“Oombawa oombawa oombawa!”
“Eeni teeni weeni ayo!”
“Mmmmm whoopee! Whoopee! Higher higher higher hoo ha!”
“Oombawa! Calamar! Oombawa! Calamar!”
“Ooh aahh! Ooh aahh!”
A cacophonous gobbledegook filled the room where Geoffrey sat cross legged on the floor.
His companions chanted or sang in non-words, or intoned a weird vocalisation, their eyes clamped shut at the direction of the group leader, a man who had introduced himself to Geoffrey as Rami.
“Aaahh ooorrrr! Aaahh ooorrr!”
Soprano voices attacked rich tenors and bass with blissfully discordant abandon.
“De-loo bah! De-loo-ee-oh! Oh-ah-ee-oh-ah-oh!”
Geoffrey cracked open an eye to peek at the others in the room. They sat on the floor, on cotton mats and colourful throw pillows adorned with tiny mirrors, diamantes and arcane symbols. Through his limited field of vision, he spotted three of the group who were chanting with unsynchronised splendour at the top of their voices.
Slim Gerard, who would die in seven years’ time, sat in his cheesecloth top fervently mouthing random sounds with a look of ecstasy plastered on his leathered face. His partner Rhonda, who would be found at the bottom of a staircase some twenty years later, had her eyes screwed shut as she echoed choral gibberish in competition with Rosa next to her. Rosa, dying in a hospital bed surrounded by a family of four, sat in her flimsy cotton muumuu with elaborate tassels, babbling sweet balderdash like she was the bear who’d found the honey.
The sounds rose and fell with an elevated sense of wonder, as the singers gave themselves over to the task of making random noise.
Geoffrey shut his eye again.
“Erp,” he said, and felt instantly embarrassed by the whole nonsense and his meagre attempt to engage. Someone gurgled like a motorbike about to die, then followed with a tuneless “Whooppeeeeee!”
The taxi Geoffrey had taken from the funeral the previous afternoon had dropped him at the local shops to buy some take away for the night. Since his moment of resolve beside Slabs’ grave he had felt a little stronger, and his vision and balance had significantly recovered. Which had restored his visions. By the end of the taxi ride he had seen the driver’s death clearly, in a car accident on the motorway, alongside two passengers, a male and female.
At a health food store he had been stopped by a young wild haired woman who thrust a flyer into his hand. The heading, VOCAL TRUTHS leapt from the A5 flyer in bold red capitals.
“This is the best,” the woman had said, and layers of bangles and necklaces had jangled on her cotton blouse. “It’s run by a friend, Rami, who knows the universe as it is, and sees all as it shall be.” Geoffrey had been startled to see her washed up on the beach in thirty years’ time.
When he had recovered he asked her how it worked. She said, “Oh, everyone just sits around with their eyes closed and makes noise for a bit and then goes quiet. That’s when the magic happens. When you open your eyes you see each other in a new light. It changes the world.”
He figured it was complete drivel, but given the strangeness of the past weeks he thought maybe something equally weird might provide a cure. He had no real plan for solving his dilemma anyway, so he decided something from left field might be worth a go, even if it was crackpot BS. He’d get a drive into the mountains anyway, a bit of fresh air. So the next morning he found himself uncomfortably seated on the floor of the darkened weatherboard house on the fringes of Megalong Valley.
Rami had greeted him warmly, and had tucked the twenty dollars fee into a carved wooden fish bowl. He had then introduced Geoffrey to the participants who had already arrived. As he met each one, he saw the moments of their demise as clearly as he had done before the incident with Andrea; mainly hospitals again, with families grieving in hot rooms under parched lights. Or at home. Thankfully there had been nothing gruesome.
Although Rami had explained the process, Geoffrey was stunned at how raucous and off putting it was. To him the wailing of a dozen off-pitch devotees had all the subtlety brawling alley cats. There was nothing soothing about it at all. In fact quite the opposite. His mind raged with the turmoil of the babble that surrounded him.
