Windsor Great Park was my destination, somewhere I’d never been before. I drove my little silver Toyota through the busy streets of Windsor, noticing in the distance a red flag flying above the famous Round Tower of ‘the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world,’ signifying that the Queen was in residence.
I followed the signs and found myself on less manic roads, finally pulling up at an impressive lodge, beyond which lay green fields and trees. A manservant in an antiquated purple robe came out. “Hello, Madam, may I help you?”
“I’m Sylvia Williamson, I’ve come to look at your ghost.”
His aged face betrayed no surprise. “Ah, yes, come this way please.” He led me into the sumptuously furnished building and along corridors, where faces of unrecognisable royal personages glared at me through the cracked glaze of ancient oil paintings, mounted in enormous gilded frames.
“This is Mrs. Sad-ov-ski.” He enunciated the syllables pompously, as a middle-aged lady, dressed in an olive-green trouser suit, came to greet us.
She smiled. “Good day, Mrs. Williamson. That’ll be all, Sidebottom, thank you.” The purple-clad manservant disappeared and she led me out through a door and along a path to an old cottage. “Thank you for coming, Mrs. Williamson. We spoke on the phone ….”
“Call me Sylvia, please. Yes, I’m pleased to meet you.”
She led me into a surprisingly spacious lounge with comfortable, modern furniture. She gestured towards a brown leather sofa. “Please take a seat.”
“So, where’s the haunting?” I asked, getting to the point.
Mrs. Sadowski looked embarrassed, coughed, and waved an arm. “Right here is the worst, but everywhere in the cottage really.”
“OK, can you leave me alone for fifteen minutes please?”
I’d received a phone call out of the blue. A lady had heard of my reputation at getting rid of unwelcome spirits. People would be reluctant to admit, even to themselves, that their house was haunted. But after months of things being moved around, bumps in the night, footsteps in empty corridors, you name it, they usually decided to admit, albeit reluctantly, that it was the case. Then my telephone would ring.
So here I was. I closed my eyes and tuned into the ‘world beyond the veil.’ Soon I became aware of an aged woman in a long black dress with a white apron, seated opposite me. She regarded me with large brown eyes and I noticed I could see through her to the material of her armchair.
Telepathically, I received her story. She’d had a harsh mistress in a large house nearby. The only person she had loved was the mistress’s young son, Alex, who had drowned in a local pond. For years she’d served, until the mistress’s death. Since then she’d happily lived alone in her cottage, without being at the mistress’s beck and call. In her own confused way, she believed Mrs. Sadowski to be her lodger.
“Don’t you have any family?” I asked.
“What about friends?”
“I ain’t got no one.” The vulgarism fell naturally from her lips. She continued, “This cottage’ll last me out, it’s enough for me.”
“Last you out, what about when you die?”
“Die?” The old woman snorted. “That’s the end of you, ain’t it?”
“What about Heaven … and Hell?” I asked.
“Stuff and nonsense. I don’t believe in ‘em! Having this cottage to myself is all the heaven I want!”
“But what about Mrs. Sadowski, she lives here now?”
The old woman became confused. “I don’t know, I see her about, she … she’s my lodger, ain’t she?”
I had an idea. “Yes, she is. But she’s not well. I’d like you to call her a doctor.”
“A doctor, well, I don’t know … I ain’t seen one for years. I … I don’t see folk much these days.”
“Well, I’d like you to call one for her please, I’ll come back tomorrow to make sure you’ve done so.”
I returned the following day. Again Mrs. Sadowski left me alone in the lounge. Soon I made contact with the old lady, whose name I’d discovered was Agatha.
“Did you find a doctor for Mrs. Sadowski?” I asked.
“No, no, I never. Truth be told, I … I couldn’t find the village.” She sounded confused.
“Listen, Agatha, don’t you have any friends or relations who’ve passed over?”
“No, there was just little Alex, the lad who drowned. Look, I know what you’re getting at. Don’t tell me I’m dead. Please. I love my little cottage too much.” She began to cry. “I ain’t going, I tell you.”
I suddenly felt desperately sorry for her. “Look, there is a better life.” I said and called on my spirit guide for help. He’d told me he would be ready and able to assist.
Agatha’s sobbing suddenly stopped. “Why, there’s … there’s little Alexander!”
“Follow him into the light.”
Suddenly, the apparition vanished and the oppressive atmosphere lifted. I knew Agatha had done as I’d requested.
Mrs. Sadowski appeared. “Has she gone?”
I smiled. “Yes, she’ll be with loved ones and friends now. Even though she thought she didn’t have any.”
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. II: 88 Little Stories
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