Myrtle Brown is a pale faced, flabby type biting her lip through constant worry. She’d her own teeth, clearly evident, that if she’d been biting with dentures, the way she was going at those thin lips, her top set would had have slipped out by now. The dentist advice from the other day still haunting her thoughts. Gum disease setting in, Myrtle you’ll need them all out.
She wandered in the old hall, nodded a greeting to the woman behind the desk, she was new, hadn’t seen her before. Smiling wide showing off how nice her teeth looked. Myrtle smiled again only this time kept her lips sealed tight shut holding a forced grin.
She took the stairs clocking she was early for the presentation. She didn’t really know why she decided to attend; it wasn’t as if she gets involved with groups. This one recommended through a friend, said it’ll do her good to get back mixing with folk. All are welcome for the open days. Myrtle admits to a fondness of the supernatural and folklore. Anyway, she’d try it.
In the room there was the pick of seats. Myrtle sat at the back and waited.
A steady trickle of people began to emerge, dressed in what she’d had said was hippy like. New age, yes, new age types. Pleasant enough folk she thought but not the sort of thing she’d expect to see women of a certain age wearing.
Myrtle acknowledging the stooped man, not sure where he had emerged from, he worked his way through to sit next to her. He smiled at her, seated himself best he could to get comfortable and waited just like the rest. He was dressed in an old crumpled jacket, reminded of her old dad’s gardening one.
It was no fault of the speaker but Myrtle put it down to the state of her mind. She found herself in and out of concentration, picking up only on parts that resonated but in the main she felt lost with the talk. A lot of it about folklore and a great deal of its history. A little heavy going for her. But they’d been some interesting bits about covens, familiars and faeries, and how some of them have to pay back their due to the nether worlds.
At the end of the talk, fair to say Myrtle was mesmerised, hung onto every word from an out-of-towner. Different from the speaker, this guy had arrived a little late to the presentation but had drawn a small crowd at the end of the talk. A new source of inspiration was this stranger, saying words that, sort of made sense and she could well believe. She’d rather him been speaking to the group.
He had attracted five, mainly women of differing heights and widths. Also the stooped man, clutching close to his chest a glass of wine.
“Well, my take on this would be I reckon we are splinters, from a source.”
Myrtle was all ears, attentive, but still with an anxious look in her eyes and thinking who is he?
The stranger, who hadn’t given his name, continued. The others leaned in. He’d touched on something, each, in their way, relating and identifying something in thought.
“See what I mean,” continued the stranger. “I reckon we exist in multiple realities as it were. Like, right now, at this moment, we are living other lives in other realities.”
The man with the stoop, lifting his head back, he remained buckled back, looked like he could fall over.
“So what if in some bizarre way, you know, like these talented gifted people, who somehow amaze us with an expression of talent, that appears to be far beyond their years in terms of what they create, and are able to demonstrate.
“Think about it. If somehow they channel that other part of themselves that exists in another reality. Y’know, where these things are possible and can somehow be used in this reality. Would it not seem magical, beyond the bounds of what makes up this reality?
“Imagine this, that out there, whatever is out there is a splinter of us. That maybe there are many splinters spread around time and space. Existing and expressing themselves in ways beyond what we could ever dream of expressing in this reality.”
Myrtle spellbound, thoughts running ahead wanting to know how could you channel these other parts into the here and now. Maybe she could somehow heal the onslaught of gum disease and not face having her teeth extracted. She’d stop biting her lip.
“I mean imagine having access to those multiple parts of ourselves. Would you sign up to have those abilities. Have anything you want?”
The group around him looked to one another carrying the same thought.
Myrtle felt colder in the room. And odd the way the group seemed to close in a little too close for comfort around the man. She found herself on the outside of the circle.
The fawning around this man by these who should know better was becoming too much to stand. They followed the stranger like they were all puppy dogs entering the other room where’d he gone.
She obviously wasn’t flavour of the month. She wanted to know more but they’d taken him off.
It was reaching that time; people had departed, through the back room. The stooped man remained, he’d returned to sit back in his chair. She wondered about the stranger and went to look at the other room standing slightly to one side of the door.
Myrtle caught sight of the speaker booked for the talk. He was standing alone over at the table. She saw him with what looked like glass jars. For the moment, he seemed to be taking advantage of the lull. He hadn’t noticed her, more preoccupied with sorting out the contents of the bag.
He was rearranging jars and placing them back into a carpetbag. She took more of an interest in his antics. Something grabbed her attention and was sure she wasn’t mistaken. The jars seemed to have little dolls inside of them and she was sure some glowed and pulsated. The speaker was hurrying to arrange them back into the bag and sure enough looking ham-fisted whilst rushing to get the jars inside out of sight.
“I’d go back the way you came in if you don’t mind me saying.”
It was the man with the stoop. First time he’d really spoke, save for his muted greeting. He rather felt familiar, as if she should know him.
She looked back into the room, the man with the carpetbag had moved over to the far corner. Myrtle taken by a start, there was a tall wicker figure. She was shocked, seeing it dressed in the same clothes as the stranger holding court with them earlier. Then returning to look back at the stooped man, he was gone.
Myrtle felt that rush of a panic. Felt ever so vulnerable and exposed. She moved smartly from the doorway. The room took on a sense of foreboding. The focus of attention now on the stairs and she quickly made her way down them. Her footsteps announced her presence clomping down the wooden steps. The woman on the desk, the one there when Myrtle had entered, was preparing to lock up the building, looked surprised thinking it might have been her partner who had delivered the talk.
“Oh you gave me quite a start then…”
“I’m so sorry I was attending a talk given upstairs the most bizarre thing really, and scary. I was with a group of people who seemed to have left rather quickly from another way out.” Myrtle was anxious.
The woman just looked at her, didn’t say anything while thinking.
“Well there’s only the stairs you came down. Good job you came down when you did, I might have locked you in the place. The alarm would have triggered. That’ll been enough to wake the dead!”
“I don’t know what went on up there, but I’ll be glad to get out, it’s like I… don’t know what to make of it…” Myrtle was trembling.
“Well they do say it’s a haunted place, used to be a meeting place for a coven. There’s a ghost of an old man as well, I’ve never been able to capture him when I’ve been up there.”
Myrtle looked white and had come across unsteady.
“Tell you what you look like you’ve had a fright, come with me a minute and compose yourself. I’ve a jar of something ready to work its magic for you.”
story by John Riley