Years ago, walking by the river, I saw two adults sitting on a bench. Their children were close by – among willows on the bank. That day the water was unusually swift and loud above the weir. I didn’t know why I felt uneasy or walked so near to the children and stopped a single pace from the edge. That could be seen as strange and I knew the mum and dad would be watching. An eighty-year-old man lurking near their children?
I pretended to ignore everyone but pulled out a notebook and pencil. Keeping between the children and the steep drop into deep, fast water I concentrated on drawing a mustard flower. I could explain it away if challenged because, as an artist, to remember something is get it into my head by drawing.
After finishing the flower I took a rubbing of peeling birch bark. My intention was to keep the children away from that nasty turbulent stretch. They still came nearer and nearer though. The girl and boy, both about seven years old, were arguing. Pushing and shoving began and escalated in ferocity. In the end I finally spooked the parents by moving closer to the children as if to draw them. The parents called them away and the family left.
This all sounds well thought out but I was winging it, thinking fast.
I relaxed once they were out of sight. Up until what happened next I had no idea why I did all that. The area lightened slightly, which was odd because there were no clouds. There seemed to be a feeling of frustration and anger in the air. It went away as the light improved, or visa-versa.
I heard whispers: a female voice. I really should describe the way these spirits talk. They do make something like words but so much more goes into each sound than the way we speak.
I received feelings of surprise from around me. Surprise that I could see things most other people cannot. I also got thanked … I think that’s what it was anyway.
But then I was left alone to ponder over the whole thing. Light was key to my making sense of it. Yes, it had been a tiny bit darker just for a while At least that’s what I perceived even if no one else did. That is what I have learned to detect – dark spirits.
Subsequently it took practice to develop the skill of detecting malevolent spirits. I did get help from the sounds, messages, in the air around me. A male spirit helped me understand that if I break a stone or glass I can repel evil spirits, banish them back to where they came from. Stone, well, flint and things like that, glass-like, are so sharp they hurt spirits. Metal knives, even the keenest, are too blunt.
The thing I sensed that day was a genius loci. I know some other people can see them. Watch when you are out and about. Those who can see will sometimes stop walking, maybe frown and quickly look at the sun to check there’s no cloud … things like that. The spirits do make things darker around them, and there is cruelty, a feeling of it, which tries to become real suffering in someone.
A genius loci likes to cause hurt. They lurk where people meet up; picnic areas, beaches, river banks, shopping centres. They intensify anger, bitterness, aggression. The escalate arguments, fights too, and can even push suicidal or violent people that tiny bit too far. They delight in causing pain, conflict and distress. They can’t move very fast and when they see you approaching with a broken stone, they slip away, often into water if there’s some nearby. That’s easy, with luck you just throw the stone in and sometimes that’s them gone and the area grows a fraction lighter.
But there are other places people frequent, roads for instance. Which is exactly why I stepped out in front of that car and made the driver hit the bollards and lamp post. He was passing through a genius loci and so jumped the lights. There were too many children around on bikes for me not to do something.
That is why I’m here talking to you, a psychiatrist of all people. I’m not demented, psychotic or insane in any way at all. However, you are going to have me detained in a mental health institution.
That’s the recommendation you’re going to put in your report to the police because right now you can’t hear the truth in what I’m saying. You may also put me on drugs that I don’t need and possibly have people force me to take them.
At this very moment it is not me who is controlled by an evil spirit, but you. There is a genius loci in this room and you are sitting right in the centre of it.
©Gary Bonn, 2018