This sample of “Ipswich” was my reading selection at the Barbaric Yawp, held at the Underground Music Cafe in Falcon Heights, Minnesota on May 27th, 2018.
Laurel found her way over to Sara and Tom after the show. “It’s good to see you again so soon. Did you enjoy the show?”
“Well, he’s very good,” replied Sara. “Not that I had any doubts, of course! But what about my mother? I really wanted to talk to her and I just know she has a message for me. But it didn’t come through!”
Laurel smiled and nodded. “That’s what I’d like to talk to you about. Shaun thinks there might have been some energy present in the crowd that was interfering with his attempts to get in touch with Anne’s spirit. He wanted me to ask if you would be willing to attend a private session. He thinks that with just us he will have a much easier time making contact. Are you interested?”
“That’s wonderful,” said Sara brightly. “When could we do that?”
“Now, if you would like,” answered Laurel. “There’s a room upstairs that we could use.”
“That would be marvelous!” Sara exclaimed, with all the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. “What do you think, Tom? Could we?”
“Sure,” he agreed. “Do you have to clean up down here first, Ms. Harrison?”
“We have staff to do that,” replied Laurel. “Let me show you upstairs. Shaun will be with us in a few minutes.” She led the two of them over to the grand staircase and up to the second floor. Once there, she took them down the hall to a small room that was set up with a table and four chairs. “Just have a seat, if you would. I’ll go and get Shaun.”
A few moments later, Talbot stepped into the room followed by Laurel. “Ms. Winchester,” he said with a wide smile. “How are you this evening?”
Sara shot back a vapid grin. “I’m doing just fine, thank you! Now Laurel says you’re going to contact my mother. That’s wonderful of you! I really appreciate the extra effort.”
“Trust me,” said the medium as he sat down at the table, “it’s no trouble at all. I don’t talk with the dead to make money or to have an easy life. It’s a calling, a passion. And I’m happy to share it with anyone who appreciates its mysteries. Now, do you mind if Laurel joins us? Four is a better number than three for a séance, and there’s room at the table.”
“Oh, of course not! She’s been fantastic.” Sara turned to Talbot’s assistant. “Please, have a seat.”
Laurel nodded, closed the door to the hallway, and sat down in the remaining empty chair. Shaun took the skull from its wrappings and set it in the center of the table facing Sara, who was seated opposite him.
“Is that old skull really necessary?” she said, trying to sound apprehensive. She knew that it was, of course, since the medium’s natural magical aptitude was quite limited. “I mean, look at those eyes, and the scribbles all over it – they’re creepy. And that story you told at the presentation just makes it sound that much worse.”
“It’s all true, I’m afraid,” said Shaun. “Or at least that’s how it was passed down to me by my father. The reason that I can control the spirits with such precision is because I have the skull to help me. Without it I could still try to contact your mother, but my odds of success would be greatly reduced.”
“I don’t have to touch it, do I?”
The medium chuckled. “No, just me. Now I want you all to join hands.”
Sara took Tom’s hand on her right and Laurel’s on her left. Shaun held out his left hand, and with it took both Tom’s right and Laurel’s left. He then rested his free right hand on the skull and began to concentrate.
The same odd vibration Sara had noticed at the presentation began to fill the room. She would have to ask Tom later if he could hear it as well, or if her perception of it was another manifestation of her magical senses. He had been able to see the mist, after all, but she suspected not as clearly as she had.
Just like at the performance, vapor began to form and swirl around the skull. This time it seemed to gather into a sort of ball or sphere directly above the center of the table. Shaun held his concentration longer than he had at the performance, and as he kept his attention fixed on the manifestation it became more and more dense.
His voice, when he at last spoke, cut through the atmosphere like a knife. “Now!” he commanded. “Take them!”
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