Thursday, June 12, 2008

Paranormal Psychology, Part 1

There are many kinds of stories, and several times more ways to tell them, and still more reasons for telling them in the first place. There are simple ways to describe these reasons, and complex ways to describe them, but for now let's follow Ockham and stick to simple. Some stories are told to feel good, to rejoice and celebrate, to yell and clap and jump as high as you can and feel the air all around. These kinds of stories lift you up and let you look around in starry-eyed wonder at the world and miracles around you. These are the kind that make you look up at the sky and try to fit the shapes of clouds to shapes you've seen before. These stories make things better. This is not one of those stories.

It started with something so innocuous that it's almost laughable to think of it now. An email, the pink coloration of which glowed from the screen urgently in an ill-advised attempt to get my attention, with a tag line denoting it as being from one of the faculty at the college I was attending. It read as follows:


To: Henry Ian Tham
From: Professor Isaac Abode

You have been randomly selected from our school's allocation of Psychology students to participate in an alternate course which will serve as credit in any course you wish. You will assist me, Professor Abode, in conducting experiments and research in the field of Paranormal Psychology. My office is in the old library, now known as the Fjord building, and I will be there to answer any pertinent questions. Should this arrangement be contrary to your wishes, please contact the Dean's office to be placed back into the standard Paranormal Psychology classes.

Thank you for reading,

Professor Abode

P.S. Any liability for injuries or accidents incurred during the duration of the course are heretofore automatically waived and forgotten based on a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) hereby agreed to by the student by accepting and participating in the course.


Clicking closed a few windows on my laptop computer, I turned to an approaching customer. Disgusted, I noted his violation of the “no shirt, no shoes, no service” policy.

“What, dear patron, would you like?” I said, hesitating on the word 'patron'. The scruffy, overweight man scratched his balding scalp and then gave me one of the oddest glares I have ever had the fortune of experiencing.

“Hoi tink hoi’ll ‘ave a cuppa joe, iffen ye’ll oblige meh.” The man said in a husky, gritty accent that I once heard in a dying homeless man.

“I see.” I responded, shifting over to pull a pot of deep, black liquid off its place on the counter and pour its contents into a small cup. “Black? Cream? Sugar?”

The man grinned, showing off a startling array of darkened, yellowed teeth, more than seemed possible to fit into a mouth, and laughed sepulchrally.

“Hoi’ll take me cuppa black, lad.”

I turned around, as much to get a lid for the up as to remove the utterly unnerving sight of his face from my view. “You’re not from around here, are you?” I said, picking a lid out from among the jumble of condiments, cups, and bags of creamer.

When I turned back, he was gone. The cup was empty (a piping hot cup of coffee, downed within seconds?) and next to it laid a small, silver coin. I shudder to admit to it, but as my gaze searched the café for that man’s grubby form, I could’ve sworn I got a whiff of brimstone.
“Sir?” My voice echoed hollowly in the suddenly very empty café.

After this experience, I had much difficulty sleeping. As you probably knew I would, I kept both the cup and the coin. The coin itself proved rather peculiar. Emblazoned on its face was a symbol of a man’s profile, with alarming goat horns adorning his head. What I first supposed was silver was much more durable and almost stainless in comparison to any other metal I know of. It looked almost to be made of liquid, as if it were a hollow glass coin filled with quicksilver, the way it glistened.

It occurred to me that perhaps something in the makeup of the coin or some other… less tangible quality of its being is interrupting my sleep. However, I had this creeping feeling that should I have left the coin alone it would have disappeared just as mysteriously as its owner. I supposed that for the moment I’d simply suffer insomnia. It is not so bad a thing, as I still suffer it, and it provides impetus for getting more work done in the day.

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