The words, Paul has passed, released my grip from the phone. I could still hear her voice as it hit the floor. I walked away with no interest in anything else she was saying at the moment. I was upset. Not because he was gone, but because he was supposed to wait for me to see him one last time. Shaking my fists at the ceiling, I thundered down the hallway.
Why do mortals make everything so much harder? If he had only waited, I could have gathered the information I needed. But now I have to summon his spirit. Thanks a lot, Paul!
No one in town understood our relationship. He was feeble and trembled with every movement. His words were incoherent and disorganized, rarely making sense. Yet, our friendship was different. He saw through my mortal guise, while I recognized his faculty underneath the frailty. I think everyone in town thought I was after his money. Ha!
Every time I visited, his eyes shimmered, asking me to sit close and tune in for another extraordinary—my word, not his— story. To Paul, these were tales about his life. Yet, no one could know. They were sacred chronicles he only shared with me. When I last saw him, he pleaded with me to keep them to myself. He was convinced his family wouldn’t understand. They already believed he was crazy and would blame the illness. But they didn’t know he wasn’t sick. He was traveling.
“The planets orbiting our world appeared close enough to touch. Looking like colossal blue marbles, with streams of brown and green ribbons wrapping around the surface. Two of them remained in a state of suspension over the horizon as they dwarfed the skyscrapers down below.”
He panned his arm in front of himself as if he were following a field of view. “Destroyed by war, this planet was abandoned for centuries. Yet, for reasons I can’t seem to remember, a number of us began repopulating this place about 10 years ago. What you see out there is what happens when thousands of people come together for a common cause. Utopia. It’s not impossible, you know. People seem to think it is because all they know is a dystopia. But there is a part of us that knows better. It takes courage to follow a path that others tell you is imaginary. How funny this is to me. Even as a young child, I was chided for having an active imagination. I was instructed to grow out of it and live in the real world.”
He paused to ask if I knew the meaning of imagination. Without waiting for me to answer, he followed his question up with the definition. “It’s the action of forming new ideas!”
His choice to leave the physical body had little to do with a random opt-out. Although he could no longer articulate his fondness for his life and family, Paul had grown to appreciate his mortal existence. He moved into our community in the early 1990s and became a prominent figure throughout the area. He was a small business owner that established himself through contributions to both community events and cultural development.
Because he grew up in an orphanage on the east coast of the United States, family meant everything to Paul. As a child, his preoccupation with the ideas of H.G. Wells and Aldous Huxley greatly concerned his caretakers, which led to many restrictions growing up. However, if he loved anything more than life as it was, it was the creative nature of his mind to journey beyond what all eyes could see. So, Paul became the father and grandfather he wished he’d had, giving his children and grandchildren explicit permission to explore every possibility they could envision.
“Our new home was an Elysium and essentially a contrast to the suffering and struggle we lived through on Earth. After my wife passed away, I was alone and free to wonder as well as wander, but the stroke changed my direction. Weakened and unstable, my ability to leave the house without assistance came to an end. To be honest with you, Circe, hiring help seemed a bit of an overreaction to me. I didn’t want an escort, so I chose to revisit the portal of my mind’s eye.”
Paul’s daughters were living in other states. Even though they came to visit, he never fully adjusted to the loss of their daily presence. At the same time, the relationship with his wife strengthened as they became close friends. They enjoyed one another deeply and frequently took themed vacations.
“Have you ever had a favorite year, Circe? Mine was the year Somar and I were united as man and wife. Having the opportunity to marry her made it terrific, and what made it unforgettable were the waterfalls!” This was a fascination we both shared. A deep love for the unique power water has to connect and divide simultaneously. As well as its scintillating reminder to follow its lead and be a force, while remaining reticent, just like it unabashedly splashes over rocks and rises to dampen the air.
“We spent the year of our honeymoon traveling throughout Europe just to explore and experience the magic of waterfalls. Our first stop, and my favorite, was to a place in Portugal called Covao do Conchos. We began in her home country and we went on from there. Would you like to know a secret? The Covao is a portal. Oh, they say it’s a waterfall in a lake, but I know differently.” Paul thrust his hands in the air. “Just look at it. They limit what they tell us to the things they want us to believe. But when I saw it for the first time, I thought I was looking into a wormhole similar to that of the Einstein-Rosen bridge for interstellar travel.” He drew his hand up to cover his snigger. “You know. My mind’s eye.”
