Sometimes, things in life just cohere, come together. I’d been working in a hostel, sleeping there three nights a week, it was a caretaker role. Ten ‘til eight the next morning, keeping a watchful eye in case of fire, fights between residents and oppor-tunists who would try to take advantage of the vulnerable residents. A position of great but no powers. This isn’t about them.
I’d been there about seven years, starting in my student days where the quiet over-nights gave time to write essays and the dissertation. My room was a sparse twelve by eight, single bed, bedside locker, small wardrobe and a sink. And to emphasise its utility they kept the mops and vacuum cleaners in there too.
In the latter years I’d had disturbed nights, waking to my room full of smoke that dis-appeared as I blinked myself awake. Slight sounds of crying that too evaporated as I woke and sought where they came from. These I accepted as single incidents until the night I heard a voice.
The voice was low, a murmur against the night: ‘I want my daughter, I don’t know where she is, please help’ and that put the willies in me, now, today, I feel a shiver, like I did back then. I was more than a bit scared. I got out of bed, put my pants on, checked the corridors: nothing. Went back to bed. I didn’t hear the voice until a few weeks later, the same message, sounds of crying and would wake up, put the light on and it would be gone. I didn’t tell my work colleagues, thinking that they may think me worthy of medication.
The coming together was with one of my students-I’d gone from being the student to teaching. Derek was a great oddball, a flaming haired torrent of odd ideas and plati-tudes, he’d always be at the centre of discussions on life, its meanings and what it all meant. He was a spiritualist who held the notion that all religions held but a splinter of the original diamond that was the truth. He was great fun but you wouldn’t want to be alone with him in the kitchen at a party.
Eventually I told him of the events at my hostel. He offered to bring his posse to try to help, I mulled this over, knowing my employers would not appreciate such a group visit, so he suggested I try to respond to the voice. She spoke again some nights later, so I asked her what she wanted and she cried more, saying she’d lost her daughter in the war and did not know how to find her. It is an odd feeling, in the middle of the night, talking to the air, not knowing if you are indeed quite mad, hear-ing a disembodied voice from 50+ years ago telling tales of the war and death. I needed help.
Derek and his odd friends arrived late one night-I felt I had to ensure all residents would be unaware of this visit and not just to be sure my employers would not find out.
They sat in a circle of five as I sat on my bed observing. They settled themselves and then began offering to help. It took a while and then they called to her, called her to them, then called her to the light. It has become a cliché now, the calling to the light, but in that moment, I understood that her journey was incomplete and she needed to move on. It was odd, I was observer and involved, apart yet immersed and as they called her, I suddenly felt her pass through me and into their circle and then…gone.
They sat a while longer. We talked, I gave them my thanks and they gave theirs to me for giving them chance to help a lost wandering soul. After that there were no more disturbances, no more smoke, voices or restless feelings. Derek offered me a space in his group, a place to develop my clair‘audience’ my ability to hear voices. I went to see if I did have something but seemed to have nothing, except at the end we sat and waited to see if we had any ‘messages’ for others in the group. I felt an urge to tell one woman that her house contract would fall through that the seller was not to be trusted. It meant nothing to her. Other oddments too fell on unwanted ears. Oh well eh?
The job at the hostel came to an end soon after that, I had a quiet leaving party until my colleague who slept there the nights I didn’t, told me of her disrupted nights, of sounds, lights and fear. How she hadn’t slept in that room for over a year. I felt a re-lief that It wasn’t just me and told her of Derek and his ghostbusters and that it was over. She hugged me, said thanks, she too feeling absolved of madness.
Later I told Derek of this and he looked at me oddly, ‘you still doubt?’ he said and shrugged to let me know that it was weirder to ignore this truth than holding conven-tional views.
‘By the way’ he later continued ‘you know your messages in that group? The ones that nobody could take? We met the following week and talked about them, you were about ninety degrees out on the people you gave them to!’ I never went back to that group, the need, the pull was not there, what happened next is another day, another story.