Chapter 2

LAURA’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY

A Cat, a Wardrobe and a Witch

I was fourteen when I first discovered I could leave my body – and it came about because of a cat.

It’s a difficult age to suddenly find out that you’re different from everyone else around you, because you have a weird and special skill.  Puberty is traumatic enough when it’s of the conventional variety, never mind having to deal with a huge and scary secret!  But looking back, I’ve often thought the timing was probably about right.  If it had happened when I was younger, I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it at all – it scared me enough as it was!  And I would probably have blurted it all out to my parents and got myself subjected to endless medical scrutiny, which is something I’ve always been anxious to avoid.  Whereas if I’d already been an adult, it might have been more difficult to adjust, and I might have refused to accept my ability, or not have been able to learn to use it properly.

At fourteen I was probably about three quarters adult and one quarter child.  None of the quarters were remotely prepared for what was about to happen to me, though.

Alternatively, I could have begun by saying – I was fourteen years old when my madness started.  Because I’m sure that is how some of you will interpret this account.  Yes, maybe I’m mad and the whole thing has only been in my head – I’m very familiar with that possibility and acknowledged it to myself a long time ago.  However, I happen to know that it’s not true and that I’m not mad!  Whether or not you agree – well, I’ll have to leave that up to you to decide when you’ve heard the whole story.

So it was a hot, hazy day and I was sitting alone on my favourite bench in the garden.  I was wearing a pretty blue dress with flowers on it – I will never forget the pattern, because I was shortly to see it, quite literally, from an entirely new perspective.  I had a book on my lap but had lost interest in it, and was staring sleepily at my mother’s beautiful pink roses and slipping into that state which is sometimes known as a ‘brown study’ – deeply absorbed but with no particular focus, contented and reflective, but not about anything in particular.  You could say, that my mind was wandering, though in my case that phrase has a rather specific significance!

Through narrowed eyes, I watched the sun make rainbows around my eyelashes, then studied a solitary cloud changing shape in the sky, then watched a bumble bee explore the daisies on the grass – then noticed that a cat was sitting under the hedge, watching me.

It was our neighbour’s cat, white and fluffy, its eyes narrowed like mine, its demeanour similarly relaxed and lazy in the heat.  I observed it dispassionately, admired it, decided that my attitude towards it was definitely more in line with that of my mother, who cooed when she saw it and made welcoming noises, than that of my father, who threw Wellingtons at it and cursed it (albeit gently, in front of us children) for fouling the grass.

We didn’t know its name, or indeed its gender, but I called it Snowy, and would like to have befriended it more, if it wasn’t for the fact that its owner was the forbidding Miss Webb, who had so often frowned at me for hitting tennis balls into her garden, or rushing past her front gate a little too carelessly on my bicycle.

“Hello, Snowy,” I said quietly under my breath.  “Are you enjoying the nice summer’s day, or is it too hot for you with all that fur?  Come here and say hello, Snowy – come here!”

Snowy merely blinked, then jerked his head fractionally as another bee flitted across his vision.  He was practiced at ignoring humans.  However, he had chosen to join me in the garden, and he was facing towards me and not away, so it had to be admitted we were companions!  Maybe this is what made me imagine that I was sitting on the grass where he was sitting, looking up and across at me, slumped on my bench with my legs out in front of me, and my chin on my chest.

What would he see?  My dress, my book, the abandoned sun hat on the seat beside me.  The maple tree in the middle of the lawn, the swing in the corner of the garden, which I still enjoyed on occasion, but had largely given up ownership of to my boisterous little brother, currently having his nap in an upstairs bedroom.  The white painted exterior of our modest but beloved country house, the deep green curtains in the dining room window, my mother glancing out to see what I was doing, a notepad in her hand.

And then I realised that I was actually there.  I was with the cat, looking at myself and my pretty blue dress on the bench, realising that the dress had a different pattern when viewed from such a distance, realising that my mother’s face had appeared behind me – I couldn’t have seen her from where I was sitting, facing the roses.

I knew immediately and certainly that I wasn’t in the cat’s mind.  The cat was just below me, I was between his ears.  I saw a little spot of black on the back of his head I had never noticed before, I saw that his whiskers were twitching almost imperceptibly.

I was not in the cat’s mind, but neither was I in my own.  I was under the hedge, marvelling at the blue fabric, watching a book fall out of a young girl’s lap as she slumped to one side.

