Intangible Chapter 3 – Silvana Waking up in a chair is never a pleasant experience, especially when it was as old and rickety as the

one in the back storeroom of the Baba Yagga Boutique. Then again, it was better than waking up in her car. Both had left Silvana stiff and sore, but the aches from the chair were more predictable. She had roused in her car once with her face pressed against cold hard glass and a severe kink in her neck. She hadn’t been able to turn her head for days. The back room was also more secure than her car, too. When her vehicle had been her home, she had witnessed three muggings, two flashings and one drug-associated drive-by shooting. Not that the Baba Yagga was in a nice neighbourhood, but at least there, Silvana slept behind locked doors and well out of view. This hadn’t been where Silvana had anticipated she’d be at this point in her life, but she had to keep reminding herself that this was just one of the not so nice obstacles that existed on the path that Fate had chosen for her. Things often got worse before they got better, and she had already hit rock bottom. From here, the only direction she’d be going was up. Her situation could have been worse, she supposed, and she certainly hadn’t given up yet. She pulled out the cheap breakfast cereal she kept in the cupboard at the far side of the room and poured herself a bowl. Silvana wished her meagre diet would encourage weight loss, but it wasn’t exactly the healthiest of fare. Most of it was starchy stuff without much in the way of nutrition: cold cereal, ramen noodles and stale doughnuts. Beggars couldn’t be choosers and she used the little money she earned at the Baba Yagga to pay the insurance on her car and to keep gas in its tank. Only a tiny amount remained to spend on the suff she bought that passed as food. What made Silvana worry most was knowing that her current set-up was likely temporary, and she had nothing better on the horizon. Eleanor, the owner of the Baba Yagga had always made it clear that their arrangement wasn’t a permanent one. She had told Silvana that if her psychic readings didn’t increase traffic to the occult boutique, when winter was over, Silvana was out. So far, she had managed to generate interest from just a handful of people and only three of them were now regulars. If Eleanor didn’t pay Silvana to cover the odd shift at the cash, she’d have to resort to dumpster diving for her meals, she had generated so little income from her own endeavours. Silvana snuck a few teaspoons of the milk Eleanor kept in the mini bar fridge for her coffee into her bowl, promising she would replace it the next time she had a paying customer. Eleanor said Silvana’s problem was that she didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear. The successful psychics spouted vague positive predictions at their clients in a very convincing way. What Silvana offered was rarely positive and hardly convincing. It didn’t matter that all of it

came true. The customers were often floundering and desperate; they didn’t want truth, they wanted hope, and Silvana wasn’t usually able to provide it. She was honest to a fault and overly trusting too. That’s why she had ended up struggling her way through life. She had endured a very non-traditional childhood, raised by two wiccan practitioners who were convinced that modern society was the terrible product of man being out of touch with nature. They had home-schooled Silvana, expecting her to follow in their footsteps and embrace their lifestyle, but she hadn’t. Actually, she couldn’t. She just didn’t believe in the things that they did and she wasn’t capable of lying to them. Silvana was one of the most unconventional people you could find. She didn’t fit into the mundane world, enjoying things bizarre and mystical, not to mention having the ability to predict the future, but only typically for others, not for herself. She had a general sensitivity to the supernatural, in addition to her foresight – hardly the norm. On the other hand, she was too conservative to mix properly with those who lived a nonconformist lifestyle. She didn’t worship any of the ancient gods or adhere to any of their dogma. Not that she wasn’t spiritual - she believed in some kind of higher power - but she was more of an agnostic. She didn’t think that whatever was out there could be properly defined by any human being. As a result, she liked to consider herself a non-denominational medium. Her lack of devotion to Gaia or Nature had landed her an outcast status there as well. She found herself in the uncomfortable position that she was in now because she didn’t hold to her parents’ views. When she was seventeen, they had announced to her that they were heading to a commune in the U.S., one where they could practice their religion in peace, without being looked down upon by others who didn’t agree with their ideals. They wanted her to go with them, but she knew they’d be entering the country illegally and that it would lead to problems for them down the road. That, and she just didn’t belong where they were going. Halifax was her home. She expected it always would be. So they had just left her, her parents, with a month’s rent paid on their apartment, and a couple of hundred dollars to get her started. Even though she didn’t have an education that anyone would recognize as valid, she would have to find a job and earn enough to cover the rent, and the bills and her food, on her own. Silvana had tried. She had searched diligently for a job that would cover all of her expenses, but she was an unschooled teenager who looked strange, her auburn hair streaked with oranges and greens, her nose and brow pierced, overweight and wearing clothing that certainly didn’t match the latest trends. Nobody really saw her as employable, and Silvana hadn’t understood exactly what it was that she was doing wrong. She was a nice person, a good person. She was smart and honest and decent but that hadn’t mattered. She had gotten nowhere, and it wasn’t long before she had been evicted, almost penniless, left with only a vehicle on its last legs.

