My Grandad’s old school held an exhibition in remembrance week, focusing on all the old pupils who had fought in the armed conflicts of our country. I...
"REMEMBER LAST NIGHT." A short story.
November 11, 2014
"NOT A HALLOWEEN GHOST STORY." A Short Story.
November 4, 2014
I looked hard at the man standing twenty feet away from me. Tall, swarthy, good looking, long dark hair, piercing green eyes. Muscular arms. Feet planted firm and wide apart. Could almost feel his toes gripping the soft ground at his feet. Flexing.
‘Who are you?’ I said.
‘I’m a ghost hunter.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘It means. I find them and help them on their way.’
‘What if they don’t want help?’
‘Then so long as they’re not harming anyone, living or dead. I leave them alone.’
‘Why do you have that bow drawn, the arrow aiming at me?’
‘Because I haven’t made my mind up.’
‘Sending you on your way.’
‘Shoot that poison arrow.’
He smiled. ‘There’s a song there somewhere.’
‘So why aren’t you shooting?’
‘Not sure. You seem so solid. So real.’
‘That’s because I haven’t finished. Have barely started.’
‘You’re not ready to cross over?’
‘I saw you hurt someone. That man, back at the tower.’
‘He raped me. Then killed me.’
‘I see.’ ……… He sighed. You’re not allowed to hurt living people.’
‘Oh, he’s not living.’
‘Looked like it to me.’
‘No. He’s a dead man, who thinks he’s living.’
‘How did you do that thing?’
‘What the beam that fell on him?’
‘Yes. I thought, I mean, even I didn’t realize that ghosts could do that.’
‘I’m making it up as I go along.’
‘You don’t know what you can or can't do?’
‘Ghosts, in general, aren’t allowed to move objects to hurt the livers.’
‘What about you?’ I said.
‘I don’t hurt the livers. Just the deaders.’
‘Deaders Like me?’
The sun was shining brightly through the wooded clearing. It was on his side I could see his eyes closing, the sun irritating them. Couldn’t see his shadow.
‘What are you?’ I said.
He smiled. Looked briefly at where his shadow should have been.
‘Same as you.’
I pointed at the bow.’
‘So how come you get to play Robin Hood?’
‘I don’t remember. Just know that I am and I do.’
‘Why haven’t you gone over?’
‘Too much work to do.’
He lowered the bow and arrow. Eased the string. Turned and pointed into the distance.
‘See the turret?’
I followed his gaze. ‘Yes.’
‘That’s Beaulieu……. Palace House. Former great gatehouse to Beaulieu Abbey. Ancestral home of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.’
‘What’s this, a history lesson?’
‘Can you see the deaders…….. All around it?’
I shielded my eyes from the sun. ‘Not really.’
He looked back at me. ‘They’re there. Thousands of them.’
Thousands? How so?
‘Some are the ancestors of the owners of the place……. All those ghost stories, good for tourism. But mainly they’re the betrayed.’
‘You know the name Kim Philby?’
‘Of course, a double agent. The ultimate traitor?’
‘He was. That house. Beaulieu. During the second world war the Special operations Executive, SOE for short, operated out of there.’
‘What were they?’
‘They did a lot of work with the partisans in occupied Europe, fought and helped them fight the Nazis.’
‘He was an instructor there. He was also the biggest traitor this country ever produced. Sold his fellow agents down the river, particularly to the Russians after the war. He’s responsible for hundreds; some say thousands of agent's deaths. British and otherwise.’
‘The Deaders over Beaulieu?’
‘Lost souls. He sent to their deaths. No one knows how many. They’re all hunting for him. Everyone has to pay eventually.’
‘Is he there?’
‘He puts in an appearance occasionally.’
‘You after him?’
‘Oh yes. I’ve taken a couple of shots at him. Missed both times. He has a lot of protection. I’d never missed a deader before him.’
‘Ghosts have protection?’
‘Some do. The darker the deeds, the darker the arts that you open yourself to. But like I said. Everyone has to pay. Just takes longer for some.’
‘Why hasn’t he gone over?’
‘Doesn’t want to. He enjoys it here.’
‘Same as when he was alive. Misguided. Likes to feel important. Thinks he was misunderstood. Also, he can feed off other deaders.’
‘Suck some of the spirit from them. Strengthen his spirit. In general ghosts can’t take energy from other ghosts. Sometimes we can take it off the livers. You, for instance, with your hatred of that man.’
‘Can deaders hurt the living?’
‘Not directly. Sometimes their actions can. Like you and that beam you moved.’
‘I don’t think so. I think he likes the power he has on our side. A lot of the deaders can’t see or feel him, which is how he gets close enough to suck spirit from them.’
‘A vampire ghost?’ I said.
‘In a manner of speaking. Come on I’ll show you.’
‘Wait. What’s your name?’
‘Michael.’ He took my hand. We blinked, and we were sitting on a grass bank to the side of Beaulieu house looking up at the smooth grey stone. I could see indistinct swirls of deaders all around the place. I noticed that some appeared to be dressed in long ragged robes.
‘Don’t ghosts usually appear in the clothes they died in?’ I said.
