After much finagling with the manager over a coupon for quarter rates, Jan was able to procure the conference room at the Days Inn in Lakewood, Ohio. Her trip to the Cleveland area had been just short of a complete disaster. First, her luggage was lost by Delta. Luckily she had placed Quimby and an outfit—though calling her yoga clothes in outfit was stretching it—into her carry-on. Everything else was gone. Candles, crystals, tarot cards, shawls, oils, runes, mat, planchette, ouija board, trumpet, bowls, and pendulum—all of it. Then her rental car got egged by a trio of imps. She would’ve placed a hex on the middle-schoolers but, without her runes and trumpet, she had to let them escape unpunished. Lastly, there wasn’t one psychic, astrology, or divination shop in all of Cleveland. The list she had found online was full of lies. Each shop had been possessed by some incubus—demons like Ace Hardware and Taco Bell. After picking up what supplies she could in the little time before the séance, she prayed in her yolk-covered rental to Gaia for her trials to cease.
Jan unrolled the gauze bandages for her summoning mat on the conference room carpet. The event had been going well thus far. The twelve attendees seemed fairly interested in her teachings, making Jan believe the behind-the-wheel prayers to Gaia were working. They now sat patiently in the metal fold-out chairs as she prepared for the séance portion of the program. It was 2:30 so she was going to have to speed things up—she only had the room rented until 3:00 when preparation for a local seniors dance that evening was to begin.
“Would someone please dim the lights?” Jan asked, removing Quimby, the skull of her mentor, which she used to connect with the spirit realm.
The attendees looked around at one another before a tall man with stringy red hair and painted nails got up and went to the lights.
“There’s no dimmer switch.”
“Ok. How about lights off?”
The man turned off the conference room lights. It was pitch black. Jan tripped over her CVS bag of supplies and crashed down on the carpet.
“Shit. On, please!”
Jan collected herself. She requested the attendees assemble their chairs in a circle around her, hold hands, and close their eyes. She got down on the floor and into position. The gauze mat clung to the sweat on her back. She made a silent prayer to Gaia. With Quimby on her Sacral Chakra, she closed her eyes and began the séance.
“If there is anyone from the spirit realm who would like to contact the land of the living, the window is open for you,” Jan said, the fluorescent lights burning through her lids and beginning to give her a migraine. The attendees sat quietly.
Minutes passed before Jan heard a swish. From the same corner of the room, a wavering voice said, “Hello?”
“Hello, Spirit,” Jan said, relieved that things were working for once. “What would you like to communicate to the land of the living?”
“Am I early?”
“No, Spirit, the time is perfect.”
There was jingling and shuffling. The Spirit was approaching, Jan could feel it.
The Spirit stopped before Jan’s feet. She heard it take a deep breath.
“Are you sure I’m not too early for the dance?”
“The dance…?” Jan said, opening her eyes. Before her was not a spirit—well, maybe a soon-to-be—but a stout elderly woman in a lavender dress, bracelets lining her wrists.
“Oh, dear,” the woman said, staring at Quimby in Jan’s lap. “I am early.” The woman shuffled back out of the conference room.
Jan sighed, tried to pull it back together. “Ok, everyone. Let’s try this—”
“Mam?” It was the hotel manager now, from the same location the woman had first spoken from: by the door. “It’s three o’clock.”
The attendees looked down at Jan, showing, for the first time that afternoon, the awe of revelation.
“You heard the spirit,” Jan said. She unlatched Quimby’s dome and gazed inside his empty skull. “It doesn’t want me here.”