Geoffrey’s phone rang; its face said Lucy.
“You’re up early,” he said when he answered it.
“”Hello to you too,” said Lucy’s voice. He smiled at the sound of it.
“Hello,” he said. “With a good morning kiss.”
“I like those,” she said. “We leave pretty early as the dugongs start feeding at around seven.”
“You’re late then,” said Geoffrey. “It’s just gone nine here.”
“They stick around all day. We just get in early to avoid the midday heat, plus the water is clearest in the morning. What are you up to?
“Half way through breakfast,” said Geoffrey. “Porridge and coffee in case you’re wondering.”
Lucy laughed. “You old man, with your morning oats.”
“My oats are wild, baby,” said Geoffrey. “Or at least that’s how I sow them.” He heard her groan, and said “How was the rest of yesterday?”
Lucy’s voice lit up.
“Brilliant. We started with a welcome to country from the local community here, and then had a briefing or the fortnight ahead. Then it was the afternoon off to explore the area before we get serious today. A few of us went to the water, and we saw about a dozen dugongs, including a cute little calf. Well, by little I mean about one and a half metres long. Dinner was good, getting to know the group. They’re all nice so far. It’s going to be a good fortnight. What’s on your agenda today?”
Geoffrey paused. He wanted to tell her about the expo, and why he was going. He wanted to tell her everything, but felt it might ruin things. But he wanted to stop hiding from her. She said,
“You’re taking time to answer. Nothing planned, or are you cooking up something exciting for a Sunday?”
He took a breath. “You’ll laugh,” he said.
“Why? What is it?”
“I’m going to the Festival of Inner Light and Healing,” he said, and screwed up his eyes and gritted his teeth in anticipation of her reaction. There was a long pause. He wondered if he’d ruined everything. Eventually she said,
“Oh, I’m so relieved.”
Geoffrey’s face tightened with surprise.
“Relieved?” he said.
“I’ve been racking my brains trying to think how I could tell you,” said Lucy, “cos I thought being a hyper-rational auditor you’d think it was all poppycock and you wouldn’t want to see me anymore, but I knew, I knew you were one of us. You had an energy about you, a vibrational equivalence. I saw it that night at the pub. You were shining. There was a brilliant aura around you. That’s what attracted me to you so strongly. And I’ve so wanted to bring it up and share it with you ever since then, but I’ve been scared to do so. What star sign are you?”
Geoffrey felt his jaw drop. Lucy, his red haired princess, he didn’t want to lose her, but this was a new twist on things. He hadn’t pictured her as new age or new spiritual. But maybe she was, and maybe that was okay. Maybe even she could help him. She might have insights after all, and wouldn’t think he was mad.
“Umm,” he said. “I don’t know. My birthday is September thirteen if that helps.”
“Oh, you’re a Libra,” she said, and her voice sparkled. “That explains a lot. Why you’re so organised, and insightful and observant. And physically active, not to mention good in bed. I’m a Taurus, and you know what that means.”
Geoffrey had no idea what that meant.
“This is why I do the dugong stuff,” said Lucy. “Not just because it’s environmental, but because it links us to the higher energies. I’m sure you know, the sea mammals hold a special place in the cosmos. The sea was the beginning of life, even the ancients recognised that, and the sea mammals – the whales and dolphins and dugong and the like – were land animals that chose to return to the sea, their source of life. That means they connect to the vibrational energy fields of the universe. So when I swim with them I connect more too. I feel the cosmos on my skin. That makes sense to you doesn’t it?”
Geoffrey thought how best to answer this question. He’d never considered whales and the cosmos before. Or how you feel it on your skin.
“I – I’ve never looked at whales that way,” he said.
“It’s so good to be able to share all this with you,” said Lucy.
Geoffrey had no idea what she was talking about, but it sounded positive and in his confusion over his visions he wondered if there might be a truth in it somewhere. He thought maybe he could tell her about what he’d seen. She might understand, and perhaps even have some ideas to share.
“You still there, Geoffrey? I haven’t overloaded you too soon have I?”
“No, no,” Geoffrey said. “I’m just, well, amazed. I had no idea.” He paused to think how best to introduce the idea of his visions. “Do you have any special powers or capabilities at all?”
“You mean like traveling to other cosmic levels, or vibrational healing?” she said.
“Well,” said Geoffrey nervously, “something like that.”
“I do have one,” said Lucy.
“Oh?” said Geoffrey. “Which is?”
He heard her chuckle.
“The ability to spin a good yarn off the top of my head,” said Lucy.
Geoffrey’s brow furrowed instantly. “A good yarn?” he said.
“Yes, surely you don’t think I believe all that stuff, do you? The vibrations and energies and star signs. It’s all complete bullshit.”
“So all that stuff about Taurus and Libra being good for each other?” said Geoffrey.
