I was christened David Nathaniel Pryce at St Saviours church in the small village of my birth in Wales.
I am 49 years old now, unmarried but an adequately successful businessman around these parts, even if I do say so myself.
As such, my time is very valuable to me yet, none-the-less, I always cherish my all-too-infrequent visits into the cathedral city of Eastchester. It is such a beautiful place you see. And I used to look forward to every excursion there with some relish.
Not so much these days, however,...especially following the events of one never-to-be-forgotten foray into town a few months back!
Looming high above all the other quaint and not so quaint buildings of Eastchester was, of course, the magnificent 12th Century cathedral, which dominated any approach into this otherwise surprisingly small, yet quintessentially English, South Coast city.
Some days an all-encompassing fret would blow in off the sea to shroud the cathedral in its ghostly essence, with just the barest tip of its spire puncturing the gloom.
This particular day though was an archetypal Winter's day. Straight out of one of those expensive coffee-table books increasingly found on sale in Eastchester's larger book-stores.
With a dazzling low sun seemingly consuming a breathtakingly, brilliant blue sky.
Everywhere looked so...so perfect!
I was actually 'in town' on business. But after concluding that minor inconvenience (a necessary meeting with my solicitor in their Chapel Street office) I fully intended to take a leisurely stroll around a few of the delightful shops to restock my home with some essentials (maybe even purchasing some non-essentials!) before taking a late lunch in the splendid cathedral cafe.
Some time later, after being enthralled, as I usually was, by the chimes of the cathedral bells on the hour before setting off again after lunch, I found myself in a completely different part of town.
Out of nowhere, a cloying fret had indeed swept in off the coast now to cast a misty unreality to the shops and dwellings nearby and I wasn't sure exactly where I had strayed.
True, I'd lost myself a little, looking into the many-fold shop windows, allowing my thoughts to drift while I did so, and had evidently not even made a subconscious mental note as to where I was actually allowing my unrestricted inner self to propel my physical body.
I thought I knew a way back to the main thoroughfare, though, (even from this unfamiliar part of town)...but I wasn't one hundred per cent certain.
If I go down there, I considered, glancing at a narrow, serendipitous lane that could have led anywhere really, maybe I can find the High Street again?
So down the tiny pathway, that had probably been a part of Eastchester's fibre since its earliest days and was curiously named 'Prior's Gate' I went...but it didn't lead me back to the High Street. Instead I came out into another, almost identical, lane which looked to go on some way into the increasingly foggy distance.
It was noticeably colder now, I mused, and I buttoned my coat up fully against the gnawing chill.
Instantaneously I turned around sharply upon feeling the touch of something on my right shoulder...only there was no-one there!
I could, however, make out the slightest movement up ahead, at one of the houses that fronted on to the lane.
Then...there it was again. Something or someone tapping me, insistently this time, on my right shoulder.
Out of the corner of my eye, and to my complete and utter astonishment, I saw a thin, white hand reaching out of the gloom to touch the collar of my coat. Then in an instant it was gone. Seemingly withdrawn into the ether.
It didn't quite register at first but there was something highly unusual about that hand...it was broken at the wrist...and there was bone very definitely peering out through the flesh ...and what flesh there was...was unappetisingly in the later stages of decay!
Chilled to the very marrow I made my mind up to get back to civilisation as soon as I could and so I immediately looked around for an other way back. If I could just retrace my footsteps that would at least lead me back to where I had strayed from in the first instance and if the fret lifted I could try and make my way back from there.
But before I had a chance to put my new plan into action, I caught sight of more goings on at the house at which I had first glanced.
The air, though filled with a milky film that disguised all it clung to, was still...absolutely no trace of any wind or breeze. Now I ponder it further, it was as if I had been spliced into some kind of old movie...and I was waiting...waiting for someone to shout 'action!'
Then a rush of air so forceful I had to steady myself against the side of one of the buildings. And something in that whoosh of air that smelled...of death!
I stood motionless as two, large white horses, pulling an ebony-black funeral carriage, glided by in front of me. It was all so close to me that I could see right in through the freshly-cleaned glass and look directly at the dark-stained, wooden coffin therein.
The carriage halted abruptly in front of the very house that had drawn my attention earlier.
