The Inspiration For May Elizabeth Trump

The Inspiration For May Elizabeth Trump

When I first came up with the idea for Dead Medium I was sitting in the living room of a stranger. The television had been switched on just for my own amusement and I had been left to sit there alone. Well not alone exactly, there was an elderly woman sitting in an armchair in the corner knitting. She said not a word to me but looked up at me and smiled on a few occasions before returning her attention to her task at hand.It was the only time I can remember agreeing to take my mother to see a clairvoyant. She was upstairs in an unseen room with a woman in a baggy tracksuit, whom I saw only fleetingly on my arrival. The television had failed to grab my attention so I started to imagine what mystical events were occurring above my head. I could envision my mother sitting at one end of a small table in a dimly lit room. The psychic jogger was sat opposite her surrounded by ghosts all of which were jostling for position around her. Pushing and shoving each other, even overlapping in places as they all tried to grab the attention of the athletic medium.I began to realize that if a living person needed the aid of a clairvoyant to contact the dead then surely it was likewise on the flip side of the coin. If ghosts were freely capable of speaking with the living then we would hear them far more often than we reportedly do. Even if they were merely talking among themselves, wouldn’t we occasionally overhear them as we quietly crept down the stairs in the small hours to fetch a glass of water. A further thought occurred to me: if ghosts also needed the aid of a gifted individual, why did it necessarily mean that they had to still be alive. Was there no such thing as a dead medium? Eventually my mother reappeared from the depths of mystical re-enlightenment with a wide grin, an old cassette tape and an empty purse. I bade farewell to the old woman in the corner who looked up at me and smiled again. The square of wool between her knitting needles seemed no bigger than it had been when I arrived; it was as if she had been merely rubbing two sticks together the whole time I was there. On the journey home I listened to my mother’s rendition of what she referred to as a reading. I couldn’t help analysing her every word and compiling far less fantastical reasons than she, for that which she experienced in the unseen room. It was at that exact moment May Elizabeth Trump appeared in my mind, wagging a bony finger and complaining about how gullible some people could be. I consider myself an open minded cynic. I believe that there is something more beyond the curtain of death but I find it hard to accept the validity of the vague or circumstantial evidence that some people claim to be undeniable proof of life after death. May Elizabeth Trump on the other hand had a firmer view on things; she didn’t believe in anything that she couldn’t poke her umbrella at. She was a hard nosed cynic and the perfect candidate to become the main character in my début novel: Dead Medium. B9raLkKIIAAsvm-

Peter John: A Hopeful Sceptic

A few years ago I had an experience which I find hard to explain. I have made my stance quite clear in previous posts regarding the supernatural but this singular incident stands out from the crowd. It is the moment when I was closest to believing in the existence of ghosts. Woolwich, a town in south east London, is not well known for its paranormal activity but it is where I found myself at 4am one morning. I was a bus driver, and as such, a regular patron of the less populated hours.

Nothing seemed unusual about that particular morning as I collected my bus from Belvedere Bus Depot. The shadows danced no more provocatively than usual and the faint London mist seemed no more sinister than it had on previous mornings. I was allocated DWL30 (DAF-Wright-Long-30), which in itself is nothing newsworthy. The route I was scheduled to serve would start at Lewisham and, once I had performed the standard vehicle checks, I set forth for this location. The most efficient route would take me through Woolwich town centre and it was there that my morning took a turn for the bizarre.

