Despite having spent a week suffering from the worst flu ever, I will post a new story on Sunday; I’m a brave, little soldier. It’s inspired by a trip I made to the strange and haunting island of Iona in Scotland. With its beautiful abbey overlooking a bay of crystal blue water, it cannot help, but inspire the artist and stir a feeling of wonder in the hardest of hearts. The graveyard is the resting place of 48 kings of Ireland, Scotland and Norway; one is said to be Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It was strange to imagine such great power lying still beneath my feet. The stones, covered now in clinging moss, hold echoes of the dirges sang for the warrior dead and whisper tales of sword and kilt that made gods of men.
Before I get lost in memory, let me tell you about the place my story is set, the Nunnery. It is a ruin, made derelict during the time of the Reformation and unlike the Abbey, it has not been restored. Why one wonders? Let’s leave the answer to the poets and those who know the true reason. The Nunnery is known by its Celtic name, An Eaglais Dhubh, the Black Church. It is said it got its name from the colour of the nuns habits and that may well be.
Iona is the island where St Columba took refuge with his small group of followers and it’s believed the famous Book of Kells was written here. I found the Abbey to be the most powerful place on the island and I had one of the strangest experiences there. I was exploring the main building and in the centre aisle there is a small grating set into the floor. I stepped over it, not sure that it was safe to walk on and was overcome with the most profound feeling of sadness. Since there was no one about, I was able to sit down in one of the pews and allow the feeling to overwhelm me. A young man appeared out of nowhere and asked why I was crying. When I told him I had no idea, he asked if I felt sad when I stepped over the grating. He explained that the bones of the martyrs were buried there. I have never felt anything like it before and I’m not one given to hysterics. This will give you some idea of the strangeness of the island and the power the past hold over the present. Until Sunday then, when I’ll tell you a tale of horror that makes you wonder…
What happens then.
When old bones uneasy lie.
And age old feuds don’t end
And things that lie still under morning sky.
Rise up when darkness and the mists descend?
The book of 2012 is yet unwritten and the pages spread out before us, the paper white and unsullied with the mistakes, regrets and disappointments of 2011. It’s up to us now to fill in the blanks, to fill each page with colour, laughter and stories of our successes. It’s not going to be easy and at times we will stall as life throws yet another spanner in the works, but with the help of those we love, our faith in what is good and our friends, we might just look back this time next year and think, you know, 2012 wasn’t so bad after all. My friends I wish you all joy, love and hope in the coming year.
If it were possible for a genie to grant me one wish, I know without a doubt what the wish would be. I don’t mean like world peace or the end to all sickness, I mean one personal wish just for me. I would ask for the ability to sleep whenever I wanted. For years I’ve been plagued by insomnia and today, after almost 43 hours without sleep, I have that awful hungover, fuzzy feeling that comes with lack of sleep. I find it very hard to get my mind to switch off and I suppose there are a lot of writers and artists who find this. I’ve tried everything from sleeping pills, that made me feel down the next day and Sunday night I took Valerian, which I was assured would knock out a horse, but neigh, I’m still awake.
My mind sometimes wonders back to my school days and bible teaching. I think of Christ in the garden at Gethsemane and his words to Peter and the sons of Zebedee, “could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” Perhaps, I am descended from one of these disciples and am now cursed to stand watch forever? It sometimes feels like this.
I am thinking of words this morning, as I prepare to write and how their meaning can effect and convey a true feeling. When someone had to cope with the most terrible of losses, it’s not enough to say they were crying or sobbing. I think weeping is a much better word and it says more about the human condition than either of the other words could. Weeping denotes the wretchedness of hope flown. It reaches into the soul and resounds through the ages. It really is the most pitiful of sounds.
I was amazed to read that our local university was offering a weekend course on developing your psychic ability and becoming a medium. Surely, if such a power exists, and who am I to say it doesn’t, then it comes naturally and is not something that can be learned? As I am interested in all things paranormal, I have gone to many shows where well-known mediums throw random comments at the audience and are those who are desperate enough to put their hand up when they say something like, “I have a John here, does that mean anything to anyone?” Oh please, you’re thinking, as I have, but remember this person who answers has lost someone they love and want reassurance that they are safe and in a better place.
I went to one medium who was doing private sessions. I wasn’t going in to see her, but went with a friend. As I grow older, I tend to avoid these people, as I believe that the spirit world should be left alone. A teenager went in before my friend and came out sobbing. I asked her what the matter was and she said that the medium said she saw her standing over an open grave before the year was out. Can you believe that, who in their right mind was say something like that to a child? My friend refused to keep her appointment after that, more from fear I think, than outrage and we spent the next few hours talking the young girl out of her fright. I read about another young mother who having lost her little girl went to one of these so called psychics and was told her little girl was crying for her in heaven!
I believe it is against the law in some countries to say you are psychic if you’re not, but who controls these things? If there are people who can speak to the dead then so be it, theirs is a rare gift and I respect that, but what about the others, the charlatans who prey on the vulnerable, do there really believe they can get away with the harm they cause? Let’s hope for their sake, that the world they so carelessly exploit is forgiving, otherwise there will be Hell to pay.
A writer dies and goes to heaven. Here he sees thousands of other writers all chained to desks tapping away on their computers.
“This is heaven!” he exclaims. “Is this is heaven, what is hell like?”
“Let me show you,” St Peter offers.
So they go down to hell and here they find it exactly as it was in heaven, thousands of writers chained to desks.
“I don’t understand,” the man says. “How is hell any different to heaven.”
“Ah, you see,” St Peter says. “In heaven you have a chance at being published.
Fledgling writers take heart.
I am always amazed at peoples attitudes when the subject of ghosts comes up. Many believe they ceased to be with the invention of electricity, but many more are not so sure. I was speaking to a group of medical doctors and nurses a few weeks ago and as usual, the subject of what I write came up. I expected them to laugh off the subject, after all their field of expertise requires a level head and an approach more scientific than your average person. To my surprise, about eight if the group had a story to tell and were totally sure that everything they related was a fact.
What about you, do you believe in ghosts?
Got an email practically accusing me of being the Devil, because of what I write. Death Cry is really getting the nuts out. Am I bad? I bet Stephen King and James Herbert have their share of nutters. If people don’t like my books, why buy them? My daughter edits them for me and I wouldn’t give them to her if there was anything immoral in them. They are just good old-fashioned ghost stories. Those who think otherwise have a screw loose.