Ghost Story Writing,  Writing

The Winter, A Walker Passes

It is deep winter night in the northern hemisphere.  The long enduring dark winter night of the year’s true turning.  Neither stars nor moon in the sky, but pale, swirling wind borne clouds and a familiar chill, a bone deep rawness.  Toward England’s seaward edge, a silent village nestles upon one of those peculiar fenland rises.  Atop the rise the old church, with the yet older yew is a darker shadow on the village bounds. None now recall why, on this one night of the year, in this rational age, a candle burns in a tiny east window.  The candle is always lit though, as the sunlight leaves the apse.

The parson, secure in her faith, rests in her armchair.  Parsonage curtains drawn tight, doors locked, hallway lit, dry wood stacked beside the burning hearthlog.  A glass of fine whisky waits close to her hand.  In the edge of the empty churchyard, a prunings’ bonfire.  A gathering of yew and ivy, haw and holly lit at duskfall by the silently praying sexton. The dead branches smoulder still, white ash on red embers.


Outwith the churchyard, on the sallow lit, shadow pooled road I wait.  How long I know not.  A silent figure, stooping tall, hood-cloaked against that wind borne familiar chill, that bone deep rawness. 

At the road’s end, in the umbral fringe of the streetlight glow, there rests the lychgate.  A still pool of velvet shadow cleaves to it’s roof, shrouding the passage between the open gates.  

A shift in something sensed commands my movement.  I walk.  Now before the first gate, again I wait.  How long I know not.  Something sensed shifts. Bow respectfully.  Pause for permission.  Bow again in respectful acknowledgement.  I step through, closing the first gate.  Pause.  Bow again to pass through the pooling velvet shadow.  Again I wait.  How long I know not.  Something sensed shifts.  Another bow, step through, close the second gate.

Beyond the gates, a tiny footmaze; the kind to delight a child at play or lovers in a summer tryst.  A simple thing, a trick of choice; one single path to enter yet all ways lead always to the court with three paths to depart. The sinistral path weaves through the churchyard, right at the old yew to the silent church’s narthex door. The medial path weaves again through the churchyard, left at the old yew to the parsonage gate.  The dextral path, that drifts away, past the hedgerow and down the hill, becomes the deep, haw banked beech shaded holweg through the forest to the fens beyond the village bounds. 

Again I wait.  How long I know not.  Something sensed shifts. 

Head bowed, I step into the footmaze.  Three paces, turn right; two curving paces, turn left; three curving paces; turn right; one pace – courtyard.  Stop.  Three paths ahead. The trick of choice. 

Again I wait.  How long I know not.  Something sensed shifts. 

Snow, swirling on the chill, bone deep rawness of the wind hangs in the night.

I walk. The dextral path, footfalls drifting away past the hedgerow and down the hill.  Into the deep, haw banked beech shaded holweg. 

Tonight, this longest dark, with swirling mistwisps coalesced between towering boughs, both holweg and forest bear their roots clear.  Eyelights flicker in the shadowed understorey, fox or rabbit or deer.  All wait for something not quite sensed; darkchill and silentstill they wait.  

A shift, and something is sensed.  I walk on. 

Beneath the trees, between the enfolding banks of the darkchill silentstill holweg I walk. 

I know not how long.

You must know this, you people safe still in your sleeping homes; that the whispering susurration is just the swirling wind in the beeches.  Know too, that the baying of hounds you hear is just his grace’s kennels.  Know that the darkness filling the holweg is that of a night sky neither star nor moon pierced.  Know that the pale glow in the heavens is just the winter clouds.  Know that all these things and the familiar chill, the bone deep rawness are just echoes borne on the swirling winter wind. 

Like the green boughs hung on your locked doors, they are just echoes. 


On the village bounds, in the silent church the corpse bell tolls a single deep note.  In the churchyard edge the sexton’s prunings flare from smouldering white ash on red embers to scarlet flame to fall finally ruddy ash.  In the parsonage the vicar, strong in her faith, raises her glass of fine whisky, drinks half, casts half onto the burning hearthlog. 

Stars and moon now pierce the sky.  The swirling wind, bearing within itself pale clouds and a familiar chill, a bone deep rawness stills.  Snow feathers in silently, softly blanketing all but the holweg bed. 

The year turns, an unsensed shift in the long enduring dark and the people sleep on.