Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Friday 13 April 2018

From indoor rain to Macbeth ...

It's been a funny old time out here on the (not-so) sunny Costa Brava. We've had the very worst weather imaginable.

On Tuesday night it rained cats and dogs. Curled up in bed I was vaguely aware that there was a storm kicking up a hullabaloo outside. But you know that nice, cosy feeling you get when it's miserable outdoors and you have the luxury of not having to go anywhere ... well, I had that in spadefuls. I very happily went back to sleep and thought no more about it.

Fast forward to the following morning when I stepped into ankle deep water in my dining room, and it was another story. A river ran down the staircase from upstairs and the rain was still falling outside ... .

Monday 20 July 2015

The Giant's Causeway ...

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland

The other day we walked in the footsteps of giants down at the Giant's Causeway in County Antrim. It's funny how many giant stories there are over here, but the one about Finn MacCool, the war-mongering giant, who decided to rely on his wits and not to fight is one of the better ones.

Back in the day Finn was the leader of the Fianna, a fearsome band of warriors, who ruled the roost in these parts. As leader of the pack old Finn boy developed quite a swagger. Some might say he became a belligerent bully. And like all bullies he nursed a serious chip on his shoulder. For reasons that few could ever understand Finn MacCool was a giant with something to prove.

Friday 29 May 2015

The stone witch of Girona ...

Yesterday morning Emi and I set off on a mission ... to find the famous petrified witch of Girona who'd been really, really bad back in the day when the powers that be took a really, really dim view of that kind of behaviour.

Girona's stone witch, high on the cathedral tower

Friday 13 February 2015

The St. Valentine's Day Miracle ...

Steam hissed out of the huge, grey kettle; an angry spume of scalding vapour. A split second later the shrill note of the whistle in its spout announced that the water had boiled.

Come on, Ethel. Get on with it. I need three pots of India tea, one of Darjeeling and two orders of sultana scones, Madge said, her voice quivering with annoyance as she registered that I still hadn't made the tea. She'd left her orders on the table a good five minutes' ago.

She was right to be annoyed with me: I wasn't doing my job properly.

The truth was that my head was in the clouds. Today was St. Valentine's Day, and everyone else in the tea shop was eager to get off early to see their sweetheart. Everyone that is except for me, and they'd asked me to work a double shift instead.

My Alf, you see, was off at the war, so there was to be no celebration for me. Valentine's Day, 1915 was destined to pass unmarked and unobserved in the storybook of my life. 

Missing in action they'd said in their last telegram to his mum, and now all I could think about was how we'd spent last Valentine's Day together. He'd bought us tickets to go down to Brighton on the train.

It was a funny old time of the year to go down to Brighton.

Don't worry, he'd said. It'll be a laugh. We'll have the whole place to ourselves. Just you, me and the seagulls. 

And he was right. We had the whole promenade, the piers and the great pebbly beach all to ourselves. With the wind in my hair, the seagulls chasing the breaking waves and Alf's arm, a talisman against the future, wrapped protectively around my shoulders, I'd never felt happier or safer. We'd spent the day wandering around with not a care in the world. We'd planned our future: a nice little house just across the river in Battersea, three children, an allotment to grow our vegetables in and a dog with big floppy ears. It had all seemed so easy.

But what a difference a year can make. As soon as this stupid war had broken out he'd been one of the first to volunteer. He used to work on the railways, and so they said he'd make a great sapper, digging trenches under the German lines to spy on them and blow them up with high explosives. I never liked the sound of it, but he'd gone off with a song in his heart, happy that he was able to be of service to King and country.

Of course, I hadn't said anything at the time. It hadn't seemed right, what with him being so full of the whole idea of winning the war by Christmas and everything, but I'd always thought that he'd got the worst darn job in the whole British Army. I mean I'd have hated to have been cooped up in some damp trench with the German privies draining into the ground above me and only the rats for company, not knowing all the while when the whole thing might be blown sky-high. My heart stopped for a full minute every time I let myself imagine what it must have been like for him.

His mother felt the same. I knew she did. We'd never said as much to one another, but I've seen it written large on her face: Why can't someone else's son do this dismal thing? Why does it have to be my boy?

My eyes lingered on the large dent in the side of the kettle as my thoughts roamed free. It seemed to suck in all the light. Someone must have dropped it straight onto the flagstones. What a din that would have made.