He wondered what he could do to overcome his visions, or at least control them. What were the thought processes that gave rise to them? How was it he could see them when no-one else could? What was his brain doing? Accessing a mental level, or a trans-mental level, that allowed him to see the future? But what was that? Was he tapping into some kind of extra transcendental vibe? Or was he sick? As the cat calls and squeals echoed around him he wondered if should have an MRI. But what doctor would prescribe one without an adequate reason? The only person he could think of was Dave, who still hadn’t returned his calls. He didn’t feel sick. There were no headaches, and no dizziness, apart from yesterday morning.
And what was that? That thing with Andrea? How had she been in Pittwater one moment and then dead in Rose Bay the next? How was that even possible: the two places were thirty kilometres apart. Was he controlling all this? No, that would be insane. But it happened anyway. What he said would happen did happen.
The screams and wails rose about him. He thought of the week ahead. He thought of Lucy, and the limited time he had to bring himself under control. His heart sank when he contemplated the enormity of the task. He had no idea what to do. One the one hand was his desire for Lucy, for a future, a planned enterprise of family and love. On the other was pandemonium, madness, uncontrollable mental collapse. Yes, it was early days with Lucy, but he’d rather let his mind run away with the fantasy of romance than the moribund phantoms that bedevilled his mind.
Lucy. Her hair, her perfume, her smooth alabaster skin, her smile. He remembered her flesh the other night, her willingness and welcome, her audacity and gentle largesse. He imagined her somewhere on the west coast, looking out over a blue sea, watching for whales and spiralling gulls. Perhaps she had already spotted a few dugongs. Perhaps she had snorkelled about them as they lumbered in the sea grasses and shovelled snoutfuls of sand from the sea floor.
He listened. The caterwaul had subsided to a gentle and uniform hum. The group now incanted in a wafting monotone, each voice searching for, and joining with, the others. He analysed it. Higher female tones mixed with lower masculine ones. Differing tones fed a new discourse and produced a gentle and irresistible harmony. It was a tune now, a chant, which rose and fell softly like an easy tide. Voices drifted out as the air beneath them depleted, then rejoined with refreshed lungs. But no departure, and no re-entry, disturbed the quality of the sound. It remained constant, a consistent vibration which wound tendril like about the space. It was a vocal whole, a sound space, liquid, aerated and intertwined.
Geoffrey stilled his thoughts as he listened. He breathed in, and as he exhaled he felt his shoulder drop. He became heavier as he repeated the exercise, and felt the weight of his body upon the floor. As he breathed the sound about him diminished, until the entire group was just breathing. In the dark of closed eyes, he heard the rise and fall of chests, as air filled lungs and escaped. He could hear the breathing of his neighbour, and when he focussed, that of the people opposite him. The air was breath. Like the sound before it, it rose and fell, but more softly, as if there was a beach nearby, the thrum of the surf coddled behind dark dunes of memory.
He focussed on his breath. His lungs filled, his chest rose, and then fell as his breath reunited with the breath of the room. He breathed, and again he felt his chest rise and fall. He felt lighter now. He was less conscious of the floor beneath him, less conscious of the pull of gravity. While he didn’t feel he was floating, he was aware only of his thoughts and presence, and the bearing of the other members of the group. He felt he was sustained by a mutual accord. As he breathed, so did they, and clean air was exchanged and each one of them upheld the other by being in the room. Where the initial anarchy of the session had resolved into a uniformity of tone, that intonation had dissolved into a uniformity of being. He felt warm and welcomed in the community of breath; he felt secure and resilient.
He wondered for a moment how long they might sit there eyes shut just breathing, but decided not to care. The darkness was stable and the sound of life was reassuring. He let himself relax into its rhythm. His breath entered and left in even folds. His neighbour’s breath did the same. He felt calm. He knew the world would impose upon him some time, but just now he was content to sit and enjoy the leniency of the moment.
A phone rang. He recognised it as his.
