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Posts Tagged ‘hospitalisation’

Image adapted from the Taschen edition of Renee Magritte

Image adapted from the Taschen edition of Renee Magritte

After my relatively recent preoccupation with dreams it seems appropriate to republish this sequence which is a fictional attempt to project my inscape into words. Dreams and day dreams feature quite a lot! 

After the milk van has gone, as I drift off again into sleep, I can feel a sense of their presence growing. As time passes it gets stronger and stronger, until I am back with them all once more, eager to implement our plan to hold a séance with Christopher Humfreeze, the seasoned meditator, under protest as our novice medium.

He’s looking very uneasy about the whole situation but knows it’s too late to back out now. Instead of sitting round the glass garden table, we have arranged ourselves on the garden chairs in a circle on the lawn.

Frederick Mires apparently lent Humfreeze a couple of books about mediumship, and he’s spent the nervous hours in-between thumbing through them hoping to prepare himself better for this moment.

‘I’m going to do it my own way,’ he blurts out before we even ask.

‘We never expected anything different, Chris,’ reassures William Wordless, in a rare moment of sympathy for him.

‘What do you need us to do, then?’ Mires enquires.

‘Join hands if you want and keep quiet,’ Humfreeze abruptly instructs.

We all know better than to argue at this point and do as he asks. The only break in the circle is where Humfreeze sits, hands resting in his lap and eyes closed.

It’s hard to judge what’s going on or what to do next. Emma Pancake catches Mires’s gaze and mouths, ‘Do we close our eyes or what?’

He shrugs in reply.

‘Let’s close our eyes for a few moments,’ I whisper, ‘and see what happens.’

After a minute or two, it becomes difficult to sit still and relaxed. I find myself constantly wondering whether to open my eyes or not, and, if I do, to work out what I should be looking for. The occasional nervous twitch in the hands I hold on either side suggests that I’m not the only one to feel this way.

Humfreeze says nothing and does even less, as far as we can tell.

After what felt like an eternity, Pancake cracks.

‘What’s happening? Anything?’

We all open our eyes. Humfreeze jerks out of his trance looking shocked and annoyed.

‘Don’t do that again!’ he barks. ‘We’ve wasted one attempt now. Only two more to go.’ You’d think he’d be pleased but he plainly isn’t.

‘Was anything happening?’ she probes, determined not to be put in the wrong.

‘I was pushing myself to go deeper but something kept holding me back. I’m not sure what.’

‘We need to try and work that out,’ Mires advises. ‘We need to know after each of these first two attempts what we think went wrong so we can do better next time. I’m wondering whether we were all fully behind this effort, or whether our doubts or impatience with the process were creating a block.’

‘Surely what we feel isn’t relevant. He can either do it or he can’t.’ There’s no sign of Pancake abandoning her defences just yet.

‘It’s not quite as simple as that, Emmie,’ Mires explains as patiently as he can.

‘How d’you mean, Fred?’ William Wordless asks. ‘I was really struggling there. For the first time in months I felt the words of a poem forming in my mind and tried to memorise them so I could write them down when we stopped. Could that have undermined what Chris was trying to do? Is that what you’re saying?’

‘Well, in a way, Bill, yes,’ Mires replies, aware that he is treading on potentially sensitive ground with all of us. ‘There’s a lot of evidence that this kind of process is very susceptible to subliminal influence.’ He sees that he had lost everyone but me, and starts again.

‘Basically, if we don’t focus, he can’t focus. Our energy helps him: our distraction distracts him. I could give you all the evidence but I don’t think you’ll want it!’

‘OK. We’ve got you. In the spirit of experimental enquiry – is that the right expression? – I’ll give it a go. It will be interesting to see if its works when we’re all pulling our weight, assuming we can that is.’ Behind the joking tone, we can all see that Pancake is deadly serious.

Garden party

‘Are you all right to try again, Chris, or do you need a break?’ Mires asks.

‘No. I’m fine to give it another shot,’ Humfreeze replies, ‘but please, please keep focused. I can’t do this without you, and even then it’s doubtful.’ I wondered whether his doubt would also hold us back.

