“Most psychics, nobody believes. They stay in business not as prognosticators of the inevitable, but as sideshow tourism gimmicks whose chief service rendered is the sale of quirky party anecdotes equally likely to draw laughter or derision. Me, I’m different. Me, they believe.”
I snort, not bothering to hide the obvious that’s what they all say eye roll that glances my face. “What makes you so special?”
“You tell me. You harbor no belief in the supernatural and have never visited a medium before, and yet here you are willing to spend two-hundred-dollars on what you fully expect to be a waste of time. So perhaps you would know better than I would. What does make me so special?”
I consider telling her that a friend recommended her to me, consider telling her that this friend believes drugs get you closer to God and thinks trees have souls and uses the word “chakras” more often than “hello.”
But I don’t. I simply tell her that I wanted to see for myself just how bogus all this metaphysical bullshit really is.
The psychic rolls her eyes. That’s what they all say.
She smooths out the tablecloth, sets out four empty clay bowls. “If you came to me specifically, you know there are only two questions I ever answer. Which one are you here to ask?”
It’s true, this much Moonbeam warned me about. She told me that there are only two things worth wondering and that this psychic gets it. You’re supposed to tell her “pain” or “pleasure” and she’ll respond with whether or not the greatest pain of your life or the greatest pleasure of your life lies in the past or in the future. Moonbeam’s done it before, paid extra for both questions, but she won’t tell me what the psychic said. As personal a matter as it gets, she told me, and I can’t help wondering for curiosity’s sake even though it absolutely doesn’t matter considering how bogus all this metaphysical bullshit really is.
“Pain,” I tell her. “And before you roll your eyes again, I know that’s probably what they all say.”
“Actually,” she says, filling the first bowl to the brim with the clearest water I’ve ever seen, “it’s rare that people come to psychics seeking bad news.”
Not a bad line. At least she’s getting a little mileage out of that Liberal Arts Masters hanging between the hamsa hand and the tiger’s eye crystals on the wall.
The psychic slides in my direction a paper titled, DECLARATION OF MENTAL STABILITY. “You’ll need to sign this form first. Standard protocol.”
Half of me thinks it’s a joke. “The hell’s this?”
“I’ve had clients kill themselves after hearing that their pleasure is in the past and their future holds only pain. Only took one lawsuit for me to draw up a waiver form.”
I glance at the paper, too lazy for close reading even though the whole thing’s only three paragraphs. “So you only read people with a clear bill of mental health?”
“No, I’ll service anyone. I just have a special way of dealing with those who can’t deal with themselves.”
“And that would be?”
She waits for me to sign the form in ink before saying, “Lying.”
In the second bowl, the psychic places a mound of dirt from a small bag hanging on the wall; in the third, she pours a small amount of what I assume must be oil because a second later she takes out a match and sets it on fire. The fourth, she leaves bare.
More quickly than I can react, the psychic takes a small blade from her sleeve and slices it across my forearm just deeply enough to draw blood. It doesn’t hurt much, but there’s no way that’s legal.
“When you actually bother to read the contracts you sign,” she says, “then you can start complaining about what’s legal and what isn’t.”
“How did you—?”
“Almost like I’m fucking psychic, isn't it?”
She takes my arm and glances at the wound. “You’ve never really felt pain before, have you? Your blood is so fresh; it tells no story of suffering. No war, no emotional trauma, no heartbreak. There is no doubt that the greatest pain in your life is yet to come.”
This chills me. No wonder most people ask for pleasure. Now, she gently holds my wounded arm over the bowl with nothing in it. “The four elements represent the kinds of pain there are in the world. The way your blood reacts to them will tell us what lies ahead for you.” She squeezes lightly; a drop falls into the bowl and nothing changes. “You will not suffocate,” she tells me, “nor fall from heights. You will not lose your freedom.”
She moves my hand to the next bowl, squeezes; a drop falls. The dirt soaks up the blood droplet within a moment. “No sickness or ailments, no death from natural causes. Your death will come young, most likely.”
“How are you reading all this?” I ask. “It sounds like you’re just making stuff up.”
“The elements know your story and they know your suffering. When your blood reacts, you will know your greatest trial, past or future.”
The next bowl, the one on fire. I watch the blood fall with a particular dread; flames have always terrified me, the prospect of burning alive, of unbearable heat. The worst, absolute worst. Stories of Hell tormented my dreams as a kid and whatever so-called faith I retained in my youth was chiefly, if not entirely founded in my profound desire not to burn for eternity. I don’t even know what to expect, don’t know what it looks like when blood reacts to fire, but I hope and hope and hope that nothing happens because if it does that probably means I’ll either burn to death or go to Hell.
The drop falls slowly enough to feel suspended as I watch it disappear into the orange blaze. A second passes, two, and the flames continue to dance upward, unfazed.
The psychic catches my eye, probably having noticed my panic. “You will not burn; you will not be destroyed by passion. You will not be forced to begin again after losing everything.” She smiles slightly before adding, “And for the record, there’s no such thing as Hell.”
It’s rare that people come to psychics seeking bad news. I lucked out. The only one left is water. How much pain could water cause? Worst case scenario, I drown. She did say I died young and I do like the beach. Not at all a fun way to go, but it sure beats screaming bloody murder as your skin overheats, melting in the wake of intolerable flames. Anything but fire, I’d been thinking, and now that fire has been debunked my trepidation gives way to breathless relief as the final blood droplet falls into the water filling the final bowl.