As I drove through the town centre I glanced in my rearview mirror and was greeted with an unexpected sight. Sitting there in what I had earlier confirmed to be an empty bus, was a figure in white. This was no ordinary figure, even when you remove that fact that I was driving an empty bus. This was a figure of a man wearing a 1970’s white disco suit. As clear as day, I can remember his flared trousers and ruffled shirt as he sat, uninvited and unexpected, on the third seat from the back, to the left of the centre aisle. I often run the events through my mind and am amazed at just how much information I managed to glean from what was no more than a quick glance, but it still does not retract from the vividness of my memory. He was there, or at least that is what my mind would lead me to believe. The traffic signal turned red in front of me and I stopped the bus, giving me the opportunity to turn my head and look down the aisle. The man was no longer present and this surprised me. My first assumption had been that the figure was an undiscovered sleeper, a passenger who had fallen unconscious and had remained on the bus, and his sudden absence threw me into a mild panic. I didn’t know what to think or do as I sat stationary at what had switched to a green light; thankfully there was no other traffic on the road at that time in the morning. My mind raced to find a plausible explanation and finally settled on the fact that I had found little sleep the night before and it was exhaustion that was haunting me not some spectral presence. I was tired, that was all. I was seeing things that existed only in my mind. I was a victim of a sleep deprived hallucination, nothing more, and it was nothing a strong cup of coffee couldnt cure. Yes, I considered the possibility that at some point during the 1970’s a man, on his way to a local disco, could have been involved in a fatal traffic incident and that his spirit could conceivably haunt that particular intersection but I found it far easier to blame my lack of sleep. Maybe I am just unwilling to admit that I had indeed experienced a paranormal event, but somehow I doubt it. I want to believe, truly I do, but if I can find a way to rationalise the situation I will. I am a firm believer in one thing, if ever I do encounter beings from beyond the  grave there will be no doubt and no room for interpretation. I will keep looking and I will forever be a hopeful sceptic.

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A Fantastic Thriller For Free.

Bad Memories by Douglas Sandler

A Goodreads Giveaway

John Miller wakes up one morning to face his bitchy, dominating, possessive wife; the shocking death of his friend, a doctor who worked with John at the asylum, and WHOM his wife Julie hates. She was an administrative nurse at the same asylum who dumped another doctor that also worked there to marry John. The interactions of the characters will make you want to hate them all. There is a hidden connection between the heirs (?) and doctors Miller, Younger, AND Smith. Get the book to find out the connection and who did it, and discover why John Miller wishes he never got out of bed that morning.

The Spirits Of Christmas

The Spirits Of Christmas

A Dead Medium

Short Story

Spin-Off Sequel

Featuring Barbara Smith

A.K.A

Madam Smith Of The Circle Of Sacred Seers

As Featured In dead mediumYuleTideTales 30

Barbara Smith dropped the four shopping bags onto the kitchen table and watched as the colour slowly returned to her fingers. Christmas was fast approaching and she had many more shopping trips to get through before she would have everything that she needed for that one solitary day of the year. It’s only one day, she thought. One day but it took half a year to prepare for it. There were lists to write, presents to buy, cards to post and sugary or fattening food to stock up with. It had always puzzled Barbara why people, and she included herself in this, spent the whole year checking how many calories are in this and how much saturated whatever is in that, but come Christmas they’re all out there buying goose fat by the jar full. The obvious reason was for the sake of tradition but Barbara thought it a rather poor excuse for watching your weight for twelve months only to put on two stone in two days. Every year she seriously considered serving up fresh salad and a low calorie pasta dish on the big day but every year she still ended up buying the same traditional fare, a turkey the size of a highland terrier, which just barely fitted into her oven, and a waist-high sack of potatoes. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a fat golden bird and all the trimmings. It was the same every year but this year something was fundamentally different; this was the first Christmas Barbara would be spending in the company of the dead.