We all hold hands again except for Humfreeze, who closes his eyes and straightens his back, his hands folded on his lap.

After what seems another eternity his chair creaks. I open my eyes to see him leaning forward, staring into the middle distance.

‘Are you able to tell me what you see?’ I ask softly.

‘A young girl, little more than a child. She’s about ten years old, I guess.’

‘Can you ask her who she is?’

‘I’ll try.’ Raising his voice he asks, ‘Who are you?’

There follows a period of complete silence, an intent expression on his face, then Humfreeze sits back in his chair.

‘What did she say?’ I whisper. By this stage everyone’s eyes are open. You can hear a pin drop.

‘Quite a lot,’ our medium replies. ‘I can hear her speak, and she can read the questions in my head, so she answers them before I have to say a word out loud.’

I hear Pancake whisper, ‘Weird!’

‘She wanted to know how we knew she was here,’ Humfreeze continues, ‘I told her we didn’t – we just thought there might be someone. She wouldn’t tell me her name. I wondered why not and she replied that she doesn’t trust us. She doesn’t think we will understand. She was betrayed once and doesn’t want it to happen again. When I asked her what she meant by that, she went quiet and faded away.’

‘Betrayed! That’s a very strong word,’ exclaims Wordless, who should know as he’s a poet. ‘What on earth did she mean by that?’

‘That’s just a step too far, I think, for now. I don’t think we can even guess. We’ve made definite progress, though. That’s really encouraging.’ Myers sounds almost excited. ‘What we need to do now, if she’s vanished for the moment, is try to work out what this means and what we should do next.’

‘It’s got to have something to do with my history. Did she give any more clues? Was there anything in her appearance that might help?’ I search my memory for anything like such a significant betrayal.

‘That was all she said. I couldn’t see her completely clearly. She didn’t look like the photographs of your sister that you keep. She had dark hair and dark eyes. She was wearing a gown of some kind, but I couldn’t make it out properly.’

For some reason I couldn’t work out, the word ‘gown’ seemed to resonate.

‘Do you reckon we’ve gone as far as we can today?’ Wordless asks, clearly desperate to get the words of his poetic fragment down on paper.

‘I think we should blast on,’ Pancake urges.

‘I think that’s for Chris to decide,’ Mires temporised.

There was a short pause. Humfreeze seemed to be somewhere else.

‘I think she’s still here. I can sense her though I can’t see her anymore. I think we need to work out our next step and try again. She may not come back another time.’

Pam reynold's surgery

‘I’ve been doing what I do with dreams and doing associations to the word gown,’ I chip in. ‘I may have a lead about what she meant. The first associations got me nowhere – it was all degrees and weddings – that kind of thing. Then a bizarre one came up: hospital.’

‘What have gowns got to do with hospitals?’ Wordless is as clueless on this front as he was about Ouija boards.

‘Surgeons wear them when operating. Patients under surgery wear special ones as well,’ Mires explained slightly wearily.

‘And that’s the connection with my past. When that association came up the light went on. You all must know about this. It’s been another blog theme. Before I was five in early 1948 I’d been operated on twice under chloroform.’

‘Yes, I remember, but you’ve worked that to death surely and come out the other side. How could that lead to a presence in your head when you’ve dealt with the left over emotional poison long ago?’ Mires was quite incredulous.

‘It’s not quite as simple as that,’ I sense a silent groan around me as I speak. ‘Just recently I was reading in my 1976 diary that, in my Transactional Analysis group at the time, I’d re-enacted the moment of my second surgery, when it took half-a-dozen ward staff to hold me down. I wrote that it left me sobbing in the absolute clarity of the insight. Even the words of the life-script I wrote in my diary the day before the re-enactment – ‘I’ve only myself to rely on’ –  are the very same ones that came like a bolt of light into my head in 1984 during the breathing meditation in Much Wenlock. OK, I can understand why I might not remember something that happened 40 years ago, even if it was important at the time. But to forget about something so significant in less than eight! Still, forget all about it was what I had done: I had no memory at all, not the faintest trace, that I’d used those words before. It came as a complete surprise.’

I knew I was labouring the point, but I could see the expression on their faces even before anyone else spoke.

(To be continued next Monday)

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