Harmony tried to summon her dead lover when the skies were clear. She sat at long incantations with alcohol, attempting to force Salina’s appearance, in spirit form. It hadn’t been going well. All Harmony had managed so far was to conjure the ghost of a seventeenth century puritan woman, who appeared out of the floorboards in a black overcloak making incredulous gestures of disapproval.
The townspeople acknowledged that Harmony’s psychic game had been way off since Salina died, although they would never tell her. But on market day, after most of the town had drunkenly roasted an entire pig, and jeered on the violent outcome of a turf war between a firebreather and a mime, they made a slow awkward procession to the top of the hill, to gather at Harmony’s worn doorstep, bringing offerings for their resident fortune teller, to show faith and, increasingly, their despair. Despite her poor track record of late, no one wanted to piss off a mystic, so they left the swag arranged around the front of Harmony’s crumbling residence, and waited for her to appear. When Salina was alive, the gifts had been collections of home-baked goods and fine wine, with little notecards, and prayers. Salina would come out among the people and compliment their culinary expertise, insisting that they shared the recipe for baskets of scones or a particularly succulent lemon drizzle. But now, a survey of the collection of this weekend’s tribute revealed items more in keeping with Harmony’s present demeanour; packs of cigarettes, jugs and bottles of booze, high-calibre antidepressants and three strips of Valium. Harmony eventually staggered from her front door, holding onto the doorframe for support. She sported some overalls she had found in the attic. The visitors outside tried to mask their sense of pity as they took in the array of stains Harmony was coated with, running the spectrum from deep brown to absolute black. She lurched forward, feeling her morning vodka and afternoon wine deep in the ligaments of her legs and ankles. There was an uncomfortable silence.
“Afternoon everyone.” Harmony said, trying to avoid choking on her own saliva. A few faces she vaguely recognised. At some point, most of them had asked her for something. She had been intrigued by how oddly skewed their priorities could be. She noticed a cheery brunette in a red dress, Mrs Peters. Her husband had arrived at Harmony’s door, wanting to know if he would inherit a sizeable sum from his terminally ill mother-in-law. Harmony furnished him with the knowledge that he would indeed be included in the will. Yet Harmony was also aware, but didn’t suggest, that a far more pressing concern for Mr Peters was the imminent prospect of a wild and athletic sex marathon causing him to expire breathlessly with his dick in the traumatised waitress who worked at the coffee shop near his office.
“So what do I have for you this week?” She wondered internally what she did have, the booze made it tough to focus. She usually started with a forecast as a warm up, Harmony was still good with the weather. “I’d suggest you bring your umbrellas this week, because it’s going to be a wet one.” Harmony waved her arms around to try and bring some drama to proceedings. There was a smattering of the weakest applause. Always the rain, one thing Harmony could call as accurately as her next breath. She could feel it in her spine, like someone had let a draught in.
The day Salina died everything in the house got wet. The roof was leaking and Harmony had put out buckets, making a chorus of watery percussion. Harmony and Salina decided to temporarily evacuate and head to town for a hotel’s dry comfort. By the time Salina got in the driving seat, the wind was up and outside all was batted and swaying, headlights pixelated in the deluge and the storm blurred everything, the road, the bend, the trees. And the crash was barely heard above the storm.
The crowd had started to chatter among themselves and checked their phones for want of better entertainment so Harmony made a staggering beeline for the man nearest to her. She put her hand on his shoulder.
“Who are you then? Wait, don’t tell me. You’re…Stuart.” Harmony said. The man looked around like he expected someone to interject on his behalf. They didn’t, in fact everyone seemed amused by this turn of events.
“No. I’m. Er, Clive.” Clive said.
“Clive. Of course. Amazing.” Harmony said, possessed with intoxicated enthusiasm now she was committing to this. “And you’re an accountant?” There was a pause.
“I’m a driving instructor.” Clive said. There was some muffled laughter among the crowd.
“Oh. Are you sure? I’m really getting an accountant vibe. Never mind.” Clive leant his weight from one foot to the next, so that his swaying synchronised with Harmony, who still had her arm resting on his shoulder. “So what’s on your mind Clive?” Harmony said, looking him straight in the eyes.
“I don’t know really.” Clive said, again looking around to entice a rescue.
“Come on Clive. There must be something you’re concerned about. You look worried.” The crowd laughed softly again.
“Er, I suppose I’ve been having some discomfort, for a while, it’s a bit sensitive.” Clive said. Harmony nodded, sighed and put her other hand on her stomach, clenching the fingers she had on Clive’s shoulder.
“So. Where’s the pain? Let’s get into this.”
Clive blushed and gestured to his testicles, barely pointing, but it was clear the area he was trying to highlight. The crowd made no attempt to hide their amusement this time. Harmony reached down and grabbed a miniature bottle of brandy that someone had stood by her doormat, she unscrewed the lid, poured a little of the liquid over her fingers and then flicked a few drops over Clive’s forehead, while breathing audibly over his scalp. He flinched a little. Harmony closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths in. Clive waited. Harmony’s eyes shot open and she coughed into her hands.
“Sorry Clive, it’s cancer. Not sure if it’s the right or left, but it’s there somewhere.”
There was a shared slight gasp from the townspeople surrounding Clive. Harmony was used to it taking a moment for the diagnosis to sink in, but it had been a while since she had seen the particular look that Clive was presenting and the subtle way his expression had altered.
“Are you sure? Cancer?” Clive asked, shuffling from one foot to the other.
“Wait. Sorry, I might have been a bit hasty.” Harmony had a rising nausea and needed to smoke. “Now that I think about it again, it’s not cancer.” Clive seemed confused, and grateful. “But you’re probably impotent.” Harmony added.
Harmony felt the cruelty in the truths her gift supplied, and also in denying her the ability to see the future for anyone she deeply cared about. She’d not seen her parents’ divorce coming, or that her first high school crush would be flattened by loose signage from a delicatessen. When she tried to tell fortunes now, Harmony thought of old Mrs Friedman, who came to Harmony years earlier to ask about her brain tumour, she wanted to know how long she had. Harmony told her straight, that she was out of time. In the moment, Mrs Friedman had been calm, relieved even, she smiled as she thanked Harmony. And Harmony now thought that of course she could be relieved, because Mrs Friedman would never have to know what it was like to come back to an empty house, feeling half full, without her best friend, to weep like something inside was running away from her.
Clive lingered by Harmony a little longer, head hung low. The crowd had started to casually amble away.
“Clive?” Harmony said, and he looked up. “Thanks for sharing.”
Later, when everyone had departed. Harmony, still half-drunk, walked out and looked again over the town. When she closed her eyes and let the swirl of black behind her eyelids gather shapes, she could picture all the buildings and the people below consumed by a giant wave in a rush of terrifying water. It rolled through the streets and crossroads, with a roar, loud and ferocious. It swept everything away. Afterwards, there was silence, like half the world had been eaten up. Harmony opened her eyes and walked closer to the hillside, where she looked down at the earth, and listened to cars in the distance, and her own breath, slow and soft. She brought her feet down hard into the dirt, held out her arms, tilted her head back, and waited for the rain.