The Belper of Hill Wood

Hill Wood

Within six months of launching my own online psychic business it was doing better than I’d ever imagined, despite the recession. I don’t mean to sound smug. It was a big risk setting up Beaurepaire, right in the middle of an economic and personal downturn, but I’ve come to realise ours is a profession that does well in a crisis. In fact, as unsavoury as it sounds, affluence and well being are the greatest threats to my livelihood. Not that I wish anyone misfortune, far from it. It’s what you call a ‘double bind’. I’m caring but I have bills to pay. You could say the same thing for a lot of people – doctors, the police, psychotherapists, we all have a certain ‘tie-in’ with misfortune even if we want the best for our clients.

But that isn’t my point, what I wanted to say, is that things were going well for me. I’d survived the proverbial ‘messy divorce’, the crushing sense of rejection, the feeling that my whole life was falling apart. I’d hit rock bottom and come out of it stronger than before. I’m not talking Rolls Royce’s and caviare lunches, I just mean my head was nicely above the water. I could pay my council tax bills, help my sister out a bit, plan for the future. In other words I’d finally learnt how to look after myself.

Like me, Beaurepaire had gone from strength-to-strength. Within 10 months of opening ‘BC’ we were expanding the business way beyond the East Midlands. We had a Web portal and 9 other clairvoyants on the books, doing readings for about 150 clients a day. I say ‘we’ but I mean ‘me’. It was my business.

My web site, my brand identity. It was all down to me and I’d made a pretty good job of it. It’s hard to believe that ‘me’ was the same girl who’d left school at 16 with no o’levels and even less self esteem. I’ve come to realise that isn’t something you’re just born with, esteem is a tiny seed that either gets nurtured or neglected. On many levels my own self esteem didn’t stand a chance.

My father was a violent alcoholic who hated himself and everyone else in Derby. I was constantly alert to his terrifying shifts in mood. My poor mother was a human shipwreck, rolling in and out of Aston Hall Mental hospital on a ‘frequent flyer’ pass. Aston Hall was slap bang in the middle of the estate where we lived. Funny the things kids worry about. My sister Ellen and I were ashamed of our mother’s mental illness. Our sense of shame was highly developed even from an early age. Everyone knew our business, but no one properly cared about us.

The only thing I had going for me was my ‘gift’, which nowadays I’d describe as an acute sensitivity to non-physical energy. I inherited this talent from my Grandmother, Amber Hill, who could also channel spirits. Like her, I had a limited ability to predict future events but a significant talent for accessing the spirit world. Above all I had a talent for feeling. I could pick up on the tiny signals and fluctuations in energy fields that most people are oblivious to. That’s what clients paid me for. My sensitivity. I’d gained quite a reputation for it and I assumed that’s what brought Michel Salt to my door. I can’t say I’m often surprised or emotionally challenged by the depths of despair I encounter in clients, but occasionally someone will cross my path who does manage to disrupt my own patterns of energy.

On rare occasions, and this has only happened to me twice, a psychic may experience an attack on their own energy during the course of a professional reading. Michel Salt is a case in point. Michel, with a missing ‘a’, came into my life one hot evening in June last year. Even via Skype I could tell he was coping badly with the summer heat and was also excruciatingly self-conscious, being obese, shy and markedly disfigured by facial dermatitis. He said his mother insisted he contact me because I’d helped her find a stolen mobility scooter earlier that year. I know it’s easy to say in retrospect, but yes, warning bells were going off in my head right from the very start of our encounter. Within a few seconds of talking to Michel I thought he might be delusional or suicidal, or both. But he was also terribly endearing, softly spoken, too shy to look me in the eye and clearly desperate for help. He reminded me of a very large baby with a wisp of stubble.

I never had my own kids. Denis, my ex husband, always said ‘next year’ when the subject of children came up, and by the time he left me it was physically too late. Perhaps that was why Michel’s desperation touched me so deeply, why I couldn’t stop him from talking in those first 45 minutes. Before a reading I don’t usually allow myself to chat with clients, but Michel seemed to have a lot to on his mind. I tried to tell him we could talk after the reading but he got himself onto a talking ‘roll’ and wouldn’t stop, so I sat back and let him splurge. He told me he’d just lost his job at the Swarfega factory.

