Contest #105 shortlist ⭐️

Lessons for a Medium in Training

Submitted into Contest #105 in response to: Write a story from the point of view of three different characters.... view prompt


Fiction Speculative

Just because someone is dead doesn’t mean that they know anything.

I know, I know. This is not a sentiment you expect to hear from a medium, but it’s absolutely true. And if you want to be a working medium, you need to understand this. Repeat after me- the newly dead aren’t any smarter than they were when they were alive.

Wisdom doesn’t come the moment your heart stops. It takes time and guidance. The problem is most of our clients want to talk to their loved ones soon after the death, when their grief is still fresh. They want to say the things they didn’t get to say when the person was alive. And this is fine. It’s good, actually. Verbally telling someone you love them or that you forgive them can be very healing. I’m just saying, don’t raise expectations that your clients will receive some big revelation.

Some of your future clients will think that the dead can do things like give them winning lottery numbers or reveal where grandma hid her super-secret recipe box. They can’t. They just died, and everything is very confusing for them. Usually they’re in a dream-like state. The things they say might even sound like someone talking in their sleep. My advice is to just roll with it. Often the ramblings have nuggets of meaning that will make sense to the clients. Pass along everything you can, even it if seems insignificant or nonsensical.

Any questions so far?


Dying felt a little bit like fainting, only I didn’t wake up to find myself still alive. I’ve passed out a few times in my life, so I know what it’s like. The first time it happened was when I gave blood in college and I got up too quickly. My vision suddenly narrowed and I went down like a rock. Next minute I was in a chair and someone was trying to give me a juice box. Death is sort of like that, but without the juice box. I fell, or at least I think I fell, and now I’m someplace else.


Of course, I had a ton of questions. Not the least of which was, “why am I doing this?” I have a real job. I have a master’s degree. I own my own home. I’m supposed to be normal. Now suddenly, what? I’m a psychic on the side? I shouldn’t be ashamed of this. I know that, but still. I haven’t told anyone at work. I haven’t told my family. What would they think if they knew? At the same time, I can’t seem to stop myself from going down this path.

I’m the one who sought out Philomena. I’m the one who asked her to be my mentor. I’m the one training to be a medium with the same attention and studiousness that I applied to my school work. I wasn’t suckered into this. I had asked for this. And tonight I’ll be hosting my first séance with paying clients. I’m excited and happy, but also sick to my stomach with nerves. I’m afraid that I won’t hear anything and that I’ll disappoint everyone. I’m afraid that I’ll fail completely.


I know you’re worried, but trust me, you’ve got this. Look, everyone assumes that what we do happens because of some sort of “gift”. I don’t like to think of it like that. Some people are good at art, some people learn languages easily, and others are good at physics or chemistry. You can say they have a gift for it, but I don’t think that’s right. It’s more of an inclination. Experts are experts because of perseverance and persistence. Talent only takes you so far.

You have an inclination for this work, and you’ve put in the time. You’ve studied and you’ve practiced. That is what you fall back on tonight- your practice. It’s not some nebulous gift that you have to hope will manifest. What you do tonight will be a result of the time you’ve put into this work. I’m here for you, but you won’t need me.


It’s always twilight here. Sometimes I pass through places that remind me of when I was alive, but they’re different. I’m not afraid. Not really. I’m feeling more numb than scared. It’s like I’m wandering around in a very strange dream, only I know I’m not going to wake up anytime soon.

There is one hallway that I keep coming back to, and one particular door. Somehow, I know it’s my door. I’m not ready to open it though. I have this sense that once I do, I won’t be able to go back. Back to what, I don’t know. This existence in the twilight? I can’t see anything clearly. It’s all shadows. Still, I’m not ready to leave, not yet.


I review my consultation notes. My first client is a woman named Tracy. Not surprising. Philomena had told me early on that most of her clients are female. Philomena also told me that people like to have proof that the medium is real. That is, they want to be provided information that no one else could possibly know, save for them and their deceased loved one. On one hand, this is frustrating, because it reduces our work to a side show, and I want no part of that. On the other hand, I get it. The clients are paying real money to us, and they are emotionally vulnerable. They want reassurance that this isn’t a scam.

Some mediums go into a séance not knowing anything about their clients. Philomena’s approach is different. She opts for complete transparency by holding a consultation session beforehand. She asks ahead of time who the client wants to contact and why. It’s not about trying to impress anyone with guessing games. It’s about communication pure and simple.

