by Kristy Kerruish
Ladrian paused and gazed at his whisky glass distractedly.
I fear you are sceptical, young man.
No, no indeed, Ladrian replied throwing his elderly host a confident smile. I keep an open mind about the supernatural.
You will stay?
Ladrian raised his glass to the old man in reply and looked at the fire in the great hearth. He was grateful for its heat and, as the light had faded outside, the fire's glow had replaced it with flickering shadows which played across the tapestries on the walls giving them an almost animate quality.
He will visit us tonight. Every year it is the same, his host assured him.
Of course he would come, Ladrian mused, the old man would make sure he did and every ghostly event would be orchestrated to the finest degree.
He will enter the room, pass once around it and then leave. You will sense him, not see him. The dog sees him. The old man glanced at the slumbering creature at his feet.
Do you know his story? Ladrian said after several moments.
Yes, it's sad indeed. A lost love and a trial of patience ended by premature death. The very worst of fortunes.
Ghosts, it seems, are always spawned from such horrors. No restful ghost ever haunts.
I disagree. They haunt more quietly that is all. He? Why, he is angry, thwarted, jealous...
At that moment a movement made Ladrian turn. It was only his host's young maid, whom Ladrian had seen briefly in the hall on his arrival. She bobbed a self-conscious curtsy to Ladrian, grateful that her blushes on seeing him could not be seen in the half light. She went and knelt by the fire to feed the flames and the hound at the host's feet swept its tail across the floor in friendly greeting. Ladrian watched her stoking the fire which blossomed with new vigorous flames before turning his eyes away conscious that they had rested on her for too long.
At first Ladrian presumed the shallow draught that blew through the room was from the open door but the door was shut fast. The chill air swept across the stone flags and snagging the broad tapestries, it stirred them. The hound, which until now had lain at the old man's feet, its head on it paws, looked up its ears back and it let out a shallow growl from the back of its throat. Ladrian's eyes widened and he looked to his host in astonishment. He is here?
He is. Watch now. He will make his way about the room.
The dog could see the apparition. Its eyes followed the unseen figure as if they made a slow progression around the perimeter of the room. Ladrian followed the direction of dog's stare but there was nothing where he looked except perhaps a darkness, a thickening of the air.
Can you not sense him? the host asked.
Ladrian sensed only his own fear and swallowed down the growing dryness in his throat.
Wait, wait. He will yet leave, the old man said.
Suddenly the broad door to the room flew open with such rapidity that Ladrian jumped where he sat and almost dropped his whisky glass, the next moment the door was dashed shut, the sound of it slamming reverberating in the room for several moments before the silence swarmed back in.
God in heaven, Ladrian said shifting uneasily. It was just as you described it... No one will believe me of course.
Even if they did you would be sceptical.
It's human nature, Ladrian said collecting himself as he sipped his whisky, turning it his palate grateful for it's warmth. They would say you might have trained your dog to whine and growl, that a draught is not unusual in such a house and an opening door when have spirits ever had need of them when they can pass through walls?
They would say this...what would you say?
I can think of several simple mechanisms which would achieve the same effect.
The old man nodded in disappointment. You doubt what you saw?
I saw nothing. I saw your dog growl and a door slam shut. I felt a draught. Ladrian looked at the young maid, still crouching by the fire. She had remained so quiet he had almost forgotten her. Are you not alarmed? he said in a kindly voice. The young girl turned, her eyes wet with tears and tried self-consciously to brush them away.
I am not, the old man replied. He followed the direction of Ladrian's gaze in astonishment. To whom did you speak?
I keep no maid...
What do you mean? Ladrian said with a laugh.
You see someone?
Yes, of course. Your maid, Ladrian gestured to the girl, who had risen to her feet brushing her palms on her apron.
The old man fell silent and Ladrian looked at him questioningly.
Describe her Ladrian.
Ladrian did so in a faltering voice.
Just as she was, replied the old man.
What can you mean? Ladrian looked at the old man and saw his frail face had become drawn and pale, his eyes widened in fear. He was looking to the place that Ladrian had gestured to but he saw nothing of the young woman he had described.
Ladrian rose unsteadily. Damnation sir, I see her, Ladrian cried stepping forward he reached for the girl's wrist only to catch at the insubstantial air. For the first time he doubted his own sanity. He placed his whisky down heavily on a nearby stand and backing away slowly he steadied himself before turning and rushing from the room, slamming the broad oak door shut behind him.
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