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Mystery Fiction

Maybe I Was Punished

I’m sitting in the high-backed seat – the cover a shiny material laced with some kind of sheer fabric. Gold brocade cushions are under my backside  – but they are certainly only for the look, (Middle Eastern and mysterious) as it’s like sitting on a square brick, and the seat of the chair is so high I have a small box underneath my feet so they don’t ‘dangle’ in the air! My brother said it is like walking into the reception of a ‘high class brothel’ (I wonder how he knows that?) The tent is quite warm but I can feel a slight breeze coming in through the flap and it touches my face and brings me to life – when I’m bored I’m sleepy.

I have just put my trashy novel away before my first ‘client’ or should I say ‘victim’ arrives and I bring forward the book sitting on the table title ‘Afterlife and the joy of contact’….

Outside in the sunshine all the fun and excitement of the fair is under way. An assortment of farm animals, food and drinks; hamburgers and chips and airy fairy floss, and the smell of coffee wafts from the van, the strong smell enough to keep me awake!

Games like the one where you can win a massive stuffed toy for firing your five corks into a bucket are under way – the prize too big to fit anywhere in the house but carried around the show grounds with pride. (A few days later it’s in the bin – a dust collector and of no use). But there is laughter, merriment and money changing hands.

The bell outside my big tent rings and I call “Come in” in a sweet and soft tone. I wipe the crumbs away from around my mouth, thinking ‘I needed that sausage roll’!!  

“Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Is there anything in particular you would like me to tell you, or just a general read for you my lovely?” I say to the slim young lady sitting in front of me. She seems nervous and looks around. Her eyes settle on the different sized crystal balls I have sitting on the shelf behind me. The big one has a light inside it and looks magical as it changes colour – five dollars from the internet, and a bargain.

“Oh just a general reading please” she says quietly, twisting her fingers.

“I sense you are a little nervous. No need to be. If at any stage you wish me to stop with the reading please tell me and I shall cease straight away. Am I correct in assuming that this is the first time you have been to see a clairvoyant? (Nine times out of ten you can tell!).

“Yes it is my first time. My mother says it’s a load of rubbish and a waste of money and I shouldn’t be sucked in – she was angry at my father when he had a reading at the county fair last year, but that’s not unusual! I think I do believe – (and she paused and took a deep breath) as I always have a feeling when I pass by a fortune teller at a fair, or a tarot reading shop. It’s funny but I don’t know why that happens. Do you?” and she turns to gaze at me with enormous brown eyes as if I have the answer!

All I was thinking was “How the hell should I know”. Instead I told her “Put your hands out in front of you on the table, face up and we will start”.

I guessed her age to be about sixteen and she sounded quite bright from the way she spoke so I started with “You’re still at school and doing very well there”

“Yes I’m in my final year and I did get really good marks at the end of year exams last year”.

“You still live at home then?” I ask them questions until they stop answering!

“Yes with my parents and a sister”.

“I get the impression that your mother is rather over bearing – if you don’t mind me saying so?”

“Yes she is and sometimes I think my father is scared of her”

“Oh you’ve jumped ahead of me – that was the next thing I was going to say, about your father!”

“Oh sorry” she apologised. “I’ll try not to do that”. And she gave me a timid smile.

But I was hoping she would do it a few more times!

I thought she wasn’t the type to have a boyfriend so I took that tack with her “I feel that there is no one special in your life at the moment, but this year you will meet a rather handsome boy”.

“I was hoping you would say that, because there is a really nice guy at school I like”,  and she relaxed back into the chair at hearing this.

I knew I was in now! So I carried on with confidence.

She looked pretty fit and healthy to me so I tell her that she will continue to have good health for much of the foreseeable future, and she embraces this news with relief. “Oh that is so good to hear because I have been having a lot of trouble with my knees and I’ve been picked for the state netball team, but now I know I’m not going to have any health issues makes me feel so much better”.

‘Gullible’ I thought.

“Well the foreseeable future doesn’t have a determined timeline, you do realise?”

“Yes I realise that but will I do well in the team though?” the girl asks with hope.

“Umm, I can’t see any reason why not” and I left it at that!

She began to fidget with her hair, plucking up the courage to ask me “Can I ask you about my friends then?” and with the way she pulled a face and spoke with a negative tone when she said ‘friends’ made me think that she was having trouble with them.

