On a sunny morning, walking down a cobblestone path on my way to Lancaster Gate Station, I tripped and fell. My body shattered into a thousand and fifty pieces, like a porcelain lotus flower smashing on a tiled floor.
Looking at the mess, I wasn’t sure where to start. I knew where my main body parts went—my two eyes, nose, two ears, thirty-one and a half teeth (I broke a big tooth when I was younger in a similar accident), my lips, my fingers and toes, my arms and legs, buttocks, shoulders, and neck—but beyond that, it was a mystery. Bits I had never seen before were lying everywhere on the ground around me, and people were rushing past stepping over them.
For thirty-seven years, I had lived with this body, but I had no idea how my innards worked, what joined with what, and what made it all tick and tock automatically. Of course, I roughly knew where my heart, stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, and so on were located, but I had never seen them work. I had only taken my doctor’s word that they existed.
I scurried about to collect the important bits, then scooped the rest into a pile, and bit by bit I slowly began to piece myself back together. Then I wondered, where’s my mind?
Now that was a different story. I knew I had one, but what did it look like? And where was it located? I had never seen my mind before and, as far as I knew, no one else had either.
I searched around looking for the unseeable.
A woman stopped to help me. “Oh dear, you look a mess. Do you need some assistance?” she asked, bending down beside me.
I looked at her, wondering if she was just trying to steal a kidney or maybe my immune system. Or maybe she’s a memory thief, I thought. (Research shows that memory loss is almost as common as depression these days.) Then she smiled. Her glorious beam was as broad as my left foot, and I knew I was in good company. “I’m trying to put myself back together,” I explained.
She nodded an understanding nod, as though she had just been told by a clairvoyant that she would die one day. “I can help you,” she said.
And the very understanding woman helped me to put the final pieces in place.
I thanked her but then said, “I still haven’t found all the pieces of my mind.”
“What parts of it do you have?” she asked, searching the ground.
“I’m not sure. I remember falling, so I must have my memory. But I don’t know what else is missing. After everything smashed to pieces, I started putting them back together again. If parts didn’t fit, I tried a few different ways until they did.”
Her eyebrows knitted together like a broad m. “It sounds like you have your memory and your ego too. And if you can see me and hear me and touch and smell me, then you’ve also found your sensory awareness. You also seem to be able to make decisions and think of alternatives. So it sounds like you have all the parts of your mind.”
“I feel like I’m missing something though.”
“Do you remember how to get back home?” she asked.
“Home…” I pondered the idea for a moment. “What do you mean?”
“It’s that one place of utmost happiness where you can be your true self.”
“No. I don’t know of any place like that.”
“Hmm. That’s interesting. What direction were you heading in?”
I looked up the street, then down the street. “I don’t know.”
“Where were you going?” she asked.
I must have given her a bewildered look, as her eyes narrowed and her mouth crinkled in the middle. She put her hand on my shoulder and asked, “Were you coming or going?”
Again, I looked around. “I don’t know.” My bottom lip began to quiver as I realized that I was lost. I didn’t know how to get back home, back home to a place that I hadn’t been to before, back home to a place that seemed worth going to.
She gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry. I think I’ve worked out what you’re missing.”
I stared at her through blurry eyes and then blinked. Two fat tears squeezed out and trickled along the lines running under my temples. “What am I missing?”
“Your soul—I think you’re missing your soul.”
“That sounds serious.”
“Not really. Many people have lost their soul and they don’t even know it. At least, you’re now aware of it.”
“What should I do to find my soul?”
“If I were you, I would go and see a soulologist.”
“I’ve never been to one of those before. How can I find one?”
The woman opened her handbag and pulled out a business card. “Here,” she said, handing the card to me. “This is my soulologist. I’m sure she can help you.”
I took the card and looked at the name. It read, Dr. Jennifer Jennifer. “That’s strange,” I said. “She has the same first and last name.”
“Yes, she had an arranged marriage with herself. Very strange, I agree. But she’s excellent.”
I nodded as I turned the card over. Written on the back in fancy handwriting was SEVEN-STORY ISLAND.
“Would you like me to make an appointment for you?” she asked.
I smiled, and returned the card. “Yes, that would be very helpful.”
The woman took out her mobile and dialed Jennifer’s office. She told the receptionist that it was urgent. Fortunately, there was an appointment available that afternoon. The woman booked the session for me, and I heaved a sigh of relief, thinking that maybe this unfortunate incident would turn out for the best. The woman then told me the directions to Jennifer Jennifer’s office, and I thanked her for her kindness. She walked off, and I was left to myself again.
I looked around once more to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I tried to find my soul but couldn’t see it, so I headed off to see the soulologist Jennifer Jennifer.