And then I was back with a jerk, eyes wide, sitting up.  I swung round to look at the dining room window, but my mother had gone.  I stared at the cat, confused and shocked, expecting to see it start up and run away, but in fact it only settled itself down on the grass, as if to go to sleep.

I don’t think it had perceived me.  It hadn’t had anything to do with what had happened – or if it had, it was keeping the knowledge to itself!  At the time I wasn’t sure whether or not the cat had brought the event about, but now I know that Snowy was innocent!

A feeling of utter terror rose up in me, as if I had just tottered on the edge of a cliff, or nearly been run over by a car.  But it was followed closely by disbelief, as my rational and reasonably mature brain decided that I must have just dropped off to sleep and had a silly little dream that I was looking at myself sitting on the bench.

A dream!  That was it, of course!  But as I sat there trembling in the afternoon heat, I knew perfectly well and to the very core of me that it had not been a dream, it had been something very real, which I would have to, at some point, face.

For the moment, I pushed it out of my head.  I went indoors, I bothered my mother with inane questions, later, I teased my little brother needlessly.  I kept busy all day, watched the television until as late as my parents would allow, fell into bed repeating poetry to myself, determined not to let my mind dwell on what had happened on that momentous day.

On the following days – which were those long, hot, boring ones one endures ungraciously during school holidays in youth, and then spends the rest of one’s life yearning for – I avoided the garden, avoided the bench.  When I glimpsed the cat venture across the lawn from the window, I started, and turned away quickly.

There was a weekend away, a trip to the seaside, and all during that time I kept myself busy and cheerful, yet all the time knowing that the moment would come when I would have to have a good old think about what had happened in the garden.  It wasn’t for over a week – until I felt I had sufficiently calmed down about the incident – that I eventually, whilst lying awake in my bed and with the lamp on beside me to chase away shadows, thought back to that strange moment in the garden and went through it all carefully in my mind.

The next morning, I went into the garden and crouched down under the hedge where the cat had been.  The view was as I’d remembered it.

I went and found the blue dress I’d been wearing from the washing, and draped it over the banister in the corridor, then stepped as far away from it as I could get and realised that it did, indeed, form a different pattern than I’d previously realised, when looked at from a distance.  Close up you saw only the little flowers, but from further away their subtle differences in colour formed broad wavy stripes.

Now I couldn’t keep the matter from my mind and thought about it constantly, looking forward to the evenings so I could contemplate the possibilities in the silence of my bedroom.

It was curiosity that drove away fear, in the end.  Was it really the case that I could venture to observe things from outside of my own body?  I had heard of such things, even at that age.  It came up on occasion in story books, as a skill possessed by witches and wizards, and such like.  But I was relatively sure it wasn’t something that the average human being could do.

For a few more nights, I ruminated about it alone, wondering what to do, wondering, basically, whether I dare to try it again.  I thought a lot about the cat and whether it was significant.  We had a hamster, down in the utility room, and I considered whether I should involve it in an experiment.  But I was seldom in the house alone – no, the best place to try would be here, in my own bed, in seclusion and safety.

A few more nights were required before I plucked up courage, but eventually that burning curiosity overwhelmed me.  Wondering, indeed, why I had never thought to try such a thing before, I simply imagined myself up near the ceiling looking down on myself – and on this very first attempt, was utterly astounded to find that I was successful!  I clearly saw myself lying in bed, the covers pulled up to my chin, my hair spread out on the pillow.  I saw my chest of drawers and my desk from a new angle, for I had never been anywhere near the ceiling of my room before!  I saw an old doll I had forgotten about on the top of the wardrobe.  I saw a dead wasp in the lampshade, dry and dusty.

In an instant I was back in my own head, where I belonged, breathing hard, eyes wide open and flushed half with fear, half with excitement.  I couldn’t believe it – was I dreaming again?  But no, surely I had made something happen.  And it had been easy, it has been as easy as if I had decided to get out of bed and stand on a chair.

I got out of bed.  I walked around, I pinched myself, as they do in children’s stories, to see whether I was awake – though I had always thought that stupid, as of course you could dream you were pinching yourself!

I pulled my chair up to the wardrobe and, stretching and straining, managed to reach the forgotten doll I had just ‘seen’ in so unusual a way.  It was there, exactly where I expected it to be.

I sat on my bed, looking at the rediscovered doll, full of wonder.

As I have said, I was not a stupid child, and was doing well in my science lessons, so my mind turned promptly and simply to devising a test for myself.  I took a school book from a pile on my desk and opened it at random, without looking at the page I had chosen.  I climbed onto the chair once more and placed the open book on the top of the wardrobe, then I turned the top light on and lay down in bed again.

