I like long walks alone at night. Everyone tells me I shouldn’t, but Grandmother’s neighbourhood is safe, right? So down to St Andrew’s and back, Grandfather’s church where he was styled the Very Reverend, new-built but anciently established and old gothic in design. Out of season the town is empty, chilly and asleep. Debating theology with myself I’m almost there, about to reach the church and turn around.
I look up and ahead – a shadow in the road. I stop short. There in the road before the church it stands, and I don’t think it’s noticed me. It doesn’t look like a person at first, but then I think it is, but then I know it isn’t. Too tall, too thin, too straight, a silhouette where shape should be and wrapped in what might be robes or folded wings, its heavy head held high in what might be a helmet under what might be a crown or maybe horns. It stands, expectant and impatient in its lordly dignity.
Step back, a crunch of leaves beneath my shoe, and now it knows I’m here. It turns, a slow, unthreatened, looming turn, and the shadow does indeed have eyes, eyes the orange of sodium street-lamp light and maybe that’s all it is just lamps reflecting in those burning eyes which narrow as they look on me. When I meet those glowing eyes then I can read within them something like a mind. I know it’s come on this appointed hour this appointed night as on many nights before. It’s come as is its custom and its obligation and its right. It’s come and wants its trial and opportunity and rite. It wants the one who’s kept it in check for so many years, its favourite interlocutor, its partner in the old chess game. It hasn’t come for me, I understand; it’s come to call upon its old best enemy and friend.
But my grandfather died a year ago.
Dissatisfied, it glares at me and is gone.