It must have been about three months ago now, Barbara mused, it’s gone rather quickly in fact. Three months had passed since she had inherited the gift of sight from a woman who, in the space of one week, she had grown to respect after spending two decades thinking of her as a miserable, old crone. May Elizabeth Trump was the last person she would have ever thought she would miss but each time she thought of her she felt her eyes begin to well up. I had always ridiculed Margaret for being May’s one and only friend, Barbara thought. She had been right all along, Margaret saw May’s hidden capacity for compassion from day one, where all I saw was a grumpy old woman who would shout the odds at you should you ever step an inch out of line. That was all before she died of course. May’s death had been the making of her, it had shown her all the things she had been searching for her whole life. It was only after May’s spirit had announced itself to them that she’d realised just how wasted her life had been. All those dark creepy nights spent poking about in old houses or playing around with macabre picture cards, all in the belief that she had some kind of psychic power which would allow her to see past the grave. All those years of treating a draughty window as a cold spot or the sound of a scurrying mouse as the whispers of earth-bound souls. May was her first real spectral encounter and, after 68 years of envisioning the moment, it hadn’t been quite how she had imagined. Not that it really mattered in the end. Something had rubbed off on her and, whether it was a gift from May or just her own psychic ability finally kicking into gear, Barbara had started to see ghosts on a regular basis not long after. In fact, nowadays she saw more of the dead than she did of the living, especially as they had the knack of appearing at the most inconvenient moments. Once the word had got out that Barbara could see them, all the local spirits had descended on her with one hundred and one different requests. A lot of it was about contacting their surviving relatives or even ancestors, some of the dead folk had been around quite a while, but there were a few who just seemed to like the company of the living. There were three such spirits huddled by Barbara’s kitchen sink as she walked over to her kettle.

What’s in the bags, Madam Smith?” Gerald asked as he pointed a bony finger towards the kitchen table. His voice was nasal and had a hollow, whistle-like quality that made him sound as if he were speaking through panpipes. Gerald had started to hang around Barbara about two months ago. He was 6 foot tall and painfully slim, by Barbara’s reckoning, and he wore in a two-piece black suit that draped off him as if he were no more than a coat hanger. Barbara had the suspicion that he had lost a lot of weight just before he’d died but he refused to confirm it. Gerald didn’t like talking about his death, something Barbara had very quickly discovered. He had a habit of suddenly walking off through the nearest wall whenever Barbara had broached the subject, which she found to be a very effective conversation stopper. Yes it was pretty rude behaviour, even for a dead man, but Barbara often used it to her own advantage. Gerald always spoke in short blunt sentences and his tone was generally sober even with the whistle. He tended to question everything but he never seemed to actually listen to the answers people gave him. Barbara could very quickly lose her patience with him, which was usually when she would start asking him about his death knowing that it would compel him to leave.

What business is it of yours?” Barbara replied with a sharp tone, as she shook the kettle to check if it contained enough water and then switched it on.

There’s no need to get defensive, Madam Smith,” Brian said through his semi-permanent smile, “he was just asking.” Brian had started to darken her door a couple of weeks before Gerald had appeared. The two ghosts were like chalk and cheese in both appearance and personality. Brian was no more than 5 foot tall and had a wide, circular stomach. His multi-coloured sweater with its thick vertical stripes made him look like an over-inflated beach ball with legs. Barbara quite liked his company, on most days he was usually rather chipper and he had an infectious smile.

He’s always asking something or other. That’s the whole problem, you know that!” Barbara heaped a spoonful of coffee granules into her favourite mug and then turned towards the fridge.

Have you got an issue with that?” Gerald said.

On most days, yes I have, Gerald.” Barbara pulled open the fridge door and took out a half full bottle of milk. She raised the bottle up to her nose and took a deep sniff before bringing it to her coffee mug.

What is in those bags then, Madam Smith?” The voice was as quiet as the squeak of a less than boisterous mouse. It had a timid, shaky quality, as if the issuer suffered from perpetual anxiety.

It’s just some Christmas shopping Martha, that’s all,” Barbara replied. She couldn’t see the nervous ghost. She’s probably hiding behind Brian, she thought.

Christmas! Christmas shopping you say,” Brian was still smiling but there was a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “I didn’t think you were into that old rubbish, Madam Smith.”

Is it that time again? God help us!” Gerald announced, his whistle seemed to hit a slightly higher pitch than usual.

I don’t like Christmas,” Martha squeaked, “all that noise makes me nervous.”

Everything makes you nervous Martha,” Brian pointed out.

I know,” Martha sighed, “but at Christmas time I get even worse. It’s all the noise and hullabaloo that goes with it. The shrill cries of excited children, all that doorstep singing business and those bangers always give me an awful fright.”

