Reaching Out
by P.S.Gifford
forum: Reaching Out
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Reaching Out


       I have always held a fascination with the after life…Ever since my mother unexpectedly passed away when I was just twelve years old. I had a hard time believing she was gone, that she would leave me and my father and I was determined to uncover any such way that exists to speak to her. From this morbid curiosity a career was started, well of sorts. Never quite accomplishing my goal of speaking to the departed I took upon myself to study the art of illusion instead. This, I am not ashamed to admit; actually afforded me a rather pleasant standard of living, and I became well traveled and quite famous.

       Still my fascination with the afterlife remained. I studied every text I could find upon the topic. I noted that several people were getting considerably richer than I by performing séances. I felt that it was my duty to either discover if they were real or, as I suspected, merely charlatans. Fakers and opportunists you must understand were not only getting incredibly rich from taking advantage of poor people who had recently lost a love one, they were also discrediting any factual basis to the genuine science of contact with the after life.

       So over the last several years I have traveled often the width and breadth of this great country of ours and encountered numerous so called mediums. Some of them had been incredibly convincing in their performance, I was hopeful that finally I had uncovered the genuine article, yet I was always able to decipher the methods used for the swindle. Invariable it was nothing more an assembly of clichéd parlor tricks. I wanted desperately to uncover the genuine article. You see, there is absolutely no reason for any of us to accept spiritualism, which is indeed contrary to all our natural experiences and beliefs, unless we have unadulterated and tangible evidence.

       On this particular evening I had traveled to Chicago, to a small almost derelict office building. I had come to learn of this particular medium through a solid and trusted acquaintance of mine of many years, a certain Joshua LeBlanc, Joshua who is a man of law and sound reasoning, whom I trust completely, had with excitement in his voice brought to my attention this particular fellow. Joshua had elaborated of how he had been completely astounded by the fellow's seemingly uncanny abilities. They had been lead up several flights of stairs then ushered into a small room, which was set up with a make shift stage, and about two dozen various chairs, the room, I was informed, was bolted from the inside, and heavy drapes were hung over the windows. A solitary candle was lit, and overhead lighting was extinguished, apparently creating an eerie glow on the face of our medium. Within moments, he began to hum quietly, the room was spellbound, and all eyes were mesmerized by the gentleman's curious antics.

       Before long, the candle's flame began to dance, and a cold gust filled the room. Then the medium began to whisper, in a deep, almost inhuman voice… "Is there anybody there…Is there anybody there?" All at once there was a haunting sigh and a whispery "yes, I am here…"

       "Who are you?"

       "I am none other than Edgar Pokes."

       Upon that response, came a disturbing shrill shriek from the seats, as a lady dressed in black began to gently whimper...

       "My beloved Edgar is that really you my darling?"

       Everyone turned to the direction from where the voice came, there was barely enough light to make out the shadow of a figure…

       "Yes it is I Mildred…It is I…I am here to let you know that I am finally free of pain, both in the physical body and of mind. Mildred I am at peace with myself, and please know that I shall always be with you…always…always…always…" the voice had apparently got softer and softer until it was nothing more than a memory, then the flame of the candle flickered violently and went out leaving the room in total darkness.

       Moments later the overhead lighting was once again turned on…To find the door still bolted from the inside, and the medium looking exhausted upon his platform.

       Joshua elaborated me that Mildred stood up and informed everyone that she had recently lost her husband in a hunting accident, and for years he had been inflicted with painful gout, and that she was convinced that it was indeed his spirit that came to visit. I could discern by the gleam in my friend's eye that he also believed what he saw to be factual. As for myself I wasn't so confident that Joshua's account all was at it appeared. I was so enraptured by his account that I instantly had informed him to make all the arrangements for me to see him with my own eyes.

       This happened several more times, as several other manifestations apparently occurred, each with a message for an audience member, and each time the relative was convinced it was their loved one.


       Three weeks later I too arrived in Chicago. Joshua had arranged for me to travel under the pseudonym of Cedric Harrison, a successful New York businessman who had very recently lost his business partner, his oldest brother to pneumonia.

