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The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 6 – The Acre’s Resurrection

Bully's Acre Graveyard in Kilmainham, Dublin 8 - Famous Irish Historic Site

It was just past 10, the group were lucky to catch the off license before the shutters came down. Though the rain had kept up since early evening and the streets were now well wetted, they would keep faithful to the plan and set out down Bow Lane for the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham. That usually quite lane was busy with taxis making their way into town filled with people dressed in all guises for the Halloween festivities. The group comprised of five, there was a couple Aoife and James, they constantly bickered over small things however, they were closer than it appeared, Tony whose girlfriend Niamh had decided to stay in, he was thoughtful, loyal and unassuming. Eddie, who was never really sober for long periods, he was fun and well meaning and Ciara, whose disarming nature hid both intelligence and confidence.

Related Stories:
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 5 – Lord Norbury (The Hanging Judge & The Cabra Hound)
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 4 – Narcissus Marsh
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 3 – Darkey Kelly
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 2 – Billy In The Bowl
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 1 – A Pig Faced Woman

It was Ciara’s idea to spend Halloween in the Bully’s Acre, the ancient forested graveyard in the Royal Hospital’s far north eastern corner. Over the previous months, Niamh, Aoife and James had turned conversations in the pub to talk about the supernatural on more than one occasion. For Ciara, her reasoned brain could not allow for things outside the provable and tangible. Niamh had confused Ciara the most, the other two could easily be just pulling everyone’s leg, they had done so before but Niamh was rational she would never bow to superstition so easily. Yet three months ago she changed with the convert of a zealot. Niamh gave a consistent testimony that she had been pinned to the wall in Marsh’s Library by some unseen force and that books had levitated with a mind of their own in front of her. Her sincerity seemed beyond reprimand, she was not joking. Ciara felt it her mission that if they spent Halloween in one of Dublin’s oldest graveyards, maybe she could prove that there is no such thing as the afterlife. Niamh immediately said no, Tony, Aoife and James all agreed with misgivings, only Eddie was eager to go (he wanted to impress Ciara with his fine mixture of rationalism and courage plus cans were a good deal cheaper then pints and times were hard).

“So how are we getting in?” Aoife muttered while shivering at the lowering temperature. “We’ll hop the wall on the South Circular Road side, we can get a little fire going in there without been seen” Eddie replied, “me fecking dress will be ruined” Aoife chattered. The five made it in, although one bottle of whiskey hanging loose from Tony’s pocket did not survive the process and smashed mercilessly on the pavement below…Tony grieved its loss. They found a spot secluded from the busy street outside the acre’s walls and were amazed how suddenly, dark and quite it had become, despite being still within the city. The fire was slow started with damp wood and leaves. James, Tony and Eddie all gave their expert opinions, gratefully, Aoife brought fire lighters.

“Pass us a can there, thanking you, so anyone know any good ghost stories? Eddie was getting comfortable to his surroundings but there were other things on Ciara’s mind, “Tony did Niamh really just say ‘no’ just like that? It would have been fun to have her here”. “Ah now in fairness Ciara, you know how she is at the moment, the last place she was going to go was a graveyard on Halloween” Tony calmly replied. “That was mad that story, the old guy she described sounded exactly like the auld lad who came back to ours the night, we heard the weird screeching and told us the Billy in the bowl story” James thoughtfully opined. Ciara was determined, “hearing scratching in the distance isn’t a ghost James, it’s something wrong with a car somewhere, and just because there’s a big dirty auldfella going around telling supposed graduates stories about ghosts doesn’t make them real either”. James looked and Aoife unsure before finally saying “if Niamh doesn’t want to be here then fine”. The issue was left there and the group began to reminisce about college. Each in turn would tell a story about a teacher or a night out, invariable they would all laugh, except Eddie, who didn’t remember it, prompting the others to laugh harder.

“So what’s next for the great Eddie with his degree in politics mmn?” Ciara began teasing Eddie gently. “Well, clearly with my immense knowledge of Aristotle, Mills and Marx, I will have no worries finding a highly practical, hands on and useful job fitting a man of my great skill but what is immediately next for Eddie, is he goes off to strain the spuds” Eddie wryly replied as he clamoured to his feet. “You won’t see him again he’s probably going to do his disappearing act” Aoife quipped as she drank from her can, “pity” Ciara said quietly. Eddie had started his march through the trees and broken headstones stumbling as he went looking for a place distant enough from the camp.

