Excerpt from “Back to the End” sequel to “Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live”
These days, Harry would sit at the big window in his new home opposite The Towers, occasionally catching a brief glimpse of his lost love, Gloria. He realised it was merely her spirit, or ghost, but she had promised to be there for him if he ever needed her.
Harry’s meandering walk back from the café had taken him almost to The Hopping Bridge. He saw the familiar figure standing at the bridge wearing the same clothes and having the same pious expression. Matthew Hopkins had become clearer over the past ten years.
Gloria had told him that he, Harry, would always be a part of Matthew Hopkins, or maybe that should be the other way around? Now though, the figure was almost solid and even acknowledged Harry. The man would gracefully doff his hat and bow as he walked by. Nobody else could see him, so Harry never acknowledged the ghostly presence for fear he would be thought mad or at the very least senile, realising that at seventy-five the condition may all too soon become a reality.
He had very few regrets, except for the time when he seriously considered taking his own life. That would have been a waste; he would never had met Gloria and the wonderful relationship they shared, the merest thought of which still made him tingle inside.
He walked on past the bridge and Master Hopkins to Mistley Towers, the remnants of a church that once stood proudly at the entrance to the village. It had been constructed many years ago and when the connecting nave had fallen in, only the two towers remained standing. Because of their unique Robert Adams design, they had been maintained over the years and now stood as a monument to a glorious past.
The church, although picturesque, had been too small for the village, and a new place of worship had been built a little way down the road in the Norman style. The Towers were left to stand guard over the ancient graves contained in the small graveyard, including a large tomb; a mausoleum constructed for the members of a leading local family. It had been solidly constructed from granite; the entrance secured by a solid hardwood door. The door had been sealed when the remaining family member was laid to rest within the cold interior; the coffins resting on granite shelves, the newest closest to the entrance and the oldest at the rear.
Sitting beside the ancient iron gate and the equally old iron railing fence sat the grey dog. He was always there when Harry walked past and sometimes even visible from Harry’s front room window. The once sharp starring eyes had softened over the intervening ten years and as Harry walked closer the large head inclined to one side as if in greeting. Harry reached out to pat the ghostly head and marvelled that he could now actually feel the scruffy coarse hair.
The dog and Harry were forming a bond, master and faithful hound, but this was the ghostly Mistley Dog which legend held had been interred in the graveyard to guard the spirits of the dearly departed, a rather obtuse custom dating from the middle ages, when it was thought that if a dog was buried in the graveyard, it would protect the souls of the inhabitants. The last official sighting of the dog had been in 1953, although Harry had encountered it running alongside the river some ten years ago.
Since his retirement, Harry had seen the dog every day, and on each occasion the dog had seemed ever more real.
He had the strange thought that the dog might be looking for a new master or mistress, but why pick him? He left the dog at the gate and walked on, glancing back to see if it was still looking at him. It sat at the graveyard gate, head tilted to one side and massive tail wagging gently. Harry smiled, almost tempted to whistle the dog to join him on his walk.
The front door looked welcoming, Harry was getting a little weary after the long walk home from Manningtree, and the thought of a nice cup of tea spurred him on. He was about to step up to the door when a rough looking man coming from the opposite direction almost bowled him over. The man had not appeared to see him and didn’t even break stride. Harry looked round, ready to remonstrate with the man, but he had gone, disappeared into thin air. I really need that cuppa, thought Harry as he opened the door and entered the sanctuary of his house.
He had a restless night’s sleep. Strange dreams that appeared real until he awoke in fright. Harry lay trying to decide if he had been dreaming, or if the scenes had been real. He went back to sleep and the same thing happened.
In the dream he was a young man, still in his youth but being pursued at every turn. Every time he found a way out of the tangled nightmare another obstacle confronted him, testing him. Waking up and feeling desperately tired he looked at the bedside clock, decided enough was enough, and got out of bed. It was better to face the reality of another day than the uncertainty of the night!
He dressed ready for his morning walk and made a light breakfast with the usual pot of tea, choosing to sit in the bay window overlooking The Towers, his favourite spot. There was the dog sitting by the iron gate, he was fading in and out of vision and Harry wiped his eyes, musing that at least the ghostly pet would be cheap to keep, no food required and certainly no vet bills. His eyes continued to be a little blurry, and he kept rubbing them, hoping his vision would clear….