Mystic Mordo’s is a local psychic shop tucked in between a nail salon and a shawarma shop. Most of the customers immediately notice the sharp contrast of acetone and roasted meat as they make their way through a doorway comprised of strands of glass beads that clank together announcing their arrival. The customer is met by a woman named Veruca. Her real name is Gina but she thought it sounded more Slavic and she loves the character in Roald Dahl’s book. She leads them through a small waiting room which is adorned with various items such as a fake shrunken head in a small glass case, various taxidermy including crows, ravens and other small birds, the claws of hawks gripping some kind of gems dangled off the walls. This is all to get the customers mind marinated before the show. The customer follows Veruca through a dimly lit hallway, with Veruca turning her head as she walks, a small black curl falls over her face as her large hoop earings wave back and forth. The look Veruca gives them is one that says: Are you sure you want to do this?
The customer is led into the room where a few candles burn and there is a smell of incense. Behind a small table Mystic Mordo sits with his head bowed as if he is almost asleep. His head is wrapped in a black Dastar turban.
“Please be seated,” He said without looking up.
The customer takes a seat, setting their pocket book on the floor.
Veruca leans over to the customer placing a hand on their shoulder.
“Enjoy the reading,” she said exiting.
There is a silence before Mordo lifts his head. His eyes are piercing as the light shines off his black twisted mustache.
“I can sense you have suffered a great loss recently. You have lost your grandmother Estelle,” Mordo says gazing into the woman’s eyes without blinking.
“I…yes. How did you know her name?” The woman asked.
“She is here with us.”
The woman has a shocked look on her face as she looks around the room.
“Is that why you’ve come here? To talk with her again?” Mordo asks.
“Yes. I wasn’t able make it to her before she died. I wanted to say sorry.”
Mordo raises his arms over the crystal ball on the table and the small orb begins to glow as he closes his eyes.
“Estelle says: Don’t worry child. I know you did your best. I am at peace now. I will always cherish the times we had at the lakehouse. You are such a strong swimmer. I will continue to watch over you my child.
“My God, how could you know that? Is she really here? I thought this was all fake,” The woman said.
“If you did not believe why did you come here?” Mordo said opening his eyes.
“I..I don’t know. I was trying to give myself some peace of mind even if it wasn’t real. I figured this was better than praying.”
“There are things beyond this world. Just because we can’t see them does not mean they do not exist. Most people only believe in what they can see. They only believe when something defies explanation. I am that bridge to the unknown.”
The woman sits with a terrified face. She thought she was going to walk out of here and laugh to herself how foolish this was. Now she is rethinking everything.
“Do not be afraid. I can see you are scared. This is natural. Just let your mind open and you will accept such things and over time you will see there is nothing to be afraid of. Be happy. Live your life. Know your Grandmother is safe and content,” Mordo said lowering his arms as the orb faded to black.
“Can you tell me how I’m going to die? Can you see that?” The woman said now even more scared.
“I cannot see your death. Even if I did I would not tell you. It would drive you crazy and you would never leave your home. “
“If you can see it please tell me!”
“What I can tell you is that you will live a full, long life. You needn’t be worried about death.”
“Is that it? Is that all you have to say?”
“That is all. Thank you.”
“Can you bless me or something?”
“When you leave Veruca will give you a Sai Sin bracelet. It is thread blessed by monks. Wear it for three days without taking it off and it will bring you luck and protect you from evil spirits.”
Veruca reappears as the woman begins to stand from the table. She places her arm on her shoulder and guides her toward the door. After the tying of the bracelet and farewells Veruca makes her way back to Mordo. Mordo removes the turban and throws it on the table and lights up a cigarette.
“Another day, another sucker. You’re getting sloppy Gina. I thought she was going to catch you putting her wallet back,” Mordo said.
“Relax Marty, you hired me for a reason. I’ve been picking pockets since I was 10 and haven’t been caught yet.”
“I caught you.”
“That’s different. I got a job out of it so I don’t consider it getting caught.”
Marty removes his ear piece and sets it on the table.
“We gotta get some new ear pieces. These are starting to get static and I lose your voice sometimes.”
“That’s what you get for buying them used on Ebay. You’re so cheap why don’t you just buy a new pair?”
“Do you know how much these cost brand new? Speaking of Ebay can you order some more of those Thai bracelets online while you’re at it. Nice work with the Grandmother. You found it pretty quick.”
“I just hopped on her Facebook and there it was. A tribute to her Grandmother with a photo collage of the two of them. The lakehouse was in a majority of the pictures. I usually don’t get so lucky. It takes me a couple of minutes to get some dirt.”
“I say we call it a day. I need a drink,” Marty said putting the cigarette out.
“I think that’s the last thing you need,” Gina said.
“Nobody asked you.”
“Screw you Marty, I know you’re dipping into my check to get booze. Just make sure you give me a whole paycheck this week.”
“Yeah, whatever. Lock the place up on your way out,” Marty says grabbing his hat and jacket exiting the store.
Marty’s first stop is the corner bodega where he buys a cheap bottle of bourbon and two packs of smokes and then back to his one room apartment.. As soon as the door shuts he breaks the cap on the bottle and takes a slug before he grabs a glass and pours it half full. The next ritual is to raid the freezer and pull out one of the microwavable dinners and pop it in for a couple minutes. He finds some standard sitcoms until the late show and by then the bottle is half empty and sleep takes him in his broken and tattered armchair.
