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Notes of a Professional Voyeur VII - Fiction Serial by Benny Profane

Suddenly the far-off thunder of an approaching lightning storm barrel-rolls over the heavens outside. The Harlequin snaps out of her trance and sets her wild eyes directly on me. With a barely disguised smile she beckons me towards her with a slowly curling index finger. I tentatively move over to the table.

I gently lower myself onto a chair and am now sitting across from the woman.

A heavy storm is brewing outside. Wind is whistling through gaps in the old mahogany doors and rain is pelting against the window panes.

The shivering static of the television set is all that fills the silence that stands between us. Until, with a timbre, volume and tone that seems to emanate from the static itself, the woman begins to speak.

‘Terribly violent night, is it not?’

‘That it is.’ I reply.

‘These storms can come on so suddenly,’ she says, ‘especially in the summer months—when you least expect it. The fine weather has a habit of tricking you, I think. Making you forget the true nature of the place. And then all of a sudden...’

This last sentence is left to ominously hang. I say nothing and she continues with her thoughts.

‘Yes the summer storms are really something. Something about the high pressures, I think. Or the humidity. It can do all sorts of things with the electromagnetics.’

At this the woman perks up with a startled ‘Oh!’, as if she has just had a eureka moment. She begins to stare into her right breast pocket before tittering mischievously and cocking her ear towards the pocket’s opening. With her long finger prying it open and her head bent towards it, her face wears an expression of serious attention and her head nods quickly as if in hurried affirmation. In a moment she is back in her usual position and staring intensely into me;

‘Have you ever heard of St. Elmo’s Fire?’ she asks.

I am by now wearing a look of absolute puzzlement.

‘I can’t say that I have.’ I say, tightening my grip on my barely touched pint.

‘Hehe. We thought as much,’ she titters. ‘It’s a very rare natural phenomenon. It usually occurs at sea during storms just like the one that is building outside. That’s why they call it St. Elmo’s Fire you see. St. Elmo being the patron saint of sailors.’

She delivers this last fact with a small nod and a knowing stare as if to confirm that I was still following her line of explanation. I nervously nod back. She takes this as permission to carry on with her lecture.

‘I can’t tell you the science behind it. All I know is that it happens during thunder storms and it causes pointed surfaces, like a mast or a spike or something like that, to glow with an amazing light and even sometimes hum with an otherworldly sound. I experienced it myself once, on the deck of a beautiful old cruiser. I was a little girl when I saw it. My parents had brought me on a sailing trip around the Mediterranean. One night near the end of the holiday we were caught up in the most terrible typhoon. At one point, when the commotion was at its highest, there was a sudden and unexpected break in the storm. It was during this break that I became conscious of the wonderful thing that was going on outside. My mother momentarily loosened her grip on me and I wandered mindlessly out an open door and onto the top deck. The entire ship seemed to glow with a brilliant blue florescence and sing with an audible hiss. For as long as it lasted I was entranced by its aspect and, to my young mind, I felt as if I had been transported to another world. The phenomenon seemed to build to a terminal crescendo, straining to a point of climax that I thought would end my short life and deliver me to a higher plane. God knows why I thought such a thing? It was just the impression I had at the time. Like an intuition, I suppose.

Alas, the storm abated and I was soon back on firm ground, along with my parents, who were more than a touch relieved.’

‘A fascinating experience.’ I dumbly reply. ‘Weren’t you at all afraid?’

‘Oh no!’ she exclaims. ‘Far from it. I was captivated. And after all, if it wasn’t for that storm, and St. Elmo’s Fire, I would have never met my little friend.’

‘Oh right. And who might that be?’

‘Well!’ she gasps, with a dramatic look of offense. ‘I don’t mind telling you that that’s a perfectly rude question! Considering he’s been here this whole time!’

I take a quick look around the room in order to make sure that no one has secretly arrived. Sure enough, we are the only two in the entire house.

‘Well,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry but I can’t see who you might be referring to.’

‘Oh but he was speaking to me only a few moments ago. While you were sitting right there. Didn’t you see?’

This customer positively frazzles me. I try to jog my memory while in a state of semi-bewilderment.

‘I remember you seemed to tilt your ear to one of the pockets on that singular frock of yours before you began your story. But apart from that it has just been the two of us here since I came back from the bathroom. You came here alone didn’t you?’

‘Hehehe. Alone. I assure you I am never alone. Not since that moment on the deck. Ever since then I have had a constant companion. He’s my little Ariel!’

‘He’s your little what?’ I ask.



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