“I made it up.” said Lucy. “The only Libra I know is the tampon, and I’ve never heard of anyone doing tampon readings to tell the future.”
Geoffrey laughed nervously, and hoped she didn’t notice.
“You aren’t into that nonsense, are you?” she said.
Geoffrey’s heart fell. Maybe the idea of the Festival was stupid after all. He was fooling himself. But he yearned to tell her about what he’d seen and the experiences of the days before.
“So what’s at the Festival of Inner Light and stuff for you?” she said.
He drew a breath and said, “One of my clients manages stands at trade shows and that sort of thing. You know, all the temporary benches and screens and so on. She invited me to see her product so we agreed to catch up today.”
“Well you be careful,” said Lucy, “she might be a witch, or sell you some crystals from outer space.”
“That’s a possibility,” said Geoffrey, “she calls her business ‘Space on Show’, because she essentially sells space to the exhibitors, and then fits it out with a bench and side walls.”
“Good name,” said Lucy.
Geoffrey heard a voice in the background.
“Oops, we’re off,” said Lucy. “Gotta go, the bus is leaving for the beach. Love and kisses Mr Rational Auditor Man.”
“Love and kisses to you too,” said Geoffrey.
* * * * * *
Geoffrey passed through the large doors of the exhibition hall entered the fragrant hubbub of the Festival of Inner Light and Healing. Fumes of sweet incense mixed with oils and perfumes, bells sounded amid pan pipes and didgeridoos, as attendees strolled along avenues of stalls selling potions, care packs, therapies and ideas.
Geoffrey was wondering where to head first when he heard his name being called. He turned, and saw the stocky but diminutive form of Lorraine, his client, steaming towards him in khaki work gear and matching Blundstones. She held an electric drill in one hand. A brazen pink pixie cut advertised her cheery grin like bright neon.
“Glad you came,” she said, and extended the drill in his direction. “Oops, wrong hand.” She held out her other hand and Geoffrey shook it.
He knew Lorraine’s last moment well from past meetings. It had a joyous ambience, in a room of many children, with three men in casual garb, in a bedroom with platters of food and wine.
“You’re busy,” he said.
“Non-stop,” Lorraine said. “Especially with this lot. They’ve got their heads so far in the clouds they wouldn’t know a hammer from hemlock. Follow me and I’ll get you a decent cup of coffee.” She continued talking as she led him through the crowds past stalls full of bottles, specimen jars, dried roots and kaftans. “One third of this lot think coffee is the devil, one third will insist on matcha and the rest can’t live without it providing they have a relationship with the underpaid plantation worker.” Geoffrey did his best to hear and keep sight of his client who often disappeared amidst the mobs of gawking festival attendees. Her pink hair kept him on track and they eventually stood outside the metal door of a makeshift ante room at the far end of the hall.
“Welcome to HQ,” said Lorraine as she shoved the door open with a creak. He was greeted by shelves of wiring, took boxes, stacked tables and chairs and a folds of black cloth. Lorraine tossed a roll of gaffa tape to one side and reached for a coffee jar.
“This is the safe zone,” she said. “The temple of real serenity. How do you have it?”
“Er, white,” said Geoffrey.
“Yeah, but latte, cappuccino, or something else?” Lorraine pointed at the small espresso machine in the corner almost hidden behind a packet of bead and some biscuits.
“Cappuccino, thanks,” said Geoffrey.
The woman crammed the coffee into the portafilter and knocked it into the machine. Above the sound of the milk steamer Geoffrey heard her say,
“So now you see where the money is made. And with this lot it’s money for jam. I got to charge them thirty percent above usual without any pushback.” She grinned as she cracked a spoon on the edge of the metal milk jug. “Mind you, they make it up on product. There’s a chick out there flogging weekend courses for headache relief at five hundred a pop, when all you have to do is take a friggin’ aspirin. Cheers.”
She handed Geoffrey a mug of coffee and took a swig from hers. Wiping the foam from her upper lip she said,
“Mind you, they don’t half complain, this lot. Either something is the wrong pink, or has bad chakras, or doesn’t face the sun, who knows. I’ve got three guys out there fixing stuff up and bedding down egos. The stuff they come up with.” She laughed. “One woman had to move because the vibration waves from her neighbour were cancelling the vibrations from her stall, so her healing remedy wasn’t having any effect!” She threw her head back and howled with laughter. “You can’t make this shit up.”
“But from your point of view,” she continued, “we’re running on an average of six hundred per square metre on a total of four thousand square metres. Add the main stage works and stall design and I could have ten blokes out there with drills and dreadlocks and still turn some tidy coin.” She flashed a hearty smile and spread her arms out wide. “So what would you rather? Your desk job in the sky or this palace?”
Geoffrey finished his mug of coffee.