“You mean some of the friends who are giving you grief?” I asked her, waiting hopefully for a positive response.

“Yes those ones. Can you tell me, please if Maeve, maybe just the letter ‘M’ is leaving the school?” and I could tell me she was desperate for me to say ‘Yes’!

“Well I can see the girl leaving from somewhere – does Maeve have long dark hair? (this will be a good guess if I get it right but the name does sound Irish…a dark haired colleen?).

“Yes, that’s her, that’s Maeve, the vixen” she spat out the words.

*I could feel my watch vibrate and I looked down in the pretence of closing my eyes, head bent to channel whatever ‘I’m supposed to channel’…

“Mmmm that is very interesting; I can feel a message coming through- I’m being directed to connect in the adjoining section of the tent. ( I was hoping she would forget about Maeve while she waited). Will you excuse me for a moment please”.

I walked through the beaded ropes, eyes closed as if in a  trance, and into the tiny area next to the ‘reading room’ annoyed. “What do you want? I’m working” I whispered very loudly.

“Working, ha!” sounded the reply from the other end of the phone. “Can you give me the two fifty dollars you owe me today? I need to pay mum the rent I owe her and I promised I would post it to her tomorrow”.

“Yes” I spat out as quietly as I could “But you’ll have to come around tonight and get it. Now go away”.

“I am so sorry about that but sometimes I feel connections from another area and I have to go where the feelings take me” I Mumbo jumboed my way out of the situation and followed up with “It was a message from a relative who has since passed – do you know anyone with the name starting with the letter ‘C’?” I asked her.

She sat thinking and suddenly blurted out “It could just sound like a ‘C’…I have an Auntie Katherine who died a year ago. She was my favourite Auntie. Could it be her?”

“Hold on a moment, I am getting another message through….yes it is your Auntie Katherine. She said to tell you that she really misses you and loves you very much” I said trying to sound quietly sad and sincere.

“I’m feeling your Auntie’s presence now – she’s in this room with us and said to let you know that you will be in that State netball team without a doubt”. I had a sneaky look from under closed lids at the girl sitting opposite me. Her face showed delight in knowing that her Auntie was not only here with us but was the ‘bringer of glad tidings regarding the state netball team!

I felt my watch vibrate silently and glanced down and saw that the timer had gone off. I stood up saying “Well that’s all we have time for now, but of course you can always come back while the fair is here – we have another two weeks to run”.

She held out the fifty dollar note and I took it, putting it in the tin inside the drawer. “I don’t suppose you’ll want a receipt will you my dear?”

“Oh well, I don’t think so” she replied, not really knowing if she needed one or not, but why would she? You couldn’t get your money back if the expected didn’t happen or if the unexpected did!!

As she walked through the opening she turned around and said “Thank you” and then added, with a quizzical look on her young face “Where do the spirits go when they’re not talking to people?”

“Oh I’m as much in the dark as you are about that one. I tell you what, I’ll try and find out and when you come back for another reading I’ll let you know if I can. Alright love?”

“Yes, that would be good”.

“How would I know where the spirits go?” I said out loud as I retrieved the fifty dollar note from the tin and put it in an envelope with the rest of the notes to give to my brother.

Poking my head outside the tent I see someone walking towards me who came in for a ‘reading’ yesterday. ‘Now what was her story? What rubbish did I tell that one?” I am trying to recollect before she reaches me, but too late…

“Hello. I just wanted to come by and thank you” she said in a high pitched voice.

“Oh really” I say to her, just remembering all of sudden what I told her yesterday – something about good fortune and all that stuff!” And what for may I ask?”

“Well” she squeaked “yesterday you told me that a lot of luck was coming my way…you know, when I had the reading”

“Yes - I knew straight away what you were coming over to see my about. In fact I knew early this morning when I was awoken by the spirit of ‘good fortune’. She told me all about it and of course I knew you would call today. I am delighted for you” I said, having no idea whatsoever what I was so delighted about, and was just waiting for her to tell me!

“Oh I knew straight away when the phone rang that Cleopatra had been found. I just had a feeling, a bit like when you slide into a hot bubble bath; it’s tingly and a bit shivery both at the same time. Do you ever get that feeling, or do you just hear and see things?”