She had lived that way for two years, scavenging for food, doing tarot readings and odd jobs to cover her car costs so that she could at least call that home. The life had been hard on her however and the winters had come close to killing her. Her diet had nearly done the same. Most of her meals had come from scrounging around fast food places and the resulting malnutrition eventually had led to illness. Silvana had passed out one day on the stretch of sidewalk outside the Baba Yagga, while trying to drum up some tarot reading business, since those who shopped in the area were also the type who might be willing to pay for a reading. Eleanor had rescued her and had shown enough compassion to take Silvana into her back room and nurse her back to health. While Silvana had been feverish, and not been in her right mind, she had warned Eleanor of an impending robbery. When the prediction had come true, it had changed Eleanor’s outlook regarding the unusual young vagrant she was harbouring in her store room. Eleanor also had felt very much indebted to Silvana. When the psychic had recovered somewhat, Eleanor had made her the offer that had allowed her more comfort than her car. It was better, but certainly not the kind of life to which Silvana aspired. Silvana returned to her chair with her breakfast and wondered why she had woken up at such a god-awful hour. She hadn’t gone to bed early, and her sleep the prior night had been a restless one. She was tired, but nevertheless, she was antsy, and she couldn’t explain exactly why. She had a feeling something had happened last night, something to which she should have been privy, but for some reason, she had missed it. It made her feel “off” and she didn’t like it. If she leaned forward in her chair, Silvana could see the pale colours of dawn working their way through the storefront window. Eleanor wouldn’t be in to open up shop for hours, which meant Silvana would have to find ways of entertaining herself in the interim. She had read every book that Eleanor kept shelved in the store, at least the ones that had interested her, and had finished the book she had withdrawn from the library recently. With a sigh, she pulled out her tarot deck and placed the cards on the box she used as a table. She never usually bothered trying to read the cards to divine her fate. She had always appeared to be blind to her own future, making successful predictions for others, but rarely for herself. Maybe it was for the best, she guessed. If she had known how low she was going to sink before landing in her current circumstances, she might have lost all will to go on. She liked to believe that there was a reason for everything, and that you couldn’t rush destiny. If she was meant for something important, there was no point in chasing it – it would find her. As Silvana laid out the cards, she caught herself rubbing at her temples. She had never done that before as she had read, but she had also never felt so peculiar, as if something had passed her by while she had been asleep and that something was going to have an immediate bearing on her and the days to follow. Her eyes kept drifting back to a book that was perched on the shelf within arm’s reach, a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Silvana stretched over to

