Of all the things I got into trouble for at school, being caught levitating was one of the oddest. In the altered state that is female adolescence, what is happening naturally is so weird that an interest in the supernatural is only to be expected.
Or so it was for me.
My mother sat at home devouring Dennis Wheatley novels and during a bad patch in one of her relationships I encased myself in a caravan and read them all, too. The idea that there were forces we could not see, but that we could harness, was indeed attractive to a cooped-up 13-year-old.
I discovered all sorts of powers within myself. Some were fairly standard: an ability to make myself sick at any point to interrupt a lesson or boring assembly made me surprisingly popular. We didn’t have bulimia in those days so I was ahead of my time.
Teachers didn’t know what to do with my vomiting attacks but what really disturbed them was what I liked to do at lunchtimes. My special pastime! I used to round up a few like-minded or empty-headed girls and go off into a corner of the field.
One would be made to lie down, eyes shut. Arms crossed over her heart. One of us, usually me, would stand at the head, one at the feet, one or two at each side. Preferably six, like pallbearers. And I would start the incantation.
“We are in the House of Death.” Each girl would repeat it.
“She looks pale.” Each girl whispering it round and round.
“She is pale, she is pale.” “She looks ill.” “She looks dead, she is dead.”
And so on. Over and over. A rhythmic chanting.
I know not how I knew this but I did. And at the end of the chanting each of us, with two fingers only, would raise up the dead girl, and we would whoosh her right up into the air, light as a feather and stiff as a board. It happened to me. The weightlessness. The floating.
There probably is a scientific explanation for it. The chanting and the breathing and the repetition did make us feel strange.
One of the girls’ parents complained and Miss Stork the RE teacher took me aside. “This game you play. It has to stop. It is . . . well, it’s not right. And it’s certainly not Christian.”
“It’s not a game, miss. It’s levitation.”
“Suzanne,” she said. “Do you do these things because you come from a broken home?” This was the sensitive way teachers talked in the 1970s. This was pastoral care.
“What’s a broken home, miss?” I asked, knowing she couldn’t bring herself to tell me.
I knew there’d be another letter to my poor mother, but what did I care? We’d just go over to the heath and raise each other up through willpower and spells that defied gravity. We knew we were magic.