Juliet Williamson awoke, and smiled to see the usual threads and circles of incandescent multicoloured light crowding above her:
“Hello, my friends. Tell me who you want me to contact for you and why.”
Before the Zedwar, Juliet and others like her would have been labelled “schizophrenic.” However, with the massive death toll and unquiet and disrupted relationships in the wake of the billions of deaths at the hand of zombies and sadly, all too human collateral predators sometimes, desperate and lonely people wanted to contact those abruptly severed from them, and spirits who also sought to bridge the gap. Accordingly, spiritualism had undergone a profound renaissance.
For Juliet heard voices that had once belonged to real, flesh and blood people. They wanted closure, and so did the humans on the other side of the Veil who yearned for one more contact and opportunities to be with their cruelly taken loved ones. Her spirits told her details of the lives that they had lived, intimate knowledge about the people that they still loved and who loved them in turn. The names came whispered, carressing her mind, as she ate her breakfast and sipped a cup of chamomile tea. Then she noticed a particular thread and ball of light some distance away from the others. It had a distinctive rainbow hue. Juliet knew what that meant and sought to comfort it as she had the others:
“What’s your name, my dear? And don’t worry, who you were doesn’t matter to me. You were someone’s precious person and are no less now a beautiful spirit than any of the others. Who do you want me to talk to?”
Unlike the florid, ornate and overly ostenatious Neospiritualist Assemblies, Juliet’s own Spiritualist Assembly was a humbler, more sedate affair, reclaimed from the extinct Theosophy movement’s Wellington premises. A small knot of human contactees waited for her, with one woman on the periphery as with the spirit that had contacted her earlier. She cleared her throat:
“Let me say this before we begin. I don’t share the blind bigotries and stupid prejudices of the neos. I welcome the departed souls of singletons and multiple personalities alike.”
The military woman looked up from the furthermost pew, with tears in her eyes. Quietly, she moved toward the others. Juliet saw this and was touched inwardly.
One by one, she gave messages of solace and comfort, hope and reassurance, and enduring and constant love to the people in the pews. It helped to heal ravaged hearts and seared minds, the silent but just as real psychological and emotional casualties of the trauma of the Zombie War. Juliet spoke to the people and mediated for the spirits who had come to talk to their loved ones. She revelled in this, in seeing the burdens of despair, loneliness and loss lift from the men and women in the pews. They left, transfigured by the messages that they passed on, able to move on with their lives, sometimes having said one final goodbye, or sometimes having had the chance to heal rash words that they had thought that they could never take back, or simply being able to talk with their loved ones on the other side of the Veil of Tears.
Finally, after the others had left, the soldier came up to face her. She smiled hesitantly, as Juliet took her hand:
“You know, multiple spirits have a splendour all their own. They’re vibrant balls of shimmering rainbow power and energy. They’re so beautiful. I wish you could see it. Anja told me to tell you that she’s all right, she’s at peace and happy.”
“I can feel her,” Cassie whispered, as Anja’s wonderful spirit moved to place itself above her,” and I owe you an apology for this morning. When you phoned me, I thought it was a cruel hoax, but then you told me about things that you couldn’t possibly have known, about Anja’s love for red silk saris and her saffron perfume and that she was from the Andaman Islands.”
“Cassie, I am truly sorry that it was a neo that did that to you. You should see the colour of their auras- brown, black, discordant. Oh, there are a few souls that flock to them, but none of the poor, needly, lonely, mourning and despairing. That is my privilege and I am glad to accept it.”
The other woman, gazing out into the warm February night, said:”Did the neos really picket you?”
“Oh, my parishioners had other ideas about that.”
“They really accused you of demonic possession?”
“Authentic spiritualism knows nothing of heavens or hells. There are just spirits and an afterlife.”
“And the Zeds?” Cassie asked.
Juliet sighed: “It hurts me to look at them, Cassie. Every time I look at them, I see a dark cord trapping their horrified, traumatised screaming souls on the other end. They’re screaming and crying out in a netherland where no-one can hear them at what their old bodies are doing, trying to get back and stop them, but they can’t. Do you know, though, when one of you soldiers destroys the zombie bodies, they are freed and liberated from their ordeal. You do more than aid the living when you do your work.”
Cassie wiped away a tear: “Sorry. Hey, I have one question. If it’s not too personal. Why is someone with your empathy, sensitivity and healing gifts still unattached? Why is there no Mr Juliet?”
Juliet shrugged: “Actually, it’d be Ms, but there’s still some lingering and residual prejudice from the old days. I used to be on antipsychotic medication, living in a halfway house, trawling for cigarettes on the footpath to offset the meds effect on me. If you’d known me then…”
“Dreams, eh? I wanted to be a pro netball player. Never got the chance, though.”
Juliet watched a tendril of Anja’s spirit form carressing Cassie’s cheek and then noticed something else:
“Yeah, I know. I felt that too. Hey, the past is gone, though. For better or worse, we have to live in the present day.”
“In hope and in love.” Cassie leant forward and kissed Juliet:
“I have tea and stir-fry vegetables back in my flat.”
“Lead on, beautiful spirit.” Hand in hand, Cassie and Juliet walked toward the door, newly lost and found in one another’s eyes.
In another existence, Anja pulsed with exuberance and joy at what she had accomplished that evening. She retreated into the afterworld throng of souls, happy and at peace, knowing that Cassie would now be truly healed, and that the tender soul of Juliet would also receive this unexpected boon from her rare and precious gift and the mundane but cherished wonders that she helped mediate.
In a faraway psychiatric ward, Anja’s murderer, Marie Gulch, screamed and cried out, tormented by visions of trapped and traumatised zombie souls that she could not shut out and which never left her.
Sometimes, when justice is done, it has many and unexpected dimensions.