Life After

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

When Elizabeth Rochford hears that there is a medium performing at the local hall she is unconvinced. Everyone had lost somebody in the Great War but that didn't mean we should meddle in such things. Besides, the medium was obviously a fraud, wasn't she?

Elizabeth Rochford trudged down the cobbled street. A young woman dashed past her in tears. Elizabeth kept walking. She knew what would have upset the girl. Most people she knew had lost someone in the Great War. This awful slaughter had been raging now for two long years. Would it ever end? Perhaps it would only stop when there were no lads left to fight.

She looked around at the people passing by. Everyone was grieving for somebody. There seemed to be no joy or wonder left in the world. People shuffled along, going through the motions. They were like moving shadows. Sorrow seemed to hang thick in the streets like a fog. The sadness touched everyone. She herself had lost a son. She winced at the thought of her Billy. Another word popped into her head uninvited. Somme. She had never heard of the French river before July. And now she would never forget it. She shook her head. She took a deep breath and walked a bit faster as though she could out-walk the pain in her heart.

Later that morning as she busied herself with housework there was a knock at the door. She put the washing down and tidied her hair. She forced a smile on her face as she opened the door.

‘Morning Lizzy.’

Her friend Jean Wilberforce hovered on the doorstep waiting to be invited in. Elizabeth mumbled ‘good morning’ and moved aside to let her in.

Jean took a sip of tea. She placed the cup and saucer down on the kitchen table. She seemed excited.

‘Have you heard of Vera Crosby?’

‘No, I haven’t.’ Elizabeth replied.

‘She’s a medium. She can speak to the departed.’

‘You don’t believe in all that hokum, do you?’

‘They say she can actually do it.’

‘Absolute tosh.’ snapped Elizabeth.

‘Tosh or not, she’s on tonight at the village hall. Everyone is talking about it. I’m going. You should come with me.’

‘I don’t know, Jean. Do you think we should be meddling in such things?’

‘The way things are these days, could we be any worse off? We’ve got nothing left to lose.’

Elizabeth said nothing but she had to admit her friend might have had a point.

‘What do you say? Are you coming? Or have you got something else to do tonight?’

‘Alright. I will come. I know what my Harry will say.’


‘You are not going.’ Harry growled.

‘Please, love.’

‘It is not healthy. Getting fixated on such things can only bring more misery.’

‘I am not and will not be getting fixated, love. It’s a night out with Jean, that’s all.’

Henry sighed. He threw his hands up in resignation.

‘Thanks, Harry.’


Elizabeth put her husband’s disapproval to the back of her mind. She met Jean on the corner. Jean grinned, you made it. They crossed the road and headed for the village hall. They followed the crowds of people filing through the double doors. Elizabeth was shocked. There were hundreds of people. Each one had a certain glint in their eye. They were all there this evening because they had lost someone dear and hoped to hear from them. As well as sadness she sensed something else. Hope. The people gathering wanted answers. Elizabeth and Jean found two free seats.

She waved to a couple of ladies she recognised. The chatter of the room hushed as the lights went down. The room was completely black. Then a match was struck and a candle lit on the stage at the front of the room. The candle flame flickered and danced.

‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ a male voice boomed, ‘we are delighted to welcome back the renowned medium Vera Crosby.’

Elizabeth joined in with the applause. The clapping faded as a woman stepped into the candle light. She was in her fifties with her grey hair tied back. Her expression was serious yet gentle and sincere. She gave a slight smile.

‘Good evening. I welcome you all. I hope tonight I can help some of you find the answers you are so desperately seeking.’

She wiped a way a theatrical tear from her eye. She lowered her head. She whispered and muttered to herself. Then a few seconds later she looked up. She glanced over her shoulder.

‘There is somebody here. I am joined by a spirit from the other side.’

The audience gasped. Elizabeth stifled a laugh. What poppycock! Surely people were not so gullible. Vera titled her head to one side as though she was listening to a voice only she could hear. Her face was frowning in concentration as she apparently listened to the spirit standing beside her.

Elizabeth shook her head as Vera nodded in the flickering candle light.

‘I have a young man with me.’

The room held its breath and waited for more.

‘He was in the army and was killed at the front.’

What a surprise, thought Elizabeth, this so-called medium happens to have the spirit of a dead soldier. How very convenient.

‘Is there anyone here wanting to hear from a man by the name of Wilfred.’

A few people called out in excitement.

‘He says he leaves behind a wife and young son.’

