God walks these dark hills.
Aiden Palmer is a man of strong opinions and beliefs. While he didn't believe in religion as his family do; he was not firmly opposed to it as some people are. All he needed is something to guide his way. The Palmer's are staunch Christians and the cornerstone of life in Manderton. It wasn't that he didn't believe, Aiden's doubts stemmed from a lack of proof, the faith his family had was never strong in Aiden. He preferred to believe in what he can see, feel and smell.
Though not wealthy, Aiden had made a name for himself selling antiques. His friends would tease him about his shabby appearance considering how much he earned with his reputation for hard sales in the antique world. The most common remark is "Aiden, why don't you dress better, that way you can get the ladies you deserve with your reputation."
Aiden's standard comeback is "If I need to dress well to get a young lady, then she is not after me as a person. If a lady wants to be with me, then she'll need to accept me as I am, not as a showpiece for her arm. If all she is after is a smart man, what happens when my looks fade, or I lose my job? If looks and wealth vanish, all that remains is the inner person, and that is who I wish to be known as, not the wealthy dealer of antiques.”
More often than not, you could find him tinkering about in old clothes and covered in oil, not the clothes you would expect an antiques expert to wear. But Aiden was not a man to whom appearance meant a lot.
Aiden's passion is classic motorcycles, and he is never happier than when he went to an auto-jumble show. He has the money to afford anything he liked, but he is wise enough to realize one day his fortunes will run out. So want the parable of the fatted calves. The more he earns, the more he can save for the days when his charms run out, and he needs to fall back on his savings.
Aiden spends most of his spare time in his garage. If he isn’t tinkering with the engines, he is ringing the local motorcycle clubs to see if any meetings are going on that he could compete in over the weekend.
Racing never brings the money in. If Aiden gets placed in the top five of the races, he can cover his costs. The money was not the draw as the business is running well. The passion that drives Aiden is being on the bike and feeling free to ride.
Aiden’s friend, Johnathon Carter, came to see him one day. Knowing Aiden for many years, he knew where to look for him first, as he walked into the garage, Johnathon called:” Aiden, are you here?”
From the back of the garage, Aiden called back: “I’ll be with you in a minute, Johnathon, I need to fix the throttle on the Greeves, she’s twitching when I change gears. I need to fix it for the races next month.”
“Can I ask a question?”
“Sure, you know me, you may not get the answer you want, but it will be the truth.”
“Are you going to the ball next week? All the eligible young ladies will be there, and I know several have been asking about you.”
“Let’s see, next week you say. Sorry, I have a big meeting at Mont St. Joseph on Sunday, and then I’m going to the church to say a prayer for some friends who are in trouble.”
“You? Going to church, that’s a new image, Aiden, I never had you down as one to pray.”
“I do, often, not for myself but to try to help others. I may not believe in the Lord, but if they do that is their choice, and I respect their choices. The same way I hope people respect mine.”
Johnathon saw Aiden smile to himself, and he said, "Are you going to let me in on the joke, or is it one of your private jokes?"
Aiden wiped the oils off his hand, then commented:" There's nothing private, I was thinking about all of you fine young people dancing the night away and sipping champagne, while I will be sat at home with a coffee watching TV. Besides, you know that isn't my scene, all those false attitudes, other than you, I doubt one sincere person is going to the ball next week."
"WOW! I knew you didn't like the balls, but don't you think that harsh? After all, you are not poor yourself."
"Yes, but at least I kept my integrity and common sense approach. You know me as well as anyone, do you think having money has changed me?"
Johnathon had to think for a short while, and then he said:" To be honest, it has. You have become more insular as the years have gone by; look at your life today. You have few friends, you hardly go out and spend your time working on old motorcycles. That wouldn't be so bad if you were ten to fifteen years older, but now is the time you should be enjoying yourself."
"Who says I'm not enjoying my life? It's true that I don't get out a lot, but I don't like the scenes you go to; I'd prefer to go to the local pub and have a pie and a pint than to a ball and sip champagne. I feel like a fish out of water in your social circle, Johnathon."
"So, I can't get you to change your mind!"
"Sorry, but I have my life to lead, my way. You like your lifestyle, but it' doesn't suit me."
"I really can't understand you, Aiden."
"There isn't a lot to understand, Johnathon. I am a person of few needs, and I enjoy my life of peace. Other than that, I am what you see; I have few desires, and the need to be seen at the local galas comes not far from the bottom of my list. If I am to meet a young lady, it will come in time, and not by being forced to meet at a ball each month. If the ball were for a charity, then I would go, but all this is for, as far as I can see is to uphold the old way of meeting upper-class young ladies; most will have no interest in me, other than for my status."
"My, you do have a low opinion of us, don't you."
"Well, I got where I am through working, not because daddy's money bought my success; so I won't apologize for not liking my contemporaries."
"So, where are you off to next weekend?"
"There's a national championship meeting at Mont St. Michael that I have entered. The meeting will be a weekend trip as it's too far to get back in a day, but I am sure I can find a room at the local, and enjoy the company of the riders as we discuss the rounds to come."
Johnathon said, "What I don't understand is why you detest money such a lot? After all, your parents are wealthy. Is your dislike to the wealthy because your parents gave their money to charity in their will and left you with nothing?"
