Quin Davies is somebody who can see the souls of those around her.
Quickly realising others don't see the world the same way as her, Quinn settles into a life spent trying to ignore swirling souls in school corridors and crowded areas and concentrating on her work. She is largely successful in this endeavour, right up until she realises there's no soul trailing after the new girl in her year.


1. Quintessence of dust

"I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"


Hamlet- Shakespeare 


Under the cover of night and my duvet I opened up a private tab on the internet and googled "Am I depressed?" It was a question I'd been toying with lately, and in the modern age of the internet googling symptoms is the most common method of diagnosis. The private tab was to throw off my father, who was borderline obsessive in checking up on me to ensure my safety online. Whilst I was certain his fears were focused more on paedophiles and porn sites downloading viruses, I wasn't comfortable with his next check revealing his precious 16 year old daughter reading up on depression late at night. I've learnt in the past that to a loving parent the idea of their children battling serious questions regarding their mental health is often more disturbing for them than it is for the child themselves. 

So I was reduced to this, gently pressing each key down slowly and under the cover of a duvet to muffle the sound. I went to the NHS website, knowing better than to trust third party sites, and began skim reading through the list of information available. There was a test available as well, which after a moments hesitation I clicked on. Here's the thing, I hate taking those kind of quizzes, the ones that want you to rate everything and to give a short answer regarding how often you feel down. I can't do them, I start wondering if I'm answering them correctly, and never feel able to qualify anything I'm saying. Questions like "How often do you feel down in a month?" leave me with the empty realisation that I don't know. Is it really that I feel down? Do I actually feel down, or am I just emotionless? I'm never sure what to put when they ask you to scale thing either. Like "On a scale of 1-10 how much does your mood affect your work life, with 1 being not at all and 10 being severely." What I consider a one is bound to be different to what somebody else considers a one, so I never see the point. In the end I leave the website, not bothering to complete the task. I no longer even want to know the answer to if I'm depressed anyway. 

Closing the screen of my laptop I poke my head out of the duvet, relishing the cooler air which awaits me after the stuffy heat of the duvet. As I place the laptop on the floor by my bed, I realise the book I was reading earlier had fallen off my bedside table, presumably as I yanked the duvet up over my head to search online for answers. Gently picking it up in my hands as though cradling a baby bird I look down at it, my fingertips tracing the cracked binding as though every line running down it is sacred. It's my beloved version of Hamlet, and one of the few things I have left of my mothers. I know very little about my mother, apart from the things Dad tells me when he's in a sharing mood (usually after a glass of wine or two). I knew she was incredibly smart, and that she and Dad met at university whilst she studied literature and he maths. My father is also incredibly smart, but he's a different kind of smart. He's the kind of smart who can work out huge sums in his head, solving complicated equations in seconds and went on to do his masters and PhD. My mum on the other hand was a bookworm, and not just the sort to only have one or two genres she enjoyed. When I was five or six I used to love sitting beside my Dad before bed and hearing all about how she would read anything with words on if it stood still long enough. He told me when he bought his first car and planned a romantic road trip to an open field together to watch the stars, he ended up instead hearing her read out every sign they passed and when they made it to the field she brought a book out of her bag and whilst she did curl up next to him under the stars that night, it was with a book sprayed open against her thigh and a hand holding it open to the page she was on. 

One of her favourite books was the one I was currently holding, in fact it was her copy. When she fell pregnant with me Dad said she searched night and day through books she loved to find the perfect name for me. She went through all the typical literary names like "Jane", "Emma", "Alice" and "Matilda", but nothing stood out to her. That was another thing about my mum. She always wanted to stand out. My Dad said she loved anything unique and quirky, he would sometimes joke that he reckons she only agreed to go out with him because the first time he asked he was wearing these rainbow coloured trousers with frayed edges. Apparently he was only in them because it was a dare to wear them and try to ask out a girl on campus, but it worked for my mum. Her love of the unusual clearly spilled into her desire to find a good name for me, because eventually she settled on the name "Quin", by simply shortening the word quintessence. She took it from the scene in Hamlet where he relates to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern how he finds himself at odds with all around him. 

I sometimes wonder if that's how my mum felt as well, because shortly after I was born she all but disappeared. Leaving my dad a letter to explain she just couldn't do this anymore, and me her copy of Hamlet. 

Ever since then I've always kept it somewhere nearby, and whenever I find myself with nothing else to read, or when I feel sad, or lonely, or sick I take it out and read some passage of it. I'm well aware it's just a book, but somehow reading it makes me feel like I still have a mother here.  

My love for the tale of a troubled prince in Denmark goes beyond simply a desire to be close to my mother in some way. In the character of Hamlet I see myself reflected. Both of us have lost a parent, and both of us are haunted, so to speak, by the soul of somebody lingering and insisting upon making contact. 

The difference between me and Hamlet however is that whilst he is only plagued by one spirit or soul, I am constantly visited and made aware of the souls of every single person and animal on this planet. 

Carefully placing the book back on my bedside table and laying down I can't help but smile thinking that it's no wonder I have doubts regarding MY mental health, when Hamlet goes insane with just one soul seeking him out.

