The Night Visitor


What’s it like to be dead?

ONE NIGHT  last week I sat up in  bed and  and saw when I switched on the bedside  lamp that what had awakened me was  the  bedroom door  being   flung open to admit a woman dressed in a green ballgown who kept blundering and banging into furniture and things and swearing not quite under her breath as she did so. When I coughed a second time and caught her attention, she paused long enough to say she was sorry for being  such a damned nuisance, she had been on her way to the Hunt Ball at Denholm House when she realised she had forgotten her spectacles, couldn’t see a damned thing without them, had turned back to get them, was sure she had left them on the table beside the bed, had run into a group of enemy troops, been taken prisoner and executed as a spy,  but because of the missing spectacles she was doomed to roam the earth looking for them and only when she had found them would she be released and had I seen them anywhere?

I asked her how she had been executed. She said she had been shot at dawn against the wall of  the church, blindfolded which was sort of ironic and that it had been extremely painful and she didn’t want to talk about it.

I asked her what it was like being dead and she said there wasn’t much to it, you got used to it after a while and was I sure I hadn’t seen her spectacles anywhere?

I was feeling sleepy and disappointed in her impatient replies to my genuine questions, so I turned over and in spite of  her thumps and effings and blindings, quickly fell asleep again.

I woke up just as the sun was rising and was relieved to see that there were no overturned chairs or broken vases left to mark the stumbling passage of my myopic night visitor. At least she had had the decency to tidy up before she left for wherever these nocturnal peripatetics  go to during the day.

But my very expensive varifocals which I distinctly remember leaving  beside Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination on the bedside table were missing.  Could she –
I began to panic. Without them I’m blind as the proverbial bat.
I looked for them everywhere, using my hands to feel for them on the bed, under the duvet, beneath  the pillow,  without success, and as I was down on my hands and knees, rapidly running out of hope, peering and groping under the bed, out  they popped onto the carpet from  the breast pocket of my pyjama jacket.

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