Aiden smiled, then replied, "You couldn't be further from how I feel if you tried. I had no desire for their money, that is what irked them. I despise the falseness of your lives, thinking money can buy you what you need when you want it, all you do is snap your fingers, and your "lackies" pamper to your every wish. If I lived that way, it would make me ill, Johnathon. On this subject, why do you and your friends despise me for not joining the "in-crowd? Is it because you can't abide me being a free spirit, or do you despise me for working for my keep?"
Johnathon stopped to think of an answer.
Aiden supplied his version of the answer to his question, "The truth is that you don't know why you don't like my lifestyle because all you've known is being money and having people run after you. You can't imagine going without anything, or not having people run after you, can you? Being honest, I have nothing against you and your friends as people; I don't like the lifestyle you lead, it appears to taint your personality."
Still amazed at his friend, Johnathon queried, "What do you mean, taint my personality?"
"I'll make it simple to understand, we've been friends since school, and yet in all my time here, this is the first time I recall you coming to the workshop, not to ask about me, but to find out if I was going to the ball. I think you see my point now. I wouldn't try to think of answering my question, you know what I said is right, and there is no answer. The question you should ask yourself is Will Aiden ever believe what I say? The answer to that question is maybe in a few years."
After gathering his thoughts, Aiden commented, "Do you enjoy your life? I can see from your walls that you don't have a lot of human contact outside your motorcycle circuit and the Antique business. Talking of the business, how is it going?"
"You're correct, I do have a small social life, but my work in the garage leaves me little free time that is another reason I can't spare the time for the function. I have other demands on my time. The business is going through a slump, and I'm thinking of selling it. I've had several offers from firms in the county. As yet, I am undecided what to do, sell or stay?"
"if you decide to sell, what will you do? You make the money you earn from the shop, without the shop you'll have nothing, Aiden."
"Johnathon, I hope to make enough from the sale of the business to set up somewhere on the coast. I'm finding it hard to cope with the life I lead, the need to live up to what people expect from me is causing more stress for me than its worth. If nothing else, I need a vacation for a week or two, but with the holiday season approaching the shop is going to get so busy I won't have the opportunity for months, and I can't keep going this year for that long without taking a time out for myself."
"What will you do?"
"I always wanted to write, and taking a break from working here will give me the rest that my mind needs."
"I can see you as a writer, and you always had a vivid imagination; to some extent that accounts for your success as you could see what others missed in the antiques you sold, and your stories of the history of the pieces did a lot for their sales."
" I agree, being able to think "outside the box" did help my sales rep a lot, but most of it is knowing the history of the piece; then trying to weave an intriguing story to push the price up. I had no qualms about doing what I did in the way I did it if people didn't wish to buy there's nothing I could to make them."
"So, you don't despise having money, or what it means you can get."
"No, my gripe is the lifestyle that people assume I will be involved with, all those galas to attend and for no reason, I can fathom, other than to be seen. If people want to talk to me, they know where I am; I don't hide from view. The fact that is has taken you so long to find time to talk to me, tells me that I am not missed in your social circles; which raises the questions, why did you ask me if I was going to the ball? Is the money going to a good cause?"
"We haven't chosen this season's cause yet. I'm sure we'll find a good one though."
"I'm sure you will, only one that appeals to your circle so you can be seen to be doing something; the cause will be high profile with a lot of media coverage. I can think of many causes I would happily support, even if it entailed attending your tedious galas, but none are media attention seeking."
"Tell me something."
"If I can I will be happy to help you."
"Do you expect to win the races at St. Michael next week?"
"To be honest, I'll be fortunate to get in the top five of the main races, and my Greeves needs so many repairs after a race I am thinking of changing the bike shortly."
"So, you don't make money racing, and you don't expect to win so why do you race?"
"In general for the freedom, I get on my motorbike. For this meeting, it's been many years since I raced in the area and I want to meet some old friends. You're right; I don't have a social life here, my social life is on the racing circuit."
"How long do you expect to be away, in case I need to contact you?"
"I'll be leaving on Friday afternoon for the Saturday practice, and returning early Monday after resting from the event. I should be back here early on Monday night. To minimize my costs, I'm staying with a friend who I haven't seen for years, we keep in touch but rarely see each other as he's on the road most days. We're only meeting next weekend because he's got a proposal to put to me."
There grew a deepening silence between the friends, somewhere in the back of his mind, Johnathon had a sense he knew the answer, but he needed to ask the question; "Do you have an idea what you're going to do?"
Aiden shrugged his broad shoulders, and replied, "Not at the moment. My decision will take time as there are questions that need to be resolved beyond the financial ramifications of selling up. Not the least is what will I do if I sell the business? It's a huge upheaval I am making if I chose to sell, but the truth is that though I am successful, I feel unfulfilled in my life, Johnathon. It's almost as if there's a force pulling me in another direction; one I have yet to explore and will lead to my satisfaction."
"Wow! That's deep. I didn't consider you are unhappy. Like many of us, I assumed you were happy as you were successful in the business."
"I was in the beginning, then something happened, I can't say what it is or when it arrived, but the joy left me. All that remained with me is the business acumen that I built over the years; that isn't enough to keep me going forever. If I wanted to be overcritical, I could say the feeling has always been here, but until now, I could fight the battle. Now, for some reason, I find the urge to leave is too powerful to ignore. I think I'll take a week or two off before I make my decision. As you see from my chart, I've nothing on after this weekend's meeting for a few weeks."
