THURSDAY: The Other Crowd


Copyright is held by the author.

THERE WAS a carefully manicured graveyard on the outskirts of a little town.

And on an early spring day, there came a man in his mid-60s, walking slowly between long lines of inconsistent headstones. He was carrying a large bouquet of pale-pink roses.

He walked over to one cream-white gravestone and gently placed the roses just in front of the granite. And then he moved back and stood at the end of the grave.

And stared.

And stared.

And stared.

And . . .

Hello, again. It’s been a full week since my last confession. And this is where I always confess. Where I always tell the truth. Where I can never lie. Not to you. Remembering those eyes of yours that always seemed to be able to look into every little corner of my eejit soul.

I miss that.

I miss you.

Well, you know I miss you.

It’ll be your third anniversary next month. I suppose it’s getting easier as time passes, but only slightly. At a snail’s pace.

I just had lunch with Dermot and Conor. We three old amigos. It’s official, now. We are all retired. And we all seem to be doing OK with it. Of course, they still have their . . . well, you know.

I was out at Brendan’s house last Sunday for lunch. He’s doing grand. Along with Veronica. And little Ciara, of course. Little dynamo.

And I got a text from Roisín in college. She’s doing OK. Apparently, she’s acquired herself a new boyfriend. Seems a nice fella. Better than that last yoke, anyway. She sent a photograph. He looks a bit like Herman Munster.

Anyway, I’m talking about everybody else. I suppose I should talk about meself.

I’m all right. I’m certainly not lonely. The house is still being haunted by the “other crowd”. It’s almost hectic. People are always coming and going.

Maeve’s still not back from her travels, by the way. Off among the stars. Hopefully, she’ll be back soon enough.

They all send their love. I think they always preferred you to me. Never said it out loud, of course.

I’ll head back to the ranch. Sweet dreams. God, will ye listen to me? “Sweet dreams.” What a stupid way to end this, but you do know what I mean. You always did.

This man (whose name was Eamon Fitzpatrick) slowly turned around and ambled back to his car. He got in and drove back home to his flower-surrounded home.

As he approached his house, he saw several of his “houseguests” standing around his thick-green, old front garden.

They were strangely pale, almost translucent creatures with their differing clothes representing different historical ages. They all looked up at once and smiled as he got out of his car.

“Hello, ancestors,” he said with a smile. “Enjoying the garden?”

One of the creatures who appeared like an old man in Georgian garb replied “We are, indeed. After all, isn’t this the best time of the year? The flowers are in full bloom.”

Another creature who was dressed like a young woman from the 1920s added “Against all the odds and continuously contrary to all our silly nightmares.”

She smiled, but her smile seemed exaggerated and extreme. For a second, her face did not seem particularly human. The fact that her ears were gold-tinged and pointed added to the effect. This used to mildly unsettle Eamon, but he had become used to it a long time ago. His late wife was never disturbed at all. She accepted this whole situation from the very beginning. She was a tolerant soul.

“Oh, by the by,” the older creature said. “Maeve’s back from her gallivanting. She’s in the living room.”

And she was.

Sitting by the empty hearth, she looked up as Eamon entered the room. She was dressed for all the world like Oscar Wilde in contrast to her long, shoulder-length, dark-blue hair.

“There you are,” she said with a smile. “And here I am.”

“Did you have a good trip?” Eamon asked as he walked over to the chair that was on the other side of the hearth.

“Glorious,” she replied. “I was flying around the Pillars of Creation. Around the Eagle Nebula. Oh, it is a beautiful gift to be able to travel so. And, of course, to have a home to come back to.”

“And you do always come home, don’t you?” Eamon replied. “Not that I’m complaining, of course. But it’s amazing you all still think of this place as your home.”

“We were here long, long before this house was even built. Before towns. Before cities. Before bronze. Before iron. Even before you were born.”

Eamon sat back in his chair and chuckled.

“Thanks very much,” he said. “And I supposed you met an awful lot of . . . what do you call them? Friends we haven’t met yet?”

“Brothers and sisters, you’ve yet to encounter.”

“That’s a very romantic idea. But what are the chances we’ll ever actually meet? They’re millions of light-years away. We’re a small white dot in their night sky. And they’re a small white dot in ours. We boring old humans aren’t as gifted or as lucky as you fays are. Gliding through space whenever you feel like it.”

“As long as some of you still believe in us, we will all still believe in you. That kind of belief can create a great deal of surprise and wonder.”

“That’s hippy-talk, missus,” Eamon replied. “But anyway, who did you meet this time?”

Maeve smiled and said “I was going to say that I thought you’d never ask, but I was pretty sure you were going to ask. OK, where do I begin? Well, for a start, there were these giant flying insects like massive, metallic dragonflies. Each wingspan was about four metres. Rather scary looking, but they were the gentlest creatures you could ever meet. There were also these 10-foot-tall, leonine monks who would go stomping across mountain ranges covered in steaming muck. There were these upright, blue-furred canines who communicated entirely through dance. And there was one planet whose entire culture was dedicated to the naming of objects. When new planets emerged, they were assigned by their interstellar neighbours to name every one of them. To officially give each one a title. The same with new moons or new comets. When I was there, they were naming a group of new stars gestating in these massive gas-globule clouds. They were given names like ‘Second Chance’, ‘Fear’s Demise’, ‘Desperate Wish’ and there was one called . . . what was it called? Ah yes. ‘Sweet dreams.’”

And there was a pause.

Eamon slowly sat up straight in his chair.

And stared.

And stared.

And stared.

And . . .


Image of T. J. Matthews

T.J. Matthews lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. His stories have appeared in Aphelion Webzine, Alien Dimensions and Tall Tale TV.

  1. I loved this.

  2. Fine story mate.

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