Looking up to the clock I could see that, reflecting the toll of the hour bell, the face had acquired an additional number, displacing the 12 at the top with an unholy 13. What more could I expect?
Before I could answer my own question there came a huge flapping and screeching as my erstwhile flying buddies swopped down to the green, hopping off their broomsticks onto the grass.
“Well, are you coming?” asked the blond bombshell Samantha, who had dropped me off (literally) earlier.”
“To the party of course, silly boy,” she said, with a broad and wicked grin on her face.”
“Right now, I think I’d like to go home, after I have recovered my Dad’s car. He must be going crazy by now, not to mention, Mum.”
“Oh, don’t be a wet blanket. Your mother and father are fast asleep, the car is perfectly safe, and we can’t go to the ball without a suitable escort.”
I don’t know why I agreed to go with them, but I figured that things could hardly get worse.
“Oh….. alright then. I haven’t got a broomstick though”
“You won’t need that,” she said, tucking her own under her cloak, giving a flash of naked flesh as she did. Then, as if to answer my next question before I had asked it, a big red London bus pulled up right onto the green, screeching, skidding, and tearing up the grass. I was just thinking that, apart from driving off the road and right onto the green, this was the most normal thing I had seen all night… until I saw the driver.
It was not his appearance that shocked so much as where he was sitting. Not in the cab at the front of the bus, the driver was sitting on the roof of the vehicle, legs dangling over the front edge. He was sporting a heavy coat, boots and hat pulled right down, so that none of his features could be seen. Gripped in his left hand was a set of reins, his right holding a tall carriage horse whip. Of course, at the other end of the reins was a team of sleek black horses, standing patiently. As I shook my head to try again to wake up from this nightmare, so each of the witchy host, tucking broomsticks under cloaks, mounted the rear platform of the bus, as if it was the route 54 waiting at the bus stop nearby.
“Just room for one inside,” came a chilling voice, reminding me of a line from a creepy black and white film I had once seen. It was the bus conductor leaning out from the rear platform, with a deathly grin on his face. Although I shrank back from the bus in fear, my feet started to propel me forwards as if I had no control over them. Whatever next? I thought, with something of resignation.
Once on the bus I could see that my companions had all changed out of their flying robes and were now each wearing a sleek and stunning ball gown, some more revealing than others. I couldn’t see Endora and asked where she was.
“Gone on ahead,” said Samantha, motioning me to sit down beside her with a smile that was a lot warmer and friendlier than the one she had used on me when she caught me on the broomstick. Then, with a crack of the whip, the team jerked us away and along a bumpy ride through the deserted streets of Beckenham until we arrived at the old, derelict Manor House, which had been spruced up and decorated for a party.
Inside, I was handed a cup which had been filled from what looked like a huge punch bowl. I gulped the liquid down gratefully and held my cup up for a refill. The drink was like no punch I’d ever tasted. Walking out into the open hall, which had an orchestra in one corner, playing away merrily, I could see that there were many more women, some dressed in discrete evening wear, some dressed in the most outrageous attire imaginable. There was also a smattering of men and not a few women, dressed in tuxedos. Coloured lights were flashing overhead and a glitterball whirled around above the centre of the dancefloor. The floor was crowded with dancing couples, a few of which were male-female. The rest did not seem in the least put out and all were whirring around and around the dancefloor to the elegant tones of the orchestra which was playing a waltz that I did not recognize.
As I stood mesmerized by the sight, I felt, rather than saw, a person walk up to me from the side.
“Ah! Robert, wasn’t expecting to see you here tonight…” I stood open mouthed as I realized it was the vicar of St George’s, the Reverend G. Herbert Wells. The “G” was for George, but the Reverend had stopped using the name when he arrived, for fear of confusion with his church’s name. “…I’ll speak to you tomorrow,” he said.
“What?” I said, remembering what the other George, the stone statue of St George, had said in the cemetery.
“I need to speak to you after church tomorrow,” he said, then looking at his watch, “although of course it is past the hour of 13… er… I mean… er 12… so church is later today of course.”
