It would’ve made sense to go to bed but I didn’t.
Recent events had gotten me so wound up that I couldn’t sleep, so I went for a walk. That was folly given that the police were looking for me, but I wasn’t thinking clearly.
I turned into an empty street. A quarter of the way along it I realised it was a stupid thing to do and was about to retrace my steps when I became aware of someone – or something – behind me.
I ran to the end of the street and took the shortest possible route back to the house.
When I got to my room, I thought about what’d happened and convinced myself I’d been imagining things, and my nerves were shot from the stress I’d been under.
It’s my guilty conscience, I told myself. That’s all it is; my mind playing tricks on me.
That evening I watched TV and about 10.30 p.m. gave Dorothy her breakfast.
Feeding her wasn’t easy. She managed to get lumps of porridge everywhere.
When she’d finished eating, Victor lit a cigarette and stuck it in her mouth. She took a feeble pull on it. He removed it and smoke emerged from between her lips.
“I want to go on a walk to help digest my breakfast,” he said. “The night air will be good for Dorothy, so I’m taking her with me.”
He put her in a wheelchair. I watched as he propelled Dorothy over the threshold and up the drive, talking to her constantly.
“It’s a fine night again, Dorothy. Clear and cold, just the way we like it. You can appreciate the stars on a night like this. Look up there. You can see Hercules. I sometimes wish I knew more about the constellations. But on the other hand, it’s pleasure enough for me just to see the heavens. They’re an inspiring sight, don’t you think?”
She seemed oblivious to everything he said. At any rate, she never once replied.
I waited till they’d gone back inside then I got Victor’s bicycle from the garage. Emboldened by the fact I hadn’t encountered any police the night before, I went on another nocturnal cycle ride.
The sky was black with silver moonlight glinting on the clouds as I set off.
It was at the back of my mind that if the thing that had spooked me turned up again, I’d cycle to safety. I wasn’t yet ready to believe that it existed, but I didn’t feel I could dismiss it out of hand.
This time, when I’d been out and about for twenty minutes or so, it spoke to me.
“I’ve been waiting for you Sally,” it said.
It spoke with Dave Carrion’s voice and the words seemed to come from just over my shoulder.
My skin came up in goose bumps. What unspeakable things it might do I couldn’t imagine, and didn’t care to find out.
“I’ve been waiting for you Sally,” it said again.
Had I really heard those words or was I going mad?
Mad or not, a sense of dread descended on me. I needed a refuge of some kind.
Ahead of me there was a row of shops. They were dark, apart from one.
I headed for the shop with the lights on, praying it was open. Pulling up outside, I jumped off the bicycle and tried the door. It opened. Relief. A bell tinkled above my head. I stepped inside, pushing the door shut behind me.
I was safe, unless the thing was a creation of my own mind.
My nostrils were assaulted by the smell of vellum, glue, and decaying paper. It was a bookshop.
Directly ahead of me was a battered shop-counter behind which there was a man with a van dyke beard. When he heard the tinkle of the bell, he glanced at me.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Is something wrong? Can I help you?” He asked.
“No, I’m all right,” I said. “I nearly came off my bike and it shook me up a bit. That’s all,”
“If you want a book I’m not officially open yet. I don’t open till 9.00 a.m. But I shouldn’t turn away custom. Feel free to take a look around.”
“Thank you. That’s very good of you.”
“Are you looking for anything in particular?”
“No, I’ll just have a browse, if that’s all right.”
I struck up the other-worldly air of a book lover. It seemed to work, because he waved his arms expansively.
“Be my guest,” he said.
I decided to take him at his word. Dawn was a long way off, but I was determined to stay in that bookshop until there was bright daylight outside, so I took my time and wandered around the place.
There were second hand books everywhere, most of which were covered in dust.
Outside, the weather had taken a turn for the worse. Rain lashed the window and lightning flashed in the distance.
I devoted a couple of hours to aimless browsing then found myself drawn to the occult section, where I picked up a book which, for some reason, caught my eye. It was a modern reprint of a text called The Encyclopaedia Infernal. Contributors to the work included Cagliostro, Artephius, Pliny the Elder and Hippocrates.
It fell open in my hands at a chapter on exorcism which set cogs whirring.
If, as I now suspected, I was being haunted by the ghost of Dave Carrion, I could use the information it contained to get rid of him. And if I’d only been imagining his ghostly presence, well, no harm done.
Through the window I noticed the night sky was no longer pitch black. Dawn had arrived.
“I’ll take this, please,” I said, holding the book aloft.
The proprietor smiled.
“That’ll be fifty pounds. Do you want a bag?”
I counted out the money and gave it to him.
He put the book in a small bag which he handed to me.
“You’ve made a good choice.”
“Do you mean it’s a good book?”
He shook his head.
“No, I mean what I said. You’ve made a good choice.”
I didn’t enquire further about his puzzling observation. I was in a hurry to get home and learn all about exorcism.
I got back as quickly as I could, put the bicycle in the garage, and went indoors. I was too tired to read, but told myself that once I’d had a good sleep, I’d peruse the chapter on exorcism thoroughly and take in every detail.
After that, I’d take whatever steps were necessary to get Dave Carrion, or his ghost, or whatever it was that was troubling me, out of my life.
Raising Dave is © Copyright 2017 by Jack Strange. Permission to publish this story has been granted by the author.
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