Voodoo Ergonomics

Voodoo Ergonomics

“Hey, check it out,” Hyo-Won said, pulling me into the corner of the classroom. She reached into her bag and took out a small doll. It was crudely made, with big, uneven stitches.

“Nice,” I said. “Did your little sister make it for you?”

“No!” She smacked my arm. “It’s a voodoo doll. You know, magic.

I smacked her arm back, just because it kind of hurt when she hit me. “Voodoo? Are you crazy? Who are you trying to curse? And where did you get it?”

“Where do you think I got it? Online, of course,” she said. “And I’m not cursing anyone. I thought if you could hurt people remotely with one, you could help them too. I got it to help me study.” She opened the doll’s chest to show some coffee beans inside. “That helps me stay awake. And, I put it between two science books before I went to bed last night. My neck kind of hurts today but I know the names of all the bones in the body. The periodic table is tonight. Einsteinium, here I come!”

“That’s crazy,” I said. “And probably dangerous. It might even be cheating. I’m going to tell the teacher. Unless you send me the link where you got it.”

It was 150,000 won ($130 USD) but that seemed worth it. It came a week later, and I followed the instructions (in Spanish) and put some of my hair into it to forge a connection. Then I went to work.

“Did you get it?” Hyo-Won asked the next day.


“So, what did you study first? Don’t think you’re going to take my place as top student because I’ve got that locked down.”

I looked at her. “Study? Nah, I had a better idea.”

I took a shoebox out of my bag and opened it carefully. Inside lay my voodoo doll wrapped in a square of fleece. Tiny mechanical hands massaged its feet and a small roller bar went up and down its back. I took out a small bottle of face cream and rubbed it on its face.

“I feel great,” I said. “Great idea to do this, by the way.”

“But that wasn’t my idea,” Hyo-Won began, but I put a finger on her lips.

Great idea,” I repeated.

The next few days went by in a happy blur. I felt relaxed and content and nothing stressed me, not even when I got a 20% on my history test.

“What did you get? What did you get?” Hyo-Won asked after class. She tore the test paper out of my hand and stared at the number for a moment. “That’s not even close to passing.”

She showed me her paper. She’d gotten 105% since she had created her own extra credit question and had written five pages answering it. The teacher had been so impressed, he’d given her five extra points.

“Have you been sleeping?” I asked.

She pointed meaningfully to her bag. “He’s been sleeping for me.”

“Has he, though?”

“Well, maybe you shouldn’t sleep so much,” she said.

I couldn’t argue with that. So I didn’t.

If I had thought about it, I probably would have realized that this situation could not continue, but I did not think it would come to a head quite as fast as it did. Three days later, Hyo-Won and I were called to the principal’s office.

“Do you know why I called you girls in here?” the principal asked. She looked at the two of us—me about to fall out of my chair and Hyo-Won crouched in her chair, scribbling German adjectives in a notebook—and decided not to wait for an answer.

“Are you girls involved in voodoo?” she asked.

I sat up a little, and Hyo-Won stopped in the middle of writing überrascht in her notebook. “How did you know?” I asked.

“Voodoo is not that uncommon in high schools,” the principal said. “We even had it when I was a student, although we had to order things from catalogues in back-alley shaman shops. Give me what you have.”

Reluctantly, we handed over our voodoo dolls. I felt a slight chill as I took mine out of its comfy fleece wrapping.

“Are you going to destroy them?” I asked.

The principal looked alarmed. “No! That would kill you. Unfortunately, you now have a connection with these, so we have to be careful. The first thing is to get your dolls on a healthier routine.”

She took a key out of her desk and went to the far wall. “I haven’t needed this for a few years, but it should still be okay.” She opened up a wall panel and I saw a small dormitory with beds, a mini treadmill, and a small classroom.

“You can’t stop cold turkey, so this will help get you into a normal routine again. The school nurse and I will make sure the dolls go to bed at a good time and get plenty of exercise. We’ll check on you every day to see if it’s working. Hopefully we can get you back to normal soon.”

“But I feel so good!” I said, whining a little now that I wasn’t feeling quite as good.

“There’s more to life than just feeling good,” the principal said.

“And I read 47 textbooks this week!” Hyo-Won said. “Do you want me to recite them for you?”

“No. And there’s more to life than just studying, too,” the principal said.

My parents were pretty mad when I got my report card, but I pulled up my grades before long. I secretly ordered another voodoo doll but I kept it in my closet. Maybe for the summer holidays. Definitely after I graduated.

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