English

By the graveside [flash fiction]

You dismiss the class. It has been great fun teaching the rowdy ten-year-olds about the pagan origins of Hallowe’en. They enjoyed the presentation and asked intelligent questions. “Did the Celts believe in God, miss?” “Do you believe in ghosts and spirits, miss?” This one made you smile. You do not, of course. You gather binders and other teaching materials, put them in your bag and leave.

You might as well walk instead of taking the bus, as you have half an hour to kill before you meet your friend Mandy for coffee and a catch-up. She always cheers you up with her adventures. Mandy is a free spirit, constantly in search of mystical paths to spiritual fulfilment. You cannot wait to hear all about her Wiccan initiation.

As you stroll, thoughts of Mandy and the Wiccan religion lead to pagan rituals and, eventually, today’s lesson on Samhain. The Celts celebration of the end of the harvest season began on the evening of October 31. They built bonfires for protection. During Samhain, the boundary between the world of spirits and the human world was blurred, and spirits were free to cross it. With the advent of Christianity to the British Isles, Samhain was absorbed into the Christian calendar and became Hallowe’en.

You come out of your reverie and realize you are walking across the village’s old cemetery. One gravestone has always caught your fancy. In fact, it is composed of two flat stones laid side by side, like the married couple beneath them. The markings are worn by time and the elements, but you can make out their names, Jane and John. Your and your husband’s name. “Will we grow old together like this couple?” you wonder. You share a birthday with Jane. With a start, you realize her death date is October 31, 1871. She died on Samhain.  

A chill climbs up your legs and spine. You feel rooted to the ground in front of the grave. You shake it off. The weather has turned recently, you remind yourself. However, you cannot but wonder about your namesake. What else do you two have in common?

You feel a slight tap on your shoulder. Your adrenaline spikes. Your heart beats like a runaway train. Your limbs feel frozen. You dare not turn you head.

“There you are! I’ve been looking for you!” Relief washes over you. With a grin, Mandy gives you a big hug.     

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