Chapter 2

11/10/2013 at 3:36 pm (Uncategorized)


I got some nice and very constructive feedback when I published Chapter One of this thing the other day. So, for a laugh, here’s Chapter Two.

Chapter Two – The Man On The Goldhawk Road

I got off Goldhawk Road tube station to my appointment. It had been a good week since the Lambeth job. When I’m notified of a new job the procedure is pretty much the same each time.

I received a text message from Will Tagler. In this case, it read:

Goldhawk Road. 12am. One of our accountants. Desperate.

As ever, there’s little more to the message. I waited a moment. My phone vibrated again, and a message arrived with a link to a map. The maps I received were incredibly specific.

I clicked on the map and found my destination, committing it to memory. It’s a skill that’s helped me find my way around London remarkably well.

With the message deleted, I walked past the garage on the main road and along the street. Like so many streets in London, the shops have a rundown necessity about them. Shop signs seem dated although they’re probably not even five years old. As I walked on, the shops thinned out to a long row of Edwardian terraces interspersed by… alder trees? I’m no good with things like that. They bustled in the light wind that eased down the corridor of the street, which carried with it the promise of drizzle.

I reached the house, crafted from handsome red brick. Seven grey steps led up to the white front door, which boasted a stained glass semi-circular window above the frame.

I knocked upon the door. Three firm taps.

I looked about me, assessing more of my surroundings. I often wonder if people realise the plane of the dead is constantly pressing on our world of mundanity. If only they knew spectres walk beside us while we load up the washing machine or take our cars in for MOTs.

There came the sound of footsteps approaching the door. The handle turned and clicked and I was greeted by a man who introduced himself as Graeme Fenchurch.

I introduced myself in return and was subsequently invited in.

“This is a bit, er…” Graeme paused.

“I suppose it is,” I offered, “but don’t worry, this isn’t that unusual.”

“No?”

“Well, not for me,” I smiled.

He was tired and nervous – something I’ve come to expect. It’s not that I’m a stranger in the home, nor that I’m a stranger that’s come to clear a house of its ghost. It’s about the inescapable reality that I’m the result of admitting it’s real. I come in at the end of a long, exhausting process for most people. They’ve gone through the unease, the dread, the panic, the abject, inescapable fear, until all that’s left is desperation. Fatigue. It takes a strong will to ask for help in those circumstances. For Fenchurch, it could’ve gotten a lot worse.

I could already feel a strong presence within the confines of the house. It’s almost like an opposing magnetic field. It repels, but the urge to push back is irresistible. I don’t share this with Mr Fenchurch. To speak of the haunting factually might help, but right now I don’t want him to think I’m all talk.

I put him at a greying late-thirties, or perhaps a good early-forties. He looked after himself, and I would imagine that he normally takes pride in his appearance. His shirt and jeans looked expensive, but wrinkled, with stains and dusty marks at the cuffs, elbows and knees. Normal for a prolonged exposure to a haunting. With nerves frayed, small, basic tasks seem less important. Sleep may only come rarely, and whenever or wherever you can get it. I have the feeling he might have taken to sleeping in his garage or shed.

We got past the small talk, which primarily revolved around if I wanted a cup of tea or coffee. I always refuse, but never elaborate. If I corner a particularly active spirit, it’s a pain getting Gold Blend out of the Axminster.

He gestured for me to sit in the kitchen, which was spacious and modern. However, the surfaces were marked and stained, and it seemed that every piece of crockery and cutlery were stacked and wedged in and around the sink. Pizza boxes and takeaway cartons were stuffed into the corners around the units. If this was the room in which he’d chosen to entertain, I could only guess at the state of the rest of the house.

“Where’s the ghost?”

His jaw fell. I must’ve had that look on my face that has been referred to as ‘haughty’. Purely unintentional, but I couldn’t help react to his shock.

“Sorry,” he said after a moment, “I wasn’t expecting you to be so direct. I thought it would be a bit more, you know…” He made a spooky ‘ooh’ sound, and I couldn’t help but let out a loud laugh.

He looked crestfallen for a moment, then smirked. The smirk was soon followed by a proper belly laugh and he threw his head back.