He opened his eyes and leapt awkwardly to his feet. His head spun with the urgency of getting up, and one foot had gone to sleep. He lurched over to his coat where the buzzing was coming and knocked a lampshade and a sign saying ‘Please turn your phone off’ from a side table. He caught the light as he crashed against the wall, but the sign clattered metallically onto the floor. He glanced about him embarrassed, and saw Rami looking at him. Geoffrey mouthed ‘sorry’, and Rami smiled forbearingly. Geoffrey pointed to the door and tiptoed out with a limp, holding his buzzing jacket and willing the feeling to return to his foot.
Shutting the door behind him, he realised he was surprised to see nothing had changed. He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but something about the activity and stillness inside had foreshadowed a renewal of some kind, or a reconfiguration. But the trees still swung with the breeze, the clouds still trod the blue sky and the earth remained dry beneath his feet.
“Geoffrey?” said a woman’s voice.
“Lucy!” A smile lit his face. “How are you, where are you?” he said.
“Exhausted, at Coral Bay. We’re in a cheap motel here.”
Geoffrey stepped away from the house as they spoke, heading for the canopy of a large angophora that distorted the edge of the gravel drive.
“Have you just arrived?”
“Yes. The red eye across to Perth was a nightmare. I never sleep on planes, so I was up for the entire five and a half hours. Then we had a short flight up to Exmouth airport – Learmonth I think it’s called – and a bus to the motel. So I haven’t slept for a whole night.”
“But you rang me.”
“I wanted to make sure you were okay,” said Lucy. “You were pretty upset yesterday.”
“I don’t deserve you,” said Geoffrey.
“You haven’t got me,” said Lucy. “The dugongs have.”
“The cows,” said Geoffrey. “What’s it like there?”
“It looks pretty good so far. It’s very flat, very blue, very sunny, but not too hot. Just right in fact. But I haven’t seen anything yet, cos I’ve just got here and flopped on to the motel bed.”
“It’s so good to hear your voice,” said Geoffrey.
“You’re sounding chirpier,” said Lucy.
“I’m doing good,” said Geoffrey. “All the better for you asking.”
“Not too groggy? You were all over the place at the funeral.”
“It had been a really strange morning.”
“I wanted to ask you about it, but you seemed distracted. I assumed it was grief,” said Lucy.
“It was more than that,” said Geoffrey.
“I’ll tell you the story another time,” said Geoffrey, “but you’re right, I was pretty ragged on the day. I really enjoyed you being there though.”
“Did you find Dave?” said Lucy.
“No,” said Geoffrey. “It’s a bit weird. I’ve left a couple of messages but haven’t heard back. I rang his wife too yesterday, but she wasn’t perturbed. I don’t think I need to worry. He’s probably stuck at work.”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a cancer specialist,” said Geoffrey. He flicked a fly away.
“What are you doing today?” said Lucy.
“You won’t believe this,” said Geoffrey, “I’m at a verbal meditation retreat in the Blue Mountains.”
“A what?” said Lucy.
“A verbal meditation retreat.”
“What on earth is that?”
“I got a flyer at the shops last night. A group of us sat on the floor in this old house with our eyes closed and made odd noises and then after a while began to hum together and then sat there just breathing. Then you rang.”
“What sort of noises?” said Lucy.
“Everything and anything,” said Geoffrey. “Screams and shouts and singing and snorting. One lady sang bits of Beethoven’s Ninth.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like it,” said Lucy.
“It’s a famous piece by Beethoven,” said Geoffrey.
“Very funny, smart arse,” said Lucy.
“Anyway,” said Geoffrey, “after the week I’ve had I thought I’d give it a go.”
“Was it any good?”
“You know, it surprisingly good.”
“It sounds zany,” said Lucy.
“I know, right?” said Geoffrey. “But I needed a circuit breaker.”
“And did it break your circuit?” said Lucy.
“I dunno yet, but I’ll see how things go.”
“Imagine you, a boring accountant doing a verbal meditation retreat. Ten bucks says you didn’t make a sound.”
