The Median

Synopsis

Richard Weignright is a Median. A living bridge between our world and that of the dead. Sworn to guard and protect the boundary between worlds he patrols nightly, placing lost souls to rest and banishing malevolent wraiths. But now a force long forgotten threatens the fine balance kept by the Medians and Richard is forced to confront his own torments and buried secrets to preserve all he has ever known.

Extract

As a child I was never a large believer in anything other than what I knew to be true and as far as I was concerned that was simply the world around me. There were dreams, though. Every child has nightmares but these were different; terrible visions of what I was sure couldn’t be real. My parents always told me that I had an overactive imagination. How could they understand when they never even wanted to try, what’s worse I believed them. At least up until that night. I was only twelve; the driving rain had never been a good condition to drive in. Our car was run off the road by a jack-knifing lorry and…No one should have to see that sort of thing, let alone a child when his parents are involved. There was only one possible thing worse than it and that was having to live thought it twice. In my dreams I had already seen it, every harrowing detail yet the very essence of what I had been taught told me not to accept it. For the next few months I lived with my aunt and every day wrestled to come to terms with everything that I had lived though and all the time experiencing more and more vivid visions, amazing places constructed of what was almost pure light, shadowy figures and an ever present feeling that I was not like the others. Eventually I accepted that I could no longer go on denying that what was so obvious. I had something, a gift, and to deny it would bring something that wasn’t even worth thinking about.

Sure, I’d been christened…Haven’t we all? It’s not as though I liked the religion or anything. Bunch of hypocrites really, to say the least. It all basically adds up to me trying to keep as much of a distance as possible between me and any sort of church. It must be that it’s some sort of cruel irony of fate that happens to be the first place they always tend to think of heading.

A dark, cold, October night. A flickering streetlamp casts an intermittent yellow shadow onto the wet street. A dark figure sits in a car parked adjacent to an old stone chapel, watching shimmering silhouettes against the strained glass.

After a minute or two he abruptly opened the car door and swung a leg out into the drizzling rain. He paused and looked to the gloomy sky, then back down and shook his head. The man continued to exit the car and slammed the door, forcing numerous beads of water to run forward from the sunroof onto the windscreen. He pulled forward his leather jacket and adjusted the collar in a vain attempt to gain protection from the rain, then began to stride towards the chapels double panelled opening.

He grabbed the Iron handle and listened though the door to what sounded like a scuffle, or at least a one sided struggle. Eventually the doors were pushed open and he entered briskly, leaving a drizzly mist in his wake.

Two youths were attempting to pull a poor box from the clenched arms of a clergyman.

“Hey!”

The youths quickly turned around and gritted their teeth, with one stepping forward and flicking his own collar up aggressively. “Wha’ du ya want!?” this was barked as though it were a command, even though the individual had absolutely no authority to command it with.

“I would like you to leave…” the man looked them both up and down in turn, “right now,” he began to walk forward, slowly sliding his hand inside his jacket.

“And ‘ow ya gunna make us!?” the second youth snapped, squeezing the tip of his Burberry cap together and spitting on the ground.

“I said now,” he smoothly drew a long barrelled six round revolver from a holster concealed under the glistening wet leather and pointed it casually yet very accurately at the nearest youth. “I suggest you comply,” he finished after a few seconds.

The youths shuffled uneasily and then started towards the door. The barrel of the gun tracked them out of the chapel and then began to fall as the door creaked to a close.

The priest stood, unsure whether to be pleased by the actions of this mysterious individual or appalled. Before he had a chance to speak the chamber of the gun was quickly flicked open, its sharp click making the cleric jump and a voice came across from behind the still dripping leather as the revolver was brought into open view.

“Don’t worry…It’s not loaded,” the chamber was flicked back into place and the weapon was replaced into its holster.

“Thank you, my child,” the priest spoke at last and loosened his grip on the poor box as the stranger slowly turned around. “What is your name?”

“As if it matters…” he once again straightened his jacket and then looked directly at the priest “Weignright…My name is Richard Weignright,” his voice discerned itself as soft yet with an oddly distant texture followed by a quality described only by that of an echo. His general appearance seemed to perfectly match his voice. He was clean shaven and his thick black hair fell loosely into whatever style it appeared to see fit with flecks of his fringe tumbling about his brow.