“Umm, no never, not that feeling, just the seeing and hearing of spirits and the light of good and evil” I said to this strange woman who had obviously just found her friend or relative.

“They brought her home to me, and she just gently rubbed her whiskers all over my face” she continued.

“This woman is a weirdo” I thought

 “I didn’t just give her cat food; I gave her salmon, tinned salmon”.

“Oh yes, I remember now. She’d lost her cat!”

“Well I am so happy that good fortune came your way. Now if that’s all? “I said rudely, trying to get rid of her.

“Oh no, that’s not all. The best is yet to come……I won seventy thousand dollars in the lottery last night! I have never won anything. I’m just not usually lucky, but thanks to you…two things in one night. How lucky can one get? “and to say thank you I thought you might like this” and rummaging in her bag she pulled out an envelope and I assumed with some money in it…(it’s good to share!).

She handed it to me and I quickly opened the top of it and pulled out…a photo!

“I took a picture of Cleopatra for you. It’s a keepsake of your amazing powers and knowing she would come back to me. You must have so many photos from happy customers but I just wanted to show you my appreciation” and with that she turned and left.

Stunned I walked back into the tent, muttered that she was a ‘tight fisted old miser’ and ripped the photo of Cleopatra into tiny pieces.

I couldn’t be bothered doing any more work for the day after that, so shut up shop, dropped the money off to my annoying brother and went home.

It was the strangest thing, and at first I thought I was dreaming but soon realised, when standing at the kitchen sink with a glass of water in my hand that I was wide awake.

I couldn’t shake off the feeling I had – it was like butterflies in my stomach, tingles (yes just like the strange lady yesterday) all through my head and a heavy feeling of impending doom. I’d never felt like it before.

I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea, thinking that maybe I had been dreaming, no, having a nightmare, and this was just the tail end of the feelings from that.

As I sat down outside in the fresh air drinking my tea, I wondered if all of the ‘doom and gloom’, lies, deceit, absolute rubbish that I had been telling people, unsuspecting and gullible people, had finally taken its toll on my mind? I had been doing it for a long time now. “Maybe time to give it up” I said aloud to myself. But I couldn’t shake ‘whatever it was’ that seemed to be penetrating my head and mind. As I stood up to go inside I saw the outline of a person walking in front of me. I couldn’t take my eyes off the silhouette because it looked like my mother. “Mum” I yelled out loudly, feeling really scared and as if I wasn’t actually here but looking through someone else’s eyes. She didn’t turn but walked through my back doorway.

“Mum” I screamed and ran after her and into the kitchen. There she was asleep in a chair. Her soft white hair lay around her face and her bright blue eyes were open and staring across the room. I walked up to her and touched her arm gently and she moved her head to look at me. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and my hand moved down her arm to her wrinkled hands that lay in her lap. Stroking one of them I was still staring at her, not knowing what was really happening, when she quietly said to me “I love you my beautiful girl” and she closed her eyes.

I was panicking now, feeling for a pulse, listening to her chest, feeling for air coming from her mouth or nose, but there wasn’t any. A bright white light shone through the curtains and I looked at it for about ten seconds, turned back to my sweet mother, but she had gone.

My mind was numb. I didn’t even know what had just happened – was it actually real? “Have I gone mad?” I screamed out.

Suddenly I was brought back to the reality of where I was when my phone rang. I grabbed it off the table, shaking, and held it in my clammy hand as I said quietly “Hello”

My brother was on the other end “Hello Sis. I have some bad news. Are you sitting down?” he asked in a sad tone.

“I know John. Mum just passed away” and I started to cry.

“There was a stunned silence at the other end of the phone and then it was broken with “Who told you?”.

January 07, 2022 22:31

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1 comment

Vie L'cast
10:40 Jan 13, 2022

Hi Valerie. Thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed it. I found myself speed reading towards the end trying to guess what the eerie feeling meant. I think you did a really great job at describing that weird, gut pull that lets you know something is about to happen. I like the visual of walking behind your mom as if in a dream but still feeling realistic enough to be off-putting. I think you did a fantastic job at detailing how someone can make pretty accurate assumptions about our lives based on small giveaways we deem inconsequential....

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