Steve Emmett is a British author, occasional book reviewer and a member of the Society of Authors. Born in Harrogate, the genteel Yorkshire spa town where Agatha Christie hid away from the world thirty-two years earlier. He's also the acclaimed author of the wonderful horror novel: Diavolino
Read on for the spooky tale:
Eyes Wide Open
Do you believe in the supernatural?
I need to start this short essay by clarifying my own position. I do not believe in forces beyond the natural world. Things happen that we cannot yet explain. Does that make these events any less mysterious? When we get to the end you can make up your own mind.
Sue asked me to contribute a true story involving my experience of spooky goings on. It’s quite hard when one doesn’t believe in the existence of spooks beyond the world of the secret services. Oh, I can hear them now, the voices demanding to know how I can write stories about the supernatural if I truly consider it no more than superstition. My answer works best as a question. Do you think for one moment that Beatrix Potter actually believed in talking rabbits? Did Enid Blyton truly believe in gnomes and goblins, and that golliwogs serviced and repaired motor cars? I know, that’s two questions, but you get my drift. The point is, of course they didn’t. Authors don’t need to believe in their fictional worlds in order to be able to convince the reader that they are real, at least for the duration of the story. One can be an expert in something – religion for example – without believing in it.
Let me tell you first of all about the environment in which this event took place. I live in a very quiet village in the Yorkshire Wolds. There are about one hundred houses I suppose, though I have never counted them, scattered about the valley and on the surrounding hills. Some are very old, some went up in the 1960s – the most hideous – and a few in the intervening years. Some are moderately isolated farms standing apart from the core of the settlement, a few are attached to their neighbours, most are detached with modest gardens and a degree of privacy. There is a public house, a tiny primary school, but no longer a shop or a post office or a bus service. In short, it is so quiet that at times I feel I have joined the living dead.
I have two neighbours, not attached, one on each side. The nearest house in front is maybe a hundred and twenty feet away; at the rear is an open field that rises gently until it meets the horizon. Fenced gardens separate me from the two neighbours, not that it matters as they are both reclusive and as silent as corpses. There is no street lighting at all, and very few of the houses in my part of the village have external lighting other than a lamp over the front door. So at night, believe me, it is as dark as Dracula’s heart.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because it’s important you understand that no external light source either fixed – such as a garden lamp – or portable – such as a flashlight in the hands of a prowler – could have played any part in what I am about to tell you. There is, in fact, nothing outside my bedroom window to blow in the wind and cast a shadow on the wall even if there were a light source, not to mention that the curtains were closed tight and that they have blackout lining.
At just before four o’clock this morning I awoke. Not with a start as sometimes happens, but gently and peacefully. Consciousness came immediately without any vague preamble, and I opened my eyes. As I lay on my right side facing the wall – about four feet away from me – I saw a woman. Her shoulders hunched over, she looked no more than five feet in height and had her back half-turned to me as if cowering against the wall. She wore a long, full skirt and an old-fashioned shawl pulled around her shoulders and over her head. Before I had chance to react, she turned her head to look at me over her shoulder. I could see then her advanced years, pale skin as wrinkled as a walnut shell and hair like white steel wool.
She didn’t smile or anything and at no time did I feel threatened or afraid, but as she receded from me, or really I should say as she fused with the wall, she stared directly into my eyes. And then I froze.
I knew the woman. I can’t say who she was because I don’t know. I just recognised something in those eyes, something terribly familiar, and I know that I know her. And I have to say that I’m glad I don’t believe in ghosts because what I saw in her eyes was hatred so intense that I’d be in fear of my life now.
Read more of Steve here on his blog: http://steve-emmett.com/