“I did too,” said Geoffrey.
“It was no aria though was it?” said Lucy.
“This is new for me, I’m experimenting,” said Geoffrey.
“Good for you. You’ll be researching dugongs before too long.”
There was a silence. Geoffrey looked across the valley of mottled green and blue haze and the reddened escarpment.
“What’s your schedule like?” he said.
“Rest up this afternoon. Regroup with the others at about six for dinner and a strategy session.”
“How many of you are there?”
“About a dozen I think,” said Lucy. “I’ve got a roomie. A girl called Leanne from Adelaide.”
“Don’t know yet. She dumped her stuff and went outside to meet some of the others. It’s just me at the moment.”
Geoffrey heard the door of the house swing open and Rami appeared on the porch. He waved at Geoffrey, who waved back.
“You know you’re going to come back all wrinkled from two weeks in the water,” said Geoffrey.
“You’ll have to smooth me out,” said Lucy.
“Yeah, right,” said Geoffrey, “with my famous smooth talking.”
“Lol droll,” said Geoffrey.
“That’s pretty quick,” said Lucy.
“For an accountant you mean,” said Geoffrey.
“Yes, I mean that.”
“When do we next speak with each other?’ said Geoffrey.
“Whenever we can,” said Lucy. “I’m two hours behind you. I’ll call you in the morning when I have a better idea of my schedule.”
There was another silence while neither of them hung up.
“We aren’t hanging up, are we?” said Geoffrey.
“Seems not,” said Lucy.
Geoffrey chuckled. He wanted this woman. He wished he was with her. He wished he was free of everything and could be with her, untroubled by his turbulent visions.
“Wish I was there,” he said.
“I do too,” said Lucy.
“I could – I don’t know – pat dugongs with you,” he said.
“We try not to touch them,” said Lucy.
“Ah,” said Geoffrey, embarrassed. He had spent a fair bit of the morning being embarrassed.
“In some ways though, it might be good to have this time apart,” said Lucy.
“Well, it’s been an odd start to a relationship. We meet the night your footie mate is killed, and then have dinner one night when you can’t see, and then a fleeting moment together at a cemetery. It’s not a usual romance so far,” said Lucy.
“But we had one great night,” said Geoffrey.
“In the midst of it all,” said Lucy.
“I loved it,” said Geoffrey.
“Of course you did,” Lucy said. “It was with me.”
“You were wonderful.”
“You are wonderful.”
“Thank you again.”
The tree shook above him and a pod of leaves fell at his feet. He jumped out of the way.
“Hang on a sec,” he said.
A black cockatoo shuffled its way out of the tree and dived across the valley.
“What’s happening?” said Lucy.
“A black cockatoo just dumped a bunch of twigs and leaves on me.”
He heard her laugh, and watched its black shape meld into the dark forest. “You were saying?” he said.
“We can use this time to get to know each other better,” said Lucy. “We jumped into each other’s arms very quickly. So maybe we can step back a bit and talk a bit. Find out about each other. If nothing else, it’ll crank up the desire. And besides, it’s not like we have a choice.”
“Deal,” said Geoffrey. “I’ll take that.”
“So, tomorrow then,” said Lucy.
Neither hung up. A couple of people emerged from the house and walked down to a car.
“We’re like bloody teenagers,” said Geoffrey.
“No, you hang up,” said Lucy.
“Go to sleep, doll,” said Geoffrey.
“Doll?” Lucy laughed. “What are you, my 1950’s suitor?’
“Babe, lover, hon – deep down you like it,” said Geoffrey. He crossed his fingers and hoped he hadn’t gone too far. Lucy said,
“Okay then, Dash, why don’t you just dash over here and give me a kiss?”
“Don’t tempt me,” said Geoffrey.
“Don’t you have an audit to do?” said Lucy.
“Of the Ningaloo dugongs, the dirty rotten tax dodging beasts.”
“They’d eat you like sea grass,” said Lucy.
