21 October 2017

Timelessness

Memoir - Part 3
In the middle of the night I needed to urinate. I fumbled my way to the light switch but alas the power was off. Then, like a blind man, I felt my way through grey darkness to the bathroom beyond the bunk room. Outside thunder rumbled somewhere over the ocean.

When I returned to the dormitory, my eyes were becoming accustomed to the pale light of pre-dawn. I noticed that the door into the kitchen/communal area was ajar. And what was that aroma in the air? It was the slightly acrid smell of cigarette smoke. Remembering smoking experiments by one of my brothers, I recognised the brand - Woodbines. Perhaps one of the German sisters couldn't sleep but when I squinted into the kitchen I could not make out a figure yet I uttered the word "Hello" with an inflection. No one replied.

I clambered back into my down sleeping bag and gradually went back to sleep. Beyond the marine horizon a blanket of white electricity briefly illuminated the sky.

When I woke, the German sisters were preparing to leave. They were bashing about in the kitchen and seemed filled with the joys of springtime. Once dressed, I joined them and we ate a little breakfast together. Thankfully, there was no more mention of Wittgenstein as sunlight bathed the green linoleum floor. Outside the surface of the fjord sparkled.

Soon their bags were packed and there was some friendly farewell cheek pecking before they left - just as the warden arrived in his battered  Fiat 127. He offered them a lift back to the main road and of course they accepted. Goodbyes were waved even though we had exchanged addresses.

Now I was on my own. One more night at Killary Harbour. As the morning weather had taken a turn for the better, I planned to spend my day exploring the nearby coast.

A day of seals and gulls, scrambling over rocks and ocean vistas. From the white beach at Glassillaun, I swam out to some rocks and returned to bask in the sand, turning yet more pages of "The Magus". Hours passed by but I didn't speak to anyone until I got back to the little harbour opposite the youth hostel where I struck up conversation with a couple of local fishermen in dirty yellow oilskins. They specialised in lobsters but after gutting it, they kindly sold me a silvery pollock, explaining how to steam the creature. I was starving.

Fresh from the sea, it was one of the loveliest fishes I have ever eaten. I found salt and pepper and some "Jiff" lemon juice in the kitchen cupboards and ate this pollock with some instant macaroni cheese I found in the bottom of my rucksack.

That long evening there was nobody to talk to. The warden had gone home and there wasn't a pub for miles. 

A couple more chapters. Another mug of tea. Half an hour at the water's edge staring across the fjord. Then back into the dormitory. Once again it was time for bed. In the morning I would continue my journey through Connemara and down to Galway City. Apart from anything else, I desperately needed to get to a grocery shop.

I don't know what it was that woke me in the middle of the second night but again I detected the faint sickly whiff of Woodbine smoke. Suddenly, a chair scraped on the kitchen floor. Silently, I unzipped my sleeping bag and again got up, feeling for the light switch. For the second night running - nothing.  Someone coughed and I edged apprehensively towards the connecting door.

It creaked open.

In the shadowy half-light I could see someone sitting at the kitchen table. A silhouette. He was bent over in the position of a child scribbling away at a school desk. The room felt icy cold and involuntarily I began to tremble.

"Hello," I whispered.

The figure ignored me at first and then he turned - simultaneously inhaling on his cigarette. The orange glow of the tobacco momentarily lit up his face and I recoiled ever so slightly, struck by the darkness of his deep set eyes and by the unsettling  seriousness of his demeanour. His head had surely turned too far like that girl in "The Exorcist".

He didn't say a word - just gradually bent back into his "writing" though there was no paper on the table and he wasn't in possession of a pen or any other writing instrument. It was as if he was simply miming the process of writing. Scratching away manically at the surface of the old pine table.

It was - how shall I say this - very unnerving. Who was the man at the table?  Instinct told me I had to get out of there. I grabbed some clothes along with my boots and ran out into the night, cowering behind the lobster pots waiting for dawn to rise over the Galway hills. And when daylight finally came, I plucked up courage and crept back into the hostel but the man - whoever he might have been - had gone. I know this because I checked everywhere.

When the bearded warden reappeared in his little blue Fiat close to seven thirty, I asked him about the mystery guest. 

The Bearded One stopped in his tracks, just shook his head and in his thick West Irish brogue asked rhetorically, "Why do you think I don't sleep here?"

Though I pressed him, he wouldn't elaborate and to this day I have no idea what occurred in the Killary Harbour night. There is no rational explanation. It was not a dream. And in spite of my natural scepticism about such matters, I know that  the hunched writer at the kitchen table was really there. I didn't dream him. Of this I have no doubt.

21 comments:

  1. Spooky. I have never seen a ghost so I don't know how I would react.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you would be with me behind the lobster pots.

      Delete
  2. That would terrify me to the point where I would most likely wet my pants and/ or be frozen to the spot. Frozen in a pool of my own pee even. Ugh

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll have to wear rubber incontinence pants if you ever visit the hostel at Killary Harbour.

      Delete
  3. Well according to Monty Python Wittgenstein was a drunken swine who was rarely ever stable

    ReplyDelete
  4. Is this a true story, Neil, or are you just making it up for Halloween? I ask because I know you don't believe in ghosts. In any case, I'm enjoying this story! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's a really good story, and must have been unnerving. Don't you think you probably encountered a local eccentric, who habitually came to hang out in the hostel at night, for whatever reason?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess that is possible but the warden's remark suggested something else, something more inexplicable.

      Delete
  6. Who are we to question the reasons why or why not; whom or who or who not?

    Unexplainable, inexplicable things do happen.

    Also delicious meals of freshly-caught fish to occur.

    Nothing quite beats a meal of freshly-caught fish...damn the visions in the middle of the night. They can't take that away from you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you are a cook of wide renown it's perhaps not surprising that you remark on the pollock and not the mysterious figure in the kitchen. I wonder if pollock is hallucinogenic.

      Delete
    2. Perhaps, I, too, am a figment of your imagination...or not, Yorkie.

      If you read my first two sentences again...you should understand I did make reference, although somewhat veiled...maybe...of your mysterious midnight (give or take) visitor.

      Delete
  7. Now that's a great setting for a spooky story. You gave a little fore taste with the weird little priest and hitchhiking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think an abandoned farm just outside Red Deer would be a great setting for a spooky story. It starts to rain and a bunch of Saturday morning birders rush into the old house for shelter. And then....AAAARRGH!

      Delete
    2. Aha and then there would be spooky birds in the house like vultures!

      Delete
  8. Are you sure it wasn't the local homeless person or the janitor? In any case, a good late-October story!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynicism does not sit very well with you Jenny.

      Delete
  9. The mention of woodbines takes me back a few years, My Mum lived on the things and Dad smoked Players. Don't know how I'm still here with the smoke I must have inhaled when I lived at home. lol
    Briony
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't "Briony" also the name of a brand of cigarettes?

      Delete
  10. The blog are the best that is extremely useful to keep.
    I can share the ideas of the future as this is really what I was looking for,
    I am very comfortable and pleased to come here. Thank you very much.
    ลาลีกา

    ReplyDelete

Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.