A Canterbury Tale (Part Two)
Librarian's Tale - so what was Giles really up to?
A Canterbury Tale (Part Two)
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
“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…”
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?”
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,
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…”
over and nudged him. “You’re just itching to get in there and sort it out,
aren’t you Rupert?”
to serve someone. “I’m afraid I can’t deny it.”
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.
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.
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.”
you’ll think I’m crazy. That’s what they all think. But I know there was
someone in my house, Mr – “
Someone in your house?”
Jane delicately sipped her tea. “Very strange fellow. How he got in and out I
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.”
does this happen?”
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
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.
the door, George walked inside. Stewart was behind the counter, stacking the
shelves with goods. “Morning George.”
The old man
“What can I do
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
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
“Is it bothering
“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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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?”
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.”
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 – “
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
Day Seven –
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
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 – “
smiled. “Don’t worry pal. I know about the ghost.”
“Um – oh?”
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 – “
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?”
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.”
“Maybe he was
trying to warn you away,” Angel said softly.
possible. A dark, shadowy apparition such as this one doesn’t sound especially
positive in character, does it.”
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.”
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.”
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
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
You don’t belong here. Let us help you.”
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.
keeping you here. We can help you rest.”
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.
will never learn.”
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?”
meddle in the affairs of the dead.”
“Who are you?”
anymore. Neither alive nor dead. A state of repetition.”
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.”
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,
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 – “
interrupted. Giles looked at him, and the vampire said simply, “I know where it
It was cold
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
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.
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.
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
“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.”
“Bit of a drive to Avebury. Why there?”
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.”
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.
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.
Ring ring –
ring ring –
across the room, Giles picked up the phone.
me. We’re all packed and ready to go. Did you get your problem sorted out?”
you. At least I think so.”
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.
“Well. I think
I might stay on with Stewart for a few more days.”
for me Buffy, if you want to leave, it will be fine. I’ll follow you on in a
day or two.”
“I might take
you to a Starbucks when I return,” Giles joked, and he heard her smile in to
“All right then.
Well, I really must get on and help in the shop, Buffy. I’ll see you soon.
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
they probably deserved his ticket fee.
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.
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
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?”
didn’t answer, she just stared ahead, and after a moment said vaguely, “Such a
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.”
his odd hitchhiker.
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.
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
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
Ring is also a real phenomenon. Some information on this can be found here: http://www.cotswolds-calling.com/cotswolds-houses-gardens/avebury.htm
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.