“I couldn’t do what you do,” he said.
“You should take a look at the show while you’re here,” said Lorraine. “There’s a tantric sex box on the far corner. You can see why it lasts so long, the bloke in charge never shuts up.” She laughed again and then reached into the back of a dark shelf.
“Here, wear this, and no-one will bother you with any of their bullshit,” she said, holding up an iridescent yellow safety vest. “It’s amazing how invisible you become to them when you’re wearing hi-viz.”
Geoffrey put on the yellow vest and followed Lorraine to the door.
“Good luck,” she said, “and if you get into any trouble, the door’s always open.”
He stood outside the closed door in his vest wondering where best to start, thinking he stood out like a searchlight on a cliff face. But, as Lorraine has predicted, no-one paid him the slightest regard.
Feeling a bit dubious about it all after Lorraine’s unchecked remarks, he set out to wander amongst the crowds and stalls. There were numerous medical wares for sale, with tubs of slaves and emollients, vials of concentrated oils and bottle of elixirs for all sorts of ills. A man in cheesecloth beat out a rhythm on a djembe next to racks of coloured hemp outfits. Beyond that a detailed display of crystals explained the linkages between stone colour and the seven chakras, and exhorted the reader to rely on their intuition and inner energy to connect with the appropriate colour for their mood.
Geoffrey paused at a sign that announced Jimmy Basava Randall, psychic healer. The man behind the stall was engaged with a group of three who listened avidly to his spiel. After a few questions, to which there was much head nodding and sageful looks, they took his brochures and moved on.
Geoffrey stood at the counter, waiting for the man to greet him. The fellow replaced some papers beneath the counter, and returned to his seat. Geoffrey waited. The man plucked at his phone. Geoffrey coughed. The man looked up.
“Oh, good,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you guys to turn up. There’s a flap on the counter here that needs fixing.” The man rose and pulled aside a vase holding an orchid to reveal a torn piece of cloth.
“Sorry,” said Geoffrey. “I’m not staff. I’m interested in what you do.”
“Oh right,” said the man.
“I’m Geoffrey.” He shook the hand that was offered.
“Jimmy Basava,” said the man.
“The psychic healer,” said Geoffrey.
Jimmy Basava nodded. Geoffrey stared into his eyes. They were startlingly clear. The man’s skin glowed. The narrowness of his face radiated health; sundrenched locks bordered his features with languid ease. Geoffrey felt a surge of comfort.
“You are a searcher,” Jimmy Basava said to him.
Geoffrey nodded. “I suppose I am.”
“Welcome to the human condition,” said Jimmy Basava. When he smiled his face did not crease. “We each want to know the call of the spirit world, to see what it portends and how it sustains us.”
Geoffrey looked at his hands. With an unexpected burst of emotion he said,
“I see dead people.”
Jimmy Basava reared back slightly and a long smile stretched gradually across his lips.
“And this is why I come here,” he said. “To meet the believers, the experiencers. The fellow gnostics.”
He motioned for Geoffrey to sit with him on the chairs behind the counter, in a little area that had been set up for intimate conversation. He leaned in close to Geoffrey and said,
“So you understand the layers of life.”
Geoffrey shuffled in his seat. Part of him felt embarrassed, part enthralled.
“I’m not sure,” he said.
Jimmy Basava was enthusiastic.
“We are energy,” he said. “We are not limited by our bodies.” At this he shook his tanned arm in a dismissive gesture. “Our soul is energy. We commune between layers of energy. When we do that we connect with each other. The lack of connection is the source of all pain and disappointment. People say to me, ‘Jimmy Basava, how can I be sure my health will hold up, or my children will prosper?’ And I say to them, ‘Come see, the,y already are, you already are healthy.’ And they ask me how I say that and I say, ‘Come, grasp your energy for that is your light and vision. And then you will then see the fulfilment of what you yearn for.”
He ran a calm hand through his hair.
“You see – Geoffrey, was it?” Geoffrey nodded. “You see, when we climb from our earthly forms to the energy of being, we see all we want is true. Time isn’t holding us. Time isn’t after us. Once we let go of time we can travel to the past, the future, the other realms. I myself have travelled in my time, and in my dreams saw vast truths of wealth and satisfaction. The dead are not dead, Geoffrey, they are simply further ahead in our dreamscape, where the Great Being is central and the heart abounds with joy.”
“No,” said Geoffrey. “I’m not sure you understand me.”
“I am sure I do,” said Jimmy Basava. And he reached over and took Geoffrey’s hand. “It is such a pleasure to meet you, to share a discourse with a fellow seer.”
“No,” said Geoffrey. “Let me explain. I think this is different.”
Jimmy Basava tilted his head to one side and stared at Geoffrey. “What nuance do you bring to bear, brother?” he said.
