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T J Hobbs : Karma Neutral

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I set off up the first passageway and find myself in a very new and strange world. There are people being massaged and given healing in various ways and stalls selling crystals, clothes, books and all manner of health products, even a roped-off section reserved for Tarot card readers and fortune tellers. I steer clear of them as I don’t believe anyone can tell you what is going to happen in the future: what would they say about mine? I find myself in amongst some very peculiar folk, stopping in surprise at the sight of a woman lying on a couch in front of me with what appears to be a candle sticking out of her ear; another woman dressed in a rainbow-coloured kaftan, with wild black hair and a headband, comes towards me at full sail.

“Would you like to try it?” she asks. “It’s very therapeutic.” That’s as may be, but there is no way I am lying down in front of all these people and having a candle shoved into my ear, however good for me it is. I dodge around her and make my escape.

          This place is like nothing I have ever seen before, like I have been dropped onto another planet, and I must stick out like a conservative sore thumb amongst the brightly clothed exhibitors even though I have dressed down in my corduroy trousers, blue shirt and black leather jacket. I have never seen so many exotically dressed people before in England. And the noise is ever-increasing. I can feel the beginnings of a headache so I must find Katrina before I have to leave.

“James, over here,” a familiar voice cries. I look around over the heads of the multitude and see a hand frantically waving at me from a stall on the other side of the passageway, so I push my way through the stream of people who are flowing past. She has a huge grin on her face as she watches me approach.

“Hi there, you came!” she exclaims.

          “As if I had a choice,” I roll my eyes. “Anyway, I said I would and I am a man of my word. I must say I didn’t think it was going to be such a big event.”

“Oh yes, and it goes on for days. I’ll be here on and off but don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten our appointment on Monday.”

         “Good. I think I’ll need another treatment by then.”

          “You and me both! Anyway, come and meet the others.”

Their exhibition space is bigger than many of the others and once inside there is some peace. The space has been divided up into four, with screens of beautifully patterned textile banners in swirling purples, blues and pinks, making it into a sort of sanctuary from the hustle and bustle outside. The first area is the information hub with its leaflets and cards and the other areas are being used for what they call taster sessions. They all appear to be occupied already. A short, red-haired lady with bright blue eyes gets up from a chair to meet me as Katrina makes the introductions.

“James this is Rosie, our acupuncturist.”

          “Hi there, I’m afraid I’m not great with needles,” I blurt out and she throws back her head and laughs. I bet she hears that a lot.

          “Okay, I promise I won’t attack you with any,” she says.

          “Rosie, be nice or you’ll scare him away,” Katrina chides her.

          “It’s all right,” I offer. “I am also trying to mend my wicked ways.”           

“Well, they do say that God loves a trier,” says Rosie.

          “I do hope so,” I reply, as I might be meeting Him quite soon.

“James is really here to meet Tara,” offers Katrina. “Karma issues.”

          “Oh right, well you’ve come to the right person to get a handle on them,” says Rosie, clearly not one to mind her own business. “She’s great.”

          “You’ve had karma problems too?” I ask, though I don’t know why.

          “James darling, the whole world has karma problems, it’s just that most people don’t know it. You’ll learn so much about yourself - why you think like you do, who has been in past lives with you… It’s a little spooky but it will explain a lot.”

I open my mouth to reply when a pain like a bullet entering my brain hits me and “Aaah!” is all that comes out. All my senses are scrambled, my eyes won’t focus, the world is slipping sideways and I can’t do anything about it. I try to hold my head on but the pain is burning inside my brain so intensely that I can’t stand it anymore; from somewhere I hear myself cry out but I’m somehow disconnected to it and my legs are going from under me… Someone grabs me as I fall and I hear my name, but all my synapses are firing at once and my body is on fire.

“Oh God, take me now,” is the only thought I can muster.