May 9

The Last Medium (Part 2)

[…continued from May 8 entry…]

With your eyes closed, you try to imagine the people seated around you at the seance table. You’ve retained a mental picture of the leader on your right and the young woman to the left.

The others, you’d only spoken with briefly, and they hadn’t made much of an impression: a stick figured gentleman dressed in a jogging outfit; a teenage boy as sullen as all teenage boys, proving some things don’t change even after the world ends; a middle aged woman with thinning hair and librarian glasses.

Was there another person you were forgetting? Did you have them in the correct seating order? You were tempted to confirm your guess by opening your eyes.

It had been your strategy, in former seance-busting days, to peer through slitted eyes, catch the medium’s slight of hand, the trick of wires or a black-cloathed assistant making an object “float,” the hidden projector across the room casting a ghostly image on a screen of smoke.

This time, you had decided to follow the rules.

“All of you,” the medium said. “I want you all to imagine another presence in the room. Open your minds. Invite it in.”

Now was usually the time when a chill crept into the room — courtesy of a quick change in air conditioning. Instead, you feel a bit warm. Perhaps it’s simply heat from the candles on the table.

You hear a sudden rush of wind, a sound like the striking of a match.

A dozen matches. A hundred.

A violent warmth hit your face, feeling like it singed your eyebrows, but you kept your eyes shut tight. You were afraid if you opened them, they would boil in their sockets.

You squeeze at the clasped hands, wanting human contact. Earlier, the older woman’s skin had seemed unnaturally soft, the younger woman’s dry and sweaty. Now each of the hands feels harsh and rigid. Skeletal.

The mental picture of your seance companions transforms. Their hair has burned off the tops of their heads. Their flesh has begun to boil and then melt like candle wax.

She’d actually done it. You’d been skeptical all your life, but now realized that this medium had raised an actual ghost — not the departed spirits of the victims, but the ghost of a nuclear explosion.

You wonder what terrible voice this entity would speak in.

“Lar’ ghtu Zl’yth.”

The voice was deep. It struggled, inarticulate, like a woman being strangled.

“Wlhy’ kshu’gg.”

No real syllables, but there was enough there to help you recognize the medium’s voice. Disguised, in that common trick of charlatans: a few more lines of nonsense, and then she would shift into English. This was the usual “possession” by the spirit guide. ¬†All an act. ¬†Nothing to be afraid of.

You imagined the people at the table again, in their normal clothes, their hair back in place, flesh unmelted.

“Someone wants to speak with us,” the medium said. “Identify youself, spirit.”

Yes, you were back in familiar territory now: Sitting in the dark with a fraud, and her weak-minded followers.

“Please,” the older woman said. “Speak to us. Speak through me.”

Silence.

Then, the medium began to cry. From the other side, you felt the young woman’s hand go limp in yours, and heard more sobbing from around the table.

You opened your eyes.

Everything was as you remembered it. This sad group of survivors, gathered around a round table.

But something was missing.

An emptiness.

“You feel it, don’t you.” The medium looked directly at you, her eyes still wet with tears. “We broke through. We broke through to the spirit world.”

You wondered why she’d turn to the skeptic, of all people in the room.

“I don’t feel anything,” you responded.

But that wasn’t quite true. You had some kind of mystical experience, you are certain. Something authentic. You just didn’t know what it could mean.

“That’s correct,” the medium said. “You don’t feel anything. That’s the way you’ve always been. No sense of a world beyond. But you were wrong before. Now you’re right.”

An awful realization began to dawn.

“We broke through,” she said. “When we destroyed our world, we destroyed the next. There’s nothing. Nothing.”

Her circle of followers continued to weep. You decided to join them.