Bangers, Martha? Don’t you mean Christmas crackers?” Barbara asked as she poured hot water into her coffee mug.

Do they go bang, Madam Smith?”

Yes, I guess they do.”

Then they’re bangers in my book and they’d make me jump clean out of my skin if I still had any.”

What’s the point of Christmas anyway?” Gerald whistled.

Beats me,” Brain shrugged. “I remember celebrating it back when I was alive and it all seemed like too much hard work for very little gain, even back then. All that messing about and wasted money just for one day. You get up too early in the morning, still half cut from the few celebration tipples you drank the night before, and then spend the day feeling like death warmed up. You open a few presents, which are usually nothing more than a few pairs of socks and a satsuma, and then you have to stick your arm up a turkey’s backside and drag out its innards.”

It can be hard work, I grant you that,” Barbara said, as she leant against the kitchen side and sipped her coffee.

I can handle hard work,” Brian said. “Christmas isn’t hard work, Madam Smith, it’s tiresome is what it is. In my experience, hard work usually leaves you in profit at the end of the day. A day’s pay for a day’s work and all that; I don’t see any profit in Christmas!”

What about spending time with your family, you must have enjoyed that?”

What, that bunch of free-loaders?” Gerald said.

Too right Gerry,” Brian agreed. “Like vultures around a carcass they were, if memory serves.”

I was always nervous around large groups of people,” Martha added.

What, even your family?” Barbara asked.

I think so. To tell the truth, I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t nervous.”

You’re better off not remembering if you ask me,” Brain said, managing to sound grumpy and regretful even though his smile refused to break. “Whenever I think back, all I can remember is hardship and disappointment.”

I can’t think of anything good about Christmas,” Gerald said and Barbara suddenly realised that is was the first time she had heard him say anything that wasn’t in the form of a question.

Can you?” Gerald suddenly added and then Barbara sighed.

I can’t believe that none of you have any happy memories of Christmas,” she said. “I have nothing but fond memories of this time of year. Yes it can be tough and yes sometimes we all don’t get on as well as we should but that all pales into insignificance when you look into the children’s eyes as they find out that Santa Claus has been and filled their stockings. Christmas is a wonderful time and, even though I dread all the preparation, every year it always seems worthwhile on the day. It fills my heart and it always gives me a positive start to the new year.”

What absolute rubbish, Madam Smith, I had always thought of you as a woman of stability not a gooey eyed school girl.” Brian’s smile drooped for a fraction of a second but sprang straight back into its usual upward curl.

Don’t you remember when you were a child and excitedly waiting to hear the sound of sleigh bells?” Barbara asked.

Nope,” Brian replied.

No, not really,” Martha squeaked.

Should I?” Gerald whistled. Barbara sighed again and then took a long, slow slurp of coffee. This wouldn’t do, she thought, as she put her empty mug onto the kitchen side. She looked over at the sink and saw the plug hanging by its little silvery chain.

I don’t know if this will actually work on a ghost but I would like to try,” she said as she picked up the black, plastic sink plug and unhooked the other end of the chain.

Try what?” Gerald asked.

I want to see if I can regress you through hypnosis and see if I can bring back those festive, childhood memories.”

I don’t know if that’s such a good idea, Madam Smith,” Brain said.

What if they’re bad memories?” Gerald said, or asked, Barbara wasn’t certain which.

We will find that out, won’t we,” Barbara said in a commanding voice. She took a couple of steps into the middle of the kitchen and dangled the sink plug in front of the three ghosts.

I take it that you’ve done this before Madam Smith,” Brian said.

Of course I have!”

And it works does it?”

Most of the time yes, well quite often at any rate.”

Is it dangerous?” Gerald asked and Barbara was sure it was a proper question this time.

I doubt it.”

So you’re not actually sure,” Brian pointed out.

You’re dead already, what harm can it do to you now?”

She’s got a point,“ Martha piped up and Barbara could sense a little more confidence in her voice than she was used to.

