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A Canterbury Tale (Part Two)

 

 

Project Paranormal

Author: Becks

Season 2

Part 15

 

**

 

Summary: The Librarian's Tale - so what was Giles really up to?

 

**

 

A Canterbury Tale (Part Two)

 

Her hearing wasn’t so good these days. She couldn’t hear the shuffling of her own slippers on the wood floor as she leaned to pull the curtains for the night. Eighty-five years old, Jane turned away from the window and walked back across the room to turn off the fireplace. Her tabby cat stretched luxuriantly before the glowing embers and allowed her to stoop and tickle his tummy.

 

The window was shut fast, she was sure of it, so it came as a surprise to feel a sudden chill grip the room, as if a breeze were blowing through. Jane put it down to the fact that she had turned the fire off just a moment before, as she straightened and turned away. Yet she froze, as even her ears could detect the sudden hissing coming from her cat.

 

Turning, she saw her cat on his feet and bristling his fur so badly he looked half-hedgehog. His mouth was wide open and he was bearing his teeth, hissing and spitting while the corners of his eyes filled with white. He dived under the armchair, his bushy tail vanishing from view, and it was then that Jane distinctly saw a shape flick across the open doorway.

 

Gripping her walking stick with a shaking hand, Jane hobbled to the door. Out in the hallway the light was on, yet by the front door… something … a shadowy, humanoid figure, just standing there with its face to the wall, and its legs were in the middle of her coffee table, as if it were made of black smoke…

 

Jane screamed.

 

*

 

Day Four

 

Dusty shelves, packed with enough magical produce to keep him busy for days on end. Like a child in a sweet store, Giles perused the shelves with great interest, tracing his finger along the spines of a row of spell books. Estrella Oscura had just opened for the morning trade, and Giles was up early to help his friend Stewart serve. Stewart was behind the counter serving a middle-aged man, and Giles wasn’t paying much attention until he heard Stewart ask,

 

“What kind of strange occurrences?”

 

“Oh, you know. The odd thing here and there,” the customer said non-specifically, handing over his money. “The poor old dear next door to me was at my door last night, hammering to be let in. She claimed there was a figure in her house. But the old thing’s a bit batty. I went in myself and there was no sign of any figure.” He leaned a bit closer, as if to share some great confidentiality, “Mind you, I’ve been getting the bumps myself these last few nights. Banging and hollering all night long! Must be vandals or something, inside the cathedral grounds…”

 

Giles couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Excuse me, sir – you live close to the cathedral?”

 

“Old Jane and I live back to back with the grounds,” the man confirmed. “The odd thing here and there, you know – appliances suddenly turning off, sudden chills, and always at the same time each night. Most peculiar.”

 

“May I enquire as to what time these things happen?”

 

“Around eleven. I’ve lived in this area for years and nothing like this has ever happened. It’s tiresome. A man has a right to do without this kind of thing, you know?”

 

“Absolutely,” Giles agreed. His thoughts trailed off as the man left the shop laden down with bags, and a couple of teenage girls walked in, “Most peculiar…”

 

Stewart leaned over and nudged him. “You’re just itching to get in there and sort it out, aren’t you Rupert?”

 

Giles hurried to serve someone. “I’m afraid I can’t deny it.”

 

He was distracted at that point by Buffy walking in; she looked troubled, and his thoughts of anxious residents drifted away. He would not have time to entertain them again until the next morning.

 

*

 

Day Five

 

Giles’ investigation began, predictably, with old Jane. Speaking at twice his normal volume, Giles asked her what she knew about the recent disturbances in the night. She invited him in for a cup of tea and a biscuit, and smiled in a rather vacant way as her tabby got to work befriending the guest. Giles pushed away the battering head and thought he had escaped from cats for a few days.

 

“So Mrs Smith,” he said, taking a quick sip of his tea, “I hear you’ve had a bit of a fright. I’m an investigator, I’m here to help.”

 

“I expect you’ll think I’m crazy. That’s what they all think. But I know there was someone in my house, Mr – “

 

“Giles. Someone in your house?”

 

“Oh, yes.” Jane delicately sipped her tea. “Very strange fellow. How he got in and out I don’t know.”

 

“Mrs Smith, did you notice anything else strange, before or after this…appearance? Anything else strange happening?”

 

“A few odd things have been happening, yes, dear. Let me see… I hear groaning and banging all night long, sometimes. A most frightful noise! Lights switching themselves off and on, chills in the room, that sort of thing.”

 

“What time does this happen?”

 

“Around eleven each night, dear.”

