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.