An Encounter on the Midland Mainline

Tucked away in the case I found a journal, which appears to have more reports in it, although these are written up in a different style from the rest of the files. At first I thought Dr Gotobed was just jotting down fiction based on his experiences, but the fact they are accompanied by what appears to be corroborating evidence has made me think again. I’ll try and include a few more of these, if for no reason other than they seem to reveal something of the good doctor’s character – C.R.

Train Station3

Friday November 14th 2002

Midland Mainline Train, 21.15 to Derby

“Do you know why you are here?” I ask, looking up from the thin file on my lap and towards the reflection of the young man sat next to me in the window opposite. The description on the yellowed pages is disturbingly accurate, right down to the bloodshot eyes and the gash across the forehead. The kid is in his early twenties, and dressed a little out of date for the time, in slightly flared jeans and a bright yellow sports top. He carries it well, all except for the fleck of deep red across his breast and left shoulder. I’m in a black suit and a white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. I look like I should be advising him about his future career options. Or on my way home from a funeral.

“Because I fucked up,” replies the kid.

I look down at the file, then back at the reflection opposite.

“Why would you say that?” I ask.

The kid looks down at his feet, revealing a slick dark liquid dashed across his scalp, then back at the window, meeting my gaze in the reflection.

Neon streaks by the window and mixes with spots of rain as the train rocks slightly to take a turn. The carriage lights flicker.

“I… I don’t want to talk about it. Things… they changed. Got too much.”

The only other person in the carriage is an elderly lady sitting several rows away. She turns and looks at me with a slightly concerned expression on her wrinkled face, then gets up and leaves the carriage.

“You need to move on from this,” I say to the window.

“I know.”

“Tell me how I can help.”

In the reflection, the kid looks away.

The door at the end of the carriage clunks, and I see the old lady whispering conspiratorially in a conductor’s ear. The door clicks and opens and the conductor steps in and moves towards me.

I glance back at the window and see the kid’s eyes begin to blacken with rage.

The carriage rocks and the lights dim, before returning to full strength.

“Stay calm,” I whisper, my eyes fixed on the reflection.

The lights flicker repeatedly, more violently this time. A slight breeze begins to coil around the floor.

“Stay calm,” I repeat.

“Excuse me, sir,” says the conductor, gruffly, a skinny bald man in a polyester uniform. “Who are you talking to?”

I look up at the conductor, then to my right at the empty seat next to me. The conductor raises an eyebrow, before following my gaze as I look ahead, to the window. As he does, he catches the reflection of the kid, his bloodshot eyes ablaze with anger and the gaping wound across his head. The conductor gasps and drops his hand-held ticket machine.

The train jolts violently and the lights dim again, deeper, and for longer this time. The breeze turns into a gust and blows through the carriage, lifting the flotsam and jetsam of the day’s commute across the floor and the hairs on my neck up and away from my skin. Somewhere along the length of the carriage, a pane of acrylic glass cracks. When the lights come back on, the reflection of the kid is gone.

There is an moment of awkward silence as the conductor gawps at the window, now empty except for the occasional trackside light flickering by. His face has turned an ashen colour not normally seen on the living.

“I’m Doctor Gotobed,” I say. “Your bosses should have told you I would be here.”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Doctor,” stutters the conductor, picking up his equipment. “We were expecting you earlier.”

“Looks like I’m going to be here for a while.” I turn back to the file on my lap. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep this carriage clear for the next hour or so.”

The conductor leaves, and the train rumbles on.

Eight stops later, it reaches its destination, and then turns back. I’m still on-board, in exactly the same seat. I run my fingers through my hair and sigh. This is taking far too long, and I definitely don’t want to go around again and spend the night in Derby.

The lights flicker intermittently for a few seconds.

I look up at the window. The kid is back, bloodshot eyes calm now. We sit in silence for a while. “Do you…” I begin to ask, eventually. “Sorry, did you see a light?”

“At first. But I have to stay. I can’t go there. I’ll stay here. With the shadows. Until she knows.”

“Who knows?”

“My girl.”

“Knows what?”

A single tear rolls down the kid’s cheek and mixes with the blood that’s dripping down from his scalp.

