Michael Woodhead


A Spiritual, Sexual & Creative Odyssey

The embryonic version of a novel that eventually led to Child of Promise


Rochdale, Lancashire, England

Molly Barr sighed as she glanced around the small auditorium of the Paley Street Spiritualist Church. Why did Mother always insist on bringing her to these meetings? She felt so uncomfortable, so out of place. Not only that, she had to sit through the demonstrations of spirit contact which, although they seemed genuine enough, somehow seemed to be faked, although she wasn't quite sure how it was done. She'd seen her mother trick a few people at home, but here in the church she seemed to take it seriously.

Besides, none of these so-called spirits ever seemed to want to contact her; every week, they directed their comments to the same people, it seemed, most of whom looked as though they really needed some sort of spiritual inspiration.

Many of the congregation, she knew, had lost loved ones during the war, either on the front lines in Europe, or else as the victim of a bombing attack somewhere in England.

Molly felt a twinge of guilt at her selfishness. She hadn't lost anyone, except her Grandmother, Sydelle, a few years earlier. But her death was the result of sickness, so it didn't seem to count.

Someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned, then forced a smile at Geoffrey Hunter, two years older than her twenty. She figured he was probably in love with her, even had hinted at marrying her, but he just wasn't her type. He knew nothing about art, and even less about acting, both of which were her two favorite passions.

"I say, Molly, isn't this interesting stuff?"

"If you say so, Geoffrey."

She wished he'd leave her alone.

But he continued. "Perhaps you'll receive a word tonight. You never know."

"Not bloody likely."

Geoffrey's eyebrows went up at her reply, and several other people within hearing distance glanced disapprovingly over at her. But Molly didn't care.. She turned her attention back to the stage where the lights were coming up on the platform and those around her dimmed to blackness.

Most of the service so far had been pretty much like an ordinary church meeting, but what was to follow now characterized most of the spiritualist churches.

The minister, a Mr Allan Simms, strode into the spotlight.

"Ladies and gentlemen," he said softly, "It is with great pleasure that I present to you our medium for this evening--Mrs Runa Barr."

He swept his hand back towards the darkness that surrounded him, then a woman of thirty-six in a long, flowing gown floated into the spotlight to the applause of the audience. She shook Mr Simms' hand and he disappeared .

Molly felt a mixture of pride and embarrassment whenever her mother put on her show. Proud because Runa was so loved and appreciated by the audiences; embarrassed because--well, simply because she was Mother.

Runa stood quietly for a few moments, breathing deeply, then looked around the auditorium. Molly knew that although no one else saw or sensed anything, her mother could actually see--or so she claimed--spirits hovering around. Although the spirits apparently didn't have human forms, they appeared to her as pulsating forms of energy.

"It's so very good to be with you again, tonight," began Runa. "Already I am aware of several spirits wishing to make contact. If I call your name, or if you recognize my description of a spirit, please respond as I cannot see you. And please answer any questions I ask, or verify any information the spirits might give through me.

The medium flowed to the left of the stage. "I'm receiving words from someone called Roger who desires to communicate with Honey Pie--"

"That's me! That's me!" a voice cried out from the blackness. "That's my husband. Honey Pie was his nickname for me!"

A spotlight swooped across the audience to pick out a young woman standing several feet away from Molly. Already tears trickled down her cheeks.

"What's your name, dear," asked Runa.

"Judy Garrett."

"Yes. Roger says to tell you he's all right, now. There was some pain when he was shot, but now he's free." She paused a moment, then asked, "Your husband died in Europe, did he?"

Judy nodded. "Two years ago."

"He says it was during a small skirmish in France. He says--" Runa stopped momentarily as if to make sure she'd heard correctly. Then she said, "Are you seeing someone else, my dear?"

The audience tittered and the young woman blushed. "Yes," she said sheepishly. "Once I knew Roger was dead, I felt free to--"

Runa interrupted quickly. "That's all right, dear. Roger doesn't mind. He feels the fellow you're seeing now is just fine. He just wanted to say good-bye to you."

"Good-bye, Roger." The woman burst into tears and sat down. Others around her patted her on the shoulders comfortingly. The audience clapped its appreciation.

"You know," Runa continued, "sometimes spouses will cling so strongly to the memory of their dead husband or wife or family member that the spirit can't progress to a higher level. Of course we must cherish the memories of our departed loved ones, but we must also learn to release them so that they can continue their own progress in the spirit world."

A few murmurs of assent rippled through the crowd.

"I have another message, now, from someone called Roper, a Margaret Roper who--"

"That's me Mum!" shouted a male voice from the auditorium.

Once again the spotlight caressed the sea of turned faces to pick out a man who stood on the far side of the auditorium.

"Who are you, sir?"

"Howard Roper."

"I sense your mother didn't die a natural death--?"

"She died of rheumatic fever when I was a young lad."

"Yes, that's right. She says she's sorry she wasn't there when you needed her, especially when you were--seven, I believe it is--and hopes you forgive her. Do you understand?"

"That I do. That I do. And yes, Mum, I do forgive you."

"She thanks you and sends you her love. Oh, and one more thing--whatever it is between you and your father, she says to get it cleared up. He's not long for this world. Does that mean anything to you, Mr Roper?"

The man smiled and nodded slowly. "Yes, Mum, I understand."

The audience applauded with encouragement as the man sat down.

"I have another message now, and--" She stopped, frowned for a moment, then continued. "Oh, dear. I've never had a message like this come through before. It's for my daughter. Where are you, Molly? Stand up, dear."

In the darkness, Eden's eyes widened. Oh, bloody hell, no!

The spotlight skimmed the crowd again.

Molly sank lower in her seat. Oh, God, Mother--what are you trying to do to me?

Then she felt a sudden prod in her back from Geoffrey's finger. "I say, Molly, stand up, old girl. There is a message for you tonight after all."

Unable to escape, Molly reluctant;y got to her feet. Her legs felt like they jelly as the spotlight quickly enveloped her with its brilliance.

"Ah, there you are, luv," said Runa. "It says it's the spirit of your unborn child."

Self-consciously, Molly snorted as the crowd snickered. "But I'm not pregnant," she announced quite loudly. so that everyone could hear. If Mother could embarrass her like this, she could do the same to her. "I'm not pregnant, not married, and I don't even have a boyfriend--in fact, I'm not interested in either." She glanced quickly at Geoffrey and cocked her head slightly.

The audience snickered in places, unsure whether to find her response humorous or not.

Runa was non-plussed. "That's all right, dear. The spirit says the man you will marry is "just around the corner", so to speak."

Now the audience laughed freely and Molly heard Geoffrey's voice from behind her. "I say, old thing, that could be me, eh, wot?"

Molly groaned inwardly. Anyone but you!

"This is most unusual." Runa went on. "I've never had an unborn spirit come through before. It must be something special. There's more, Molly. The spirit has expressed the desire that you guide the child on the path of Truth."

Eden's brow crinkled in bewilderment. Truth? What is Truth?

"The spirit also requests that you--"

Suddenly, the rear doors of the auditorium banged open and three hundred heads turned simultaneously