I pointed. ‘Then why the robes?’
‘These grounds, this place, was an Abbey. For three hundred years or more before the Beaulieu family took it over in the fifteen hundreds.’
‘Eight hundred-year-old ghosts?’
‘It’s possible………. The livers know that this place is one of the most haunted spots in Britain. Thing they don’t know is that Philby brings most of them here. Not eight hundred-year-old monks and sixteenth century Dukes who may have fallen down staircases. There are some old ones here though. Some just become so lost they can’t find their way over.’
‘Can’t you send them?’
‘Not all of them.’
‘He’s my target. If I send him over it will bring peace to many of the deaders that are here. Allow them to find their own way over.’
‘And I’m the bait?’
‘A fresh new female deader?’
‘You hold a lot of power. Philby wants to suck that out of you.’
‘What do I have to do?’
‘Just hang around here for a while. He’ll find you.’
‘If I do this. I need you to help me.’
Michael regarded me with his beautiful eyes for a moment. Looked sad. ‘The man who killed you, turned you into a deader?’
‘Not sure I can. But if I can I will.’
‘Okay, I’ll see you soon. If Philby senses me here he won’t come near you.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘I’ll be nearby.’
He disappeared……… Quick as that.
‘How are you?’
I looked to my side. Sitting on the grass or rather, like me, floating slightly above it, was an old lady. She had on a high-necked long dress, ruffled collar. Her hair was white and straggly, floating in whisps across her pale face. Her eyes were a piercing blue colour. I had to double check, as one was hanging by a thread and resting on her left cheek.
Hello dear.’ She said.
‘Hello to you too.’ I replied. ‘Who are you?’
‘I used to live here hundreds of years ago.’
It was disconcerting to hear someone talking to you without seeing their mouth move. ‘That’s nice.’ I said. ‘Why are you still here?’
‘Can’t go anywhere until they replace that bad step.’
‘The one I tripped on. That did this to me, broke my neck.’ Her hand fluttered up to the eyeball resting on her cheek. Gently tried to press it back into the empty socket. The eyeball just floated back down her cheek.
‘Why hasn’t the step been replaced after all this time then?’ I said.
‘Tourism dear. Ghosts are good for the family coffers.’
We sat in companionable silence for a while.
‘Do you know a ghost called Philby?’ I said.
‘Oh yes.’ She replied. ‘He doesn’t bother me. I’m too old and empty for him. Not like you. I expect he’ll be here for you soon.’
I looked at the eye on her cheek. It stared balefully back. ‘Will I know he’s here?’ I said.
‘If I stay with you.’
‘I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ll see him when you don’t. It’ll cost you though.’
‘That friend of yours? The archer. He doesn’t see me so well. I want you to make him plant an arrow in me so I can go over. I’ve had enough of waiting for that new step.’
I chuckled. ‘I promise I’ll see what I can do.’
I looked up to the tower and the huge chimney stacks on top of the ancient house. I could see movement up there, but most of the shapes were indistinct to me. Almost as if I saw shapes in my peripheral vision even though I tried to look directly at them.
The old lady sitting with me, seemed to notice me squinting and moving my head, to try and make them appear. ‘They become clearer the longer you stay dear.’
‘I don’t know that I want to stay for long.’ I replied.
‘I don’t blame you, too much pain here.’
‘Maybe someone should burn the house down, end it.’
‘It doesn’t work like that dear. It’s the place and the ground and the spirit shadow here. It would take a hundred of your archer friends to do something about that. Memories. They’re always there; the spirit doesn’t forget. Everything bad that has ever happened through this place is never forgotten, eventually has to be accounted for.’
‘What about the good things?’ I said.
‘That helps counter balance some of it, but it’s more complicated than you can imagine.’
‘What if Philby goes?’
‘That would help. But wouldn’t end it entirely.' Her loose eyeball twitched violently on her cheek.
‘What?’ I said.
‘He’s near.’ She replied. ‘I can feel him.’
‘Good let him come.’
She took her eyeball in her hand and swiveled it up towards the sky. ‘He’s wary. Trying to cloak himself as much as he can.’
‘Make himself invisible. He’s nearly there. All the spirits he’s sucked on. But not quite. I can still sense and see him. So can some of the old deaders up there.’ She pointed to the roof. ‘But most of them are so mad they don’t understand who or what he is.’
‘Why is he wary?’ I said.
‘He can sense your friend. But his desire is overcoming his fear.’
‘Of course. He hasn’t had a new one for a long time.’ She replied.
‘Exactly. Be careful dear. Don’t let him touch you. Can you shift?’
‘Shape shift, move, appear somewhere else, or as something else.’
‘I……… I don’t know.’ I said. ‘I moved to here with Michael.’
‘That was his power shifting you.’
‘Then I don’t think so. I guess I might have to try.’
‘Be careful dear. You might end up somewhere you don’t want to be.’
‘What happens then?’
‘If you cross over into another plane. You won’t be able to cross back. There are far worse places than this spirit plane.’
‘That’s reassuring to know.’