Although I had to catch two trains, I arrived early for my appointment and sat in the waiting room, flicking through an old issue of the Stranger than Death magazine. The room was small; its size reminded me of the darkroom of the photographer who used to live next door to us when I was growing up. His name was Mr. Harold. I don’t remember his first name; I just know that’s what we called him. His darkroom glowed red and was high in fragrant chemicals that could make the skin on your fingertips rot, whereas the soulologist’s waiting area was bright with natural light and reeked of strong, heady lavender.
How strange it is, I thought, that I’m waiting to see a soulologist. This morning everything seemed fine, and now I’m looking for my soul and seeking help from someone named Jennifer Jennifer. Life indeed is very interesting.
Lost in thought, I didn’t hear the door open. All I heard was a throat being cleared, soft yet forced like a gregarious nun trying to get my attention. I looked up from the article I was reading. A woman no taller than five feet was standing in front of the opened door. She was wearing dark brown overalls and her gray hair shot out in all directions, giving her the appearance of a fluffy dandelion half-blown away by the wind. Her eyes shone a glorious green, and her smile stretched from one side of her face to the other.
Jennifer introduced herself, and so did I. She then led me into her office. Office is not quite the right word for the room where she took me.
The room was filled with pot plants containing colorful flowers. Creepers crawled all over the walls. I felt immersed inside a rainforest rather than an urban office tower. Birds were chirping and then one let out a long call, like a whipbird. I tried to spot the birds in the foliage but never saw any. Water was trickling somewhere, but when I looked around the lush ferns and tropical natives, a bundle of white fluffy kittens caught my eye. They were curled up together on a cat scratching post.
Jennifer sat down in a big green recliner and motioned for me to sit in the chair opposite, a big blue recliner. As she settled back, one of the kittens awoke and jumped from the post. After flying through the air for a moment, the kitten landed on Jennifer’s lap. It then curled up tightly again, and Jennifer began stroking it, behind the ear.
“Firstly, I welcome you,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Let’s get down to business. What brought you here?”
“It all started just this morning. I was walking along a cobblestone path and I tripped. I broke into a thousand and fifty pieces. A woman who was passing by helped me back together. It was very fortunate she came along. I don’t know what I would have done without her. The problem was, and still is, I’ve lost my soul. We both looked around for it but couldn’t find it. The woman who helped me recommended I see a soulologist, and she referred me to you.”
For the entire time that I spoke, Jennifer looked into my eyes and did not make a single facial expression or utter a single word. When I finished talking, she stretched back further in her chair, still stroking the kitten. “Very interesting,” she said. She then turned and looked up at one of the creepers. “Do you see the creeper along that wall?”
“Yes,” I said.
“You are a bit like the creeper, and I am like the wall. I will support you to understand your situation, but you have to trust me.”
“Yes, Jennifer, I do.” I nodded, realizing that I needed her advice. “I don’t know who else could help me.”
“Good. Now that we have that clear, we can begin. Although it might seem scary, having lost your soul is not such a bad thing.”
“It isn’t? The woman who put me back together thought it was important, and she said that I needed to find it.”
“To be honest, your soul will find you. This is where you need to trust me, there’s nothing wrong with you.” Jennifer sneezed violently, causing the kitten to leap off her lap. “Bless me’s,” she said to herself.
“When will it find me?” I asked her.
“I suggest you continue living a conscious life and head home. And your soul will reappear.”
“But I don’t know where home is?”
“Yes, you do. Your home is on the seventh floor of the lighthouse.”
“I live in a lighthouse?”
“Can you write that down for me please so that I don’t forget?”
Jennifer reached into her pocket and pulled out a business card and pen. On the back of the card, she wrote, SEVENTH FLOOR OF THE LIGHTHOUSE, and then handed me the card.
I looked at the fancy handwriting. “How do I get there?”
“You start on the first floor and take one level at a time.”
“It’s that easy?”
“Yes, going home is extremely easy; it’s your mind that will make it complicated. All you need to do is trust me, keep my card with you, and follow my directions. Remember that your soul will find you if you don’t get distracted. You don’t need to find it.”
“That’s all I need to do—follow your directions and it will find me?”
“There’s nothing else I can say to help you. Trust me, lead a conscious life, and your soul will find you. There’s no charge for today’s session—it’s on the house.” She stood up and motioned me toward the door.
I reluctantly got up and followed her.
“Nice to meet you,” she said.
“Yes, it’s been good to meet you too. And thank you for your help, Jennifer… Jennifer.”
“It’s my pleasure.”
Jennifer opened the door, and I left her office.
