The BookCase ShowCase Presents:
The sun was shining brightly and not a cloud hung in the sky. The flowers were in full bloom and the birds sung in the tree tops.
“Bloody birds and their bloody singing.” Seth Johnson stood outside his kitchen door looking out into the garden. His favourite burgundy bathrobe was old and becoming threadbare but, over his eighty-five years on this earth, Seth had learnt not to discard things while they still served their purpose. Even if it did smell stale and look like an old dog’s blanket, he still found comfort and warmth in its embrace.
“Bloody noisy birds.” Seth raised his double barrel shotgun and trained it on the nearest tree top.
“Bloody birds and their bloody chirping.” He gently exhaled and pulled the trigger. There was a single hollow click as the hammer struck, followed by a brief flutter of wings from the surrounding trees. He pulled the second trigger but was awarded the same result.
Seth lowered his gun and snapped open the breach. Pulling out the first cartridge, he examined it closely. Holding it up to his nose, he took a deep sniff, it smelt neither damp nor discharged. He dropped it on the floor by his feet and pulled out the second cartridge. He repeated his inspection before letting it fall next to the first. Shrugging his shoulders, Seth fumbled around in the pockets of his bathrobe, finally pulling out two fresh cartridges. He slotted them into the barrels of his gun before snapping it closed. He lifted it up again and trained it on the treetop. Click… Click.
“Bugger it.” He cracked the shotgun open and flicked the two cartridges out. They fell to the floor, where a small pile was beginning to form. A moment of fumbling within his pockets produced another two fresh cartridges. He hastily slotted then into his gun and slammed the breach shut.
“Bugger it, bugger it. God damn and bugger it!” Seth swore as he heard the two hollow clicks. He snapped his gun open a third time and shook the cartridges from his gun. They fell to the floor, landed amongst the first four and scattered them like bowling balls. With his gun hooked over his arm, he stomped back into his house, slamming the kitchen door closed behind him. The Sun continued to shine and the birds were still singing.
As night fell, the treetop began to rustle. Six sparrows swooped down from the highest branches. Each one took a tight hold of a discarded shotgun cartridge with their tiny claws. One by one the flew through the open kitchen window. Gently gliding through the hallway and up the stairs, the convoy of small birds squeezed through the small gap beneath Seth’s bedroom door. In his bed, Seth slept soundly, his favourite burgundy bathrobe was hooked to the back of his bedroom door. The little sparrows hovered above the bed momentarily, as if mocking the sleeper within, before gliding to the door. One by one, they dropped the cartridges into the deep, gaping pockets of Seth’s bathrobe, before swooping away through the crack beneath the door.
The following morning the sun was shining brightly and not a cloud hung in the sky. The flowers were in full bloom and the birds sung in the tree tops.
“Bloody birds!” Seth grumbled as he raised his shotgun.
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.