Fay responded to the trigger ‘Anniversary’ with a true story:
The Showroom, that night.
He suddenly realised he was cold as his eyes began to refocus on the papers he was clutching. Icy fingers trailed a pathway up his spine and he shuddered. He heard a thin scream, followed closely by the sharp sound of splintering glass and then a wraithlike shadow dropped, with a dull thud, onto the roof of a dark blue, A reg. Austin A40 and although he tried to stand up, he couldn’t.
For as long as he could remember David Dobson had wanted to be a salesman and he certainly had a gift for talking. His mother often said that he could sell anyone anything, so when he saw the ad in the Free Press for a trainee car salesman at Pearson’s Northbridge Garage, he applied and got it. Pearson’s was the main BMC dealership for the area and Dave soon realised he had found his calling when he was promoted to head salesman of their large showroom on the High Street, where he soon became known as Dependable Dave, a truly honest car salesman, something quite rare in the burgeoning car-owning, social revolution that was the 60s.
And the building had had a chequered history. Built in 1845 as a warehouse for storing wool and grain, with it’s original, deep ridged glass roof still in place, it was later used as council offices and because of the abundance of natural light, a lawyer had rented a large section of the ground floor during the late 1800s. Then a wealthy accountant leased most of the upper floor from 1910 until 1925 before it closed for a decade because of unspecified structural problems. It then re-opened as a Reading Room and a Miner’s Welfare Hall.
Jed Pearson bought it in 1950, as storage for new cars, then a showroom, when the vast floorspace and glass roof was fully utilised, and both Dave and Tom Dixon, the sales manager, often boasted that between them they could park 42 cars in what would normally be floor space for 38.
The worst part of his job was having to do the Tuesday late night stint, twice a month, especially when it was slow. It had been dark for hours and the pavement outside still twinkled with reflected Christmas shop lights as people scuttled by, on their way home from work or maybe just going out for the evening. He’d had only 2 callers, tyre kickers, he mumbled as he read with envy the logbook of a mint condition, racing green, Mini Cooper S, before putting his feet up, on the desk, then tipping his chair back, against the wall.
He was bored to distraction and couldn’t wait to lock up then head to Scott’s for some chips then the King’s Arms. His best friend John would already be there, enjoying a pint. Margaret, the new barmaid, had wavered the last time Dave had asked her out so he’d try again and maybe tonight, yawn, might be his lucky night…
Wow, what on earth was that? He thought as his eyes flew open and he glimpsed something falling, on the far left of the showroom. When he attempted to stand, the chair held him fast until the back legs suddenly went out from under him and he finished up in a heap on the office floor. He scrambled to his feet in a daze, steadying himself against the door jamb before gingerly zigzagging his way through the car filled showroom, towards the midnight blue, Austin A40.
Then he reached out, bracing himself against the bonnet of a red Morris Oxford, dreading what he would find.
He blinked and rubbed his eyes but saw nothing. No broken glass, no smashed car roof, no blood, nothing. He then systematically checked every car in the showroom, just in case he had missed something. Nothing was out of place. It was all exactly as it had been 2 hours ago when Tom had gone home and he was left on his own. He staggered back to the office, picked up the phone and immediately put it back. No! How could he explain this, they’d be sure to say he’d been hallucinating, dreaming, drinking or …probably more like it, going nuts. No! He’d make himself a strong coffee and think it through.
Scratching his head he checked the floor around the A40 several times more and then the whole showroom, again. He had seen something, hadn’t he? He wasn’t going mad, was he? It was now 8.53, he’d had enough and decided to go. As he drove slowly past the King’s Arms he could see his mate, John, leaning on the brightly lit bar chatting Margaret up, but Dave didn’t care. He was so on edge he felt that if had one pint, he would probably keep going until he was blotto and then he might blurt out to John what had happened and that would mean everyone would know and he’d be a laughing stock. The scene was replayed, over and over, during his drive home and much to his annoyance, his mother was in. Tuesdays were usually Bingo nights but tonight she felt queasy, she said, as she lathered butter on his toast and stirred his beans.
