started whispering amongst themselves. This was a very stressful situation, I wished I could read minds or something so I could get a general idea of what’s going to happen to me. It felt as if out of nowhere they all stopped whispering and two of the girls stepped forward to untie me. “This is a pretty bad introduction.” One of them said awkwardly. I debated what to do next, should I attack them and run? Or wait and see what happens next, make them trust me, and then run? “We’ve been waiting for you.” The other girl who untied me said, and she handed me a book. Members and other Inquiries was the title of the thick hardback. “Your family is a part of our coven.” The same girl said. A coven? Please, real covens with real witches aren’t real, and no way is my family that interesting. They must be playing a sick joke on me.“Just read it before you make assumptions.” The first girl who spoke to me said. The book was already bookmarked at page 44. Prophecies and Long Lost Members was the chapter. “Long lost members?” I thought aloud, reading further. I skimmed through the page until I read my last name. Merryweather. “Martha Merryweather was the former leader of this coven, she turned herself in during The Salem Witch Trials so her sisters could flee to Louisiana…” I stopped reading. I remember my grandma talking about my (I forget how many greats) great grandma, Martha Merryweather. She and her family moved to Salem, where we stayed ever since. I knew she died young, around her 30’s, but I never knew of what. “Witches were really killed in the Salem Witch Trials?” I asked, stunned. “She was the only witch who died. Majority of the women who died were tried for ridiculous reasons, none of which having to do with witchcraft.” One of the girls answered. I didn’t know how I was supposed to react, and hearing people talk about witchcraft so matter of factly, like it was real, was so bizarre. Were these girls lying to me, are they actually witches? Or is there something else going on here? “What does my great grandmother supposedly being a witch have to do with me?” I asked. I kept expecting to wake up in my dorm, this whole experience was so strange. “Before she died, she performed a spell that would cause one of her future family members to inherit her magic, when it’s safer to be a witch, and when she can meet her coven.” Another girl said. I picked up the book, and read further. It said the same thing, just in more formal writing. “I think we told her too much at once.” One of the girls said. “Uh… take however long you need to process that. We can answer any additional questions you have later. I’m Danielle.” The same girl said, slowly lowering her cloak. She had tan skin with freckles and brown eyes. I recognized her from my favorite mosaic near the bookshelves. She continued to throw things into the cauldron, as the other girls lowered their cloaks and introduced themselves. The other three girls are Aubree, Ella, she was the one who insulted and was pretty average looking, and Ciara. Ciara was the initial girl who saw me. All of them were on the mosaic. After a few minutes of me gathering my courage, I turned around and faced them. “Prove it to me. Show me that you guys are actually witches.” I demanded. My confidence in myself and the situation was slowly coming back. They didn’t seem like they wanted to hurt me, from the sounds of it they’ve wanted me here for quite some time now. It’s like Aubree said, they’ve been waiting for me. “Sure.” Ella said with certainty. She had a cocky smile on her face. “Can I perform a spell on you?” She asked. “Ella… she hardly knows us.” Danielle said, walking over to the book Ella was holding titled Beginner Spells. “It’s fine.” I said. I needed to seem poised, not let them see that I’m absolutely terrified of the idea of them casting a spell on me. It’s probably not even going to work anyway. Right? “If you say so, ad infinitum alibi.” Ella slowly repeated from the book. I felt myself lift up, and into the air. I was flying. I screamed, and tried to get myself back on the floor. It wasn’t working, My feet wouldn’t stick to the ground. I felt like an astronaut in space, just floating aimlessly. “Come on! Fly around!” Ella exclaimed with a laugh. “Do you believe us now?” Ciara asked after casting the spell on herself and flying towards me. “Y-yes.” I muttered quietly. “Please let me stand now.” I asked Ella. With a flick of her wand (I still couldn’t believe any of this is actually happening to me) I fell to the ground. Ciara properly lowered herself to the ground, and landed on her feet. “You know, you probably don’t want anything to do with us, but we can teach you how to do all of this.” Aubree said with a small, friendly smile on her face. “Most people can’t do this kind of thing, it really is something you should take advantage