As I walked down the long hallway leading to the lift, I couldn’t help but feel that something wasn’t right. With each step, I contemplated the session. Something about it made me feel empty and hopeless. Jennifer Jennifer seemed genuine, but her method of trusting her and following her directions and then waiting for my soul to find me seemed too simple and slow. That could take years, I thought, and I need to find my soul and go back home now, not in three year’s time or twelve year’s time.
When I was about twenty feet away from the lift, I noticed a large sign hanging in the window of an office. It read:
TERRY GODSON, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR
We find the impossible. No matter how big or small.
We even find God. No find, no pay.
That’s exactly what I need, I thought. A private investigator. Why didn’t I think of that? If they can find small things and God, then surely they can find my soul. And if they don’t, at least it won’t cost me anything. It’s the perfect win-win situation.
I hesitated for a brief moment, thinking about Jennifer’s advice about not getting distracted. But I decided that if it wasn’t meant to be, I wouldn’t have noticed the sign as I walked past it. I opened the door and stepped inside.
A bell rang, and a woman in her early twenties waltzed out of an office to the front counter. She was wearing round black-rimmed glasses, and her dark hair was tied up in a messy bun. Her bright pink lipstick lined the smile on her face and its color matched the large polka dots on her white blouse. “Good afternoon. How can we help you?”
I smiled. “I need to hire a private investigator.”
The woman took a moment to check an electronic device on her desk. “It looks like Mr. Godson just finished his phone call and can see you now. Please go down that hallway and then take the stairs up to the chimney. I’ll message him to let him know that you are coming. What’s your name?”
“My name is Twenty-three,” I said. “I can’t believe he’s free. Today must be my lucky day.”
She smiled. “We think of it more as divine providence than the chance of good luck. Just walk down that hallway and straight up the stairs. Mr. Godson will be waiting for you, Twenty-three.”
I returned the smile and thanked her, then wandered off down the hallway. At the time, it never occurred to me that a chimney was a strange place for a private investigator to have an office. I guess I was just focused on finding my soul again, and the thought of having a private investigator do all the hard work for me felt right. A quick fix sounded appealing after everything I’d been through. I thought that Mr. Godson could save me heaps of time and effort, and if he didn’t find my soul, then I wouldn’t lose any time or effort or money. This couldn’t have been more perfect!
As I walked up the stairs, the wooden treads creaked beneath my feet. Whenever I checked to see if I was closer to the top, it felt like I had made no progress. I looked behind me and saw the same endless stairs leading down. I decided to keep going, thinking that the staircase must end soon.
I walked and walked. Many minutes passed.
Just when I felt like I could not take another step, I reached the landing. The red door in front of me was closed. Written on it, in big white plastic letters, were the words TERRY GODSON, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.
I knocked and then opened the door and stepped inside a room with red brick walls. The ceiling was angled at forty-five degrees from the top of the walls leading upward to a massive chimney in the center of the roof. The room was empty, barring a big wooden desk along the far wall and a man with a big white beard who was sitting behind the desk. His large body was dressed in a bright red suit, and a red beret was perched on the top of his head.
“Ho. Good afternoon, Twenty-three!” the man hollered.
“Hello, you must be Mr. Godson,” I said, walking over to his desk.
“Indeed. Godson by name, Godson by right.” We shook hands and then he pointed beside me. “Take a seat.”
I looked around the room but couldn’t see any chairs. The room was empty, apart from him and his desk. So I sat on the floor and looked up at him as if I was a lion cub waiting to be fed.
“What can I do for you, Twenty-three? And please call me Terry.”
I nodded. “Okay, Terry.” I then told him what had happened earlier that day.
After I relayed the events, he said, “The good old lost soul case. I’ve been requested to find this before.”
“Really!” I exclaimed. I’m sure if I could have seen my own eyes, they would have been sparkling in excitement. “Did you find it, Terry?”
“It depends on your definition of found. And also your definition of lost.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you sure you’ve lost your soul? Or is it just hidden, like a key you think you have lost, but it is deep inside your pocket.” He was silent for a moment and then asked, “Would you mind giving back my key?”
“I don’t have your key.” Then I reached inside the pocket of my jacket. In the bottom corner, I found a small gold key. “Oh my. Is this yours?” I held up the key.
“Yes and no.”
I reached forward and placed the key on Terry’s desk. “How did it get there?”
“The same way that your soul found its way here.” From behind his desk, he pulled out a small chest with a lock on it. He placed it on top of the desk in front of him. “Inside this box is your soul.” Terry winked at me.
“How did my soul get inside that box?”
“The same way the key got in your pocket.” It felt like the conversation was going around in circles, and I was getting light-headed. I pressed the palm of my hand onto the floor to steady myself. Don’t faint, don’t faint, I told myself, just take a deep breath.
