Manifestation at Peter’s Pond
The war was now over and the last of the injured had been sent home, and as Albert sat by the window watching her every move, her body was distressingly mirrored in the glass window panes. Slowly she moved around the room, a menacing form of a woman clothed in white, finally disappearing slamming the door loudly as she left. The sigh of relief from the residents was as evident as a breeze of fresh air.
Albert’s arms pushed down eagerly to propel his wheelchair as fast as he could out of the open french windows, and down the slope. If the old tyrant had seen him and had her way, she would have stopped him going which she had done so many times in the past.
The path was beginning to taper off as he approached the small copse of elm trees that sheltered the large pond. He questioned himself, not for the first time, why it was called a pond and not a lake. It was large enough to be either as it covered almost an acre. He knew that the man who had looked after the area and generally improved the whole garden was called Peter, and knowing the locals’ penchant for easy speech, it had instinctively become Peter’s pond. If it had been Luther then in all probability it could have been called Luther's lake. What it was called before Peter, nobody knew.
He was panting quite heavily as he finally broke through the circle of elms and penetrated the spot he loved so much. It never failed to lift his spirits, and for the past year he had without a doubt needed an ego boost as everything had been all right until she, the new matron, had arrived.
When he first lost the use of his legs in the war, he thought he would never come to terms with such a handicap. To make matters worse he was no youngster, but his son and daughter in law had been remarkable and helped him through the first critical period. He knew he couldn't stay with them forever, and was adamant they find somewhere for him where he would be looked after. They eventually did, at Twelve Elms military rest home.
To begin with, his life had been quite bearable. The specialists catered for many types of disabilities and were very skilled and supportive, but the new matron and Albert had taken an instant aversion to each other. Her behaviour was offhand and domineering, treating the residents more like children than adults, and he had told her so. She had confiscated his bottle of whisky and his pipe out of spite, but he struck back by getting another bottle and producing another pipe. Only when he was by Peter’s pond did everything seem peaceful and reassuring.
As alleged by the local vicar some time back, the pond had been known since mediaeval times and in all probability before then. There was, by all accounts, substantiated evidence that it had been connected with certain Druid practices, but if the dictatorial matron was to have her way she would have it drained and filled in. This was her latest scheme of things she was going to put before the trustees. She said there was a danger that elderly residents could fall in and be drowned. Albert knew better. She was doing it to spite him. She knew how he loved the pond and all the wildlife it attracted, and was resolved to stop him getting pleasure from it. She wanted him to go and would not stop until she found a way, but Albert was a fighter, he wouldn't give up that easily.
He manoeuvred his wheelchair closer to the pond's edge and opened the leather bag he had on his lap. The water in front of him began bubbling and was soon alive with fish. They knew Albert and were used to his evening feedings of brown bread that he had saved from the residents leftovers. After spreading the food across the water he sat very still in his wheelchair and closed his eyes. He waited for contact to begin. Almost immediately he felt it come into being; a warm glow that seemed to unfold throughout his body, his frustrations starting to melt away. Then he remembered what he had to do. He felt so distressed knowing that he had to tell the Spirit the matron’s intentions. He called it the Spirit for want of a better name. What do you call something you communicate with but cannot see? No, it wasn't a form of divine being he was sure of that. It was something probably forgotten, maybe one of many, something from another time; but this one was still here and it was in the pond.
It had first connected with him when he was sitting by the water and seriously considering suicide in the depths of despair. The Spirit had penetrated his mind and stopped the intense unrest he had felt, but tonight he had to give it very grave news.
After he had relayed his message of the matron’s intentions of having the pond drained and filled in, he felt the pain and the sadness of the Spirit.
'Can't you go somewhere else,' asked Albert.
'I cannot leave,' it answered. 'I am here as long as the pond is here. If the pond ceases to exist, then so do I. When my masters created this hallowed place many centuries ago they made me its guardian, so if it is destroyed then so am I. I can only live here, so I shall do everything in my power to keep it that way. My masters left long ago, and until our two minds met I have had no contact with anything or anyone. We have both given each other hope and this must not change.' Everything then went quiet.
Albert sat there for a while in thought then felt into his bag and produced a glass and a small bottle of scotch whisky. He poured himself a drink and as he brought it to his lips he could see her ghastly reflection in the whisky glass, as she loomed up on him from behind. He hid the glass under his blanket, and took out his pipe and placed it in his mouth.
'So there you are you old bastard, enjoying the view eh? Well make the most of it, because I'm seeing the trustees tomorrow about having this lot filled in. What will you do then?'
The matron's hatchet face beamed in delight as she saw the tense expression on Albert's face.
'Look I know you hate me for some dubious reason but what if I go, would you give your word to leave the pond alone then? I'll leave tomorrow if you be of the same mind.'
The matron was getting pleasure from watching him plead but she wanted more.
'Now that I know it means so much to you, I shall certainly have it filled in whether you stay or go. And another thing, I told you not to smoke.'
Her hand flew up to his mouth and knocked the pipe flying. He watched as it made a splash in the pond. The matron watched as well, a triumphant look on her face, but then her expression began to change to one of astonishment. It was now getting dusk and at first Albert couldn't make out the entity very plainly. It was like a black cloaked shadow rising in front of them, hovering, powerful, unwelcoming. He never saw any form of face but by the matron's shriek of horror it was not very charismatic. There was no escape for her. Slowly and without explanation she was drawn over the water to where the intimidating shadow waited. She then began to fade away, her white petrified face the last thing to be sucked beneath the blackness of the pond. Then all went still and silent. Albert did no more but took out another pipe, filled it and lit it. He then produced his glass of whisky and took a sip, a cynical smile forming on his face.
Nobody ever discovered what happened to the matron. They even dragged the pond but never found anything except Albert’s pipe.
Everything has returned to normal at Twelve Elms, and Albert gets on well with the new matron who sometimes sits with him by the pond enjoying the peacefulness of it all.
Many of the residents pass him whilst sitting in his wheelchair at the water's edge. Some have often thought they heard him talking to someone, but when they looked around there was never anyone else there.
Yet at the home the motionless image of the tyrant matron is still visible in the glass window panes, as a disturbing reminder as to how things used to be.