 

Giles was in almost no doubt now that he was dealing with something supernatural – a poltergeist, most likely. Ghosts tended to appear at roughly the same time each day; whatever a ghost was, an impulse on the air or something more, it was unlikely they had any concept of night or day. Giles suspected, too, that the ghost wasn’t just visiting these houses; most likely, every night it wandered on a set path, perhaps acting out a route it took during life, and happened to walk straight through Mrs Smith’s house each night. He wondered where else it might go; perhaps its route took it in the cathedral grounds, or indeed right inside the cathedral itself? By talking to others, perhaps he could map the whole route. So he knew it was a ghost, and he knew it was making itself a reputation.

 

Now all he had to figure out was what he was going to do about it.

 

*

 

It was no secret to anyone who worked in Canterbury Cathedral that the world was riddled with supernatural things. It was just undeniable. George had worked as a caretaker in the cathedral for ten years now, and since he worked mostly at night, he had seen his fair share of ghosts inside the old walls. This new ghost, while not frightening him greatly, was a little troublesome. Still, it wasn’t something he wanted to bring up with a higher church official – he was after all just a caretaker, and his job was to sweep floors, not chase after ghosts. Thus it was that he was on his way to see his old friend Stewart; he popped in to Estrella Oscura regularly, and knew that if anyone had a solution it would be Stewart.

 

Pushing open the door, George walked inside. Stewart was behind the counter, stacking the shelves with goods. “Morning George.”

 

The old man nodded. “Stu.”

 

“What can I do for you?”

 

George leaned over the counter, lowering his voice despite the fact that the shop was empty. “Heard about the new spook in the cathedral?”

 

“I heard a rumour.”

 

“No rumour, son. Seen the ghostie myself! It’s not like any ghost I’ve ever seen, though. All dark and misty, it is. Floats through the Crypt at about ten past twelve each night.”

 

“Is it bothering you?”

 

“Not me, but there’s decreased activity from the other ghosts. No sign of them for the last few days. The locals are starting to talk, you know what I’m saying? It isn’t good for business. I’m fond of the old place.”

 

Stewart just smiled, his mind on his shop.

 

“Trouble is, I don’t know anyone who could handle something like this,” the old man hinted.

 

Reaching up to rearrange the books on the top shelf, Stewart just grinned and said, “Don’t worry. I know just the man.”

 

*

 

Day Six

 

Giles had spent the morning with Buffy, and he was worried for her. She looked so … tired. But he had confidence in her. She was the Chosen One, and she didn’t need him. So he allowed his mind to wander, and turned to the pressing matter before him: the ghost of Canterbury Cathedral.

 

After lunch Giles walked to the cathedral and bought himself a ticket. He felt rather cheated, having to pay so he could sort out their problem for them; but he was eager to look inside the building once more. It was one of the grandest, most magnificent buildings he had ever set foot in. The moment he was inside the doors he had forgotten his purpose – meeting up with old George and being shown some of the spooky hotspots – he was caught up entirely in the grandeur.

 

He moved through the entrance hall and walked slowly down the side of the Nave. Giles thumbed through the leaflet the man at the gate had handed him, but his own knowledge surpassed that in the book; he had researched the old building thoroughly, to feed his own curiosity, and he knew that the Nave he now stood in had been completed in 1405 – quite how they had built such a thing was beyond him. He stood still for a moment just to appreciate the beauty, and admired the arching ceiling. Finally he moved on, reading the plaques on the wall as he went.

 

Giles found the steps and went down in to the Crypt. This long, dimmed room had a rather eerie atmosphere to it; he could almost feel supernatural energy down here. There were huge, thick pillars and a curving ceiling. George the caretaker was sweeping near by but he saw Giles and hurried over.

 

“Mr Giles, thanks for coming in, nice to see you again.”

 

“Nice to see you too George.” Giles shook his hand. “I’m assuming only you know why I’m here.”

 

“Absolutely.” The friendly old man winked. “Nobody else would believe me. Nobody else is here in the middle of the night! What are you going to do?”

 

Giles had no idea, but he said, “I think I’ll take a look around the place. Just to get a feel for everything. Perhaps you could show me where you’ve seen the apparition.”

 

George nodded, and they began to walk slowly around the Crypt, weaving in and out of the tourists. There was one particular chapel off the Crypt that immediately made his skin crawl - he felt a cold shiver down his back, and jumped as George said, stopping and pointing, “It appears through this wall here – around ten past twelve every night. It wanders through here…”

 

He walked away and Giles followed, “through this pillar here…” George tapped the pillar as he passed, and stopped in front of an old oak railing, before which was an area for kneeling and prayer, “and it always stops here… I thought it was going to pray the first time… then it walks right out and through the Nave… through the wall… and disappears.”