grab it and noticed that there was a bookmark wedged within its pages. Leaving the cards aside for the moment, she flipped through the pages, just out of curiosity. The bookmark rested at the start of a section on the siege of Troy. Glancing at the heading made her catch her breath. Why? She returned her attention to the cards. She had only turned up six of them when the book had distracted her. The first card that she had drawn was the fool, upright, a symbol of new adventures to come, but ones that came based upon rashness and impulse. Silvana could identify with that card. As smart as she was, she often acted on impulse and paid the consequences for it. If the card held true, she was in store for more of the same. The second card was the chariot also upright, another card that suggested a rushed decision, but one that accompanied a journey, and one associated with adversity. Was she going to be going somewhere in a hurry? Was something going to force her into action, something unpleasant? Next was the page of wands. The pages were usually symbolic of a girl, one of strength and courage in this case, but she was accompanied by the nine of swords, suffering. Silvana didn’t know any girls. Most of the people she dealt with were older than her and she was fairly certain the cards weren’t referring to Eleanor, who was more than twice Silvana’s age. Perhaps it was someone she was destined to meet – somebody new. Silvana touched her fingertips to the card. “Who are you, my little page of wands, and where are you? Better yet, what’s wrong with you? Why are suffering? She wasn’t the only person symbolized by the cards. There was a man there as well, a young one, or at least that was what the knight of swords suggested. That made Silvana smile, as she touched that card next. “Ooo, an unexpected hero. There’s hope for our little page yet. He’s strong and clever, but he may not know it just yet. He’s about to figure it out, lucky for us.” The eight of swords, reversed, the card that followed, supported this. “New beginnings,” Silvana remarked. “And freedom.” She had more cards to draw, but for some reason she hesitated at first. With a yawn she reached for the next one, still trying to shake off her exhaustion. As she pulled it free from the deck and flipped it over, her blood went cold in her veins. The card slipped from her tense fingers and drifted down onto the box top. It was the king of cups reversed, which represented a powerful man who was both crafty and violent. Silvana was confronted with a foreboding sense of a terrible evil. That card spoke of a very bad person, not one Silvana would want to encounter, but if the cards did reveal the truth, that encounter was bound to happen.

She quickly pushed the cards away from her, preferring to believe that once again prophecy regarding her own fate had failed her. After all, she didn’t know any of the people indicated by the cards. No brave yet suffering girls, no unexpected heroes with newfound freedom, and no evildoers with violent intent. It was all make-believe, she told herself Her attempts at denial didn’t last long, a morbid fascination with the cards she had drawn gnawing at her. She plucked the knight of swords from the pile, fingering it gently and tilting from side to side. Something about that card felt familiar, like whatever was held there was what she had missed the night before. That didn’t make any sense, which was exactly why it was bothering her. When Silvana had premonitions involving other people, they were usually quite distinct. That was why she had never been able to offer the vague foretellings that the scamartist mediums did. She wished she had the same sort of clarity with this. She was fairly certain that it was important. “Arrrggh! Why can’t I figure this out? Is someone going to come into the shop and start something? Am I supposed to seek them out? I need some guidance here.” She got up and paced the floor, still clutching the card. The idea of a man being involved in all of this, the heroic sort especially, made her very nervous. She had never been very good at dealing with men, due in part to the fact that she had never had a boyfriend or even been close to a boy in any way. Silvana wasn’t very feminine, or at least, she didn’t invest much of her time fussing over hair and make-up, and she never had any money in order to take an interest in shopping. Living in one’s car or huddled in the back of a dingy storeroom hardly made one good girlfriend material either. Along with that, the fact that she had a tendency to speak her mind often put others off. Knowing she was not going to be able to get them off of her mind, Silvana slid that card and the king of cups into her purse. If she was off on some impulsive adventure, she wouldn’t have the time to do any readings. She could return the cards to the deck whenever this rash journey came to an end. She hoped Eleanor wouldn’t take offence to any sudden departures on her part, but if the calling came, Silvana planned to follow it. She reached over and pulled up the page of wands next. This would be a real challenge. Silvana wasn’t used to interacting with children and she was convinced that the girl in question was a child. Being homeschooled meant that she hadn’t even had the opportunity to socialize with her peers and Silvana was an only child. The only non-adult she had ever spent any time with had been herself, and she gathered that as far as children went, she had not been the norm there either. Would she in some way find herself responsible for taking care of this girl? The idea of baby-sitting made Silvana so anxious her stomach hurt. Then again, just the notion of having to leave the Baba Yagga for any length of time aroused a hint of agoraphobia. She hadn’t strayed far from the store since Eleanor had taken her under her wing.