Can you see the plug, Martha?” Barbara asked, she tried to peer around Brian’s large frame but still couldn’t catch a glimpse of the anxious spirit.

Yes I can, madam Smith,” Martha replied. Her voice had regained its trademark squeak.

OK, are you all ready?”

Ready for what?” Gerald said and Barbara took it as a yes. She started to swing the sink plug gently to and fro.

Keep your eyes on the plug,” she said in low whisper. The two ghosts that she could see followed the sink plug as it swung from side to side, Barbara hoped Martha was doing the same.

You are feeling sleepy.”

No I’m not!”

Please take this seriously Brian!”

But I’m dead, I can’t sleep. If I do I just transcend dimensions, I thought you knew that about us.” Brian replied and Barbara had to admit he had a point.

OK, just shut up and concentrate on the plug then!” Barbara continued to swing the sink plug.

Are you concentrating, Martha?”

Yes Mummy,” her voice was still squeaky but there was no fear or anxiety in it.

Where are you, Martha?” Barbara said.

I’m tucked up in bed, I’m waiting for Santa Claus,” Martha said in an excited voice.

I think it’s worked on Martha, don’t you Brian?”

Be quiet, stop talking. If Santa knows we’re awake he won’t leave any presents!” Brian whispered in the high-pitched , clucky tone of a young boy. “He’s bringing me a bike this year for sure. It’s going to be a bright red one, just like the one in the toy shop window, now be quiet or he’ll never come.” This is working better than I thought it would, Barbara surmised. It’s usually pretty hit and miss when I try this on living folk.

Are you alright there, Gerald?”

Oh I will be soon enough,” Gerald’s voice sounded lighter, less of a drone, and his whistle wasn’t as prominent. “One hour to go before my shift ends and I rush off home and climb into my Santa suit. The kids will be so excited, it’s been a good year and we’ve managed to get some cracking presents for them. I can’t wait to see little Billy’s face when he unwraps that train set, he’s been ogling it through the toy shop window for months. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!” Gerald was smiling. Barbara couldn’t believe it, an actual smile. She had always thought that his face would crumble like a rock-slide if he were ever to curl his mouth in such a way.

Right then, the night has passed and it’s now early on Christmas morning,” Barbara said. All three ghosts let out wide yawns and stretched their arms.

Where are you, Martha?”

He’s been,” Martha cried out. “Santa’s been and look at how full my stocking is, it’s fit to burst!”

Oh no!” Brian said, “I must have dosed off and missed him again.” “What have you got there Billy? Wow, that’s a mighty fine train set,” Gerald’s eyes glistened brightly as he spoke. He stretched out his thin, bony arms as if expecting an embrace.

A bicycle,” Brian cried, “I’ve got a bicycle. It’s red and it’s bright and it’s so shiny, I bet it’s as fast as a rocket ship as well. This is just the best Christmas ever!”

Mummy, Mummy, Mummy. Santa has been and look, he’s even eaten one of those mince pies we made.” Barbara still couldn’t see Martha but there seemed to be a faint glow coming from behind Brian. Gerald closed his arms around something unseen and a single tear escaped his eye. Barbara decided that enough was enough and clicked her fingers.

Awake!” She commanded.

Brian was the first to react. He took an involuntary step backwards, his wide, unblinking eyes darted around the room. His infectious grin flat lined across his face and he looked like he’d just been abruptly awoken from a sleep that he hadn’t realised he was having, which wasn’t so far from the truth. Gerald casually wiped the tear from his eye and then started to clap his hands together. He was still smiling.

Was that an enlightening experience?” Gerald said as he tapered off his applause. A small glowing form floated out from behind Brian. About four foot tall and hovering a foot above the floor, Martha shone like a florescent bulb. Her young, innocent face wore a dazzling, confident smile. She moved like a drifting feather and her eyes spoke of a new-born wisdom.

How did I lose such golden memories?” Martha said in a silky smooth voice. Her usual air of anxiety had gone, along with her nervous squeak.