Ethel, if you don't pull yourself together, Miss Bainbridge will be giving you your marching papers, Madge hissed in my ear, getting the scones out of their enamelled bin herself. Come on where's my tea. That old dragon on the corner table will raise the roof if we don't get her order sorted out soon. 

I looked over Madge's shoulder, through the kitchen door, into the cafe beyond. I saw a tall, stern-looking lady dressed in a long black coat sitting in the corner, her back to the wall and a large Gladstone bag wedged between her lap and the tabletop. She was looking around as though she were watching out for someone, but she didn't seem to be upset or to be nursing a grievance.

Has she complained about something? I asked.

No. Not yet, Madge replied. But she's the type. Mark my words. She's the type to make a fuss if her order's not seen to in double quick time.

She didn't seem to me to be the type to make a fuss, but I didn't say anything. I was just the kitchen girl who made the tea. What did I know?

The stern-looking lady had ordered a pot of Darjeeling, with lemon and no milk, and a sultana scone with butter and damson jam. I busied myself getting it ready for her. I placed a the tea on a tray with a scone, a paddle of butter and a little pot of jam. 

I watched as Madge carried the tray carefully to the corner table. 

The lady looked up, and caught me scrutinising her. There was a flicker of something in those cold grey eyes. It couldn't have been recognition: we'd never met before. My heart stopped. She'd come to me with news about Alf. Bad news. I could feel it in my bones.

Panic rose in my chest. Feeling as though time had slowed down and expanded I watched as she asked Madge something. Madge nodded, then turned back towards the kitchen and pointed to me.

The lady and I locked eyes again. This time there was something appraising in how she looked at me. She must have been weighing up how I'd take the horrible news she’d come to deliver.

I couldn't stay. I had to go. If I ran away now before she told me it would mean that in some parallel universe Alf would still be alive. If I didn't know, my heart could carry on. I could just wait it out, and then it would all be over and he'd come home with all the other boys once this terrible, awful nightmare had ended.

Fumbling with my apron strings I pulled it over my head and stuffed it into the enamel bin with the sultana scones. Grabbing my hat and coat from the pegs by the back door I raced outside and up the back stairs that led up into Vigo Street.

I could hear Madge shouting at me in the distance.

Wait, Ethel. Come back

I didn't wait. I couldn't. I ran off as fast as my legs would carry me. I could hear them both, running after me in pursuit. The hounds chasing the hare. Two sets of steps: one nimble and light footed, the other slower and heavier, but they had no chance.

I raced down Sackville Street, crossed Piccadilly, narrowly avoiding an omnibus and the rickety wheels of an organ grinder.

Oi! Miss! Watch where you're going! the omnibus driver shouted, pulling on the reins to bring the horse up short.

The blood was pumping in my ears, my heart felt as though it were about to burst through my chest, but I ran on down Pall Mall and into St. James' Park. I raced round the lake to our favourite spot with the wooden bench under the willow tree where we liked to sit on and feed the ducks. Alf and I used to go there every time he'd come to pick me up after work. We'd bring some left-over bread from the cafe for the ducks. It was a little ritual of ours; something we always did. We'd watch out for the Mandarin Ducks and tell each other that we'd stay true just like they did.

As the bench came into view I could see someone sitting on it. I huffed in annoyance, irritated that I wouldn't have it to myself. I slowed down, not sure whether to carry on or not, but I couldn't think of anywhere else to go.

A man was sitting at the far end. As I drew nearer I was able to make out that he was wearing an army uniform. My eyesight has never been great. I should probably be wearing spectacles, but, what with all the steam in the kitchen, they'd be no use to me, so I've never bothered getting any.

My steps dragged, growing slower and slower as my heart started to beat faster and faster. There was something familiar about the solider's profile, but he was shaking in a way that I didn't recognise. His head moved around as though he were following the trajectory of a manically erratic mosquito, and I noticed that his legs were also twitching involuntarily. He'd got them crossed one over the other with his left hand resting on top as though he were trying to hold them in place, but it wasn't working. I could see their busy, random movements.

For a moment I stood and watched him. Then he turned towards me, perhaps sensing my gaze lingering on him.

Our eyes locked. It was Alf.

I froze. He stood up and walked unsteadily towards me. Then I saw that his right arm was missing, and that down the right hand side of his face there was an angry mass of scar tissue as though he'd been burnt in a fire.

