My body paced throughout the house that late afternoon. No one was home as it stormed through the bedrooms, revolt spilling from my pores and infecting the environment like a pungent stench. Scott eventually came back home and when he did I walked towards him and in a moment of overpowering I bleated out on my own accord, ‘CALL INEZ PLEASE!’ He rushed off to do so, gaining a semblance that I wasn’t myself. He then left the building again as soon as she arrived. I remember him biting his fingernails nervously by the door as my body continued to pace up and down the corridors till she arrived.
Inez walked in the door and stood steadfast looking at me catching my attention. My body froze and Scott was out the door and down the stairs a heartbeat later. Tears had begun to well up in Inez’s eyes, as she recognised the pain of the being inside me, and saw how this predicament was afflicting me. She moved quickly, grabbing my arm and leading me into my room. Then she walked me into a spiral, spinning my body gently, as she lowered herself and me down till my head was in her lap and she began to stroke my hair. It would be the last thing I remember before I passed out.
I wouldn’t do the experience any justice without acknowledging the compassion, wisdom, and intuitive fearlessness of this remarkable woman, Inez Wright. I was too weak, feeble, tormented, scared, and cowardly to stand with her as her lover, partner, friend. Years later I can look back and forgive myself for being all these attributes, but my love for her today is unquestionable, as much as it is deep and pervasive. That day she showed me how insignificant I was, and how much she had to teach me if I would only have listened.
Waking eventually alone, I felt like I had been beaten, from the inside out. Everything ached. Inez came into my room with Scott and the first thing she said to us was, ‘I need to be alone in this apartment for a day to cleanse it and I will need help from my uncle whose a Tohunga.’ Inez was of Tuhoe (A New Zealand Maori peoples) descent, and her blood ran with a genetic history of healer, Tohunga (priest, warrior, healer, shaman). We heard her and gave her the house to enact the cleansing she requested.
When the process had finished she invited all the residents of the apartment to come into the lounge and take a seat as she described what she had discovered about the property and who she had interacted with. Writing this now, I’m so full of admiration for this beautiful, powerful and authentic woman, I wish her all the best wherever she is.
Inez told us that during the Central Otago Gold Rush of the 1890s this building had been a saloon and brothel. Scott’s room had been used by a prostitute whom a prospector had fallen in love with. She had been with another client when this lovestruck individual had returned to the brothel from the goldfields. In a fit of rage, the prospector had murdered the client, his beloved, and then himself. She had never left, her time in the apartment twisting her perspective, enraging her as helplessly she had watched the environment change around her as she remained confined within its walls and floors. She had grown to believe that this was her place, she had been there so long, isolated, afraid, and angry.
Scott and I were transfixed by what we heard. Our other flatmates listened intently, but it was a stretch too far for them both, and they privately dismissed Inez’s rendition as fantasy without further investigation. Despite their dismissive attitude, the energy in the apartment shifted perceptively after the cleansing ritual. It felt lighter, brighter, and joyous, and as a consequence, we made our way into the attic and onto the roof of the building one night. This opened a whole new world of exploration for us, creating some of my fondest memories of living in Dunedin as we ventured across the rooftops on the block between George St, Moray Place, and Lower Stuart St.
This experience was like a rebirth for me. What had been suppressed was now freed. My connection to realms beyond my senses exploded, with an initial burst of energy like a thick black tide that oozed from the places where the light was completely absent. I bought textbooks and the urge to write horrendous, arcane, and macabre tales moved through me in a frenzy that I haven’t experienced since. In two weeks I had filled the pages of two textbooks with poetry, visions, and tales that were beautiful in their prose but truly disturbing in their content. When I contemplated the name of this scribe who used my body much as the forsaken prostitute had, I heard the name in a deep English baritone… Buford Somerset.