I don’t rightly know,” Brian said as his twitching eyes finally settled, “but I don’t plan on letting it happen again.” Gerald pointed a bony finger in Brian’s direction.

How do we do that?” He asked as he tapped the air.

We just have to keep reminding ourselves somehow,” Brian replied.

That’s not what worries me the most,” Martha said as she floated around to face the other two ghosts. Barbara was beginning to feel unnoticed.

No?” Gerald said as he lowered his finger.

What worries me is that there might be others who are suffering ignorance as we did, both alive and dead. People who have forgotten the joy they experienced during the Christmases of their past.”

Not only that,” Brian added, “there’s bound to be a lot of poor souls out there who are failing to truly appreciate the present festivities.”

Are we forgetting the Christmases yet to come?” Gerald pointed out.

We need to get out there and remind these people of the true meaning of Christmas,” Martha suggested.

I couldn’t agree more,” Brian said.

Neither could I,” Gerald nodded in agreement.

That wasn’t a question Gerald!” Brian observed. “You just spoke and it wasn’t in the form of a question.”

Wasn’t it?” Gerald asked.

Well that didn’t last long then, did it,” Martha said. Barbara was getting a little tired of being ignored.

I’m still here you know!”

Sorry Madam Smith,” Martha said as she pirouetted in mid-air to face her.

Yes of course, sorry, Madam Smith.” Brian’s smile drew back across his face. It was as infectious as ever, Barbara had to fight against her own facial muscles as they attempted to return the expression.

I take it that my plan worked.”

It did?” Gerald offered and Barbara heard it as a statement more than a question.

Thank you Madam Smith,” Brian said as he clasped his hands in front of him in a big fist which he gently shook. “You have really opened my eyes to all the joy that this festive time of year can bring to the world. I can’t thank you enough, in fact, you have given my death more meaning. No longer will I mope around feeling regretful at what little my life really amounted to. I will now devote my ghostly existence to bringing enlightenment and joy to any who may fail in achieving this for themselves.”

Will I follow in your footsteps and tell those who prioritise all other things above spreading goodwill through the many years to come?”

I’m sure that you will, Gerald,” Barbara replied, even though she knew there was no question of it.

I too will join in your crusade to rid the world of bad memories by washing them away with the good,” Martha said as her glow reached an intensity that Barbara had never before seen. What kind of monster have I just created, Barbara thought as a new voice entered the room.

What’s going on here then?” All eyes turned to look at the new arrival who had just stepped through the wall. He wore a pinstriped three-piece suit and stood tall and proud, while swinging a pocket watch on a long silver chain in tight circles with his right hand.

Hello Jacob,” Brian said. “Madam Smith has just reminded us of the meaning of Christmas and now we’re going to share the festive spirit with the world.”

Is that so?” Jacob said, still swinging his watch. “How do you plan on doing that then?”

I think we are going to find miserable, lonely people and teach them to how to celebrate the festive season properly.”

That’s right Brian,” Martha agreed.

Really, do you know who you are going to start with?”

No we don’t, do we?” Gerald said.

No we don’t,” Brain added, “not yet.”

Then in that case, I know just the person,” Jacob announced.

Who?” Martha asked.

My old business partner,” Jacob replied, “that’s who.”

Lead the way, my good man,” Brian said as he headed towards Jacob and the kitchen wall.

Wait for me,” Gerald said, “are we all going in together or one at a time?”

One at a time would be best, I think,” Brian replied as he and Jacob stepped through the wall.

I’ll go first,” Martha cried out as she swooped past Gerald.

Do you want me to be last?” Gerald asked as he lumbered through the wall and disappeared from sight.

Barbara sighed and picked up her coffee. Cradling the warm mug in her hands, she thought about what the three ghosts had said. There’s something familiar about all this, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

The End

MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Dead Medium Coming Soon To Audible.

Dead Medium: Not Your Average Ghost Story By Peter John is to be released as an audiobook. Read by the talented narrator Joel Froomkin, this Amazon Kindle dark comedy bestseller will be available on Audible very soon.

