Cross-legged or legs folded under us, we sat on the floor of the walk-in robe of Ajita’s parents’ bedroom. The OUIJA board lay reverentially in the middle of our pre-adolescent circle, an upturned glass resting on top. The lights had been dimmed, and we automatically spoke in the hushed tones that darkness demands. We knew with the certainty of children, that witches, goblins and the denizens of evil winged their way around us. Small squeals of excited terror escaped one or another of us, as we impatiently awaited instructions.
Ajita had spent a year in the US, and for a group of Indian kids growing up in Australia, that might as well have been the moon. The OUIJA board came back with her, and she immediately summited the pinnacle of sophistication in our eyes.
The youngest of us was four years old, the little brother-doll to us all. He was subjected to a gaggle of older sister-friends, who variously coddled him or treated him like a plaything. Now he sat in front of me, my arm wrapped protectively around his tiny waist, waiting to see what new mischief his big sisters would get into.
We listened, with widening eyes and galloping imaginations, to the ominous instructions Ajita was carefully articulating. She, the wise custodian, the keeper of secrets, was our guide to the paranormal.
Place your index finger on the glass. Don’t put any pressure on it.
Ask a question of the other world, and the response will be spelled out on the OUIJA board.
Ask only what you really want to know, because the answer may not be what you want to hear.
The spirits speak only the truth.
Fingers touching on the upturned glass, my sister’s stories of OUIJA consultations in high school and the predictions of her emigration Pasodobléd through my mind. The paranormal had already proven their power.
What was a worthy question? Possibilities materialised and dematerialised with equal rapidity. I was only going to get one chance at this, my question had to be perfect. Then, in a blinding flash, it came to me. The question every 12 year-old Indian-Australian girl wants an answer to.
“Think of your question,” commanded our 9 year-old fakir. “Hold it at the front of your mind. Don’t let any other thoughts in.”
This was a serious business. I focused my mind and called the spirits to me. With all the earnestness of 12 year-old Lady Macbeth, I entreated them to predict my future. The glass began to move. It slid falteringly across the board.
We held our collective breaths, swearing black and blue that none of us was the agent of this sudden animation.
There was a scream-shout.
The lights flicked on.
My brother-doll was wrenched from my grasp.
A hundred mother-arms swung into action.
The OUIJA board and glass flew from the floor, never to be seen again, while a thousand raised mother-voices admonished and chastised.
We begged and pleaded for the return of the board, we just wanted to know the answer to my question. To no avail.
Days later, when all the mothers had calmed down, I asked Ajita what had happened to the OUIJA board and whether she thought we could have another go with it. Dejectedly, she said the OUIJA had mysteriously disappeared, leaving shattered glass in its wake.