“That I love… that I loved her. I didn’t want to go like this. I’m so sorry.” A sniff, and the kid continues. “Can you tell her for me?”

The lights flicker once more.

“Of course. Tell me more about her and I’ll find her. Tell me exactly what you want to say, and I’ll be back here next month. I don’t expect you to be.”

The train rumbles on, and the kid tells me about his girl.

Train Station2

Back in Nottingham, the train groans to a halt. I pick up the file and step off, heading through the high ceilinged Victorian building, its grand archways a testimony to the architectural skills of men long since buried.

“Doctor Gotobed! Doctor Gotobed!” A gruff voice shouts along the platform, and the tall, skinny and bald shape of the conductor jogs towards me. “Excuse me, Doctor. But was that the… the…” I can tell he can’t bring himself to say ‘ghost’. He settles on: “What was that?”

Succinct.

Tucking the file under my left arm, I reach into my jacket for a cigarette. “A request for help,” I reply, lighting the cigarette as I turn towards the marble steps that lead to the exit.

“Doctor Gotobed?”

“Yes?”

“There’s no smoking in the station I’m afraid,” replies the man in the polyester uniform, all back to business.

I flick the cigarette onto the tracks and head up the steps, out onto the street and into the wet November night.

The rain falls like heartache.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Journal1

Tucked away in these pages of the journal is a clipping from the Nottingham Evening Post, dated November the 16th, 1996. It details the death of a 22 year old man who fell in front of a train two nights previous. I don’t feel too comfortable sharing his name here. 

The train was the 21.15 Midland Mainline from Nottingham to Derby. 

There is also another clipping, this one taken from the February 2001 official newsletter of the Psychical Research and Investigation Society. It’s a report of ‘low-level psychokinetic activity alongside the appearance of a full-bodied apparition’ on the same train route. 

These two documents are what make me think this story of Dr Gotobed’s is more than just fiction. 

Either way, typing this up has left me a little drained emotionally. I’m putting the journal back in the case and placing the whole lot back in the cupboard. I need some beers and to think about something else for a while – C.R. 

The Woodcutter’s Son

BookBWCandle2

British folklore has more than its fair share of arcane sylvan entities. From the Apple Tree Man, guardian of the harvest in Somerset, to the Poldies of the Wirral Peninsula, diminutive and mischievous faeries that dwell within the woods, the very islands themselves seem to have a deep connection with rustic spirits.

Considering how much the world has changed in recent times, is it possible that these spirits linger on even today?

An usual occurrence in a parish located in the county of Kent suggests that this maybe the case.

MapChilham2

27th December 2009

Sarah Chatterley is a sober, serious individual. Pushing fifty, she is a well-respected solicitor, specialising in commercial law. She comes across as someone not prone to tall tales or flights of fancy.

Which is what makes what she has to say even more surprising.

We meet a couple of days after Christmas in a quiet café in Richmond. Over coffee and a plate of baked goods named something I cannot pronounce, Ms Chatterley recounts her story:

“The family ‘pile’, if you will, was a big place in Chilham. It’s a large house, with a long garden that backs on to some woods. My brothers and I used to have a great time bumbling about in the afternoons. Halcyon days, let me tell you.”

“Now, when I was young, I was absolutely terrified of thunderstorms. Scared to death of them, and we seemed to get a lot when I was a child. I used to run into my mother and father’s room and beg to sleep with them. After a few times, they asked me not to do this, as I invariably woke them as I climbed under the covers. So I switched tactics and started just sneaking into their room with a blanket and curling up on the floor beside their bed. I suppose it made me feel safe just to know that they were close.”

She takes a sip of her alarmingly expensive coffee before continuing.

“I believe it was the late summer of ‘68, as I would’ve been about six or seven, and it was one of those really humid, muggy nights that we get on occasion in the South East.”

“The storm was the worst one that I can recall, and it broke late that night. I remember gathering my blanket and sneaking into the corridor to head to my parent’s room. In the hallway, stood outside their door, I saw it.”

It?

“It was about the same size as me, maybe a little shorter. It’s body and limbs were thin and it’s head was large and triangular, shaped a bit like a shield. At first I thought it was wearing a mask, but as I looked closer, I could see that that was its face. It had these weird black eyes and a little mouth full of sharp teeth. And it looked to be made of some kind of pale wood.”

