A 1000 word story by Barbara Erskine


It had seemed such a cool idea in broad daylight. Come back to the churchyard at sunset, hang around near the old yew, wait and see what happened. ‘Go on, I dare you!’ Jack, her sister’s partner, had given Fern his famous grin, the grin she realised she wasn’t going to be able to resist, with just the right amount of challenge behind those smoky, come-to-bed eyes. ‘I can’t believe you two were brought up round here and you have never bothered to find out about the ghost!’

The ghost was a grey lady who, from time to time, under a full moon, drifted down the path. This path. ‘Have you met anyone at all who has actually seen her?’ Jack scoffed. ‘No, of course you haven’t! It’s just a nice story.’

This was the first time Lucy had brought him home to their parents’ cottage for a family weekend; the first time Fern had met him.

‘Nice!’ Lucy shuddered. ‘She must have died horribly or she wouldn’t be a ghost; she was probably bricked up in the church for witchcraft, or strangled by the evil squire or something!’

‘OK, I’ll do it.’ Fern had stuck out her chin, as always rising to the bait before she had thought it through.

‘You’re mad,’ Lucy, said at once. ‘Don’t let him goad you, Fern.’ She punched Jack on the arm proprietarily.

Fern felt the colour rise in her cheeks. ‘I’m not being goaded. He’s right. It would be interesting to find out what happens. Why don’t you come too?’

‘No fear.’

‘You come.’ Fern narrowed her eyes at Jack. ‘Or are you too scared as well?’

And so here she was, on the mossy path, watching the bats flit through the trees as the sun went down, waiting for her sister’s man. And a ghost.

The churchyard was full of shadows now and in places it was growing dark. The stones at the top of the tower flushed red as the sun dipped out of sight, then they grew dark. An owl drifted between the trees.

‘Jack?’ Her whisper was husky. Suddenly she was frightened. ‘Where are you?’ He had paused at the lych gate to fish out his torch.

‘I’m here.’ He was just behind her suddenly. ‘Any sign?’

Startled, Fern shook her head. He had crept up so soundlessly.

‘Are we supposed to whisper? Will we scare her off if she knows we’re here?’ He gave a soft chuckle. ‘Rendezvous with a ghost!’

‘That sounds a bit melodramatic.’ She could feel herself beginning to shiver.

‘Are you cold?’ He put his arm round her shoulders. ‘I reckon we needn’t stay long. We can tell them we waited. Nothing came.’

‘Jack!’ Her throat had tightened. She narrowed her eyes, staring into the shadows. ‘Look.’

A shaft of moonlight had appeared between the trees and she could clearly see the figure of a woman standing on the path.

‘It’s Lucy,’ he murmured. ‘She’s trying to scare us.’

‘She’s succeeded.’ Fern was indignant. She was about to call out when he put his finger to his lips. ‘Wait here. A little of our own back, I think.’

In seconds he had melted into the darkness. Fern held her breath.

The figure was coming closer, walking soundlessly towards the church. It’s not Lucy. The words formed unspoken in Fern’s head. She’s shorter than Lucy. Slighter. She glanced round. ‘Jack!’ There was no sign of him.

She looked back at the path. The figure had gone. The light from the huge rising moon shone coldly on deserted graves.


‘Where is Jack?’ Lucy met her at the door.

‘I thought he must have come home.’ Fern pushed past her. ‘He just left me there, the bastard! Disappeared. We saw the ghost, Lucy. Jack thought it was you, playing a trick on us, and he went off to jump out and give you a fright. But it was her. I am sure it was her.’

Lucy had gone pale. She picked a book up from the table and thrust it at Fern. ‘After you had gone I looked the ghost up in one of dad’s old local history books. Read it.’ Her voice was tight with fear.

Fern glanced at her then down at the closely-packed print.

‘Spurred on by her need for revenge,’ she read out loud, ‘Lady Ann is said to walk to the church at every full moon. The dreamed-of service of marriage to the man she loved had become instead her funeral after his betrayal. She fell ill and some say she died of a broken heart and on her deathbed she vowed to destroy the next man to cross her path. Before she could carry out her threat she died. But her ghost is said to walk the churchyard looking for a man, any man, upon whom she can wreak her

vengeance. The place, as you can imagine, is avoided by local men on nights when the moon shines full.’

Fern looked up at Lucy. ‘Jack,’ she whispered. ‘We’ve got to go back.’


There was no trace of Jack. The police looked quizzical. They probably even secretly smiled. The vicar sighed and patted Lucy’s arm. Jack’s family said, ‘Oh, he’ll turn up.’ His boss shrugged and replaced him. Eventually he was listed as a missing person.

Lucy, convinced at last that she had been dumped, married an accountant who would one day grow rich and Fern moved in with a chemistry teacher.

It was a long time before Jack’s company realised how cleverly he had removed large sums of money from their funds. The police reclassified his case as an unsolved crime. Jack, they said, had probably gone to South America. No one believed in the ghost. After all, it was just a story.

But, Lady Ann was never seen to walk again and people in the village were convinced that, if at last she rested peacefully in her grave, it was because her vengeance was complete.


This story was first published in the Sunday Express, S magazine, on 11 July, 2010

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