I will always remember the words I read from that book on the top of the wardrobe.  “Physics is the science of matter and energy and of the interaction between the two.  Through physics, most things in our world can be explained.”

Hmm, I thought to myself.  Did it explain how I could read a book on top of the wardrobe, while I was lying flat on my back in bed?

When I had calmed myself from this second success, I turned both my lights off and tried the book experiment again.  In this case I couldn’t see a thing.  So there were rules to this thing, I realised, though they might not make sense.  It seemed I needed light to ‘see’ things in this remote way, although surely, my eyes remained down there with my body.

This is an element of my special skill which to the present day I have been unable to explain.  Anyone questioning me about it, anyone ready to disbelieve, would surely leap immediately on the uncomfortable paradox.

“So you can send your mind up to the ceiling and look down on yourself lying in bed?”

“Yes, I don’t know how, but I can – I just decide I want it to happen and it does.”

“And you can ‘see’ yourself down there?  You can read a book on the top of your wardrobe?”

“Yes, if the room is light enough.”

“But how can you see and read, when you’ve got no eyes up there?”

“I don’t know, I just can.  I’m just aware of things somehow.  It’s as if I could see.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  It was to be some years before I properly tried to explore and explain my ability, from an adult and scientific perspective.  At this early point I was just an excited girl-child, and it was as if I had suddenly been blessed with a secret magic!  Setting physics aside, I fell asleep that night thinking that for all I believed I had grown up and put childish books and stories behind me, it now seemed there was something to all these tales of magical powers after all!

With a palpable thrill, I wondered if Narnia perhaps really did exist!

And so, with increasing confidence and delight, and with a childish abandon to the idea that this was a matter of magic, I practised my ability to leave by body and came to understand what I could and couldn’t do.

It was simply that my awareness continued outside of myself.  I merely stepped out of my brain as if I was stepping into another room.  The me that was outside of myself didn’t seem to have any size or shape or form – I tested this early on by drifting about in front of mirrors – but it was definitely located in a specific place, and could move about from one place to another, driven merely by my will.

I became intimately familiar with the contours of my bedroom.  I could jump instantaneously from one corner to another, from the lampshade to the floor, or I could drift slowly from place to place, twisting, turning, spiralling, even turning upside down, however I wished.  I could leap inside the wardrobe, or into my desk drawer, but it would be dark inside and I would feel cramped.  I tried it with several boxes and containers and never reached a point where they were too small, so I concluded that the awareness that was me was somehow quite tiny, a single point in space.

And always, once I had left my body and my head behind, I had no direct awareness of it – no feeling that I had arms and legs, or that I was breathing.  I could see from the outside that my body was alive and well, but my real eyes would always be closed, and I couldn’t raise an arm or get out of bed unless I went back ‘home’ into my own head.

The crucial lesson which I therefore taught myself was that, with my awareness outside of my body, the body itself would remain slumped and vulnerable.  I couldn’t leave it whilst I was standing up, for example, or I would drop to the floor and hurt myself.  It was difficult even to attempt it sitting down, for there was a danger of tipping over to one side or the other.  In short, I needed to be lying down or very well propped up, for to all intents and purposes, my body was asleep and couldn’t look after itself with me gone.

But actually to leave it was never a problem, and neither was returning to it.  As soon as I returned I was awake and immediately in possession of all my faculties and able to get up without any ill effect.  Neither did there appear to be any limit to the length of time I could leave my body.  I found I could spend hours somehow perched up on top of the wardrobe, looking down at myself breathing peacefully, and that time passed in the same way when I was outside of my body as when I was within it.  The only thing I noticed was that I would still get tired – if I spent half the night watching myself from without, I would be shattered and yawning all the next day.  So my wandering self was still somehow a function of my biological brain, and I needed to sleep the same as always for my awareness to remain fresh and alert.

These secret early venturings continued for some weeks – all through that first summer, driving all trace of boredom from my mind.

I was so amazed at how easily and consistently the feat was achieved, that even in my youth I wondered that I had not discovered it before.  Was it that I had always had this skill but just never thought to try using it?  Or had it only come upon me on that day, or with puberty perhaps?  Had something in my mind matured sufficiently to make it possible, or had it been bestowed upon me by some passing spirit – or by the cat?

Decades have now passed since these early days, and I have to report that I still do not know the answer to this question, for I cannot go back in time and test my childish self in any way, nor can I remember, for all my trying, any single event or episode that even hinted at such an ability, before that hot day in the garden with the blue dress and the white cat.