of.” Danielle added. Ella and Ciara nodded. “It is a little nerve wracking at first, but being able to do this stuff is really cool. Makes you feel like a superhero, powerful.” Ciara told me. I guess it would be kind of cool to do magic, maybe not the flying, but there had to be plenty of other spells and potions that would intrigue me. Of course, I was still doubtful and shooken up from the entire situation. I had a plethora of questions. “I’ll consider it, but what’s up with all the mosaics of different women upstairs? Are those former members of your… (I wasn’t quite sure what to call it) coven? And why Annalee University?” I asked them. “Yeah, they’re different generations of our coven. They fled to Louisiana during the Salem Witch Trials. Annalee University hadn’t existed yet when the former members settled here. Future generations a few hundred years later, during the 1800’s, were allowed to build this current cottage under the guise of it being a club that girls could join and live in if they needed housing. Future members of our coven eventually started a sorority.” Aubree answered. “You guys are a sorority? Did anyone come to your recruitment night?” I asked, how did no one else discover that secret trap door then? No one has suspected anything about this sorority? “We had a recruitment night, this isn’t our sorority house. We’re presidents of Kappa Delta Mu.” Danielle answered. “No!” I exclaimed in shock. Kappa Delta Mu was the huge sorority that a ton of people wanted to join, and four of its presidents were secretly witches. This story was getting more and more unbelievable. “Your throat must be sore from talking, how about some tea?” I hadn’t even realized Ella had left the room, until she came back from the direction of the kitchen. The tea smelled like honey and cinnamon. I stared at it for a moment, debating whether or not I should drink it. “Do you not want it?” Ella asked, she looked at me with a confused expression on her face. “No, sorry, I do want the tea. Thank you for making it for me.” I practically snatched it from her hands and took a sip of it. I hadn’t realized I spaced out, and didn’t want Ella to think I was ignoring her. “Hmmm… wow. This is really good.” I told her, I’ve never really liked hot tea, but this was delicious. “Can I have this recipe? It’s amazing.” I asked her. My eyes and body started to feel heavy. I yawned, and tried to continue the conversation, but I just felt so tired. I looked at the tea, going to drink more when I realized what was happening. I dropped the tea cup to the ground, causing it to shatter all over the hardwood floor. Did she poison me? I hadn’t realized I asked that out loud until Ella kneeled down and started talking to me, “No. Just a… you’ll be fine. I needed you out of here before…” Her voice was starting to get foggy, and I could faintly hear arguing in the background. That’s when all sound and vision faded away. 

Beep, beep. Beep, beep. “Mmmm…” I muttered half asleep, going to snooze my alarm when I realized it wasn’t my own. It was Amara’s. I turned to look at her and saw she was just waking up too. When she saw me she jolted awake and promptly turned off her alarm. “Jane! I’m so sorry I left you at recruitment! I was just having such a good time, I looked around for you before leaving but couldn’t find you.” Amara apologized excessively, she looked like she felt really sorry. “It’s okay. I decided sororities weren’t for me and came back to the dorm.” I lied, deciding not to tell her about the fact that the sorority she wants to be a part of the most is secretly run by witches. “Okay… are you sure you’re not mad at me?” Amara asked. “No, seriously, it’s okay.” I assured her with a friendly smile. “Okay.” Amara replied, we stared at each other for a brief moment until Amara picked up her phone. I turned to my nightstand, and decided I needed to get out and do something to help me process last night when I saw an envelope with a maroon, wax stamp on it. I turned it over, and saw my name written on it. Could it be them? I ripped the envelope open and rolled over on my side to read it. “Jane, we are so sorry about what happened last night with Ella. What she did was completely uncalled for, and she will not do anything similar to that again. If you are still interested, come back to the same place as last night at 6pm. We will happily answer any more questions you have, and can teach you some beginner spells.” The letter was signed by all four of them. Something told me that I’d always be confused about many aspects of last night, like how they got me back to my dorm, or how they knew which dorm I was in. Oh well, I might as well get some of those questions answered, I have nothing better to do anyway. And who knows? Maybe I could learn a spell that will get the stains out of my favorite dress.