Silvana slid the third card into her purse, as if the trio from the tarot deck would somehow serve as a psychic security blanket and would guide her when the time came. Then she set about writing a letter of explanation to Eleanor, who would hopefully excuse Silvana if her in-house medium was required while away on this unplanned journey. She explained everything that had happened that morning and that if she was not there when Eleanor opened shop, it was because Silvana had been obliged to leave in a hurry. Eleanor trusted her foresight. She had seen evidence of it first hand and would know that if Silvana was compelled to act on something her talents had revealed to her, it was with good reason. Silvana tidied her space the best she could, returning the mythology book to its spot on the shelf. She ran her finger over the picture of the gorgon’s head on the spine, wondering why the book had called to her. The siege of Troy - was she going to be involved in some sort of battle? She shuddered at the thought. She had no idea how to fight and went out of her way to avoid confrontation. She wouldn’t have a clue what to do if she ever found herself in a situation involving violence. Silvana slouched back down in her chair and grabbed up her breakfast again, the cereal at the bottom of the bowl now soggy. She wondered how long she would have to wait until something happened related to her reading. As she took another mouthful, she started to feel all tingly, like the sensation she would get when static electricity made the fine hairs on her arm stand on end. Something in the room shifted and she was sure that she wasn’t alone anymore. That “something” was back – the something that she had missed the night before. “Hello?” she coughed, almost choking as she swallowed. “Where am I? This isn’t where Laura is or home. Why am I here? I was trying to get back to her, but I got lost. Now I need to get back to me. This is somewhere in between.” The voice that spoke, a masculine one, sounded like it was coming from another room and was being channelled in through a tube, with a slightly distorting reverberation. Startled, Silvana turned toward the odd sound, almost falling out of her chair. There was the figure of a man there, although completely transparent, as if he were present but not physically tangible. Was he some sort of ghost? “Wait, wait – what are you talking about? Who are you? What are you? I have no idea why you’re here either. Maybe if you start from the beginning and explain, I can help you. Perhaps we can put you to rest,” Silvana offered. The whole scene reminded her of something out of “The Ghost Whisperer.” Maybe she was expected to help this phantom settle some unresolved issue and then guide him “into the light.” Perhaps he had died trying to rescue someone and the task had been left incomplete. Silvana had never been called on to do anything like this before, but she was willing to give anything a go once.

There was a pause, the veiled shape flickering in and out of view. “You see me, you hear me, and that’s what you have to say? Are you crazy?” “Not crazy, just open-minded. I’m a medium. I was expecting something unusual to happen today. I was sort of anticipating a real person, though, not a spirit. When did you die?” There was a crackle of energy that flashed through the misty form before her, an embodiment of irritation and frustration. “I am a real person and I’m not dead,” he snapped. “Or, at least, I wasn’t last time I checked. I’m not sure what I am, other than lost. Maybe it was because I tried to find her from my own room instead of Marcia’s, or maybe it didn’t work right because I’m sober this time. I don’t know. All I know is that I went for looking her the same way and got confused en route. When I gave up and tried to work my way back home, I ended up here. I can barely see the thread anymore that connects me to my body. It’s fading. That’s bad, isn’t it?” “Connecting you to your body?” Silvana was taken aback; this was another new turn of events. Perhaps this was what the reversed eight of swords was implying. Silvana was never one to try to make events fit the reading, but this did seem like more than just coincidence. “You mean, this is an astral projection?” “A what? I don’t know. I have no clue about any of that mumbo jumbo. Trance-y meditation, mantras, round breathing, none of it makes any sense to me. All I know is that last night when some friends and I were messing around after we had been drinking, I wandered out of my body and in the process, I stumbled across a little girl, Laura, who is in a lot of trouble. I had to try that trance-y thing again today. I wanted to see if I could find her, to make sure it wasn’t all some drunken hallucination. I managed to make it work – I mean, I’m here like this, but I couldn’t track her down. I believe she’s real. I know she’s scared and somebody has to help her. She – she thought I was an angel, coming to rescue her. I can’t just pretend like that didn’t happen. I can’t abandon her when she needs me.” “Actually, you could, but I’m glad you’re not going to, if only for her sake.” Silvana drew in a deep breath, trying to decide what would be the best method of dealing with this bizarre occurrence. She had no experience with astral projection. She needed a frame of reference. “Hang on. Let me dig up some answers for you. This is a bit much to swallow all at once. Let’s focus on the problem of getting you back to your body, and we can figure things out from there.” “Hurry,” the apparition told her. “I’m getting really tired. It feels like I have to hold myself together and if I let go I’m going to just float off in all directions.” Eleanor had several books covering astral projection techniques available in the store. Silvana skimmed past several names, Edain McCoy, Robert Bruce and Richard Webster, before