‘Just trying to help you dear. Why not have a practice? It’s still safe to do so.’ She pointed towards the huge chimney on top of the house. ‘See if you can make it up there.’
I looked at the roof. Closed my eyes………. Thought about moving………. Opened my eyes. Nothing. Looked again at my new friend.
‘You haven’t had time to master it.’ She said. ‘By the way, it’s Clarissa dear.’
‘My name child. Would be so nice if someone remembers me as I was, not as some wizened up old tourist attraction.’
‘I’ll try. It would be a pleasure.’
‘Thank you.’ She said.
The deaders that I could make out above the house seemed to be moving faster. ‘Is Philby causing that?’ I said.
‘He’s no closer. It’s your friend. They’re as scared of him as they are annoyed at Philby.’
‘Can you see him? Michael I mean.’
‘No. He’s not like any deader I’ve ever met. Almost as if he’s not quite…….’
‘Deader? Of this plane.’ I said.
‘I don’t know dear. You’ll have to ask him.’
‘If he doesn’t use that bow and arrow on me before I get a chance.’
‘He was playing with you child. He knows you’re no threat.’
‘What about the liver who sent me here.’
‘I don’t know about that. I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough.’
A voice spoke from behind us. ‘Well hello.’
I started to turn. Clarissa screamed so loud it hurt my ears. ‘Do not touch her you slime.’ She moved behind me; I saw a huge flash of white light as she raised her hands over me. She then slumped to the ground the eyeball on her cheek twitching.
‘Clarissa.’ I tried to touch her shoulder. My hand went through to the grass beneath her.
She sighed. ‘I’m okay dear. Can’t do that too many times though.’ She pushed herself upright with a huge effort. Smiled as she saw my hand pass through the folds of her dress and robes.
‘Was that Philby?’
‘Yes dear………. I’m far older than him so I can repel him for a short while. It won’t last for long though.’
‘I have a lot to learn.’ I said.
Clarissa swiveled her loose eye towards me. ‘Being us is a bit like taking a run and leap into the wild nowhere. Just make sure you don’t take a trip on a wonky step.’
I stifled a laugh. ‘I’ll try.’ I said.
‘He’s coming back.’
The grass next to us erupted into purple and green flames. I put my hand towards them. I could see them but feel no heat. ‘What’s that?’
‘Your friend Michael. He missed. Philby knows for sure he’s here now.’
‘Why did he miss?’
‘Philby was a master of deception in life, unfortunately, he retains some of that as a deader. I think he’s laying false trails.’
‘There are other deaders out there who like your scent, he’s directing some of them at you. Hiding in their trails.’
‘Will he appear clearer to Michael if he touches me?’
‘Of course dear. He’ll be feeding on you the moment he touches you. That will distract his other senses.’
I stood up. ‘Then let’s get this over with.’
‘No don’t do that dear. I can’t protect you if he latches onto you.’
I smiled down at her. ‘I don’t mind.’
I looked up at the roof of the old house, opened my arms and called out…… ‘Philby, I’m all yours.’
The deaders I could see up there started to circle faster and faster. I felt a change in the air. Not temperature, just a heaviness. I saw Michael step out from behind one of the huge chimney stacks. His bow up. Drawn tight. He was aiming straight at me.
‘Shoot that poison arrow.’ I whispered as I closed my eyes.
‘God bless dear.’ Clarissa spoke into my face. I felt her breath, cold on my eyes. I opened them. She was standing directly in front of me. She put her arms out, high, and smiled dreamily, her eye slipped back to where it belonged and I momentarily saw her beauty and kindness and the young girl she had once been, so many years before. We all age, but that beautiful child is still there in most of us, I thought………
Then she was ripped into the air, high towards the house. Her gown billowed around her. I looked to the roof and saw Michael track her spinning form and then……….. release the arrow.
I watched as it streaked towards Clarissa. Took her straight through the forehead. Carried on through. At the last, I saw the faintest outline of a man holding her, saw the arrow continue onwards and pierce his forehead too. Then nothing. No sound, no sparks of light. Just nothing. The other deaders had disappeared from the roof of the house.
I sat back down. Michael appeared on the grass bank beside me.
‘A brave lady.’ He said.
I looked into his green eyes. ‘That was Philby? That took her up there?’
‘Yes.’……… She was a wily old thing. Knew that if you distracted him she could grab hold of him.’
‘She was ready to go, so she just grabbed on?’
‘Ghosts can grab a hold of each other in certain circumstances Clair. You have a lot to learn.’
‘How do you know my name?’
He laughed. ‘Because I want to know your name.’
‘Who are you?’
‘Okay, smart guy. What are you?’
‘The same as you.’
‘A deader?’ I said.
Michael frowned raised his bow again, ripped an arrow out of the quiver on his back…….. String, draw, aim, release.
I looked behind me, saw the shape of the man who had killed me………. My husband…….. Just for a second, arrow firmly planted in his forehead. Then he disappeared. I looked back at Michael.
‘That; is a deader.’ He said.
‘So what are we?’
He slung the bow over his shoulder. ‘We’re a glimmer of hope on the outside edge of someone’s vision.’ He smiled and extended his hand towards me.