I have this really weird friend, and she’d been talking about doing a séance for months. “Come on guys!” she’d say after nobody responded to any of her suggestions. Nobody ever responded. Because nobody wants to do a séance. Nobody but crazy people. “It’ll be so much fun!” and we’d just do our best to ignore her, to hope that after a while she’d burn herself out, maybe take a hint that nobody felt like standing around and holding hands like a bunch of wackos.
And yeah, I guess she took the hint, because one day she decided to take charge, to force us all into participating. We arrived at our friend Jeff’s place at eight, and even Jeff looked kind of shocked as we entered the darkened living room, the long candles set up around the perimeter of a folding poker table set up in the middle.
“What the hell Jeff?” we all asked without actually saying anything. And Jeff just shrugged, communicating, “I don’t know guys, she just showed up and started setting everything up.” Which, sorry Jeff, you’re not off the hook. I mean, talk about being a pushover. That’s your place. It’s your responsibility to put the foot down when someone comes over and tries to take over the direction of a get-together at your apartment. It’s like when I have people over, and Carl tries to hijack the music. “Come on guys, there’s this really cool Gypsy punk band that I found out about online. We should listen to the whole album!” Yeah, it’s a little mean, taking the computer out of his hands, password protecting the playlist. But what’s the alternative?
The alternative is shit like this, sitting around some ridiculous table getting ready to play make-believe with all of your adult friends, when all you really want to be doing is smoking pot and playing video games. “Guys, come on, hold hands! Be quiet!” that was our friend. We were all past the point of looking visibly pissed off, and half of us were muttering obscenities under our breath. She didn’t care, “Guys! Quiet!”
She turned off the lights and lit all of the candles. “For real guys, just hold hands, just come on.” And we did, probably because we realized that this was never going to stop being a thing unless we just got through it. So, begrudgingly, I joined hands with the two guys to my side, hoping that this wouldn’t take too much longer.
“Spirits from beyond,” she started her séance speech. It was too much to take. Like were these prepared words that she had written down ahead of time? Or was she just winging it, going for the whole otherworldly ghost feel? It was way over the top, the way she pronounced everything, “from beyo – ooo – oond.”
But after like a minute of this nonsense the candles all blew out at the same time. That got everybody’s attention. “Hey, how’d you do that?” one of my friends said, and someone else said, “Shhh.”
“Ghost of the departed, why do you come? What do you need to tell us?”
And then a voice started speaking. It sounded like it was coming from the middle of the table, but there wasn’t any echo or anything, nothing like the disembodied characteristics that you hear in ghost movies. With the lights out, our eyes didn’t have a chance to adjust, and so we couldn’t see anything, the source of the voice, if it was just one of our friends playing the part of the deceased.
“What do you mean?” the voice said.
“Why do you come from bey – ooo –oond?”
“I don’t know. You summoned me. What do you want?”
“Deliver unto us your otherworldly message!”
“For real? This is like something out of a bad horror movie. Come on, aren’t you guys bored? How’d you let her talk you into to any of this? I mean, I’m fine. I’m beyond the whole concept of time and space, so this isn’t really a big deal for me. Yeah, I’m bored, but it’s not like I have anywhere better to be. What about you guys? You’re just going to waste the rest of your twenties sitting around and playing video games? I’m not judging, it’s just that when I was alive …”
“OK! All right! Thank you. We get it. Thank you for visiting us. Guys, does anybody see the lighter? Can someone turn the lights on?”
And Jeff was right by the door. He hit the switch and the lights went on and there was nobody else with us. It was just a bunch of people sitting around a table, still kind of awkwardly holding hands.
Nobody wanted to talk about it anymore. Everyone felt a little ridiculous, that even if it were a real ghost that we somehow conjured into this plane of existence, that even the disembodied voices of the dead think that a stupid séance is a dumb waste of time. I wanted to rub this fact in my friend’s face, but nobody was saying anything. I think she felt bad about it. We all just quietly opened our beers and packed our bowls while Jeff blew in the cartridges of his old N64 games, trying to get Super Smash Brothers to work. Carl and Bill started fighting over who got to play as Captain Falcon. I need to get some new friends.