The modern rational mind has several terms meant to extinguish any notion of the mystical. Coincidental was the word Ethan's mind kept coming up with to keep his thought process in the confines of empirical, secular orthodoxy, but the more he had to use it, the more it rang hollow.
At first, the similarities between the six-year-old Henry and his deceased uncle Rowan were negligible and superficial. It seemed quirky a first-grader would love gorgonzola so much, and it was strange he had a penchant for reenacting moments from "Ghost Busters 2," a movie he never saw but was his late uncle's favorite. It was downright disturbing, though, when the child was caught with a small cocktail glass containing the long-departed Rowan's favorite cocktail, a drink mixed with the portions that perfectly fit the long departed's taste preferences.
Veronica, Ethan's wife, and Henry's mother recreationally dabbled in leftover esoteric traditions that now only existed as a form of commercialized entertainment. Ethan was resistant to the idea of bringing Henry to see Veronica's favorite seance conductor.
"She'll know what's happening," she assured him. Ethan tried to tell her there wasn't anything happening at all. Ethan tried telling her she was confused about what she saw.
"How are you going to tell me I don't know what I saw?" she asked angrily.
"You just want to believe there's something magical happening here," he replied.
"Ok, then Ethan, you tell me what's happening here?" She demanded.
Ethan hesitated, "Just a couple of bizarre coincidences," he mumbled.
"A weird coincidence is having the same birthday. Henry having dreams about your brother's ex-girlfriend is a little bit different than that!" she huffed,
Veronica's spiritual orientation was a confused and contradictory veneer. She was born and raised Roman Catholic and insisted Henery be baptized. She didn't regularly attend services and never bothered suffering through any acts of atonement for the many minor sins and spiritual transgressions that are a regular part of life. Not including pagan rituals with a woman, she gave more money per visit than she ever dropped in the collection plate, but Henry attended the church's school. His classmates had parents who became her friends, so it was perhaps more her social life than any spiritual concerns that kept her tethered to Catholicism. Ethan hated having to pay lip service to a fraudulent spiritual medium like Ms. Mersialles. Still, he wasn't sure how much happier he would have been had Veronica insisted on consulting a priest.
Ethan groaned when he saw where the spiritual medium lived. It was a one-story ranch-style brick adorned with too many wind chimes.
"Windchimes, that's how you know she's in touch with the spirit world," huffed Ethan.
Veronica ignored the comment.
"Henry, we're here," she said.
The driveway hadn't been paved in years. Weeds sprouted from the concrete fissures, and oil stains were everywhere. The screen door was torn, and there was a sticker on the main entrance that read "No Soliciting," Ethan rolled his eyes and groaned again.
"What is this place?" Henry asked.
"This is my friend's house," explained Veronica sweetly. "I just want you to talk to her for a little while, and then we'll go."
"I'm hungry. Can we just go?" whined Henry rubbing his eyes.
"I'd second that," mumbled Ethan.
"It's just for a little bit. Mommy wants you to meet this friend. Just say hi, then when we leave, we'll get you whatever you want to eat on the way back," she said with a smile.
"I want a pitcher of long island," Henry gleefully clapped his hands.
Veronica rang the doorbell, and a dog started barking.
"Crowley, shut up!" A woman screamed. The dog barked again. "Go into the bedroom!" She ordered. The dog's reply was the same. "Now!" She repeated. A door slammed, and there was the sound of shuffling feet followed by the deadbolt being turned open and the chain lock sliding out of the plate. The door opened, revealing their spiritual guide.
"Hello," she said mysteriously.
"Ms. Mersialles, thank you so much for seeing us," said Veronica.
"Don't worry, child. This is a matter that requires urgent attention. Please, I welcome you inside." Said Ms. Mersailles making a quick hand gesture that Ethan supposed was supposed to be interpreted as some kind of blessing. They set Henry down in front of the tv while Veronica and Ethan told Ms. Mersialls about Rowan.
"How long ago did he pass on?" Asked Ms. Mersailles.
"Nine years ago," replied Veronica
"How did it happen?" She asked.
"That's a lot of questions for a psychic to ask," muttered Ethan.
"Ethan, don't be an ass!" Veronica snapped.
Ms. Mersailles seemed unfazed. "He died of liver failure," said Veronica.
"How many years had he spent on this plane of existence?" Marseilles asked.
"He was 37," Said Veronica.
"That is rather young," she said sympathetically.
"He had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse," said Veronica
"Ethan, if you don't mind my asking, how old were you when you lost your brother?"
Ethan crossed his arms. "I was 31," he said crossly.
"What kind of impact did his death have on you?" Miss Marseilles asked.
"What do you mean?" Ethan asked with a tone of hostility.
"How did this event alter your life. What do you think changed about you?"
"What does that matter?" Asked Ethan.
"Sometimes the dead speak to us, and we don't even know we heard them. They can guide us in remarkably subtle ways," said Ms.Mersialles.
"Oh my god, Ethan, that's when you decided to settle down and quit drinking, remember?" Veronica reminded him.
"Yeah, so what?" Ethan shrugged.
"It seems your brother's death had a purpose," said Ms. Mersialles. "Did you propose to Veronica before or after Rowan's death?
"After," Ethan sighed, "So what?"
"So what? That means Rowan was a spiritual catalyst. He was meant to set these events in your life in motion. If it had not been for his seemingly untimely death, you might not have married Veronica, and Henry might not be here. All of you are bound by a shared destiny," Ms. Mersiallse declared.
"So, what do you think is happening to Henry?" Asked Veronica.
"Maybe your lives are so turbulent that Rowan could see from the other side that he needed to intervene," Marseilles proposed.
"Oh my god," gasped Veronica.
"Yes," the self-proclaimed oracle reaffirmed. "Rowan is trying to stop his work from being undone, and he might be using your son as a vessel! Or, or maybe your brother has been reincarnated as your son!"
She turned to Ethan. "Be honest, have you been drinking again?" she asked.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," Ethan said, throwing up his hands.
"I hate that fucking story so much," a tiny voice said acidly.
The three adults stopped talking and looked over to see Henry standing there shaking his head.
"Henry, what are you doing in here? Go back in the living room and wait for us," Said Veronica.
"Every time I hear you two talk about how my dying changed your life, I cringe," Henry said, taking a step forward.
"Are you so narcissistic you think I live a whole 37 years just to die tragically as a lesson to you?!
"Holy shit, what the hell is happening here?" Asked Ms. Mersialles, suddenly dropping the pretense of being a mystic.
"I gotta tell you if the defining moment of my life was dying so you could clean up your act, then I want a fucking do-over!" Henry stamped his foot.
"This isn't real," Ethan shook his head in disbelief. "You're fucking with me. This can't be real."
"Well, it looks like I got a second crack at this life thing, and believe you me this time, I'm not going to waste it so thoroughly. The defining moment of my last life seems to be when I died because it helped you get over your fruity issues," The child pointed an accusing finger at Ethan.
"Rowan, bring back Henry. I want to talk to Henry!" Veronica wailed.
"Eh, there's not much here to talk to. The kid's barely six. You're not losing much. I'll have the advantage of going through life with more than 37 years of experience packed into this little brain. I'm going to rock this shit this time!"