Dammit dammit dammit! I knew I should have gone to the loo before I left Sligo, but I didn’t, and now I’m driving along with certain muscles very clenched, waving my knees around in frustration.
There’s a car in front of me and a car behind me on this two lane twisty road to Ballina. This night offers no moon, a thin veil of cloud obscuring stars, so beyond our tiny convoy of light the world is invisible, lost in a pit of utter blackness.
Nope. Not going to make it to Ballina. Have to stop.
MmmMummaMOOooerrr - soon!
Headlights behind, brake lights in front, no time to escape from the middle of this three car train travelling at 60 mph, impossible to pull over safely into the cavernous darkness, but I have to.
Ah, there’s a turning on the left.
Indicating, I pull out, hardly time to brake and - whoahh! - too fast, swerve wildly across the side road, kicking dust, mud and gravel into the air as I brake hard.
Finally at rest on the verge. Nothing broken, no harm done, but as I turn off the engine and take a well-earned breath, I sense something in the air.
An atmosphere of pure menace mixes with the inexplicable feeling that I’ve behaved badly; interrupted something.
Stepping out of the car the horizon starts a foot away and ends with dawn.
Stumbling blindly up the side road I -
....ahhhh … ohhh … whoof!
Catching my breath I freeze dead still. A few feet to my right a toothy chomping noise is piercing the ethereal silence. Suddenly behind me and to the left of me, all around me out of the night come complaining guttural grunts and mutters.
Instantly I’m engulfed in pure terror, and sprint back to my car with even more urgency than I felt minutes ago.
Driving off, I talk out loud to myself about the madness of it all.
Must be the adrenalin from the swerve off the road.
What else can it be?
Sounded like voices though.
Sounded like voices complaining that I’d interrupted something.
I’d felt extremely unwelcome.
I know the sounds of cattle, sheep, foxes and the ear-splitting brays of donkeys, so it must’ve been the Little People.
Oh get a grip Adley! You’re a Londoner,for god’s sake!
For 12 years I kept that story pretty much to myself, until last week, when with Halloween in mind, I told it to the Snapper.
“Badgers!’” she immediately offered, at which I plunged into the internet and yes! Aha! At last a solution!
I had indeed interrupted something that night. A colony of badgers, who between the young and old create a fascinating variety of noises.
Depending on what they’re doing, they can churr, purr, wail, chitter and kecker, growl, snarl, yelp, and squeak, bark, snort, cluck, coo and chirp.
They also hiss and grunt.
One metaphysical Mayo encounter solved, leaving me with just one more that remains a mystery.
Back in those days I lived in a fine old farmhouse, onto which the farmer had built a new kitchen and bathroom at right angles to the old house. Visitors always said how warm, welcoming and lovely the place felt.
Music to my ears, as when you live alone in a house off the road, in the Irish countryside, you simply cannot feel in any way spooked out.
So each time a friend said “Great vibe here mate!” I felt slightly less worried about the arm that came through the bathroom window.
There was no point mentioning it to anyone. Why would I scare others? Anyway, talking about it might make it more real in my head too, that long male arm, clad in a red-checked shirt, reaching through the window behind me as I sat on the loo.
The hairy wrist, the forearm that tried to strangle me as it pulled on my throat…
Just my imagination, running away with me.
Sing it. Charlie. Forget the horror, think of the song.
I successfully ignored the recurring apparition for years, until my friend from Canada came to stay. The Snapper was up visiting when he walked into the living room.
“What’s the deal with the arm thing, dude?”
“What arm thing?”
“The arm, man! The red chequered shirt, hairy wrist thing that just tried to strangle me in the bathroom.”
Oh poop. Buggeroo and buggeration. That’s torn it.
“Oh that arm!” I said, as nonchalantly as possible, as the Snapper dropped her jaw and looked at me in a most accusatory fashion.
“Yeh, I don’t know. I decided that I’d just invented it. I mean, there might be ghosts in this house, it’s old enough, but the bathroom and kitchen are brand new builds, so I can’t see how there’d be a ghost there. And anyway, there’s way too big a gap between the window and the loo. Nobody could have arms that long.”
“Sure they could. Before I came in here I walked round the house and checked and hey, from outside you can reach anything sitting on that toilet!”
“No! No you can’t! Even if you can, I have to believe you can’t, just so I can live here in peace.”
Silence fell upon us, as I desperately tried to come up with a solution that would allow me to live a terror-free life in my home.
“Hey, suppose what you saw was just a manifestation of the vision my own imagination created? Like, I made the arm and then you saw it?”
My dear friend understood my dilemma, and nodded generously.
“Yeh, right. That’s what it must be. You must have some powerful creativity, man!”
“Either me or you!” I retorted, as the three of us sat, avoiding eye contact, each knowing that the truth lay elsewhere.
Good luck over Halloween and remember: your brain is the scariest weapon in the universe!