Elizabeth watched as a few women got to their feet in the darkness. One woman to her left wiped a tear from her eye. Each of the widows hoped and prayed it was their husband who was contacting the medium.

‘He would like to speak to his wife.’ Vera paused. ‘Yes, I understand.

She nodded to the spirit.

‘Wilfred is here for a lady whose name begins with the letter D.’

There was a low murmur in the room. Each of the women sat down. Clearly none of them had the letter D at the start of their names. Elizabeth wondered what this charlatan would do now.

Vera turned, the candle glow illuminating the side of her face.

‘No. No. Wilfred says his wife’s name starts with the letter B. Is she here this evening?’

The woman to Elizabeth’s left jumped to her feet. She waved her hand.

‘I am Beryl. Have you got my Wilf?’

‘Yes, Wilf is here.’

Beryl sobbed, grinning.

‘He wants you to know he’s okay. He’s watching over you and little-’

‘Robbie.’ Beryl volunteered.

‘And little Robbie. He wants you to know he loves you very much.’

Beryl sobbed unable to speak.

‘He knows you love him. The spirits have a greater understanding than we do. He’s mentioning a dog. Do you have a dog?’

‘No, we don’t have any pets.’

‘Wilfred could be referring to a pet he had as a child.’

Beryl said nothing.

‘He wishes you to be happy. He will be watching over you both.’

Vera shook her head.

‘He is fading now. Fading. He is gone.’

‘Thank you, Mrs Crosby.’ she sobbed.

‘Call me Vera, please. We’re all friends here. Now, I have another person here.’

The evening continued in the same vein for the next hour. Vera Crosby would supposedly pass on messages from the other side. The recipients of the messages would weep and thank Vera.

Elizabeth watched in utter fascination. Her sense of wonder differed from the others gathered there. Whereas they looked on in awe at this psychic and her communication with the spirits, Elizabeth watched in amazement at the show the fraudster was putting on. It was quite the spectacle. The candle glow, the dramatic performance as though she was actually hearing the voices, these alleged messages from the other side. The audience helped of course. They wanted so badly to believe. They needed answers from those they had lost. And Vera Crosby claimed to have those answers. Elizabeth tutted. It was obviously all a charade. It had to be.

Just over an hour later Vera slumped forward. She groaned. She struggled to stay on her feet.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid that is all for this evening. It is exhausting interact with the spirits for so long. There are so many of the departed and it is not always a pleasant experience. I hope you have all found tonight’s events rewarding. I would like to remind you that I am available for private sessions, for a small fee, of course.’

And there we have it, smirked Elizabeth.

As they shuffled out the door Jean turned to her.

‘How amazing was that? Vera Crosby has an astonishing gift.’

‘You cannot be serious. It was clearly all a show.’

‘You witnessed it. She was in touch with the spirit world. How else can you explain what we saw? She knew things that could have only come from the other side.’

‘You sound like her. I do not believe a word of it. She was responding to the answers from the person she was talking to. Nothing more. It is a gaudy parlour trick.’

‘How can you be so cynical? What happened here tonight was so moving.’

‘This woman got a lot of things totally wrong. How do you explain that?’

‘Lizzy, she got so much correct. You cannot deny that.’

They walked along the dark cobbled streets.

‘That woman,’ Elizabeth snapped. ‘is nothing more than a trickster. What she is doing is cruel.’

‘Well, I happen to believe that she has a gift. I hope that she blesses me by contacting my brother.’

Elizabeth said nothing. They walked on through the night.

‘I take it you will not be joining me next week.’

‘On the contrary, I would not miss it.’


‘I will be there next week to see the ridiculous performance. I just hope that in time people see her for what she really is.’

‘Good night, Liz.’ Jean sighed.


The next morning Harry asked her about the evening. She took a sip of tea then shook her head.

‘That woman is taking advantage of everyone who has lost somebody. It is obvious to me but the grief stricken audience cannot see it. She begins by pretending that she has a spirit by her side and then proceeds to whittle down the audience until she has her victim. If she gets something wrong she states that it is difficult to understand the message from the spirits. She then changes the direction of the message.’

‘How does the person take all this?’ Harry asked.

‘They lap it up. They believe they are hearing from their loved ones. It is a cruel trick she is playing.’

‘It sounds awful. Somebody should put a stop to it.’

‘Yes they should. And you should have seen the crowds. It was like attending a football match.’

