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The Remedy

                                *Gustav Klimt, Medicine (Hygeia) (1899-1907)*

Whenever they feel the need of summoning spirits to unravel the knots that have long entangled their very basic sense of reasoning, they will build a fire on the ground. A clairvoyant will mutter a string of rambling spells, and all participants are made to bow their heads in reverence. Nothing happens much after the spirit appears. Some remarks tentatively that the fire always hisses and flickers whenever the ghost slides pass. But most of them insist they witness nothing during the course of the ritual; anything abnormal that any of them happen to catch a glimpse of is dismissed imperiously as the result of their fantasies. Only the clairvoyant is endowed with the gift of seeing and communicating with the spirits, as one little boy once observed, no language or words are needed for communication, the clairvoyant merely blinks an eye and the spirit is infused in hers.

This time they summon a new spirit whose presence just departed from the earth not long ago- the poor girl was tormented then sent up to a pyre of fire. Her soul has been restless ever since- the witnesses of this haunting visitant said she did not utter a word, quite like her laconic self when she was alive, but stared straight ahead of her, gaze determined but empty. It is with a firm purpose that they should invite in this sleepless ghost. The little boy sees the clairvoyant raise her head heavenward with a jerk, and open her eyes from ecstatic slumber she cries: “She’s here!”

The man is rapt rummaging in a pile of pamphlets when he senses her entrance. She says plainly to him, voice icy-cold and every syllable that uttered sounds so far-off as if it grows wings, that she knows he sees her, unbeknowngst to the clairvoyant and other participants. He then sees her emulating what he was doing, leafing violently through the pages of several bulky tomes that lay gathering dusts on the shelves. He stops her movement by gently offering this interjection: “You really needn’t trouble yourself anymore. The case can never be solved.”

She turns abruptly to him, eyes brimmed with tears. It is weird seeing a creature who was stony-hearted in nature should become inexplicably sentimental when her flesh is no longer clung to her soul- he is almost convinced that the wetness permeated the eyes is only a refraction of light. But there are no sources of light save a dwindling oil lamp on the table. She regains her composure. Any sign of emotions peters away. No responses or words. For a second she takes him to be the clairvoyant.

Then softly she tells him she has always feared death, and the torment seemed to be an everlasting agony. The way she delivers her confession is like smooth water not bothered by any stones or obstacles. From the continuous din outside a second ritual seems about to be taken place. No fear or anticipation possesses her but she is standing awkwardly and irresolutely, as if an abandoned doll waiting for its master to claim it back.

“To be in peace,” he tells her in an almost inaudible whisper. A smile of relief creeps upon her face, not unmixed with the pain that is never to be blotted out by time. She bows her head in a jerk as if chancing to doze off, whilst from without he hears the clairvoyant finish her chant and knows she is about to raise her head heavenward. In this infinitesimal moment between absorption and unawareness, she is gone.


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