“Can you help me see her again?” His hands were shaking as he placed the teacup back on the saucer.
“How long has it been since you last saw her?” replied the witch. They were sitting on rusty metal chairs.
“Five years, a long five years,” he said. The chairs and the little table between them rested on a cobbled alley, down which few had walked for the last lifetime.
“Can I see a picture?” she asked. The alley was her home, particularly here, where it ended under a bridge that kept the rain from her belongings.
“Here she is, the very last time I saw her,” he said, handing over a photograph printed on a small white card. A train rattled noisily over the bridge above, rendering conversation impossible for half a minute.
“I understand now. Neither a lover, nor your mother, but a child,” she said, when the rattling had subsided. Her guest was smartly dressed, but his shoulders drooped under some psychic weight.
“My daughter. Two years old. A terrible illness. I was told there was something you could do,” he said. The skin around his eyes was red and puffy. Curious.
“I can’t bring her back from the dead, but I can give you some instructions,” she replied. Why did people let themselves be consumed by such things? She would never understand.
“You can send me to see her? Move me across planes of existence?” he said. He had obviously been reading the papers. Exaggeration, misinterpretation, lies to sell stories. Did nobody care to study the subject in detail like she had done?
“The plane of existence is just like a fabric. If you cut through you will destroy it. But there are threads, and if you are like a needle you can slip between them.” A close enough approximation, more of a metaphor. Would he understand? His expression suggested not.
“How do I become like a needle?” he said. He had sat up straighter in his chair. Oh dear. That was probably hope, wasn’t it? Hope would just be an obstruction.
“Needles are very thin. You are not thin,” she said. Never had found a better way to put it. This was what her grandmother had taught her to say, and it always seemed to get the message across.
“You’re saying I’m the wrong shape to slip between worlds?” he asked, expression sinking. His hands gently grasping his paunch in such a crestfallen manner than she had to suppress a laugh.
“It’s not about your physical body. Your soul is what needs to be leaner. You carry too much… spiritual baggage.” She had lost clients at this point before. Cultural connotations of the words, or something. This man though, seemed so desperate, so unhappy. Perhaps her method would help this one.
“How do I let go of… spiritual baggage?” he said, mouth forming the words with slight distaste. The hope had faded a little, she saw it in his body. For the best. A careful application of words and people shift like trees in high wind.
“However you wish, but you’ll need some sort of teacher. Priest, philosopher, guru, hermit. Whatever appeals.” Best to let them find their own teachers. She was no teacher, just the guide.
“Then I’ll be thin enough to slip through the fabric of existence, and see my daughter?” Another train rattled over the bridge, and under cover of noise she met his gaze and stared, unblinking, willing reassurance, until the moment passed.
“You will find what you need to find. Good luck, sir.” She nodded, dismissing him. If her method worked, he would not return. If it did not work, he would also not return. This was always the flaw. Yet clients kept coming. Death, she supposed, would always visit itself upon these strange mortals.