The Psychomanteum

(1200 words)

I write this account on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year of our Lord 1854, both to clarify things in my own mind, and to leave a legacy should … anything untoward … happen to me.
My story begins in the spring of this year, following my relocation from my chambres à Paris to the Hotel Elysium, situated in Paradise Place near Regents Park. This a road of mansions where lawns sweep down to elegant willows drooping their glorious greenness over the Regent’s canal, before it attains the madness that is  Camden market. Sadly, my suite is neither a paradise, nor does it have sight of said parkland. However, it served to clear my mind of the five difficult years with Elouise, before she tired of what she termed my ‘occult studies’ and walked out on me.
But the change of pace and setting served me well. I quickly became absorbed in the works of the Swedish mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and that ‘Magic of the West,’ the Qabalah. I came from France with letters of introduction to ‘persons of eminence’ but found these gentlemen (and ladies), though of a certain social standing, to be shallow personalities with feet of clay and a mere desire to see me perform feats for their entertainment – summoning spirits, remote viewing and so forth.
Well, but three days ago, I returned to my suite to find a card pushed under my door. It had been torn in half and showed a partial seal of Solomon, one familiar to me. On the back, written neatly, was a message telling me to go to the high altar of St Paul’s cathedral the following day at midday precisely, where the remainder of the card would be given to me and where I would learn something of great interest.
Intrigued, I did as the card instructed and the next day found myself at the altar in question, gazing around in awe at the enormous and opulent building, it being my first occasion there.
Monsieur L.?” asked a splendidly-dressed footman, quite startling me.
“The very same,” I replied, impressed by his appearance.
He handed me the other half of the card, then led me to a waiting carriage. Inside, sat a lady dressed in black, wearing a thick black veil and gloves. From her voice she was not a young woman. She told me she was an adept of the highest grade in certain arts noirs and that if I promised not to divulge her name or residence, she would show me uncommon magical materials and a fully equipped armoire magique.
Here I will not divulge details of this woman, nor the rare books and implements she possessed. I will say simply that I was not disappointed in her collection, nor in what she told me she had achieved. Then she came to the point.
“Monsieur, you are an occultist of renown, indeed your fame reached me when you resided in Paris. So I was overjoyed to hear that you had come to live in London. You see, there is a certain Apollonius of Tianna, an adept who lived in the Roman Empire in the first century, most skilled in the magical arts. I wish to question his spirit, but have been unable to do so. If you can question him on my behalf I will pay you well.”
Madame,” I replied, “I will do so, but I will require two weeks of preparation – fasting, meditation and the like, and I will require payment for this preparatory time also.”
She willingly acquiesced and the matter was settled.
In the meantime, she led me up a narrow, winding staircase – carpeted with a cream and burgundy paisley design – into a study at the top of the house. There were myriad old books on dusty shelves, an antique desk piled with journals and a rocking chair upholstered in purple velvet.
Then she showed me into a small cabinet she termed her psychomanteum, or ‘Theatre of the Mind.’ It was carpeted in black and the walls and ceilings likewise covered with a black fabric. On one wall was a huge arched mirror in a rococo frame, and facing it, a winged armchair with its legs removed, thus positioned directly on the floor.
She handed me a blanket and cushions. “I leave you for half an hour monsieur, gaze into the mirror and enjoy the show.”
She closed the door and I was plunged into darkness. Gradually my eyes adjusted to the tiny Tiffany lamp behind me, fitted with the dimmest of dim bulbs. From my position the mirror reflected only the black chamber.
I stared into the bottomless inky pool, unsure of what to expect, but I emptied my mind and relaxed my gaze, trusting to Madame X’s knowledge and judgement. After a while it seemed the little light in the room shifted and dimmed and the gold frame of the mirror brightened. Then the mirror seemed to grow larger and come closer, as if desiring to swallow me.
I remained calm as a smoky film arose on the surface, then a human shape appeared in the form of light. It moved back, retreating from the surface, then returned, as if the mirror itself were a portal into the room.
Then, in my head, and in my own ‘voice,’ I heard. “Greetings, monsieur, it is I, Apollonius of Tianna, I understand you wish to conjure my presence for the Madame. That is possible. I am come to tell you that with the preparations you intend, I will appear in the flesh for her to see me and to question me herself on whatever matters she may wish.”
“Thank you, sir,” I replied.
“Now, take my hand if you will.”
A hand of light seemed to extend from the mirror and out into the room, then slowly took physical form. I stood up and grasped it. It felt warm and dry and the fingers interlaced with mine.
“Come, monsieur, take a peek into my world.” The hand began to pull me towards the misty surface of the mirror. The spirit felt my uncertainty. “There is nothing to fear, monsieur, and to prove it I will make known certain ‘secrets’ to you, secrets of tremendous import, for their public promulgation.”
Well, here I must end my account. The spirit of Apollonius did indeed tell me things of great importance, two Qabalistic secrets that will most assuredly change the foundations and laws of society as we know them today. I resisted the pull of Apollonius’s hand but agreed to return tomorrow – with Madame X’s blessing, though I gave but a hint of what had occurred. I will see with my own eyes what is on the other side of that mirror, and shall then return to disseminate these great secrets to a doubtless appreciative world.

Note from Mr. Hubert Bromberg-James, executer of the estate:

The above highly-fanciful account was found in the effects of Monsieur L. whose sudden disappearance remains unsolved to the present day. The woman referred to in the account has not been located. Signed this day, the fourteenth of December 1857. Hubert Bromberg-James.

Featured in the book, The Window Crack’d and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Horror and the Supranatural

One thought on “The Psychomanteum

  1. Absolutely stunning! I was drawn in from the very first sentence. The intrigue and mystery of this beautifully written story were intense and I found myself on the edge of my seat at times. My only complaint is that it ended too soon! I wanted it to go on! This could easily be a gripping novel. Fantastic! 🌟

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