a brief disturbing trip to the other world

Dear Uma: You know I am not down with the woo woo stuff; I am an unbeliever in the undead, suspicious of the seance, critical of the crystal ball. Lari took me with him, years ago, to an event featuring a "psychic." That evening nearly ended our friendsh

Dear Uma:

You know I am not down with the woo woo stuff; I am an unbeliever in the undead, suspicious of the seance, critical of the crystal ball.

Lari took me with him, years ago, to an event featuring a “psychic.” That evening nearly ended our friendship. I didn’t intend to enjoy myself quite so much, or so loudly, but even now, just remembering that gathering makes me smile hard.

Lesson learned, when my friend Cee gave me a tarot card reading for Christmas, I was appropriately grateful.

By this time I should know the town of Watson Lake to be full of surprises, but I confess I was freshly amazed to learn the village that is home to three active churches and a 1950s mindset also harbours a tarot card reader.

When my friend called to see if we could go together for our reading I could not but agree, the matter having gone so far from my mind as to have no viable excuse at the ready.

I approached this date with some trepidation; this was a relationship I did not want to jeopardize. Cee is the best friend I have here; she has lived here for 30 years and is not only an inexhaustible source of local folklore but has helped me many times to navigate the complicated and often treacherous social waters of the Lake. She taught me how to snowshoe, and it was Cee who prompted and encouraged my interest in cooking.

It was clear she was now prepared to share another aspect of herself with me, but how was I to survive the coming encounter without a repeat performance of my evening with Lari and his psychic? Surely, I was mature enough by now to sit through an hour of hearing stuff that many people, including some of my friends, are interested in without dissolving into childish giggles?

I would regard this event as research, I decided; I would take mental notes throughout, as though I were engaged in an assignment to write about the world of psychic phenomena. Brilliant.

The house was a perfectly ordinary house and the woman who answered the door was one whom I’ve seen many times around town, looking and behaving in a perfectly ordinary manner. No robes, turban, piercings or tattoos adorn this traveller to the Other places. She was of medium height and weight and had brown eyes and a good smile; her handshake was warm, her demeanor calm.

Inside, there were no visible charms or symbols. My curiosity was challenged; where was the evidence of this woman’s professed career? Where were hidden the tools of her trade?

It was decided our readings should be private, Cee going first.

I was given a mug of herbal tea and a choice of ordinary magazines to peruse while waiting in the ordinary living room. As soon as I was alone I did what I typically do when being professional—I embarked on a journey of discovery.

There were framed photographs to examine, and the bathroom medicine cabinet (always revealing). DVDs and CDs, books and magazines were clues, providing a comprehensive picture of a person’s interests and pursuits.

Knowing I had about an hour before it was my turn made my research leisurely; I was able to survey the contents of the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards.

It should be mentioned that writers don’t snoop; any activities that could be described as snooping, or having a clandestine or furtive aspect, come under the heading of research, a vital tool in the writer’s kit.

My reconnoitre revealed nothing extraordinary; I spent the remainder of my wait drinking the tea and flipping through a lurid issue of People magazine, soon becoming entirely engrossed in the big question of Jennifer Aniston’s angst: will she ever get over Brad Pitt, are her boobs real, or yet another attempt to get over Brad Pitt?

I was thinking they needed to be a whole lot bigger if they were meant to get over Brad Pitt, when I was brought back to reality by Cee telling me it was my turn to look into the future.

Entering the darkened room, all thoughts of enlarged mammaries were obliterated.

The only light was from a candle, the flame of which was flickering, though there was no draft to be felt. The small round table was covered with a dark silky cloth, some of which clung to my knees as I sat across from the reader.

It was the same woman who had welcomed us into her home; I recognized her, but she was now more of a perceived presence than a person. It was not a threatening presence; it was simply the sensation of being near some sort of energy, so strong it thrummed in the air.

There was a smell of incense; I felt the hair on my arms rise and my heart beat accelerated alarmingly as the cards were shuffled, the sound a whisper through the roaring in my ears.

She said something, asking me a question, her voice sounding disembodied. I nodded, wordless, and her two hands clasped one of mine as suddenly there was a pool of light from a small lamp, illuminating the table and my upturned palm.

Her touch was cooler than her handshake had been, her fingers tracing the lines on my damp hand. She began to speak, and Uma, she spoke my life! My childhood, my travels, the Accident, my career path—all were described, in some detail.

Just as I’d decided she wasn’t saying anything that couldn’t be learned by Googling me, her voice lowered and she began to talk about some things known only to myself and a very few, intimate friends.

By now there was nothing happening for me outside of this room; I was fascinated, and at the same time feeling a sense of fear and confusion, mixed with outrage, that comes when beliefs are challenged. I wanted to resist, but her words were not only accurately describing experiences that were mine, but the resulting feelings from those experiences that were mine alone.

How could this be? I felt exposed, and somehow betrayed, though by whom I had no idea. There was nothing criminal or terribly immoral or unethical revealed; I have had a fairly blameless life so far, but it was my life and my feelings about it, so who’d told her, and how? Or why? How could she possibly know this stuff from my hand?

I realized I had jerked my hand away. She didn’t try to grab it back; she said nothing more about me, but began to tell me about her cards and some of the history of tarot as she laid them on the table.

The card reading, too, was a revelation. There was more description of my past, and now some indications of my possible future, mostly relating to my marriage.

I am to be aware, and wary, of a young woman entering Pete’s life in the near future.

There was more, but my mind had stopped paying attention and had fastened onto the young woman.

Pete and I had known each other just three months before marrying, almost three years ago. From the beginning, our relationship has involved distances, lots of time apart; it was the nature of his work and my nature. I never questioned or even speculated as to whether or not those weeks away from one another meant Pete had “encounters.”

I don’t remember the rest of the reading, or what Cee and I talked about on the way home; all I could think about was the mysterious young woman who is out there somewhere about to rearrange my life, and Pete’s.

I went for a tarot reading, to please a friend, and to have a new experience and now I have a cheating husband?

Uma, what do I do? Is it time for a boob job? Should I have it before I have to get over Pete and maybe I won’t have to get over him?

I am in a new place here and need some guidance.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.