by Artemis Greenleaf
Please join the Space City Scribes for “The Nuts and Bolts of Indie Publishing” presentation at Maud Marks Library in Katy at 10:00 AM on Nov. 8, 2014. A book signing at Katy Budget Books will follow from 2:00 – 4:00.
“You know what they say about Halloween, right?” Missy asked.
“What’s that?” Jacob replied.
“That the barrier – I think it’s called the veil – between the world of the living and the world of the dead thins enough for ghosts to get through. You think that’s true?”
Jacob signed quietly, more of a gesture than a sound. “I wouldn’t count on it. I know how much you miss your sister, but…well, I just hate to see you get your hopes up for nothing, that’s all.”
Missy fidgeted, and a frown flickered across her face. “There has to be a way. You hear about people seeing ghosts all the time.”
Jacob reached out and stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers and gave her a half smile. “Come on,” he said, reaching for her hand. “We spend too much time here, and it only makes you sad.”
“I wanted to be here when they installed the grave marker, wanted to make sure it was right.”
Jacob nodded. Missy took his hand and got up from the metal bench that overlooked the family cemetery plot, running the fingers of her other hand over the top of the granite tombstone as she passed it.
“You’re probably right. We should go.”
By early afternoon, Missy had an appointment with Madam Celestina. She seated herself at a round wooden table in a cheery room with antique pictures on the wall. A smoky quartz crystal ball the size of a large grapefruit glistened in a shiny black stand in the middle of the table.
Jacob had refused to come.
“I need to talk with someone on the other side,” she told Madam Celestina.
The psychic advisor leaned forward, and the large jewel in her red satin turban glared at Missy like the eye of an ancient idol. “It can be done. But there are no guarantees,” she replied. “It makes a difference if the person you wish to contact also wishes to contact you.”
“I’m certain my sister would want to hear from me.”
The psychic raised an eyebrow. “Perhaps. It is easiest, then, to make contact in the dark before the dawn. Sometimes, it may help to go to a favorite place of your loved one. Don’t be too disappointed if she doesn’t respond. She may not be able to hear you.”
“Could you try something like a séance?”
The psychic shook her head. “Séances and Ouija boards are more effective for contacting localized entities – those just hanging around or passing through the area – rather than specific individuals. I have also found that when people are in a hypnogogic state, they are most receptive to messages from the other side.”
“I’m sorry. Hypno what?”
“Hypnogogic. That’s when you aren’t really awake, but you’re not really asleep, either.”
Missy nodded. “I never know that had a name.” She looked down at that table and traced the wood grain pattern with her finger. “My sister, Linda, was due to have a baby, when the accident happened. I was already feeling bad because I had scheduled the shower so late, and Jacob and I had just picked up the invitations from the printer on our way out to dinner. Then everything’s kind of a blur. I think the police said the driver was drunk, but I can’t quite remember. So many things happened that day – I just get confused about everything.”
The psychic touched Missy’s hand. “I know. Sometimes death seems so unfair, and we have a hard time understanding it. But it is possible to make contact across the veil. It may take some practice, however. When you wish to make contact, you must focus on the person you seek – much like tuning in to a radio station. If it makes you feel their presence more, you can go to one of their favorite places.”
“Thanks,” Missy said as she stood up to leave. “I appreciate the help.”
“Feel free to contact me any time,” the psychic said. “Have a blessed day.”
“Perhaps we’re just early.” Missy frowned and looked around the park. “I can’t understand why no one is here. There is always a barbecue on the Saturday after Franco’s birthday. Always. I would think that this year, it would be even more important than ever to have family and friends around to remember the dead.”
Jacob squeezed her shoulder. “Not everyone grieves the same way, Missy. It might be more painful than helpful to do it so soon after the funeral.”
Missy turned to Jacob. “Maybe. Besides, no one specifically said anything about having the barbecue at any time during the wake or after the funeral. It’s always done. I just assumed…”
“You know what they say about assuming.”
Missy whipped her head to the left. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Jacob turned his head in the direction that Missy stared.
“There was a movement – a shadow – off to my left. There’s nothing there now, though.”
“I didn’t see anything.”
Missy scanned the area before turning back to her husband. Her head jerked away again, this time to the right. “There it is again!” She pointed over his shoulder. “Do you think it could be Linda? Mabye she knows I’m trying to contact her.”
Jacob shook his head gently. “Maybe. I didn’t see it, though. It could also be your imagination working overtime because you want to see your sister so badly.”
Missy scowled at him. “Just because you don’t think I can reach across the veil and contact Linda doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”
Jacob’s eyes tracked left, and he turned his head.
“You saw it, didn’t you? That shadow moving just at the corner of your eye.”
“There’s nothing there.”
Missy gave him a sly smile. “Sure. Of course not.”
Jacob ran his hand through is hair. “Look, no one’s coming. We should probably have tried to confirm this thing before we came all the way out here. I think we ought to go home.”
Missy smiled as she slipped her hand into his, and they left.
“It’s Halloween today. Maybe it will work this time.”
“Missy, I’ve been trying to humor you, because I know how much you miss Linda. But this has got to stop. This obsession just isn’t healthy.”
“I don’t need you to tell me what to do,” Missy snapped. “I’m going to contact my sister, whether you like it or not. You don’t have to participate.”
“I’m not trying to boss you around. I just think you’re too close to this and you aren’t being objective. You’ve put so much effort into crossing the veil that I’m concerned about your mental health.” Jacob squeezed her hand. “Linda was like the sister I never had. I miss her, too. But I love you, and I don’t want to lose you as well.”
Missy regarded Jacob for some time. “Perhaps you’re right. I want to try tonight, because I think it’s my best chance of making contact. But maybe after that, we should go. Leave this place. There are too many memories here, to many reminders…”
Jacob put his arms around Missy, but she wasn’t comforted.
Late afternoon shadows stretched across the grass as Missy and Jacob sat on the wrought-iron bench in the cemetery.
“Are you sure this is the right place? Seems to me like an odd place for her to come,” Jacob said.
“She’ll be here. I can feel it.”
In the near distance, a car door slammed, then another. Footsteps crunched on gravel. Muted voices. A baby crying. Silence. Missy sat forward on the edge of the bench, expectant.
No one came.
The orange sun kissed the western horizon, and the shade of the cemetery trees deepened into shadow.
Soundlessly, a pale figure moved down the paved walkway toward Jacob and Missy.
“Jacob, look! It’s Linda.”
He nodded. “So it is.”
Missy rose and moved toward the bare soil of the grave, her hands resting on top of the granite headstone.
The gate creaked as Linda pushed it open. She looked so pale in the dusky light that Missy felt a twinge of sorrow. Linda carried a bunch of white roses in her left hand.
“Linda!” Missy called.
Linda looked around, but didn’t stop. She knelt down at the headstone, dropping the flowers at its base. Then she pulled a soggy tissue out of her pocket and dabbed at her eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to go into labor the morning of the funeral. I wouldn’t have missed it if I hadn’t been in the hospital. But you would love your niece. She is so beautiful. Well, maybe her hair is a little wild. But we’ve named her Melissa Jacqueline, after you and Jacob.”