Silver and Wisp
by Liz Hufford
When you’re learning to drive, things happen. A mailbox leaps out to meet you or you drive longer than recommended with the parking brake on, radio volume at maximum. But few people know, especially muggles, that astral projection has a learning curve.
I’ve known since I was an infant that I could AP. When I’d cry and my mother didn’t come right away, I’d track her down in the house. After I became mobile, the world was pretty damn interesting as is, so I didn’t AP much until I was old enough to be grounded. Even then trips to the skate park and mall sufficed. And at school despite Mrs. Schwartz’s efforts, I DID get out of detention.
By the way, according to the AP app I found on the dark web, your DNA may indicate if you are a potential flyer. Apparently the more diverse your genetic pool, the more likely you are to travel.
Now I know you would have done it differently. You would have gone to the Oval Office or the caves at Lascaux. But I was fifteen, and all I wanted was to get inside. . . Polly Goldring’s bedroom. I wasn’t quite sure what I’d do there. I had options. In my astral body I could see and hear everything, but it was also possible, though quite risky, to pull my physical body into the space. You know, in case anything physical was required. Romance novel covers flashed through my mind, a beautiful woman in the arms of a brawny young man. Not that I was brawny but I did have a ripped shirt or two.
Now the thing about AP is that it demands focus. As a baby my mother was my world, so my movement to follow her seemed effortless, natural. But at fifteen I was easily distracted. I had to set myself up for success. First, I ate a dozen of the bake sale cookies mom was working on. AP expended an enormous amount of energy. Then I locked my bedroom door, set the fan on white noise, spread eagled on my bed, and closed my eyes.
Beep. Beep. Beep. The fire alarm went off, the dogs started barking, and my sister jiggled my door knob screaming, “Mom, Devon locked his door. He’s probably doing it again.”
My astral steering may have been a little off.
AP is disconcerting. Initially you want to “stand” in a corner somewhere until you get your bearings. As my equilibrium returned and my vision cleared, I surveyed my environment.
I had definitely made it to a bedroom. A bedside lamp with a peach bulb dusked the room. It was not what I expected. I thought Polly would be purple/fuzzy animals/dance trophies/strewn clothes. This room was Architectural Digest-ish. A door opened, and a woman emerged from an ensuite. Correction, not a woman but Mrs. Schwartz, who lived one door down from Polly. Mrs. Schwartz, known at school as The Enforcer. The smallest offense would land you in detention—running in the halls, embellishing a toilet stall with a permanent marker, or flipping Jell-O cubes onto the cafeteria ceiling.
A quick retreat was in order, but as The Enforcer settled herself in bed and opened a book, I noticed a shadow at the window. After a few minutes Mrs. Schwartz yawned, stretched expansively, fluffed her hair, laid her book aside, and turned off the light. The shadow became the form of a man. A few more minutes passed. Surely the rule-diligent Mrs. Schwartz locked her windows at night. But no, the window was slowly being raised.
The passage from astral body to physical is not immediate. You flicker in between, one possible explanation for ghost sightings. If I started the transformation, my phantom might be enough to scare off the intruder. Then I could withdraw both from the process and the room. But what if that ruse failed?
I sincerely believed that the daytime Mrs. Schwartz could fend off any opposition. But this Mrs. Schwartz, asleep in a satiny blue nightgown, seemed a more vulnerable creature. We were talking possible robbery, rape, even murder. Could I just stand by?
I thought could take the guy physically. I was young and athletic. But I’d never actually tried the full body jump. Then there’d be the aftermath. Even if the guy just ran off and the police weren’t called, I might be on detention until graduation for APing into Mrs. Schwartz’s bedroom.
The masked man crawling through the window appeared unarmed. He stood gazing down lasciviously at Mrs. Schwartz, breathing hard. I had to do it. I stretched out my arms and stood on my tiptoes to make myself look bigger, like you do when you come across a dangerous wild animal. Then my body started to silver and wisp. I made my hands into reaching claws as I moved toward the man.
It worked. He jolted backward, hit his head against the wall, and crumpled. Mrs. Schwartz awoke, got up, and shook the unconscious man before picking up her phone.
It was hard to withdraw at that point, but I managed. Eventually I was back on my bed profusely sweating and exhausted.
The next day at school Polly approached me in the hall. “We have a sub for history. Mrs. Schwartz isn’t here.”
Oh no. “Did she call in? Is she sick?” I asked anxiously.
“Nope,” Polly said. “It’s her husband. He took a bad fall and got a mild concussion. He has to be supervised for 48 hours.”
Her husband. A little fantasy role play? Needless to say, I never looked at Mrs. Schwartz in the same light. Seems I wasn’t the only one who could project an image. She appeared to be sleeping when I made my ghoulish appearance, and I don’t know what her husband said he saw. But strangely enough I never got detention again.
A student once asked me, "Is there any happy literature?" It took me a moment to answer, and later I revised my schedule of readings. Seriousness is not required for literature but is often concealed in humor. I offer as proof Louise Erdrich's THE SENTENCE.
I have never read a funnier first chapter, and yet it contains death, drugs, and a prison sentence. The novel is not without conflict, but the narrator Tookie meets it head on. (Okay, she buries some of it.) Tookie is grounded in the physical world--weather, nature, food--yet well aware of the supernatural. She is an essential worker like no other.
Try not to race through this book, but if you do, it's worth a reread.