May 8

White Lotus Day

 

The remaining few held hands around a circular table. “Open your minds,” the leader said, and her followers nodded with total seriousness. They knew how she expected them to behave, and followed suit.

That’s how these kinds of groups operated. Not really with open minds, but with strangely unified ones. Malleable. Succeptible.

You had made it a point to study such groups, for a while, during your amateur magician phase. You knew enough about trickery to spot the frauds — when they threw a bit of glow putty in the dark and called it ectoplasm, when they cracked a toe muscle and attribuited the sound to a ghost knocking from the other side. And the performance moments, when the leader would assume the deep or accented voice of a spirit guide, or of someone who had “crossed over” but would stop by to offer simplistic answers to predictable questions.

Well, they were all frauds, weren’t they? As an intellectual exercise, it ended up being too easy to unmask each deception. You got bored with the project, and abandoned it.

But maybe now, considering that the world had pretty much ended, the idea of communicating with the dearly departed had renewed appeal.

Because there were so many of them. The dead were pretty much all we had left to talk to.

“There is a skeptic among us.” The group’s leader, an elderly woman dressed in loose, black clothing, spoke as if she addressed a full auditorium instead of six other people in a candlelit sitting room.

If volume was so crucial, you often wondered, why not use a bullhorn to call the spirits?

“Open your mind, unbeliever.” The woman lifted one hand to break the circle, indicating the space to her left. “Sit. Join us. Clasp hands.”

Why not? This has happened to you before: it’s one way a leader or medium expresses confidence. As if to say, the visitor’s disbelief won’t weaken the ceremony…and perhaps it’s your skepticism that will weaken, eh?

You moved an extra chair towards the table, sat and took the leader’s hand, then offered a silent greeting to the younger woman on your other side. The leader was at least twice this woman’s age, but the medium’s hand seemed softer to the touch. The skin on the young woman’s hand felt dry, despite the layer of nervous sweat on her palm.

“Now, close your eyes,” the medium said. “Be receptive to the room. To the world outside this room. Consider what mankind has done to this world, and how that must have affected the other realm.”

That was the woman’s pitch earlier in the day. She insisted you’d learn that a seance was more effective in recent days. The violence of the apocalypse had one benefit, she explained: it had thinned the barrier between this world and the next.

An interesting theory. It seemed much more likely, however, that this woman continued the long tradition of opportunistic tricksters, preying on the vulnerable.

But okay, you could play along. Keep an open mind for a while, see what happened.

You closed your eyes.

[…continued tomorrow…]