The Possessions is the story of Eurydice, a 'body' tasked with becoming a living vessel through which the departed can communicate with their loved ones. In this extract, she meets a new client: Patrick Braddock.
Look for The Possessions in March 2017!
“Can you tell me whom you’re hoping to contact today, Mr. Braddock?”
The clock is already ticking. He’s booked the standard time. Half an hour, doled out precisely and sparingly as medication.
“My wife,” he says, and leans back. “My wife,” he repeats, half wonderingly. He stares straight ahead, as if the words hang suspended between us.
“Do you have a special message for your wife?”
“I’m not sure.” He shifts closer to the edge of the chair. “Should I?”
“Some clients find they have a better experience if they’re prepared with a message,” I say. “But it’s entirely at your discretion, Mr. Braddock.”
“I want to talk to her again,” he says. “The way we’d talk before she—”
I let the silent part of his sentence unspool before I continue. “I’m going to ask you to share a memory with me. A memory of Sylvia.” He winces instinctively at her name, as if I’ve cursed. “It’s best if you share a memory that’s as recent as possible. I know it might be painful,” I add, because Mr. Braddock has dipped his face into his hands.
But when he looks up, his eyes are dry and clear as shards of glass.
“We were at the lake,” he says. “Lake Madeleine, outside the city. It was our first time visiting. Sylvia suggested the place. The cabins had these huge windows in the living room. It made me feel like a fish in a bowl, looking out at everything. Or maybe everyone was looking in at me. At us.” He pauses. “Is this too much?”
“Not at all, Mr. Braddock,” I say. “Details are helpful.”
I listen without interrupting as he talks. Most of my clients are rushed and halting, recounting memories with the clumsy bluntness of children recalling dreams. But Mr. Braddock shares the last weekend he spent with his wife as if it’s playing on a screen in front of him.
When he stops speaking, the silence dissolves like a fog. I tip the pill into my palm. Among ourselves, we bodies refer to the pills as lotuses, a nickname established before I arrived. There’s no official name for the capsules, no imprint or marking on their powdery surfaces, so lotus works as well as anything else.
With my free hand, I reach for the cup of water. “Shall we begin, Mr. Braddock?”
I don’t move. I’m aware of the waxy coolness of the paper cup against my lips.
“What we’re about to do—it won’t hurt you, will it?” None of my clients has ever asked this question before.
“The process is entirely safe, Mr. Braddock.”
“All right.” He holds out a palm toward me. “I wanted to check. Please. Go ahead.”
I slip the lotus between my lips and swallow. The sensation is as unsurprising now as drawing a breath or falling asleep. A numbness spreads across the body, the blood growing sluggish. The eyelids turn weighted. The body is rearranging itself to make room, my consciousness rising and scattering like wary birds sensing an unknown presence.
Mr. Braddock moves closer, his knee pressed hard against my own. He must realize his mistake; he moves away almost as soon as I register the touch. But when his clothed knee meets my bare one, I feel the hard bubble of his kneecap through the fabric, and a brief, thrilling warmth. I’m pulled back into my body, all the work I’ve done to become somebody else unraveling.
He recedes from my vision, moving backward so fast I can’t reach him. I open my mouth to warn him, but it’s too late.
I’m already gone.