Paul and Somar also shared time co-writing fantastical sci-fi stories about otherworldly times and places. His greatest delight was sharing and building on all his phenomenal insights. This was their playtime, devoting day and night to conjuring up incredible scenes. There was no real purpose to doing any of it, other than sheer enjoyment and a chance to see something beyond the passing of time.
They were the perfect creative team, with one exception. Aside from being amused by Paul’s face as it lit up with glee, Somar refused to accept anything beyond the words on a computer screen. It was a hobby she shared with her husband and grandchildren because she knew how much it meant to him. However, his inventive mind alarmed her, although she never said as much because her duty was to keep her husband happy.
“I met a lovely girl named Kate on one of my excursions several years ago. I found her in the woods just outside the city, talking with a type of blackbird I had never seen before.”
Startled, I knocked the chair over as I jumped out of it! Talking with a bird? Who is this Kate? As I reminded myself that Kate was just a figment of Paul’s imagination, I noticed him looking up at me with bewildered eyes. “I’m sorry, Paul. I thought something was crawling on me, but it seems as if it was just a hair. Please forgive me. I do want to hear more.” Patting the back of my hand, he grunted and waved in the direction of his caretaker, then motioned for her to assist me with picking the chair up.
Dragging herself across the room, she leaned over to give me a hand when the bun on her head unraveled and blanketed her face. No longer able to see what was where, she tripped, toppled into me, and we both fell over the chair. “Goddamn it! Circe!”
“What did I do? It was an accident,” I said as I stumbled to get up and step over the back of the chair.
“No. It’s not the chair,” she grunted as she found herself lodged between a leg and the wall.
I offered to give her a hand up. “Well, what then? I didn’t touch your hair!”
“My outburst had nothing to do with any of that,” she replied. “Well, not really. The hair falling was aggravating. You know, Paul only gets like this when you’re around. Otherwise, his days are spent in catatonia. It disturbs me to see the change in him.”
I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks when I noticed Paul’s reassuring glance. “Pay no attention to what she says. Remember, they edit their thoughts in order to influence what you believe. Just because someone describes me as catatonic doesn’t make it so. I’m in control of what people think of me, as we all are. What most humans fail to realize is everything we see with our eyes is an illusion. Do you know what an illusion is, Circe?”
I nodded to say I understood, but wondered whether I really did.
After Somar’s death, Paul spent most of his time inside his house and mind. Unable to clearly articulate his thoughts to anyone but me left him feeling isolated and alone. Of course, these behaviors necessitated full-time care. What made it particularly hard on Paul was the concern that once again consumed everyone. Just because he struggled to communicate didn’t mean he couldn’t hear. And what he heard, hurt.
“Circe, I need your help. I have a message for my family and anyone else that might be open to hearing it, and you’re the only one I trust to deliver it. One of the most difficult experiences of my life has been since Somar passed away. I desired female companionship and found it in Kate. When a neighbor discovered me sitting on their patio with no reasonable explanation as to how I got there or why, they contacted my eldest daughter. That’s when the first caretaker showed up. But she was a bitch.”
I listened intently, curious about this Kate.
“So, I began visiting this Elysium planet, and that’s where I met Kate. She had icy multi-blue colored pools for eyes. They swirled very much like a Covao do Conchos now that I say it out loud. I’d get sucked in every time. She was fascinated with art and said she wanted to teach me how to paint my thoughts. If only I had steady hands in this world. But I don’t, so I travel sometimes, pet Pancho when he’ll let me, and think of Kate. All the while hearing what people are saying about me. That’s the painful part. They act as if I’m already gone.”
Although highly respected for who he had been, Paul’s current mortal form had been reduced to a shell. Honestly, who could blame him for choosing to leave now? But will I be able to summon his spirit? My guess is yes. It shouldn’t be a problem. He did have some unfinished business he wanted me to help him pass on. Hmm. I wonder what that might be? Who could I use for a conduit? Brady or Amber? I’m thinking Amber because I have some unfinished business with her.