"Do you have a figure in mind for a sale price?"
"Yes, but I know that what I hope to sell the business for, the problem is I won't get my asking price as the market is depressed. If I get what I think is a reasonable asking price, I'll consider it. Even then, I won't decide until I get my respite break over. I need to do a lot of thinking, and I'm not rushing into anything."
"I must leave you, for now, outside the gala I have other engagement to plan, Aiden, and they won't wait for me. We can talk when you get back from your rest."
"I look forward to that. I can't say when I'll be back, and I may go straight from the meeting; the best thing to do is wait for me to call you to let you know I'm back in town."
"Okay, I'll wait for your call, Aiden," Johnathon replied, "I hope you enjoy the races."
Aiden commented, "Come what may win or lose, you can guarantee that I will enjoy the racing. For me, the freedom to be myself is what matters, not the results."
Aiden heard the door close as Johnathon left the garage. I could do with a cup of herbal tea, working on the old bird makes me thirsty, he thought as he walked to the bench that supported the kettle stand. "I'll have to remember I need a new stand next time I go to town, having the kettle resting on two blocks of wood isn't safe."
While he waited for the water to boil, Aiden looked at the calendar on the back wall of his garage. "After this meeting, I don't have anything planned for two weeks, now would be a good time to arrange the meeting for the handover of the business, if I'm going to do it," he muttered.
As he thought over his plans, his phone rang, "Hello, Aiden here how can I help you?"
The voice on the other said, "Hi, old man, Jim Packer here. I hear you plan on coming down at the weekend. Where shall we meet?"
"A voice from the past, hi there, Jim. How about meeting in the lounge of the "Firman's Arms on Friday evening?"
"Lord above, it's a long time since you were here isn't it Aiden. The pub changed hands years ago. It's now called the Boatmen's Lodge. I've been working on my Cotton, and thinking I wonder how long can the Pre-65 races keep running?"
"I know what you mean, getting the spares for our bikes becomes harder each year, and we can't keep boring out old cylinders. That is the problem with British racing machines of the era, sooner or later the spares run out. I think we'll have two or three seasons more before the parts become too expensive to buy."
"Is it true what I heard about you?"
"That depends on what you've heard."
"There's a rumor on the circuit that you're thinking of giving up your business."
"In that case, what you heard is true. I am making money, but I no longer enjoy the work. I need to find something that excites me, Jim."
"Do you have an idea what you'll do?"
"No, at the moment all I want to do is take a short break to consider my options; then I will try to find some new direction in my life. I don't have a reasonable price for my business in mind yet; I was going to plan a meeting in the next fortnight with a prospective buyer as I have nothing else on my calendar. I'll see what they offer and then make my decision."
"What time can we expect you on Friday? The gang is eager to get the lowdown on our position."
"I'm hoping to be in St. Michael's by about 8:00 pm, it is quite a drive from here, this time I won't stop for a meal on the way. All I'll stop for is to top up the van and a quick rest about halfway."
"Okay, I'll put you a pint on the bar for when you arrive, are you still drinking Friar's Brew?"
Aiden laughed, then said, "Yes, some things never change. I admit outside the county Friar's Brew is hard to buy, that's one reason I like to try to get across once in a while."
Jim commented, "Okay, we'll see you on Friday," then he put the phone down.
Aiden put his phone down and crossed the garage floor, as he looked at his old Greeves he whispered, "It won't be long before our final race. Fortunately, other than the spill I took last year, I've been lucky not to have had a major incident. I know riders who have ended up in the hospital as a result of engines blowing out. Perhaps, somebody is watching over me." He thought for a second, then said, "Nah, it's just my good luck to pick up such a reliable machine that has lasted this long."
He walked across to the door that led to the street and looked out; I wonder if I'll keep the shop? He mused as he looked down the empty road. Walking out of his garage something caught his eye. Aiden glanced up the street both ways, but he couldn't see anything or anybody. He thought "I must be working too hard, I see things that aren't there, but what did I think I see? All I know is it moved quickly and appeared to have no problem passing through objects, but ghosts don't exist." He looked back at the garage, and said, "I wonder how long my old machine can last, with parts being almost impossible to get, and if I can obtain them the costs are getting prohibitive?"
He closed the doors and began to walk to his house. When he'd let himself in, he went to the kitchen and washed what grease and oil off his hands that the Swarfega (oil remover) could remove. Good as it is, you can never get all the oil off your hands. Aiden smiled as he put the kettle on, and wondered how the guests would spend hours picking the right clothes for the ball, and all he would do is put on his old jacket and head down to the Abbot's Court for a pie and a pint that night.
As he poured his cup of tea, he whispered, "They can keep their cocktails and fancy food, I'd rather have a pint of beer and something to eat that leaves me feeling I've had a meal."
He walked to his favorite chair near his bookcase and sat looking at the shelves for minutes. He was about to get up to get a map to check his route to St. Michael, when he thought, "I don't need to check the route, I only go once in a while and there aren't many routes to the mountain course. I can find my way there."
He sat pondering about his life, how he turned from the riches of his family to earn a living in the antique business and had built a reputation of his own based on his judgment, not on how people saw him as his father's son.
The thing that irked his interest was the shape he'd witnessed, how could it get away so quickly, and why had he seen it? Was it a portent of things to come, if so what did it mean?
