The Seance

Richard K. Walker

© Copyright 2004 by Richard K. Walker 


Photo of a palm reader's shop.  (c) 2004 by Richard Loller.

The world was calm and quiet. The slow, steady rhythm of each Sunday passed in gentle praise to the Lord. Holy Michael was in ecstasy. He could indulge in his fetish of attending every service in the Holy Church and sit on his rock hard oak pew and look at the all the ladies bottoms as they knelt to pray. Often he would pause and look up when it was his turn to read the lesson. Sometimes the shape of a heavenly breast made him mumble as he made a mental note to investigate such joy when time allowed.

The spring came, stealing up upon the congregation in a sudden flurry of crocuses and daffodils. Sweet sunlight pierced the gloomy church windows every Sunday and played with the dust mites every time the organ hit bottom C. The soft winds of spring seemed ready to play forever around the tall steeple with its exposed bell. Time was in limbo and God had seen fit to allow such contentment to run on until He blasted the earth with torrential rain, just in time for everyone's summer holidays, and exact a terrible penance from those who complained.

God, in His old age, had forgotten about Barbara Zalova. Barbara Zalova was far from content. She had been Holy Michael's housekeeper for six months. Holy Michael had been deaf and blind to her advances. He had even gone so far as to refuse to look at her when she had come to his bedroom, after a scented hot bath, beautiful and stark naked. She had finally accepted that Holy Michael would have no truck with her until he knew beyond doubt that her run-away husband was dead. Barbara Zalova was so desperate to stay in the comfort of England that she had written to her Aunt Yentle about her problems.

Barbara Zalova's Aunt Yentle was a witch. She not only practiced black magic, but was a medium also. She could speak to the dead at will and was often to be found babbling away to herself as she walked down the rough, countrified roads of Poland. Sometimes a new Commissar would stop her to try and determine if she was only fit to be cast into the Communist Asylum at Krosno, but every time Aunt Yentle had an answer. To one she would give a message from a dead baby. To another she would screech a message from a departed wife. To yet another, often a politician, she would announce that his ladylove was consorting with someone new.

Everyone was terrified of Aunt Yentle. Everyone knew that she had been reborn twenty-seven and a half times. No man would look at her with that special glint in his eye, lest he find that he was looking beyond time and into the sneering face of his great grandfather. Who knew with Yentle? She might conjure up the spirit of some long dead lover from a past life. Someone who one had been murdered by or worse still, someone that that one had run from and into the arms of someone new. Hell was made from such horrors. Had not the Mayor of Krosno gone quite mad when Yentle had conjured up that mad woman from the fish and chip shop? He had only got drunk with her on that one night. Now he smelt fish and chips even when Marshal Stalin came to visit. His whole being was surrounded by the smell and it had cost a million roubles worth of vodka to get Aunt Yentle drunk enough to undo the spell- and then only for a fortnight.

"Michael," Barbara Zalova said, being so sweet and gentle one balmy Sunday afternoon. "Michael, I've sent for my Aunt Yentle. She's so kind and nice. She can find out if my husband is alive or dead. You don't mind signing this cheque for her air- fare do you? She can't very well do much in Poland and the holiday will do her good."

"Very well, Dear," Holy Michael said, signing the proffered cheque without a murmur and knowing like all men that one's pleasures had to be paid for as one went along.

Holy Michael was by that time bursting for Barbara Zalova. He was only just able to contain himself, even though the rest of the church congregation called her Big Bum Barbara out of spite and sheer fiendish accuracy. It was true that Barbara Zalova had become rather square with congealed fat and confining corsets. Her once slim, short and attractive build had become brown, like her lank hair in the consumption of huge plates of tasters that ensured that Michael's dinner was cooked just right. Yet Holy Michael was mad with lust for her despite her new attributes. He was getting to that point where a man argues with himself over the inevitable commission of sin. He had long made up his mind to succumb to Barbara's charms even though she might be still married in the eyes of the Polish Catholic Church and the Church of England. Yet to lie with a woman who was divorced was sin, but to lie with a woman who was a widow was in God's holy plan, if marriage resulted. Something had to be done or Holy Michael knew that he would be thrown out of the church and have to spend his Sundays sitting with the drunks on the cemetery wall.

