At Halloween we did not dare

We climbed Arthur’s Seat on Midsummer’s Day, to wash our faces in the dew as the sun rose. The path was slippery and the fog was down, dulling any sound there might have been. Birdsong was distant then silent.

We were near the top, on the steepest slope, when out of the mist the sound of a muffled drum rolled towards us. We stopped. Looked around. Looked at one another. Then out of the mist strode a shadow, taller than any of us and wide as a castle door. Black and silver streaked hair to his shoulders, cape and cassock flying. ‘Pagans’ he shouted, eyes black fire, ‘leave this place.’ He pushed past us and was gone. The drum was still.

Our looks said it was true and we did not speak again until we fell into the palace grounds again.

At Halloween we did not dare.

Breathe, he said below his breath

He stood three steps down from the road crossing and two in towards the shop window the back of his head was reflected in. Breathe, he said below his breath. Breathe. He used his thin hands as a brown paper bag and began to feel better. His vision slowed its spinning and he could almost focus on the police van parked opposite. Hello John, said the voice again. Not bad, he said, and yourself? But I didn’t ask you, said the voice. I just said hello.

That’s more than I’m used to.

That’s as may be.

Much more.

I must be going.

Please don’t go, he said below his breath. Please. He unbuttoned his coat as if he had arrived home.