I press for further details.

“It had a sort of grain pattern running all over it. Absolutely terrifying, let me tell you.”

“It took a few steps towards me, and when it moved its motion was odd… stilted even. Like it was something out of a Ray Harryhausen film. Do you remember those? Then it bared its teeth and opened its mouth, I can only assume to speak. I’m not too proud to admit that I turned on my heels and ran back into my room. I spent the rest of the night under my blanket with my eyes on the door, scared rigid. I could hear it moving about in the hallway, but I suppose I must have fallen asleep at some point.”

“Come morning, I told my parents, but they thought it was just my overactive imagination. My brothers only laughed at me. By the afternoon, I’d managed to convince myself it was nothing but a bad dream, and I certainly never saw it again. Eventually, it must’ve just faded from my mind. But I’ll tell you this, Dr Gotobed: never again did I leave my room during a thunderstorm at night.”

“And it never came into my thoughts again. Not until a few years ago, anyway.” 

All this can be easily chalked up to a childhood nightmare, or possibly a case of sleep paralysis. After all, the developing brain is a complex organism, much of which is still a mystery.

But that only makes what happened thirty six years later all the more intriguing.

ForestNBW2

The following is an old fable, native to the local area, taken from the 1896 edition of Taylor’s Folklore of The British Isles* (I have taken the liberty of updating some of the more ‘archaic’ terms):

In a little village, over one hill but before the next, there lived a woodcutter and his wife.

The woodcutter was strong, and his wife hearty. They were happy, for they wanted for naught but one thing: a child, with lips to speak, and a heart to beat.

But try as they might, the woodcutter’s wife could not bear her husband neither son nor daughter, and as the years passed, her smile began to fade.

The woodcutter’s desire to see his wife happy eventually went they way such things do, and turned to desperation.

And desperate men do desperate things.

One dark and wretched night, driven deep into the forest by despair, the woodcutter fell to his knees and begged the ancient spirits of the woods for help. 

For they provided him with his living, he reasoned, could they not provide a child as well?

To his surprise, the spirits answered.

The ageless things that lived in the forest told the woodcutter to find a white tree of blasted oak. Chop it down, said the spirits, take the trunk, fashion yourself a child, and we will grant it life.

A child with lips to speak, and a heart to beat.

The woodcutter did as he was told. Finding the tree, he took his axe to it, and felled the blasted oak. He dragged the trunk home, and for three nights he hewed and carved, shaping the wood into a small boy.

On the fourth night, the spirits of the forest did as they promised, and breathed life into the boy.

Wooden lips to speak, a wooden heart to beat.

The woodcutter showed his wife what he had made, hoping that she would finally be happy.

But the small wooden boy, animated by the forest’s magic, filled the wife with dread, and she ran to the village. When the people found out what the woodcutter had done, they held a meeting and humm’d and ha’d over what should be done with this accursed boy. 

For wooden lips should not speak, wooden hearts do not beat.

With the rising of the sun and the casting of the die, the villagers came for the woodcutter and took him for the noose, his boy for the fire.

The trunk of the white oak was found, the earth around it salted. And the spirits of the forest, angered at the refusal of their gift, fell silent, never to speak to man again.

ForestNBW

Ms Chatterley continues:

“About five years ago, my parents held a barbecue for the family. It was a lovely day, and all my brothers were in attendance with their own children in tow. Most of my nieces and nephews were surly teenagers at that point, and so they amused themselves with their phones and what-have you. But Rosie, my brother Simon’s youngest daughter, she was only eight years old and, being a city girl, she was quite happy to run around my parent’s big house and garden. We didn’t see her for most of the day.”

“As it began to get dark, Rosie came out of the house with a big smile on her face. I casually asked her where she’d been and what was amusing her so much. Her answer made a shiver run down my spine.”

“She said she’d been inside, playing with ‘the little wooden boy’.”

Rosie was asked to draw a picture of her new friend. I have the original and will include it in this file. Ms Chatterley confirms it to be the same thing she saw during that terrible thunderstorm in 1968.

Drawing2

The eldest members of the Chatterley family have since moved from that particular residence. I have spoken with the new owners, and they are yet to experience anything unusual.