Further up the road, though, the fret had cleared a little to reveal a small Public House named 'The Draughtsman', proudly bearing a swinging sign to that effect that was never-the-less bolt-rigid in the still air.
A raucous group of men had virtually fallen out of the front door of the little hostelry and were barrelling down the lane away from the pub and making their drunken way in my direction. They were on the opposite side of the road to the house with the carriage outside but before they drew level, one ruddy faced man noticed the horses, took of his grubby-looking hat in reverence and implored his drinking partners to do likewise.
That hand again found my shoulder, this time pushing me, urging me forward, deeper into a scene I had no desire to play an active part in.
'Who are you?' I cried out
'Why me?' I added pathetically
A bony hand clawed at my neck, immediately felt as if it had scratched my very skin as it did so...and I reluctantly ventured closer.
An ashen-faced woman in her 40's or so was weeping forcibly at the doorway. I noted it to be a very well-appointed house and, somewhat fittingly, it was painted a spectral white from top to toe. An other, older woman, accompanied by an upright man all in black who was wearing a matching top hat (who may or may not have been a representative of the funeral directors responsible for these whole ghostly proceedings) were trying their best to comfort her in her hour of grieving. She was undoubtedly quite beautiful, with flowing blonde hair, a slender figure and the loveliest, sparkling blue eyes. Current circumstances had cruelly twisted her features though and it was clear to me, distraught as she was, that she had recently lost the love of her life.
After a while, they all eventually walked deliberately down to the carriage...the horses growing impatient, foaming at the mouth and wanting to be away from this house of death. The man in black, with the assistance of an other younger man also dressed fully in the same colour, carrying the visibly heavy coffin down the arrow-straight stone pathway of the house to the carriage, that was lit either side at the front by two gold-coloured lanterns.
One of the revellers from the pub came right up to where I was now standing but he didn't glance my way or give any indication that he knew of my existence. I even had time to form the conclusion that he was indeed in urgent need of a good shave as he passed by right under my nose.
Who were all these people and of what interest were they to me?
I spotted another pathway called 'The Churchpath' only a few yards in front of me as I began to get a renewed feeling for my bearings as well as a keenness to escape from the living nightmare unfolding in front of my eyes. But as I sprinted forward to make my exit down the newly-discovered passageway, the owner of that god awful hand formed unannounced in a hiss and a whir to immediately obstruct my progress.
The hand was the only body part of its being that I could actually discern. It seemed to float about two or three feet above and beyond me...the rest of its body was just an area of intense, foreboding blackness.
Its supernaturally skeletal index finger was pointing down yet another dark and misty portal, which looked as if it went on for far longer than any ordinary pathway should, and was entirely in the opposite direction to 'The Churchpath'.
'I have no wish to stay here...so let me by!' I demanded. Conjuring up some hitherto unneeded bravura. Only for a huge, unearthly gust of phantom wind to drive me teetering towards the object of the entity's desire. A swirling vortex of unknown origin...a pathway to the beyond...a 'beyond' I had no wish to explore but a 'beyond' I was heading inexorably towards.
'I know this is your domain!' I offered up in a last-ditch effort to try and make contact with this unworldly being and make it unquestioningly aware that I was not there to threaten its continued existence.
Unexpectedly, a shove in the back, so strong that I lost my footing and stumbled into a wall, hurled me away from the abyss and to the very entrance of 'The Churchpath'.
These are the only words I can find to describe what I saw. In essence it was as white as the purest white of a country snowfield on the bleakest day of a bleak Winter. Yet, in truth, it was a bulky misshape.
Gradually, though only partially, this new entity manifested before I had time to dust myself down from my fall. And then it disappeared in the blink of an eye. It could have been a woman...I think it was more probably a man...or some kind of spirit of a man...but it could have been something else? To this day I really do not know.
All I do know for sure is that I was able to scurry up 'The Churchpath' and away from that place...that place with the ghostly apparitions and disembodied figures. And back into the main street of Eastchester with its lighted shops and welcoming hustle and bustle.
I still enjoy my trips into town...though I don't stray too far anymore.
And when a sea fret rolls in...I make sure that I head straight for one of Eastchester's many eateries. I mentioned before that my preference is for the cafe within the confines of the cathedral didn't I?