The woman took apprehensive steps into the single-wide trailer. When she closed the door behind her, the bell hanging from the door jingled again. The harmless sound startled her. Cynthia looked up from her reading, another pulp romance novel, and saw her newest customer. She was tall and thin. Everything about her was gray. Skin, hair, clothing, even the pensive look in her eye.
Cynthia set her book aside and stood from the old couch that had shaped to her form. She tightened the shawl over her shoulders, something more for uniform than comfort, and walked toward the woman. “Hello. Can I be of service?”
The eyes of the thin, gray woman darted in eager assessment. The stuffed owl, the dusty books, the animal skull and the dream catcher. All of these things were observed. “I don’t know,” she said. “I think so.”
Cynthia nodded. The new ones were always the same, afraid to admit to their wanting to believe in what they felt could only be a scam. “Shall we sit?” Cynthia asked, waving her hand toward a small wooden table, clean and hosting coasters and an ashtray.
“Yes,” said the woman, already relieved at being guided. When they sat, she set her purse atop the table, gray as well.
Her eyes kept scanning, taking in the residence, and Cynthia waited. Outside, trucks rolled down the highway, and her neon sign flashed the curtains with pink light. “What is your name?” asked Cynthia after a moment of waiting.
“Aren’t you supposed to know that already?” joked the woman with obvious nerves.
Cynthia smiled at the worn joke. “Perhaps,” she said with an innocent wink, “but I like to leave out the guessing when I can.”
Cynthia gave a polite smile. “Sarah, you don’t have to be here. I’m happy to have a customer, but I’m much happier helping those that are comfortable.”
Sarah chuckled. “It’s that obvious, is it?”
Cynthia nodded. Silence joined the two of them, a rare interval between semi-trucks.
Sarah shook her head. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I think I want to be here, but this is all very confusing.” Her eyes resumed their scanning, darting from object to eclectic object in an almost frenzied state. They only stopped once, undoubtedly on the taxidermied wolf head.
“What’s the trouble?” asked Cynthia.
Sarah’s hands fidgeted with her bag. “Is it okay if I smoke?” Cynthia nodded, and the woman quickly produced a pack with only two cigarettes remaining. She lit and took a long drag. The nicotine stains on her fingers blended into her gray skin.
“It’s my father,” Sarah said in a smoky exhale. “He killed himself about a year ago.”
“I’m very sorry,” said Cynthia.
Sarah waved her hand at the condolence. “Don’t be. He did it to himself, selfish prick.” She took another drag, longer than the first. “We were all obviously devastated when it happened. My mother—well, anyway, I won’t drag you down with the details. Do you charge by the hour?”
“I charge by services rendered,” said Cynthia with a polite smile. “The opening consultation, assuming it isn’t too lengthy, is always free.”
Sarah gave a hurried nod and snubbed out her half-smoked cigarette. “I’ll get to it then.” She folded her hands on the table in front of her. “I don’t think he’s gone.”
Cynthia paused for further explanation. None came. “Your father?”
“Yes,” said Sarah. “Things have been happening lately. For a few months now. Leading me to believe—well. You know.”
“Do you believe?” asked Cynthia after a small pause.
Cynthia adjusted one of the many rings on her fingers. “I’ve been doing this for many years, Sarah. The only thing that doesn’t require psychic powers is knowing when a skeptic walks through the door.”
“I don’t believe,” Sarah said in a whisper. “But that doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. These things… Things keep happening.”
“What would you like to do?”
Sarah looked down and began picking at her nails. “I want to talk to him. Tell him to go away.”
“Well, believe it or not, that’s something you can do on your own already. The next time you—“
“No.” Sarah said, interrupting. “I want you to make him go away.”
Cynthia’s eyes narrowed. “You want me to help him crossover?”
“Sure,” said Sarah with quick nods. “Yeah. I want him to cross over. Help him move on.”