Aiden thought "It is time I thought what I'd do if I sell the shop. I haven't given the topic much thought as yet; perhaps the time has come. I have the meeting planned for next week, but I have no idea what I'll accept as the asking price, or what I'll do with the money. For now, my main concern is the race at the weekend as it may be the last time my old machine can compete, we've had some good times, but friendships come to an end at some time."
He stood up, and walked to the bookcase, closing his eyes, he held out his hand to search for a book to read. As he felt the books, one gave him a slight shock, "What the hell was that?" He spat out as he looked at the title - "The Mount St. Michael mystery."
Aiden looked at the book cover, it showed an old church, "I wonder what the mystery is?" he said as if to the picture on the cover. Slowly going through the pages, Aiden began to grow concerned, as he recognized the image of the pastor as the vision he'd been a witness to only a few moments ago, he whispered, "How can I help you?"
There came a gust of wind, and a voice whispered, "You are the one I chose to find me, my son."
Without thinking of his actions, Aiden answered, "Father, why me? I am not a believer."
The voice replied, "Exactly, you are the one I need to cleanse the spirit at the church."
"I don't understand why you've chosen me? I am a non-believer."
"That is why I chose you. I need to get you to see the light of the Lord so my spirit will be free from the torment that it has endured since the church closed."
"Why did the church close?"
"The short answer is I lost my faith in the Lord, as a result of my loss of faith; I failed to be believable as a priest, and my flock wandered to other churches."
Aiden paused to take in what the pastor said, then commented; "I'm still at a loss as to how I can help you."
"If I can prove to you that the Lord is real I can put my soul at rest. After that, I can cross to the other side in peace."
"I have to say that you like a challenge. I won't be an easy convert if you can convert me at all."
"As it says in the Bible "The harder the battle, the greater the rewards. I seek no heavenly rewards, only peace for my soul, that shall be my reward. You may doubt the probability of my success, but I think we will meet sooner than you think."
Aiden smiled and asked, "How can you be so sure that we'll meet? You can't see the future!"
"Let's say that what faith remains in my soul has directed me to this point, and I have the impression we will meet soon."
"All I can say is that as of now, you haven't convinced me, and my thoughts are on more material matter this weekend such as the last races of the season and on the sale of my business."
"Why are you selling your business?"
"I can't put my finger on the problem; I don't get any pleasure in selling these days, I know I am good at selling, but I feel unfulfilled in the job I do as if I have another calling."
"Before you call me foolish, I ask you to listen to me, please. What if you feel unfilled because your soul wishes you work for the Lord. You may call me foolish, but think on this; you feel unhappy and in need of guidance in your life, and our paths crossed tonight."
"I'm sorry, there is something I don't understand. What you are trying to say is my soul reached out to yours and beckoned you to me tonight."
"In simple terms, I would agree with you as stranger things have happened in the Bible."
"I'm no theologian, but I can't think of many stranger things than a non-believer's soul connecting with the soul of a priest."
"That is where we differ in opinion; I do not believe you're a non-believer, only a soul waiting to come to the Lord otherwise I wouldn't be here for you."
Aiden could sense the argument was getting too intricate for this time of night, so he asked: "Assuming I did agree, I am not saying I do, why did you choose this time to appear to me?"
"The Lord sends his messengers when HE feels the time is right. The Lord sees things that we cannot see, and HE sent me to you at this time because HE knows you will need my assistance soon."
"I mean no disrespect, the only thing I need help with is selling my business and finding how to find a new way after the sale."
"Believe in the Lord, and HE will save you. The Lord could have a new path for you to take."
"If God has another plan, I wish HE would give some idea as to what is going to happen."
"Everything will become clearer in the fullness of time, Aiden."
“Well, for now, I need to think of the races and selling my business; after that, if you wish to continue this discussion we can.”
“I am sure we will meet again. Goodbye in the name of our Father, for now.”
Aiden blinked his tired eyes and thought; “I must take that break, I’m talking to hidden spirits now,” then he laughed at the thought and poured another cup of tea, this time he added a shot of Brandy.
For the first time in weeks he sat down and thought of how much he felt he could ask for his business; “I know what I would like, but the market is depressed, so I’ll need to hear what their offer is, ”he thought as he sat drinking his cup of tea. He’d watched as local traders got forced into liquidation, and often wondered would he get out before the business folded.
As he drank his cup of tea, Aiden recalled when he moved to the area, at that time the city appeared to be a thriving location, ”What happened?” he wondered. The money didn't get withheld, but nothing took root is seemed, something deep in the society had held back any growth of any industry that was clear to him, but what is it?
All the businesses that had sprung up had died within months, as if the locale was cursed, “that is ridiculous,” he thought. “It’s probably a bad area outside the holiday season,” he mused. “I’ve got a long journey tomorrow, I’d better turn in for the early start I need,” Aiden thought as he washed his cup and left it on the draining board by the sink.
He went up to his room and climbed into his bed, but something was stopping Aiden from getting to sleep, he tossed and turned, he couldn’t decide if it was seeing the spirit, hearing what it had to say, or wondering why businesses failed that kept him awake, all he knew is something that had happened was plaguing him.
The night passed slowly for Aiden as his sleep was fitful and tiring, as is often a restless night, and he’d had plenty of those over the years; mainly in the early years of his business venture. As he thought back, he remembered the one thing Aiden had no worries over was how much he’d get for the business. Had he accepted he would not get what he wanted?