I have left my details with them should that change.

HouseBW

My first thought was that the young Rosie had overheard a member of the family mention Sarah’s encounter that stormy night. Having spoken to all the members of the Chatterley family, I can confirm this was not the case. Indeed, none of them even had any idea what I was talking about, such was the trivial nature of their relative’s experience all those years ago to them.

I am reluctant to dismiss all this as the product of mere coincidence and childhood delusion. After all, Sarah Chatterley makes a most convincing witness, and for young Rosie to see the exact same thing as her Aunt saw some thirty-odd years later suggests that something unusual has been loitering around that large house in Kent.

It is also interesting to note that, whatever it was, it chose to reveal itself only to children.

Unless the ‘little wooden boy’ decides to make a further appearance, I am afraid it’s identity and motivation will remain unclear.

Perhaps the spirits of the forest wish to be heard once more.

Dr Thomas Gotobed

* If anyone has a copy of this book, could they please get in touch? All I can dig up is a few vague references on Wikipedia and funny looks from the staff at my local Waterstones – C.R.

 

Incident at the Temple of Debod

Isis4

January 9th 1960

It is on this date that construction of the Aswan High Dam across the River Nile in Egypt began in earnest. Its reservoir, Lake Nasser, becomes one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, covering over two thousand square miles; two thousand square miles that were once home to several important archaeological sites.

One of these sites is the Temple of Debod, a monument to the ancient winged goddess Isis. It consists of a processional way which leads under three stone pylon-shaped arches, then onto the temple itself, which houses a sanctuary and an offering table, along with several antechambers and a set of steps leading to the roof.

The temple was built in approximately 200 BC and has undergone several revisions and alterations over the centuries. In 1968, with the commission of the Aswan Dam, the whole site was taken apart brick by brick and moved to the Parque del Oeste in Madrid, where it was expertly reconstructed. Its relocation was a diplomatic thank you to the Spanish government for their help in saving the nearby Abu Simbel complex, and to prevent the temple from being reduced to no more than an undignified and crumbling stack of blocks in the murky waters of the newly created Lake Nasser.

The Temple of Debod’s new home was opened to the public in the early summer of 1972.

Almost immediately, curious events began to occur.

Debod B & W

First there was an upsurge in reports of missing housecats in the residential areas near the park. These reports continued to rise in frequency over the next few weeks. Taken on its own, this is not so unusual. After all, the humble cat is not famed for its fidelity. The vanishing felines caused a few ripples in the local community and the odd disgruntled letter to the district newspaper, indignant at the apparent lack of response from the authorities, but nothing more.

Then there were several sightings of a tall, pale skinned and dark haired woman striding through the park late at night. These sightings would also not be unusual, were not for the fact this woman appeared completely naked. Indeed, one couple out for a midnight stroll claimed that the unclothed lady gave off a slight, almost ethereal glow.

But missing pets and naked women do not a case for the paranormal make.

Then a young boy disappeared.

Debod2 B & W

15th June 1972

Adriano Martínez lived with his family in an apartment block close to Parque del Oeste. According to police reports, his parents recalled their son taking himself to bed just after 10pm. His mother checked in on him as she retired at midnight and found the window to Adriano’s room open and her son nowhere to be seen. None of his clothes or other belongings were gone. Whilst it’s certainly possible that he just stole away for the evening, the Martínez’s apartment was on the fifth floor, a climb that would be difficult for an adult to make, let alone an eleven year old boy.

Adriano was not seen for the next thirty six hours. A thorough search of the apartment block, the park, and the other surrounding areas by the local Policia Municipal revealed no sign of him.

And here is where events began to take an even stranger turn.

Debod3 B & W 2

17th August 1995

Inigo Gómez is a short, lithe, and deeply tanned man, and the faded scars on his face and arms speak of a life lived on the lowest rungs of society. He currently works for the local social services, mentoring wayward teens, but he admits to a much more ‘fluid’ lifestyle back in the early 1970s. Homeless and an alcoholic, he would spend his nights in the Parque del Oeste, avoiding the police and snatching at sleep wherever possible.