settling on Alva Simone’s Pocket Handbook of Astral Projection. She remembered the book had an FAQ section and a list of quick tips that might come in handy. She needed something fast. “Did you say that thread that connects you to your body is fading?” Silvana asked, when she finally came up for air. “Yeah, I’ve been drifting around aimlessly for a while now and I’m exhausted. I was getting pretty desperate and then I noticed you were different from everyone else. Your spirit, or I guess that’s what it is, looked more solid and...pretty. I figured it was worth a shot to try talking to you. You don’t know how thankful I am that you listened and answered.” Silvana smiled inwardly at the fact that he had come looking for her because he had found her essence attractive. That was a real change. She couldn’t afford the time to explore that idea however. She was starting to believe her knight of swords was lucky to have come across her when he had. “Well, from the little I read, I’m assuming that you saw me as some sort of a spirit guide, and that’s why you were drawn to me. I’m going to have to talk you through getting back. But you’ll have to listen very carefully and remember what I tell you, alright? And we have to do this quickly. If that thread disappears before you get back to your body, you’ll never be able to return there.” Silence followed, and Silvana worried for a few seconds that she had already lost him. “You mean I could be stuck like this for good?” he finally said. “That’s what the book says,” she replied. “Are you ready?” “Sure, sure – just get me home, before it’s too late.” “I’ll do my best. When you get back there, I want you to call me. Use a telephone this time. You can look it up, The Baba Yagga Boutique. It’s one of a kind. I’m Silvana, by the way. I’ll be waiting to hear from you.” “Whatever you want, now let’s go.” Silvana sighed. She knew he was scared and that time was of the essence, but she needed him to calm down and pay attention. She tried speaking to him slowly, in a soothing tone, hoping that might help. “Alright, your room must be pretty familiar to you right? Pick something you know inside and out, something you are sure you could locate even if you were fumbling around blindly in the dark. You need that to be your focal point. Concentrate on that, no matter what other distractions pop up as you go. You can’t let anything else draw away your attention while you’re finding your way back. There can be a lot of things that will throw you, if you let them.”

“My prize possession is a hockey stick signed by Sidney Crosby. My mom gave it to me as part of my high school graduation gift - I used to play. I know exactly where it is. Nobody’s allowed to touch it but me. It’s within arm’s reach of where I’m sitting on my floor.” His voice seemed fainter, which made Silvana nervous. “That’s perfect. Now I know that thread you mentioned is fading, but you have to keep track of it. While you concentrate on your focal point, you’re going to have to follow it back to your body. You don’t have to make any effort. It’s mostly just a matter of allowing yourself to drift in that direction while ignoring the other forces that happen to be tugging at you; it’s a natural inclination but there will be urges trying to drive you elsewhere and plenty of them. Those unresolved feelings most people like to call “baggage”? – That’s what will do it.” The misty form wavered and dimmed for a moment reinforcing Silvana’s anxiety. “Alanna. My dad...yeah. I’ll keep myself from thinking about them if that’s what I need to do. Anything else?” “Anything else can wait,” she said, relieved that the flicker had been only a response to negative emotions. “Find that focal point and get going. And don’t forget to call.” “I won’t,” he promised. “And Silvana? Thank you.” She nodded, biting her lip, and watched as the insubstantial man floated out of sight. Her knees then turned to jell-o and she had to grab for her chair to keep from falling over. Drawing in a deep breath, she settled back into her seat, and clutching at the book in her hands, she waited for his call.

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