What happens when we die? How do some people linger in our world and yet others move on? I’ve skirted around the issue so far because up until the study I never knew myself. In the years since I’ve become well informed thanks to friends and others I’ve met, so let me share that information with you.
You might also be wondering what I’ve done with my life since the study. Today, I’ll tell you about what my life was like 6 months after the scandal hit. I wasn’t caught up in the backlash the others faced, so I could live my life as normal, but I decided to do it a different way.
I wasn’t in the best state after the scandal. As I mentioned, in the two weeks between Strother telling me to leave and the scandal hitting headlines I was barely any better than a vegetable. I didn’t talk, I didn’t eat, I just kind of wandered around the place listlessly. Even the ghosts I’d helped functioned better than I did.
On the practical side, I no longer had money coming in, but after my time on the study, joining my ghost seeing world with my professional one, what could I do that would be so fulfilling and come with a paycheck? I’ve not always liked seeing ghosts, especially when I was younger, but through the study I began to feel privileged to be able to see things that others couldn’t. And I loved helping the spirits finish the business that kept them amongst us. If fakes could make their living by pretending to see ghosts, then why couldn’t I do the same?
The person I reached out to was Ewan Brodie, who was more than happy to listen and teach me what he thought I should know. Ewan was the Yoda to my Skywalker, and I was fascinated by him. He has a certain calmness about him that I needed during that part of my life.
Let me tell you a few things about Ewan. He, like me, has been able to see ghosts since he was young. The only difference was that his grandmother saw them too and had been a practicing medium all her life. In fact, he comes from a long line, stretching back at least a hundred or so years. But here’s the strange thing. The ability jumps a generation. Ewan, his grandmother, her grandmother, and so on, but Ewan’s own parents are accountants and have never seen a spirit in their lives.
I never met either of my grandmothers, that I can remember anyway, and there’s no way for me to find out if that’s just the case with his family, or everyone like us. These were all revelations to me back then, and the more time I spent with Ewan the better I became.
We don’t work together now, my time with him was brief. It sounded like the perfect job, but after a year of ghosts all hours of the day I craved to return to some normality. I have the dreaded office job now that I was so afraid of before I joined the study.
About six months into our working relationship Ewan became interested in a job. As you’ve probably realised this was quite a rare occurrence due to his exclusivity. Like the study, a lot of the emails he was sent were obviously hoaxes or hyped up imaginations, and he was always relatively good at sniffing out the genuine ones.
I was surprised by his choice. The email was from the minister of a rural parish church. The parish itself was modest, the congregation dwindling as the number of funerals increased, but like many other churches, it was managing to survive in the age of science. The minister had heard about Ewan Brodie from one of his parishioners and decided to email in the off chance he’d be able to help.
According to the email the small church was haunted by the ghost of a woman who no one seemed to know. This was quite unusual for a small, close knit community who knew each other’s business like it was their own. This story itself didn’t tell us much. Ghosts don’t necessarily have to haunt the place they died, if it was in fact a ghost.
Working with Ewan, getting my ghostly education, made me miss the times before, the times of simplicity when I thought that there were only ghosts and loops. When I thought I could help them all. The world was so much bigger than I’d ever imagined, and even now I still sometimes miss those times of ignorance.
The church ghost never did anything malicious, no one was hurt, and it was only a few people in the congregation who’d ever seen her. It begged the question of why the minister was contacting Ewan at all. I mean, he wasn’t cheap to hire.
Ewan explained he liked requests like this because he knew they were sincere. Rural parishes didn’t have a lot of money, so they wouldn’t contact him unless they were certain of a haunting. They were also one of the few people who welcomed him and had a genuine concern for the trapped spirit.
We set off for the parish at the beginning of the working week, unlike the weekends I used to have to dedicate to the study. I’d been to rural places before, winding country lanes, spectacular views, but there was something secluded about the parish. It was surrounded on two sides by a national park, and on the third by a river. I would quite easily have driven past and thought there was nothing there. If I was horror film fan, I would’ve said it was a good setting for one.
The church held pride of place in the modest village. All the buildings were at least a hundred years old, if not older, and all had plaques to indicate their original purpose, even if they’d been converted into homes in the meantime. The graveyard of the church was understandably full, whilst some of the larger headstones were so old the Scottish weather had rubbed them smooth.
There was a post office that was also the local shop, and bank on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A mobile library van was there when we arrived, and there was an unsurprising Co-op* on the corner, the only 21st century looking thing in the whole village.
