I’d fallen asleep quickly and I don’t know how much later it was when I heard the knock on the door. I got out of bed and Smithy had gone out into the dark where Mr Chambers stood beside him.
“Are you absolutely sure about this?” I heard Smithy even though his voice was low, and Mr C whispered back.
“I am certain. I know this is a great sacrifice for you and I am so grateful, but I am sure this is what I want.”
“You could have longer. You don’t need to go now. It’s not really time.”
“I know, I know but there’s nothing more for me. Everything is over, all finished let me go on.”
Smithy just put his hand on Mr Chambers’ shoulder then and smiled at him. “The sacrifice is Phil’s really. He should have had my help for a while yet.”
“I know but I think that the arrangements we agreed will be some small compensation.”
I was outside now and they both turned and looked at me but they didn’t speak. Smithy walked a few steps away to the edge of the woods. He just stood there in the dark with his head down. He didn’t say anything to me at all. I wonder sometimes why that was, but he didn’t. I wish he had done, I do. It might have helped, but anyway some things are just the way that they are.
Well this is it now the really freaky stuff and I know before I say any of it you’re not going to believe me. I can’t help it, all I can tell you is this is what happened. I’m not lying about it and there’s nothing I can do to force it to make sense, but here we go. I’ve said it all so many times now and each time I see the looks on people’s faces but I can’t do a thing about it, and to be honest I don’t want to. I’ve got to live with this now for the rest of my life, it’s part of me and I’m not going to start and try to make it sound other than it was just to please other people.
The night started to get a bit lighter as if the moon had come out from behind a cloud. It got more and more light and I looked up but there wasn’t a moon just then. I wondered if someone had a torch but – well um – shit, don’t look at me when I say this next bit, cos I’ll see in your eyes that you’ll think I’m nuts.
Okay, here we go. The light was coming from Smithy. He was glowing. You know when you’re little and you put a torch behind your hand and the light shines through? Well it was a bit like that but not a red light it was goldy coloured. It wasn’t super bright or anything it was just like a very dim sort of bulb.
We stood there, me and Mr Chambers. I was too scared to even breathe, and I don’t know how he was but he didn’t say anything. Then beside Smithy this shape started to show. It was as if it was his shadow but ‘course it couldn’t be. Then it got deeper and clearer and more real and then I heard Mr Chambers gasp. It was a small noise, but everything was so quiet that it filled the night. “Brian” that was it, that was all he said the whole time.
“The shape was now pretty clear, and it was Brian. He wasn’t in his uniform or anything, just ordinary clothes, but it was him for sure. He just stood there in the edge of the trees with his feet in the long grass. He sort of cocked his head to one side and looked at Mr Chambers and then he smiled.
Mr C took a few steps towards him. I more felt that than saw it because I couldn’t take my eyes away from Smithy and Brian. Smithy was looking really strange. It was as if his edges were getting hazy and wobbly. There was still the glow around him and he hadn’t moved. His eyes were closed, and his head was down. Like the statues you see in churches and stuff and he was dead still.
Brian walked forward and once they were close enough him and Mr Chambers just grabbed hold of each other and hugged. They were like that for ages I think, although I have to admit I have no idea how long it all took really. After a bit, Brian turned round and started to walk towards the trees and as he did Mr Chambers walked on with him. He never looked back or said anything he just walked into the trees with Brian. They disappeared into the dark. I can’t say it any clearer than that, I could see them for a while weaving between the trees and then I couldn’t see them any more and I turned round to Smithy.
He was still standing right in the same place. There was still a shape with him and I thought it must be Brian come back, but it was smaller and fainter than he had been. Then I knew, all of a sudden, I just knew. One minute I didn’t know what it was and then I saw and I knew just like that. I started crying, you woulda done as well, you would. It was my mum.
The more that she became real and solid the less he did. It was just as if he was melting or dissolving. She was dressed in a pair of light coloured trousers and a blouse thing. Her hair was long and loose and there were flowers sort of twined into it. She didn’t look sick the way she had just before she died, she looked like she did when I was little. I used to see her standing at the school gates and thought she must be a princess ‘cos she was so much prettier than the other mums and smilier.
Sorry, can I have another tissue, I’m not bothered you know, about crying in front of other people. If you don’t understand, well, you just don’t and if you do then I don’t need to explain. It’s not soppy and it’s not wrong.
She took a step towards me and held her arms up and I just walked a couple of steps so she could reach me. When she gave me that hug it was just as if I’d fallen into a soft cloud. I couldn’t feel her as if she was there, not arms and hands but she wrapped around me and made me feel warm and safe and loved. I know, I know I sound dead girly, but there’s no other way for me to tell you about it because I think that no matter what it was and where it came from it was just love from Mum.
I don’t know how long it lasted, I know I didn’t want it ever to end. It wasn’t sudden, but I felt her start to go and then slowly, so slowly she unwrapped me and drifted away. I turned round to where Smithy had been standing and he was nearly gone as well. The glow that had been around him was fading and sort of sparkling like those dust bits that Mum called sunbeams, although it was night, so I suppose they were moonbeams really. Just as he went. he looked at me and lifted his hand up and smiled his goofy smile and raised his eyebrows the way he used to and that was it.
He simply faded away and I didn’t know how alone you could feel until that happened. It was just as if there was nobody in the whole world except me standing there in the wet grass with the trees swaying and whispering. Even the creatures in the night were quiet there was nothing, absolutely nothing. Me and what I’d seen and that was it. It was like a hole that I’d fallen into with the little bit of world I’d taken with me.
When I turned round and saw Mr Chambers lying on the ground I was gobsmacked. ‘Course I ran over to him and tried to make him waken up, but I knew he was dead. I’d only ever seen one dead body before, Mum, but you could just tell. I suppose I shoulda tried that chest pumping thing but for one I don’t know how and for another I knew it’d be no good. He’d gone with Brian, gone off to be happy so I just went into the caravan and grabbed Smithy’s blanket to cover him. I think I was still crying, and I was panicked, it was bloody scary to be honest, in the dark with a dead body and nobody to tell me what to do but I had to just get on with it.