Geoffrey took a breath and said,
“When I say I see dead people I don’t mean dead people who are alive, I mean dead people who are dead.”
Jimmy Basava nodded wisely. “The dead are dead and alive. There is no distinction.”
“No,” said Geoffrey. “I see people at the moment of their death. The time and date and who’s with them, and what they look like. You, for example, have twenty-eight years left, and die in a forest. You’re lying on a thicket of autumn leaves, and your legs are still crossed. It’s just gone sunrise. The sun is shining on your face with shadows of the trees. There is a cow next to you, and it is urinating.”
Jimmy Basava sat stony faced.
“And I don’t understand why I see these things,” said Geoffrey, “and I’m trying to find out what it means and how it works and how I can see these things and no one else seems to be able to.”
“What do you mean twenty-eight years?” said Jimmy Basava. “I’m only thirty-eight now. How can you tell I’ve only got twenty-eight years left?”
His voice was raised. It was clear to Geoffrey that he had not come across this level of detail before.
“That’s what I do,” said Geoffrey. “I see this stuff. And I thought you might have some clue as to how.”
“I’m healthy,” said Jimmy Basava. “There’s no way I’m going at sixty-six. And what’s with the fucking cow pissing on me?”
“It’s not doing it on you,” said Geoffrey. “It’s just there. You’re in the woods and there’s a cow. I don’t know, maybe you stopped to say hello to it when you died, but it’s there, and you’re lying on the ground like you’d fallen over from a sitting position. There are no marks on you, just you in t-shirt and jeans and the cow next to you. Twenty-eight years from now.”
Jimmy Basava scowled.
“Listen, man,” he said, “you don’t want to go round spouting that shit in this place. We’re about harmony and wellness. I travel and see the souls of those who live. Don’t insult me with this bullshit about who dies where and when.”
He rose abruptly from his seat.
“But it’s what I see,” said Geoffrey.
“Well you’d better get your bloody head read, son, before you sprout that sort of nonsense. No-one can see that. We commune. We are one, in the unity of the spirit. We don’t want your sort around here. You wreck it for all of us.”
He turned his back on Geoffrey and walked to the edge of his stall. He looked to Geoffrey like a lame puppy who wanted to escape, but was trained not to go past an imaginary line.
Geoffrey rose and left, wondering what had upset Jimmy Basava so much.
He ambled past a stall promoting the “7 Essential Oils for Focus and Concentration” where patrons sniffed samples from bottle fashioned from smoothed pine cones. Next was a stall selling weekend retreats for “Ecstatic Chanting” in the mountains. He called out to the gaunt frame of the man he had dubbed Slim Gerard who had been in the Blue Mountains group. Gerard turned and smiled.
“I knew you were a seeker,” he said. “You were watching all of us, like you could see something we couldn’t. Nice vest by the way. You on staff here?”
“No,” said Geoffrey, and he explained Lorraine’s gift of the vest. Gerard nodded and said,
“You didn’t chant much though. You should open up more, you might find what it is you are looking for.” His smile stretched like open arms across his tanned face, flicking his small goatee forward as if in challenge.
“I’ll keep that in mind, said Geoffrey.
“Oh c’mon, man,” said Gerard. “You’re holding back even now. What is it you want?”
“Explanations,” said Geoffrey.
“Don’t we all” said Gerard, “but answers are rare, and process is all. Explanations of what, might I ask?”
“I’m not sure how to put it,” said Geoffrey. “I was talking to Jimmy Bastabo, the psychic healer over there, but I upset him.”
Gerard laughed. “Jimmy’s a long timer here. He’s a prickly customer. Likes to be in control. What did you say to him?”
Geoffrey fiddled with one of the Blue Mountains brochures. “I told him about the visions I’ve started having. I thought he might have some answers or ideas.”
“What are your visions?” said Gerard.
“It’s a bit difficult to explain,” said Geoffrey.
Geoffrey looked intently at Gerard, and decided to disclose his secret.
“When I look at people the first thing I see is the person at the moment of their death.”
Gerard’s face dropped in a look of concern. His eyes narrowed. “I don’t understand,” he said.
“Nor do I really,” said Geoffrey. “That’s why I’m here. But it’s pretty simple really. When I see someone, the first thing I see is not the person in the here and now, but them in years to come, lying where they have just died. The time and date and circumstances are clear, and then it fades and I can see the person in the now.”
Gerard’s nose screwed up slightly, exposing his front teeth. Geoffrey thought he looked like he had just smelled something awful – a fart maybe, or roadkill.
“You mean – ?“ he said.
“Yes,” said Geoffrey. “I told Jimmy whatsisname that he’d die in twenty-eight years’ time, in a forest, next to a cow.”
“Jesus,” said Gerard. “Were you taking the piss?”
Geoffrey felt a heat rise on his brow.
