I looked around the small office at the disorganized wooden shelves and pile of unopened boxes that sat on the floor beside the desk in the middle of the space. Mr. Stokes and my brother sat on folding chairs that Elizabeth Bennet had provided for them while I stood leaning against a counter that ran the length of the room. The shop owner was perched on the edge of the desk with the diaries that we had come to her shop in Bridgeboro to retrieve set beside her. The shop had gotten busy with customers so Elizabeth had encouraged the three of us to accompany her to the private office in the back where we would be able to continue our conversation without interruption, but I was getting restless and wanted to grab the diaries and head back home to study them. While I was interested in this woman and our uncanny bond, I was also agitated by the lack of new information I was receiving.
“Everything is energetically connected; plants, animals, minerals, people, the earth, the air, the water, fire, light, darkness, the sun, moon, stars, heat, sound, colors,” she gestured with her hands, “All things found within the natural world and the things that are manmade. Everything is connected.”
I nodded. I couldn’t argue with her words; they made sense to me, but I was annoyed that she was wasting my time discussing the things I already knew and understood when what I wanted to hear, what I needed to hear was how she knew about our missing time and whether or not she experienced it as well. Maybe this was a key as to how our families had become connected and why it had come to be.
She continued, “It is because of this interconnectedness that human beings are able to manipulate these energies to create change. If you have read any occult books that discuss magick then you are probably already familiar with this concept. The thing is … every human being is born with the ability to tap into this energy.”
“Everyone?” I questioned. I wasn’t sure she had this right. It seemed highly unlikely that my Mother had any such ability.
“Yes, everyone. It’s within our nature to tap into and utilize this energy,” Elizabeth explained. She shook her index finger, “but none of us do so in the same way. Each family bloodline has an innate way in which they are more easily able to do so and is it through this inherited ability that they create change or receive messages, guidance, and insight from the unseen realms of existence.”
“But if what you say is true,” Daniel countered, “then why don’t we hear about this sort of stuff on the news?”
My brother made a valid point. If everyone had these abilities then why did I feel like an outsider? Why were my parents and Dr. Worth convinced that I had a mental illness? Elizabeth’s words seemed much too fantastical to believe. They felt true, but I knew better than to always trust my own feelings; many times they led me to an unwanted dosage increase of my medication or a short stay on the psychiatric ward in the hospital.
“Skepticism is healthy. It’s important to always question things especially when dealing with the occult,” she smiled. “The thing is that some people accept and understand how to use their abilities, but others aren’t aware they possess them or they’re afraid of what they are able to do or hear or see. We are taught as children that everything non-physical is pure imagination, but that just isn’t true. Is it?”
Daniel and I remained silent.
“And lest we forget that some individuals are simply convinced that these abilities aren’t real, that they are just symptoms of mental illness,” stated Mr. Stokes, who had been silent since Elizabeth had shown the three of us into the small back office.
“Or that they are dark gifts or evil powers bestowed upon the individual because they are possessed or made a pact with Satan, himself,” she added. “But we know that is just untrue.”
“Well, maybe not dark gifts from Satan, but they are gifts from other … I don’t know, other gods or spiritual beings.”
“Yes,” I countered. “Always.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Well, why don’t we agree for the moment that it depends on the individual’s perspective of the Universe and how it works as to where the abilities originate. Does that work for you, Angie?”
Her suggestion seemed fair and I really wanted to move on from the current topic.
I shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”
“What about your family?” Dan asked. “Do they have abilities?”
“As I said ‘everyone does’,” she reiterated, “But not everyone recognizes them. For example, my brother Luke isn’t convinced that he has abilities. He’s more comfortable with logic, and facts, and truths. He’s a man of science and is a renowned cardiovascular surgeon, but he credits his success to years of studying human anatomy and his practical skill with a scalpel.”
I raised my eyebrows. “And it’s not?”
“Education and training were part of it,” she explained, “But our family’s precognitive tendencies and his spirit companion were the biggest influences even if he won’t acknowledge them.”
I was intrigued by her mention of a spirit companion and pondered the implication; was she suggesting that her brother had a familiar spirit or was she hinting at interactions with the Ancestors? I considered that it was possible that her family had a relationship with an ancient god or goddess similar to how my bloodline was indebted to Syn. Perhaps this was the strange feeling of kinship that I had with Elizabeth Bennet. The shared intimate bond was due to the fact that both she and I were human Valkyries of the goddess Syn.
“And what about you?” I asked.
Elizabeth reached out and grasped my hands in her own as she focused her eyes on mine. I returned her stare; the green, gold, and brown hues of her irises swirled around the pupils. We exhaled in unison and soon our breathing fell into resonance. I lazily blinked and when I reopened my eyes my sight had become clouded as images seeped into my mind unfolding an event that occurred miles from the shop, but appeared to be just a few feet before me.
I saw a reflection of me with my head bent down and right hand pressed against the doorframe of the morning parlor in my family home. An ethereal image of Aunt Rachel concurrently drinking a mug of coffee while looking at a magazine and sitting motionless while staring ahead towards the reflection of me sat on the Queen Anne sofa. My spiritual echo took a step towards the spectre of my aunt then looked over her shoulder in the direction where the foyer would have been in our home. As Aunt Rachel’s spectre brought the mug to its lips, it looked up from the magazine and smiled, motioning for my phantasm to join it, while it simultaneously sat immobile focused in the direction of the doorway. The projection of me released her grip on the doorframe and approached the spectre of Aunt Rachel as the scene shifted, as if the frequency of the event had been jolted by some invisible energetic volt.
The ghost of my cousin Christian appeared beside my reflection, but as I sat holding hands with Elizabeth Bennet, I physically felt the grip of his fingers on my forearm. I repressed the urge to vomit as an unseen force pressed upon my physical body and the familiar calliope of organic murmurs emerged from the depths of my mind. I watched as my reflection collapsed to the floor as both the spectre of my cousin and my aunt dissolved. The haunting moans, gurgles, and snarls of the primordial chorus morphed into arcane chants that tickled my physical ears and pressed against my mortal flesh and vibrated my bones. I knew the Ancestors were casting a spell upon my spirit and I felt primordial fear rush through my entire body.
I felt my eyes fill with tears as I watched an apparition appear in front of the Queen Anne sofa that my aunt’s wraith had previously occupied. The tears were not manifestations of my sorrow, though in that moment I understood where my aunt had gone and that it was unlikely she would be returning. I was overwhelmed by fear, fear of the apparition that had appeared before me. The power that radiated from her was both stunning and formidable.
My echo pushed herself into a sitting position as the screeching voice I recognized as Syn demanded that she stand with her eyes open. Wiping away the tears with the sleeves of her sweater, my reflection stood trembling as she gazed upon the apparition.
The dissonant voice of the Ancestors became rhythmic as waves of energy emanated from Syn and surrounded my doppelganger. The space between the two shifted as waves of heat and vibration expanded and contracted creating an energetic umbilical cord. A loud hum filled my mind as I watched my reflection fade and the apparition of Syn grow brighter and more dazzling until my mind was blinded by her brilliance.
I felt Elizabeth release my hands. The vision disappeared leaving me surrounded by blackness. I blinked a few times until the shop owner’s face and physical environment reappeared.
“That,” she explained, “is my ability. What’s yours?”