Some had warned me it’d be like this, but I hadn’t believed them. Now I looked at my entry in Wikipedia once more, still feeling sick to my stomach.
Corwin Blackthorne (b.1957) a self-proclaimed ‘spiritual’ healer, established a ‘sanctuary’ in St. Olaves, Wiltshire in 2003, when the number of patients visiting his home became too great. He claims to have healed thousands from arthritis, depression, asthma, and even cancer. However, studies by the British Medical Journal showed no evidence to support this claim and were unable to verify a single cure. Subsequently, some ex-patients have accused Blackthorne of fraud ….
My wife, Jean, appeared and put an arm around me. “Darling, don’t torture yourself, think of all the people you’ve helped. They know you’re a good man. Look at Sue Jones, last week. She’s been walking around town without her sticks, singing your praises.”
I kissed her cheek, still smarting from the inaccuracy of the article. “I know. But anyone who doesn’t know me will believe this, this shit!”
I’d got a friend who knew about these things to correct the Wikipedia entry on me. To say that the BMA study was on terminal cancer patients only, where, truth to tell, most were beyond any kind of healing beyond a complete miracle. Also, only one person had accused me of fraud, the ludicrous Jaspar Simons, a local squire who was busy suing all and sundry for alleged misdemeanours relating to the renovation of his stately home. But now, ‘someone’ had gone in and altered the article back to the previous version.
It had been back in 1987 when I’d attended a spiritualist church with the encouragement of friends, that a medium had told me I had healing powers. As a child, I remembered seeing my grandparents around the house, although they’d both died years before, but had been told by my parents ‘not to be silly,’ and that it was ‘just a vivid imagination.’ Suddenly I hadn’t been so sure. Then, following a brief training, had come years of experience, and great success.
Now, we lived in a large house with an old orangery, whose glass facades, high ceiling and large stone pots, planted with fruit trees, were conducive to encouraging healing energies, which I sensed and could be directed into the subject. All were paid for by donations from patients, I only charged a subsistence fee.
Two weeks after seeing my entry redacted back to the original pack of lies, Jean came to me. “Darling, there’s someone to see you. Someone official I think.”
“He didn’t say.”
“OK, show him in.” I decided I’d give him five minutes.
A distinguished-looking man, dressed in a smart grey suit came in. He looked to be in his early sixties. “Mr. Blackthorne?”
“My name is James Spader. I’m from the Government’s Department of Perception Management, the ‘Ministry of Truth,’ as some call it!” He laughed and offered his hand.
I shook it. Dry and warm. “Take a seat. Please.” I gestured to a sumptuous green-cushioned cane chair. “What can I help you with?”
Spader adjusted silver-rimmed glasses on his aquiline nose. “Look, Mr Blackthorne, I’m not going to beat about the bush. We want you to let your Wikipedia entry stand.”
“Look, we’ll make it worth your while.”
Spader took out a cloth and wiped his lenses. “Think of the damage it could do to the pharmaceutical industry, to the doctors’ lifestyle. We can’t have people believing they only have to pay a few quid and they’ll be cured!”
“But that is the case,” I replied, feeling incensed.
“Yes, of course it is. I know that and you know that. But the … the plebs, don’t. And we want to keep it like that.”
I was lost for words.
“That’s the way it is and, I’m afraid, er, that’s the way it’s got to stay.” His thin lips compressed into a smile.
“Are there other departments, er, like yours?” I asked, curious now.
“Well it’s all hush-hush of course, but, between you and me, yes. Ghosts, UFOs, crop circles, aliens, fake child abductions, spirit communication, etc. They all have to be … debunked, I suppose you’d say. On Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, forums, in the papers, on TV. You name it. We’ve hundreds working on all the monitoring and ‘correction’ required.”
“But why? Why not let people know the truth? At the end of the day, you guys are elected by us!”
“True, but well, orders from on high, that’s all I can say. You carry on with your … good work, we won’t stop that, just don’t interfere with any media … ‘interpretations,’ there’s a good chap.”
I sighed. What was the point of banging my head against a brick wall? “OK, how much is it worth then?”
Spader smiled a wry smile. “Well, maybe you’d prefer a bigger property? We could facilitate that. This house is nice, but a man of your stature … well, perhaps you’d like a more impressive healing space?”
“Well, actually, there is somewhere, somewhere nearby actually. Owned by a chap called Jaspar Simons ….”
Featured in the book and audiobook, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories
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