No goblin ever appeared to me and admitted his complicity.  No hitherto unknown elderly aunt ever wrote to me to inform me that she also had my skill, and invited me to join her for specialist instruction.  No alien ever sent me a coded message and asked me to contact my true makers.  An explanation has not presented itself to this day – but it was to be some years before this even began to bother me.  At first, in the full bloom of excitable youth, it was simply all too much fun!

Before it became fun, however, there were two obstacles that I had to overcome.  The first was to tackle my aversion to leaving my own room at night.  I had got as far as the corridor outside my room, and the empty bathroom, but frankly I was scared at the thought of leaving my body too long out of sight, and also at testing the limits of how far from my body I could safely stray.  What if someone walked in on me whilst I was ‘away’, and couldn’t rouse me when they needed to?  What if I went too far on my wanderings and couldn’t get back?  The thought of being stranded outside of myself was quite terrifying.

I solved this by at last daring to practise outdoors, on a rare day when I was left alone at home for a couple of hours, and could lie down on a corner of the lawn in the sunshine, and slip outside of myself with newfound excitement and trepidation.  First I tried projecting my awareness higher and higher above myself, and found this easy and reassuring, for I could still see my body below, lying safely in the garden, though it became a smaller and smaller shape as I rose higher and higher.  I only called an end to this adventure when I found myself caught up in some clouds, and could no longer see the house, never mind myself, far below.  Nothing seemed to affect my ability, though.  It wasn’t harder to go further – my venturing self appeared to have complete freedom of movement and distance was no object.  And though I panicked for a moment at the thought that I couldn’t see exactly where my body was, way down below, I found I had merely to imagine myself lying on the grass, and I was back, slipping into the clothing of my flesh with ease, and noticing once again the warmth of the sun on my skin, realising that whilst the disembodied me could clearly see the world around it, and also hear it, it could not feel, or indeed smell or taste, so it didn’t matter how cold it was up in the clouds, or how windy – I was immune to these particular facets of the world.

The second initial obstacle to wider wandering was the fear of my out-of-body self venturing into the presence of others.  How did I know whether or not they would be able to see or feel my presence?  I didn’t want to scare anyone – especially my sweet little brother – or indeed to give away my secret, for one thing I had somehow automatically decided was that, at least for the moment, at least until I understood the thing properly, no-one must get any inkling of it.

So on another quiet afternoon in the garden, I tried drifting over the fence to Miss Webb’s patio, and snooped up behind her as she stood drinking a cup of tea and muttering to herself.  I moved in front of her, I zoomed in to inspect her nose.  There was no reaction – it was clear she was unaware of my presence.

I tried it again with the postman, then with a lady walking past in the street with a child.  After all, I thought, remembering Narnia again, it could be that only children were aware of magic.  But neither the woman nor the child, nor any of the other people I experimented on, ever seemed to have any knowledge of my presence, and so I eventually felt safe enough to try it on my brother, hovering over him as he lay in bed, singing himself to sleep (yes it seemed I could hear as well as see), and then on a momentous evening, spying on my parents as they sat downstairs talking, something I only dared witness for a moment before hurrying back into my own mind, and vowing that I would never intrude on their privacy, especially of course – how my teenage cheeks coloured at the thought – when they were alone together in their bedroom!

With only the occasional exception, I stuck resolutely to this decision not to spy on my own parents when they were together.  Though the temptation was great, I knew it would be morally wrong to do this to the people I most loved.  So although I occasionally fondly watched my father or my mother going about their business individually, if ever they looked as if they needed to be alone, or met up and began a meaningful discussion, I would quickly withdraw.  This decision served to reinforce also my resolve towards secrecy, for once I had watched my parents in this way, when they thought they were alone, I could hardly admit to my talent, and perhaps seek to prove it by informing them which of their secret moments I had witnessed!

And yet it was a temptation always, especially because I began to wonder whether this was a skill I had inherited, and that perhaps they could perceive my out-of-body presence, or could maybe do the same as I could, and perhaps had not yet thought me old enough to tell.

I went through a phase of questioning them about their pasts, finding out their opinions on things magical or paranormal, and even probing as to whether I was perhaps adopted, to which I received vehement and convincing denials.  I got no sense whatsoever that they were concealing a similar secret, and luckily they put my strange questions down to my age, and in time forgot about them.

