Subcutaneous Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 32

electrician gave me some queer looks when I told him the specifications, but from the bills he sent me I don’t suppose that he was a particularly honest man himself. I even manufactured my own ectoplasm – a mix of cheesecloth, egg whites and toilet paper – which I’d swallow before the séance and spew out with great ceremony. It wouldn’t stand up to the light of day, of course, but it didn’t have to. The marks were there because they wanted to believe. For a while it went swimmingly. Charlie’s techniques worked just as well in a séance parlor as they had in a canvas tent. I had plenty of business – mostly retirees, with the occasional spiritualist fanatic or curious academic - and word-of-mouth about the incredible things that happened in my house kept new marks stepping across the welcome mat. I was making good money and staying out of trouble, and was starting to get my hooks deep into some of the bigger fish. Then I met Mrs. Donohue. There was nothing in the beginning to indicate that her reading would be anything outside the ordinary. She was a pleasant, soft-spoken woman in her mid-60s, a housewife by lifelong vocation, and had heard of me through a member of her church. At our first meeting, I strictly cautioned her not to tell me anything about herself or the spirits she wanted me to contact, for if I had any preconceived notions they would disrupt the delicate psychic vibrations. We scheduled a séance for the following Friday. I did my due diligence, and found that Mrs. Donohue was initially from Milwaukee, now living on a widow’s pension bequeathed to her by her chemist husband Hal, and that she had a son named Horace in the Navy and a daughter named Lucy who had passed away long ago in the Spanish Flu. Her home was well-maintained and spacious, and from a quick inspection of her mailbox I deduced that she kept a boarder and supported the local orchestra. Mrs. Donohue arrived promptly on Friday night, dressed in her Sunday best and clutching at her purse like she had a million dollars inside. “I brought something that belonged to the person I’d like to contact,” she said, almost apologetically. “Do you think it will help?” “I’m sure that it will,” I said as I ushered her inside. A hell of a storm was rolling in from the Keys, and I wanted to take advantage of the atmosphere it’d create when it hit. We got settled in the parlor just as rain was beginning to beat against the windows. I dimmed the lights and lit some fragrant beeswax candles, then took Mrs. Donohue by the hand. She was humming with nervous excitement and just a little scared – a perfect state of mind for a cold reading. “My family hails from the Carpathian Mountains, a land where the old ways have never been forgotten,” I told her. Actually, my Mom hailed from Yonkers and God only knows where Dad was from. “For seven generations the women of my family have been seers with an uncanny ability to peer beyond the veil that separates life from death. Restless spirits seek us out to pass messages to the living, whispering into our ears and appearing in our dreams. Some say that this power is a curse, but I believe it to be a wonderful gift.” Just then, a blast of lightning shook the house on its foundations and the electricity went out, plunging us into total darkness apart from the candles. In my mind, I was cursing a blue streak. The lights weren’t supposed to go off until later. I tested the metronome pedal with no effect. Without electricity, all of my props were dead. Suddenly I heard a sharp knock. It wasn’t the metronome, though. This was much more forceful, like a hammer blow. It sounded again and again, faster and faster, until the floor beneath our feet was rattling with such fury that I feared the house would come apart. “My goodness!” gasped Mrs. Donohue. “What’s happening?” I wished that I knew. The storm outside had calmed, so it wasn’t a hurricane. All I could think was that this was an earthquake. The rattling was so powerful that it was jostling the furniture around, and the chandelier swung crazily above our heads. Then, just as quickly as it had started, the banging ceased. An eerie stillness fell over the parlor. The electricity was still dead, but I figured the quake ought to be excitement enough for one séance even without using any of my other devices. Mrs. Donohue already looked green at the gills. “A spirit is trying to reach us from the other side,” I said. “The barrier between the living and the dead is . . .” My voice trailed off as I realized that steam was coming out of my mouth as I spoke. The room was so cold that my teeth were clattering, and the insides of the windows had frosted over. But that was impossible. The air conditioner was off. I felt a disturbance in my gut and thought that the cheesecloth was coming up. I heaved, but it wasn’t a mixture of cloth and egg whites and toilet paper that came out of me. No, it was a translucent, shimmering gelatin, icy to the touch. The stuff was acrid and sour on my tongue, with a metallic tang and a whiff of ozone about it. I literally tasted death. To my astonishment, the ectoplasm I’d vomited onto the table dripped vertically upwards, coalescing into a form that loosely resembled a human head and shoulders. It glowed a soft white, casting looming shadows against the walls. Tiny particles of colored light drifted through the air at the corners of my vision, as if the stars had come into my parlor to dance. Mrs. Donohue was crying tears of joy. “Lucy?” she asked. “Is that you?” The ectoplasm coalesced still further, taking on the form of a female face with long, flowing hair, although the features were soft and indistinct. “Yes, Mamma,” the spirit said, in a strange, resonant voice that you didn’t hear with your ears so much as you felt in your bones. Its lips moved when it spoke, but not quite in harmony with the sounds. For perhaps the first time in my life I was totally dumbfounded. Despite all my success as a medium – heck, perhaps because of my success – I had never even considered the possibilit ѡЁѡ٥ЁՅ)ѼչєݥѠѡ($+q5ԁȁtѡɥЁͭ+qA͔5ӊéɐȁѼх$)$ѼݥѠԻt((0