fiction and other writing

Archive for the ‘Ghost’ Category

The Ghost of Love

‘She lives her life in another world now,’ I said to the doctor as my auntie smiled with eyes that seemed to focus beyond the boundaries of the room.

‘Mrs Ash do you know who I am?’ asked Dr Parsons.

My aunt smiled, ‘Of course dear. Would you like a cup of tea?’

‘No thank you. Do you know what day of the week it is?’

‘I don’t need to know dear. Weeks are a thing of the past. Can you see the poppies? Aren’t they delicate; such big heads on tiny stems.’

I couldn’t help but look out of the window. Snow carpeted the adjacent field and left a fringe along the top of the fence. Trees were covered in white lace. I shivered.
The doctor continued questioning gently, not showing any surprise at the random replies he received.

As he prepared to leave he said to me, ‘I’ll refer your aunt to a specialist. It could take several weeks but call me if you need me.’

Suddenly auntie’s eyes were focused. ‘I won’t see you again Doctor. ‘I’m off on my travels. Tonight I’m spending with Susan. She’s such a good girl. I want to say goodbye properly.’

The doctor gave me a sympathetic look but as I saw him to the front door he said, ‘She’s so believable isn’t she? It must make it very hard for you.’

We spent a lovely evening together, drinking tea and eating cake. Auntie reminisced about the past. We looked at sepia photographs and each held a story. I studied Auntie Moira and Uncle Walter’s wedding photograph. They were so happy. Even now, when time had faded the image, you could see their joy.

In the morning I carried in her cup of tea in her china cup with tiny roses. As soon as I opened the curtains I knew she was gone. I touched her cold hand and saw the hint of a smile on her face. There was nothing anyone could do for her now. I was about to pick up the phone when I glanced out of the window. A sun light beam caught dust particles in its path, like dancing diamonds. I walked over to look at the view. The day would be full of formalities; it wouldn’t hurt to take a moment to myself.

Outside there was a young couple walking hand-in-hand, through a field of poppies, they turned with bright smiles and waved. Immediately I recognised them from their photograph. I waved right back and as I did so the scene changed to white. Snow covered the fields, lay delicately on the branches and collected into soft mounds under the fence.

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Time To Go

The beach seemed to stretch for miles into the distance. Ruffled waves edged the sea and the sand reflected a golden colour in the fading evening light.

Eve skipped along, just in front of her parents, chattering away.

“Robert is really pleased we’ve come,” she called over her shoulder. “He’s going to spend some time with us.”

Sam and Aileen looked at each other sadly. It was almost a year to the day since Robert had been killed by a car. Their daughter hadn’t seemed to grieve. She hadn’t cried or even once claimed to miss him.

They’d consulted the doctor, who had told them that everyone deals with the loss in their own way. Doctor Allen had told them that Eve would let Robert go when she was ready. He’d suggested that they didn’t make a big thing about her conversations with Robert.

The days and weeks passed and while they painfully grieved, Eve included Robert in everything. She shared her sweets, showed him her paintings and talked to him incessantly.

“We’re just going off for a paddle,” she called as she stuffed her socks into the sandals and ran towards the sea.

Aileen turned towards Sam, “This has got to stop. Maybe we need to take her to see another doctor. Eve can’t go through life talking to Robert. People will think her strange.”

Sam hugged his wife as they both stopped walking to look at their daughter, paddling in the sea. She seemed so happy. “Maybe you’re right my love, but just for this week, let her be. Next week we’ll think what we have to do.”

As the weather was fine there were many other families on the beach. Abersoch had always been a favourite family place. They had come last year. Robert had played on the beach. He’d even made friends with an old sheep dog from the Beach Hotel. It had spent many hours in their company; seemingly free to roam wherever it wanted. In fact the young man who owned him worked on the beach teaching people how to surf.

It should have rained on Wednesday. It should have been a dark, cold day with winds as strong as a hurricane. It was the anniversary of Robert’s accident. Perversely the sun came out, as it had every day so far on their holiday and the sky was blue. Aileen and Sam decided to make the day as normal as possible, so they set off down to the sea.

They sat in their usual spot and watched as Eve started building a massive sandcastle. As they watched they noticed that Eve was so engrossed with what she was doing she’d stopped chattering to Robert.

Later during the day the sheep dog from the hotel trotted over and sat beside Eve in the middle of the sandcastle. They sat together in companionable silence. Sam went over to ask how the sandcastle was coming along.

