Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Midnight Visitor - a short story
Midnight Visitor is an early Poet-in-Residence short story. It first appeared in 2004 under the New Fiction imprint in a selection of "heart-wrenching tales and chilling thrillers" titled Inner World (SB ISBN 1 85929 096 5).
Midnight Visitor is a story which Poet-in-Residence readers are invited to print-off to read to their children; or to anyone impatient for a gaily wrapped parcel lying under a Christmas tree.
by Gwilym Williams
One afternoon I was in the local library researching ghosts, my special field of interest being poltergeists, when a book jumped off the shelf directly in front of me, and I can only say 'jumped' because that's what it did.
For a moment I thought someone was playing a trick on me; but when I looked I saw that there was nobody else around. There was nobody on the other side of the shelf to secretly nudge the book through. It literally had jumped onto the floor where it lay open, face down, as if waiting for me to pick it up. And so I picked it up and commenced to read the text on the pages at which the book had fallen open: 'There is only one substance through which a ghost cannot transmit its image and that is...'
Almost immediately, I remembered a strange incident that I had been told about by a well-respected investigator of the paranormal some years previously. It concerned a girl named Connie Black, who lived in an old house in the village of Stonefield.
When Connie Black was six years of age, she met the Devil; saw him with her own green eyes, in the flesh one could say. But, of course, nobody believed her. They all said it was a dream; even her young brother, Billy, thought Connie had imagined the whole thing. But Connie knew she hadn't imagined it, hadn't dreamt it. And she always had the strange feeling that one day someone would be able to prove it; prove it beyond a shadow of doubt.
Connie was an extraordinary and intelligent child and, like most extraordinary and intelligent children of her age, believed she was perfectly normal. She thought everybody had recurring dreams of being sucked into a black whirlpool or occasionally spinning through the cosmos and waking up on the floor under the bed, or being able to walk in the air several feet above the ground. And so she never thought to mention these experiences to anyone; not even Billy, who slept nearby, always soundly it seemed, in an identical iron bed to hers.
One night there was a happening that was so strange and unusual that Connie, contrary to her normal behaviour, told the whole family about it.
The Devil appeared in the bathroom. He was neither friendly nor unfriendly. He just was. He had two small horns and a tuft of ginger hair on his head. His face was long and purple and his eyes were emerald-green. They were not threatening or angry, but they were staring eyes. Connie looked straight into them; stared back, apprehensive but unafraid.
The midnight visitor was wearing a brown leather jacket with two rows of gold-coloured rings down the front. The rings were tied together with a leather string. Connie couldn't see if he was wearing trousers and shoes because he was behind the enamel bath and she could only see the top half of him.
An interesting fact, observed Connie, is that either he is kneeling, or his legs go straight down through the bathroom floor. And another interesting fact is that he's flat, like a picture; he has no depth. The two of them stared at each other for what seemed a long time. Perhaps he's as surprised to see me as I am to see him, thought Connie.
She then became worried. What if he's putting bad thoughts in my mind? She remembered her mum saying, 'Connie, whenever you have the urge to do something naughty, it's the Devil speaking to you. Then you must say to yourself, 'Get thee behind me, Satan' and you will no longer be tempted. It was the time when Billy had cheated at marbles and Connie had hit him on the head, quite hard, with a stick.
'Get thee behind me Satan,' whispered Connie.
Nothing. The Devil didn't budge. He remained exactly where he was, simply standing and staring.
Connie pulled her eyes away from the Devil's and turned her head away slowly to look around the small room. Perhaps the Devil was not alone. But he was alone. Or rather, he had been alone, for when Connie turned back to face him she discovered he was no longer there. Only the old enamel bath and the plain white wall were to be seen. Connie spun round. It was no trick. He had gone.
Forgetting why she had gone to the bathroom in the first place, Connie switched off the light and padded quietly back to her bed, passing the slumbering shape of her brother who slept nearest the door. In a few minutes she was sound asleep.
I have decided to tell this story now as a cautionary tale for those children who may be destined to meet the Devil before they are very much older. There will be no sudden chill in the air, no shuffling sound or dragging of chains, no smell of rotten apples, no black cat, no neighing horse, no goat, no eclipse of the moon. He will come when he comes. It will be totally unexpected. He may come in the night. He may equally appear by day.
If he comes to you, you could try saying the words 'Get thee behind me Satan'.
Connie is a young woman now and, I'm pleased to say, unaffected by her meeting with the Devil. She is happily married to her childhood sweetheart, Douglas Fir. They live in a modern house just outside Stonefield and have a daughter of their own. She has long red hair and emerald-green eyes. Her name is Lucy.