The Genuine Article

Tell me ten years ago that I’d be standing backstage at a theatre ready to meet a ‘genuine medium’ and I’d have thought you mental. It just isn’t the done thing, like blasphemy or something.

The dressing door had an A4 sheet stuck to it that announced ‘Rachel Trevelyan’ with a publicity shot of her very white smile beneath. The roadies had been quite happy to let me in on the strength of a press ID and an old picture of Rachel and I standing side by side. Clearly they were unaware of photo shop.

When she came in I was sat on a chair upholstered in cheap blue material with its stuffing trickling out of a corner. I had my crossed on the seat as I shuffled my tarot deck absent-mindedly.

‘Not you.’ She’d changed. In place of jeans and a leather coat now she wore a white linen jacket and black trousers. Symbolic much?

I doffed an imaginary cap. ‘Charmed, again.’

The door banged resolutely when she pushed it shut. ‘So how’d you get in?’

I flicked out a card. ‘Fate.’

She tensed.

I smiled and slipped the card back into the pack. ‘I work on a local paper.’ And I tapped my press ID with the pack for emphasis.

‘Shop not work out?’

‘Didn’t say which paper,’ I observed. ‘It’s still going.’

‘You surprise me.’ She sat down on the edge of the dressing table, as far away as possible from me, and crossed her arms.

‘Now,’ I said, still flipping through my cards. ‘It’s my unhappy errand to tell you people don’t like it. It draws attention.’

Outside there was a bang and a loud curse. It drew my attention to the weirdy new agey music that was playing above as the audience filed in, I presumed. Perhaps they liked playing music to empty auditoriums.

‘And “it” would be?’

I gestured around, vaguely, at the smartly painted room but also at the theatre in general.

‘Nobody really believes it. Well, most don’t. People watch mediums ‘cause they want a laugh or some reassurance.’

‘Hmmm…’ I stopped shuffling. ‘They still kill witches, you know.’

Again she tensed. Despite wondering what she expected to see I separated the pack and rolled the cards into a fresh order with one hand. I’d ask my cards later what worried her, but some people tense up because they just expect bad news.

After a long pause she slipped off the table and turned to brush her hair. There were people passing outside the door more often, their footsteps hurried. I’d never worked in a theatre myself so I had no idea what they were doing so close to curtain up.

‘Half of it’s cold reading anyway,’ she said and threw the brush into a black bag on the table. ‘No one wants to hear what the dead really say.’

I tucked my pack of cards into the special pocket inside my jacket. ‘Hm, tell me about it. People only want to hear good fortunes.’

‘How’s what I do different to your shop?’

‘Well…’ I feigned consideration. ‘To my knowledge I’ve never had a camera crew in there. Mostly just mugs and tourists. Can be one and the same.’

‘I don’t know how you can think about your customers like that.’ Rachel was applying mascara rather than look at me, she seemed to be going for a vaguely ancient Egyptian look. Maybe it was more mystical.

‘Because if I have to do another “is my boyfriend breaking up with me” or “will I lose weight this year” I think I’m going to kill myself.’

‘Can’t your all seeing eye see that one?’

I shot her a pained smile. ‘This isn’t going to end well.’

‘Are you saying I’m gonna die?’

‘I’m saying the paths are split and I don’t like the direction of any of them.’ It was a stupid question, there is no one definite future until a few seconds before you step into it. And no one can see all the possible outcomes, I may be a witch but I’m human.

‘If I was going to die… would you tell me?’ she asked.

I leaned back my head, closed my eyes and rubbed the bridge of my nose. ‘As of this moment it’s a definite no on death. But do me a favour, Rache, don’t push it.’ I got stiffly to my feet and she looked at me with a shadow of affection.

‘Don’t go all TV movie on me, Christ. Just looking out for you… again,’ I said as I headed for the door.

‘I missed you, sis.’

‘Good for you,’ I muttered, more to the door handle than to Rachel. ‘I’ll see you around, I suppose.’

Thankfully she didn’t stop me leaving, or go all weepy, or soliloquise on mistakes past. I could say we have divergent philosophies but that would be pretentious.

Out on the curb I stood under a bus shelter and watched the rain bounce upwards. I raised my deck to my lips, hesitated, then put them back in my jacket.

I lived under the radar. Rachel didn’t. It was too late to change it now.

For more short fiction see my Short Story or Weekly Serial page.

Published by Jesse

I'm a writer and academic specialising in fantasy fiction and creative writing theory. I'm allergic to pretentiously talking about fiction and aim to be unashamedly ‘commercial’. Surely all fiction is commercial anyway, or what’s the point in publishing it?

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