If rage has a color, true rage, it would not be red or crimson. It would be the pale and hollow white of a blood drained face. Bright reds are angry colors, passionate colors. Rage pumps itself full of blood to the point of bursting and then bleeds out to an anemic pallor. Anger causes violence. Rage levels mountains. Rage burns villages and leaves the bodies of the dead on pig poles to rot.
The spirits of the dead were queuing up outside of the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin, jockeying for position. I turned to the old man next to me as we watched the scrum. "Does it really do them any good?" I asked. "This flap at the Chapel I mean, does this guy really have any special abilities?"
The old man was silent for a few minutes. He took his time answering, long enough to make me think that he hadn't heard me or was ignoring me. I had just met him but already this habit of slow response was wearing on my nerves. I had been following the pilgrim souls as they made their way to the chapel and the old man had been standing near an olive tree in the piazza watching the crowd form. I approached him and attempted a conversation that was more or less one sided.
"No", he finally said. "He has no special abilities unless you count simple minded concupiscence as a talent."
"Why are so many people, both living and dead flocking here?" I asked. There were as many living souls in and around the Chapel as there were dead. I could see them milling about through the smoked glass veil that separates the worlds.
"Did you ever play a lottery when you were alive?" He asked.
"Yes, on occasion. It was a laugh. I never really hoped to win. Why, what does this have to do with the Chapel?"
The old man shifted his eyes to me for a few seconds, long enough to covey pity or contempt. "Why don't you go ask one of them? You followed them here; surely you must have... faith." He spoke the last word in much the same way one might say cockroach or maggot.
I was silent for a bit as I watched a spirit with a red head scarf work its way into the crowd. "I followed out of hope not faith." I said. "They say that one of the priests here speaks to the dead and gives comfort to the living. I just wanted to... hoped that... it was true."
"As for the lottery thing, I assume that you are telling me not to put my hopes on a long shot." I added.
The old man touched the end of his nose with a bent and gnarled finger and inclined his head. Then he gestured toward the Chapel just as a cheer went up from the spirits and the living fell to their knees and fumbled rosaries.
"What is happening?" I asked. "I can't see." I craned my neck to see over the sea of spirits but it was no good. I was too far back and even climbing on to the low wall surrounding a fountain did nothing for my perspective.
The old man chuckled and muttered, "Behold the Oracle speaketh."
I listened as silence fell through the crowd. One man was speaking, a living man standing on the dais in the Chapel. He spoke slowly in sepulchral tones. The living listened in rapt attention. Some prayed, some wept. As the solemnity of the living grew, so did the agitation of the dead. The agitation was turning to anger as the spirits close enough to hear relayed the words through the crowd.
"What is happening?" I asked. "Why are they so angry?"
"They are getting exactly what they should have expected." The old man turned and walked slowly toward a side ally leading away from the piazza. I stood rooted listening for a few minutes and then hurried after the old man.
"I need to know what is happening. Why should they expect to be angered? Or do you mean that they should not be angry because they should have known something wasn't going their way? I don't understand. All they want is to talk to the priest. Won't he talk to them?"
The old man stopped. He turned halfway and looked me up and down. "You do know that you can't talk to the living. You have tried. You have tried a great deal. It can't be done. But you can talk to me." He continued on his way down the alley. I followed in silence.
I had tried. I had tried for three years straight, watching as my family mourned, then accepted and then moved on. I tried as my pictures got relegated to albums and my children forgot my face. I tried as my wife dated and remarried. The frustration. The anger. The pure rage I felt at being separated with no means to communicate. That is why I followed the pilgrims. That is why I was here. Eventually I stopped accosting strangers and demanding answers. I had only recently despaired to ever watch in silence.
One day as I sat in the middle of a busy roadway, letting the cars and trucks momentarily smear and distort me as they blew through, imagining that I could actually feel it, I heard a rumor. A group of the wandering dead were standing on the sidewalk planning a trip to see a mystic priest who could talk to the dead.
I followed, not believing anymore than I believed in such things when I was alive. I didn't associate with the pilgrims or engage with them at all. I just followed, half way around the world to Southern Italy. Now here in this place I could hear those pilgrims chanting and howling their fury as I walked after the old man.
The old man veered into a public house, made his way to a back corner and settled himself comfortably into a booth already occupied by a living couple. The young woman shivered as the old man passed through her. Her lover instinctively wrapped his coat around her and ordered another drink. I took up the seat opposite sitting in the young man. I matched the man's position for a moment and fixed the old man with a double exposed stare. "I always hate to do this. Occupying the same space as someone else. It creeps me out."
The old man chuckled, "You won't have to for long."
He was right. The couple soon hurried away casting furtive looks over their shoulders at the corner booth. I remained silent for a few moments before asking again what angered the crowd. The old man considered me for bit and finally said. "You really don't know do you?"
I made an exasperated and somewhat rude gesture at the old man who slowly and deliberately said, "You can't talk to the living."
"I know that. You said that already."
"But you can talk to me."
"You said that too. What do you mean? Of course I can talk to you, you are dead."
The old man touched the end of his nose as to indicate a correct response.
"Are you going to explain yourself?" I asked. "OK, I can't talk to the living because I am dead. I can talk to you because you are dead. The pilgrims want to talk to the living but they can't. Are the just mad because he is a fraud?"
"That man is no fraud." The old man said sharply.
"OK, What is it then? He refused to talk to them. He would only talk to a few?"
"No, not exactly. It’s like this; some of the living are open to... possession by spirits. They have to initiate it or be responsive to it."
"So you mean to tell me that if I could find one of these people, I could climb inside and talk to the living that way?" I cut a longing look back at the door and the noise of the crowd.
"Hold your damn horses." The old man snapped. "It ain't that simple. If it was every spirit on this side would be walking around wearing an idiot suite. Don't you see? There are a lot of simple minded, easily manipulated people in the world and a lot of unhappy souls on this side. If you could just find a responsive mind and climb in, chances are you would find that someone beat you to it. Anyway, the universe would be lot more messed up even than it is. People can't keep their mouths shut. Not even the dead. You get possessed bodies running right and left and next thing you know someone has let on about something they couldn't possibly have know about and then it gets out that there actually is an afterlife and spirits and all that. That happens and religion falls apart, governments fall, all hell breaks loose. A lot of very powerful people on both sides get pissed off that happens." “He sighed.”No, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but you got the gist. The old boy is possessed by someone from this side."
“Who? No idea. How? I lost interest a long time ago. There are some prices a man like me won’t pay. Now I just wait.”
“Whatever comes. Whatever comes.”
I crept to the edge of the curtain that gives privacy to the small cell. The elderly priest paced back and forth with the agitated energy of a child waiting for something. The priest took a decanter from a shelf and poured water on the floor one, two, three times then extinguished the lone candle. Cued by something I could not see in the gloom, the priest stopped and drew an intricate pattern in the air before him. Suddenly the priest collapsed like a bundle of loose sticks leaving a spirit standing in his place. The spirit adjusted its red head scarf and disappeared through the back wall of the cell. I watched as the priest awoke, crawled onto his narrow bed, pulled his knees up to his chest and wept. He was pleading prayers to the Virgin to protect him and forgive him when I finally left him to his misery.
...This is part of something I have been writing at for a while. Don't know why really...
Exercising my right of Free Speech and also your right to leave this site if you disagree.