 I've been seeing the souls or spirits of people and animals for as long as I can remember, so I don't really remember the first time I saw them. The big deal was finding out that others don't see them I suppose. Growing up my family just figured I had an overactive imagination and that all the jabbering away to myself was me playing with pretend friends seeing as I had no siblings or playmates at home.They probably assumed I had grown out of my "imaginary friends" the same way I grew out of sucking on my thumb and tantrums. The reality was I had never seen the world the way others around me presumably do. As far back as I can remember the world has been an overwhelming swirl of crowded places even in seemingly deserted areas. At first I wasn't entirely sure what the swirls of colour were and why I saw what almost appeared to be a carbon copy of the person floating behind them. Except for the ghostly pale and almost ethereal state of them I might have supposed I had an eye problem causing me to see double. The souls themselves are made of shimmery substance that is somewhat reminiscent of the Hollywood ghosts, but with a decidedly 'otherworld' quality to them not achieved with special effects. Then layered on top of that, almost like a hazy cover, is their colours. It's hard to describe the colours to somebody who hasn't seen them before. Like describing salt to somebody who has never tasted the flavour or anything like it before. The colours I see swirling around the souls of those around me aren't simply like the simple rainbow colours we paint with. They are indescribable. They don't stay fixed like normal colours do, they constantly shift and change, they pulse and vibrate, twisting and turning, whirling and swirling together and then apart again. Despite this each and every one of them is unique. One persons shade is not the same as another persons, and neither is their texture or taste. I don't only see the colours - I experience them. Walking through the haze of auras is almost impossible when almost no space is truly deserted and most are overcrowded. I've come to realise the colours reflect the emotions of the souls. Realising these things has taken years of living with this sight, since there is no guidebook. It's not even as simple as saying blue means sadness whilst red means anger. Contrary to popular belief emotion, mood and mental well being is not as simple as we might like to think. The colours are rarely the same for longer than a few seconds, and sometimes they are a swirl of different colours which you wouldn't think go together. I've seen my dads soul be covered with an aura of a grey centre whilst also being spiked with streaks of a magnificent orange through one half and vibrant pink around the edges. I don't know what it all means, but I've seen enough to spot a few patterns in the wheel of colours.

Most of the time this is all manageable, and sometimes I can even admire the beauty of the colours and their corresponding souls. When I got an A on my English paper my Dad took me to the book shop to buy a new book as a treat, and his aura was such a lovey shade of yellow and orange that it made me smile wider than any grade had done. In that moment I didn't think about all the negatives of seeing the world this way, I just concentrated on my Dads aura and knew that if I could somehow see my own it would undoubtedly match his. 

It's not always pretty though. Sometimes I really wish I just saw hings how others did. At times I truly hate it. 

Fun fact, the souls of living beings are not confined to physical laws such as how many can fit into a room. I have been in small class rooms where there's souls crammed in everywhere you look, and yet they stretch out, somehow managing to keep separate from each other. With this is mind it can easily become an overwhelming experience to be in any confined area. I hate the small cramped cupboards and the space under the bed where most kids used to play hide and seek. I can't stand when relatives pull me into hugs without asking my permission, reaching out with their arms and holding me captive against their chests. They might not be aware of how claustrophobic I'm already feeling, or that when they touch me they distract me from maintaining my loose grip on calmness. Even though I try to tell myself they don't understand and that they mean well I can't help but jerk away from them, recoiling from their touch and scrunching up my eyes against the colours and overfilled rooms.

I've developed several 'coping mechanisms' over the years to try and dull the intensity of it all when things get too much. For example, I never leave the house without my headphones and a book of some sort. The key to not getting overwhelmed too easy is to have something else entirely to focus on. Music is a great way to do that. If I slip in my earbuds, select a song and walk with my head down taking quick steps I can get out of busy corridor quicker than if I'm distracted by the souls crowding around me. The book is useful for times when I'm craving silence, or if I simply just want to read. 

I am also vegetarian, because seeing the souls of all living things caused me to feel the empty void of the sudden lack of soul floating above my dinner plate. By extension of this I also do not eat my dinner in the canteen or with anybody other than my own father, who had been vegetarian almost all his life anyway. 

What I'm trying to say from all this is that seeing the souls of those around me is an exhausting gift to have, and I'm not always certain I even think of it as a gift. It's nothing like the films about the person who can see ghosts. For one, the souls never really acknowledge me, and two like I said before the auras are less about just vision and more a full body experience. If I'm in a room with a bunch of agitated souls, I will feel that agitation as if it's my own, even if I'm also aware it's not in fact my own. 

I think the hardest part of all this is the feeling of isolation it brings me, which undoubtedly leaves me stuck inside my own head for too long, giving way to thoughts regarding my own mental health. In order to try and not succumb to this I revert to my coping mechanisms. Reading in particular is an important part of this. Reading about the emotions of others is not as taxing as experiencing them all the time, and if I work hard enough at it and read through the swirl of colour and emotions I can lose myself in a world of the printed word. A world where I can read about the lives of others but their emotions stay mostly on the page, and where if I don't like the way it's going, I can skip ahead or pick up another book. In all of this I am largely successful, with very few meltdowns occurring in public places, and on the whole staying in control. It goes without saying though that sometimes I'm not. Sometimes I'm the kid that freaks out in corridors, struggling to breathe and frantically searching for an escape.If it weren't for the fact my dad is a strict mental illness denier, this kind of behaviour would probably have led to me being checked out before. As it was I've spent most of my life googling various symptoms for various conditions at night in a private tab on my laptop rather than actually discussing them with another human being. I'm sixteen years old and I've still not found any answer that makes sense to me. By this point I don't think there is one, and I don't even see the point in one even if there is. It wouldn't change anything, and I've learnt not to try explaining the souls to my dad, who all but shut down and stiffly told me to not talk nonsense before carrying on as though nothing happened. The first time I mentioned it to him was when I was twelve, and incidentally it was also the last. I would have asked him about it again, but I felt his aura change to anxious almost sick looking colour somewhere in between a green and red. Experiencing that level of anxiety from him, even secondhand has kept me quiet ever since. It's also kept me alone in this struggle. 

Even though it's the souls of those around me that are shimmery and ethereal, it feels like I'm the one who is the ghost when I can see them but they don't seem to see me.







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