“Robert is leaving tonight. He said it would be nice to take a walk along the beach to say goodbye. We can do that can’t we dad?” asked Eve.

“He says he has to go and that we know that he loves us and his love will stay with us. Apparently you can only stay for so long and then you have to go onwards.”

Sam promised that they’d walk on the beach, not knowing if his daughter was going mad or if it was just a child’s way of saying good-bye. He helped to fill the moat up with water and then they stood for a moment and admired their handiwork.

After they’d eaten their evening meal they all trooped down to the sea again. It was still light but the sun was much lower in the sky. They walked peacefully along the beach; each with their own thoughts but the warmth of the day made them feel content.

Eve said her good-byes to Robert and then she turned to her parents. “Robert knows you can’t see him but he says he’ll love you always and he must be going.”

Aileen and Sam said, “We’ll always love you too, Robert and you’re always in our thoughts.” The sheepdog bounded down the beach to join them and stood with them. Suddenly the light changed. It went darker and the sun went very orange. Robert appeared fleetingly before them. He kissed his sister and blew them both kisses and then his image faded and he was gone. The sheep dog started barking into the quiet of the night.

There were no words to say. Robert had looked after Eve as he had always done and stayed with her until she could cope on her own.

“Come on mum and dad,” said Eve, “don’t be sad. Robert gave me a present.” Eve unfolded her hand and there lay a beautiful conche shell. “If we want Robert to hear us, well he can anyway, but if we hold the shell it will help us to contact him and he’ll listen. Of course he can’t reply but he said we’ll know his reply.”

Sam put his arm round Aileen and took his daughter’s hand as they walked back along the now quiet beach. The golden glow stayed with them as they retraced their footsteps. It was time to go home.

The Apple Tree

The door creaked open slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. She pulled the woollen blanket up round her chin. The air shimmered in front of her.

‘Is there anyone there?’ she called out in a frail voice.

There was silence.

‘Who came in?’ she asked.

The silence extended its way into the room like the creeping tentacles of a vine. She looked at the shape appearing in front of her. The form was misty but vaguely familiar. She wished she didn’t live by herself in this old draughty house, but she refused to be frightened. She’d always been strong.

‘Who are you and what do you want?’

‘I used to live here. My name is Thomas.’

‘That’s a good name. Well Thomas, this is my house now and I’d like to know why you’re here.’

‘It’s my home,’ the small child replied. ‘I’ve never left here.’

‘I don’t understand. What do you mean?’

‘I lie beneath the apple tree in the garden. No-one ever blessed me or said a prayer. I can’t leave because of how I died. I’m tied to this house.’

‘Why have I never seen you before then?’

‘That’s what you always say,’ said Thomas.

The image faded before Agnes’s eyes and the room grew warmer.

‘Hello, it’s only me,’ called Martha from the front door. ‘How are we today? Oh, it’s nice and warm in here.’

‘Hello, who are you?’ asked Agnes.

‘It’s me Martha. I’ve just bought you a nice hot meal. I come every day. Do you remember?’

‘Hello Martha. What’s for dinner today?’

‘Macaroni cheese, followed by apple pie. Let me just get you some cutlery, and then I’ll have to go. Lots of people waiting for their dinner.’

When Martha closed the door, Agnes settled down and ate her meal. She had just finished when the door creaked slowly and Agnes felt the cold again. A little boy appeared before her out of a mist. She held the blanket close to her.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘My name is Thomas. When I was alive I lived here. Now I lie under the apple tree in the garden and I can’t leave because of how I was killed.’

‘Well Thomas, this is my house now. I think you are making me very cold.’

‘I’m cold. I’ve been cold for seventy years.’

‘What can I do to help you to leave?’

‘You can say a prayer about how sorry you are that I died such a violent death.’

‘Well, of course I am sorry. No-one should die a violent death. Let me go and get my coat and I’ll come into the garden with you.’

Agnes went out of the room to get her coat, but when she got to the hall she couldn’t remember what she’d gone to collect. She went back to sit by the fire and pulled the blanket round her. The soft texture was comforting but there was a chill in the air. A young boy appeared before her.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘My name is Thomas. You were going to get your coat and come into the garden and say a prayer for me about how sorry you were that I died young.’

‘Was I? Well Thomas why would I do that?’