Alf? Is it you? I asked stupidly, too stunned to make one foot follow the other towards him.

It's what's left of me, Ethel, he said, making no attempt to come any closer. I'll totally understand if you'd rather I went away again. I'm not exactly the bloke I used to be.

It was then I realised that it really didn't matter what he looked like or how much he twitched. I was only glad he'd survived and come back to me. At least I'd been spared my very worst nightmare.

 I asked Matron if she'd seek you out and break the news gently so you didn't have to lose face if you'd rather not see me.

But he didn't get any further with his fine speech. My legs suddenly remembered how to work again and I ran over to envelop him in my embrace.

St. Valentine had delivered me a miracle: an injured, wobbly miracle, but we'd be able to take it from there. I knew we would. Somehow we'd make things work.

Friday 19 December 2014

Nazariah, the Christmas Angel and the Christmas Truce ...

Gordon Bennet! I'd really gone and done it. It was as close as I ever came to being cast out from the Heavenly Host. And the Boss? Well the Boss was madder than a hive of bees on smoke-out day.

You see I have a perennial problem. Each of us Angels has his own very specific job to do, and my brief as the Christmas Angel often leads me to trespass into territory that I don't have strict day-to-day jurisdiction over. But what can I say? I'm an enthusiast, and when I'm in the throes of getting things done it's not in my nature to come over all nit-picky about whether what needs to be done is strictly my department or not.

Even on the very first nativity I ended up getting it in the neck for messing about with the heavens, but if I hadn't sent that star who knows where the so-called Wise Men would have ended up. For crying out loud they'd already missed the main event! But that didn't stop the Boss from reading me the riot act because I'd not consulted Mazalel, the great big dreamer who's in charge of stars and celestial bodies. 

And time is never on my side. It's not like I can let things slip. There's a deadline, and if I miss it, well Christmas just won't happen. And let's face it, in any given year, that would be a catastrophe. The mortals down below need a little injection of seasonal cheer to keep the light of their humanity burning, and, in the dark year that was 1914, they needed it more than ever.

When the war broke out back in August I knew it was going to mess up my plans.  Wars always do. Light and fun and all the things that make you believe humanity can be redeemed go right out of the window. 

And then, to add to my woes, that infernal bighead, Azrael, the Angel of Death, started to lord it over the rest of us as though he were the only one who had a job to do. 

Death. Death. And more death. It's going to be death on an industrial scale, he'd told us self-importantly when it had started. Do you dolts have any idea how much work I'm going to have on whilst this little shindig plays out?

No, of course we hadn't. Not even us eternal beings, who've seen everything since before the beginning of time, could have imagined how awful it was going to be.

It'll all be over by Christmas, the Tommies said as they joined up and flooded across the Channel to rot in the trenches, but I knew it wouldn't. I'd seen the Plan in the Big Book up on the Executive Floor when I'd been handing in my time-sheets. The Plan sounded pretty terrible, but it was only words on paper and I hadn't had the vision to see how the blood would flow when those words played out for real. 

At first it didn't seem so bad. I mean it was miserable, but nothing compared to what it would become once both sides had dug in and knuckled down for the long haul. For the first few weeks Azrael and his minions were all a bit hangdog. There weren't that many souls for him to separate from their earthly bodies and carry home; he felt a bit short-changed.

I began to think that maybe, just maybe, Christmas 1914 would be business as usual for me. But then things changed, and the carnage began in earnest. We watched in disbelief. Mary, the Queen of Heaven, took it very badly. She always mourns the suffering of men. I think it comes from having seen her own Son die that terrible death all those years' ago.

Hail Holy Mother, I said, with my eyes lowered in reverence.

My child, you are troubled, she said.

Well, there was no denying that my heart was heavy. I allowed myself to look up, and saw all my pain mirrored in her gentle eyes. She looked at me for a moment, exploring the secret recesses of my heart with her all-seeing gaze.

You're right, Nazariah. We must do something about this terrible war, she said, reading my thoughts without my having to articulate them.

But it's written in the Plan, I said. We can't interfere with the Plan. 

She paused for a moment to reflect, her kind face creased with concern for the sons of men.

The Queen of Heaven looked tired. I knew that she'd been working the nightshift with Azrael. You see, down there on the battlefield, they always launch their attacks in the dark of night. That's when most of them die, and the Holy Virgin flies low over that terrible place with the Angel of Death to soften the blow. Before their mortal remains fall to the ground she gathers their souls in her arms and gently carries them home, clutching them to her breast. No human mother could care for them more tenderly at the hour of their passing than the Holy Virgin of Heaven.