“Oh,” I said, a little lost for words. With that, he skipped off as one of the glamourous ladies grabbed him by the hand and pulled him along, not unwillingly, to the dance floor. I was likewise accosted, by Samantha of course, finding that I was able to waltz around the dancefloor despite never having danced before. Only problem was, I think the punch was going to my head as the more we whirled around, the dizzier I began to feel. Samantha was laughing freely, her long hair flowing wildly around her head, with the lights making a colourful halo of her golden locks. Round and round and round we went, as I became more and more light-headed until I felt myself falling, falling, falling, the dazzling lights beginning to dim and the music becoming a distant roar. I felt I was being whirled into a deep cavern and soon the blackness and the silence were complete.
I woke with a start to the sound of Mum plonking a mug of tea on my bedside table.
“Wakey, wakey, sleepy head. You’ll be late for church. What time did you get in last night?”
I groaned a non-committal reply.
“Oh, dear,” Mum said. You haven’t been drinking, have you?” I tried to piece together the events of the previous night as I wondered whether it had all been a dream, a horrible nightmare. Had I been drinking? I certainly had a headache and a mouth that tasted like the bottom of a budgie cage. I bustled Mum out of the room and took a peek through the curtains to find Dad’s Cortina parked in the driveway. I didn’t recall driving it there but guess I must have.
Later, after church, the vicar pulled me aside, telling Mum and Dad that he needed some help in the vestry. I told them that I would walk back home later.
“A little bird tells me you might be able to help solve a mystery that has been puzzling me,” the vicar said, having poured us both a cup of tea.
Turns out the Reverend had been doing some research into parish records and had come across a strange case in which a Victorian father had lost his only child, a girl of seven years old, the mother having died in childbirth. The father had died soon after, local folklore saying of a broken heart. The mystery was that although the mother and father had been laid to rest in St George’s churchyard, there was no record of the daughter having been buried. I immediately thought of the little girl on the village green and my heart skipped a beat. I didn’t ask the vicar why he thought I might be able to help but suspected that Endora or Samantha or one of their cronies had said something at the party.
“Apparently there was a bit of a row at the time, with some saying the Church had refused to allow the girl to be buried in the Church grounds because she hadn’t been baptized. I find that hard to believe but that is what I read. Either way, I cannot discover her final resting place.” He then fixed me with his gaze.
“Come, come, young Robert, there is no need to be so cagey with me. I know all about your antics here last night.” My heart sank, but I realized he would probably have even more reason than I did, not to be talking about the previous night’s raucous revelries. After a little more persuasion, I eventually led him out to the edge of the village green behind the churchyard wall, where I had seen the little girl’s unmarked grave.
He told the police some story about finding what he thought were traces of human remains while walking around the bushy edge of the green. They in any case found enough to warrant an exhumation and, after the coroner had discharged the mortal remains as being of Victorian origin and with no sign of foul play, The Reverend Wells arranged a proper funeral and burial in the family plot, with the poor girl’s mother and father. I came along and joined the service and the burial and thought again of the events that had led to it. I wondered if Samantha and Endora had conspired to drop me off in the churchyard in the full knowledge that the ghostly child would appear outside.
The following Halloween, I stayed at home all day and refused any offers of parties. I also told my parents that I might take up flying as a career, if I could get the right qualifications from the University I had enrolled at a few weeks before. On All Saints Day, the day after Halloween of course, I visited the little girl’s family grave, and laid some flowers there. I was almost sure I could hear a whispered: “Thank you for helping me.”
As I turned to walk away, there were Endora and Samantha, holding hands and approaching with their own flowers.
“That was a very kind thing you did,” Samantha said. “and I don’t mean the flowers.”
“Fancy popping down for another flying lesson?” asked Endora "On me." She must have seen the look of panic on my face. “I have a Cessna parked at Biggin Hill, and I am fully qualified,” she added, laughing.
* * * * *
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About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.