Oh, there would be many, many times when I would wish I could tell my mother, in particular, everything.  When I would rehearse in detail what I would say, what I would ask, and think of the comfort it would give me to hear someone say that this was just a phase I was going through, or entirely normal, or at least a secret skill well known to the family!  But I knew that none of these things were true, I knew that I was not normal, and that her reaction would only be one of fear or horror, and that the consequences for myself were bound to be negative.  And so I kept my counsel, and withheld this huge secret always from my dear parents, thereby saving them, no doubt, many years of distress and many nights of turmoil and tears.

Term time now came about and I was distracted by having to start a different school – a mixed one, which for me was a new experience.  My first few days were a horrible shock, as certain of the boys made rude jokes and teased us girls mercilessly.  However, I made a new friend, Tessa, and found that I shared with her my newfound interest in all things magical, supernatural, and relating to ghosts, vampires and science fiction.

We were too old for magic of the ‘secret worlds full of talking animals’ variety, but not too old to succumb to ‘gothic’ influences, dressing in black whenever we could, learning ancient runes and spells, and indulging ourselves with mysticism of assorted varieties.

Just outside of the playing fields of our new school, we found an overgrown passageway that led to a scrap of wasteland surrounded by a thick hedge, and deep in the centre of one of these hedges we discovered to our delight a hollow space, which we called our ‘den’ and tried our best to conceal from others.

Goodness, two teenage girls hiding out at lunchtime in secluded bushes – what a silly and dangerous thing to do, in retrospect.  But at the time it never occurred to us to be afraid, not of things mortal, at any rate.  We secreted our various quasi-magical implements to the den, and held secret rituals, summoning vampires (luckily, none ever came our way), consulting wizards (strangely quiet), and attempting to go back in time to meet dragons, or at least dinosaurs (thankfully unsuccessful).

True, as we got older, our lunchtime conversations revolved much more around boys, hairstyles and pop music than magic and mysticism, but the den remained our secret retreat for several years, and our friendship remained rock solid.

Yet despite all this, despite having the perfect friend to confide in – I never told Tessa my secret.

Soon after we first met, I subtly tested her, to see whether any trace of the aura of mysticism she so liked to adopt concealed any sort of real supernatural skill.  Artfully, I turned the conversation towards telepathy, teleportation and out-of-body experiences, and between us we contrived various tests and experiments, where we tried to communicate with each other telepathically, for example trying to guess the content of a picture the other was holding away from us, or had hidden.  So often, I was tempted to surprise and scare her with a positive result, for by now I had taught myself to leave my body only momentarily, and so could have flitted to have a look at what she was holding and returned to my seated body without her having noticed anything amiss.

In fact I began to feel guilty about deceiving her, but I have always had such a strong sense of self-preservation, such a sense of needing to keep my secret to myself, that I managed to resist letting on.  I often thought to myself that one day, when the time was right, when our friendship had proved itself, I would tell her, and explain why I had had to keep the truth from her for so long.  But the time wasn’t right yet.  And anyway, I was more concerned with spotting similar talents in her, and slightly selfishly beginning to think that, if she proved to be ‘normal’ after all, I would soon have to move on to someone else, for it was finding someone with similar talents that at this point preoccupied me.

Poor Tessa, she wanted so much, I think, to be a witch – a ‘white’ witch of course, despite all the ‘black’ trappings – but though she clearly tried hard and genuinely wished to have some talent, there was no sign in her of anything but childish inspiration mixed with an undefined spirituality.  We went, once only, to a séance, which it had taken some ingenuity – and bribery – to gain admittance to, and it had a serious effect on her.  She believed she had experienced something, and it turned her to depression for some time after.  Then the ‘medium’ we had visited was exposed in the papers as a fraud, and Tessa became scathing and cynical about the whole thing.  For my part, I was equally disappointed, but my disappointment dated from the ridiculous event itself.  Not only had I not perceived anything remotely resembling a ghostly presence myself, but I had left my body, albeit briefly, several times during the session, buzzing around the medium’s head, and it had been clear that the proximity of a real disembodied entity had been utterly beyond her ability to detect.  In fact, it had taken an effort of will on my part not to burst out laughing at one point, for I had discovered that the fraudulent lady was hiding a young lover in the room next door, and that he was watching a rude film and stuffing his face with peanuts whilst we all wailed and scared ourselves around a table in the dark!

There was just one moment during my friendship with Tessa when I nearly slipped up, and it was one of the last times that we sat together in the den in the hedge, eating vegetarian sandwiches and talking about the latest vampire series that had just begun on Tuesday evenings, the leading man of which was captivating our adolescent imaginations!  Suddenly we heard a not too distant shout, and I flitted outside of myself in reaction, to see what was going on.