“No,” he said. “I was being legit.” He leant over the counter towards Gerard. “I see people when they die. I have visions.”
Gerard picked at his teeth for a moment, and said, “Word to the wise, mate, you don’t want to spread that about too much, not in a bright yellow vest anyway. You’ll get yourself the wrong kind of attention. We’re all about finding our selves, not reminding us we die. It’s liberation people want, not extinction.”
Geoffrey thanked him. He was about to excuse himself when Gerard said,
“Is that what you were doing yesterday, checking us out?”
“Don’t you think you should ask before you do?”
“I can’t help it,” said Geoffrey. “That’s why I’m here, to find ways of controlling it. The best I can do in the meantime is not tell people, in case they don’t’ want to know. Otherwise I get a reaction like Jimmy the healer’s.”
Gerard wiped his jowls with a bony hand, and nodded slowly. “Ok,” he said, and looked down at his countertop.
Geoffrey paused a moment then said, “Good luck today. I enjoyed the session we did.”
A woman approached the stall. Gerard was about to greet when he said,
Geoffrey stopped mid turn. The woman was next to him.
“You saw me, right?” said Gerard.
Geoffrey nodded, and felt a sickness twist in his stomach.
“Then tell me what you saw,” said Gerard. He felt the woman eyeing them both, listening to their conversation. Geoffrey looked at her. She had fifteen years to go, in a bed in a darkened room with an old man crying next to her. He felt callous. It was such a contrast to the woman’s vibrant colours and strings of pearls and charcoal bob cut.
“You sure?” said Geoffrey to Gerard.
“Like I said, hit me. If you’ve got the goods, do it.”
Geoffrey drew a breath and said, “I’m not sure you want to hear it.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake, you can’t leave me hanging now,” said Gerard. “That just makes it worse. Fuckin’ hit me with it.”
Geoffrey placed a steadying hand on the counter and said in even tones, “I saw you in a hospital bed, intubated. There was a nurse at hand, but no-one else.”
“Seven years from now.”
Gerard slapped the counter with an open hand and yelled, “Fuck!” The stall frame shook and brochures flew off the table top. The woman in the coloured shirt jumped.
“Fuck!” he said again. “That’s not what the doctors said.” He hung his head. “The meds are meant to be better than that.” A tear started in one eye.
“I’m sorry,” said Geoffrey, but Gerard waved him away. “Just go.”
As Geoffrey moved on he sensed the presence of the woman at his shoulder.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Did I understand you right? Did you just tell that man that he’s going to die soon?”
Geoffrey looked at her. He was struggling to work out how best to respond when she said,
“You did, didn’t you? You said he had seven years left. How could you say such a thing?”
Another woman drew near, and the first said,
“Diana, this young man thinks he can predict the future.”
The woman called Diana looked over her bifocals at Geoffrey. He saw her in hospital, her frail face imbued with the waxen succour of her last breath. Her almost bald head belied the thick and bright pink coiffure she was sporting at the festival. She was shorter than the first woman and of slight build; her wrinkled face carried the memories of many years in the sun.
“Tell the future?” she said. “I’d love to hear that, Valerie.”
“No,” said her companion Valerie. “He told the fellow at the chanting stall he was going to die in seven years.”
Diana looked up at Geoffrey and said, “Oh you poor man, what makes you so sure?”
“Not him,” said Valerie. “The man in the Chanting booth.”
Diana looked at her friend quizzically. Pointing this way and the other, Valerie said,
“He – this man – what’s your name, young man?”
“Geoffrey,” said Geoffrey before he could check himself.
“Geoffrey here claims he can tell when that man – over there – is going to die and he – not Geoffrey, the man in the booth – got really upset.”
A man in linen shirt and beige pants approached. Thirty six years, thought Geoffrey, asleep in a bed somewhere, alone, the stain of vomit beside him on his pillow.
“A fortune teller, is he?” he said to the women.
“Of a sort,” said the Valerie. They all looked at Geoffrey, as if expecting him to speak. Geoffrey felt a tightness in his chest, and looked about for some stimulus that might help. There was none, just the milling crowds beneath the lines of text advertising new age wares suspended from the edges of the booths.
“Tell us,” the man said. “What good news do you have for us?”
The first woman turned to him and said, “It’s not good news. He thinks he can specify a time and date when that man over there is going to die and he got very upset.”
“A time and date?” said Diana.
“I saw him bang the table cloth in despair. This fellow really upset him.”
“Is it just him?” the man said to Geoffrey. “Or can you tell everyone’s future? Do you have a stall here? Or a card maybe? What do you charge for sessions?”
Geoffrey shook his head feebly and said, “I’m not here for anything like that. I’m just attending the Festival.”
“So are you a clairvoyant or not?” said Diana.