Aunt Yentle was something of a surprise. She was about five-foot six, slender, heavenly breasted and blonde. There was a beauty about her face that drew men to it only to drown in her big blue eyes. Holy Michael was more than taken with her, and, when he looked into her eyes all he could see was a reflection of himself. He was finally lost to Barbara Zalova when Aunt Yentle brought him a cup of tea one Sunday morning. He was sure that she knew that he could see right down the front of her dress. After such a sight it was only academic interest that pushed him to get Aunt Yentle to try and contact the spirit world for the vanished husband of Barbara Zalova.

Aunt Yentle was as clever as an Anglican Priest with three mistresses. She waited in her hard pew next to Holy Michael until the Sunday Evensong service had finished. Then she invited the whole congregation, some six in all, and the Vicar to supper at Holy Michael's house. She knew that her apple cake would get everyone in the right mood. She gave a taster to each person as they came out of church and before a second had passed they were all dancing along to Holy Michael's house and wobbling like pregnant field mice. Only Barbara Zalova slumped along behind with a scowl on her fat face.

Aunt Yentle noticed the look on Barbara Zalova's face and dashed back into the church and opened her fancy Sunday bag. She drew a syringe from it and took a sample of turgid water from a vase containing dying flowers. She watched as a crystal within the syringe glowed a bright yellow as the water touched it and became on with the water. She hurried back to the group as they neared Holy Michael's house and jabbed the syringe into Barbara Zalova's ample bottom. With a quick thumb she emptied the contents into the flabby, bulbous muscle with relish. Instantly a ragged Tomcat appeared. It sniffed the air for an instant before taking a flying leap to land on Barbara's fat buttocks and sinking its claws deep. Barbara took not the slightest notice. She followed the rest very slowly as they entered through the front door of Holy Michael's house. Aunt Yentle raised a finger and the Tomcat vanished into thin air with an unearthly screech and became part of the darkness once more.

"All sit around the table," Aunt Yentle commanded in a voice like the scent of lavender water at a Bible- study class. Instantly the milling crowd complied and sat at Holy Michael's now polished table. Even the Vicar sat down suspecting nothing.

Aunt Yentle then gave them all tea from an improvised samovar constructed from a couple of steaming pans from the kitchen. More apple cake was placed before them and Barbara Zalova was stood in one corner of the room with her face to the wall. She appeared to have gone quite rigid. From time to time she bleated her husband's name, "Taderuche, Taderuche," she called, but no one noticed "Hold hands," Aunt Yentle said.

Like dummies the assembled company held hands awaiting some Polish prayer of thanks for the day. Then the table rose a few inches in the air and began to revolve about its central leg.

"Faster and faster spin the serpent, " Aunt Yentle roared. Try as they might, no one could let go of the other's hand. A smell of sulphur puffed into the air and the evening sun turned to a dark purple that vibrated with the cold heat of an unknown fury.

"Husband of Zalova, the one they call Big Bum, speak. Speak from the earth or speak from the other side of the grave." Aunt Yentle's voice was deep like a Born-Again -Christian in the agony of repentance. "Speak! I, Yentle, keeper of the keys of heaven and hell command you."

The table was a blur. It revolved at such a speed that all the cups and saucers had long since flown off to hang suspended in the air ay each person's shoulder. A low groan began from the centre of the ceiling. It grew in intensity making the eyes in the chalk white faces of the assembly look like green lizard's eggs that had never been fertilised.

The groan steadied into a voice. "I obey," it said.

"Are you Taderouche Zalova, the Big Bum's husband?" Aunt Yentle demanded none too kindly.

"It is I," the tortured voice said.

"Where are you?" Aunt Yentle said. "On earth or in the spirit world?"

"I hover over my bed in Krakov."

"Who is lying on your bed in Krakov?"

"Zaleena Pakova." The voice had started to whine pitifully.

"Zaleena Pakova is your mistress?"

"Yes, Oh wise one," The voice was shaking with fear.

"Sink back into your body, fool," Aunt Yentle commanded. "Dream on."