We meet on a sunny afternoon and share a table outside a cafeteria on the edge of the park. After an hour or so of small talk, Inigo tells me the tale of what he saw on that warm night in 1972.

(My Spanish is a little rusty, so please forgive any errors in my translation. The expletives are all Inigo’s own.)

“I’d been in a fight that night, I think. I can’t remember quite where or why, I just remember the pain in my head from getting punched and the pain in my knuckles from fighting back. I was very angry in those days. I thought the whole world was my enemy. Somehow I ended up in the park with a bottle of orujo. That was my usual routine back then; get some booze, find a bench or piece of ground somewhere out of the way and just drink myself to sleep. Either the sun would wake me in the morning or the police would kick me awake and then move me on. It wasn’t the best time in my life.” 

“There were rumours among the other homeless hombres in those days, about the woman in the park. A friend of mine told me that he’d seen her, and that he’d be sleeping somewhere else for a while. Me? I didn’t care about that. I just wanted somewhere to drink away the rest of the day. But the cats though… they fucking bothered me. Seemed like there had been fucking dozens of them those past few nights. I hate cats. Still do. Puta gatos locos, me comprendes?”

He smiles and twirls a finger around the side of his head.

“It was the cats that woke me up, all yowling at the same time. I remember opening my eyes and seeing them all walking past me, like there was some fucking ‘reunión’ somewhere. I don’t know why, but I staggered to my feet and decided to follow them…”

 He is gazing toward the park now, a faraway look in his eyes.

“…they went to that damn temple. I never liked that place. And they were all gathered there. Hundreds of the little bastardos. They were on the stone, around the arches, looking at the building at the end. In the doorway was the woman, just stood there, completely naked with her hands in the air. It looked like there was a light behind her. She had this weird kind of glow around the edges. I have to tell you, she was beautiful.” 

He smiles at me again and winks.

“In front of her was a little boy, ten, maybe eleven years of age. He was naked too. I saw the woman had something in her hand, a knife maybe, and for some reason that made me sober up quickly. Before that point I think I thought I was just having a drunken dream, but seeing the blade was like a slap in the face. If it hadn’t been a kid I probably wouldn’t have cared. That’s what I was like back then. But I couldn’t see a child get hurt. Even I knew that was wrong. I had to do something. So I shouted out. I’m not really sure what happened next.”

It takes some coaxing to get the rest of the story out of him.

“Well… and I understand if you don’t believe me… all the cats turned to face me. I remember hundreds of pairs of eyes looking at me. There was a flash of bright light, and the woman… she flew towards me…”

Flew? I ask him for clarification on this.

“Yes. She had wings. Giant wings with white feathers. I don’t remember what happened after that.”

Debod4 B & W

Police records reveal that Inigo was found the next day wandering through the park with the boy in his arms and mumbling incoherently. The child in question was the young Adriano.

Inigo was held for questioning for the next few days under suspicion of kidnapping. He was later released without charge due to a lack of evidence against him.

Adriano was taken to a nearby hospital. After a thorough examination he was returned to his parents, apparently unscathed, the only sign of his ordeal a streak of grey now running through his otherwise jet-black hair. He had no memory of the previous night’s events. Not long after, Adriano’s father accepted a job in Geneva and moved his family out of Madrid.

They declined to be interviewed.

As for Inigo Gómez, the incident that night forced him to question his life choices. He has been sober ever since.

A short while later, two of the archways of the Temple of Debod are dismantled and swapped around, a configuration they remain in to this day.

No further incidents are reported.

Madrid3

It has long been theorised that certain emotionally charged events can be recorded by organic materials, and these events can then be replayed when specific conditions are met (see The Possible Mechanism of Residual Hauntings, where I discuss this in greater detail). However, in this instance, the phenomena’s apparent ability to interact with its surroundings casts this theory into doubt. It is unfortunate that all the evidence in this case is anecdotal, and Inigo Gómez’s past makes him not the most reliable witness. But something unusual took place that summer at the site in Madrid, and whatever occurred was evidently deemed sufficiently serious to sway the Spanish government into action, and that action was enough to alter conditions sufficiently to end the associated phenomena.

One can only wonder what might occur if the two stone archways were to be placed back in to their original positions.

Dr Thomas Gotobed