 

Giles puzzled over this for a moment, trying to put this route in to relation with the route through the residents’ houses. “Silly as this may sound, have you ever attempted to contact it?”

 

George shrugged and scratched his head. “No. First night I was too stunned to. Well, I know all the spooks here. A ghost can’t just pop out of nowhere, Mr Giles. Where did it come from, I wonder? And this last night or two, I’ve just watched it walk. Didn’t feel right somehow, shouting out at it. The dead only walk when they’re unsettled.”

 

Nodding, Giles asked, “The best thing I could do would be to see the apparition in person, so to speak, but I suppose at night, that isn’t possible – “

 

But George winked at him. “When I’m all alone in here, who do you think has the keys to the old place, mate?

 

“Get here for half eleven?”

 

*

 

Day Seven – 12AM

 

Giles stood, bristling all over with anticipation. Canterbury Cathedral, and the Crypt in particular, was extremely creepy at night. It had just turned midnight, and Giles was alone – George had just nipped off to check up on something or other, and though he was adamant he would be back by the time the ghost in question made its appearance, Giles still didn’t appreciate being abandoned. He was about to go and look for George himself when a man in caretakers’ overalls appeared out of the shadows. Giles could only assume he had come from a side door.

 

“Excuse me. You know the cathedral is closed?”

 

“Oh – yes.” Wondering how on earth he was going to explain this, Giles stumbled over his words, “I’m, err, here on – behalf of a friend – “

 

The caretaker smiled. “Don’t worry pal. I know about the ghost.”

 

“Um – oh?”

 

“Yeah, it’s coming soon. Really soon.” The man came nearer, and Giles suddenly had the feeling that something was not right about him. “You should leave. This is not an ordinary ghost – it’s angry, really angry.”

 

“Erm – “

 

“Giles.”

 

Giles jumped violently as Angel appeared beside him; having looked at the tall vampire, he turned back to ask a question of the strange caretaker but there was nothing there. A tremendous outbreak of goosebumps made Giles shiver all over; he looked around but there was no man there.

 

“I got your message,” Angel said. He was frowning slightly, and Giles saw that he looked terribly unnerved in the presence of the great church. “What’s going on?”

 

Giles filled him in on the ghost problem, and then told him about the caretaker. He felt extremely glad of Angel’s company, for once. When Angel heard about the caretaker, he frowned harder and said, “Another ghost, maybe.”

 

“Perhaps.”

 

“Maybe he was trying to warn you away,” Angel said softly.

 

“Yes, that’s possible. A dark, shadowy apparition such as this one doesn’t sound especially positive in character, does it.”

 

Angel nodded, and asked, “What exactly is it you need me for, Giles? I don’t feel happy leaving Buffy on her own.”

 

“I was rather hoping you could be of assistance in contacting the spirit. A go-between, if you like. Chances are the spirit will be wary of a living creature. It may be happier to confide in a more demonic being like itself – no offence.”

 

“None taken.”

 

George was coming back. He stared hard at Angel, looking puzzled; Giles explained quickly, “Yes – this is Angel. I asked him along to assist me, I hope that’s all right.”

 

George nodded, but he had no chance to say any more, for at that moment a great draught swept through the pillars; such a strong draught that Giles felt his hair blowing about slightly. Standing beside him, Angel had a feeling of familiarity – a feeling that he had felt that exact sensation before somewhere, not too long ago, but before he could think any more about it George pointed excitedly towards the creepy chapel, and Giles saw the figure.

 

It was quite tall, and definitely humanoid, but not quite human. Although it had a head, and arms and legs, it didn’t appear to have a face. Where its face should have been was just a shadowy black mist. The ghost walked slowly, with very obvious steps, and seemed totally oblivious to the three men standing watching it.

 

As the apparition meandered in to the main Crypt, Giles held up a lighted candle from the surface beside him, welcoming the light it gave, and spoke in a calm, clear voice.

 

“You’re lost. You don’t belong here. Let us help you.”

 

The figure carried on walking, but Angel had the strangest feeling that somehow, its sightless blob of a face was looking at them. It was impossible, but – it was looking at them. Walking to the oak railing and the prayer mat, the ghost stopped, just as George had told them it would, and stood completely still. It was the most unnerving thing Giles had seen in years – and it took a lot to unnerve him. He tried again.

 

“Something is keeping you here. We can help you rest.”