“Oh, I’m really sorry…” he said between chuckles, “I haven’t,” as soon as he began to talk again, the tears from his eyes were no longer the result of laughter, but were now indicating sobs.

“Oh God, I’m so sorry,” he sniffed, grabbing at the kitchen roll on the counter to dab his eyes and blow his nose.

“It’s okay, take your time. You should know that you’re not the only person to feel like this because of a haunting. It takes a lot out of you.”

He stood, and I got the feeling he could have been about to reach out for a hug. I stood too, and turned my back to him.

“Yes, we should probably get on with it.”

“Right, right, yeah.” He sniffed. “It’s in the master bedroom.”

“Your bedroom?”

He murmured an agreement and stepped ahead of me. “This way.”

 

He guided me up the stairs.  The temperature dropped significantly, indicating the ghost’s need to draw on the energy of its local radius to manifest itself. While I heard nothing at the bottom of the stairs, as I got mid-way up the staircase, I could clearly hear the sound of laboured breathing.

Fenchurch would go no further. “You can wait for me here.” I told him.

The sound from the bedroom could be described as clogged, of a person fighting for breath. It struck me that I was hearing this breathing from behind the closed bedroom door that was partway along the landing, yet at the same time horribly close.

It was the same sensation that I’d sometimes felt when being so incredibly tired, my brain had been unable to accurately process frequencies in music or speech. The phenomenon led to a strange feeling of sound going in and out of ‘focus’. That was happening here, with the wheezing, choking sounds of whatever I was going to find behind the door.

“Have you seen it?” I asked him, hoping I had bolstered my words with sufficient confidence. I’d done this many times, but I still don’t always know what to expect.

“Just a couple of times, but I know it’s in there. It always is.”

“And you can hear that? The breathing?”

“What? God, no. You can hear breathing?” He looked even more pale than before as I nodded. “I feel sick,” he added.

“Is it a man or a woman?”

“A man.”

I had reached the top of the stairs.

The sound had leveled to a low, sickening tone, like a death rattle with no end.

“I just need to ask,” my hand stopped before reaching for the door handle, “did it just ‘appear’?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, nervously swallowing. “Do you think I’m responsible for this?”

He became more panicked.

“Mr Fenchurch, please, I just need to know more. It can only help with what I need to do.” Perhaps I shouldn’t ask these questions. Asking questions just leads to complications. Still, ghosts just don’t appear without reason.

“It’s been here a month.”

“And you’ve lived here…?”

“Two years. This has never happened before.”

“Have you had any renovation done? Anything that might have caused a disturbance?”

He shook his head. “You don’t think anyone would have, I don’t know, sent it, do you?” he volunteered.

“This is the realm of the supernatural, not InterFlora.” I answered.

He nodded, and seemed to be thinking through the logic of his suggestion.

“These things tend to have a reason for there appearance.  Knowing more can help with the dispersal of the entity, but it’s not essential. It’s just that I normally go out to building sites, renovated properties, places that’ve been disturbed.” I looked right into Fenchurch’s eyes. “Things like that can cause manifestations.”

“It just happened,” he puffed with frustration, nervously gripping the banister just below the landing.

Feeling that it was better not to push the point, I tapped the door handle to check the temperature.  It was cold, but not dangerously so. I learned to be cautious from an occasion when I almost suffered frostbite from a haunted climbing frame.

I pushed the door open, and the vista revealed a very ordinary scene. The room was in good order, surprisingly so. I was expecting the signs of disturbance, of a frustrated, angry spirit. I looked around, taking in the solid, cream painted furniture. I saw the bed. It was unmade, but again, showed no signs of perturbation.

Then I saw him.

Propped against the wall by the bed, legs splayed and outstretched toward the door I had opened, was the translucent form of a young man. He wore what looked like riding boots and breeches, but no shirt. The look certainly put him at a previous era. He looked to have been strong when he was alive, with a defined musculature, but someone had clearly overpowered him.

