Into the Light
"Please join hands," the old medium said, stretching out her arms. "I need complete and utter silence, please. No one speak. No one move --"
"Oh, would you just get on with it?" Ricky Mason said. "I drove over two hours for this crap? Mom, is this the emergency you wanted me to come here for?"
Dora Mason sat on the opposite side of the medium, with her son, Ricky on the other end. "Honey, please, she comes highly recommended. I just need to ask him something."
"Oh, Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as ghosts. When we die, we die and that's it."
"Will you both kindly be quiet. I need to concentrate if I am going to contact the spirit of... um --"
"Edward, dear," Dora said as she lightly touched the medium's hand with a dainty Southern flair. "His name was Edward, and I suppose it still is. He's haunting me, you know. Oh, he comes into my bedroom every night, well practically every night. Yes, he just sits there and rubs my feet like he did back when we were alive and kicking. Ooh, and once I saw him in the kitchen, making toast."
"Mom, Dad hated toast." Ricky said.
"Oh, that's right. He was more of a English muffin man, I guess. I get so confused sometimes!" She laughed at her forgetfulness, smiling in the medium's direction.
The medium ignored her completely, staring only at the old, stained, yellow Formica kitchen table. She closed her eyes. Struggling to concentrate, she tried desperately to keep her wits about her.
"Is this going to take long?" Ricky asked. "I have mid-terms this week. I don't have time for this sh--"
"Ricky!" his mother chided. She shot her son a mind-your-manners glare and left it at that. Even though he was just touching his twenties, in her mind, he still had to be on his best behavior.
"Well, damn Mom, Dad died twelve years ago and I hate to say it, but move on. It's not healthy, especially since you got some wacko here, trying to "contact" him and send him into the light or some shit. And yes, mom, I said shit. S..H..I..T. Shit."
"Oh, honey," Dora said, gasping and throwing her hand over her mouth.
The medium slammed her hands down on the table and stood up so fast her chair slid back and nearly toppled over onto the slick linoleum. "Wacko? You call me a wacko? That's it! I'm not going to sit here and be insulted like this. My gift will not be wasted on the likes of you or your son. I'm leaving." She turned to gather her things. "And you can keep your twenty dollars."
"No!" Dora jumped up and took hold of the woman. "Please don't leave. He didn't mean anything by it." She looked back at Ricky, glaring at him and making flicking motions with her head, urging him to speak.
Ricky exhaled a deep, long breath and gave in. "Okay. I'm sorry. You're not a wacko. I'm sorry if I offended you, now can we please get this over with?" he said, rolling his eyes.
The medium looked at the two of them and said, "I'll do it for fifty."
"Fifty?" Ricky yelled, standing up. Now his chair nearly toppled over just as the medium's had. He was about to complain further and really let her have it, threatening to call the Better Business Bureau or the Psychic Buddies' Network or something, but his mother gave him another one of her stares and he, feeling almost sorry for her, sat right back down and kept quiet.
"Fifty sounds fair," Dora said, and went for her purse in the other room.
The medium, a tall, lanky woman with spider web hair and stale cigarette smelling breath, sat next to Ricky, but never looked in his direction. "Seventeen," she said.
"What was that?" Ricky said.
"Like the old song goes, she was just seventeen, you know what I mean. Come on, Ricky, the girl you think you're in love with, the girl you are thinking of buying that Zales diamond ring for, the girl you want to marry and bounce on your knee."
He gave her a perplexed look, but she never saw it. His silence was enough of a sign that he was stunned.
"She's not twenty-two like she said. She's only seventeen. Brandy lied to you," she laughed silently into the back of her hand. "Hell, son, she's still in high school."
"Holy shit, how did you know that?"
The medium finally looked at him and cocked her head to one side, "Are you kidding me? You're mom didn't hire me to fix the plumbing."
Dora came speeding into the room, a handbag held in both hands.
"Oh, and another thing," the medium said. "She's sleeping with your best friend."
"Oh. Well," Dora said. "It looks like you two are finally hitting it off. How nice. Here's your money, dear. Now, back to Edward. Do you think you can contact him? Is he still here? Did he go into the light?" She whispered the last question like a secret.
The medium stretched out her hands, palms up. "Join hands," she said. She wiggled her fingers quickly, urging them to comply.
Dora sat in her original position and the three of them finally linked hands.
The medium took in deep breaths of air, her eyes rolled back into her head. She began to undulate back and forth in her chair, moaning slightly as she went.
Dora and Ricky also closed their eyes.
It was late afternoon. The light was fading from the skies; streaks of orange and purple washed over the horizon. The outside porch light glowed softly over the front steps. In the backyard, a bug light hummed quietly. Bugs flew across the backyard; they danced and swirled in the night air. A huge gypsy moth fluttered by the window. Children were heard down the alleys and avenues being called inside by their mothers. It was a very picturesque Mississippi summer evening.
Inside the small humble suburban home, all was quiet, save for the gentle droning of the medium deep within her self-induced trance. "Edward. Are you with us, Edward?"
There was no audible answer, no weird moaning pouring through the empty house, no chains rattling like Marley's ghost.
Dora, in her mind, expected some type of fanfare, and was quite disappointed when nothing really happened. Maybe there was no ghost. Maybe she just wanted Edward back so badly that her mind made up the toast making, or rather, English muffin making ghost she had seen in the kitchen that cold November morning.
