Ella went every Thursday to her divination classes, which were held in a tiny nook in the back of Another World, a hole in the wall bookstore slash library with books you could rent for one euro but never had to return. Each week, she crammed herself in with two men and two other women in the back room where thrillers sidled up to fairy tales and the supernatural bumped spines with comedies, beside books that were used up, tired of life and waiting to die. Books that had been read to death.

The group was usually huddled over a low table on which some very strange items usually lay – locks of human hair, bits of animal skin, frogs’ eyes and Lays potato chips. The room was always freezing cold no matter the season and even more books crawled pitifully across the floor there, begging for mercy. The lights were temperamental, flickering on and off, falling askance and blinding Marie, the divination teacher. Candlelight would have been more appropriate, but no one was willing to risk being burned to death in the back of the bookshop just for the sake of ceremony.

Marie was tall and thin with darting bird-like eyes and unruly auburn hair that thrashed violently about her head. Under her guidance, the group practiced techniques for contacting “the other side.” These involved low chanting, counting prayer beads backwards from 99, bribing Marie’s cat Onyx with tinned sardines to act as a conduit to the world beyond, and smoking copious amounts of weed.

The two men and two other women were a motley crew. Gregory was twitchy and paranoid, although he was also big and solid and gorgeous. He had bronze skin, light gray eyes and thick, dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Greg came to class because he missed his wife, who’d died 25 years ago and he “just wants to talk to her one more time’, but he was only 23 so it was a little hard to believe.

Sara, who was tall and lithe and blonde, wanted to finish the argument she’d been having with her sister, Jessica, before the latter quite rudely decided to die in the middle of it.

Frank was short and fit and graying at the temples in a not unpleasant way. He wanted to ask his grandmother, who had raised him, whether or not he should marry his boyfriend, Sam. He’d shown photos of Sam around to the group and it was a picture of Justin Bieber.

Mrs. Murphy — who was grossly obese and had already broken two chairs in the bookshop — wanted her husband, George, to please tell her where he had left his bag full of money before he got himself run over by a taxi. And also where had he hidden the good knives that they had bought from that infomercial? As well as what had he done to the gold trimmed painting of their dog, Mr. Muffles?

Ella was of the general opinion that George Murphy had flung himself under that taxi to save himself from the weight of Mrs. Murphy’s nagging questions. In fact, she thought all the people in this room were more than a little nuts. And she knew for a fact this “divination” was all a crock of shit. She knew that Marie couldn’t contact a dead person if one was clinging to her very back. She knew that no one here would get the answers they were looking for here in this broken down bookshop. Ella knew all this, because she was already dead.

to be continued…