“He’s not a clairvoyant, he’s maintenance” said Valerie. “He just insulted someone. It was most offensive. We should tell the organisers. They aren’t meant to get involved. ”
“I’m sorry,” said Geoffrey, “I didn’t mean any harm.”
“You reckon you can tell when I’m going to go?” said the man.
“Of course he can’t,” said Valerie. “He was just being rude.”
Geoffrey noticed that more people had gathered around them, watching the interaction between himself, the two women and the man.
“Excuse me,” he said and made to move away from the group. The man in linen blocked his way.
“It takes years of experience to see the future you know. Years. I’ve studied it for decades, and there is no way you can fix a time and date like she says you did. Are you having a lend or something?”
Geoffrey tried stepping around him but the man insisted on blocking him. Geoffrey looked into the man’s sharp dark eyes.
“So can you tell me or not?” he said.
Geoffrey took a slight step back. “Even if I could, would you believe me?” he said.
“Of course not,” said Valerie, “you’re just an offensive person. Diana, ring management. Get that short girl over here.”
Geoffrey pushed past the man and hastened away from the trio. He saw Diana pull out a phone and raise it to her ear. He ducked into the Astrology Reading Room to escape.
Inside four trestle tables had been set up and their occupants sat on plastic chairs talking intently to customers. Laptops and printers were strewn about the space, and people queued for a reading in front of a man in t-shirt and slacks which bore the festival logo holding an iPad and directing traffic. When Geoffrey was at the front the young man pushed the iPad in front of him and said,
“Type in your first name, date of birth and postcode.”
“Is this marketing?” said Geoffrey.
“Only the postcode,” said the traffic controller. Astrology isn’t about marketing. Your birth date is needed for your birth chart, so our readers can get a fix on you and use that for predictions. The postcode helps us work out our demographic for next year.”
Geoffrey inserted his details and was directed to an elderly lady with kind features secreted behind a massive pair of black spectacle frames. Eight years to go, thought Geoffrey. Peaceful though.
“Hi, I’m Pam,” she said and held out a bejewelled and carefully manicured hand. She looked at the laptop in front of her. “I see you’re Geoffrey.”
Geoffrey felt a speck of food hit his cheek, or maybe it was spittle, he wasn’t quite sure. He wiped his hand across his as discreetly as he could while Pam extracted a piece of paper from the printer next to her and laid it in front of him. He saw a large circle with the twelve signs of the zodiac on the outer rim. A collection of esoteric signs and figures crossed the segments of the circle and in centre was a network of coloured lines that looked to Geoffrey like it had been drawn with a malfunctioning Spirograph.
“This is your birth chart,” said Pam and beamed a glowing smile. Another fleck of something hit his other cheek. “It shows the position of the planets at the time of your birth and how they inform your personality and the life choices you make.”
She pulled out a pen from her breast pocket and tapped it on the chart.
“These segments here, or houses as we call them, are the areas of your life – your motivations, desires, values etc. The zodiac signs are the characteristics of your life – your inclinations and outlooks for example. And the smaller signs are the planets, all of which influence a combination of the areas of your life and your personality characteristics.”
Geoffrey wiped his face as the jots of mouth jetsam shot into his cheeks, nose and on one case his right eye. Pam continued,
“Combining all this we can get a generalised understanding of what is in store for you and how you will react. See here, you are a Virgo, with the sun at twenty degrees. The sun is the most influential celestial being. The other planets have an effect as well, for nuance, but the sun and your star sign are the main influences. This says to me that you are known for being open and frank, and honest. You appreciate living your life in a straightforward and simple manner. The position of the sun says you are extremely careful and cautious by nature, and have very high standards of living and conduct. You are a perfectionist, but risk paying so much attention to details that you lose sight of the larger issues.”
Geoffrey pulled out his handkerchief and made a show of blowing his nose, while rubbing his face clean of Pam’s oral particles.
“The moon’s influence is next, and she impacts your emotional life. She’s at five degrees in cancer which means you are for the most part, very strong and secure emotionally, but you will often go out of your way to be accommodating to people at your own expense.”
Geoffrey smiled wanly and took a last rub of his face with his handkerchief.
‘I won’t go through the other planets, as they tend to reinforce the general stability of your character. There does not seem to be much that upsets you, or knocks you off your rocker.”
Then she smiled radiantly and Geoffrey felt his shoulders relax, but he wasn’t sure it if it was the ceasefire or the gentleness of her voice.
“It looks complex,” he said.
Pam responded with the same smile.
“What I love about this is that it covers both ancient and modern wisdoms. It is a five thousand year old science and healing agent, which has been over and over again vindicated by emerging philosophies. The medieval church hated it because they thought it was too deterministic, but they recognised its truth. Nowadays, both the discoveries of cosmology and quantum physics support the conclusions self-evident in astrology. It proves our connectedness with all things, and gives us an integrated and wholistic way of seeing the world, removed from the individualist lens and its calamities of wasteful lifestyles.”
