A Ghost Story – Part 1

I had got into the habit of taking an early morning walk each day. I had let my body become like an old garden fence – neglected, worn, and slowly rotting. I needed to do something, anything, to remind my physical self that I used to be able to run, jump, move with the freedom of youth.
I was lucky enough to live near a river, so rather than have to take my walk along traffic filled roads, I could enjoy the peace and quiet of flowing water. I think if I could choose to live anywhere, it would be on a river. To wake each day to the sound of the water moving along would, to me, be the perfect alarm call. But I digress. This isn’t a story of peace and tranquillity. No.
On the morning this took place, I had risen early. I am not a late sleeper at the best of times, but for some reason I was up and dressed as the sun was beginning to crest the horizon. I decided to leave for my walk and try and get to the river bank while the sun was still orange and low in the sky. I put on my jacket and walking boots and set off.
The start of my river walk begins at a bridge over the river. You descend by the side of the bridge onto the dirt path that I would imagine horses used to use to drag the old coal barges along the waterway.
As usual, I was listening to nothing more than the sound of the water and the light wind through the reeds along the bank. I was feeling quite calm and content. There is only one bank along which you can walk – the other is overgrown with small trees, rocks, and the usual detritus produced by this modern world. But as it was early in the morning, I had the path to myself and was just enjoying the walk. As I rounded a bend in the river, I began to turn east and the sun shone more into my face through the trees on the opposite bank. As I squinted to cut down the glare I looked across the river and thought I saw a figure. I couldn’t be sure – the sun was quite strong even as low as it was, and with the confusion of tree branches adding to the unclear picture nothing was certain. But as I looked harder I made out a tall figure stood between two trees. He was tall, with a completely bald head. He wore a long dark coat of some kind although from where I stood it could also have been a cloak.
The pace of my steps slowed as I drew level with him across the river. The man was standing completely still and although I could make out his general shape I couldn’t see his face because of the sunlight and shadow. I was sure, however, that he was staring right at me. Normally, if I had passed such a figure on my side of the river, I would have paid no mind – maybe shared a “hello” as we passed. But the fact that he was stood on the other side of the river, where no one normally trod, made me curious. I stopped. I called across the river to him, “Hello? Are you OK?”
The man didn’t reply, just remained motionless, and with a small shrug of my shoulders I decided that he must have a reason for being there and it was none of my business. I turned away from him and carried on walking.
The river turned again a little further along, and the landscape changed slightly. On my side of the river the dirt path became more gravelly, and on the opposite side the trees fell away and it became more barren, with larger rocks scattered along the bank. As I was thinking about the strange figure I had seen, I looked up and across the river again. And there he was. I stopped in my tracks. How on earth had he got there so quickly? He was stood as he was before, like a statue, but whereas before he was stood between two trees, this time he was stood between two large rocks. I didn’t know what to say to him, but before I could utter a word, he moved. His left arm slowly came up and pointed away, along the river and in the direction I was walking. Like the scarecrow in the Wizard Of Oz, he stood still with just a pointing arm.
What was this? Why was he pointing the way I was going? I called across to him again.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Again, there was no response. I tried a couple of other questions but still received no reply and the figure didn’t move. It was as though he was frozen there, cast in stone and immovable.
I still had a ways to go before completing my walk, so rather than waste further time in futile attempts at communication, I turned away from this strange man once more, and continued my walk.

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