“Mum, what…?” he started, then changed his mind.
“What, what?” she answered, sharply.
“Oh nothing. Don’t worry about it.” He said, sitting down to eat.
“I’m not worried, or I wasn’t until you told me not to be. What’s up? Something happened at work?” “No mum, leave it. I’m tired, that’s all.” And he tucked into the plate of beans on toast.
But she knew her son, he had something on his mind and he would tell her when he was ready. He didn’t sleep well at all and awoke with a jolt around 4.30am. He kept hearing the harrowing scream and decided to get up and make a cup of coffee. An hour later his mother joined him and she asked again what was wrong.
“I think, I think I’ve seen a ghost, mum. Last night at work I saw and heard something weird and I don’t know what to do. It can’t be a ghost, there are no such things, are there?”
“I don’t know, son. I’ve never seen one but…your Uncle Percy reckons he saw one once when he was staying at Monk Fryston Hall… why don’t you ring him?”
So, he reckoned, if Uncle Percy had seen a ghost, told people about it and was Ok, maybe I will be too. He arrived early to work Wednesday morning, hoping to see Tom before the others arrived.
“Er, wwell, what sort of a night did you have?” Tom asked anxiously as soon as Dave walked through the showroom doors.
“Bloody slow one. Only a couple of tyre kickers all night. Late nights in winter are a waste of time, I reckon.”
“See anything interesting, did you? Something unexpected maybe?” Tom queried.
“Whaddya mean? You bloody lot weren’t play…”
“No, of course we weren’t but…you did see something, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did and I hardly slept. I thought I was going mad, I’m not, am I?” Dave pleaded.
“We didn’t want to tell you about it, just in case you didn’t see it because not everyone does, but… the 28th December is the anniversary of…well something pretty distressing. It appears that during the 1920s part of this building was leased by an accountant and his office was on the second floor, overlooking this glass roof,” he pointed over to where Dave had seen the…?
“The accountant had been working late and his wife and family, 3 sons and 2 daughters, were with him. His youngest son was playing with his Christmas present, lining up all his new tin soldiers on the window ledge, but the window was open and one of them toppled over. He reached for it, a bit too far, and fell. He smashed through the glass and then bled to death on the floor below, out of reach, in front of their eyes. His siblings struggled for years with what they had seen and his mother never got over it. His father suffered a mental breakdown, lost everything and finished up destitute.”
“Bloody hell. Have you seen the… the ghost, Tom?”
“Yes, I have and it shook me up, I can tell you, but it affected Billy the worst. He hadn’t been with us long and didn’t tell anyone what he’d seen so we all thought he hadn’t seen it. But he became so withdrawn, his mother told the doctor and it all came out. Pearson agreed to move him to the Worksop depot but he left there soon after and we haven’t heard a word since. If only the daft young bugger could have told one of us straight away, maybe he’d have been OK.”
“Well, you should have told me.” Dave was angry. “Not sure if I can do another late night because I’ll be waiting for it. We could change it though, to Thursday?”
“But that’s no good because the date was the 28th December and the day changes each year. My Aunt is a medium and she says the event would have been so traumatic, it was captured in the very fabric of the building and will continue until the time is right, and not everyone will see it. Usually the people who do are sensitive but the conditions have to be just right, too. Neither Pearson or his wife have seen it and only 2 of the service department. Are you Ok, Dave?”
“Yeah, but what about all the times no-one sees it? Every year that poor little lad falls out of the window, through the glass and onto the floor where he dies alone. He must wonder why nobody cares. How about we get together, every Dec 28th to show him exactly how much we do care, and you never know, it might even help.”
30 odd like-minded people were gathered in the showroom on the next anniversary of the little boy’s death and to everyone’s relief, he was never seen again.