Again she beamed, and fell silent as if waiting for Geoffrey to embrace the ideas she had espoused. He studied the chart closely, flicking off the latest onslaught as he did, and tried to figure out how Pam drew all she did from the odd drawing in front of hm.
“So,” he said, “this chart is based on the position of the planets back then.”
“Yes,” she said, “all the motions of the planets have been mapped throughout history.”
“So you can project the path of the planets into the future.”
“Just like when cosmologists plan space journeys. Which is what gives it its predictive capacity. It’s wonderful,” said Pam. Another missile lodged itself on Geoffrey’s cheek.
“So if you’ve got our birth chart, and predictive capacity based on planetary movements, then you should be able to draw me a death chart,” said Geoffrey.
Pam leant back in her chair, her eyebrows raised and her face tightened.
“A what?” she said.
“A death chart,” said Geoffrey. “I’m trying to find out how I can predict people’s moment of death.”
Pam waved her hands vigorously in front of her.
“No no no no, we don’t do that sort of thing,” said Pam. “We don’t’ get that specific. We aim to reassure people about their lives, not tell them it’s going to end. Why on earth would you want to know that?”
Geoffrey flinched as the attack intensified with her wrath.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just do, I don’t want to. I’m trying to find out about it and I thought maybe you might have some insights.”
Pam clasped her hands and leaned forward, staring intently at Geoffrey. He leant back in retreat.
“You’re that man my husband warned me about.”
“Your husband?” said Geoffrey.
“My husband Jimmy. You barged in on him and told him a cow is going to urinate on his corpse in the forest.”
Geoffrey felt a pit form in his stomach.
“That’s outrageous,” said Pam. “You should be ashamed of yourself. I think you should leave.”
She turned away and stared into her laptop.
Geoffrey sat still, deciding how best to leave quietly. When he shifted in his seat Pam said,
“Just go. No-one can make that sort of prediction. It’s abominable. Get out before I call security.”
The young man who had directed Geoffrey to Pam’s desk strolled over.
“All okay here?” he said.
“This man is just leaving,” said Pam.
Geoffrey noticed the young man wince and blink his eye when Pam spoke. He left the reading room and entered the main hall in front of the main stage. About a hundred people were seated on plastic chairs listening to a speaker on a raised black stage. Behind him was an illuminated banner announcing Bernard Clumpton, Psychic Reader and Clairvoyant. Bernard’s right arm was stretched out towards the audience: his head was lowered and a pained expression marred his face.
“I’m feeling darkness,” he said. “A growing darkness, like a dark form on someone’s shoulder. It’s like a death maybe, a recent passing. Is anyone seeing this?”
Geoffrey looked at the man, floating face up in the sea, his mouth open and eyes vacant. The sun was bright, there were cliffs in the distance, the sea was a tropical blue. There was a rustling whipping sound, like a loose sail on a mast. Twelve and half years hence.
Feeling dubious after his last experiences, but still hoping something might come from the festival, Geoffrey raised his hand and said, “Yes.”
Bernard sprang around and latched on to Geoffrey.
“You, sir. What is your name?”
“You’ve had a loss, Geoffrey.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” said Geoffrey.
“You were close to the deceased. He, he -” Bernard screwed up his face again. “I’m not getting brother. He was tall, ish, a colleague perhaps, yes, I’m getting a support fellow in a team working for a common goal.”
Bernard’s opened his eyes and looked at the roof, ad began rocking. “I can see him, Geoffrey, he wants to speak to you. He knows you are looking for answers, he knows you need comfort, he says he understands, Geoffrey. He says you do not need to feel any grief, or blame, or anger. He is smiling, Geoffrey.”
Bernard was smiling, broadly.
Geoffrey said, “And the hobo?”
Bernard’s brow furrowed. “I’m not getting a hobo, oh hang on, yes.”
“And the old man in ICU?”
Geoffrey heard some murmuring from the seats. Bernard stared at Geoffrey.
“Your losses have been great,” he said.
“I want to know how it works,” said Geoffrey.
The voices were growing louder.
“You’re a clairvoyant,” said Geoffrey. “I see dead people.”
Bernard took a step back. A voice said, “That’s him, the man in the vest.”
“Do you share the power?” said Bernard.
“He says he does,” said a woman’s voice. Geoffrey turned and saw Valerie standing and pointing at him.
“This man tells people they’re going to die,” she said.
“It’s true,” said the woman next to her. Geoffrey recognised Diana.
Another person stood up. A man in checked shirt and jeans, a man lying face down in a breathless bed. “I saw him too. He told the Chanting Man his medicines weren’t working and he would die an agonizing death.”
“He has AIDS,” said a second man next to the first. “This man really attacked him.”
