by William Meikle
Yes, I know its getting dark, and I know its getting cold, but just come over here for a
minute. It wont take much of your time. There's something I want to show you, someone I'd
like you to meet.
Come on. Humor an old man who needs to
tell his secret.
It's just there, behind the church. Yes,
in the older graveyard. You're not afraid are you? I promise, there's nothing here that
would ever hurt you.
Watch out for the moss on the stones. Some
of the slimier varieties can get embedded in your clothes, and it's murder trying to get
Just about there is usually the best spot.
Stand quietly now - let your eyes get adjusted to the dark. You'll soon see why I brought
There she is.
Do you see her? She's standing right
there. Look - in front of the large grey angel, just to the left of the patch of
moonlight, almost underneath the old elm. Yes, there, beside the largest headstone.
My beautiful Sarah. Forever young, forever
See how the red of her hair glows like a
burning firebrand, a halo around the white perfection of her face. And look - she's
wearing the dress. The one I bought her for the dance, the last dance of our youth.
Three pounds two and sixpence that dress
cost me - more than a week's wages in those days. Times have changed, haven't they? My
mother told me that I was mad, spending all that money on a slip of a girl who was no
better than she should be. But I knew that she was worth every penny.
I was drunk with the delight that danced
in her eyes when she tried it on, swaying her hips to get the full effect from the long
flowing pleats. I can still remember even now, fifty odd years and many strangers' kisses
later, the sweet honeyed taste of her lips as she thanked me, the pressure of her
hands on my back as we embraced.
I wish she would touch me now. Just one
touch, to bring us together at the end. If only she could see me. I have so much that I've
never told her.
How still she is, how composed. The wind
refuses to ruffle her, the rain refuses to dampen her, the earth refuses to cling to her.
Yet there's something more.
Look closer. She breathes; she blinks; her
lips part and then connect, but there's no steam. Not like you and I, standing here
puffing at each other. It may be almost winter here, but for her it's late summer, always
Those lips. How deep and red and enticing
they were that night, glistening moistly as she looked up at me. Smiling, dancing,
laughing, we moved across the dance floor. We were young; the war had barely touched us,
and I was in love for the very first time. The night held the prospect of many new
And then he arrived.
I knew he was going to be trouble. Right
from the start I could see what he was. American, charming, arrogant and different. Hello
excitement, goodbye dependability. In the space of a minute I'd lost her forever.
Shall I tell you how it happened?
He butted in on our dance. Just barged
right in, excused himself, and then off they went, whirling round the floor in a flurry of
legs and feet and arms. I tried to stop him as they came round again, but he had all the
advantages - height, weight, diet, composure and training - while I merely had my rage.
Afterwards, as I lay there on the floor,
my tongue counting teeth as my handkerchief vainly tried to soak up blood, I heard a
laugh. Looking up through eyes which had already begun to puff up, I saw her. Only six
feet away, but already distant, clinging to the conqueror. Her hair made a red
scar where it fell on her shoulder, and in that moment I knew what I would have to do.
Can you see? She's moving. But watch. Do
her legs bend? Does she walk like you or me? Or does she glide, smooth and silent like a
great white owl? Listen. Can you hear any gravel being trodden underfoot? Or is there only
you and me and silence?
You can't tell, can you? She deceives the
brain, but doesn't brook too much attention. Try not to look too closely - set your mind
on other matters.
Ah yes. The chiming. It must be eight
o'clock again. Do you think she's able to hear? She'll be heading for the wall. When she
reaches it she'll rest her elbows and look over there, to the field on the left, where the
airfield used to be.
I remember the women, silent, waiting,
listening for the sounds which would tell them that their men were coming back. They used
to peel off one at a time as the planes returned, until only a few were left, watching and
waiting and wondering.
See how the moonbeams dance around her,
making her glow. So white, so brilliant, so pure. And no shadow to taint the vision.
He was corrupting her. I could see that,
even from the few glimpses I had of them together. There they were, laughing and giggling
like a pair of kids fresh out of school. And kissing! In public! Right there on the main
street for all too see, and again, later, in the pub, flaunting themselves
in front of me.
Of course she had stockings. And lipstick.
And chocolate. And cigarettes. The price of her innocence, the wages of sin.
I hoped that I wouldn't be too late, that
she was still capable of being saved. I watched. I waited. I planned. He continued with
her destruction, but soon I'd have my turn.
See how she moves between the stones, not
attempting to pass through them. Does she look solid to you? You can't see through her,
not like in the books or the films. Do you think that if I went over there and put out my
hand she'd be able to take it, be able to feel? Would she notice that I was there?
I have often, over the years, thought
about why she returns. It is only now, when I'm near my own end, that I'm able to look at
it dispassionately. Maybe, when I go to join her, we'll both understand.
Did you know that I used to be a mechanic?
Well I was, and a good one at that. It was easy. I already had the run of the airfield, so
it was simple to wangle myself in on the servicing of his plane. Once I had spent five
minutes aboard, it was only a matter of waiting for the next flight.
I was subtle though. I didn't want the
plane blowing up over land; not over England anyway. My work might have been noticed. No,
the explosion would occur only when the plane climbed to more than one thousand feet. That
should do it. By the time it reached that height it would be well out
over the channel.
He took it out the very night day.
Look. She's reached the wall. See how her
elbows stay white, despite the damp and moss and stone? Her eyes will be moist. Will those
tears be real? Could I perhaps touch them? Touch them and somehow feel her pain?
The next day I saw the flight take off,
twelve planes slowly gathering in formation before beginning their long climb into the
sky. I watched them until they rose into the clouds, then listened as they droned away.
Was there an explosion? Did the droning lessen? I never did find out.
Whether I'm a murderer or not, he never
came back, and I never lost the guilt.
Later that day, when the sky was once more
filled with sound, the women left the wall, one by one, until she was the only one
remaining, trying to pierce the clouds as she peered avidly eastwards, willing him to
I stood, just about here, and watched,
cursing her for her devotion, cursing him for his hold on her, as darkness fell and the
skies grew silent.
It was late summer, and the temperature
was dropping rapidly. A light drizzle began to fall, chilling me to the bone.
And still she waited, and still I watched.
See it. There's the cigarette. How
ungainly it looks in those pearl white fingers. It burns - there's a good quarter of an
inch of ash on the end - but there's no smoke, no smell.
He started her off on that habit. She'd
told me that morning that she did it because it made her look like a real lady. As if
she'd not been a lady before that. It made me angry, so angry that I could watch no
See how she turns, surprised. Now she'll
look confused for a second. Then she'll see that it's only me; only the young, fresh
faced, solid, dependable me.
Watch closely now. You may just catch the
disappointment as it flits across her face. Look, she turns her back again, returns to her
One look and I was consigned to despair. I
grabbed her by the shoulder and pulled her around to face me, demanding that she explain
herself. She struggled in my arms but I held on as we moved around in a parody of a waltz;
held her as she screamed, her once-beautiful lips contorted in rage.
She pulled away once more, and this time
she was too strong for me to hold on to her. Surprised to be free so easily, she lost her
I reached out desperately for her as she
fell, slowly, slowly, towards the unyielding gravestones. And then came the sound, the one
I hear late at night in my dreams, the sound of her neck as it broke.
So now we wait, she for a sweetheart who
will never return, me for an end to the guilt and the hope of forgiveness. Which of us is
And the time passes and I watch, every
night, as she dances, just for me.
Willie Meikle is a Scottish author of
supernatural stories. Visit his web site: