It was a dream. There was a coffeeshop. Late in the day with only a scattering of politely disinterested people. College student crowd but not college student ages. There was a comfy chair. I had snagged it and was relaxing in comfort with working headphones and an intriguing book. Not far away was a small round table. Three guys were clustered around it sitting on small uncomfortable stools. On the table was a small cushion.
On the cushion was a small quartz ball.
Large than a golf ball, smaller than a baseball, cracked and pierced in every possible way with fissures, imperfections, and opaque regions, it was probably some new-age store’s “second”. Or even third.
My back was to the threesome, and as such, their voices melted into each other as they spoke of things I had no interest about.
But the quartz continued to pull my attention away from the book I was starting to have difficulty reading. I could hear it ringing the way old CRT television sets would ring when you turned them on after a long cold night. I could taste the sound in the back of my throat, and swallowing force the sound into my ears where it pricked along the hairs leading into the ear canal.
“It ain’t working, man.”
“I know. Something is interfering.”
“Think someone here is trying to jack our shit?”
“… No. I think someone here is tuned into our shit.”
The three men started their working over from the beginning. The ringing increased and I tasted the resonance like a bitter metallic taste on the back of my tongue.
I closed my now illegible book, sighed, and turned in my chair to face them. While they concentrated their very subtle and coordinated motions, I just fixated my full attention to the sphere and listened.
“Well, if y’all would just pick up the damn thing and warm it to one of y’all body temperature before starting to go full on, you wouldn’t have to worry about leaking signals fucking up other people’s day.”
The three men froze in mid movement, looked at each other, then looked over at me. They blinked in nearly simultaneous movements before looking down at the forlorn quartz sphere on the puffy cushion.
“I never thought of that.”
“I thought we had to leave it alone.”
“Does that mean the quartz itself has a spirit?”
“I dunno, I never looked at it like that before. I mean, it’s an empty vessel for summoning spirits into, so why would it have one of its own?”
“Is that animism? Would that make us animists? Is that appropriative?”
“Wait… Hey you, how the hell did you know that? Is that in a correspondence?”
I draped one arm over the back of the chair while I contemplated dismissing them with the other. “Because the quartz told me. You don’t hear that ringing? Real high pitched like? It’s cold. Physically and spiritually. I dunno what other tools you have with you, but that quartz is screaming for physical attention. Have you ever tried to hold it?”
I wasn’t annoyed with the trio. I was annoyed with the sound the quartz was emanating. As if it had heard me hearing it, and was now doubling down on calling for my attention.
“It’s your quartz, man. Pick it up!”
“I… uh… I’m supposed to be lead tonight. I can’t be playing with it.”
“It’s not like she’s asking you to play with your balls, man, just to play with this ball.”
“What am I supposed to do? Pick it up like it’s a rabbit or some shit?”
“She said it’s cold. So like, pick it up and hold it until it’s warm!”
“Yea, cup your ball, man!”
When the other two yelled at the third to shut the hell up and knock off the sex jokes, I realized I was equally annoyed with everyone and everything. I put my book and headphones away and stormed up with the intention of picking up the forlorn quartz sphere and warming up the damn thing myself.
Just as I reached for the sphere, Horatio grabbed my arm. “Don’t.” I allowed him to pull my arm back. “Not until he finishes what he started.”
The silence of the three men and the way they watched me informed me they could neither see nor sense Horatio. “It’s rude of me to snatch someone else’s child. Whatever you had started to do, I suggest you finish it.” I backed away from the table and placed my hands behind my back.
Pescado whispered in my ear. “Trust us. Whatever comes, you will not harmed.” Oh… this is gonna be good. And by good, I mean terrifying. I shrugged slightly and confirmed my fate as ‘fucked’.
“Well… uh… we were trying to call a spirit into the sphere. And… uh… I guess we called you instead.”
“It worked, I guess! I mean, you are a spirit after all! Just one with flesh and blood still working… and shit.”
“So… adjust your methods and finish the call. You obviously dialed the wrong number.”
The three men nodded at me, then nodded at each other. One of them pulled out a stack of pages held with a binder clip and flipped it open to a page covered with sticky notes.
They reviewed their notes and tasks as the ringing of the sphere faded to a forgettable level. Just as I thought about turning away, they faced the sphere again and made a synchronized gesture. They never touched the sphere, but the quartz suddenly rang out with a piercing tone that made me stagger as if struck.
I gripped the small table to steady myself and saw a collection of something like white mist start to collect between my hands.
It took me a moment to realize the white mist was flowing from my open mouth.