When the birds welcomed the new day, Aiden yawned and wiped his eyes, and then he walked to the bathroom to splash some icy water on his face; in the hope of waking him up which it did for a while.
He thought “I wonder what is going to happen today, last night was bizarre, even by my standards?” As he walked to the fridge to get some milk for his cereal, he couldn’t stop yawning, “I could do with one night’s good rest, or I’ll fall asleep at the wheel,” he whispered.
Aiden turned to where he thought he could have dropped the keys but didn’t see them on the table; searching the area, he found the keys on the table by the sink, he mused, “How did they get here, it’s a long way from the rack?”
Aiden bent to pick the keys from the table and felt a twinge in his back, he swore; “Just what I need, my damned football injury has decided now is the time to return! I’ll see how I feel when I get to St. Michael then I’ll decide if I’m fit to ride.”
Aiden took his keys, and walked to the garage, as he opened the doors and glanced at the calendar on the wall, he muttered, “Johnathon is right, I don’t have a life other than the races and my business, perhaps I should try to be more socially active. The only problem with that plan is I feel so out of place in their world.”
Aiden glanced around his workplace and muttered, "I knew one day I'd need to give up the racing; now is as good a time as any I suppose. I haven't been riding well this season with the worry about my back injury and the business on my mind."
He looked at his old machine on the garage floor, and a tear came to his eyes as he thought of the end of their days together. The truth is getting parts for the bike was not only costly but getting too hard to acquire; the longer he went on riding, the closer Aiden knew he was getting to a serious, possibly life-threatening accident he got. Apart from other worries, Aiden could feel his hands were getting weaker by the day, one day he may not be able to grip the clutch he realized.
Aiden was considering what to do with his future when the phone rang, a voice at the other end asked, "Am I speaking to Aiden Pamer?"
Aiden didn't recognize the calling code or the voice, but replied, "Yes, how can I help you?"
The caller commented, "It's more a case of how I can help you. One of my associates told me you are considering selling your business."
"That's correct; this area is not good for business these days with lots of shops closing and the people leaving for the city. That is without personal issues that I have with the business. Selling up has been on my mind for several months, it's about getting a fair price now."
"We can understand your concerns and are willing to offer what we think is more than a fair price for your business. If you wished to stay on as a part-time consultant, we'd have no objections."
Aiden stopped to think, then replied, "No, thank you for the offer, if I did sell it will be a clean break for me as I have lost my enthusiasm for the antique business after all the years I spent in it."
"We fully understand your position, out of curiosity, have you made plans for the future?"
"Not at the moment, I have a weekend race meeting to go to at St. Michael, after that I will give the future serious thought. You need to understand though I have thought about selling up, I hadn't thought beyond the point as it depends on the sale price what I do later."
"I can understand the feeling, planning for an uncertain future is scary at best. If it is all right with you, my associates and I would like to plan a meeting with you, next week if possible."
Though he knew he had no plans, Aiden paused to glance at his calendar, then said, "I have a clear day, Thursday, where did you have in mind?"
"We can meet where you work if you wish, we have your details from one of your colleagues in the antique business."
"That will be good with me; I look forward to meeting you and your colleagues on Thursday. If I may ask, what do you plan for the business?"
"Our plans include moving the business to a new venue out of the city and expanding the store. We look forward to the meeting on Thursday, for now, Mr. Palmer."
Aiden heard the click as the receiver went back on the cradle, then thought, "At least they have a plan for the business; that is more than I had. I am at a loose end as to how to save the business, that's probably why my interest has gone."
After he hung up, Aiden went over to the sink and filled his old kettle ready to boil for his cup of tea. As he took a look around his garage, his mind started to think about the races and what he would do next week. He had two appointments to keep next week, but the one with Johnathon was only a possibility.
Now, he had something else on his mind, what did the spirit mean about being converted and cleansing the church?
While he drank the tea, Aiden's mind went over the events of the last few days, from his decision to sell up, to his encounter with the spirit and what he'd heard; was it possible the spirit was telling him something about an event yet to happen? In the back of his mind, he had the thought, "Nobody can see the future; or could they?"
The more Aiden thought about the week, the more he had the view that he was getting guided to a new meaning in his life; what it was going to be, he had no concept as he'd not even talked about the sales of the business. Everything depended on how much the deal would amass, and Aiden had accepted it would not be what he'd like to have got for sale.
Aiden took a quick look to make sure that he'd packed the Greeves correctly, with all the ties tightly bound to stop movement on his trip; then he opened the door of his van and started his journey. Once he'd left the garage, he turned the engine off and returned to close the doors; he had a weird sensation that made him cross himself for no apparent reason. He stopped in his tracks and said, "Why on Earth did I do that? I think the week's getting to me now."
Aiden put the thought to the back of his mind as he got back in the seat, and turned the engine on; he then turned the radio on, to his surprise he tuned the wireless into a religious channel, then he muttered, "Lord, why did I do that, something strange is going on?"
Through the trip, he listened to the preacher tell his listeners about the work of God, though not a believer, he was being drawn to hearing as the preacher 's voice became entrancing.