“Thank you, Richard,” the priest reached a free hand forward in order to distribute a blessing but it was quickly pushed away.

“Don’t think you can thank me yet,” he looked around the chapel alter carefully. Two large candles burnt steadily, their light partially reflected by the polished brass cross at the centre of the arrangement. Suddenly the candles flicked violently in quick succession, right to left. Richard looked back to the clergyman. “You’d better leave me to it. It may get…” he sought for the correct word and eventually settled on something that was reasonably acceptable, “interesting.”

He seemed largely taken aback by the proposal. “Leave you to what?” he didn’t expect an answer but briefly waited for one none the less. “This is my chapel and if I didn’t have those youngsters telling me what to do, I certainly will not have you doing so!” he breathed and seemed pleased with his sermon.

Richard quickly glanced to the heavens. “Fine. Suit yourself,” he slowly began to walk towards the alter with the candles continuing to flick back and forth as he stepped up. The flickering abruptly ceased to move and became isolated to the left candle. He leant towards the flame, as the flickering grew more aggressive, and felt an odd chill that took it upon itself to completely ignore the concept of flesh and affected the bone directly.

The priest craned his neck in an attempt to gain a concept of what kind of ritual was taking place. “What are you doing?” he finally inquired cautiously but was completely ignored.

Richard looked deeper into the fire, then abruptly closed his eyes and whispered some inaudible verse before sharply blowing at the candle, extinguishing the dancing flame. He opened his eyes again and shallowly swivelled them around. Gradually a breeze began to pick up and he nodded to himself as though he were acknowledging the fact as though it had been told to him. As he stepped down from the alter and took up a position in front of it the breeze began to pick up.

The clergyman began to panic with a gust of wind sweeping in and extinguishing the candles dotted around the building. The only light that was left was that emanating from the misty moon and street lights outside poorly filtering through the stained glass, leaving the church tinted an eerie twilight blue. The gust finally died down and the church was again silent for several moments. The priest stepped slowly towards Richard who remained concrete still. Just as he reached the corner of the alter an empty, tubular tone echoed around the rafters. It vibrated cobwebs from their century old hollows, startled dozens of bats and shook the very soul of the building. Still, Richard stayed motionless.

The lonely sound did not fade. It merely changed. It merged in and out of the audible spectrum but, at last, seemed to settle into a slow moving mist that bellowed out above the alter, with wisps circled around both Richard and the priest. They explored and felt there presences before they withdrew in a slick motion followed by a sequence of low tones. They echoed among the relics and became apparent as distinct voices, moaning and groaning a fate for the eternally damned.

Suddenly a single voice became apparent among the drone. “Leave this place…” the voice was forceful but without authority or malice, “leave us.”

All his life the priest had followed his faith with blind diligence and loyalty, but now, with all that he was witnessing he began to question whether he had ever believed everything he had been preaching. Pushing the doubts to the back of his mind, trying to silence them with the story he had always been taught. As the voice spoke he stumbled back and made a short spurt for his chamber fumbling the poor box to the ground and slamming the door behind himself, locking it tight.

Richard eyes flicked open onto the alter and upon a much different world. The walls glowed as if the sun its self bore presence unto them. The air above the ground shimmered with a dark essence that now seemed to encompass the other worldly chapel. The candles that had shone so bright previously now burnt a quiet, almost black flame yet somehow still seemed to outline the solitary brass idols around them. A shivering atmosphere at Richards feet morphed from a slight shimmering to a gradually increasing motion that mimicked that of ocean mist rolling onto a dawn shore. It rose and encompassed the objects on the alter and eventually up to the pulpit as if it was attempting to prove everything was insignificant compared to its mere presence.

Suddenly the waves fell to the ground and broke on the stone slabs with no apparent reason or prompting. Still un-phased, Richard began to move, casually reaching into an inner pocket and taking a firm hold of a glass apothecary bottle. As he did, the darkness pressed up against his back forcing him to pause his actions.

“Why are you here?” the voice of the darkness was whispered in an almost surreal way. “Why do you not listen?”

