Okay, folks: I thought it was time to return to my published novel The Lady in Red and another excerpt from this book. In the scene which follows young Paul Stanley is recalling to his mind an experience he had in church earlier that day. He had been in the middle of some gloomy thoughts relating to the disturbing dream he had had a few nights before and the distressing episode when he attacked one of his friends in class. On that occasion he felt his actions weren’t his own. After all, why would he assault a good friend of his? No, Paul had been given the impression that he had been possessed by the evil spirit of the man he had scene murdering another man in his dream. However, it was just when he was pondering over these heart-wrenching experiences in the middle of a church service that a heavenly voice reached him. It was a young woman’s voice and she sounded very supportive and caring which brought Paul much comfort at a time he needed it. She spoke of some friends she knew which would join her in helping him out of his present crisis. Paul didn’t know how this would happen but he was happy to receive this encouragement even if he didn’t know where this voice was coming from.
Paul is taking a walk in the woods nearby his home with his family later in the day when the reassuring words from this mysterious woman came back to him. However, he was a trifle frustrated at one aspect of the situation:
‘What was it she said again?’ mused Paul. ‘Something about them being there for me whenever I needed their help and that all I needed to do was call on them.’
“But how do I do that?” asked Paul of the passing trees. “She never told me how I could reach them when I needed them. I mean I don’t even know their names, so how am I…”
Paul came to a shuddering halt as he looked skywards, as if seeking divine intervention to solve his predicament. “Oh, this is really bad!” he moaned. “That woman in church was so friendly, it made me feel safe. But I’d like to know who these other people are. How can I do that, though, if I can’t contact them?”
Just then Paul’s attention was taken away from his plaintive musings as he cast his eye on a puddle which lay just in front of him. There had been a steady downpour in the night and various puddles littered the woods along with stretches of muddy ground which made walking a tricky task.
The puddle which Paul looked into took on a shimmering, hazy quality as the water slopped this way and that like a raging sea.
“Eh?” gulped a transfixed Paul. “What the hell’s going on here? How can a puddle move like that? It’s like it’s got a mind of its own. This is seriously wacky!”
Paul found himself curiously drawn to the puddle, as if it had exerted some sort of control over him and was determined to have its way with him. Kneeling down by the water’s edge, he looked into the mirror-like surface and jumped back slightly in fright.
“Good, grief!” he whispered in amazement. “Who are those people? Hey! That’s that horrible man in my dream. He’s approaching this pretty lady. They’re going down a dark alleyway and…oh no! He’s strangled her, just like he did with that man in my dream. This is terrible: totally awful!”
This scene had taken place seemingly under the water’s surface in the form of an image. It had rattled Paul, and he couldn’t understand what the scene was trying to tell him. For surely there was a message here. After all, it was too much of a coincidence that he should look onto such a barbaric sight only moments after he had been wondering how he was ever going to be able to seek out the assistance of his mysterious ‘friends.’
“What?” blinked Paul in fascination as the water’s surface slapped and sploshed once again which brought an end to the view on show. “Is this the woman who’s going to help me? But she’s dead. So how can she do anything for me? Gees! This is totally crazy.”
“No, my dear young boy: it is nothing of the kind. Please be assured on that point at least.”
Paul was startled once again, as the heavenly voice of the woman who had addressed him in church resided in his ear drums. Just then a new image appeared in the puddle. It was the face of a beautiful young woman, the same one who had been murdered moments before underneath the water. It soon transpired it was also the same lady who had spoken to Paul in church.
“It was really you, then?” asked Paul in disbelief. “It was your voice I heard in church today? And it was you I saw being strangled by that terrible man?”
“Yes, young one. You are correct on both points.”
“But how can this be?” asked the astounded boy. “How could you speak to me in church and then appear to me now if you’re dead? I don’t understand any of this. Why, it’s beyond belief.”
“Indeed, I have no doubt it is difficult for you to grasp the reality of what is going on. It must be quite incomprehensible for you to be acquainted with such strange events. But it is true nonetheless.”
“Who are you, then? And what are you? How could you speak to me in church when I couldn’t see you? And how can you appear to me from under water? This is so bizarre!”
“I can do so because I am a ghost,” returned the indefatigable woman.
“You’re a what?” eyed Paul with an incredulous expression lining his features.
“I am a ghost, a spirit, a shroud. Many names have been given to the likes of me. But whatever we are called it all boils down to one and the same thing. We are here to correct a grievous wrong committed against us in our mortal existences. Only when we gain full vengeance for what was done to us will we be able to find peace and rest. Only when the inhuman dog is finally brought to justice will we find solace in the afterlife.”
“But..how..?” stammered Paul. “Who is this person, this inhuman dog? Is he the one who killed you?”
“Once again you are right in your summations,” smiled the ghost, “but I am not alone and more is the pity for that. I am just one of a regrettably large collection of souls who had their lives brought to the cruellest of ends by a man who was in essence not a man at all, but rather a vile wretch who committed the grossest of indecencies on his unwitting victims.”
“What? Did he kill them in the same way he killed you? You know: by strangling them.”
“Oh no, my boy. That was merely the outrage he committed on a select few such as myself. He had other ways to inflict suffering, but all of that occurred much later…”
“Later?” Paul looked onto the puddle’s surface as it shifted and swayed and rippled across his line of vision. The image of the woman became less pronounced as the water’s surface continued to move around. “Hey, wait!” Paul called out in exasperation. “Don’t go: come back. I want to talk more with you.”
“Have no fear, dear boy,” assured the woman in a faraway voice. “I will make contact with you very soon. We have much to discuss and much to prepare before the day of reckoning is upon us. Until then, good day to you!”
With that, the water’s surface became calm once more and Paul found himself looking into a puddle that was once again only a puddle and nothing more.