In those early days of Lily Dale, long before it was even known as Lily Dale or, before that, City of Light, our freethinking earthly compatriots were fond of organizing the most charming displays of communicative prowess. Demonstrations of suprasensible affinity, they called them, in a not very subtle attempt to lure more attendees, an objective in which they met with some success. To be sure these feats of psychic strength were show-offy, and yet we found our hosts and channelers during these “interviews” to be a pleasurable and happy diversion from the usual banter with our sidereal kinfolk.
On summer nights three mediums were featured, one after another, iced tea interludes in between. The duration of each circle-sit lasted a half hour or so, a window during which the sensitives were to employ us, the dead. Afterwards, the lights would be raised and the attendees would debate the success of the various interrogations, then conclude by declaring one of the clairvoyants the victor.
These evenings were exceptionally humid, even for that time of year; the men in their wool suits, the women with their black frocks (always the black! how curious, as none of us up here have any use for such emptiness of color) buttoned to the chin. Our empathetic receptors caused even us to feel clammy! We sympathized with them. But had they sat holding hands wearing little more than their intimate underthings, not only would they have felt far more refreshed but the connectivity would have been so much the greater.
Bridey “Maw Maw” McCallister always went first. They considered her a matriarch of a kind, descended as she was from one of the Dale’s first founders. A woman of enormously healthy proportions, Miss Bridey’s superlative tummy enabled her to speak in a booming voice that practically split the room’s close air in two. Several of the wits and scamps among our kind would leap at the opportunity to speak through her, presenting her with faux names and titles to match her outsized personality: a successful farmer by the name of Levi Columbus, decorated war hero Colonel Enoch, Roman centurion Octavio Seraphinus.
Ort and Krin, conjoined brothers, came second. Ort, the mute one, was said to be the receiver of voices; twin Krin, the transmitter. Interestingly, and unbeknownst to Krin and all others in the room, fellow mediums and attendees both, Ort was the authentic one. Despite congenital deficiencies that rendered him unable to communicate via speech, hand, or sign, he was in fact one of the most powerful higher order sensitives with whom we have had the pleasure of communing. (While Krin slept, our kind and Ort not only conversed into the wee hours, but we not infrequently brought him with us on our astral safaris.) For these seances, however, Ort would simply sit there while Krin, a fabulous hoaxer, would regal the audience with a crowded array of imaginal guides, sea captains, and forgotten monarchs. Whenever his channelings grew tiresome or rude, which was often the case, we used Ort, with his permission of course, to slide our own modifications and chastisements into Krin’s commentary. While Ort’s countenance, frozen as it was with palsy, could never reveal his thinking, we of course could hear his interior giggling at his coarse brother’s expense, and joined with him in spirit.
Last came Little Chirrup. Little Chirrup! Always the star of the evening. Barely six years old, she had to sit atop not one but two family bibles in order to reach the table. As her arms were so short there was room for an additional guest around the circle of hand-holding believers. Her parents, two of the simplest, most devout christianizers you could ever meet, frowned upon these gatherings, and would never have permitted their daughter’s participation were it not for the coin; they sat there, not at table, but awkwardly on the room’s perimeter, wringing their hands all the while.
Little Chirrup—birth name Josalie—was an extremely rare sensitive, what is known among us as a transpecies conductive, with vigorous ninth degree powers enabling her to dispatch the voices not just of children and babes but of birds and small animals who had suffered untimely passings.
And, ah, those performances of hers—concerts, more than conversations, and she the conductor, the aural choreographer, of dozens of voices, chirps, calls, howls, meows, hoots, and more. But far from any bedlam, Little Chirrup intuitively knew how to deliver that cacophony of pleas and warbles, twills and outbursts, via melodies so delicate and rapturously entwined that it moved even us tearless beings to weeping. When young Josalie sat at the spirit table, all of us within the dome of heaven could not but stop our business, frozen in reverent ecstasy, the empyrean suffused with bliss beyond any we might comport ourselves.
And all borne by this pigtailed ragamuffin, feet no bigger than two mice and dangling well above the floor, warbling the language of angels.