From the consultation I held last week with Tracy, I already knew that she recently lost her sister Denise in a car accident, leaving behind a husband and two children. The immediate family wouldn’t be present during the séance, but in addition to Tracy, their mother would be in attendance. Two friends of the family would be there as well. Four guests in total. Four people I could seriously disappoint. Why was I doing this?


Sometimes I’m able to find places that look familiar. This night, or whatever time it is here, I’m in a neighborhood that I think I can remember. And now I hear someone calling for me. It’s not a voice I recognize, but hearing my name reminds of when I was alive. I think of my family, and especially of father. I wonder, why haven’t I seen him here? I realize that he must have moved on, gone through his own door. My name! They’re still calling for me.


“Denise, if you’re with us tonight, please make your presence known.” We sit in the silence. My eyes are closed and the room is dark anyway, but I desperately want to look to Philomena for guidance. Does she sense anything? I’m sensing nothing. I’m empty. I’m going to let everyone down. My first séance is going to be a disaster, I just know it.

I try again, “Denise, your sister Tracy is here. She wants to talk to you.”

Quiet. Nothing but quiet, both inside and outside of my mind. I’m not sure what to do. Philomena squeezes my hand. I hear her voice in my head. Patience. I wait. I breathe in and out, slowly. I endure the awkward silence.

And then, something. I feel something. She’s here.

“She’s here,” I say.

I hear a gasp, although I’m not sure from who.

I speak again, “Tracy, what do you want to say to your sister?”

Tracy clears her throat, “I, um, I just want to say goodbye. And that I’m sorry for the times that I hurt you, and that I love you.” I pass the message on.

I hear Tracy sobbing. I hear Denise’s voice inside me, she’s sobbing too.

“Denise is crying. I’m feeling this amazing love from her. She’s asking if you will say goodbye to Jonathan and the kids.”

“Of course, of course.”

Then things begin happening quickly. I’m hearing Denise, and other sounds. I’m seeing images flash behind my closed eyelids. I try to describe everything. “There are mountains, and water, like a lake. I smell woodsmoke.”

I feel exhilarated. It’s almost like a high. I’m sensing so much. Denise is communicating with me. I don’t know what any of it means. It’s in all of my senses, rapid and unstopping. I have to remind myself to breathe.

Tracy’s mom speaks, “Summers at the lake house. Those were our best times when you both were little.”

“Yes,” I say, “There are good memories here. Now I’m seeing a forest trail, and pancakes in the morning. It’s all coming so quickly. There are so many good things that she wants to thank you for.”

I’m feel like I’m exploding with love. I’m doing it- I’m communicating with the dead, and maybe, just maybe, giving the living some peace. It’s a rush. In the darkness my face is warm and flushed.

Then, Tracy’s mom speaks, “Denise, I miss you baby, but I need to know, Aunt Therese, is she going to recover?”

I feel Philomena squeeze my hand again, a little firmer this time. I know what she’s thinking.

I also know what I should say. I should tell them that Denise can’t answer this question. I should gently move the conversation in a different direction. But I don’t want to. I’m on a roll. So much information is coming to me. Maybe Denise can tell us. I really want to press on with this.

I’m about to ask her.

And then…

Then I feel like I can hear three voices at once.

I hear the voice in my own head.

And Philomena’s.

And Denise’s.

Three voices with one simple perspective. It’s the first lesson for a medium in training. I do the right thing. I pull back and don’t ask. But I keep listening, and slowly I understand that the lesson is not completely true. The dead do know things.

But now I think that there is perhaps a better lesson. Simply put, not everything the dead know needs to be shared.

August 05, 2021 16:07

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Amarillis G
16:15 Aug 20, 2021

I really loved you story. The descriptions are amazing. Congratulations for being shortlisted.


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Cathryn V
02:54 Aug 19, 2021

Hi Carrie, What a great story! you pulled me in with the reflection and descriptions, good tension too. i found myself trying to read faster to find out what happened. Well deserved win. Congratulations!🎉


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Amanda Lieser
17:21 Aug 16, 2021

Carrie, I loved this story. You used some incredible imagery to capture the medium’s experience, her clients’, and the spirit’s. I thought you did a beautiful job of bringing to life the magic of the séance. I also loved how peaceful this story way. I loved the way you weaved the intense experience with a happy ending. Thank you for writing this story and congratulations on getting shortlisted.


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Tinu Baby
15:34 Aug 13, 2021

This is beautiful


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