Azrael, the old grump, feels a bit usurped, but even he knows better than to complain to the Management.

Maybe we can do something to remind them of their humanity without changing the Plan, she said, the hint of a smile spreading across her face.

And that was how it all began. Before long she'd come up with a plan, although she insisted that it was our plan.

Our strategy was very simple. We had to find something that would remind the men on the ground of all that was pure and happy in their world below, and of how it could be a better place. If we could just keep their belief in goodness alive, we knew that, little by little,  right would prevail and the light would once again conquer the darkness.

As the Christmas Angel, you are central to our strategy, she said. I blinked in the pure, white light of her Holiness, and went weak at the knees with the honour of it all. All mortals love Christmas and you must spread a little of your Christmas magic over the world below. Believe me, Nazariah, they want to feel your presence. A little nugget of hope buried deep in each man's heart wants to remember the Holy Birth. 

Now I have to 'fess up. I was far from convinced. Down below I could see them blowing the living daylights out of each other. I was a long way from believing that the odd twinkly light and a Christmas Carol or two would save the day, but the Holy Virgin was depending on me, and I wasn't about to let her down.

The first thing that I had to do that Christmas Eve was to place a few pine saplings in the way of the Saxon infantrymen. A tiny spark ignited in their hearts and with the addition of a few, small candles each sapling was soon transformed into a Tannenbaum, a glorious German Christmas tree.

And when the others saw them they couldn't help themselves:

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur zur
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

Their voices rose, deep and hearty, from the bowels of the earth where they were sheltering in their trenches.

And then an amazing thing happened. The Tommies picked up the melody, carried to them on the breath of the wind, across No Man's Land.

They stopped for a moment, ignoring their orders to fire, and listened to the joy in the German voices. It resonated with something, a memory buried deep in each man's soul, where they had kept it safe from the horrors of war. Maybe the Queen of Heaven herself stood by their sides, encouraging them to think happy thoughts of their mothers and sweethearts back across the sea. Whatever the way of it the Tommies paused, and then, before any further orders could come down the line, they answered their enemies in song:

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How loyal are your needles,
You're green not only in the summertime,
No, also in winter when it snows,
O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How loyal are your needles.  

The Germans in the opposite trenches were delighted.

Gerhard, a sandy-haired boy of nineteen from Leipzig, who was marked down in the Plan as a survivor,  reached along the floor of the German trench. Slowly, carefully, hardly daring to breathe, he lifted the Christmas tree that one of his comrades had brought forward from the rear that morning when they'd been posted to the front line. Slowly, slowly he balanced it on the parapet of the trench. It was a dangerous manoeuvre. The enemy snipers must have been able to guess exactly where he was. Gerhard hesitated for a moment as he'd steadied it in plain sight of the enemy, wondering whether the Tommies would try and blow his head off, but they didn't. Exhaling with relief and exhilaration he slumped back down to the safety of the floor again.

The other men in the trench gazed up at the little Christmas tree in amazement. With its twinkling candles and the little thread of ribbon from someone's Liebchen that they'd woven through its branches it looked more beautiful than anything they could remember.

After a moment of introspection Gerhard and his comrades registered that their enemies hadn't tried to destroy it. In fact no one was shooting at anything - or anyone - any more.

If you don't shoot, Tommy, we don't shoot, he shouted into the cold night air.

The stars twinkled overhead, and Gerhard gazed up into the night sky hoping and praying that his enemies would agree not to shoot and that they might all escape the horrors of war, even if it was only for one night.

It seemed like an eternity before the reply came chorussing back on the breeze.

OK, Fritz. We don't shoot, you don't shoot. Happy Christmas!

The others in his trench didn't understand. He was the only one who spoke English, but when he'd explained what the Tommies had said, a hearty cheer rose from the German trench, followed by a spontaneous chorus.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht

And before the Germans had reached the second line the Tommies were singing as though their lives depended on it:

Silent night, holy night
All is calm,  all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Well there was no stopping them after that point. A spark of joy and compassion was ignited in every human heart. Men clambered out of their trenches and embraced their enemies in No Man's Land. What little they had, they shared: smokes, seasonal tipples, dry socks and Christmas rations.

