It was Samhain, the night when the veil between worlds was parted, the night when the spirits would come back to earth and commune with earthly mortals. As a child, he had often heard the tales told around the fireside but as he grew older, he dismissed them as harmless ghost stories…

The Apparition                                 

With a life of its own it crept silently, low to the ground and swept slowly toward the sleeping town. As it reached the outlying buildings it rose up, climbed the walls and covered the rooftops. Continuing its insidious encroachment, it moved forward and rolled over the dark, empty, expansive square blanketing everything, clinging with damp tenacity. A lone figure walked a diagonal path toward home with unsure steps, coat buttoned all the way up, hands buried deep in the pockets, hat pulled down tightly on his head. The echo of his footsteps, muffled by the thickening fog, could be heard and made for an oddly comforting companion as he went along. He was late and knew some explaining would have to be done but was sure that his wife would understand and be forgiving as always.

The silence, made all the more complete as the fog got denser, enveloped all in its path. It was four o'clock in the morning, the time when the body's defenses are at their lowest ebb. He had been playing cards since early in the evening and the games had not gone well, but then that was nothing new, he was lucky in other areas, but not cards. The glasses of strong alcohol he had savored earlier came to his aid now and formed a warm shield against the early morning chill. 'Thank God for the uisce' he mused, laughing nervously, resolving to quit playing cards for the umpteenth time. As he walked along peering into the darkness ahead, he suddenly felt as if he was slowing down, as if he was pushing against an invisible force, like he was moving in slow motion.

'That can't be,' he reasoned, and stopped walking.

Usually, not a fearful man, he felt ice cold and a shiver ran down his spine, the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stiffened. Looking ahead once more, he could see a mis-shapen form taking shape, human in appearance, and not more than 10 feet from where he stood. Averting his eyes, he changed direction and tried to walk faster, but no matter how hard he tried, he made no headway, it felt like he was frozen to the spot. Daring to look ahead again, he saw that the form was still in front of him and levitating about a foot off the ground. The apparition shimmered and the air and fog surrounding it was being warped and twisted, then, in a flash of brilliant white light a man appeared before him. The man, unlike any other mortal he had ever seen continued to float above the ground, his quivering, outstretched arm beckoning, his black, soulless eyes glowing and his mouth gaping in a terrifying, sickening, lopsided grin. The horrifying sight gripped him with terror causing his heart to pound so loud he could feel it reverberate throughout his entire body. In desperation he turned and tried again to move forward but was unable to. No matter what he did the form was always in front of him, impeding his progress. Summoning as much courage as he could muster, he demanded,

"who are you?"

Shocked by the tremor in his usually firm voice he waited, but there was no answer. At that moment he made the sign of the cross and, although not a very religious man, said a prayer. He felt a cold sweat cover his trembling body and he shook with abject fear. Looking around trying to get his bearings he saw that the fog had grown denser and he could see little more than arm's length. A looming darkness descended, forming a suffocating cocoon and cloaked him with invisible completeness. In a hoarse whisper he pleaded,

"what do you want with me?"

His mind racing, he shut his eyes and waited for an answer and for what seemed an eternity he stood immobile. When he dared, he opened his eyes and discovered that the specter was no longer in front of him. Glancing over his shoulder, he gasped when he saw the figure was behind him and gesturing for him to follow. Taking a couple of steps, he found that he could move freely once more and wondered,

"why am I being led in this direction?"

He stopped walking and stood there with his eyes closed not knowing what to do. Again, he made the sign of the cross, opened his eyes and took a few more steps forward. The entity, for that's what he then believed he had encountered, was still beckoning him to follow and as he took another faltering step his left foot hit something laying on the ground. Bending over he peered closely and saw that the obstruction was a small, wooden, hinged lid with an iron handle attached which looked familiar.

Turning, his heart leapt as he realized that he was standing inches away from the open mouth of the old water well. As he looked, he saw that the wooden cover was missing, and dropping to his knees he shivered and shut his eyes. He had no idea how long he knelt there, but it seemed like hours. When he finally plucked up the courage to rise and open his eyes, he was shocked to discover that the entity and fog were gone revealing a glorious sunrise. Sheer relief soon replaced his fear and he began to wonder if it had just been a terrible hallucination or some horrible waking nightmare. Then, gathering himself, he nervously continued on his way toward home, his footsteps quickening.

When he arrived home the house was quiet and Mary his wife, was asleep. Visibly shaken, and still trying to make sense of what had happened, he began to prepare for bed. When he looked in the bathroom mirror, he barely recognized the face that looked back at him. His staring eyes were sunk in their sockets and long furrows ran across his brow. The lines on his face were etched deeper than he remembered, and he looked much older. But what really shocked him was his hair; it had turned completely white. Exhausted, he climbed the stairs, and without the strength to undress, lay down on his bed and collapsed in a fitful sleep. Later that morning, he was roused by someone shaking him. As he turned over, his eyes focused, and he saw Mary standing at the bedside with her hand covering her mouth.

"God save us, Jack! What happened? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!"

He touched his head with trembling fingers and asked, his voice quavering,

"Is it still white? I hoped it was all just a horrible dream."                                                                              

He never drank liquor or played cards again after the night of that otherworldly encounter. Jack said many years later that the fright he got on the square that foggy, dark morning was the best thing ever happened to him and when asked to explain what he meant replied,                                                                     

“It made me think about the direction my life was going. After I stopped drinking and gambling my life took a favorable turn, I was able to think more clearly and focus on the important things. If I hadn’t had that encounter, I would have carried on as I was doing and probably end up with a lot of regrets. Now, I tell my children often, whatever they do in life, don’t die with regrets.”

For my grandfather, Jack Brennan.

© John A. Brennan 2012. All Rights Reserved.

https://www.amazon.com/author/johnabrennan

For my grandfather, Jack Brennan.

From "Don't Die with Regrets: Ireland and the Lessons my Father Taught Me."

For Sale at: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615975860

Also for Sale:

The Journey: A Nomad Reflects.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692500944/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

Views: 623

Tags: Folklore, Halloween, Samhain


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on October 30, 2015 at 1:10pm

Lovely story , told very well as per your usual style. I too could tell many a tale about my diseased loved done , who were fond of the oul alcohol . Well more than a little fond ............... but they did not heed any nightmares they had and died so very young.

Its always lovely to read your articles and in this context it is nice to hear one Irish man heeded his apparition. !!   

Comment by John Anthony Brennan on October 31, 2015 at 12:37pm

He had no choice....


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on October 31, 2015 at 12:51pm

Alcohol , played huge part in my childhood unfortunately. Research show that ; learnt behaviors , peer pressure and DNA  all contribute to addictions of one kind or another.

There for the Grace of God , go I 

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