Cynthia turned the ring on her thumb, a thick ring made of sterling silver and engraved with the world tree. “Very well. I can assist you with that. The rate is fifty dollars.”
Without hesitation, Sarah opened her purse and laid three twenty-dollar bills on the table. “Keep the change.”
Cynthia looked at the cash on the table, looked at the hurried look in Sarah’s eyes, and took the money. She turned in her chair and reached for a small incense stand behind her, gave it a light, and set it in the middle of the table. “If you’re alright with it,” Cynthia said, “I’d like to hold hands. It will help me contact your father.” Sarah surrendered her hands across the table, and when they came into Cynthia’s, they were very cold.
Cynthia closed her eyes and slowed her breathing. She relaxed her body, and a chill gradually came over her. It was not a comforting feeling. She realized then that Sarah’s father was already there. How he’d arrived without her noticing was surprising. Cynthia opened her eyes and saw the fear resting in Sarah’s.
“Jim,” Cynthia said, much to Sarah’s surprise, “I feel your presence here. Thank you for coming.” The room chilled further. Cynthia felt her pulse quicken and took a deep breath to steady herself. “Sarah wants you to move on. You’ve frightened her, Jim. Do you wish to frighten your own daughter?”
The response was immediate and strong. And painful. Cynthia’s hands twitched from it.
“What did he say?” asked Sarah, her eyes already wide with enthrallment.
“I—I couldn’t make it out.” Cynthia closed her eyes and exhaled, steeling herself to the powerful presence. “Jim, why do you remain with her?”
Because she. Killed! ME!
It was an ethereal scream only Cynthia could hear. She snapped her hands back in surprise and caused Sarah to jump in her chair.
“He’s here, isn’t he?” Sarah said in a panicky voice, rubbing at the goosebumps speeding up her arms. “I knew he was already here. Leave me alone!” she shouted.
“Stop,” Cynthia said. “Please. Yes, he’s here, but it’s important to stay calm. There seems to be a negative energy. Yelling only makes it worse.”
“Do we need to rejoin hands?” asked Sarah.
No longer in contact with Sarah, Cynthia could feel the heat returning to her body. “No,” she said, trying to sound sure of herself. “I can speak with him directly now.”
“What did he say?” Sarah squealed. “Why hasn’t he moved on?”
Cynthia held up her hand and silenced the frenzied woman. She was finding control again, but a coldness still lingered. “Jim, what are you seeking? What will help you find peace?”
The words hissed into Cynthia’s mind and made her eyes water. Despite her best attempts, she could not play it off. Sarah saw the reaction.
“What did he say?” Sarah asked.
“He said,” she swallowed, “he wants you to forgive him.”
Hate flooded in. I want her to die. Die.
A heavy cold pressed against Cynthia, and she swallowed hard. Her watery eyes welled over, and a single tear fell down. Trying to remain calm, her words muttered. “I’m sorry, Jim. There’s a darkness around you. What is it you need from Sarah?”
Cynthia jolted, unable to control the cold hate passing into her. Breath fled her lungs, and she tried to swallow. Sarah jumped up from her chair and clutched her purse to her chest. “What did he say!?” Her hand was already on the door. The bell hanging from it jingled with her racing nerves.
“Sarah,” she tried, but the word was choked.
Sarah screamed and flung the door open. In seconds, she was in her car and racing down the street. Cynthia stayed seated, bracing herself on the table, and waited for the episode to pass. With surprising quickness, the presence faded. It was as if the cold and the hate had rushed out the open door in pursuit.
Again, she was alone in her trailer. Neon pink flashed the curtains. Semi-trucks groaned by.
Some hours later, unable to sleep and watching the local news, she saw a report of an accident on the highway near her home. The driver was a woman traveling alone. For reasons unknown, she had lost control and rolled her vehicle while speeding. Her body had been flung from the car.
The newscaster told Cynthia what she already knew. Emergency crews had found the driver dead at the scene.