Back at the fire, there was noise coming from the distance, heavy footfalls approaching the group. “It’s hardly him back already?”, then into their little clearing stood a broad man with white whisp dangling precariously from under his cap, “hello again” he said looking directly at Aoife and James. “Jesus! You! What are you doing here?” a startled Aoife dropped her can. “That’s the auld lad who told us the Billy in the Bowl story! We were just talking about you, what the hell you doing here? Do you still tell people that you’re immortal like fecking Highlander?” James said with a smile.

“I live locally, I’m out for a walk and no I’ve decided it better to live by the philosophy of “mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur” the old man replied with a smile. “So you’re not candle lighter who can live forever then?” James snorted Aoife rebuked him as soon as he had uttered it. “It’s just so weird that you’re here, are we going to be chased by some fecking monster now? You must have had a few that night you had me and James believing that there was a serial killer with no legs out to get us!” Aoife laughed. The Glimmer man simply continued smiling “may I join you?”. The group gave space to allow the old man room to sit down on the damp ground. Tony who had been eying him for some time finally, put what was on his mind to words “You were in Marsh’s Library with my girlfriend the night she left her job?”. “Yes, an intelligent girl, Marsh is not someone to be trifled with, a very bitter entity indeed” the Glimmer Man replied. Ciara snapped “Oh, come on, you know that story is bollix, the lights just went out and you both got scared, that’s it, there’s no such thing as ghosts and you all know it!”. The Glimmer Man stared at her “that’s where you are wrong my darling, very wrong”. The group fell silent.

Eddie was now a fair distance from the camp leaning awkwardly against a tree relieving himself he could hear rustling stemming from behind his ears. Growing in volume, he turned around, his absence of concentration caused him to wet his hand, “shit”, he finished and decided to explore. Eddie approached some undergrowth were the noise seemed to be originating. He peeled back the leaves to examine what was generating the sound. To his shock, rats, scurrying horridly in one direction, he fell back “Christ! What the fu…?!” Eddie’s curiosity was peaked, he moved towards were the rodents were coming from.

“This is Dublin’s oldest graveyard, the choir invisible has many members singing here.” the Glimmer Man began. “This is where the Gael settled before they fought the Vikings at Clontarf, ancient monasteries were built here, the grave robbers looted here leaving only vengeful bodiless spirits…and tonight, they will all play their part for her”. “What does that mean?” Ciara interjected.

Eddie had come into heavily forested part of the graveyard nothing lay there but headstones spitefully broken by ambitious ivy. He stood there in the darkness, as grey smoked filtered out of the soil beneath him, he panicked and jumped off the exhaling soil, hiding himself behind a tree. The smoke began to take human form, different heights, with no visible appendages and each sporting a cobra’s hood of smoke for its head. There were dozens of these shapes, standing in silent vigil on the hallowed ground in front of him, motionless, like statues, awaiting command.

The Glimmer Man continued ignoring Ciara’s question, “there was a surgeon named Peter Harkan, he worked in Steeven’s Hospital 200 years ago, when bodies for research were still hard to come by. Harkan was ambitious, he was an excellent surgeon and needed corpses to practice with, so he began to help himself to the nearby depository” the Glimmer Man said with a grin has he pointed to the ground beneath him. “Him and his team of pre-emptive ‘Resurrectionists’ soon we’re looting the dead wholesale. Until one night, they were interrupted half way through the most intimate of thefts by the guards. Harkan and his men ran for the wall, his men, fitter than him assailed it with ease, he however, was caught midway, throwing his arms wildly to grasp it on the other side. The guards seized his legs and began to pull him back into the graveyard with vigour. His fellow Resurrectionists were loyal to their paymaster and clasped his arms to pull him over to freedom. Poor Harkan was extended by both sides far beyond the physics of his organs would allow and he expired in agonised whispers.” “Charming story, do you have a website?” James sniggered. “The poor surgeon’s punishment does not end there, this night, the night she brings the embittered and the miserable back, the bodiless rise from their grave and re-enact Harkan’s end, as vengeance for his deeds” the Glimmer Man said staring into the fire. “Well they say ‘he who looks for vengeance should dig two graves first” Tony said smiling.