There was a collective intake of breath.
“All he sees is death,” said Valerie. “He has no appreciation of the light.”
Bernard stepped forward on the stage and said, “Is this true?”
Geoffrey wasn’t sure who was the object of his question, but Diana said, “It’s true, we saw it.”
“He’s not even staff,” said someone. “Despite the vest.”
“Why are you wearing a vest?” said someone.
Geoffrey fumbled with the hem of the yellow vest. Bernard frowned at him, then raised his hand with his palm facing outward.
“We use our skills for the good,” he said. “If you truly have powers you’d do the same.” He turned his face to address the audience. “That’s how we distinguish the truth seekers from the charlatans. We seek health, and happiness, and the well-being of humankind. Death is not real, and it serves no-one to say it does.”
A number of people were now standing, leering at Geoffrey. He looked about the group, and registered the accumulated frowns and angry eyes, amid the array of dead in beds, on the ground, in cars, on the footpath. At the bottom of a cliff as the sea washed around a broken body snagged on the rocks. Geoffrey felt a stone land in his stomach.
“I think you should leave,” said Bernard. “We don’t like your sort here.”
“Yeah, go,” said a voice from within the mob.
Geoffrey said, “I’m just looking for answers.”
“Well we don’t like your questions,” said the man in the checked shirt. In an obscure herd like movement, the group coalesced into a concentrated force, and shifted closer to Geoffrey. Geoffrey looked around.
“But it’s true,” he said. “I thought you’d understand.”
“We understand you,” said Checked Shirt Man. “Death is a rite of passage to higher realms. We don’t want your lies here.”
Chairs scraped on the floor. More people stood up. The lead group moved closer.
Geoffrey looked about him. People stood on either side of him, blocking his exit. He placed a chair in front of him. Checked Shirt Man was close, with Valerie and now Pam behind. Pam had appeared. “A death chart,” he heard her say. “He wanted a death chart.
Another collective intake of air occurred. Checked Shirt Man was very close now. Others stood nearby on his left and right. He glanced behind him. A couple of people had gathered there too. He had no idea what to do.
He was about to respond when a voice shouted, “Excuse me, sir!”
The group fell silent. Geoffrey saw Lorraine standing off to one side, her face hard with authority.
“Only staff wear the maintenance vest, sir,” she said. “You’d better come with me.”
She beckoned him to join her. He took one look at the crowd and made his way hastily past the few people behind him and hurried to Lorraine’s hideaway office. People clapped him as he left
When she shut the door behind them Lorraine burst out laughing. Geoffrey sank into a rickety office chair.
“Thank you,” he said. “I thought they were about to lynch me.”
“Oh boy, what were you doing?”
Geoffrey grinned sheepishly. “I was just asking questions,” he said.
“Oh my god,” said Lorraine, “Didn’t I say, don’t poke the bear?”
“I thought maybe they might have some answers,” said Geoffrey.
“My god, man, that’s not what this mob does. You can’t be an auditor with them. You say yes and hand over your cash for a twenty-five CD set of feel good crystal massage meditations.”
“I was a bit surprised at their reaction,” said Geoffrey.
Lorraine laughed again. Then she placed her hands on her hips, and smiled knowingly to Geoffrey.
“The best at hate are those who preach love,” she said. “Those who preach god, need god. Those who preach peace do not have peace.”
Geoffrey looked at her, nonplussed.
‘What were you asking them?” said Lorraine.
Geoffrey wondered if he could confide in Lorraine. She was a client, and an obvious sceptic, but with a heart of gold. Would she sympathise or run him out of town?
“I … I … wanted to know about visions,” he said.
“Visions, why?” said Lorraine. An eyebrow rose and she looked at him askance.
“How do we see things?” he said, and wondered if he said too much, but his phone rang.
“Hannah?” he said.
“Yes, what’s up?”
“Have you seen David?”
“No,” he said.
“I haven’t seen him all weekend,” she said.
“All weekend? Has he been working?”
“No,” said Hannah. “I rang the hospital, but he hasn’t been in. They said he told them he might be out of contact for a few days.”
“A few days? Do you have any idea where he might be?”
“No,” she said. “I’m worried.” Geoffrey heard her begin to well up.
“He’s been a bit odd recently,” said Hannah. “Well not odd, but, well, odd, kind of. Since Slabs’ accident. And I know he’s spent a bit of time with you, so I thought you might have some thoughts.”
Geoffrey took a deep breath. “I’ll come around.”
“Please,” said Hannah.
When they’d hung up, Lorraine said “Sounds urgent.”
Geoffrey nodded. “Could be.”
“There’s a back door out this way,” said Lorraine. “You can avoid the crowd.”
As Geoffrey thanked her she said “Good luck. And remember, don’t poke the bear.”