It was a large group of those very schoolboys who had upset me on my first few days, and who had transpired to be not only objectionable but downright bullies as a matter of course.  They were laden with carrier bags full of cans of lager, which they had managed to purchase from an unscrupulous local newsagent, and were intent on finding a quiet place to enjoy them.  Just as they approached the hidden entrance to our den, I indicated to Tessa to be quiet, and we sat in silent trepidation, rather than the carefree hilarity we had been enjoying just moments before.

I felt a dreadful sense of helplessness, for though I knew the boys were coming closer, and would doubtless have subjected us to hideous taunting – if not worse – should they have found us cowering there together, I knew that I could do nothing to prevent or distract them, for my power was one of observation only.  I could not cause anything to move or make any sound that would draw them away, and so I could only watch (resting my head on my knees and flitting in and out of it momentarily) as several of them moved closer to our secret hiding place, brushing aside branches in their search for a secluded spot, and then, thankfully, passing us by – deciding instead to leap over a tumbled wall and carry on along the abandoned path towards the railway line.

“It’s okay, we’re safe,” I breathed eventually.  “They’ve gone down to the old railway shed.”  This was my mistake, for though we had both heard them pass by, there was no way I could have known exactly where they were now sitting (breaking open beer cans) if I hadn’t seen it for myself.

“How do you know?” Tessa asked me suspiciously, and I quickly covered myself by saying, “Oh, I’m just guessing!”  But I remember that her look was a little too deep, as if she was suddenly reconsidering, suddenly remembering something.

But soon after this we fell out over some other teenage friendship, and by unspoken mutual consent we never used our previous pseudo-mystical interests against each other, so neither that incident nor any other was ever alluded to by her again.

Paradoxically – or perhaps not too surprisingly, considering her underlying spiritual tendencies – Tessa ‘got religion’ shortly after finishing her exams and leaving school, and stranger still, so did one of the very bully boys who had scared us that day.  They got together and had a huge church wedding, to which I was graciously invited.  So much for being a witch, I thought to myself, as I watched her walk up the aisle in a frilly ivory dress and with a huge crucifix around her neck.

The witch thing never bothered me, somehow.  I read all the stories, and I read history as well, and saw what had been done to countless, surely innocent people, under the guise of exposing witchcraft.  But I never had any sense that what I could do was remotely connected with anything malevolent, or even external to myself.  To me it felt as natural as eating and drinking, as natural as going out for a walk.  And I had applied my own ethics to it without debate.  In the same way that I didn’t snoop on my parents, I didn’t cheat in exams, I didn’t invade the personal moments of my friends.  I often wanted to, and sometimes couldn’t resist having a tiny peek – to see whether it was true that Julie Taylor was really two-timing Peter Smith, like everyone said, for example (she was).  But largely this sort of snooping was constrained by the fact that it wasn’t easy to leave my body as a floppy rag doll in the middle of a normal day.  Because of my need to lie down for any extended wanderings, my excursions needed careful planning and it wasn’t that easy to just have a peek at something on the spur of the moment – not unless I could find somewhere safe to sit, and perhaps put my head down on a desk for a while.

Also, my skill was very specific and in a way very limited.  I couldn’t do anything else.  I couldn’t read minds, I couldn’t move objects.  I couldn’t turn people into frogs, or ride on broomsticks!  I did try a few spells and suchlike, just to make sure, but nothing worked, and so evidently I was a bit lacking in the witchcraft department!

And the bottom line was – I knew I wasn’t wicked, in the same way that I knew I wasn’t mad.  And as I got older, I gradually stopped seeing it as magic at all.  Having found no other evidence of magic in any person or place or object over several years, I was forced to finally accept the non-existence of magical kingdoms accessed through the back of wardrobes!  Also, having chosen to study the sciences, particularly physics and biology, I began to have an increasingly scientific outlook towards the matter.  Clearly my ability was just some function of a highly developed primate brain.  Clearly being able to see around corners and what was going on behind you conferred an evolutionary advantage – perhaps I carried a mutant gene, was the first example of a new human species!  One way or another, I began in time to believe that somehow or other, eventually, science would indeed explain my ability.

But before leaving my childhood, unusual as it had been, behind, I should recount for the record the most important event of my adolescence – oh, okay the second most important event, after discovering that my mind was not confined to my body!

I fell in love.

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