The table slowed in its spinning and came to a stop with a crash. Everyone fell to the floor. Only Aunt Yentle and Holy Michael were conscious. Everyone else lay like the dead with the exception of Barbara Zalova. She still stood in the corner as rigid as a steel pole, only now she was upside-down and balanced on her head and her two huge legs. Her bottom pointed skywards as if she was waiting for the Devil to use her rump as an ashtray.

"Come, Michael," Aunt Yentle said. "Help me gather these people up and into your car. We must get to the church hall at once. It is built on old graves and the unquiet dead will help me."

Somehow, maybe with the terrible energy of the mortally afraid and the damned, Holy Michael helped Aunt Yentle get everyone ferried to the church hall in his Japanese car.

"Get the keys from the Vicar," Aunt Yentle yelled. "There's no time to loose. Take that wheelbarrow from that compost heap and get them into the church hall."

Within a short space of time all the supper guests were laid out on the church hall floor in the shape of a six-pointed star.

"It's a pity that we left the Big Bum behind, Michael, but she wouldn't have fitted in -still the injection that I gave her might work the right magic for us, if we are quick. Get me some candles fast."

Holy Michael rushed to do Aunt Yentle's bidding. He returned with a large box of thick candles used solely for the candelabra in the Cleansing of Women service, eighteen times a year on damp Mondays.

Yentle took a candle and ran her hand over it. It became black at once. She relaxed then and gently placed a black candle in each insensate mouth. She lit each wick with Holy Michael's cigar lighter.

Aunt Yentle spread her arms high and wide. "Sleep!" she intoned deeply. "Sleep! Dream on! Wake in the morning and remember my supper and how I played Beethoven's sonatas on Michael's piano. Wake and remember how happy we all were. Wake and remember how you all danced to the music of Franz Lehar- his Merry Widow-on Michael's gramophone."

Slowly they rose one by one and floated out of the church hall door on unsteady feet. They were eating the black candles as they went.

"Hold my hand, Michael," Aunt Yentle said. "I must do something for those who lie in unquiet graves under our feet. Give me two candles."

Holy Michael did not let go of Yentle's hand. He was far too frightened. He bent down to the box and handed up two candles with a shaking hand. They became an instant black in Yentle's hand.

"Hold one aloft, Michael and I will do the same."

The candles spouted flame the moment they were raised in the air. Yentle waited. Her lips moved as if she were counting. Then she spoke. She was so gentle and angelic that Holy Michael thought that he could hear the angels sing.

"Unquiet ones, who sleep under this abomination of Sodom, sing the song from above the stars with me and you shall have sunlight on your graves again."

A soft gentle plainsong came from under the church hall's cheap flooring. It rose in volume as the gas fires belched fire from their grills. The stink of North Sea gas filled the air.

"Run, Michael. We have only half a second."

Quite how Holy Michael got the hundred yards to the road he never knew. He stood with Yentle and looked at the now burning church hall. Already a huge crack had appeared where it had been joined to the old church. Then a loud explosion tore at his ears. The church hall vaporised in black smoke and the graves beneath it rose up slightly and the original headstones appeared, flying from their ignominious positions cemented to the churchyard wall, like a madly shuffled pack of cards. They settled gently over the bodies they had marked for so long.

Yentle seemed to fade as Michael looked at her. The flesh fell from her bones and all that was left was a skeleton that grinned at him. A long moment passed and the night suddenly was parted by a bright scream as sunlight tore away the night and covered the graves with gold light. Birds sang in the trees and it was spring for several minutes until the night closed in with a violent explosion. Instantly flesh returned to Yentle's body and the world was calm again.

"Come, Michael," Aunt Yentle said sweetly. "Our job is done and we must pack Barbara Zalova's bags. She must leave for Poland tomorrow. Her husband awaits her."

Holy Michael opened his mouth to speak. Yentle closed his mouth with a gentle finger.

"Peace be on you, my brother in magic. I will care for your every need...Now and forever."

Holy Michael said nothing. Somehow he was unmoved by all the magical things that had happened. Perhaps he was a magician after all, he thought. He knew that in the fullness of time Yentle's charms would wear thin and a new girl would fill his mind with her heady scent. He was like most men, ever seeking pleasures yet untasted.

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