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| The Soothsayer
By Henry P. Gravelle
Cathy Turcotte was afraid the annual Halloween bash at her home would be
predictable and boring with family, friends and neighbors adorned in the same
unimaginative garb, as it was year after year. It had to change.
The Wolf man, Cinderella, Dracula and of course Frankenstein were a few of
the usual suspects. Once in a blue moon someone would become creative and
actually design an interesting outfit that would receive kudos.
Three years ago Cousin Bob came up with a life-like Creature from the Black
Lagoon complete with wet, scaly skin and gills that sucked air in and out like a
fish out of water.
That was the last time Cathy could remember anyone putting some effort into a
costume. Since then it was mundane and the usual, even to the point of several
of the same costumes roaming through the open house. There had to be
something new, something to bring back the interest and the fun, something
eerily different. Perhaps this year there should be entertainment and it should
be her in costume as a fortuneteller.
She watched her reflection in the full-length mirror as she fastened a scarf
around her waist. “Perfect,”
It clung to the tattered, dark green sundress hanging from her hips with
attached canvas pouch. A beige blouse with puffy sleeves billowed from under
a richly ornamented vest of faux rubies and silver studs.
Her hair was recklessly brushed wild and carefree, framing her facial features
glistening with an abundant coloring of eye shadow and lip rouge.
Large silver rings dangled from her earlobes touching the shoulders from their
circumference. She batted the heavy black massacred eyelids and gazed
triumphantly at her creation of a gypsy fortuneteller. She smiled.
“Madame Giselle, I presume?” Husband Dave’s voice asked from the bedroom
door. He leaned against the jamb in his Kermit the Frog outfit admiring his wife’s
“What do you think?” She asked twirling like a gypsy dancer around a campfire.
“I have to admit, honey, you look absolutely … I don’t know,” he commented lost
“Ravishing?” she attempted to fill in his blank statement.
He studied her again as she turned slowly, modeling her labors of the last hour
and allowed him to fully digest the costume.
“I guess the word is you look authentic, like the real thing, a full-fledged
soothsayer and on Halloween, a fantastic idea.” He kissed her check.
“Thank you,” she glimpsed one last time into the mirror, “remember Kermit, I will
sit with one guest at a time in the dining room.”
“I saw what you did there, it looks like the inside of a gypsy’s tent.”
“Just hung some sheets, garland, some candles, some incense …”
“Some? The room is filled with stuff, even the crystal ball. Where did you get
“From the Manning’s front yard. Didn’t you ever see it on that pedestal near the
rose bushes? Part of their exotic landscape design I imagine.”
He nodded recalling the hideous looking lawn decoration.
“Well, I borrowed it … fits in perfect.”
“So you intend to read everyone’s fortune?”
“Sure. I’ll mention things they already know or maybe some they shouldn’t.”
“Please don’t spread gossip,” he warned knowing the neighborhood wives
twisted and edited factual innocent acts of life’s everyday difficulties into mind-
“Oh please, Dave. It’s just a fun time to change the route this yearly party has
taken. I had to try something, for God’s sake. I’m afraid no one will show up
next year if tonight is as dull as the last one. Maybe if things go well we can get
a real soothsayer next year?”
He walked towards her mimicking Doctor Frankenstein’s assistant Igor. “Why
yes, master, an actual fortuneteller to scam us into thinking all is known in the
He walked towards the door with each step of his frogman flippers carefully
placed. “Are you ready? A lot of guests await the arrival of the famous Madame
“Remember Kermie, one customer at a time.” She laughed, flipping the shawl
over her shoulders, the ends whisked by the frog’s nose. She spoke in a
falsetto Zsa Zsa Gabor, “Madame Giselle insists on privacy when she reaches
into other dimensions.”
The invitations mailed out for this years bash contained the announcement of
Madame Giselle’s presence as entertainment informing the guest that the
soothsayer would be available to predict their future. That was the catalyst
enticing guest earlier than usual and with a few new outfits. Her plan was
Cathy could see the beginnings of what promised to be a larger gathering than
past years. Guest milled about the interior of her home taking in the ambience
of the Halloween décor of sprayed spider webs, jack ‘o lanterns, witchcraft
paraphernalia and black cats.
Costumed creatures roamed freely about the living room and kitchen nibbling on
appetizers, enjoying an exotic holiday drink or just chuckling at someone’s
“My God, look at you!” An impressed Alice in Wonderland held Cathy at arm’s
length scanning her outfit, “You look like, like …”
“The real thing?”
“Yes! Like a real gypsy.”
“I know, Dave already told me.” She replied to her friend and neighbor Peggy
Stiles, “and look at you, a wonderful Alice!” Cathy remarked moving toward the
dinning room set up as a fortuneteller’s lair. She smiled inwardly at Peggy’s
short red hair sure Alice was a blonde.