 

The apparition ignored them, and had it not been clear that the ghost had looked at them, Giles would have assumed that it simply was not aware of anything around it. He was just wondering what he might do next when suddenly Angel went rigid, his broad shoulders tensing up visibly, and began to talk.

 

Mankind will never learn.”

 

Giles looked at the ghost, and then at Angel. The vampire was staring blankly straight ahead, with eyes that had turned jet black. “Um – they will never learn what?”

 

Not to meddle in the affairs of the dead.”

 

“Who are you?”

 

Nothing, anymore. Neither alive nor dead. A state of repetition.”

 

Giles was confused; he wasn’t entirely sure what the spirit meant. “Um – repetition?”

 

I am bound to this path. A path I walked in life and now in my unrest.”

 

“I can release you. Send you back.”

 

A guttural laugh gasped from Angel’s throat. “That’s right. Undo what you did. You can’t release me! You can’t exorcise me! I am not real.”

 

It seemed that the ghost had made its point. There was a sudden gust of wind, so strong that Giles nearly fell, and Angel staggered back, slamming in to a pillar. The shadowy black figure on the prayer mat just turned and carried on walking, in to the Nave as George had described. Taking a deep breath, Giles said slowly,

 

“Well. It seems that the spirit doesn’t want our help. Clearly, we’re dealing with a malevolent being. Something disturbed it, and it’s angry.”

 

“Giles – “

 

“Of course, it appears that the ghost has to possess someone else to be able to speak to us – it can’t leave the path it’s walking in, it’s tied to it – it can’t move away from it – “

 

“Giles!” Angel interrupted. Giles looked at him, and the vampire said simply, “I know where it came from.”

 

*

 

It was cold now.

 

Giles ran his hand gently over the old mummified oak, and the wood was cold. Ignoring the ruckus from the excavation all around him, he examined the old thing carefully. Angel had been right. Giles realised what they had done, and shivered all over.

 

The wood was cold now because its soul was gone. After druid sacrifices, the soul of the dead would be encased in the oak – goodness knows how long this oak had contained the man’s soul, and now it was released from the wood, the soul had manifested itself in to a visible form – a shadowy figure. It had no face, no features, because there was no body. A soul needed a physical body to house it. Giles was sure that a soul had to go somewhere – they couldn’t just float around in the atmosphere for eternity. This poor being had nowhere to go. Far from feeling frightened or unnerved by the spirit, now Giles just felt guilty. He looked closer at the oak, and saw the broken corner of wood that had crumbled away.

 

He checked his watch; it was still quite early. He had time to do some reading before making a decision on what he should do, and he hastened away back to Estrella Oscura.

 

*

 

Everything was ready, now. Whether it would work or not was entirely up in the air – Giles had his fingers firmly crossed. He’d just left Buffy and Angel at the mill, and although he felt guilty (something he was feeling a lot at the moment), this was too important to miss. He had to be there to put right what he had wronged.

At the excavation site, some workers were gathered around the old oak, and were gently sliding a tarpaulin beneath it, preparing it for travel. Foreman Bert Lipman came to greet him, and said gravely, “We’re taking a lot on faith here, Mr Giles.”

 

“Yes, I can appreciate that. I just ask you to trust me.” Giles watched the work going on around the mummified wood. “It’s important that you represent a Druid ritual as much as possible. The idea is to re-enact the burial that would have laid this soul to rest in the first place. Sacrificing it again, if you like.”

 

Bert nodded. “Bit of a drive to Avebury. Why there?”

 

“Avebury Ring, rather like Stonehenge, is an ancient stone circle. It has been said that it was once a Druid temple. There’s a very high possibility that people were once sacrificed around that area.”

 

Nodding again, Bert drew to one side to talk to the workers, and as they wandered off a little way, having finished preparing the oak for its journey, Giles approached the wood and knelt beside it. He laid his hand on it once more, and prayed that soon it could be warm again.

 

“Safe journey,” Giles murmured. “I’m sorry.”

 

And he stood back and watched in silence as the oak was transferred with great care in to a vehicle, and driven away. Whether the owner of the soul was good or bad was irrelevant; every soul, every person deserved to rest in peace. Sometimes Giles wondered if he did more harm than good.

 

He stood until the truck was long out of sight before turning, sighing… and walking away.

 

*

 

Day Eight

 

Ring ring – ring ring –

 

Hurrying across the room, Giles picked up the phone.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Hello, Giles?”

 

“Buffy.”

 

“Yeah, it’s me. We’re all packed and ready to go. Did you get your problem sorted out?”