The night was closing in, and Aiden was feeling the strain of the week as well as the driving for two hours with little rest. As he tried to concentrate, his sensed his mind wandering as he drove on; after a couple of mishaps, Aiden decided it was time to find a resting place before he had an accident.
Aiden noticed what appeared to be a side-road, so he turned the vehicle down the road and sought somewhere to park; then it happened, the van hit an oil patch and spun out of control.
He fought the controls, but he could feel the van spinning out of control, then for no reason, he silently said a prayer in desperation, he didn't hope for anything being a non-believer, but in a storm, any port will do.
The last thing he recalled was being thrown clear as the van careered off the road. He had no idea how long he'd been out when he roused himself, all Aiden knew was that he ached and for some reason he was alive.
His first reaction was to have a look at his hands; that's where the problem began, as he looked at his fingers they went in and out of focus. Aiden tried to get off the floor, but his legs were so weak he kept falling over. Finally, after taking a rest, Aiden stood up and began to stumble to is feet. Through the mists of his sight, Aiden saw the gap in the hedge where his van had come through; on its side lay the vehicle, and he saw the Greeves strewn across the ground in front of the crushed doors. He sat down and wept among the debris of his motorcycle and wept for his motorbike as one would at the parting of a close friend.
As Aiden wiped his eyes, he realized he needed to find the road and a route back to town, but with his eyes going out of focus he knew it would be hard if not impossible. Walking back to the hedgerow, Aiden searched for a branch strong enough to withstand his weight to use as a walking stick. As he felt around the bottom of the hedge, he cut his hands on several branches, but he didn't stop searching for his stick.
In the end, he did find one and set off through the gap in the hedge to find his way up the road; he tried to recall what had happened, but his thoughts kept coming back to one thing - "Why can't I hear traffic, have I gone deaf?"
Aiden had to calm himself, as he thought: "What could be the apparent reason? There has to be a reason I can't hear; I have no idea how long I was out, for all I know I've been unconscious for a few hours and it's late, that would explain the lack of traffic. The last thing I need to do is to begin over-thinking my condition and panicking."
He sat down for a few moments to calm his racing heart and thought; "I know I don't have much of social life, but the guys at the meeting will get concerned when I don't arrive tonight, then they'll start a search for me."
Aiden tried to rise, but his knees couldn't support his weight, and he fell through a hedgerow as he tried to walk. "That was not a good idea," he thought as he lay there.
Lying still, he thought he could hear the sea below him, as Aiden stretched out his arms to raise, he heard a voice say, "Whatever you do, you need to do as I say. You are on a ledge, and the only way off is to crawl backward in a straight line, any deviation, and you will end up on the rocks below, and nobody will be able to help you."
Not believing what he'd heard, Aiden slowly inched his fingers out; the voice was correct, he was on the ledge; his only thought at the time was "Lord, this is my worst nightmare, I desperately need your help."
Aiden had no idea whose voice he'd heard, all he could surmise is the person was trying to save him, for what reason? So, Aiden did as he'd been instructed and slowly moved back to the hedge he'd fallen through.
After what seemed an eternity, Aiden felt he was back on the roadside of the branches; there was still no sound of the traffic, but he had more pressing things to worry about now. When he tried to focus on his hands, so he could find a sturdy branch to act as a crutch, he found his eyes going in and out of focus. He told himself, "Don't panic, it's not detached retinas, only the result of a concussion."
Aiden stood still for a moment, his mind trying to work out who had been talking to him, and what was the reason for the warning
Aiden stood still for a moment, his mind trying to work out who had been talking to him, and what was the reason for the advice? In the silence, a voice whispered in his ear; "You passed the old church about a mile back if you can walk back along the road, help is available and awaiting your arrival."
"What do you mean, waiting for me? I haven't been in the area for years, and I don't recall this road."
There was a silence, then the voice said, "The Lord moves in mysterious ways, his workers do not always see the road ahead but the trust the Master."
Aiden leaned on his support, and muttered, "I don't appear to have an option do I. I noticed there's no traffic; the only sounds I hear are from the sea below, thank you for the warning; you are correct that is one of my worst nightmares."
Aiden stood still, trying to concentrate on focusing his eyes on the blurry road that appeared to go in and out of focus but in no pattern. He tried to think of what had happened over the last three days, from his decision to sell the business, to being stranded on a deserted road listening to a stranger's voice that seemed to know his thoughts. He asked the voice, "Can you read my mind?"
The voice replied, "No; I am not reading your mind, but I can see into your soul, and you haven't been happy in your work for a long time, have you?"
"I can't deny I have felt empty in the last few years, all I've been doing is going through the actions with no sense of purpose or meaning to my life. Did you put the idea of selling the business in my mind?"
"No, as I said, I can sense what is in your soul, I can't read your mins no more than I could implant a thought in your mind. If you hadn't felt empty I would not have found you; I was able to locate you because your sense of emptiness is like a beacon calling to me."
"In that case, you can probably sense how I feel now."
"Yes, you have doubts over what is happening, and you feel it isn't happening to you as you don't believe in religion; yet, I sense that this is a turning point for you, and you are wondering if you should take what is offered for your business even if it's not what you feel it is worth?"
"I won't deny what you are saying; I do need a rest, perhaps this accident is my calling to a new future. I've had so many things on my mind in the running of the business that I'd forgot to make time for a life and friends to enjoy some relaxing time with after work, and now I feel it's too late to start over."