For one night it seemed as though we had worked a miracle, the Queen of Heaven and I. For one night we had stopped the war with nothing more than a few saplings, a couple of carols and the memories of Christmases past.

Of course, once they realised what we'd done the Boss and the Senior Management went ballistic. They said nothing to the Queen of Heaven. She was above reproach, but I got it in the neck for meddling with the course of human history. They told me that this was the purview of wiser and better minds than mine, and that I really ought to just mind my own business.

I listened to them. I said nothing in my defence. What I'd done was way above my pay-grade. But in the end, when all the fuss was over, the one thing no one could deny was that, even in the darkest, and bleakest of times, the true spirit of Christmas had endured.  So do me a favour: don't listen to the killjoys when they tell you that Christmas has lost its magic. That's nonsense. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

All the best for a very happy Christmas,

Bonny x

As shared on image-in-ing

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Lonely Grave of Rosa Bevan ... #photostory #halloween

It's Halloween ... .

Do you want to hear a spooky story?

This one's a weird tale, and, if I  live to be a hundred, I don't think I’ll ever be able to come up with a rational explanation for what took place that day. 

It had been a bitterly cold October. Normally in London, we enjoy soft, gentle autumns with just a hint of summer lingering on into November. 

But that year winter had come early. 

Back then I'd been working as a junior reporter for a small suburban newspaper, an old rag that had been around since the year dot and rarely got read by anyone under fifty. It wasn't a great job: I spent most of my time brewing up and doing the photocopying, but everyone's got to start somewhere.

That day I’d been sent to the cemetery by my editor. 

Look for a story, a scary story. Find something we can print for Halloween, he’d said. 

It wasn't exactly news, which probably explained why he'd trusted me to run with it. My editor liked to punctuate the passing months with the occasional seasonal piece that would appeal to the reader's sense of tradition. It usually featured in the doldrums of the paper, somewhere round about page 33, before the news morphed into the sports section.

So there I stood, clutching a takeaway coffee for warmth in the cold dampness of the old cemetery. From memory I was in the unconsecrated bit, where they'd buried the unbelievers, the dissenters and all the other folk who'd not been in the embrace of the Established Church at the time of their passing. 

The grass was veiled with a half-hearted frost that was slowly melting in the watery sunlight, leaving everything wet and slimy in its wake. The sun hung low in the sky, throwing great elongated shadows across the ground.

I walked around for fifteen or twenty minutes, my breath condensing in the cold air, as I wondered where I could find a story.

Maybe the inscriptions on the headstones would give me a start, I thought, taking a slug of the hot coffee and looking around at the massed ranks of graves and tombs that surrounded me. 

Then one particular headstone seemed to call out to me from the shadows. It was in the form of a long, thin gothic arch, carved from Portland Stone. It listed slightly to one side, touching its neighbour, as though it were leaning on the shoulder of an old friend. 

How very understated, I thought, contrasting its simplicity with the extravagance of its neighbours. I’d always thought the Victorian love of ornamental angels and wreathed funeral urns was a bit over the top.

I stood squinting at the stone, trying to make out what it said. The surface was weathered and pitted with the passage of the years, making the engraving hard to decipher. 

In Loving Memory 
Rosa Bevan
Wife of Charles T. Bevan
Died August 28, 1884, Aged 24
"Thy Will be Done."

The words seemed sparse and controlled. Surely a life lost at the tender age of 24 ought to have elicited a greater out-pouring of emotion. In fact the Thy Will be Done bit spoke of a certain indifference to what had taken place. And then there was the expanse of unused space that stretched all the way down to the earth beneath, which suggested that, in the fulness of time, other names ought to have appeared there too, names such as Charles T. Bevan, the husband left behind with his loving memories and his economical way with words. 

I was suddenly overcome by the blackest depression. I felt desperately sorry for poor Rosa, keeping her lonely vigil in the shadows, at a discreet distance from the main path. I had a strong sense of her unfinished business. I don’t understand why. There were hundreds of other life stories carved into the various memorials and tombstones round about that could have touched me, but it was Rosa’s cold, sad presence that reached out.

I was lost in my thoughts when I heard a twig snap behind me. I looked round, but couldn't see anyone.

Then a man's voice whispered urgently in my ear, My Will be Done.

I could have sworn that I felt his breath, cold and clammy, against my skin as he exhaled the words.