“Mickey is the rabbit,” Peggy called out over Bobby Picket’s Monster Mash
blaring from the stereo.
Cathy pictured Peggy’s husband Mickey more on the line of a Mad Hatter but
that was none of her business. Her hubby was a frog.
She politely greeted those attired goblins, monsters and fairy tale characters
she met along the way then made sure Dave was hosting since she would be
confined to the dining room for a good portion of the evening. She spotted
Kermit busily greeting guests, offering snacks and making small talk. All was
set. She could begin.
Dave noticed her at the door and gave thumbs up indicating all was well and he
would bring her first customer. Cathy blew him a quick kiss then slipped into the
dining room, closing the door behind her.
He was right, she thought. The drooping sheets, throw rugs, candles, draped
beads and of course, the shiny plastic red ball on the table in front of her seat,
made for quite the illusion of a fortuneteller’s parlor.
She sat at the opposite side of the large dinning table excited to begin and play
out her role bringing freshness to the party’s Halloween theme. Dave opened
the door allowing in her first visitor. It was Alice in Wonderland.
“Peggy …” Cathy moaned.
“I know, you want to impress everyone with your Tarot Cards.”
“Fortune telling,” Cathy corrected her.
“I’ll just be a sec, why don’t you try it on me before anyone else comes in? They’
re lining up out there you know.” Peggy stated gaining the excitement Cathy lost
from her friend being the first in.
“Try what out on you, Peg, I’m just acting, this is a costume. Look, these are my
old bed sheets,” she touched the overhanging low ceiling of cotton percale. “I
just wanted to goof on people, have a few laughs, you know … play the part.”
Peggy glared blankly at her friend as though she had just broken some terrible
“You told me you did this before in College. A ghost came to you or you spoke
to a spirit, something along those lines.”
Cathy remembered the conversation. “It was a few years ago. I mentioned the
séance we had at the frat house; a few of us tried it with no results.”
“You saw a ghost …”
“No. What I said was the table vibrated for a second or two but that was all.”
Cathy nodded her head. “No ghost.”
“What about the table shaking?” Peg asked intrigued.
“Someone said it meant a spirit was trying to enter this dimension from the place
were they dwell, but I seriously think it was one of the girls moving the table with
“Damn. And I told Mickey you were the real thing. Listen when he comes in - He’
s the rabbit in the Wonderland - tell him all his dreams are going to come true if
he buys his wife a Lexus.”
“Bye, Peg.” Cathy smiled waving with one hand, the other under her chin.
“I’ll have to mingle and figure out who’s who,” she stated closing the door.
A cool draft filtered through the room sending the cloth ceiling into a gentle
wave causing the candles to flicker. Cathy felt the table tremble slightly under
her arms but attributed it to the overcrowded home and constant foot traffic by
the door. One of her earrings dropped to the floor. After retrieving it she sat
upright and noticed the man at the end of the table.
“My God, you scared me,” she gasped, tapping her chest.
The man remained silent standing behind the end chair of the table. Cathy was
mesmerized by his clever use of simple everyday items to create a wonderfully
frightening look. It had to have been the best costume of not only tonight but
“I’m sorry,” she repeated, “You startled me. I didn’t realize anyone had entered
The man was quiet.
“I don’t think we’ve met?” Cathy mentioned squinting through the candlelight to
focus on his face.
His eyes were closed. Darkness colored the sockets, with several strands of
thick black thread fastened somehow to his lips as though they had been sewn
closed. His flesh was thin and wrinkled like he had spent several hours in a tub,
hanging loosely over a very thin, bony frame. His Caucasian hue replaced by
several shades of gray, blue, and reddish black.
A thick line ran across the top of his shirtless chest from shoulder to shoulder
with another flowing down the center of his torso to … she could not see how
far, the chair blocked her view, but she imagined it ran to his navel. The line
was also laced with black thread. Cathy was impressed, a very unique costume,
an autopsy cadaver.
“If you prefer not to speak as part of the costume I’ll understand. It’s a terrific
get up, probably the best I’ve seen.” Cathy said. “But we are going to have to
speak at some point.”
Probably one of Dave’s pranks sneaking this guy in to scare the be-Jesus out of
me. She thought. The man remained quietly behind the chair with his eyes
and mouth closed. Cathy stood.
“Okay, jokes over. It’s a very, very, awesome costume and you scared me, now
maybe you should …”
“Need you.” The man stated, his voice low, mumbled but understandable.
Cathy sat back down unable to understand why someone would play the role
this long with closed eyes and restricted breathing and voice.
“Tell wife I loved her.”
She did not answer, just stared at the man. She could not figure this out.
