The Séance

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Some think ghosts are only born of strong emotion, that it takes an extreme of love or hatred or rage to keep a spirit tethered to the world. Without such a feeling, they say, those who die just fade away, as they’re supposed to.

This is not really true. Spirits are their own thing, and lack of care or attention to them will not diminish them. It will only diminish the living, who need to listen to what their ghosts tell them. At least, that’s what I believe, and in our town, most people shared my convictions.

Which was a good thing for us. My sister Katharina and I were mediums, you see. We held seances in our parlour, drawing out the spirits that surrounded us and spilling their secrets to the living and the grieving. Spirits, as I said, are their own thing, and most of them prefer the comfort of the dark, cold months, sheltered in the quiet autumn or the dead of winter.  Our clear, golden, northern summer nights gave them nowhere to hide. Instead, we waited for the first frosts, for the mist they called witchsmoke to start rising from the ground. The ghosts could better sneak into the room when the fire was lit, coming in through the chimney and hiding in showers of sparks or curls of smoke.

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We relished the chill of mist outside, the silent snow piling up on the windowsill. If the moon was out to cast us an atmosphere, that was good. If the night was stormy, that was even better. Those were the times that could best enthrall an audience, so those were the times we made our best living…

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