I am a walker of the night. This is our one night in the year: Samhain, Halloween. The special night. The chance to return, to see our homes again, but not to see our people. They have passed on or aged beyond recognition. Not I. I am eternally young.
I love to see the lights in the darkness. The pumpkin heads with their candles lit, glowing in the night. The children going from door to door in fancy costumes. Why superhero cloaks? It should be witches, warlocks, and skeletons like of old.
And children knocking on people’s doors ‘trick or treating’. Sadly, there don’t seem to be any tricks anymore. Every household is too well stocked with tooth-rotting sweets and chocolates these days. When I was young we devised fiendish tricks for those too mean or unprepared for us.
All year round we would play knock-down ginger in our street. Knock the door as loudly as possible and run away and hide. Then wait and watch and giggle at the householder scratching their head and wondering where the visitor has gone. Mostly harmless fun.
Now the children mainly spend their time inside watching screens and the ownership of the street has been passed to cars instead. We used to play at soldiers in the street. When you are very young you think guns are fun. Only when you grow up do you realise the danger they pose. I learned the hard way. I went to war. Full of enthusiasm and proud of what I would do. Less proud afterwards. War is messy however well intentioned. And you pay the price.
So now I walk the dark, empty streets on this special day. I watch life all around me. But the magic has gone, the children’s imagination has gone. Now they can’t see me. I’m an apparition that can no longer manifest itself to them. Not that I want to frighten the children. I just want to be part of it all again. To engage with the living. To feel I can still participate in that world now lost to me.
And so we ghosts walk unnoticed in the night. Past the shops, now closed. Through the square with the War Memorial that no one tends. Into the graveyard by the Church that few visit except at Christmas. Visible in our bright, white shrouds but unnoticed by the living, laughing children. That’s the saddest part. This used to be our night when all souls walked and sometimes even adults might be afraid. Not that there is any need for fear. The dead cannot hurt the living.
And so our one night of freedom from the grave is spoiled in this modern world. We hardly have the darkness anymore. The neon lights shine down but we do not cast shadows. We have only each other and the cold, cold ground tomorrow. Tomorrow when only the saints themselves walk abroad and are remembered.
About The Author
David M. Smith is a retired academic living in a village in the County of Essex in the United Kingdom. He has three children and three grand children. When he gave up his day job and ran out of academic research to publish, he turned his hand to fiction and discovered that he had never had so much fun at a keyboard. Since he began writing adult stories in 2011, he has published either on-line or in print 18 adult short stories covering humour, science fiction, horror, crime and literary themes, in such magazines as The Absent Willow Review, Delivered, Dark Places, Awen and the Atlantean Christmas Chillers series.
He has also published a few children’s stories and a couple of poems. In addition, he published a low volume ‘prehistoric’ detective novel based in ancient Malta which kept him busy in the British Library doing research on Neolithic society in the Mediterranean.