The family had been trying to talk her out of it for weeks. They tried all the familiar arguments. Science has proven that this is bunk, they had said. You’re just opening yourself up for more heartache. It’s just a confidence trick, they told her. What did they know? She didn’t want to let it go. Mum had been so vibrant; so full of life. How could she have gone so suddenly? There was so much still left to say, so many questions in need of an answer. What did they know?
She crept out on a Saturday morning. Everyone was busy preparing themselves for Saturday morning activities of swimming and football. They didn’t give it a second thought as she slid out the front door. “Just off down the shops, won’t be long”. No one answered. She walked to the bus stop at the bottom of the road, praying that the bus would come before they put the puzzle together. Surely if they saw her they would know. She nervously fingered her change, rolling it around in her palm. The bus arrived. She paid and took her seat. A sense of relief washed over her. She had done it.
As her stop approached she felt a rise of acid reflux in her throat. Her stomach jumped and she regretted not picking up a bottle of water. Her legs felt wobbly as she rose to indicate she wished the bus to stop. She made her way to the door, and almost lost her footing as the bus halted. She got off, and made her way to the small shop opposite.
Opening the door she felt the warm incense-infused air hit her. Her throat dried, and she suppressed a wretch. A tall woman in a purple tie-dyed dress greeted her.
“Welcome, you have an appointment don’t you? You wish to know about your mother?”.
She straightened herself and spoke.
“Yes, that’s me, 10:30.”
The woman smiled.
“Of course. This way.”
She led her past the dream catchers and incense, the bongs and tarot cards.
“Please, wait here”.
She sat. The small room was covered in various occult pictures, and looked as though it had last seen a decorators brush thirty years ago. It was lit by unseasonal fairy lights and a tiny window with a whicker pentagram in its centre. It was musty and she worried that the smell on her clothes would be a tell tale, she would have to return home quickly to change. The door on the far side of the room opened, and a woman not dissimilar to the lady who had taken her there appeared. Was it her? She wasn’t sure. She was awful at remembering faces and worse since mum had gone.
“Please,” said the woman, “come in”.
The experience felt dream-like. Her mind swam as she was asked questions. From time to time she was told something that seemed to chime and she would nod her agreement. Finally the woman’s eyes seemed to flip into the back of her head, and the soothing questioning ended and her voice took on a rough and otherworldly quality.
“LOOK UNDER THE STAIRS”.
“LOOK UNDER THE STAIRS” she stated again before slumping forward.
Moments passed and the woman regained her composure.
“So my love, did you get any thing from that?” She enquired as though she had been completely divorced from the process.
“Oh. Yes, I think so?” The woman smiled.
“Good. Now you must know what to do.” With that she rose and showed her the door.
She still felt perplexed by the experience when she returned home. What had she expected? She went towards the kitchen to make a cup of tea. As she did so she walked past the under stairs cupboard. “LOOK UNDER THE STAIRS” it echoed in her mind. She popped the kettle on, and leant against the counter top, staring at the cupboard door. She checked the time. No one would be home for at least an hour. “LOOK UNDER THE STAIRS”.
She felt foolish. There was nothing in there but coats, shoes and a vacuum cleaner. She knew this, but yet she felt drawn. She thought she heard a scratch or a rustle from behind the door. She paused. Was it her or was the temperature dropping. She shivered. Her arm stretched towards the door. She clasped the handle. “What am I doing?”. She pulled the door wide open.
She stood open-mouthed. A dazzling light half blinded her, but as her eyes adjusted she could make out at first the silhouette, then slowly the familiar features. She tried to speak but nothing came out. Finally the figure spoke.
“Well? Are you coming in or going out? Shut that bloody door, you’re letting the heat out.”