The solemn smoke figures looked up from their vigil and peered without eyes across the fields towards Steeven’s Hospital, suddenly, they glided in unison towards it. None of them noticed Eddie, who was frozen in fear behind the tree, their forms vanished through the border wall and could be seen floating across the field in the distance. “What the f…was that?!” Eddie whispered to himself, he quickly made his way across the field and back into another dense enclosure of trees.

There Eddie sat for a minute he could still feel the coolness of a can in his pocket. Continuously, he rubbed his head with it trying to take stock at what had happened. Eddie wondered if he was really that drunk, could his drunken mind have conjured these spirits of vapour? The night breeze was cool as it raced through the trees it embraced the sweat on his back, the coldness got to him. Eddie rose determined to head back to the camp and tell the others what he witnessed though it may dismay Ciara. This side of the graveyard was unfamiliar to him but the place was a perfect square, he figured he just had to stay to the edges to reach back to the fire.

The ground began to steep into a mound. Eddie began to see broken blocks of concrete tossed on the wet grass. Scattered here and there among the blocks were large concrete cherubs, four feet in diameter, the moon light smiled on their lovingly crafted chubby faces. While staring at this collection of cast out angels, the periphery of his vision defined four shapes and once again, he realised he was not alone.

“Give us another story, c’mon it’s Halloween” Ciara enjoyed the old man’s turn of phrase, he was eccentric no doubt but she was beginning to enter into the spirit of things. “The graveyard hosts many bodies from the great typhoid epidemic that swept this city at the turn of the twentieth century. They’re buried were the remnants of the old Queen Victoria statue are lain, more litter from history gone. Whole families were placed in clammy restless sleeps from which they would never wake. The sheer depth of sadness of parents, who watched tots die only to follow them soon after leaves them, unable to let this world go and so she guides them back here to wallow in their misery on this strangest of nights” the Glimmer Man said mournfully. “Alright, who is this mysterious woman you keep mentioning?” Aoife liked the old man’s ghoulishness but was growing impatient with what she felt was a tint of chauvinism.

Eddie stood silently his eyes were now at full stretch, not 15 metres away, coming from behind one of the larger blocks was a large emaciated man without pupils covered in blue dots moving lopsidedly towards him, behind him three little girls, also without colour in their eyes followed. Their approach too was stinted, syncopated, unnatural yet determined. The full retinue had presence, the wet leaves stuck to their bare feet, all four naked from their soil womb, all four thin and brittle with a blue hue emanating from each of them. Eddie heard his breath becoming heavy. Panic had travelled with the blood in his veins, alerting every nerve! Moon light shown through the trees, they were now only within several feet of him, he ran back the way he came and towards the wall where the smoke figures had previously ignored.

The group at the fire turned round, more footsteps were heard approaching to their fire, lighter than before, quicker and with purpose. “There you are Percival! I’ve been exhausted looking everywhere for you! Do you have idea the trouble you’ve caused?! I’m sorry lads and lasses, I was hosting a Halloween party and the father in law here disappeared! We’re lucky the neighbours saw you heading in here!” a slender lady with long black hair and a pretty if sharp featured face entered the camp. She had a cold grin, her eyes wide. She wore long dark crimson dress that hung tight around shoulders only the recently mourning would enter a graveyard with such eloquence. “I had to ring the security man to get the back gate opened to get in, everyone’s worried sick! How did you manage to get in here?” she continued. The Glimmer Man looked startled and swallowed hard “you’re right on time as always Lucy”. “I’m sorry we kept him, he was telling us about the graveyard” Aoife answered by way of excuse for the old man who she now began to feel sorry for, James discreetly placed his can behind his knee.

Eddie had ran to a large standing stone, it was beautiful, carved with Gaelige designs, he could see inlets on either side of the stone, he figured it must be an old High Cross with broken arms. He could see the gate, however, he decided to start looking for his phone, the others had to be alerted, though his concern for them was genuine, he really just wanted their company.