Our car was eyed curiously by the populace as we drove the quiet, narrow streets to the church. The main road bypassed the place by miles, and unless you got lost, or were purposely looking for it, no stranger ever found their way into it. As I said, very secluded, but the villagers didn’t know anything else, I suppose.
Ewan didn’t have a team of trained psychologists or professionals at his beck and call. He was a one-man business, and I became his assistant, an act more out of charity than a genuine need for help on his part. He went everywhere in his car, and it suited him fine because he had no equipment to carry. He parked the car in a small spot in front of the church gate and waited for five minutes for the minister. After ten he hadn’t appeared, so we both got out and made our way up the path towards the stone church.
You’ll find if you ever travel into the deep countryside that church doors are rarely locked because there’s usually nothing to steal inside, that or they trust people to be honest in a house of God. The church itself was of simple design, shaped like a cross, with one bell tower at its head, above the entrance was a clock that was at least 5 minutes slow.
The front door was painted black, chipped and rippled with age. When Ewan grasped the ring-pull I thought he’d get tetanus. The entire door groaned with the effort of opening and it took both of us to push it open wide enough so we could squeeze through.
It was cold inside the church, even though the day was relatively mild outside as summer began to turn to autumn. We left the door open, just in case. No one was inside, all the pews were empty and there was a strange kind of peace that settled in the silence. You couldn’t hear anything from outside, and only the occasional shuffles of our feet over the stone floor echoed around the walls.
I thought it’d be dark inside, but there were two large windows with panels of stained glass that portrayed scenes from what I assumed was the bible that allowed natural daylight to filter in. The stone floor was well worn, like rocks on the beach that the tide has eroded over time. There were some cracks, chips taken out, but it was mostly just uneven where thousands of footsteps had trodden.
There were some marble plaques on the walls, dedicated to people long since dead. Wooden crosses joined them, along with picture frames containing intricate calligraphy of a bible passage.
Ewan called out to the empty space to see if anyone was there and we just couldn’t see them. I think he thought the minister might be waiting inside for us. No one answered, and all we could hear were the echoes of his inquiry. We were both about to turn around and leave when an older woman bustled out of a small side door.
She had auburn hair, graced with streaks of white and grey, tied back at the nape of her neck. Her blouse was long sleeved, and her skirt sat just below her knees. The smile she gave us when she saw us was warm and welcoming, and instantly she asked us if she could be of any help.
Ewan told her we were there to see the minister and that he was a bit late to our meeting. She chuckled lightly, nodding her head in agreement and announced that the minister always found a way to be late.
The older woman introduced herself as Moira, the lead volunteer for the parish and head of the flower arranging club, and a proud member of the bell ringers. We let her go on because neither of us had noticed. I’ll admit, it took a while, longer than it should’ve for a professional medium and his assistant.
I think it was because she was so lifelike. Ewan and I exchanged stiff glances, mindful not to let Moira see us. And it was then that we had a shared thought. I don’t think she knows she’s dead.
I learned something interesting…well, interesting if it’s true, about Margaret Donaldson. Someone emailed me, I don’t really want to know how they found my email address, claiming to have some information about the enigmatic Director of Inverlewis.
This person, who never gave their name, tells me in this long email that they’ve been hiding from Margaret Donaldson for years. They’re certain it was her who broke into my house and Strother’s family home looking for the files.
More interesting, and even more frightening, is that they’ve attached a list of names. It seemed innocuous at first, until I read more of the email. This anonymous stranger calls Margaret Donaldson a hunter. By this they mean that she hunts down people like me. The sender can also see ghosts and had an unfortunate run-in with Margaret three years ago and has been on the run ever since. The attached list of names turns out to be victims of Margaret Donaldson’s spite.
For some reason, not detailed in the email, Donaldson uses her resources to find people like me and send them to an early grave.
…Christ, is this even true? Its credibility is on a shaky peg considering whoever sent it wasn’t brave enough to give me their name. And surely if it was true then I, Ewan, or any number of our acquaintances would’ve known. We’re a small, close community, I think we’d notice if we were being picked off by a lunatic with infinite resources.
This can’t be true, it can’t be. I mean *laughs nervously* it’s ridiculous. She might be powerful, she might’ve funded the study, but getting away with murder, with being a serial killer, is a bit of a stretch. What is this, a soap opera?
Still, the list of names bothers me. This person is either very determined to have me believe them, or that list is real. I’m also not really in a position to be choosy with what I believe. The fact is someone broke into my house and had me followed, and to be honest the director of a multimillion-pound company undoubtedly has the resources to do that, especially one connected with a study into the paranormal. There’s no harm in researching a few of the names to see if they go anywhere.
*Co-op – British food shop chain. Usually the only shop in very rural communities