“Is she here tonight?” she asked confused. The man slowly moved his skull in a
“Why don’t you tell her yourself? Did you have a little tiff on the way over here?”
Cathy smiled, trying to lighten up the conversation.
“I loved her.”
“Loved? Is it over and you want me to tell her the bad news?” She became
concerned, “because I’m not here for any of that. I’ll tell her you love her if that’
s what you want but not …”
The man moaned. Cathy never heard such a deep sense of loss, a sound of
hopelessness drawn from his closed lips. It frightened her as his entire act did.
It was time to end this and let him leave. She stood and was able to see his
left leg and thigh.
He’s naked! Cathy yelled to herself. She would get his wife’s name and have
him removed from the house and then chew Dave’s ass for sending this one in.
And how did he get undressed so fast? Where were his clothes?
“Okay, I’ll tell your wife you loved her. What’s her name?”
The door opened with Dave’s face peering in. Light from the nearby kitchen
and guest voices flowed into the dining room interrupting Cathy’s investigation
of the strange naked man.
“Ready?” he asked.
She looked at him with searing eyes. “Ready… ready for what?”
“The next guest,” he answered confused.
Cathy looked to the man at the end of the table then back to Dave.
“I am a little busy right now, Dave.” she nodded in the direction of the strange
man, attempting to focus Dave’s attention towards him.
What was wrong with Dave? Blinded from the darkness? Can’t he see this guy?
“Busy? Okay, let me know when Madame will begin again. Peg says you’re a
“Wait!” Cathy called out before the door shut. Dave gazed back in.
“What’s your wife’s name?” she asked the stranger.
“Is this a trick question?” Dave answered smiling.
“Not you!” she angrily startled Dave into silence. He followed Cathy’s eyes as
they moved toward the opposite end of the table. She seemed to be speaking
to the chair.
“Can I have your wife’s name, please?”
The man in the corpse costume mumbled. “Anna Roy.”
“Did you hear that?” Cathy asked Dave. He shook his head no.
“Sorry, hear what?”
“Dave.” she insisted, “Find a guest named Anna Roy and bring her quickly. Her
husband is with me and could use some help.”
“Is everything all right?” He asked swinging open the door.
“Just get her.” Cathy pleaded. Dave left to inquire of the Roy woman.
“Why are you naked in my house?” Cathy asked feeling a bit confident now that
Dave would return with the man’s wife. No answer, just the motionless
expression of closed eyes and mouth without moving a single muscle.
Dave returned with a woman who portrayed Little Red Riding Hood by wearing a
red hooded sweatshirt.
Cathy thought, How uncreative and droll this woman is. Did she not attempt to
catch the spirit of the party? If she is that against a good time then stay home
with the corpse husband and watch horror movies on television. She should
have let her husband work on her costume. He obviously has talent in the scary
Tears were streaming down the woman’s face. Dave handed her a Kleenex.
“This is Anna Roy. She …”
“Good!” Cathy pointed to the chair and the man. “Here is your husband. I do
not know why he is naked but I will ask you to please remove him from my home.”
“Cathy.” Dave tried to speak calmly to his distraught wife, “Mr. Roy is …”
“I don’t care, Dave! The man scared the hell out of me and now he’s naked in
my house. For Chrissake take him home.”
“My husband died four months ago.” Anna Roy spoke through sobs of pain and
Cathy stood frozen beside her chair. Her eyes traveled from the crying widow to
her red-faced husband shaking his head at her conduct.
“Damn it, Cathy. What the hell are you doing?”
He helped the shaken Anna Roy from the room and led her through the
gathered group of guest at the doorway. Cathy’s eyes welled. She trembled
from her insane outburst, burying her face in her hands.
“Tell her I loved her.” A muffled voice requested.
Cathy raised her head to see the man still standing by the chair. The light from
the opened door shone on his translucent dead flesh making his form clearly
visible. Cathy’s eyes widened in terror, her mouth opened to scream but could
not find air in her lungs. A centipede slipped out from under one of the coroner’
s stitches sealing the man’s lips.
* * *
Three weeks later David sat quietly at the dining room table where Cathy had
set up her soothsayer attraction. He reflected on the night of the Halloween
party wondering if she really believed Eddie Roy was in this room with her.
Was she obsessed in her quest to play the role of the soothsayer or did a spirit,
lost between astral planes between the living and dead, seek Cathy as a
medium to send a last message to the woman he loved. Had the costumed role-
playing and the room’s appearance turned into a catalyst for receiving the dead?
“Your wife died of fright, Mr. Turcotte,” the Medical Examiner had declared,
“something literally scared her to death.”
Dave shook his head at the unanswered questions rolling around in his mind.
He switched off the light and closed the door. He never noticed the table