Terry continued, “You have always had the key and your soul has always been in this box.”
The dizziness began to pass and I was thinking clearly again. “But I have never seen that key before.”
“Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in, Twenty-three? Do you ever think that you are not really the person who people think you are?”
I considered his questions. “I suppose so. But I have never really given it much thought or attention.”
“If you would have done that, Twenty-three, you would have found the key. It’s always been there. You were given the key when you were born.”
“I’ve had this key my whole life! What is it for?”
“The key unlocks this chest, the chest with your soul in it.” He held the key up as if enticing me to take it.
“Do I need to unlock the chest?” I asked, not sure where all this was heading. It now seemed clear that I had not lost my soul when I fell on the cobblestone path; if I had, then it wouldn’t be in this man’s chest. So why would I need to unlock the chest? Surely I could just take the key back and then go back to my normal life.
“Look at it this way.” Terry smoothed out the long white strands of his beard. “Would you climb the Himalayas only to stop ten feet before the summit?”
“No,” I said, “but I never set out to climb the Himalayas. I just want my old life back, in the same way that it was.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not possible. Once you’ve seen the chimney, life can never be the same. My free advice to you is to open the chest.”
I hesitated. Whether his advice was free or not, I was not sure that opening the chest was the best idea. Jennifer Jennifer had said that my soul would find me, and I didn’t need to find it.
Terry leaned forward and held the gold key close to my face. “How about you just open the chest, take a peek at what’s inside it, and then lock it again? Then you can take the key back and continue living your life. What have you got to lose?”
I thought about his suggestion. What could it hurt to take a look? “That sounds like a good idea,” I said.
I took hold of the key and stood up. He then spun the chest around 180 degrees so the lock faced me. I inserted the key and turned it to the right. There was one short click, like the sound of my knee joint cracking when I squat. The top half of the chest sprang upward a little, and I eased it open and peeked inside. I saw an object that looked like a green pea, a fresh and plump green pea, not dehydrated and faded.
“What!” I looked down at Terry who was still seated behind his desk. “That’s my soul?”
Terry laughed. “What did you expect—fireworks?”
“No.” I thought about it for a few seconds. “I don’t know what I expected.”
I stared at my soul, unable to believe that I had been so desperate to find it. As I watched the green pea, it began to float upward. When it was two feet above the chest, it stopped midair.
Before I could say or do anything, Terry grabbed the pea and said, “You don’t really need this anymore.” He then threw the pea out the door and it bounced on the landing.
I bolted from the room, chasing after the pea. A boom resounded throughout the staircase each time it struck a wooden tread. As I ran down the stairs, I could hear the laughter of Terry as well as the booming sound of the little green pea.
I was moving so fast that my feet got tangled up and I tripped. My body flew up into the air for a few seconds and then I hit the staircase hard. I began tumbling, over and over. Down I went, and the wooden treads moaned under my weight. One by one I plummeted down.
I finally landed at the bottom. I could still hear the booming of the pea.
Did I overtake it when I fell?
As I lay on the ground floor at the bottom of the steps with my head facing upward, I felt like I had been shattered into a thousand and fifty pieces again. Each boom became louder and louder and then I saw the green pea falling down toward my face. I was trapped, unable to move out of its way. An eternity passed while it descended closer. When it hit me between the eyes, it exploded in a festival of fireworks and I lost consciousness. I floated in a dark space. I had no body; I had no mind. There was just me. All I could do was watch. I had no eyes, but I could see; and I had no ears, but I could hear. I didn’t know who I was, but I knew what I wasn’t. I wasn’t who I thought I was; I wasn’t the person who others said I was.
I was different, but I was the same.
When I awoke, everything was white. The ceiling, the walls, the sheets, the pillow.
Where am I?
I looked around. A chart was hanging at the bottom of my bed. My left wrist was hooked up to an IV. With my right hand, I reached for a glass of water on the bedside cabinet. Lying next to it was a card. Instead of taking the glass of water, I took the card. As I held it in my palm, the card spoke to me: “Going home is extremely easy; it’s your mind that will make it complicated.”
The card became silent. I placed it in the middle of my chest on top of the bed covers, and then took a sip of water.
That illusive green pea, that deceptive man in the red suit, that understanding woman, that innocent kitten—it was all starting to come back to me. A colorless lighthouse.
I turned and looked out the window, searching the horizon, seeking the home I had known long ago but didn’t have the sheer will to find again.
To this day, I continue to walk the same cobblestone path to Lancaster Gate Station and I walk along the same route I’ve always taken. I keep the card with me at all times, and when it talks, I try to follow its directions. Some days are easier than others. Life is hard, but I’ve heard that reaching the lighthouse is worth it.
Copyright © Leisa Golding 2019