"I am confident that the Master will send friends to your door once they see the good works you are doing in the name of the Lord, these people will be real friends not like the people you spent your life avoiding before our paths crossed."
Aiden glanced around and saw his eyes had become more in focus, but he had no idea who he was talking to, all he could see was a faint shadow on the periphery of his vision; equally perplexing was the mannerisms the figure used when the character spoke, he tended to avoid shortening his words. Thinking about what was happening, Aiden began to feel the man was out of synch with time for some reason; even his attire was not of this age for a clergyman.
"You are right; this is not my time and place, I've been trapped here by the spirits I need you to cleanse my church of; once you are well enough to travel, you can go into the village and get the things you'll need to do the service for me."
"I keep coming back to the same question, why me of all people?"
"I told you, you got chosen because you had a soul in torment and need of a purpose. Do not concern yourself about your doubts; I chose you well; I know you are the man for the job ahead."
"How can you be sure?"
"Once you are ready to travel into the village all will become clearer to you."
Aiden noticed his vision was blurring again, so he said, "It appears you have the edge on me; you know how I feel about things in my life, and you seem to have an insight to my future, for now, I need your kind assistance as I can't stand and my vision is getting worse."
"If you follow my voice, I can lead you to the rectory and with the help of my wife we can get you back to a reasonable state of health, at least well enough for you to go into town to see the doctor. The first thing I need to do is to get you to the rectory so you can rest your eyes, and start your recovery."
Aiden rose to his feet and staggering he followed the voice of the stranger as he spoke gently about how he saw Aiden's future spreading before him. Then from out of the blue, he said, "This could be the day I see my maker."
This remark caught Aiden off guard, so he enquired, "What do you mean?"
"You will find out soon enough, for now, all you are required to know is you can bring an end to a tale of sorrow that has plagued this area for ages."
"Can't you give me some idea of what you wish me to do, please?"
"I could, but it is better you find out for yourself ;with a mind that is open to thoughts than one where you have some notions before you hear our story. If I told you now, you would not believe me; that is why I'd rather you hear the story from other people."
The two men stumbled along the path for what appeared to Aiden to be hours but were likely to have been no more than a few minutes when the vicarage came into sight. Aiden asked, "Is that your house?"
"Yes, we have lived there for so many years I cannot recall a time when I lived elsewhere."
Aiden viewed the house and thought, "It looks as if nobody has lived there for years, and time has stood still."
The stranger said, "Yes, there has been no life in the house for many years, my wife and I lived there longer than any other people."
The stranger walked Aiden to the door and stood still as an elderly lady opened the door for them, then she said, "Please come in, you are our first visitor for many years. Please forgive me for not preparing a room for you, but we have a spare room upstairs where you can rest for as long as you need."
The lady lead Aiden into their front room, and as he glanced around the room he got to shown into it was obvious the couple were a pious couple as they had religious icons on the walls.
The lady spoke to Aiden, as Aiden viewed the icons; "We found each other through the Lord, and continued to thank the Lord for continuing to keep us in love through our hardships. It was a hard life, but worth the difficulties for the joys the Lord granted us. In the end, we were forced to stop the services as my husbands' eyesight dimmed, and he refused spectacles as he thought it was God's wish for him not to see."
Aiden got driven by curiosity, so he enquired; "What do you know of the story of this being a haunted church?"
The lady replied, "This is the first we've heard of the story, and we've lived here for a long time; there could be some truth to the story as this is an old church so there could be lost souls here."
The lady ushered Aiden to a room at the back of the house, and after opening the door, she said, "This room is yours until you feel fit to leave us."
Aiden thanked the lady and sat on the bed, next to the window was an old wooden chair, so he took the time to view his surrounding in the bright dawn of the new day. His first thoughts were, "What a splendid view of the coast, the road I took passes close to the edge I was fortunate to have skidded to the left, if I'd gone to the right there would have been nothing left of me to gather."
For the next few days, Aiden thought about the sale of his business and what his life had in store for him; then he realized that he'd not been in contact with anyone for days. He thought "I wonder if I got missed? The people at the meeting were expecting me, but when I didn't turn up it wouldn't have raised any flags; Jonathon's not expecting a call until Tuesday at the earliest, and I never made plans for the sale. It's worrying to think I could be gone and not get missed for weeks."
As if by a mental signal the man entered the room and said, "A message was sent to the village when you arrived here; the villagers have contacted your friend to assure him of your health, and the people you were selling the business to have been asked not to expect you for about a week."
Still, in a daze, Aiden asked, "How long have I been here?"
The man replied, "Four days; we wanted you to be fully recovered for the next part of your journey before you left. The next week will be a strain for you both mentally and physically; I can guarantee there will be a lot you won't understand at this time, but all will become clear."
Aiden scratched his beard then commented, "You keep telling me that, but you haven't explained yourself."
The man appeared to quiver in the light of the room as he replied, "As I said, we'd rather you get the news from the village with a mind that is not clouded."
"That only causes me more confusion, why can't you tell me?"
"If I did tell you, you wouldn't believe me and your view on the news from the village would be tainted."
"What is the mystery about you and this house?"
The man smiled, then commented, "By the number of questions you are asking, I would say that you are well enough to leave in the morning, and by evening most of your questions will be answered."