“What colour is the ceiling in your room?”
“The colour of love,” said Lucy. “Dark and lurid.”
“Go to sleep.”
“Not feeling it now. I might nick down to the beach.”
* * * * *
Geoffrey lay face down on the massage table as the masseuse pressed on to his shoulders. He looked at the floor and table supports, and tried to enjoy the floating bell sounds and incense that filled his senses. He felt the paper around the hole sticking to his face; when he moved slightly it scrunched around his left cheek.
“Pick a colour.” Gina the masseuse said.
Geoffrey frowned and the paper moved up his cheek.
“A colour?” he said.
“Yes, a colour,” said Gina. “What colour would you like to work with today?”
Her fingers dug into his right shoulder. He grimaced. He realised he was very tense. He hoped it was just the drive home from the mountains, but he knew it was the stress of the last week or so.
“How do you work with a colour?” he said.
“You tell me a colour and we fashion the massage around that. I used to ask clients what colour massage they wanted, but people said that sounded strange, so now I ask them to pick a colour and I work to that.”
Geoffrey drew a short breath that was soon pushed out of him by her weight on his spine.
“Blue,” he said. “No, green.” He felt silly for blurting it out like that.
“You see, it’s working already,” said Gina. “The true colour always reveals itself.”
Geoffrey thought, Whatever, what difference can it possibly make?
“Green with hot rocks,” said Gina.
“Are the green rocks?” said Geoffrey, as a lithe finger bit into his scapula. He groaned inwardly as it snaked through the oil covered fibres of his back.
“You’re very tight,” said Gina. “Are you stressed?”
“I have been, yes,” said Geoffrey, as the fingers bit into his other shoulder blade.
“What’s stressing you?” Gina said.
Geoffrey winced as her hands mashed into his lower back. Coloured lights flickered in his eyes. When he could breathe again he thought, Well here goes nothing, and said,
“I’ve been seeing dead people.”
He braced himself for her reaction. She said,
“That doesn’t surprise you?” said Geoffrey.
“No, why should it?” said Gina.
“It surprises most people.”
“I know plenty of people who see the dead,” said Gina. “I see auras myself.”
“Ah,” said Geoffrey.
“I had a customer last week who’d seen someone from the 1800’s. And the amazing thing was the person had come forward to today, and not the other way around. You never can tell.”
“No,” said Geoffrey, “you can’t.”
“I think there’s a lot going on we don’t know about,” said Gina. “Spirits, beings from other worlds, aliens, all sorts of things. People just don’t give them credit, but if just took the time we’d see so much more and the world would be such a better place, don’t you think?
“I do,” said Geoffrey. He bit his lip as she needled her way along his hamstring. God she was strong.
“Are you a runner?” said Gina.
“I run,” said Geoffrey. “I play wing for a local football team.”
“Ooh,” said Gina. “I don’t understand football.”
Geoffrey’s back arched when she forced her fingers into his calf muscle.
“Sorry,” she said, but did not relent, and Geoffrey clung to the table as she jammed her fingers in deeper and held them there. With heavy breaths he felt the pain subside until he became limp.
“That’s better,” said Gina. “Tell me about your dead people.”
He was about to reply when she pressed into is left hamstring. He repeated the same groans as her hands penetrated the length of the muscle.
“Sorry, you were saying” said Gina.
“Umm,” said Geoffrey, “I, umm, see people just when they’ve died.”
“Do you work in a morgue?”
“No, I’m an accountant,” said Geoffrey. “What I mean is – hang on -” He grimaced and groaned. Again she held the pressure where it was most tender.
“It feels like you’re tearing my calf muscle from the bone,” he said.
“I am in some ways,” she said, and pressed harder.
When the pain subsided Geoffrey continued.
““What I mean is, when I meet someone I see straight away the time and circumstances of their death.”
Gina removed her hands from his leg.
“No way,” she said.
“Yes,” said Geoffrey, panting on the table.
