A Séance for Ingrid, by S. Zainab Williams
Mom and dad are out of their seats. Oily beads of sweat splatter on the floorboards like crystal shards. Fear coats the rank air. They rush toward the woman–the one with half a face.
Dad hired her for the dead half that can look beyond incense smoke and shrouded lamplight to find the place where souls are lost. While one side stares at Ingrid, petrified in droopy disappointment, the other shifts so fast. Like the changing faces on the television screen when Ingrid and I fight over the remote.
The table quakes and the room spins. The car accident plays on loop in my mind as Ingrid grips my palm. When her fingers zip our hands together, I see the man looking from his bloodied body on the rain-slick road to my sister, unconscious and vulnerable in the backseat behind me.
Red and white lights coruscate off droplets of water hanging on the shattered windows like spider webs. He’s at her door and I can’t move.
I tear my hand out of Ingrid’s, bringing me back to the room. The old woman shakes in her seat, thick white foam frothing out of her throat. Her eyes are bulging glass marbles.
Ingrid rocks back and forth, mouth agape and venting an unearthly guttural song. I jump from my seat when her body begins to smoke. The room is stifling now, and heavy with the aroma of charred meat.
I want to hold her, to make it go away, but I’m scared and stupid with awe. This is my fault and I can’t do anything for her.
Mom is frantic. She stops shaking the lady and retires to a corner of the room to hold herself and cry. Dad yells at the woman and then pleads to make it stop, but I know she can’t. Somehow, I know there’s no turning back now.
Boils rise on the Spiritist’s skin. A high, keening wail brings my hands to my ears and the woman’s head drops to her chest. I let my arms fall away. Ingrid is quiet and still.
There’s an absence in the room.
My sister blinks up at me. She smiles. Mom and dad look at her, stupefied. Mom puts her palms together in front of her face, laughing through her tears.
“My baby,” she says, relief and fatigue thinning her voice.
I sob, throwing my arms around her shoulders. The séance is a success. Madame Ada has taken the hateful spirit down to writhe in molten pools and cook on glowing embers.
“It’s okay, Ingrid,” I say, choking on my words. I rock her in my arms, close my eyes and cry.
I feel a jolt as I pull her closer. When my eyes snap open the room is steeped in darkness. But I’m still holding on to someone. Arms reach around me, gripping me tight. Too tight. Nails dig into my skin.
“You shouldn’t have come here, Sarah.” It’s Ingrid’s voice, but someone else’s echoes behind it. A man’s voice. More distant still are crackling, smoldering, tortured sounds.
“You shouldn’t have come,” Ingrid’s voice repeats. The low growl of the man’s laughter follows.
Fueled by black tea and Skittles, S. Zainab Williams writes speculative fiction in Los Angeles. Her forthcoming horror/dark fantasy graphic novel can be found at Facebook.com/beatriceisdead, and her writing has appeared in Spinetingler Magazine and on The Drabblecast. She blogs about her writing trials and adventures at SZWordsmith.com.
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Tags: accidents, death, S. Zainab Williams, spirits