Dead Medium Audible

“The Strangest Things Happen When You’re Dead.” – May Elizabeth Trump.

The deathly silence is about to be broken. She disliked the company of others and death did little to warm her spirit. She had led an independent life and she faced death in much the same way. She was finally alone, finally free from the mindless babble of others, at least that’s what she thought. May Elizabeth Trump was the rarest of spirits and she was none too happy about it either. She was a dead medium, a ghost who can speak with the living, and her services were to become in great demand. Flung into the limelight and smothered with unwanted attention, May soon discovers that it is not only ghosts with long awaited messages that have taken an interest in her. Something dark was lurking in the shadows, stalking her. Even the dead are not left to rest in peace. Dead Medium: A humorous, character driven story and a unique vision of life after death. Not your average ghost story.

dead medium

Dead Medium – Book Review

Dawn Delivers

Hello once more you lovely folks and welcome back to this little ol’ blog of mine:)

This week I have another book review for you – I do enjoy discovering a new author and how better to find them than by having other people tell you how good they are !

So on with the review

Dead Medium: Not Your Average Ghost Story by Peter John

Book blurb: “The Strangest Things Happen When You’re Dead.” – May Elizabeth Trump.

The deathly silence is about to be broken. She disliked the company of others and death did little to warm her spirit. She had led an independent life and she faced death in much the same way. She was finally alone, finally free from the mindless babble of others, at least that’s what she thought. May Elizabeth Trump was the rarest of spirits and she was none too happy…

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Gypsy Lane. Based on a true story, with a fair licking of artistic licence.

Gypsy lane

It was another dark night. Every night was dark in that small village in North Wales, street lights were things that happened to other people. The only outside illumination in the whole village was the sign hanging from the side of the pub. The Hare kept the adults occupied during those late autumn evenings, but us kids had very little to keep us entertained; fourteen years old and bored is never a good combination. The village had a sports field, but when it’s so dark you can’t see more that two feet in front of you, games such as football become rather difficult and, on occasion, quite painful. There were no Playstations or Xboxes back then and the closest thing we had to a youth club was the village’s one and only bus shelter. Any time past six in the evening and we had that small concrete hut all to ourselves. It didn’t keep out the cold, but when it rained and you were lucky enough to be up against the far wall, it would keep you half dry. Six scruffy teenagers crammed into a space designed for three old ladies and their tartan shopping trolleys, but it was all we had. There was Jenny and George, brother and sister. Brian, a tall skinny lad with glasses and the first person we all came to if we had difficulties with our homework. Sarah, the eldest of the group, and Johnny, who would have preferred to have spent his every waking hour playing football. The first hour was generally spent swapping football stickers under torchlight while making fun of one member of the group or another. We all took a turn to be the brunt of the jokes, though it was never voluntary. None of us were popular at the school we attended, five miles down the road in a town that was large enough to warrant its own post office. We were a collection of would-be loners and it was easy enough to find something to taunt one another about.

After the final sticker had been swapped and there was a short discussion about who would complete their album first, the ghost stories began. Jenny, the youngest of the group by 3 months, always squeezed her way to the far corner of the shelter at the first mention of wavering shadows, bogeymen and witches. Her older brother, George, would sidle up next to her in such a way as to seem coincidental and every time she jumped he’d place his hand upon her shoulder to reassure her. He would never admit to this however.

The stories would always end up about Gypsy Lane, the supposedly haunted road that ran down the back of the village. There were no houses, or any other type of building on that road, it merely cut through two large fields. Bordered by two high hedges and kept dark even in the daylight by a thick archway of branches, it looked the part, especially during a full moon when what little light there was snaked through the gnarled branches and danced on the tarmac below.

We had never before ventured there after dark, we didn’t usually have the nerve, but this one night something had gotten into us and bolstered our courage. One can of bitter, half a litre of weak beer swiped from a parent’s drinks cabinet (yes we still had them back then) shared between six curious mouths. We each had no more than a taste and we all agreed that it lived up to its name but it gave us a boost, which was probably more psychological than chemical. Two by two and with three torches between us we walked through the dark deserted village. The only noises we heard were the sound of slurred voices and the clinking of piano keys as Old Mr. Foot played ‘Roll Out Your Barrow’ as we passed The Hare.

