The paranormal enters my writing to one degree or another, but not from the imagined. From the real. Always from real life. Many of the stories in Southern Fried Women were inspired from real life instances that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I think there's a marked difference between the unexplained in true life experiences and the Hollywood glam of vampires. And personally, the unexplained is more exciting.
The spiritual side of life includes the miracles of God, which when you think about it, is some pretty hot stuff. I believe that due to her childlike faith, my mother has seen and heard and even felt things that many, if not most, would not believe. But I know my mother. She doesn't lie just for the drama of it all. Her hair-raising experiences date back to when she was just a girl, and some as late as a few years ago.
It seems to me, that if you're really interested in the paranormal (which I am) then investigate and read the real.
Of course, fiction they say, is imagined. But there's often a fine line. My mother, now in her late 70s, would tell you the following actually took place in her living room. I used her experience to write the following scene. A piece from my short story, Coal Dust on My Feet - a story from my collection, Southern Fried Women. Enjoy.
The social hour passed. DeDe intended to devote the next hour to the scriptures, reading and praying. She scarcely found her voice as she preached. “I’m going to read the scripture Pastor Jessie read last week in service from Ephesians the sixth chapter, verses ten through seventeen. I believe it’s appropriate for this evening.”
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The darkness from the outside permeated the room, even with DeDe’s single lamp that sat on her bookcase. The night sounds of frogs and crickets, and an occasional dog’s bark were the only noise. Then, as if on cue from God, these sounds also ceased.
There was no breeze to speak of. The air around them felt heavy and dead. The screen door to the porch was open and DeDe’s white chiffon curtains at the windows suddenly blew gently inward, billowing like angel’s wings, as if some supernatural being had glided into the room. Lottie put a hand to her mouth. The breeze stopped, the women froze, and their fanning ceased. Nothing moved, not even the wind.
The singing came from outside. As if a choir were floating up Nicholas Street. A soft carol of voices. The song escalated in strength, grew stronger, louder, and became recognizable—a chorus. A mass of voices singing in a heavenly language. The sound grew as if someone had turned up the volume on a radio. It floated through the doorway and as it did, a light came with it, filling the room. It expanded and appeared to seep into every mind and heart. And then, just as it came, it descended out the west window, as if someone opened a vacuum and the singing was sucked out.
No one could speak for a period of unknown time, as every watch on every wrist had stopped. Even the mantel clock on DeDe’s bookcase ceased to chime the hour. Sounds of murmured praise came first from their lips. Hephzibah whispered to Opal that she saw tongues of fire over each woman in the room. Opal reached for her hand and smiled. “I see ‘em too.”
Questions oozed from every mouth … “Did you hear it?” “Yes, what did you hear?” “What was it? A choir?” “Angels, yes it was angels singing.”
Sylvia and Tessa believed it was the radio next door and an electric surge. Lottie and Goose cried. Ossie, Opal, Tootsie, Imogene, Fleeta and Edith sang, “Praise Him, Praise Him, Praise Him in the mornin’, Praise Him in the noontime, Praise Him when the sun goes down …”
One by one, the ladies bid their teary good-byes. Pearle pulled DeDe aside after most had gone and a few waited for their rides. “Was it a sign? A good sign or a bad sign? What’d it mean?”
Hattie Mae couldn’t hold back any longer. “It was a sign of the second comin’.”
“Oh, hush, Hattie Mae! You don’t know that.” Pearle shook her head at her elderly aunt.
“I know somebody’s comin’,” she said.
Hephzibah looked at Mama Ola. “What you think, Mama?”
The old black woman stared at DeDe and grinned. “She know. She know what it was.”
Pearle’s hand, still on DeDe’s arm, trembled. She asked her again. “What do you know, DeDe?”
“I know it’s late. Thank you all for coming.”
Blessings to you and yours.