Ricky sat silent. He wasn't concentrating on his long dead father, having no great desire to hear from him now. Although Ricky had been close to his father, Edward Mason's death had been a welcome thing. Cancer had killed him only after a long period of suffering, and when he was finally laid to rest, all Ricky could think of was that his father was no longer in pain. All this witchcraft mumbo-jumbo was ridiculous. His father was in greener pastures, chasing skirts and cracking dirty jokes with Mark Twain.
The things he did to make his mother happy...
The medium suddenly stiffened in her chair, and her grip tightened painfully on Ricky and Dora's hands. Her lips were moving, trembling as if a sudden updraft of cold, frosty air had hit her head on. She seemed to be attempting speech, but no words escaped from her mouth. Two twitches from her right shoulder and her whole body went rigid.
Then, she spoke, methodic, deep and robotic, "Dora? Dora?" The medium spoke in a thick male voice, her eyes rolled to the back of her head, her eyelids twitching.
"Too bright in here," the medium grumbled. There were three candles on the table. A cold breeze ran through the room and all but one candle, the center one, blew out.
"Much better," the medium said, in Edward's labored voice.
"I'm here, Edward. Can you hear me?" Dora said. She was elated and in her excitement her hand almost slipped free, but the medium squeezed her hand just tight enough to calm Dora down, albeit slightly.
"You don't have to shout, girl. I can hear you loud and clear."
Ricky opened his eyes and straightened up in his chair. I hear you loud and clear really sounded like his father. It was something he said from time to time. And he said girl. His father would address Dora that way whenever he wanted to bring her back down from the clouds, so to speak.
"Dad?" Ricky said, amazed that he was taking this garbage so seriously.
The medium turned to him and with her eyes still fluttering said, "Ricky? I see you dropped your earring. Looking good, Buster."
Damn, it was him.
"Edward? This is Dora. Am I coming in clear?"
The medium laughed -- Edward was laughing. "I'm not a ham radio. Was there something you wanted?"
"Edward, I need to ask you something," Dora said. She faced the medium, but somehow, she didn't see an elderly, thin woman in front of her, but a heavy-set, dapper old man she had loved for these oh so many years, and in a way, still loved. "Edward? Do you know --"
"In your suede coat on the back of the closet door, in the inside pocket you will find your keys," Edward said.
She moved to go and retrieve her keys, but the medium held her tight, not wanting the spirited old woman to break the trance it had taken such effort to achieve. "Time is running short," the medium said, in her own voice. "I feel him fading."
"No! Wait!" Dora said. "I need to ask him something, something very important." She fought to calm down long enough to ask her question. Finally, she cleared her throat, righted herself in her seat and spoke, "Listen closely Edward, if you can hear me. Is Mark there? Can you see him?"
"Mom -- don't ask him that," Ricky pleaded. "I don't want to know that."
"Shut up, Ricky. I'm paying for this. I need to know."
The medium's eyes fluttered again. "Too many... Too many of them... Can't see -- where I am going... "
"Mom!" Ricky said, almost yelling. He was never much for yelling at his mother.
The medium was silent.
"I need to know if my baby is okay, Edward. You lousy son of a bitch! Where's my baby?" She began to cry, to sob uncontrollably. "You know," she spoke to the medium, not to Edward, "we named him after his grandfather, my father. Just because he was still-born doesn't mean he couldn't have a name. He was my baby. I just want to know if he's all right."
"Momma," Ricky said again. "Mom, it's okay. Mark's okay. Dad's watching out for him, I know he is."
"But how can you be certain?" she demanded. "How do you really know? But Edward would know." She turned to the medium, turned to Edward. "You promised me, on your death bed, you would watch out for him. Where is he? "
The old medium's eyes fluttered yet again. She was staring into the top of her head. "Bright... light... Beautiful light... Too many things... Confusion… I -- I'm lost here."
Something knocked on the kitchen window. Everyone looked, but all they could see was a blind, fluttering Gypsy moth, thumping against the window pane. The night was filled with insects, dancing through the air.
The medium raised her head. "I feel him fading. He doesn't know what's going on. He seems to be moving all over the place, but he's still close. I'm sorry, but I must release him."
"Oh no," Dora said.
"My dear," the old medium intervened. "I know it is difficult. I have a child myself, but I can assure you that little Mark is in good hands. But now we must think of your lost husband and finally send him on to the other side." She smiled at Dora and the smile and the knowledge that her son was well looked after bought a smile to her tired and tear-streaked face. "You must direct Edward into the light. Understand me? Dora, you must tell him to go into the light at all costs. I shall be under and can't tell him directly." Dora nodded her head.
The medium slipped into a deep trance, this time without effort.
"Yes, my love?"
"Do you see a light?" she asked, even though she wanted so much to just scream for Mark. "Do you?"
"So bright... So amazing," Edward said.
"Honey, go into the light. Go to it," and almost as an after-thought, she said, "Mark is in the light."
"The light... "
"Yes. Mark is in the light. Go to Mark."
There was a brief pause and then she said, "I love you, Edward."
"Love you... so beautiful..." Edward said, his voice fading.
Dora and Ricky strained to catch any final words Edward might direct their way, but the only sound that was heard was the sound of a large brown Gypsy moth sizzling on the bug light, outside the window. It flinted there, sparking for a few seconds, burning on the electrical rods inside, until its ashy remains fluttered to the ground with delicate, light movements.
© 2006 by Brad Baker
Bio: Brad Baker lives in Onalaska Texas with his wife and two boys. He has published poetry in Grit magazine and stories in Speculative Fiction Centre. He has written four novels for which he is currently seeking publication.
E-mail: Brad Baker
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