The seance took place in the back room of an occult bookstore in NYC. The room was large and drafty with painted black walls. The experience is stamped in my brain like a semi-lucid dream. I walked in and sat down in a big circle of chairs. In the middle there was an altar with several candles flickering and glowing. Once the lights were turned off, the candles were the only light source, filling the room with moving shadows, and lighting up the faces of the attendees in a teasing half glow. Outside it was raining steadily and we could hear the rain hitting the pavement.
I was in a receptive state, despite my skepticism about the ability of a medium to make contact with the dead. I do not know what happens after we die. I would like to believe that some part of our essence never dies. I have met old souls that I seem to recognize from another life and there was a time when I would stare at my own reflection for hours by candlelight, hoping to see my previous incarnations.
If the soul does survive death, why on earth would it want to hang around with the living? There are more questions than answers when it comes to the dead and to the supernatural in general. All we know is what we see, but even the eyes deceive. Perception, whether sober or not, is never 100% accurate. Our eyes have blind spots and our minds have blind spots. All I have is what I feel and see and what I can deduce with logic. I do not assume my perception is accurate because no one’s is. That said, I can only describe what the experience was like for me.
When the medium instructed that we focus on the candles and still our minds I instantly felt a whole new sensory dimension opening up. I was no longer in a strange room in the back of an occult bookstore. I was in a clearing under the stars in the deep of night. I could see myself sitting there, inwardly smirking as she talked to various people, feeling them out, sometimes missing by a mile and sometimes striking a chord. I was both anxious and fearful of her landing on me.
I felt like I was outside myself as I was inside. I saw the dead weights that clung around me, chaining me to my past, chaining me to my idea about myself. I felt my own existential confusion like a psychic wound upon my mind, clouding my whole reality and blocking my energy.
She finally landed upon me. I told her that I was scared of myself, that there have been many times that someone has wronged me, ever since I was a child, who would then experience either broken bones or public shamings. She said I had the energy of three people. The paranoia kicked in. I thought that meant I was possessed with evil spirits or the souls of dead people. She reassured me that I was not possessed. She was referring to my psychic energy. She said that if I focused I could do the workload of three people. She also said that I have mediumship abilities and if I could still my mind (she recommended jumping on a trampoline) I could do automatic writing.
I once again freaked out and said I did not want dead people energy running through my body. She said it wasn’t like that, in a tone both amused and exasperated at my extreme terror of possession by dead people. At the very least I brought some comic relief to a rather tense group.
Despite my paranoias about dead people entering my body I was beginning to feel some clarity about my own situation. I also got the odd feeling that I would probably be pretty good at this medium stuff. By using empathy, I can often tell what people want to hear. I got the impression that being a medium is 50% cold reading (reading body language, tone of voice, clothing, etc.) 40% empathy, and 10% tuning in to the ether. I could relate to everything she said, not just to me, but also to the other people. I could find a way to relate it to myself. Now, I don’t know if that is because maybe I am a narcissist or because I am just very open to symbolism. I felt like she was talking about my dreams and stories that I have written. I think when you feel connected, everything connects.
I could see there were people who were downright annoyed and felt she was full of shit. There was one woman in particular, that she kept returning to, saying she saw a dog and other animals surrounding her. The woman had no idea what she was talking about and said there had never been any animals in her life and that she did not have a dog. She kept returning to her saying she saw more and more animals and finally said that maybe it was from a past life, which no one could really argue with.
As a writer, I navigate in the land of what if’s. For me, this experience was like a really cool meditation. I did not see an angel or hear from my ancestors, but I did get a feel for my own internal state in a safe environment. Because I was in a situation where someone else was in control I was less scared about letting go and taking an honest inventory of the fears I was feeding and the monsters I was hiding under my own bed. I emerged from the seance both humbled and excited about unlocking my potential through meditating while jumping on a trampoline.
Leza Cantoral is the author of Planet Mermaid and editor of Walk Hand in Hand Into Extinction: Stories Inspired by True Detective. She writes a feminist column about noir film for Luna Luna Magazine called Shades of Noir and writes about pop culture for Clash Media. Her upcoming collection of short stories, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, will be coming out later this year through Bizarro Pulp Press. You can find her short stories at lezacantoralblog.wordpress.com Twitter @lezacantoral