“I read an article once about a man who was dying of some horrific lung condition. The interviewer asked if he was scared of death and he said, “No, why—should I be? I am scared about how my wife will cope when I’m not here anymore. I know I will be in a better place, but she will always wonder, until it’s her time”. What struck me most was how firmly he believed it wasn’t the end of anything for him and that his wife was the one he felt sorry for.”
“That’s sad. I guess if there is an afterlife, then that’s not going to be perfect either. Well that’s depressing. To go from one imperfect life to another…” Celia thrusts her glass towards me and I raise mine obligingly. A clear, hollow ring fills the air as glass touches glass.
“Here’s to a better life beyond,” she adds dully.
“Sometimes they do manage to make contact,” I try my best to sound matter-of-fact. “I’ve experienced it myself.”
Celia turns to look at me, studying my face. “Yes, but is it real, Holly?”
“It’s real to me when it happens. You don’t have to be a medium to see spirits. Cara says I’m getting help from the other side, from my grandmother. So there are things they can do.” I don’t know what I’m trying to say exactly, or whether I’m only trying to give Celia some hope. A part of me, buried deep inside, seems to want to open up. I know there is something beyond death and perhaps it’s about time I faced up to that fact.
“But, Holly, the things you’ve seen have scared you. They haven’t comforted you; quite the opposite. How sad is that?” Celia doesn’t look upset, merely resigned.
“I know. Why can’t I see or sense my grandmother? That would be a good experience, surely? Will and I did some research and one book we came across said everyone is born with a natural psychic ability. Cara said much the same. As we grow we learn to dismiss it and question it in such a way that eventually we lose the ability to ‘see’. In some people it’s activated, their abilities are much stronger or they have decided to learn how to use the gift they have been given. An important part of that is learning how to protect yourself. The trouble is I don’t want to get more involved. If I learn more, then I’m worried that I will be encouraging what’s out there to see me as receptive. How awful if it never went away.”
“It might all end here. You weren’t the only one affected by Bisley Rise so it must have been strong. I know you were upset and it really spooked you, but gradually you’ll let it go and things will return to normal.” Celia tries to sound reassuring.
“I wish it were that simple,” I sigh, but my words sound fraught.
“What do you mean?” Celia asks.
“I thought Bisley Rise was the first time. I’m not so sure now.” She looks at me, puzzled. “I’ve been going through my portfolio of writing. It spans almost ten years; I started writing poetry and short stories when I was a teenager. Bits and pieces, but I always enjoyed it. It was my way of relaxing and I’ve had a few things published over the years. I went back through some of my earlier writing yesterday. Let me show you something I found.” I run upstairs to the bedroom and pull a folded piece of A4 paper from the pale yellow box file on the desk next to the bed. I unfold the paper as I walk back into the sitting room.
“Listen to this. It’s something I wrote when I was just sixteen years old. It was a shock when I found it the other day.”
I can see the breeze
Rustling through the branches
Laden with leaves
That should be basking in the sunshine
But not today
I hear that sad howling
Through the corridor
Next to my room
The eerie sound makes me feel alone
And sadly afraid
For what might walk
Fretful and angry
Encouraged by the chill
And the high-pitched whine
There is a shadow
I saw it move, hover
As a wisp of smoke
Clearing before my eyes
And I move my head
To check the swaying trees
Beyond the window
Which now seem strangely calm
I know you are there
I’ve seen you before
But I bow my head
And continue reading my book
Afraid to acknowledge
Scared to see more
I had the conversation once
Told a friend what I had seen
Suffered the pitying glance
Because you are never there
When I’m not alone
Your message is for me
But I’m too afraid
To listen or respond
Just leave me alone
Celia exhales slowly and loudly, letting it sink in and then takes a long, slow sip from her wine glass.
“Perhaps it wasn’t your own experience that inspired the poem, it might be based on a story or incident you read about perhaps?”
“No, it was a way of voicing what was hidden away deep inside of me. Things I couldn’t talk about, although I did try to confide in a friend once. I guess I’ve spent years pushing this away and ignoring things. Bisley Rise frightened me because for the first time ever it was so strong I couldn’t ignore it. If I hadn’t then had that awful experience in the basement of the pin mill, I would still be trying to convince myself it was an isolated experience. I know that isn’t true and I suppose I’m trying to face up to what’s been happening for a long time now.”