This is a piece of fiction I composed as part of an exercise for my writing course. The location is based on a pub in Middleton and is accurate in respect of its function, but the dates and the characters are completely fictional. I know I’ve missed the brief on what the exercise is about so I don’t think I will be using it for anything related to my course, but I think it stands a short-story in its own right regardless of that, and I would appreciate any feedback you kind people can offer me if you don’t mind.
Joe is the landlord of Ye Golden Fleece pub, a historic building that has been stood since around 1273. The building was originally an inn and has been added on to a couple of times over the years, the last addition coming in 1684 with the addition of the “Sessions Room” at the end of the building. Used initially as a circuit court session room, it now served as a function room for the local community. Original panelling remained on the walls and a slightly modified fireplace gave the room a cosy feeling. Although it is a little dark, it is one of Joe’s favourite rooms in the pub. He loves going in there when everyone else has gone home and the pub is all his own again. He occasionally sits at the large table at the end of the room where he imagined the judge used to sit, and sometimes played out that role with petitioners before him asking him to forgive their petty thefts or to solve their disputes over cattle and sheep that have strayed onto each other’s fields. Joe also like to sometimes sit with a peaty Scotch before the dying fire when all had gone quiet after the customers and other bar staff had left, to ponder his own problems in the peaceful room steeped in historic memory.
That all changed one Christmas Eve, when Joe sat enjoying his customary nightcap before the dying embers, and he heard a voice whisper his name.
Thinking it was the wind outside or the fire settling in the grate, he ignored it at first.
‘Jo-o-o-o-e….’ came the whisper again, this time with more urgency.
Joe felt a shiver down the back of his neck and he thought he felt the presence of someone or something behind him as the voice whispered for a third time.
‘Pack it in Les, you daft thing. You can’t scare me like that!’ said Joe to the darkened room. He turned slightly in his seat expecting to see his head pot-man Les having a festive joke at his expense, but Les was not there and the room was empty. The sound of metal on wood brought Joe’s attention to the end of the room near the judge’s chair. He suddenly found his mouth dry and his heart had begun to pound. Eyes straining in the dimness and ears tuning into the silence, Joe felt his legs turn rubbery and he doubted they would support him even if he found the courage to try to stand up. The darkness began to take on an oppressive quality; expectant yet threatening at the same time.
A shuffle sounded behind him and Joe caught his breath, afraid to let it out in case it disturbed whatever was behind him, or drew its attention closer to him. He dared not turn round in case he saw something he didn’t want to see, and he became frozen in his terror.
Just as he thought he could bear the tension no longer, he heard the sound of two- three-four footsteps leading towards the door and then nothing. The atmosphere immediately began to lighten and the darkness because just dim again. The embers glowed cheerfully again and the silence was comforting once more. Joe felt his heart rate slow until it was normal, and it was only a moment or two before he was confident enough to move his arm.
He tipped back his glass to drain it, and in the refracted firelight through the bottom saw the outline of a man dressed richly in a gown and long curly wig standing with a black cap in his hand. He nodded and smiled towards Joe before fading away completely.
Joe tipped the chair over in his panic to run away, and ever since that day he was careful to leave the lights on whenever he had his nightcap in the Sessions Room.