Bouguereau, “Dante e Virgilio all’inferno”
When in doubt you go back to the beginning. Call that psychic hotline. Get ahold of the medium who put you in touch in the first place. Or, actually not in the first place, or the first time, but never mind, close enough. I don’t even have to tell her my name or why I’m calling. “You’re in a lot of trouble,” she says, getting right to the point. “You’re not supposed to be there.”
“Be where?” I ask; it’s a rhetorical question.
“They monitor the border,” she replies and I know she doesn’t mean Canada’s so I ask her to be more specific.
“I tried to warn you before,” she continues with more than a little exasperation, and the image that comes into focus reminds me of the Visitor’s Room at Kern State Prison, Delano, Kern County, California, a medium security facility where Rose and I paid a visit to one of her old boyfriends once or twice many years ago (cold blue eyes and bad tattoos on a body that made you hear cheap motel bedsprings screaming, Grand Theft Auto, third strike, long story). Like a high school cafeteria during detention, sturdy chairs and Formica-topped tables, prisoners on one side, visitors on the other, guards at regular intervals around the cinder block walls, no touching.
“Where the Living meet Those who have Passed Over,” I say, repeating her words. “Kern State with mood lighting and a fog machine is more like it. Or Dante’s map of Hell, there was a bar in New York called the Ninth Circle I did very well in when I was younger. Much younger actually – ”
“You’re in trouble,” she says again. “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
“Well, I can’t betray something I haven’t got, can I? Although I think it’s more I can’t transmit something I haven’t got, but I’m using the phrase out of context which doesn’t matter I know what you’re talking about, the Canadian was in Cairo too, wasn’t he?”
“Just because someone looks human,” she replies sadly, “doesn’t mean he is.”
“I’m not at the Border,” I say. “I’m Falling in Time. There’s a difference. There is, isn’t there? I was in another time and place. Oh, I see, they patrol that too? You’re saying the government has people who – and I know I’m not the only one so what are you saying, they’re tracking anyone who – what do they call us, Time Fallers?”
“Really? Wow, makes it sound faintly illegal.” I can hear her smirk. “So how do you get away with it?” I ask. “You have a website, you advertise, there are mediums with reality shows.”
“Completely different, hello,” she retorts. “Mediums aren’t Interlopers. And no one believes us anyway, we’re entertainment, harmless, what you’re doing is dangerous, you’re going to get hurt, you’re Crossing the Line and no pun intended, you can’t get away with it.”
“I’m not trying to get away with anything,” I shoot back and am about to ask her why she thinks I’m trying to when she interrupts and tells me to be careful and not to call her anymore.
She was right, of course. What I was doing was different.
I just didn’t understand at the time why that would be so bad.