“Don’t be silly, it’s not your fault, I guess it happens to us all at his age” she said sharply with the same grin and her eyes still locked on the Glimmer Man. “Don’t talk to her sweetheart, she’s not what you think” the Glimmer Man said turning to Aoife. “It’s time to go Percival” Lucy stared sternly staring straight into the old man’s eyes. “You know why I am here, stop trying to distract me” he countered aggressively, after recovering from his initial shock at her presence.

The perceived insolence of the old man had clearly annoyed the well dressed woman “Come on now, it’s time to go!!” she grabbed the old man’s arm, “no, you can’t, let go Lucy! I have to stay with them, I have to protect them!”, the old man struggled but surprisingly despite the massive size difference between the two, he was held firmly in place by her slender arm. “Let me go, you can’t hold me like this!” eventually she let him go and he fell a few feet back by the sudden inertia. By this stage, the group of friends were becoming increasingly uncomfortable by the woman’s presence they just wanted her to leave. “Fine, stay with them, although there is something perverse about a man your age surrounding himself with twenty somethings” she looked for the first time eye to eye at each member of the group as if to reinforce this suspicion of the old man’s motives.

The tremors flowing down Eddie’s hand made his search for his phone almost impossible as he fumbled about his pockets. He kept looking back the way he came to insure he was alone. However, he was unaware in the distance the smoke figures were returning across the field carrying something that was obviously struggling against their force. This new entity was the same density of smoke as they were, at times it rose off them like foam on the crest of a wave at other times, it sat back onto their shoulders becoming an interlinking piece in their vague ensemble. Eddie got sight of them and ducked behind the stone. He could not see what was happening, he dare not peer behind stone, but he knew that those figures were now collected behind it. Eddie had no doubts as to their presence. All he could hear was loose rocks falling from the wall one after the other. He hid his head in his arms and started to weep. Then there it was, an agonised cry, the sound of an old man in great pain unable to loudly scream, followed by silence. Finally, Eddie peered around the stone to confirm what he had suspected, their stood in perfect silence the smoke figures, with their cobra hoods, they were all now facing Eddie, none moved, but he knew that would change shortly, tears streamed down his face but he said nothing.

“Despite your usual disgusting insinuations, I will stay here with these four and make sure you can do no harm to them” the Glimmer Man stood facing the woman who was still smiling casually. The group now looked at each other in confusion at the meaning of these words. Tony broke the silence “ahem I don’t know what you’re supposedly protecting us from but there are actually five of us, Eddie went for a leak about twenty minutes ago, ah he’s probably gone home at this stage, it’s not that big a place to be that long going for a piss”. The Glimmer Man turned suddenly to face Tony, “there’s another one out there alone?”. The old man’s face washed white with fear, a broken barely audible “oh no” escaped his lips.

At this woman smiled at the group and turned to walk away “goodnight folks, you enjoy the rest of your evening”, she soon vanished amongst the trees. The Glimmer Man immediately roused the others to search the graveyard with him, much to their protest. They felt Eddie had probably just gone home. After, an hour there was nothing to be found, his phone was unanswered. The Glimmer Man simply said “it was too late”, a tear escaped his eye and he bade them goodnight. As he walked down the avenue on his own, he cut a lonely shape, his head slumped down and walking at a slow pace.

The group stayed drinking on the grass outside the graveyard. The thesis had entered their conversation during their search that they had been the victim of an elaborate Halloween trick. Eddie had been in collusion with the old man and the woman. Why else would he be there? Somehow, Eddie found the guy who drunkenly scared Niamh, Aoife & James and made a deal with him. That had to be it. It was the only reasonable thing to think. The group began to laugh about it and toasted Eddie , in his absence, for masterful planned. When the sun came up and the gates were opened, they parted ways, not realising, they would not see their friend again.

Related Stories:
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 5 – Lord Norbury (The Hanging Judge & The Cabra Hound)
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 4 – Narcissus Marsh
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 3 – Darkey Kelly
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 2 – Billy In The Bowl
The Glimmer Man’s Tales Part 1 – A Pig Faced Woman

IMAGE: Bully’s Acre Graveyard in Kilmainham, Dublin 8 – image credit: Pastor Sam/Panoramio

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