I felt as if I was a very, very small thing inside a large fleshy costume. Shrinking tinier and tinier until nothing of my inner matched up with my outer. Like a deflating balloon within a blood-iron cage, I lacked the ability to expand into myself and collapsed into the back of my mind.
“This is like those old-timey seances!”
“No it’s not, man, those were faked, this is fucking real!”
“She’s going down!”
“Get a chair under her!”
I don’t remember sitting down. Just that my arms no longer had to support my weight. Freed of their thankless task, I saw them stretch out in front of me. Open hands extended to the quartz in supplication.
Two hands attached themselves to my shoulders. Bloodless eyes rolled back to view through flesh and bone to look over one shoulder. Horatio stared sternly at the new inhabitant in my flesh. The incorporeal sight rolled the other way to look over the other shoulder. Pescado smiled and nodded as he politely informed without speech that if the rider made any attempt to harm me, either spirit or flesh or both, that he and his compatriot will be most displeased with the offender, and that the offender will be… removed. Reassembly would not be guaranteed.
My hands reached harder for the quartz.
“Dude. What if… What if she’s a better vessel than the quartz is? She said the quartz is cold and needed to be warmed up, but she’s already warm, so…”
“So let’s put the quartz in her hands!”
The stone was cold. So cold. The chill spiked into and through my hands with jellyfish speed and indifference. I heard my voice gasp in surprise at the sensation of being pierced and wounded by a change of temperature.
“Okay, guys, let’s start this from the top!”
The quartz rang out again. This time the note sounded less discordant as the stone soaked up all the warmth my body could create. But the sound now buzzed from my bones and from in between the arteries and veins. It drowned my cognition and I knew nothing more.
“Her hands are cold.”
“Here, got a hot mocha. It’s not burning hot so wrap her hands around it.”
My arms flexed from the response of being touched by two noncorporeal beings flanking me. The larger warm object I was now holding was brought to my face. In dumb instinct, I sipped the bitter liquid confection.
My mouth felt like it was stuffed with caramel laced with lemon juice. My right eye twitched. I tried to remember what happened after the quartz was placed in my hands, but all I could remember is how static tastes.
“Did y’all get what ya wanted?” There was no way I could make sipping a mocha after being ridden look cool. So I guzzled the still heated drink. The sting of the burn felt so damn good.
“Eh… We got something.”
“It’s not what we expected.”
“You threatened to throw the quartz at my head.”
“I don’t blame her, or whatever was in her. You kept asking how it felt to play with your ball.”
“It was just a joke!”
“It was a shitty joke the first time, after the fifth, I was ready to hit you myself!”
“Yea, so, what came through you seemed friendly…”
“Oh, yea, and it said sharing warmth was important.”
“And it said something you would not know because we just met you here, so that something was legit, for sure.”
“And when asshole over here said to make you go home with him…”
“Actually, he commanded the spirit to fuck him… we’ll kick his ass for that later…”
“Something else jumped in you, changed your voice, and told us all exactly what would happen if we tried.”
“We decided some things are best not tested.”
“But before you go, we do wanna ask about the quartz itself.”
“Does it have a spirit of its own?”
The quartz wasn’t ringing anymore. It was cold and inert and silent. Empty the way a clean bowl is empty. It had an existence of its own, but it was ready to have that existence qualified by use again.
“Of a type. But that’s something you’ll have to explore for yourself. It’s not resonating with me anymore, so I’ll have to assume my job in this dream is done.”
“Dream?!” All three men looked up at me with joint surprise.
“Yea… dream. What are the odds of this happening in the coffeeshops I go to? Nada. Not to mention the white mist? Classic ectoplasm, gentlemen. Though I have to admit, that is a first for me, dream or not. And then there’s y’all three. Yea, sure, you each look different, and act different, but then again, the three parts of a human psyche all have different senses of self about each other. Ego, Id, and Superego. All working towards a common goal, but doing it in a separate way that doesn’t always work together. Hell, I’ll even challenge if your waking world self even identifies as male!” I chugged the last of the mocha. “And then there’s the drink. Possession hangover or not, it doesn’t taste right. Like it’s the memory of someone who doesn’t like mochas to begin with. So I hope I was of help to you, singular or plural. But I gotta get up in the morning and go to work.”
The three men started to argue amongst themselves about whether or not they existed as they were perceiving themselves to be. The quartz sphere remained on the cushion on the table and glinted in the diminishing light as I stood up and made my way for the door.
Horatio opened the door and Pescado held my hand as we exited the coffeeshop, and with it, the dream.