The whispered words jarred with the inscription on Rosa's headstone: Thy Will be Done.

The hairs on the back of my neck rose in terror. I had a sense of someone of imposing stature standing right behind me. I turned and looked again, but there was no one there.

'Ello, Miss. Lost your way, Miss?  

Startled, I turned around and saw a young woman walking towards me from the other side of Rosa's grave. I'd been distracted by what I thought was going on behind me and, as a result, I hadn't noticed her approaching.

She smiled at me, as though she sensed I was afraid and was trying to reassure me. Although now that I think about it, the smile on her lips never quite reached her cold, black eyes, which seemed to look right through me, as though they were searching for something - or someone - hidden amongst the graves behind me.

I'm fine, thanks. I said, noticing that she was wearing a long, black dress that looked as though it had been created by a Victorian seamstress. 

W-why are you dressed like that? I asked. 

I'm an actress, she said, pinning a wispy strand of light brown hair back into place in the bun that she wore low on her head.  I've got an audition up in town later this afternoon.

I thought it strange that she should be wearing her stage clothes before she got to the theatre, but said nothing more about it as I was distracted by the sound of footsteps, walking off briskly along one of the side paths behind me. I looked round, but could see nothing other than some branches moving in the undergrowth where someone had brushed past them.

Pass no remarks on him, she said. He's always here. He doesn't like it when I talk to anyone.

Why not? I asked. Who is he?

He's nobody important, not any more, but he's worried I'll tell you his secret, she said, smiling that strange half-smile, that never touched her eyes. Come with me, Miss. You've come looking for a story, haven't you Miss? You've got to write a proper, good story before the end of tomorrow, ain't that right, Miss?

Surprised that she seemed to know my reason for visiting the cemetery, I conceded that she was, indeed correct, and that I would face the wrath of my editor if I hadn't produced a few pages of copy before we went to print.

She beckoned me to follow her, and then set off between the tombstones, but before I could take a step I felt a sharp poke in my ribs, and then the urgent, disembodied voice whispered in my ear again.

 My will be done, it said in tones that suggested it would broker no contradiction.

This time I couldn't control myself; I shrieked in fright.

Oh, don't go upsetting yourself, Miss. He just doesn't want anyone to know his secret. You pay him no heed, Miss.

By this stage she was fast disappearing down the pathway, and, as I had no wish to be left on my own with whatever it was that was poking me and insisting that its will should prevail, I rushed after her. 

The old cemetery is in two parts, the East Cemetery and the West Cemetery, one divided from the other by Swiggin's Lane, a winding alleyway, only just wide enough for a hearse to drive up. I'd lost sight of her by the time I reached the gate, and, when I set eyes on her again she'd already gone across to the West Cemetery. I could see her pale face and shadowy form waiting for me on the other side of the railings.

I was out of breath, and panting as though I'd run a mile by the time I reached the lane. I could hear my blood pumping in my ears, and it felt as though my heart would burst through my chest, whether from running or from fear I'm not sure.

Perhaps I went too slowly across the lane, and didn't pay attention. I don't remember. But suddenly, out of nowhere, a horse-drawn hearse was bearing down upon me. The horses, all frothing at the mouth, and red in the eye from their exertions, were moving at breakneck speed, their tall feathered head-plumes dancing in the air. In the very nick of time, I came to my senses and jumped out of the way as it went careering past, missing me by millimetres.

Stunned, I watched as it disappeared noiselessly round a sharp bend in the lane.

How strange they didn't make any noise or stop here at the gate to the cemetery, I thought, as I caught my breath. I was badly shaken up, as you can imagine, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't give voice to my thoughts.

Their kind never make any noise, she said, by way of answer to my unspoken question. He's not stopping because he's got no business in here today, other than in trying to stop you coming through the gate, Miss. 

Turning around she set off at a brisk pace up the hill.

I had no wish to be left on my own, so I set off after her, although, now that I think about it, a wiser person would have made a break for it, back down Swiggin's Lane to the land of the living.

We passed tall plinths, bearing veiled funeral urns, any number of stone angels and the large, ostentatious stone vaults of the better-off dead.

Finally she stopped in front of a handsome tomb. She paused and, resting one frail, white hand on its heavy pediment admired it in contemplative silence for a moment.

It was in the form of a classical casket with elaborate scrolled edges but little other decoration. The proportions were handsome, the carving had been expertly executed on good Portland Stone and the overall design, whilst restrained, was pleasing to the eye. 