It starts as flashes in Marty’s mind. The flashes have faces and objects in them. They start slow at first and then they start to speed up as if they were a slideshow on fast forward. Noises were the next thing but not just noise but what seemed like millions of sounds and voices from the street all combining into a cacophony of chaos. Marty wakes in a cold sweat and screams: SHUT UP! To the empty apartment. The flashes and the noise aren’t stopping as Marty pulls himself up and to the bathroom. He takes the Ibuprofen bottle, popping the top off, throwing 2 or 3 in his mouth and bends over putting his head near the faucet and laps the water to swallow the pills.
“Jesus, never had a hangover like this before,” Marty said steadying himself on the sink.
Marty stumbles out of the bathroom holding his head. He looks to the clock and realizes he slept the morning away and it was time to get ready to go to the shop. He takes the rumpled clothes from the couch he wore the previous day and puts them back on using the palms of his hands to try and flatten out the creases. By this time the visions and voices subside and Marty brushes his teeth before heading out the door. At the coffee shop around the corner Marty orders his usual small black coffee and when the baristas hand brushes against Marty’s a vision appears. He sees the barista trapped in a car. The windows are all smashed and the front end is folded up like an accordion. The barista is in the driver’s seat unconscious, covered in blood and glass. The vision is like watching a movie but the edges blur as if they were made of water. In the moment of the vision he loses track of time with the real world and doesn’t break out of the trance until he hears the barista asking him if he can move so the other customers can get to the counter.
Marty holds his coffee watching the barista. He can’t explain it but he felt something. It wasn’t a daydream. It felt real. As if he was there. He could smell the gas, and smoke of the crash. He wants to say something but why the hell would anyone believe him? He probably smells like booze and they’ll dismiss him as a drunk. He’s too hungover to deal with anything right now anyway so he just takes a small sip that burns the roof of his mouth and continues onto the shop.
He opens the door to the shop knowing Veruca is already there. She was always there before him. She was an early riser. God he hated those people, but he knew he only hated them because he hated himself for not being able to do it.
“You’re later than usual,” She said chewing gum and texting on her phone.
“I had a rough morning,” Marty said taking a sip of coffee.
“Yeah, you look it,” She said looking up looking up for a second before back to her phone.
“Can you humor me a minute?”
“Just give me your hand.”
“Can you just do it for me please?”
Gina stops texting and puts her phone down annoyed. Marty touches her hand and his mind goes white. At first he thinks he’s fine, that the coffee shop is a fluke but as the white starts to clear he realizes he’s looking at smoke and when the smoke clears a little he can see Gina on a floor, unconscious. The white is now offset with yellows and oranges as flames creep into the picture. They move closer and closer to Gina and then the vision is gone and he lets go of her hand.
“What is wrong with you? How much did you drink last night,” Gina says.
“I don’t know. I see things when I touch people.”
“Oh come on now. Are you messing with me right now? Your profession is a paychic.”
“This isn’t a joke, I swear. I don’t know but they seem so real.”
“What did you see when you touched my hand?”
“You were on a floor somewhere unconscious. You were surrounded by smoke and flames.”
“Ok, I think you need to lay off the sauce, you’re freakin’ me out.”
“I don’t think I can do this today.”
“No, no, no. You have to be here. I don’t get paid unless you’re here and I need to get paid. If you need some nips to get through the day I have a couple in my purse.”
“Give me all of them.”
Marty gets through the day one client at a time. He goes through the motions and does his usual shtick making sure not to make contact and downs a nip after they leave. The day comes to a close and he tells Gina to be careful and she says ok with an awkward look. On his way home Marty hits the bodega again and buys another bottle as his ritual dictates. Drink, eat, sleep and the cycle repeats.
He awakes, as usual, in his beat-up arm chair, but no voices or images. He sits wondering if it was all a dehydrated hallucination. With his morning routines complete he heads down to the coffee shop. He walks to the counter and is greeted by an unusual barista.
“One black coffee please,” Marty says.
The barista returns with his coffee and rings him up.
“Where is the guy who is usually here in the mornings?” Marty asked.
“He died last night,” The barista said.
“He was leaving the bar drunk, got into a head on collision.”
Marty turned white and began to sweat.
“You ok sir?”
“Yeah, just haven’t got enough caffeine yet,” Marty said throwing a couple of dollars on the counter before leaving.
“Sir you forgot your change,” The barista yelled.
Marty was already out the door.
As he made his way down the sidewalk towards the shop a distinct smell of smoke hit his nose. He felt sick. He couldn’t see it yet but he knew. Sure enough, a few blocks down, the flames were raging out of the windows of an apartment building. Fire trucks were parked along the street while the officers were keeping the crowd back. It wasn’t a coincidence. The barista and now this? He didn’t bother to go to the shop. What’s the point? No one was going to be there. He hit the bodega early and picked up a bottle wrapped in a paper bag. He found a seat on a bench down by the river and cracked the bottle open. Normally he would enjoy the taste. Today he just tried to get it down fast enough to forget.
As he felt the liquor warm his stomach he closed his eyes. A vision appeared. It was the same spot he was in now but there was wreckage everywhere. He could hear the hiss of something burning as the smell of leather and jet fuel filled his nose. There were bodies but he couldn’t make out their faces. He opened his eyes and looked at the river. Something about the water calmed him. It won’t be long now. He closed his eyes again and could hear the hum in the sky. He kept his eyes closed as the hum grew louder. He could hear people around becoming concerned. The hum grew louder. People began to scream. Marty took a pull from the bottle and smiled as the hum became a roar and everything became irrelevant as the noise swallowed the world.