“So every time you meet someone you see how long they’re going to live for.”
“That’s right,” said Geoffrey.
“That’s really cool,” said Gina. Her face suddenly appeared beneath the table in front of him. She was smiling broadly and a sweet jasmine perfume flooded his nostrils.
“How long have I got?” she said.
Geoffrey raised himself on his elbows, bits of paper sticking to his cheeks. She rose to greet him.
“Do you really want to know?” he said.
She nodded vigorously. “Why?”
“What if you don’t like the answer?”
“What’s not to like?” she said. “Two years or two hundred, it’s all the same to me. We just go on to the next life. Can you see how long that one is as well?”
Geoffrey shook his head. “Just the one I’m afraid.”
“Okay, shoot,” said Gina.
“Are you really sure?” said Geoffrey.
Gina twiddled her fingers in the air and said “Oooo, spooky. Am I murdered? Am I in a war? Am I sprayed across a field in a plane crash?”
Geoffrey put his head back into the hole.
“It’s sixty years’ time,” he said.
“Oh, so I get to be eighty-five,” she said.
“Eighty-eight to be exact,” said Geoffrey. “You in your garden, on the grass. It’s 2.35pm.”
“That exact?” said Gina.
“Wow, that’s really really cool. On the grass you say?”
“I told you it was a green day.”
She laid a towel on his back.
“You don’t really believe me, do you?” said Geoffrey.
He heard a tinkling of rocks in a bowl.
“Of course I do,” she said. “It’s kind of whatever, you know? You go with the flow, and people say what they say, and who knows what it means, but there are things happening that we don’t see. It’s just that you do and that’s great.”
She paused next to him. “Careful now, these can be very warm when I first put them on, so tell me if it is a bit much.”
He felt the heat and weight of a stone placed on his upper spine. The warmth infiltrated his chest and filled him with a heavy lassitude.
“This okay?” she said.
“Mmm,” he murmured. She placed another stone a bit further down from the first. The rest of the stones followed in slow procession, each one sinking him deeper into a torpor state. He felt hot; a bead of perspiration appeared on his forehead.
“I’ll just leave you here okay? Sing out if you need anything.” He heard her soft footstep pad out of the room.
The weight of the stones – how many were there? – pinned him to the table. Their warmth radiated through him. He closed his eyes and surrendered to inertia. His body was heavy, his mood softened and obscure thoughts ambled randomly through his mind. He watched them as if through a camera exploring strange worlds.
The pub appeared, its brown timbers walls lit in yellows and greens. Faces outside were half shadowed by street light. A tumescent black slug lolled like a manatee in a side lane. A passing Indian driver waved and called but no sound emerged, and his hand remained a dorsal fin fading into the fog. The camera moved through the flickering banks of machinery in ICU; an old man appeared groper like in a crevice, his mouth heavy lipped and open. On the floor below a spoked wheel lay in the sand slowly turning soft tendrils of sand towards him. A table lamp was perched at the edge of a precipice. It shone a dim light through a bottlebrush shade that barely penetrated the darkness that loomed before him.
He passed into it, and the grey luminescence of the lamp faded into a forgotten black. He felt timeless now, suspended. He sensed movement, but could not detect his direction. He was not blind, but saw nothing. He breathed, but did not hear his breath; there were no bubbles. He drifted with an unseen current.
A light caught his eye. It was a pallid luminescence that stained the darkness with a blueish hue. He moved – or was moved, he couldn’t tell – towards it. The light increased as he approached, but he couldn’t discern its source. Something flashed by him, a large fish perhaps, and he heard a gurgling as if someone was laughing under water. He peered into the approaching light, and thought he saw in the distance a shrine of some kind, or a portal perhaps, and he wondered what it was for. He thought maybe it celebrated some other world, or provide access to it, but when he looked again it had disappeared. His body was rocked with the passing of another fish like being, or maybe it was the same one. He felt himself turn over and again the dimmed laughter invaded his hearing.