 He always had such good taste, much better than mine she said, looking up at me as though she were checking that I was still there. It's just right, isn't it Miss? He's made it look so distinguished.

I was struck by the note of pride in her voice, as though she harboured some affection for the person responsible, and as though his good taste somehow reflected well on her.

But the thing is, Miss. The thing I want to tell you is that he made me do it. He wanted me out of the way so that he could be with her. 

She looked at me with a pained, beseeching expression as though she were desperate to be believed.

Come on over here, Miss, and have a read of this, she said, waving me towards her, and pointing to the inscription on the side of the tomb.

Sacred to the memory of
Charles T. Bevan
Died 1st November, 1896
Aged 41 years.

And of his infant son
Joshua Bevan
Died 21st January, 1885.

And of Caroline Jane Bevan
Wife of the above Charles and
Mother of the said infant.
Died 31st January, 1901
Aged 37 years. 

As I was bending closer to decipher the writing for myself I felt a sharp push in the small of my back. For a moment I lost my balance, and fell towards the tomb. Putting my hands out I was able to stop myself before my face smashed into the stone.

Come on Miss, we'd best be off. He's getting angry now. Let's go, but remember when you tell them my story, Miss, you have to tell them that he did it. 

She started walking off, back down the hill to the cemetery gate, but this time she was going so fast that I just couldn't keep up. She seemed to glide over the ground. 

At one point she paused, and turned around to look back at me.

He made me do it, Miss. That's all I want the world to know. He stood over me and made me drink it all down. 

Do what? Drink what? What are you talking about? I asked, but she'd turned around and was quickly disappearing from sight. 

I ran after her as fast as I could, but I slipped and came crashing to the ground. By the time I'd gathered myself up and made it down to the cemetery gates she'd already crossed Swiggin's Lane and was back in the East Cemetery. 

Wait for me, I called. Where are you going?

For a brief moment she turned and, for the first time she looked me directly in the eye, as though she were surprised by the question. Her gaze chilled me to my core. The black eyes were lifeless pools of unspeakable sadness; they had a hypnotic draw that left me powerless to look away.

Sorry, Miss, she said softly. I've got to leave you now, and where I'm going, you can't follow.

And then she disappeared off between the tombstones. I went into the East Cemetery and looked around for her, but she had gone. Vanished into thin air. I didn't feel like lingering long on my own in case the other thing caught up with me again, so I made my way back to the gate. 

By this time there were a couple of people standing around in Swiggin's Lane waiting for a funeral or something. I asked them if they'd seen a pale lady, dressed in a black Victorian dress. They looked at me, shaking their heads as though I were mad, and walked off without replying. 

As I stood there, alone and embarrassed at having been taken for a nutcase, I heard the urgent voice, whispering in my ear. 

Ain't you scared? It asked. She's gone somewhere you can't follow. 

And then it laughed a horrible mirthless laugh.

I didn't bother to look around for it.  I knew there would be nobody there. Instead I ran down Swiggin's Lane, towards normality and the office, as fast as my legs would carry me. 

When I got back my editor wanted to know what I was planning to write about, and I was so shaken up that I told him, straight out, exactly what had happened.

OK, he said. It sounds mad, but let's search the archives for the month and year she died. We've got all the old back issues on microfiche so it should be easy. 

He must have been impressed by my sincerity, because he came down to the basement with me to look through the files for himself. 

We pulled up the year 1884 and leafed our way through the months to August. Then we picked out the 28th of August. It was a Thursday. And there she was on the front page of the evening edition, wearing the same black gown she'd worn in the cemetery.

Rosa Bevan, celebrated stage actress, and much loved wife of Charles T. Bevan of Bayswater House, Porchester Terrace, died  this morning following an overdose of Laudanum. Early accounts suggest that she died by her own hand. We understand that the police are not treating her death as suspicious. 

She committed suicide, my editor said.

My will be done.

He made me do it, Miss. He made me drink it all down.

Their words rang in my ears.

No, I said. She didn't and what's more I think she'd like the world to know the truth.

And that was my very first story, although my scoop would probably have sat more comfortably in a history book or a compilation of ghost stories than on page 33 of the newspaper.

All the best and Happy Halloween,

Bonny x

As shared on Friday FindsOur World Tuesday and image-in-ing