 

“Yes, thank you. At least I think so.”

 

“That’s good then. You don’t need us for anything?”

 

“No, no. Thank you.” Giles sank down to sit on his bed, pinching the receiver against his shoulder for a moment.

 

“Are you coming back?”

 

“Well. I think I might stay on with Stewart for a few more days.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Don’t wait for me Buffy, if you want to leave, it will be fine. I’ll follow you on in a day or two.”

 

“Okay.”

 

“I might take you to a Starbucks when I return,” Giles joked, and he heard her smile in to the phone.

 

“That’ll be fun.”

 

“All right then. Well, I really must get on and help in the shop, Buffy. I’ll see you soon. Bye.”

 

“Bye Giles.”

 

Giles smiled at Angel’s “regards” as he replaced the receiver. He wasn’t quite ready to be receiving Angel’s love just yet, but at least they were at the stage of regards. He had walked across to the window by now and he looked out at the cathedral, standing in all its splendour in the morning sunshine. It looked peaceful… undisturbed… free again? Giles wasn’t sure, but he hoped so. He promised himself that before he left, he would look around the old place one more time.

 

And besides, they probably deserved his ticket fee.

 

*

 

Day Eleven

 

Giles indicated and turned his little car on to the motorway. The A229, heading in to Maidstone. This area fascinated Giles greatly; there were several ancient burial sites around here, and the area was supposed to be riddled with ghosts. Then again, perhaps he had seen enough ghosts lately to last him quite a while. He smiled to himself and accelerated.

 

The little neon clock on his dashboard glowed 11:00 PM. He had set off late so he could arrive home early the next morning; he had wanted to spend the last day helping in the shop, and after lunch he had been to the cathedral, as he had promised himself, so he hadn’t left Canterbury until nearly ten. Still, he didn’t mind a nighttime drive.

 

As he sped onwards through Bluebell Hill, Giles saw ahead what looked like a young girl standing by the roadside. Her clothes were a little old fashioned, but she was very pretty; she had a round face and gorgeous long hair, and as he drove nearer she stuck out a thumb. Giles was in a good mood, and feeling charitable, so he slowed down and pulled over, leaning over to open the passenger door.

 

“Where are you heading to?”

 

The girl got in beside him. He saw that she looked pale, but he guessed it was probably cold out, and she didn’t have a coat on. “The other side of Maidstone. It’s too far to walk at night. Thank you for picking me up sir.”

 

“Quite all right,” Giles responded, as they moved forward, headlights cutting a path for them to follow, “What’s your name?”

 

The girl didn’t answer, she just stared ahead, and after a moment said vaguely, “Such a beautiful night.”

 

It was at that point Giles realised something was not right about her; she was obviously homeless, he decided, and probably on drugs or something. He nodded. “Indeed.”

 

He drove on for some time in silence; she seemed to have little to say, and spent much of the journey just staring through the windscreen with a vacant expression. Soon however they entered Maidstone and drove round the roundabout past the picturesque river. Giles slowed a little, wanting to get a good look around – after all, it wasn’t often he was in Kent – and he said cheerfully, “Rather like a miniature London, isn’t it.”

 

“Yes,” said his odd hitchhiker.

 

“Right then,” Giles carried on, indicating as he turned right, “Where would you like me to drop you off?”

 

There was no reply. Giles turned to look at her, and slammed the brake on as he pulled over to the side of the road. He leaned out of his seat and looked in to the back seats, looked all around the car, and even looked under the passenger seat. There was no mistaking it.

 

The girl had vanished, quite literally, into thin air.

 

The End

 

*

 

Author’s Notes:

The descriptions of Canterbury Cathedral are in actual fact fairly accurate. The Nave, the Crypt, and even the chapels are really there. It is a fascinating building and certainly worth a visit. Information on the cathedral can be found here: http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/ and by clicking on “History and Building”, and then “The Interior”, you can even see a map of the cathedral – just to give you a sense of direction for this story.

 

Avebury Ring is also a real phenomenon. Some information on this can be found here: http://www.cotswolds-calling.com/cotswolds-houses-gardens/avebury.htm

 

And finally, the ghost of Bluebell Hill is also real. Although accounts of this ghost largely involve a young girl stepping in to the path of the vehicle, and being run down – only for the distraught driver to look around for a body and find nothing – there are also accounts of a young girl being picked up by the roadside and later vanishing. Phantom hitchhikers can appear all over the country. The most puzzling thing is how they manage to get in to a car, and even speak to the driver – suggesting that ghosts are perhaps something more than just an “imprint” on the air.

 

 



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