The light was brighter now. He looked back behind him at the dark. He was unsure of where he should go. He felt disturbed by a sense of wonder either way. He was unsure of which was safer, the light or dark and didn’t know if he had control over where he went. But the light was enveloping him and a warmth and weightlessness assuaged his concerns. The light filled his vision; he was afloat in a sea of blue light and the blackness had disappeared. He waited and watched, for whatever might occur.
Sparkles first appeared, fragments of light flickering across his field of vision, ephemeral and distant. The animal returned and knocked him around as it sped past, leaving a wake of submerged mirth in its path. He saw reds, and sapphire blues, emeralds and incandescent whites. A flotilla of red strands wafted in front of him and was gone. He turned to see where but all he saw was the radiant blue, and all he heard was the echo of laughter. He sensed something was there, something large and watchful, hovering near him, but he could not see it. He reached out but touched nothing. He felt an ache in his heart. It was frustrating him, teasing him, to be so close yet undetectable, to feel but not sense. The beast flashed by again in a blaze of lit brilliance, a glissando of red fibres and light and laughter.
The light pulsated once, twice and just when he awaited the third time, vanished.
He heard Gina’s voice.
“You okay in there?”
He felt the stones being lifted off his back and heard the rattle of the metal bowl as she placed them inside.
He stirred and tried opening his eyes. The light in the room was mild and comforting; it welcomed him back.
“Sleep well?” said Gina.
Geoffrey breathed in and out, with a deep slow breath. He mumbled a response.
“The hots tones are the best,” said Gina. “Most of our client have a kip when they get warmed up. Did you dream?”
“Think so,” said Geoffrey.
Gina lifted the towel off his back and replaced with a dry one. “I’ll just finish with a bit more on your scalp, then we’ll be done.
His head ricked in her hands, and he felt the last strains of tension fall in rivulets from his temples. He was buffeted into his stupor again, and his eyes closed as he rocked with the rhythm of her fingers.
“There,” she said, “all done. I’ll leave you to get up. Take it slowly though, we don’t want you getting dizzy after all this relaxation. There’s plenty of time, so don’t rush.”
The door clicked quietly as she left.
He lay still, letting his soul reclaim its presence, thinking of his dream.
Slowly, he rose from the massage table. He wiped the shreds of paper from around his face and sat upright with his legs over the edge. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then searched the room for his garments. There was a bench with the bowl of dark stones, a pile of crumpled towels and bottles of oil. The room was lit mainly by candles whose light flickered in pink and orange shades about the beige walls. His clothes lay on a chair beside the bench. He lowered himself on the floor and dressed. Then he opened the door. Gina was close by.
“All good?” she said.
“Sure is,” Geoffrey said drowsily. “Thank you very much.” He paid.
“You have a good day,” said Gina. “Take care of yourself.”
* * * * *
Geoffrey sat at a wooden table in the hotel courtyard overlooking the harbour. He had a beer in front of him. The air was crisp, the water choppy. White sails echoed white gulls in their movement across the harbour. Their cries sliced the salt air.
Well, that’s day one in my quest, he thought. Pretty indulgent too.
The morning’s session in the Mountains had been a spur of the moment thing, but had surprised him. He wondered though if it helped him in his quest. Perhaps, he thought, the lesson I learnt is that noise is communion, we make noise to show each other we are here. We share this life and all have a death to end it, and we make sounds to show our solidarity in the face of – what – the face of life or the face of death? Both maybe.
He didn’t really know. He didn’t think he was much good at this sort of transcendental life lesson stuff. Although he thought, Maybe the first step in finding a solution is to recognise my commonality with everyone. We’re all in this together. But had he been so insensitive in the past? He didn’t think so. How would he know? And what if he did recognise the commonality of the human condition? Would that affect his visions?
The massage was good though. Step 1: relax. A lot.
He felt extremely relaxed.
It was odd though how the masseuse had so blithely accepted his visions. Did she not understand, or did she know something he didn’t? Was she just naïve, or did she really believe it, and have some knowledge that he might tap into?