       A small crowd of about ten people stood standing at the appropriate address, at nine in the evening. It was a particularly chilly evening and the notorious Chicago wind bustled about us... I was curious as to why such a successful medium would chose to operate in such a seedy, run down building such as the one I was now scrutinizing. In due course a gentleman approached us and introduced him self as William Crowder, the world famous medium, he bowed as he spoke. Despite his pompous voice his appearance was spectacularly ordinary; he wore an ill fitting cheap grey suit, and a patterned tie that did not match. He was a skinny man, and was, despite a relative young age, fast losing his hair. Above his top thin lip sat an equally thin moustache and the ends were twiddled with wax and made to stick out nearly an inch. We were dutifully led up several dingy staircases to the third floor, everyone was silent, and to a casual observer what a strange procession we must have surely made. A door was opened, we all filed in to a generous proportioned old office, as Joshua had informed me, after everyone was inside the door was indeed bolted from the inside. It occurred to me that these respectable folks would never consent to being in such a vulnerable position under normal circumstances. We were advised by Mr. Crowder to take seats, and before I complied my eyes traveled keenly around the room in search of the smallest indication of to how the trickery was about to be performed I walked over and examined the window, and noted that nothing lead up, or indeed down to it so no-one could enter the room from there. I looked up and noted that Mr. Chowder appeared to be scrutinizing me carefully, so I too sat down… Next, the medium carefully explained that if the bolted door was somehow opened during the evening, we would instantly know by the bright light hanging in the hallway. Of course I knew that it would a simple matter for any accomplice to switch the light of before sneaking into the room, yet I kept quiet, and continued to vigilantly observe…He made us all examine the room closely, which did not take long as there was no additional furniture other than the chairs we were sitting on and the chair and small table where the medium would be sitting. In addition, the room held no cupboards of any sort, and the floor itself appeared to conceal no trap doors. This would have been an unlikely means in a building such as this anyhow I reasoned. Then he proceeded to hang a thick double black curtain over the only window. "The spirits require darkness." He stated in a very matter of fact tone as he performed the task. Yet, it was already dark outside, and certainly one curtain would have sufficed the task, I decided that I should reconsider my previous theory of the window being a key factor in to how the illusion was going to be performed…

       I scanned the faces of the other people who were there…They all had one trait in common, somber but with a peculiar air of hope about them. It was obvious that they all had recently lost a love one, and equally obvious they were desperate to contact them, just as I had longed to contact my dear mother all those many years ago…They all had, I feel I should mention, one additional trait, all of them had some degree of wealth as each of us had been required to donate quite a hefty sum prior to be given the location for the evening.

       Just as Joshua had witnessed, a perplexingly scented candle was lit on a small table the stage, the smell was both familiar and yet curiously unrecognizable. Mr. Crowder reached behind him, and pulled a cord, which extinguished the light, and then sat, in a solitary chair situated directly behind the table. The candle, quite conveniently I thought, only gave off enough light to illuminate Mr. Chowder's villainous face. Before long he began to hum, and sway about in his seat, I confess that I had to refrain from laughing. Then all at once there was a sudden gust of cold air, and the candle flickered…Then I heard Mr. Crowder ask as all eyes were firmly glued to Mr. Crowder.

       "Is there anybody there?"

       I knew that this was my prompt to investigate further. Discretely getting up from my seat I quietly slipped my way back to the window, and peered behind the curtain…Just as I had suspected I now saw a ladder perched against the wall. This was obviously where Mr. Crowder's helper entered the room, and the cold gush of air was nothing more than the window being opened. I too opened it, allowing a surge of cold night air to once more fill the room, and with a firm push I sent the ladder hurtling to the ground…

       It was then I heard the enormous commotion behind me…Undoubtedly a commotion my actions had generated…I managed to race forward and before Mr. Crowder could prevent me, switch on the light…Standing in front of me was a very embarrassed Mr. Crowder, and at the window was an equally embarrassed slight man, dressed in black, frantically looking through the window at the fallen ladder, and his only reasonable means of escape…

       Mr. Crowder stared at me angrily, and then I slowly saw a look of recognition form in those eyes of his.

       "But it is you!" He cried "You're the great Symboni…You are perhaps the finest magician this land has ever seen." As he spoke suddenly the look of anger transformed into a far more interesting look, a look of fear; complete horror filled his eyes as he spoke… "But, it surely can't be you; you died almost two weeks ago…"

       After that I simply vanished…Right In front of everyone's and an astounded Mr. Crowder's eyes. After all, please understand, I still had much catching up to do with my dear mother. It is peculiar though isn't it; I finally found the answer I was searching for all my adult life…In death…But my mission to expose charlatans shall continue, after all I confess it was a frightfully fun experience.





copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is an Englishman who now lives, dreams and writes in California. His website is