THE SHAMAN

There it was again, Georgie hadn’t imagined it. It was a sound she couldn’t quite place. You didn’t expect to hear a gurgling sound inside a lounge. She scouted carefully round the room, and finally realised that it was  emanating from the oak dresser. It  moaned about not being appreciated and about its craftsmanship being ignored: “look at my newels! Look at my oiled hinges! I was  made by people who knew what they were about! Of course, I’m not judgmental, but my current owner would just as soon have MDF as my oak burnish!” Georgie was offended, and took care to barge into the dresser until the display plates cracked. Things did not stop there. The china cabinet, inherited from her mother, started to emit a cooing sound, again full of complaint: “she’s lost my key! She doesn’t appreciate the bevels in my little glass windows! She doesn’t realise that Babycham glasses are the height of good taste!” Even the sofa was not immune from the burgeoning torrent of grievances. It stood completely alone in the middle of the room, and keened bitterly for the two armchairs that used to be its friends.

 

As Georgie wandered through the house, she was followed by a rattling tide of discourse. She wondered if this was what was meant by “Animism” - a belief-system which held that all objects were sentient. All of a sudden she thought that her funds (never robust at the best of times) could be increased by this cacophony. Anyone whose house jangled like a cutlery-drawer could hire their own private shaman to pacify it. And that shaman could be her. 

 

Accordingly Georgie began to wash less, to grow her hair in dreadlocks and to hang various small purses from her body. She advertised on local  “alternative” websites. She was a little worried about the cultural appropriation issue, but smothered her scruples. She might not look like a shaman, but she certainly believed in them, and she wanted to be one. Surely that would be enough?

 

It might have been enough, were it not for the voice that she heard in her dreams. As soon as she fell asleep, a mellifluous baritone asked: “are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure about this?” Fretful, sweating under her dreadlocks, George had to admit that she was not sure, and suddenly she realised that the voice from the furniture was hers: costive, discontented, quarrelsome, resentful. She was the one who held grudges, and she had transferred her biliousness onto the articles that she owned. She had misheard the messages from the material world. She would have to start again. She had better go outside. 

 

So she trained her attentiveness by forcing her ears to grow. They became much larger, and she managed to move them to the top of her head, so that she looked rather like an Alsatian dog. If she cocked her head, she could hear the song of the earth much better. Never mind how the ears looked: she could always wear a bonnet. 

 

And what songs she heard! The soil hummed with goodwill. The snowdrops rejoiced that their long sleep was over and that they were the first to wake. The big trees loved their roots, but were also prepared to love the axe. The bright stones that were washed in the stream warbled away about their own colours. And the animals knew where they came from: the cows had a distant memory of the Aurocs that they once were, and the cats knew that they used to be tigers. The grass was ambitious, and waved at the stars.

 

Georgie knew that what she had learned could not be sold. She could be a shaman, pricked ears and all, but she had to work at integrating people with their things and their world. She could step out and speak, but she could not be paid. She was now, after all,  a technician of the sacred.

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© 2020 by Sue Harper

feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | supernatural | fantastic and paranoia | literary female gothic | gothic narrative | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest | portsmouth university | emeritus professor sue harper | feminist gothic literature | tales of the macabre | fantastic and supernatural | gothic fiction | written by women | gothic literary tradition | gothic fiction | outstanding achievement award | british association of film, theatre and television | professor of film history at portsmouth university | film, media and creative arts | british academy and the arts and humanities research council | stories of transformation and surprise | sue harper | short stories | feminist gothic literature | The Dark Nest |