‘So I don’t make you cold anymore.’

‘That’s a good reason.’ Agnes picked up her pen and notebook.
She wrote, ‘Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore.’ Then she stood up holding her notebook. When she reached the hall she put on her coat and went back to her chair and put down the notebook. She headed for the garden, following Thomas but when she opened the back door she couldn’t think why she was going into the garden and turned round and went back to her chair. Agnes snuggled under the warm woollen blanket. She was very cold. She picked up her notebook and read: Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore. Then she looked up and saw a young boy.

‘You must be Thomas. Can I say the prayer here?’

Thomas looked at her sadly. ‘If you like.’

Agnes was not a religious person, but there could be no harm in saying a prayer.

‘Dear world, I am sorry that this poor boy, Thomas was killed violently and is now buried under my apple tree. Please let him go where he should be, so my house won’t be cold anymore.’

Thomas went out and lay under the apple tree again.

The door creaked slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. Her thick fluffy blanket felt like the inside of a freezer. Nothing she did made her warm.

When Martha arrived the next day it was to find Agnes stiff and as cold as an icicle. While Martha waited for the ambulance she felt a severe chill enter her bones and then a small boy appeared before her.

‘My mother killed me when I was eight, but she could never be sorry about it because she lost her mind and memory.’

‘Who was your mother, Thomas?’

The little boy pointed at Agnes. Martha said nothing, but opened her arms to hold the child. He went straight to her.

‘I am so sorry Thomas,’ she said. She felt a strong hug and then he was gone. Sun started streaming in through the windows. Rays of light danced on the mantelpiece and there they struck an old photograph she had never noticed before of a young boy. He was smiling.

Book Review: The Green Ghost and Other Stories edited by Mary Danby

I don’t usually review children’s books but I’m going to make an exception for this book of ghost stories. I first read it to children when I was teaching. The class were nine to eleven year olds and without exception sat enthralled. I would be wary of reading this to younger children, because in spite of it being intended for children several of the stories do not have a happy ending. Some are quite haunting (forgive the pun).

My copy of the book went missing from the classroom. I was disappointed because I thought I might read it again sometime, but if a child ‘borrowed’ it, then that can only mean that more reading followed, which must be a good thing. Browsing on Amazon the other day for a completely different book, this one was advertised for one penny plus postage and so I treated myself. (As far as I can tell you can’t buy it new anymore.)

There are forty-two stories in total and some are better written and more exciting than others. The stories are short, easy to read and enjoyable. My favourite one was, ‘The Ghostly Gardeners’ by Ruth Cameron. I even remember it from reading it years earlier. A young boy finds a secret door in a wall. I won’t tell you what happens next as I don’t want to spoil your reading.

Most of the protagonists are children and this helps children identify with the main character. Mary Danby, who edited the book, chose the tales well, as they are varied, which is quite an achievement with over forty stories.

I would highly recommend this book for young people and although I’m not young, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a book of quick reads, entertaining, scary, but not too scary. It would be great for reading round a camp fire.