Aiden decided to take a walk around the house while the evening meal was getting cooked, the smells of a stew were so tempting to him. The thing that intrigued him most was the fact the area appeared to be in a haze, though the sun had set some time ago.
Not knowing whether to believe his eyes or what he his mind was telling him, he had got lost. "I can't believe what I am thinking," he thought, "Am I in a mirage? That would explain his reluctance to explain his reasons for not wanting me to know before I leave. I think I am getting an idea of why I am here, but the cleansing of the spirit remains a mystery to me. At first hearing, I'd assume an evil presence, but the man and his wife appear not to be unkind to lost souls; on the contrary, they seem to be the kindest of folks."
The lady called him in for the meal, and the three of them ate a quiet dinner after saying the Grace; Aiden wanted to ask some questions, but he realized he wouldn't get an answer to satisfy his curiosity, so he didn't ask.
The lady took the dishes into the kitchen, after putting them in the sink, she returned and said, "I can see you have many questions to ask as I saw you viewing the church a few minutes ago from the outside."
Aiden smiled, then commented, "I won't deny the church and this area of land does pose some questions, and I think I may find some answers to my questions in the village in the morning."
"When you go into the village you should ask to see John Amos; he is the town historian."
"Thank you; I'll do that when I leave here, is it a long walk? I ask because I saw my van was a wreck after the crash."
"Once you are well, the walk is not more than a mile or two, nothing a young man like you can't take in his stride."
The evening passed slowly as the man, and his wife read from the Bible, and Aiden wondered what the mystery of the house was.
The morning light woke the group, and they went down to the kitchen before going in for a breakfast of porridge with a little salt the Grace got said in thanks.
"I realize you won't tell me a lot, but can you direct me to the village, please, I lost my direction just before the crash?"
The lady smiled and commented, "If you go out of the field we are in, you take the first track on the right and keep walking, that will take you to the village."
Aiden thanked the lady and went to gather his few belongings from the room, and then he went on his way with a wave of thanks. The lady was correct; it didn't take him long to get to the village, on entering the town he decided it was time for a drink, so he went to the inn - The Stag and Hounds - while Aiden was waiting for his drink he asked the barperson, "Do you know where I can find Mr. Amos, please?"
The barperson smiled and replied, "Certainly, sir, he's sitting in the corner reading the Chronicles of Mark Johnson, his favorite book."
Aiden thanked the lady and paid for his drink, and then he went over to the man she had mentioned, "Excuse me for the interruption, are you, Mr. Amos?"
John chuckled, then replied, "It's a long time since I was called Mr. Amos, young man. Don't worry about interrupting me; I've read this book several times. I'm waiting for the sequel Wharfemere Finale to come out next month, by all the reviews, it is as good as the original, if only with a more sinister overtone. Take a seat, please, how can old John help a young man like you?"
Aiden sat in the seat he got shown to, "I have two questions, which I feel could lead to more. First, what is the history of the old church by the coast?"
There was a pause, as John thought how to reply, then with a chill in his voice, he said, "I hate to tell you, that church has been unused for over two decades, since the big flood destroyed the coast road and made any attempt to rescue the vicar and his wife impossible."
"That can't be so; I was only driving along the road this weekend on my way to Mont St. Michael for the motorcycle races."
"All I can say is take a walk to the edge of the village and see for yourself, be careful the road is unsafe even after all this time."
Aiden couldn't believe what he'd heard, so he did as John asked, after ten minutes he returned and said, "I see what you mean, but that doesn't explain how I ended up at the vicarage."
"There is a myth that the vicar searches for souls to help in his work cleansin the spirits from his church, that could explain in part how you came to be in a place nobody has been to for over twenty years."
"After the week I've had, I can believe that. What spirits does the vicar wish to cleanse the church of?"
"Cleanse is probably not the correct term, more likely he means to free a spirit. The spirits he is talking about are those of him and his wife who got trapped in the church when the flood hit."
"How can I do that? I am not a man of God if anything I am a non-believer, even after this week."
"That is why you got sought out; the vicar needed to attract a non-believer as he did in the days before he lost his sight. It isn't your belief that is the important thing. It is the vicar's belief in his ability to preach that is vital for his freedom."
"How can I cleanse the church if I can't get there?"
"You got taken there, that is your link, the cleansing can get done from our church. I believe after you do this job he asked you a question."
"Yes, he said that once I do this, I have to think where my life is heading as I plan to sell my antique shop? I have had time to consider what I want in life over the last week, and I may try to become a preacher. I have to sell the business, but I am not worried about how much I can sell it for now. As I am here, I could do the sale over the phone, even though my buyers wish to meet me next week."
"If I were you, I'd go home and see the buyers and take a few days to think what you're planning to do; the rest will give you time to sort your life out and tie up loose ends with your friends before you leave."
Aiden put his glass on the table and laughed, "I apologize for laughing, but I have no friend to tie up things with, that is one thing that came to me as I was lying on the ground on Saturday. Nobody would miss me if I didn't go back; I have one friend, but we ran in different social circles and rarely meet. My family has the money, but I hate the lifestyle of the wealthy, it's all about being seen with the right people in the right places, and the falseness of it makes me sick."
John smiled and commented, "I can see what he sees in you now. You do have a problem with your life, a life you find worthless and pointless; this could be the start of a new life for you."
Aiden rose and shook John's hand, then he said, "I hope so, my friend, chasing money brought me no joy for years."