‘Nevermind, Liz. It is done now. You went along. You can now put it out of your mind.’

‘I am going back next week.’

‘But why?’

‘A few reasons. Partly because it is an evening out with my friend. And partly because the fraudulent act is fascinating to watch.’

‘I do not understand.’

‘It is like watching a magician. You know it is an illusion, a trick, but you watch closely trying to figure out how it is being done.’

‘Promise me it is not about our Billy.’

‘It is about our son, in a way. It is about one grieving mother objecting to others like me being exploited by someone with no more psychic ability than you or I!’

Elizabeth took a deep breath. She had not meant to shout. Harry gave a sympathetic smile. He placed a hand on her arm.

‘Okay, love.’


And so the following week Elizabeth went along once again.  The session started in the same way as the previous week. In the flickering candle glow Vera Crosby nodded and titled her head. She rocked slightly on the balls of her feet. She made out she was being visited by the spirits. She then called out to the audience. She found the person the spirit wanted to contact. Or so she would have the audience believe. She would keep on, Elizabeth thought, until she found a gullible person.

Elizabeth felt anger welling up inside her as Vera passed on the usual emotional message to the poor wreck. It was just awful. How could this woman exploit the grieving so blatantly?

Vera moved on. Time to find the next victim. She tilted her head again as she communicated with the deceased.

‘I have another young man here. There are so many of them. So sad. So sad.’

She paused as she listened to the ghost.

‘The young man by my side is called Billy.’

Elizabeth reeled as though she had been struck. Her heart pounded. This was outrageous. There was the normal clamour of excitement. A few women got to their feet in hope. One woman pressed her hands together as though at prayer.

Elizabeth did not move. The last thing she needed was for this fraudster to pretend she was talking to her son.

‘Billy would like to speak to his mother.’

Please don’t, Elizabeth whispered.

‘It is difficult to make out.’ Vera continued. ‘but I’m getting the mother’s initials.’

Don’t do this.

‘Her initials are E.R.’

Elizabeth Rochford sat very still.

Jean leaned in and whispered.

‘That’s you, Liz. It’s Billy.’

‘No, it can’t be.’

‘It is your Billy. Go on, find out what he wants.’

Elizabeth shook her head.


‘Shut up!’ yelled Elizabeth.

The room turned to look at her. Vera beckoned her with a hand.

‘I have your son with me, my dear.’ She called.

‘No. It is not possible.’

‘You have to believe.’

Elizabeth stood up. Vera smiled. Elizabeth barged through the crowd. Instead of nearing the small stage she charged towards the door. By the time she reached the street she was sprinting. Tears burned her cheeks. She dashed through the darkness.

The next morning as she walked down the street to the bakers she noticed the looks she was attracting. People were staring from across the street and talking in whispers. She knew they would be talking about her storming out of the medium’s performance. Embarrassment mixed with the agony of losing Billy. Anger burned in her chest. Had she not been through enough? The torture of losing Billy had been too much to take yet now she was being tormented and embarrassed by this charlatan.

She entered the baker’s shop. The women in the queue stopped mid-conversation, turned and stared. Elizabeth felt herself blush at the unexpected attention. She returned their gazes for a moment. She then turned and left the small shop slamming the door behind her.

She marched along the street, her heels clomping as she went. Something had to be done. It looked like it was up to her to do something about it. She walked slowly, purposefully across the parish church grounds. She gently knocked on the door of the vicar’s house.

A minute later the door was answered by a tired looking woman with dishevelled hair and a mop in her hand.

‘Good morning, can I help?’

‘Would it be possible to speak to the vicar?’

‘I will go and check if the Reverend is available.’

Elizabeth was shown through to a large, plush sitting room. The vicar, a tall, thin man with thinning hair invited her to take a seat in an armchair. He took the seat facing her. The church bells chimed the hour. The vicar gave a polite smile.

‘What can I do for you this morning?’

Elizabeth explained about the people flocking to see this wicked woman who could supposedly speak to the dead. He nodded in reply, his expression serious.

‘I had heard about such things.’

‘Is it not against the laws of the Church and the teachings of the Bible?’

‘Indeed. The only way is through Our Lord.’

‘And this fraudster offers personal consultations. That’s where she makes her money. This Crosby woman lures her victims in at the gatherings in the hope of fleecing a choice few with these extortionate private meetings. This woman is profiting from this awful business.’

‘How disgraceful.’

‘Are you going to let this happen in your parish, Reverend?’

