The spirit in the sky

'After the pigeon's owner shot the hawk, there were sightings of the ghost of the hawk, sometimes even chasing the ghost of the pigeon'
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It's Friday today, so I am bringing you a special ghost story to help with your weekend enjoyment.

"Has any of you ever seen a ghost?" said the man in the corner.

We were all startled. There were four of us sitting round the table, all strangers to one another, and nobody had said a word so far. Whenever the train had stopped, and the ticket-collector had come on the public address to tell us that it was for technical reasons, we had glanced at one another and sighed. But nobody had actually got round to talking.

"I just thought it looked eerie out there," said the man apologetically, nodding at the twilit country outside the train window. "And – well, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder if any of you had seen a ghost."

"I've never seen one," I said, "much though I have wanted to."

"Nor me," said the businesswoman opposite me.

We all looked at the fourth member of the table, a middle-aged teacher. We knew he was a teacher, because he had been marking essays.

"I think I may have heard a ghost," he said. "But I'm not sure."

There was a pause.

"Go on – tell us about it," said the man who had begun the conversation.

"Well," said the man, sighing and putting the essays away, "I was on holiday in Yorkshire a few years ago, doing lots of walking and going from one B&B to another, when I ended up one night at an old house on the moors. The house was run as a B&B by a Captain and Mrs Fellows. It was such an old house, and my bedroom was so remote, that I asked the Captain, half-joking, if it was haunted.

"'Yes,' he said, 'it is haunted. You may see it fly past your window.'

"'Fly?!' I said. 'A flying ghost? Is it a witch on a broomstick, perchance?'

"'No,' he said. 'It's the ghost of a pigeon.'

"And he explained that the house had once been owned by a man who kept racing pigeons, and that his favourite pigeon had once almost reached home when it was killed by a hawk. On autumn evenings, he said, you could sometimes see the ghost of the pigeon retrace its last flight."

The man fell silent for a moment.

"And then the Captain said, 'Or it could be the hawk, of course.'

"He explained this by saying that the owner of the pigeon had determined to get his revenge and had waited with a gun till the hawk came round again, and had shot it.

"After that, there had been sightings of the ghost of the hawk, sometimes even chasing the ghost of the pigeon..."

He paused again.

"So I asked the Captain if there were any human ghosts attached to the house, and he said that there were none, except for the ghost of the man who had owned the pigeon and shot the hawk. Apparently, this man had lived all by himself and had got to brooding and one night had blown his brains out with a shotgun. Revenge of the hawk, you might say. Anyway, the captain told me that on a bad night you might see strange shapes flying past, and you might hear the noise of birds in battle, and you might then hear ghostly gunshots in the night, it being the ghosts of the pigeon and the hawk and the man..."

There was a great silence round the train table.

"And that night, in the middle of the night, I heard all those things. The squawking. And the noise of hunting and fighting. And the sound of gunshots. And the next morning, I told the Captain that I had heard all those things, and he said, yes, he had heard them, too. And when I came to leave, I went to say goodbye to Mrs Fellows, but he said that she was not around, which was just a little odd, because their car was still in its parking-space, and the house was far from anywhere.

"And a couple of years later I came back to that house on another holiday, and the Fellowses were no longer there, and I asked the new owner, joking, if the house was haunted, and he said, yes, by the ghost of Mrs Fellows, who had been shot dead there two years ago. Which was exactly the time I had been there. All very odd..."

And at that point he picked up all his papers and left the table.

He never came back.

He may have got off the train at Swindon, of course.

But who on earth would want to get off at Swindon?

Life is so full of so many unanswerable mysteries.