That was the problem with people like her. It wasn’t just that she hadn’t studied science or philosophy – he was sure she wouldn’t even know what the Enlightenment was – it was the innocence of her ideas. He never knew if people like her really believed what they said, or where just spouting empty shit up to make others feel god about themselves. Everything happens for a reason, they say. What reason? You have my truth, I have mine. Truth is truth! Sure it’s often hard to figure out, but when you do, there’s only one of them, only one truth.
Or One Truth. One Great Truth. The Grand Unifying Theory that contains relativity, the subatomic and gravity all as part of a spiritual whole. Perhaps there was something in all this mysticism stuff that he had so rationally dismissed all his life.
Maybe the dead did exist. Maybe there were ghosts. Maybe the stars did portend great events, and the spirits did dance in unseen worlds. Believers claim you can’t measure these things, but they exist. Believers say the scientific method is fine for material things but is inadequate the world beyond. You have to have faith in phenomena, you have to trust insight and inner awareness. Ancient rituals and unguents held the key to these worlds, chants and self-mortification the window to The Other. So what if he saw death. Many saw life beyond it. Many denied its substance in cycles of reincarnation or rebirth, or induction into other realms. Death was a forum for grief, for those invested in this world, but not for the seers of light and angels and alternate ways of being.
Maybe I’m one of those, he thought. Maybe I have a gift like others have a gift, say, of contact with the afterlife. Or the gift of clairvoyance. Or prayer. Or healing. Or the invocation of daemons. Maybe their gifts are as real as mine and somehow, if we all connected we’d piece together a palimpsest of some greater whole that might one day be interpreted by a Grand Mastermind and lead us all to Elysium. Maybe I’ve somehow tapped into that.
He chuckled to himself as he sipped his beer.
This means I have to attend conferences on spiritualism and death and the afterlife to see how I fit in, and what it all might mean. People in formless purple drapes and black capes. Crystals and cheese cloth. Jesus, I might have to buy a skull ring made from pewter.
He sighed, and remonstrated with himself for being so dismissive. Best give up the judging. There’s a possible lifeline here, a way in. But what would Lucy think? God, something else to keep secret. Just to make me look normal. Just when I’m trying to fix things.
He put that chain of thought aside and checked the notes on his phone of the list of strategies to control his visions.
Massage, to relax. Tick, done that. If nothing else it loosened my mind.
Hypnotherapy, to dig a bit deeper. I’ll book that on Monday. Is that connected?
MRI, for the science. Ring my GP. Will he prescribe me one?
Psychologist, take too long?
Books on death/futurism/hallucinations.
Except that these weren’t hallucinations. They were real. They described real events.
He thought of Andrea lying on the road. He still had no idea how she came to be there. She was up on the Northern Beaches for god’s sake, thirty kilometres away. Did that mean what he saw was inescapable, no matter what you did to avoid it? You could be in London one day, but his vision placed you in Sydney that afternoon, boom, you’d be there, no questions asked. No questions answered. Just bang dead and still with a bike wheel spinning or a relative in tears by your bed. It was real. It was no hallucination. He had seen the future. An ambulance had come, he’d fainted in the arms of a stranger, he’d been in hospital. It was all very real.
What – who – could possibly help him with that? As far as he knew, he was the first person in history ever to see what he saw. But among these new brethren, the community of masseuses and shamans and practitioners of the arcane arts, there must be someone who might assist him.
He drank his beer and leant back in his chair. The gulls wheeled above him. Some dived for litter on the boardwalk below. Their feathers ruffled in the wind as they plodded across the dried wooden slats and spurted lumps of white wash from their behinds.
He opened his phone again and added ‘Attend Spiritualism Expo’ to the list. He’d seen the ads on the sides of buses; the expo title in large legible gothic font with stars and wizards and pentagons and lights. He’d go there tomorrow and seek out some counsel, and then maybe head off to a library somewhere to do a bit of research.