Chepstow

Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories (Inspired by Stephen’s own stories) by Laraine Golding

1.
I decided to visit the library and had wandered into the fiction section when I heard whispering. I looked round but there was nobody near me. I leaned towards the W section and picked up a copy of the Time Machine. Behind me, the library dimmed and the shelves disappeared.

I was in a darkish study, with a large mahogany desk in front of the window and an old fashioned leather-seated chair which must have dated from the turn of the century. The 20th century that is. Walking over to the desk, I looked down and saw a notebook, open and covered with writing. I peered at it more closely and then noticed the smell of cigar smoke behind me. Turning quickly, I saw the Great Man himself. He did seem to notice me, but I moved to the bookshelf on the far side of the desk and he sat down. He scribbled in his notebook for some few minutes and then put down the fountain pen he had been scratching away with. It was rather an attractive example, I noticed, a Parker by the looks of it. He then tore a page from the book, screwed it up and grunting in disgust, threw it on the floor. It landed at my feet and I bent down and picked it up. It appeared to be blank, but just as I held it to the window to check, the door opened and a woman walked in. She put her hand on his shoulder and spoke to him, but I didn’t catch what she said.

He stood up and followed her from the room. I moved to the chair and was in the process of sitting down upon it when the light improved and I found myself sitting in the library. I shook my head, thinking that I should really cut down on the whiskey, and put my hand in my pocket for the handkerchief I always kept there. Instead I pulled out a piece of crumpled paper. I opened it and read ‘The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us…’

2.
The secret underground station constructed beneath the British museum has been closed to the public since the war. Stephen unlocked the door and walked slowly down the 39 steps to the ghostly platform. It was eerily quiet now, the last train having been through many years before. The lights, which Stephen had flicked on just inside the door were pale in comparison to a fully functioning, modern underground station. Just bright enough to cast long shadows, they made wavering shapes as he passed by.

He walked to the end of the platform, his footsteps echoing in a padding rhythm and sending up puffs of dust that had settled over the long, silent years. He wished he had brought his stick and then reflected that although it might give him a weapon, albeit a basic one, it would also have made the echoes far louder and sharper, alerting any would-be attacker to his presence.

He peered into the tunnel and thought there may have been a glimmer of light there, swaying, lighting up first one side, and then the other, of the glistening, curved wall. As he stood, deciding what to do, he heard a screech that could wake the dead. It took him a moment to recall the sound, then he realised it was the brakes of a train, hurtling towards him from behind. Almost instantly it rushed past him in a cloud of steam and disappeared into the tunnel again. An acrid smell drifted around him, smoke, and coal, with that touch of metallic heat, unmistakable, of a nineteenth century engine. He had noticed a few of the people on the train, mostly men, wearing a variety of hats. Some bowlers, a few stovepipes and the odd topper. The women appeared to have been wearing bonnets from a bygone era.

As Stephen mused over the strangeness of this, an almighty squeal of brakes rang along the tracks, and the deafening sound of crunching and grinding metal issued from the tunnel. It went on for several minutes, punctuated by what sounded like explosions, and the screams and shouts of frightened and injured people. The glow of fire reddened the darkness and air poured onto the platform as if pumped by a set of bellows.

Then, silence. And in the gloom Stephen could just make out a signalman, waving his lantern from side to side in warning, as he slowly exited the gaping maw of the now dark-again tunnel behind him.