Melt the ice, that was the name of the game. I’d done it myself in guitar classes. Go round the circle, getting everyone in turn to say why they wanted to learn the guitar and what they hoped to achieve. This was a bit different though. We had to say why we wanted to develop mediumship. Talking to the dead, in other words.
My real reason, if I was honest, was Uncle Cyril, an outwardly rich investment banker. He’d died intestate, unexpectedly, with no sign of the wealth we’d all supposed he had. Auntie Irene, his sister, had eventually been appointed trustee and had gained access to his bank accounts. Frequent large cash withdrawals were discovered, and a butler was currently under suspicion.
I’d always been Cyril’s favourite, and I knew he must have carefully sequestered his savings, he was a financial expert after all. But he’d died suddenly, fallen off a horse awkwardly when hunting, and broken his neck, leaving no clue to the whereabouts of his supposed riches. Otherwise I was sure I’d have figured prominently in any will.
So the thought of being able to contact Uncle’s spirit was mighty appealing. True, I could have gone to an existing medium, but it would be rather embarrassing. “Ask him what he did with his money and how I can get my hands on it,” wasn’t very ‘spiritual.’ Easier to ‘do it yourself,’ as it were.
Now I sat in a circle, a motley crew of mainly aged, grey-haired, overweight females, plain-looking, to put it kindly. We were told to breathe deeply and imagine a silver chord from our hearts extending down to the Earth’s core, then a beam of golden light extending upwards from our hearts, out across the universe. Then Sylvia, the medium, a young, conspicuously attractive woman with long silver hair, announced we were going to play ‘Spirit Hokey Cokey.’ The mind boggled!
We mentally invited ‘spirit’ in (for some annoying reason the singular was used), noting sensations, then asked ‘spirit’ to ‘step back,’ noting any difference. She prompted us to do this several times. The poor old spirits must have been getting pretty fed up.
To my surprise, I found a pressure on my right eyeball that was there when they were asked to ‘step in,’ but which vanished when asked to ‘step back.’
Sylvia spoke about the different mental states, Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta, and how, even though the brainwaves were slower, the mind vibrated at a higher frequency in order to contact ‘spirit.’ Or so she said.
Apparently ‘spirit people’ had to likewise attune their minds to lower vibrations to contact those on Earth. I imagined a similar group of frumpy women gathered together in a room in ‘Heaven.’ “Ooh, I just had a picture of Wayne in my mind, you know, Sharon’s youngest.”
“Very good dear, now concentrate on sending him love …”
Back on the physical plane, we were now told to form five small groups to examine the different ‘clairs.’ Observing our blank faces, Sylvia explained that there were five ways to receive ‘impressions’ from spirits: clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, clairessence, and clairgustance, corresponding to ‘clear seeing,’ ‘clear hearing,’ ‘clear sensing,’ ‘clear smelling,’ and ‘clear tasting.’
She elucidated, “clairvoyance is receiving mental images, pictures, shapes, colours, symbols etc., even seeing spirits directly.”
I wondered if Uncle Cyril would look like Uncle Cyril, or just a white luminescent ‘blob’? The other clairs were as expected.
Our group was assigned clairgustance and whilst the other groups were excitedly chattering about hearing otherworldly voices and seeing unexplained lights, we sat staring blankly at each other.
“I thought I could taste garlic once,” said Trudy, a lady with short spiky blonde hair. “I thought it was grandma, she was French you see, then it turned out it was our Daryl, he’d been using the chopping board to cut up garlic to rub on his acne. Course, when I cut myself a slice of cake it tasted a bit funny so I thought grandma was trying to get in touch.”
Next Sylvia placed a chair in the centre of the circle and asked for a volunteer. She looked around, then pointed at me. “Andy!”
Well, that wasn’t my idea of volunteering but I forced a smile.
“Now, Andy, I want you to think of someone, someone who’s passed over, and imagine them on this chair.”
Hang on a minute, this might be useful! I visualized Uncle Cyril seated there. Curly black hair, not tall, face a little like a Toby Jug. He wore a Barbour jacket and had a springer spaniel called Nelly. I pictured her lying on the floor beside him.
A huge woman with long grey hair plonked herself down on the chair, which creaked ominously.
Sylvia continued, “Now, Ruth, I want you to get impressions from the spirit Andy has just called to be with us.”
Ruth closed her eyes, breathing deeply, her stomach and breasts meeting sporadically.
“Yes, I see a man. Black hair. Not handsome. Quite short.”
“That’s right!” I said.
“I see a dog, some sort of … spaniel?”
You could tell Ruth had done this before.
Sylvia spoke. “Where do you see this man?”
With her eyes closed, Ruth continued. “I see a lot of people, um, it’s very noisy, there’s a table with one of those … what d’you call ‘em … wheels, roulette wheels, that’s it.”
That sounded ominous. “I’m not sure about that,” I said.
“No, he doesn’t want people to know, that’s the impression I’m getting.”
“Anything else?” asked Sylvia. “Does he have a wife, girlfriend?”
“Wait a minute.” Ruth’s breathing became more rapid. “He’s in a room. There are three women, all naked! They’re putting something on a mirror. Powder. Yes, a white powder …. He says he’s sorry.”
Great. My hopes were dashed. In the words of George Best – or was it W C Fields? – it sounded like Uncle Cyril had spent his money on gambling, drugs and prostitutes … and wasted the rest.
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories
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