He thought it over for a moment, tapping his fingertips on the arm of his chair. Elizabeth waited, listening to the deep ticking of the grandfather clock.

‘I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.’

‘Are you going to help me?’

‘I can assure you that this woman will have no more performances in this town. There will not be a hall, function room or scout hut that will permit her activities from now on. I have a lot of contacts in this town. I will be mentioning my opinions of this sacrilegious behaviour to my congregation as and when I see them. It will be the focus of my sermon on Sunday.’

In the week that followed Elizabeth worked hard with the Reverend and other church members to spread the word that the conduct of this alleged medium Vera Crosby was not only fake but against the teachings of the Lord. Leaflets were distributed on street corners, posters were displayed in almost every shop window. As word spread and the message hit home public opinion shifted. Those that a week before were cramming into the hall to listen to the medium were now declaring their disgust at the activities of the woman.

Elizabeth entered the bakers shop towards the end of the week. As she joined the queue she overheard the customers discussing the medium.

‘Apparently,’ one woman said. ‘she is leaving town. She has had enough of the persecution.’

‘Good riddance.’ spat Elizabeth. ‘I hope the next place she gets to is wise to her and sees through her disgraceful charade.’

Everyone murmured in agreement. Elizabeth headed home. She felt better about things. She had been vindicated. As if losing Billy had not been awful enough without this woman pretending she was in contact with him.

As she turned into her street she spotted a figure at her door. She stopped walking. She stared. Standing on her doorstep waiting for her to return was Vera Crosby. Elizabeth took a deep breath as she neared.

‘I do not want any trouble from the likes of you.’ said Elizabeth.

‘It is you who has given me the trouble, Mrs Rochford.’

‘You are a charlatan who preys on the grief stricken.’

‘If I could step inside for a moment.’

‘I really do not think so.’

‘You have what you wished. I am leaving this morning. You will never hear from me again. What harm could a few minutes of your time do?’

Elizabeth opened the door and waved for the medium to enter.

She showed her into the small sitting room. She glared at her, arms folded. The medium looked back with sadness in her eyes.

‘You have made my like in this town unbearable.’ Vera said.

‘You have brought this on yourself with your fraudulent activity.’

‘Following the campaign you and that so-called man of God have waged against me I have been spat at and assaulted in the street.’

‘The Bible says you shall reap what you sow.’

‘I really do see them. The spirits come to me.’

‘You can drop the pretence now, love. We’re in private.’

‘It is not a music hall act but a very real experience.’

‘This is poppy cock.’

‘It is a curse for those that see the spirits but a gift for the grieving to be able to hear from the departed.’

‘I do not believe a word.’

‘My grandmother passed on the gift to me.’

‘Such twaddle.’

‘And now I shall pass it on to you.’

The elderly medium moved quickly. She wrapped her cold thin fingers round Elizabeth’s wrists. Elizabeth struggled to free herself from the grip. The medium whispered words in a language that Elizabeth could not understand.

Her vision went blurry. The world flickered and wobbled like a bad picture house film reel.

Then her sight cleared. The sitting room was back in focus. Vera Crosby was still standing in front of her. The elderly woman smiled.

‘I shall bid you good day, Mrs Rochford.’

She walked quickly out of the room. Elizabeth was confused. What had just happened? Still, at least the awful fraudster had left. Gone for good, with any luck.

Then she saw the figure standing in the corner of the room. She recognised the handsome young man in his army uniform.

‘Billy?’ she called.

He stepped forward. His eyes had a look about them, a glint of the horror he had witnessed.

‘It is you.’ She said.

As he moved towards her she saw that he was not alone. More men in uniform. They had pale faces and a grey, ethereal quality about them. Elizabeth knew they had fallen in the Great War. Dozens of them pressed and pushed towards her. Vera Crosby’s words went through her mind.

A curse for those who see the spirits.

She sobbed, dropping to her knees. The spirits surrounded her, each calling out for those that lived on.


The elderly woman stepped onto the stage. She was tired with it all. She had been doing this such a long time. Some called it a gift. She shook her head. This was not a gift, it was a curse. She smiled to the audience.

‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Elizabeth Rochford. Tonight I will be speaking to the spirits of the dear departed.’

Submitted: December 28, 2016

© Copyright 2023 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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Another brilliant story, CT. I guess Vera took the only action she could to prove to Elizabeth that she was not lying. Very well written and easy to read!!

Sat, December 31st, 2016 3:10pm

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