After several minutes, the noise of the pub faded away and a silence dropped over us, only broken by the occasional hoot of an owl. The moon was only a crescent but it reflected enough light to make shadow puppets quiver on the edge of the road. None of us had spoken during our slow wander. We were all worried that our nervousness would come out in our voices. As we arrived at the opening to Gypsy Lane the first person to speak was George.

“I’m not sure Jenny should be here with us,” his voice was gruff, as if he had a throat full of phlegm. He coughed before continuing. “I… I think I should take her home. I’m not chickening out or nothing, I just think she’s too young to be out here.”

“Oh shut up, George,” I said. “I’m only three months older than her and I’m not scared.” It was a lie, one that I’d been telling myself since we left the bus shelter.

“Well I’m not scared neither,” Jenny said, stamping her foot against the ground. The rest of the group remained silent.

“Okay then, Sis,” George said, shrugging his shoulders. “If you’re sure?”

We stared down gypsy lane, as far as we could in the darkness. The overhanging branches were visible enough with the moon light shimmer through them. Without another word, we began a slow walk under them. Sarah led the way, shining her torch from one side to another. Johnny held up the rear with the rest of us spread out in between. The lane was narrow, barely room for anything larger than a car. The hedges either side loomed over us and seemed closer with every step. A rustle in the branches above made Jenny whimper and I had to turn a sharp inward breath into a yawn in an attempt to hide my own fear.

A few metres ahead a dark patch in the hedge became apparent. Brian was the first to see it, we always assumed he had better eyesight than the rest of us due to his thick rimmed glasses. Sarah shone her torch directly at it but the weak pen-light barely penetrated the darkness. Walking closer, we shifted towards the other side of the road, all peering at the dark patch. Stopping directly opposite, we stared into the rough circle of black. The slightest of movements caused Jenny to hide behind her brother.

“What is it?” Johnny asked as he stepped up behind us. The rest of the group merely shrugged but I couldn’t resist the urge to speak.

“It’s an entrance to the pits of hell,” I said calmly. Still afraid yet bolstered by the thought of playing a trick on my friends. Jenny grabbed her brothers coat, as if to anchor herself to him. Sarah snorted and tipped her eyes.

“Can we go home now?” George said, gulping.

“There’s no such thing as hell,” Brain said, taking an involuntary step further away from the dark patch.

“There’s something in there,” Sarah said, edging closer, still shining her feeble light.

“Stay back!” Johnny said, lifting his own torch towards the hedge. It flickered and died in his hand. “Damn it, I shouldn’t have used it to read in bed last night.” I crept up behind Sarah and we both moved within a few feet of the dark patch. Sarah’s torch made the leaves of the hedge shimmer, but otherwise was of little use. Brian first and then the rest of the group huddled up close behind us. I strained to see beyond the blackness and I fancied I could hear slow, heavy breathing.

Suddenly, the large, black and white head of a cow burst through the gap in the hedge, giving out a loud, drawn-out moo. Screaming, Sarah jumped backwards, stumbling into me, forcing us to fall into a pile in the road. Brain turned about-face and ran straight into the opposite hedge. Johnny dropped his defunct torch and dove onto the ground like a goal keeper saving a penalty. Jenny and George seemed to have barely moved other than swapping positions so it was now brother hiding behind sister. A few seconds passed with us staring at the cow and the cow staring back at us. It let out another, softer moo. With synchronised movement, who ever was not on their feet climbed to them and we all started running back down the lane towards the village.

I remember that night whenever the shadows draw near or when strange noises echo through the house. It reminds me that not all ghost stories are true. The supernatural is often just plain natural.

©2015 Peter John. Author of the Paranormal Comedy: Dead Medium

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Dead Medium: Not Your Average Ghost Story