A Night To Remember

Storm could feel that the house was bitterly cold. Not unsurprising as it was November, tomorrow. She had nowhere else to go. She shivered. The. silence seemed to be holding its breath. Dumping her bags on to the over patterned carpet, she flicked the light switch but nothing happened, so she went in search of the fuse box.
Her Great Aunt had left her the house and the solicitor had sent her the keys . She hadn’t been going to move straight in but her mother’s new boyfriend, Jim, had been quite threatening this morning and it seemed the safest thing to do to move out quickly. The journey hadn’t been too long but she could only bring as much as she could carry.
What was that noise? A thin screeching yelping sound. She must be imagining things.
Once the lights were working she went to the kitchen to see if a cup of tea would lift her spirits. The water seemed to struggle from the tap protesting and making a knocking sound. She looked around and found the kettle and heard a scuttling of tiny feet. But she could see no sign of mice. Storm was glad she was still wearing tall boots with her jeans tucked into them. Her phone rang.
“What’s the point of leaving if you leave all your rotten stuff here? “shouted Jim.
“I couldn’t carry it,” Storm replied. “I’ve packed it all up and I’ll come back a couple of times tomorrow and pick it up.”
“No you won’t, I’ll bring it to you now,” said Jim and the phone went dead.
Rubbing her arms to try to get warmer she looked around the old fashioned kitchen. It needed a good clean, but that was a job for tomorrow. She took her tea and started to climb the stairs. When she had nearly reached the top she glanced through the banisters and saw a door close. Somebody was in the house!
She thought quickly. If she left the house she’d be out in the night with nowhere to go. She’d have to investigate. Slowly she climbed the last few stairs. She opened the door. She could hear the blood rushing round her head. Flicking the light switch, the room looked empty, and searching under the bed, in the cupboards revealed nothing.
Storm heard the thin screech again.
“Who’s there?” she called but there was no reply. Quickly she searched the other rooms and then finding nothing she sat down on one of the beds. At first she thought she was seeing things as smoky images of four teenagers wafted away from the wall, but as she looked more closely they became more solid looking. Her heart was thumping and she couldn’t move. She tried to speak but no words came out.
“You’ve gate crashed our party,” said the tallest being. “If you want to leave we’ll let you go. NOW.”
She nodded. “I haven’t got anywhere I can go,” she muttered but she stood up and was sidling past them when there was a loud banging on the door.
“Well you’d better answer it,” said the tall ghost. We can’t.” And then he laughed his shrill laugh and Storm shivered.
She ran downstairs and threw open the door.
“So this is where you’re hiding out,” Jim said, walking into the house with two large bin liners. Not a bad place; much nicer than I expected. You all on your own?”
“Not exactly,” she muttered.
“Oh but I think you are. I quite fancy having a mother and daughter,” he said as he grabbed her and pushed her into the main living room.
“If you touch me, I’ll tell mother and then you’ll be out on your ear. Do you want to risk that?” she shouted.
“Ohhh, you’ll tell mummy, will you? I doubt if she’ll believe you, will she? She hasn’t believed any of the other poison you’ve been telling her about me, has she?”
She could feel his grip digging into her arms and then she felt his breath on her face. Just at that moment she heard the shrill, yelping sound. It grew louder as it came nearer and nearer. She saw a brief look of terror in Jim’s eyes and then blackness closed over her like a protective cloak and she knew no more.

When she woke it was morning. She was lying on the carpet with her head resting on her tapestry bag and her sleeping bag had been pulled over her. There was no sign of Jim and as she was fully clothed she felt sure he hadn’t done anything to her. She called to the ghosts but there was no sign of them anywhere. There was no response.

Storm made herself a cup of tea and pondered over the previous night’s events. She certainly hadn’t imagined Jim because there were her bags in the hallway. She couldn’t have imagined the ghosts either or Jim wouldn’t have left. They had saved her. She’d spoilt their party but they had stopped her being hurt. Lifted by this thought she set about cleaning the house. She put the heating on and scrubbed and polished until the place looked spotless. As she went along she packed away most of her Great Aunts nick knacks and some of the furniture into the smallest bedroom. Soon her new home was looking a lot less cluttered. When she had finished it was evening and she went to the main room and sat on the bed.
“I don’t know whether you can hear me but I want to say ‘Thank You’ for saving me. Surely we could share the house.”
She waited and waited but there was no reply but then she noticed a smoky form emerging from the wallpaper. It was the tallest ghost. As he started to take a more solid form she heard him speak.
“I had to get special permission to talk to you tonight. We only come back to earth on one night of the year. We should’ve listened to you when you said you’d no place to go. We chased the man off and stayed with you until we had to leave. I’m glad you’re alright.”
“You didn’t get much of a party then?”
“No but for the first time in years we actually helped someone and that felt fantastic.”
“I’ll always be grateful. In fact come back next year and I’ll leave the house empty for the night and you can have your party.”
“No, stay in next year and we’ll pop in and say hello. We might see if we can work out a way to help someone else. I have to go. “
“What’s your name,” she called as his image faded.
“Thomas Driver” whispered a faint voice as he disappeared.

‘Tomorrow I’m going to find out all about you, Thomas Driver,’ she thought.

Then her phone went. It was her mother.
“What did you do to poor Jim last night? He’s been a jabbering wreck all day. I want to know what went on.”
Storm paused. What was the point in saying anything to her mother? Jim was right; she wouldn’t be believed.
“Nothing of any substance happened while he was here mum. He met a few of my friends. It was so useful that he brought all my clobber round. Saved me a lot of time today.”

When she put the phone down, she smiled to herself. She had a safe place to live and she hadn’t even lied to her mother.

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