By Chandrika Gadiewasam
There are gaps in my memory, which I cannot explain. For a journalist, inexcusable. I have never been like this in my life. I was always strong, daring, the adventure girl, the life of the party, and I went there, did that no regrets.
There was an incident which changed me, an accident really.
I’d taken the Pulsar out to rush off on a late assignment one morning and the road was wet, something happened, I slipped. Again it didn’t have to happen, there was simply no reason. One hundred and eighty pounds of iron and steel fell against my calf. I twisted my ankle and spent a few days in hospital for the first time in my life. It was my experiance of vulnerability, of having to depend on people, it was simply harrowing. My ankle took months to heal, my psyche much longer. I was weakened. It was what Sri Lankans might call an ‘apalaya’(bad period).
Then there was this incredible spat I had with my boyfriend, which resulted in our relationship close to cracking can remember evenings spent crying myself speechless, and being unable to eat the lonely dinners I had prepared. Another bad blow to my ‘chi’ that inner strength that had carried me grinning through so much. Was it that I was older now, I could not tolerate depression anymore?
The start of paranormality
Then things began to happen to me, in that little apartment which I loved, where I lived alone. I don’t believe in ghosts and this was a beautiful place in the suburbs, owned by a charming couple who were Jehovahs Witnesses. There was a temple on one side and paddy fields on the other, and they lived in the downstairs part of the house, an incredibly peaceful and loving marriage I could never believe anything bad about this whole place, it seemed to have been blessed.
But upstairs where I shuffled about it was a different, chilling story. You will probably laugh and explain away everything, if you are a cynic like my guy. Blame it on lapses of my chemical besotted mind as he does...lights that I left on were off when I came home. Doors I shut were open a few hours later, without a single creak. Things kept moving as if to play with my credulity.
Cereal boxes were open, a gift that I had packed was unpacked. Quietly and discretely but enough to give me a moment of horror when I saw this, horror not that unseen entities were teasing me but that I may have actually done this but I couldn’t remember it. (Was I a potential Alzhaimers case, like my grandmother had been for 20 years, not remembering that she had had lunch an hour ago, she would insist that she was starving and be served again. She was a rich old lady with dozens of servants and doting daughters and she could afford it, my imagination was paralyzed by the thought itself. Isnt that enough to creep anyone out?)
When I woke from sleeping, I felt, rather than saw bruises on my calves, as if someone had grabbed me real hard, but I had no recollection of what had happened. And the dreams were simply hideous. In situ dreaming where you are paralyzed in your bed and there are many pairs of small red eyes looking at you from all around the room...And when I worked in the kitchen cutting vegetables for salad, I would often feel a hand on my back, not really hostile, not lustful but certainly not welcome. I put it down to some nervous tic, what else could it be? The right side of my neck hurt constantly after I slept but I put that down to bad pillows and tried to treat it by sleeping on the floor.
I love reading, I love standing in the local bookshop for hours, till I select something and they tolerate me. A few weeks into the haunting, I stumbled across a book by some Japanese neo Buddhist who had sold millions of books; the page I randomly selected told me how a depressed, suffering person opens themselves to the influence of malignant spirits. Its rather like when you have a terrible respiratory infection and then you open yourself to other viruses. I felt in a way as if I had spiritual ‘AIDS’ of a sort. I believe in co-incidences and the fact that they lead ones’ life; I once read a very strange and powerful book called the Celestine Prophecy. Read if you want to be changed. I had to find out what was happening.
Visiting the light reader
So I visited the light reader. She lives in another grotty suburb of Colombo, a decrepit slum infested place, full of loafing three wheel fellows, kids in tatty clothes playing with handmade carts on the road, the light readers house was next to a small Tamil primary school. You have to visit her early morning or otherwise there is a massive queue. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the three-wheel guy landed me there, I had expected a smokey, stygian nook, but she lived in a beautiful airy sprawling two story residence, with mango trees, lots of chipmunks and bird song and two or three full time staff including a gardener.
The Saturday morning I went over was after a particularly bad fight with my guy and I had been sleepless, hangover and heartsick and I believe I had not even brushed my teeth. Habits of a life time don’t change and the journalist in me set about discretely interviewing the ladies who were already lined up to meet her (yes they were mostly ladies, guys are more practical. I surmise that they are not so badly affected by the spirit world because they keep their psyches stronger. Most of the time)
“This one is very good,” said the housewives lined up, enlarging their eyeballs for effect, “She can really see things. She can tell you what’s happening”
“So what did she tell you?” I asked. The lady had once come searching for a gold chain (the price of gold being what it is I can well understand) and the light reader had told her exactly where to find it.“She said it was someone I know who had taken it, a child of one of my friends!” said the lady in remembered awe, “She described the exact road where this person lives and said go right here and climb the stairs, and you come to your friends house, this child has taken the chain but he did not tell his mother he has hidden it in a cup on a dressing table, go and ask it from them you will get it back.”
She had reclaimed the chain, she said with a happy smile.
I waited my turn and walked into the room.
The light reader was a petite pretty middle aged lady with a gentle smile, and she was seated near a small covered shrine of a Hindu goddess. I could see the glitter of ornaments in the small statute, which was surrounded by gauzy cloth and screened by smoke from incense sticks.
“Sit here, and think about your question, one question, don’t tell me, think about it hard” she instructed and then she leaned closer towards the little lamp near the statue and gazed into it. “You have a problem at your home?” I nodded.
“This is a two storey house, you are living on the top floor, there are two dead people there with you,” she said. “They will make your life miserable, be careful,” she looked at my face calmly and then I saw her face change to a sudden and unexpected anxiety, “There is someone with you here as well.” She choked and pointed in anxiety at my shadow, which fell on the wall in the lamp light.
I turned and looked at it and I remember how my shadow was distorted terribly, as if there was a goblin crouching on my neck. It was unbelievable. This is the point where I lost my recollection….
One moment I was there, watching her in my own eyes and the next it was as though I was watching myself from outside. It was as though I was watching a movie. I had no control of what the character in the scene was about to do but to just watch.
In a rush of movement, I saw myself forcing my inhumanly strong hands around her neck and suffocating her. She tried to break free but something was not letting her.
I remember walking out of her house. I collected my bag and my note pad and walked out. I heard myself say that it was time for a break and that I would see the rest of the crowd in about an hour. But it was not my voice. I felt my lips move but the sound of my voice was not of me. But, of the light reader who, until a few minutes ago, actually had enough life left in her to reveal our.. little… secret…