H was for Haunted in my post on Saturday and what great stories came up in the comments: cats haunting houses, little men's shadows on the ceiling, shadowy figures on stairs. Brrrrrrr....
Siv Maria's story wasn't unlike my own, so if you want to check it out, go to her blog: Siv Maria's blog but don't forget to come back again!
I said that if you told me your story, I'd tell you mine. A promise is a promise, so here goes:
The School House
The school-house was no longer a place of education. For a hundred and fifty years the red-brick building had overseen the transformation of children between the ages of five and eleven. Some of the changes had been for the better, some for the worse.
In the beginning, when the school-house was young, it had housed only five or six children. They walked barefoot through the bogs and turnip fields to get there, almost naked in the savage
Galway weather. There was no coal for the fireplaces but at least they had a bench to sit on and weren't planting potatoes or tending the pig.
Over the years, the school-house parched in drought, shivered when the icicles hung from its overhanging eaves and the cockerel weather-vane, and soaked in the Irish “soft weather”.
Sometimes the school-house presented a bleak alternative to the children’s already miserable lives when they subsisted on potato alone. For once in a while a cruel school-master was appointed. At such times of need the school-house had a way of enticing kind passers-by into its hallowed classroom. All it needed to do was add a pleasing glint to its windows or recall a resounding echo of children’s voices singing the Angelus. And so when young Seamus O’Mahoney awaited his punishment with his shoulders around his ears and darting timid glances at the sadistic master wielding the cane, he was saved by one Aedan Daly who’d been attracted into the school by the rainbow that had ended in the school yard, just outside the door. The cruel master that day had fled, his skin torn and painful after getting a taste of his own medicine. And the school settled down to gentle, knowledgeable Mr. Daly who not only taught the children songs and games but also dug peat for the fires to warm them. Sometimes a butcher would pass by and be enticed in by the sound of children’s laughter and leave a pig’s bladder for the boys to play football in their hob nail boots, or a dress-maker would leave pretty ribbons for the girls to dress their straw dolls.
And so the school-house continued without change for many years. Some of them were difficult times but most were good as the children began writing on paper instead of slates. But fifty-years ago the government decided to close the old schools that held less than thirty pupils and the school-house was first to go under the axe. It slumped in the weed-covered school yard, abandoned to the mice and rats who devoured the dust, the old school bible and readers, the dunce’s cap, the abacus and chunks of lost chalk.
Then two years ago a plump bald man in a loud-check suit and his wife with her grey eyes too close together wandered about, poking their fingers into holes that the school-house wished they’d leave alone. Shortly afterwards a van full of arse-crack showing workmen arrived. They whistled and drank tea all day, swore like troopers and they hurt the school-house beyond its wildest imaginings. People don’t realize buildings feel pain. And the school-house had always groaned when a child kicked its walls in a fit of pique or slammed its door. But now it was being tortured as the builders amputated walls, drilled into woodwork, hammered at lintels, nailed in a ceiling. The school-house moaned and writhed but no-one took any notice.
When the works were finally over, a new set of inhabitants arrived. Whole families this time who stayed for only about two weeks each. They were happy families who went to the beach, packed picnics, kept the fires burning with fragrant wood and played games together in the evenings. The children had real footballs now and dolls that cried Mama. They still kicked the walls and teased the donkey in the adjoining field but, in general, they were happy children who had picture books all to themselves.
One day a family arrived – young parents, teasing older brother and a small blonde girl. The girl was scared of her bedroom because the window was on the floor instead of in the middle of the wall. The school-house sympathized with her because on the floor wasn’t where a window should be.
The brother was learning to drive and one day, just to tease, he left the father all alone in the lane and drove the rest of the family off on his own. The little girl was very sad to see her Daddy getting smaller and smaller, further and further away. It made her cry, even when they came full circle and picked him up again. Everyone laughed except the little girl.
She was frightened of the school-house too which worried it. It knew she was one of those rare people who picked up negative pulses from the past. The school-house had tried, over the years, to make its dwelling a happy place, but the little girl felt the traces left by the cruel school-master and the terror of little Seamus O’Mahoney. She heard the hungry rumbling tummies of the starving children during the potato blight and at night she hid shivering under the bedclothes, hoping to rid herself of the spectres.
The school-house never liked to see children unhappy. It was so full of spirits and memories that the school-house often thought
O’Connell Street on St. Patrick’s night was probably more peaceful. So to help the little girl, he summoned one of the shadows: he asked the ghost of Aedan Daly, the kind school-master, to take a look at her.
On a peaceful, balmy night while the little girl trembled under the bedclothes, she felt a weight at the foot of her small truckle bed. It made her shiver even more and she pulled the thin covers around her, scrunching up her eyes so tight the skin around them was white. A very light touch on her back followed by little pats of reassurance made her hold her breath. Intrigued, she poked the top of her blonde head a little further out of the covers and within a second gentle fingers began the same lovely massage around her temples and into her scalp that her Daddy did to help her sleep or when she was sick. The fingers skimmed through her fine hair and she let the breath she’d been holding out in a whoosh, blowing away all the night terrors. One blue eye peaked open: it was dark, her Daddy wasn’t there, no-one was there. In any case, she’d heard her parents go to bed long ago. So who was soothing her temples and her mind? She didn’t care, because whoever it was didn’t frighten her - on the contrary, she felt he guarded her - and soon her eyes drooped. As she snuggled into her pillow she decided that tomorrow they’d all look for shells in the silver sands on one of those deserted
Galway beaches and maybe her new friend would come along too. Just before she fell asleep she heard a gentle voice in her head: “If you learn your , Writing and Arithmetic, you will want for nothing. I promise.” Reading