There was a thick, dark mark across his throat. He had been strangled. This was made all the more obvious from the bulbous, tortured eyes almost bursting from his face. His tongue hung useless and swollen against his clean shaven chin. The whole grisly vignette was replete with that horrible sound of his eternal last breath.

I entered the bedroom cautiously, not because of any fear I might have had, but I didn’t want to agitate the figure sprawled out on the bedroom floor. I’ve light-heartedly called it ‘Spooking the Spook’, but it can happen. The last thing I need is unpredictability, especially when dispersing a ghost.

The ghost was one of those poor unfortunate victims that had died violently, as so many do. I could almost suspect the incident had taken place recently, but his dated hunt clothes made me think otherwise. It’s certainly not attire I’d expect to see worn up and down the streets of West London that frequently anymore. Despite what Mr Fenchurch had told me, something must have caused this unfortunate man to appear. Not that it was really any of my business. I was sent to do a job and it was time to use my skills.

I shut the door behind me. The ghost of the man continued to look forward, appearing not to have noticed me at all.

“Can you hear me?” I said quietly.

The gutteral noise increased in volume for a second. I read this as a ‘yes’.

“I’m going to help you. I’m going to make the pain go away.”

The ragged breathing became louder. His eyes snapped round and looked directly at me.

“That’s right,” I affirmed, “you’ll be free.”

I held out both my hands, palms down. The familiar tingles raced from my fingertips, through my palms and into my forearms. The feeling was unpleasant, but one I’d felt uncountable times before.

The pressure around my head was beginning to build, and I knew this was the point where I had to control my breathing. I took deep breaths, which seemed incongruous against the endless deathly breathing of the ghost.

The sound of the ghost’s mimicking of breath was starting to break up, as though a switch was intermittently turning it off and on.

The noise was changing. Instead of throttled breathing, it seemed like actual speech pushing its way through.

I could feel my own energy building up in my chest. The warmth grew, radiating with a blue pulse that was beginning to show through my clothes. I held my hands over the broken figure.

“Kuh…”

It spoke.

“Kuh… kuh…”

It was too late to hold back. The energy was going to burst from my body.

As I pushed my hand onto the opaque outline of the prone form, his mouth spoke the word, “Killer.”

The energy burst from my hands in zig-zagging blue forks, scoring every vein, every blood vessel and every ligament with scorching heat. The ghost’s form was illuminated in the same blue glow. I watched as the figure turned to illuminated flakes that rose and faded, like ignited ashes from a dying fire.

The word ‘killer’ echoed in my head as blue flecks surrounded my vision and everything went black.

 

I awoke to shouts of, “Mr Hennersley? Mr Hennersley? Thane?”

I haven’t passed out for years. There’s a general feeling of weakness after a dispersal, but this was different. It’s like my body seems to know how much power I need to generate to complete a dispersal. If that’s the case, this particular entity really didn’t want to go.

It didn’t feel like I’d been out for long, but it took a while to get my bearings.

“I’m okay!” I shouted.

I pulled myself together, articulating my limbs awkwardly as I pushed myself up using the bed. “On first name terms too, then?” I mumbled to myself.

I left the room to see Fenchurch at the foot of the stairs, his nervousness had grown to seemingly unmanageable proportions. “It’s okay,” I told him. “It’s gone.”

“Thank you! Oh, thank you!” He spouted, running past me on the stairs and into his bedroom. “It really has gone, hasn’t it?”

“Yes.”

Breaking down into sobs, he stumbled out of the bedroom and threw his arms around me. “Thank you.”

I reciprocated, somewhat reticently. Tapping his shoulder, I offered an inane, “There there, it’s alright now.”

 

I was still a little shaken when I left the house on Goldhawk Road. True, the effect of the dispersal, and subsequent blacking out. accounted for my feeling of weakness. It was, however, the ghost’s accusatory ‘killer’ that left me unsettled. The ghosts I deal with rarely make more than noises, stuck in that final moment. If they do have a message, it’s often repeated over and over, without a particular audience in mind.

Although I decided to pay it no further attention, the face of the young man, strangled in his prime, broken and laid out, stuck with me all the way home. I barely even noticed the line changes to get back to Brixton.

 

 

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