He was 17 years old and had no qualifications, no friends his own age and was living with his disabled mother in a small flat near Chaddesden. So far his story was fairly typical, which, of course, made it no less bearable for him. I began to offer my sympathy but he immediately cut me off. “The dead don’t worry about us do they Carol?” “No, they don’t on the whole.” “What keeps the dead up at night then?” “Their perspective is very different from ours Michel, broader perhaps. Did you have anyone particular in mind?” “The man I kept seeing in the factory, Jedediah.” A normal person might have found this comment disturbing but I didn’t.

Of course I knew who Jedediah Strutt was, he’d pioneered the cotton spinning industry in Derbyshire 250 odd years ago, bringing wealth and all that comes with it to our area. The old Swarfega factory had been one of Strutt’s former cotton spinning mills. I asked Michel if he meant he had seen Strutt’s ghost in the Swarfega factory and he nodded without looking directly at the web-cam.

There is no point in beating about the bush with clients, we owe them directness, part of what they are paying us for is proxy courage, for us to face whatever they fear most. “Michel, I’m a bit like a smart phone, I can make contact with the spirit world, but I don’t have a keypad. I can’t just call up anyone whenever I like, it’s more like I get whoever is on the line at the time. I don’t have a sense of Jedediah Strutt being present. Is there any reason why he might want to contact you?” The spirit world gives me a binary form of insight, for example, if someone comes to me because their child is missing I will either get nothing or I will sense very clearly where they are, right down to the postal code in many cases.

With me the signal is either on or off. That’s how I’d found Joanna Price’s son, Ted, earlier that week. Unfortunately Ted didn’t want any contact with his mother because her boyfriend was a bigot and Ted was gay. End of story. I never make promises to clients I can’t keep. I never told Jo I could make her son go back. “Have you heard of the Dybbuk Carol?” I told Michel truthfully that I hadn’t. Lies can achieve nothing in my line of work. Being a Clairvoyant is not the same as being omniscient and you should never trust anyone who tells you otherwise. “It’s from Jewish folklore, but many cultures have a similar concept, of dislocated souls. A Dybbuk is nasty but the Ibbur, the impregnations, are a kinder possession, a righteous soul temporarily enters the living so that it can perform a mitzvah, a good deed. That’s what I’m, doing Carol. I hope you wont mind.”

I didn’t like the chaotic, noisy, energy field that was now emerging around Michel, in fact it confused me that I was still picking up a frequency at all. Perhaps ‘Didn’t like’ is not the right way of putting it. All energy has its place in the Universe, as all frequencies do. What worried me was the energetic reaction I felt in myself.

A fundamental principle of our work is that the energy we give out will inevitably return to us. To pick up disorganised or chaotic frequencies in others often means there is fear in our own energetic system. So my goal was to remain present with Michel’s energy while best preserving the integrity and regularity of my own energetic field. “It’s an interesting point and I certainly know that dislocated feeling Michel, but neither of us are lost souls, not in the true sense. Are you Jewish Michel? Perhaps I could recommend one of our reader’s who is also -” He interrupted me with a hollow laugh.

“An idea cannot have a religion Carol.” “You are a man Michel, not an idea.” He ignored this comment but instead asked me to tell him about the Hill Wood Forest Belper. I have no doubt Michel registered my sense of shock, and I in turn sensed his own energy momentarily contracting, like an anemone on a rock shrinking back from a hostile touch. How could he have known about the Belper?

The Belper of Hill Wood Forest was dad’s way of scaring us. The Belper was a bogeyman. I’d always assumed dad had made him up. If we didn’t pipe down, shut up, or otherwise do exactly what dad wanted, then the ‘Belper’, as he so charmingly explained, would burp and belch and drag us back to his cave in Hill Wood Forest where he’d slit our throats with a hunting knife. Perhaps it was a local thing, not Dad’s invention?

“Where did you hear about the Belper Michel?” “I read about it Carol. In fact it’s what drew me to you in the first place, that and the inconsistencies.” “You’ve lost me a bit Michel, what do you mean by inconsistencies?” “Your grandmother’s name, ‘Amber Hill ‘. Have you noticed that this is not actually a name but a mise en scene, a location, which in itself implies a kind of language game, as does my own name ‘Michel’. It isn’t Dutch or French or anything exotic Carol, it’s a spelling mistake. A proof reading error. Are you beginning to see more clearly, you are, after-all, a clair voyant?”

“I’m not sure I do see.” I was overcome by a wave of exhaustion and the urgent desire to lie down. At the same time I felt a rising nausea in my stomach and the sense of being watched from above. These are among the classic symptoms of a psychic attack – in which annihilating energies are projected in the form of thought. “Do you know what Swarfega is made from Carol?” “I think I remember reading it was made from some bi-product of the silk industry, a left over chemical?”

I tried to visualise a shimmering shield of Black Tourmaline positioned between myself and Michel, transmuting his negative energy into something positive and life affirming while protecting me from harm. “You got it Carol, top marks – it’s a thixotropic recycled silk preserving oil. You see how endlessly resourceful human industry is, leaping from the preservation of silk tights to aviation to industrial hand cleaner? The same base product is adapted to serve different cultural requirements. Stockings go out of fashion, use the oil for fighter planes. War ends, make it into green hand-wash. You and I are trapped in a similar form of conceptual re-cycle. Have you ever seen a film called the Sixth Sense?”

“Are you mentioning it because you too have seen an apparition, like the little boy in the film?” “Kinda” “Because you too can see dead people?” “Worse than that Carol.” “You mean like the Dibbok?” “The Dybbuk” “Yes , the Dybbuk you mentioned earlier, the souls, perhaps, of people who have never been born?” “That is somewhat closer to my meaning, yes.” “The undead?” Perhaps we were getting somewhere at last. “A game might help you better understand my point. Let’s play ‘Who lives in a story like this’. What are the tell tale signs? She’s working class from a small Derbyshire town but uses words like ‘binary’ and ‘double bind’. She’s oddly lacking in physical detail, which may be down to sloppy description or the sign of an overly cerebral imagination. There is stereotypical mention of historic Derbyshire factoids which are one click away from even the laziest researcher’s desktop, yet there is scant sense of Derbyshire as it currently stands, no mention of the Belper-Against-Tesco campaign or the imminent shut down of the local library, no Central Islamic Centre or Spondon Turbines. In fact the research is minimal bordering on indolent. She refers to a mobility scooter and obesity as if they are bywords for regional working class culture, which is both patronising and inaccurate. She makes no further attempt to flesh out the Michel character. The ‘fleshing out’ is all done by lazy cultural signifiers – the intoxicating memes of the immediate present – obesity, greasiness, economic limitation. The real richness and diversity of local culture is completely redacted from this document. To add insult to injury my name is misspelt”.

“No, I’m sorry Michel, I still don’t get it.” “You claim sensitivity to a whole realm of phenomena inaccessible to ordinary people and yet you do not see the one, most glaring fact, that should be screaming at you.” “I am afraid we’re running out of time Michel.” “Where would the Belper really take you Carol – are the lambs on Amber Hill screaming in your mind?” “My broadband is timing out.” “Open your eyes.” “I’m not feeling well.” “You can’t feel anything Carol.” “You shouldn’t be saying these things.”

“It’s over Carol, I’m sorry, believe me, but I’ve been sent to bring you back.” He sat up straight, flicked the greasy cow’s lick away from his eyes, looked directly into the web-cam and said: “Carol, what I’ve been trying to tell you is that I can see fictional people.”

“That’s complete nonsense it’s it’s it’s it’s ” “You’ll be re-cycled, think of it as a kind of re-birth. You are now stuck in a loop of recurring ‘it’s’ because there is no further dialogue between us. I’m sorry Carol, but we’ve just reached the word limit for now.”

Published by Rejected Short Stories

"Now I have restored some of my words that I want to tell people what it feels like to go through such an experience- the contents right flushed out of your brain. What it's like a whole load of other people's stuff pumped into it. Most of what they put in my mind was bank account numbers and bioinformatics data flows rearrange forever. A swirl of unstable figures, flows through me in all directions, such as rats and fleas self-replicating and voracious attacks of my brain, only animals was not, it was language."

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