Richard let go of the bottle and let it slip neatly back into his pocket, withdrawing his had down to his side. Turning around he found the shadows had manifested themselves into a figure. A young boy, no older than fourteen, his complexion pale and virtually translucent.

“How are you here?” it added, mystified by the mortal before him.

Richard took a breath, at a loss of what to say. Before he had a chance to even think, a second presence drifted across his path. Slowly, from the back of the chapel it began to fade through air, taller than the first, it started to take steps through the wavering air. It reached out and gently placed a hand on the boys shoulder and looked dead at Richard, just as its features became discernable. Both looked as though they had once, long ago, worked on the fields; sowing and ploughing. He dared not think about how the farmer had come to be here. “You know why I’m here?” he asked the taller spirit.

The farmer moved in front of his son and without any kind of concern gazed straight at Richard. “Are you a god fearing man, sir?” he continued to silently stare ahead for a few more seconds. “How could you live with yourself? You don’t know how long we’ve looked for a way back. You have no idea how desolate, how empty it is there. What reason have you got to send us back?”

“I do know…” Richard replied simply, pausing in thought for a second, “…and I’m sorry…I truly am.”

The farmer only now broke his gaze and stepped back in line with his son. “So am I.”

The priest, shaking with disbelief, opened his eyes and unclasped his praying hands. He inched around and found the door handle, grasping it loosely at first, tightening his grip as confidence returned to him. He re-opened the door onto an empty church hall, lacking any trace that anything had happened. He stepped from the doorway and lightly trod towards the alter. He looked up towards the dark shrine with the candles now extinguished and up at the brass cross that, even now, still shone in the gloom. He looked around and realised the absence of the discarded poor box. Without even looking for it he knew that the mysterious stranger had taken it and for all that he had seen that night, he could keep it.

The house was, at most 35, maybe 40, years old yet it had a strange presence about it. A presence that was much older than anything to do with the house. It encompassed the rooms and flowed through their occupants, drawing attention away from the ornately decorated skirting boards, antique figurines and bookcases brimming with texts on spirituality and other worldly planes.

Richard placed the poor box, much more gently than it had become accustomed to over the course of the night, on a small shelf next to the door along with his keys while he slipped off his dripping jacket and dropped it over a cloak stand. No sooner as he had done that, from down the hall came the sound of the kitchen door swinging open and firm footsteps making their way up the polished wooden floor.

“Again?” came the young but raspy male voice of the footsteps.

“It just seems such a waste,” replied Richard, again placing a firm grasp on the poor box, this time only to toss it to his counterpart walking towards him. “Take that round to Oxfam tomorrow, will you?”

“These charities…” he adjusted his grip on the box and held it to his side, “ninety percent of the money goes in the pocket of some fat cat.”

“Mike, you see,” he stepped forward and leant towards Michael, making him seem much shorter than he actually was, “it’s better that at least some of the money, even if it is just ten percent, goes to who needs it rather than it all going in some cardinals wallet,” he stood straight again, where it became apparent that, contrary to all available evidence, both of the men had much the same build.

Michael breathed out heavily as Richard turned into the lounge but suddenly seemed to remember something as he moved to sit down. “Oh, yeah, you got a call while you were out. It was Chris Cheve. He sounded pretty messed up.”

“Tell me, when isn’t he messed up?” he bent forward and leant on his knees. “Did he say why he phoned or was it just his general brand of assorted doomsday messages?”

“He said he wanted to meet you. Tonight, in the alley next to queens square take away at 12 O’clock,” Michael moved to the other side of the room and leant on the hearth while Richard was seemingly in deep thought. “You’ve not had a proper break in days now. Is it something to do with Halloween being in a few days?”

Richard jolted his head up and looked Michael straight in the eye. “How long now? Three years? How many times do I have to tell you? Halloween has no special bearing on anything, only that a few dumb shits the other side think they have a better chance of getting through. Believe me; they don’t so it’s not my problem.”

“I just thought-”

“Nothing! Alright?” he sunk back into the seat and breathed deeply. “Now. Queens Square was it?”

“Yeah,” Michael said cautiously, “the take away. I don’t know what he wants.”

There was silence for a few seconds as Richard contemplated the rest of the night. “I’d better check it out…You never know,” he glanced at an ornate mahogany clock on the mantle piece. “Half nine, now,” there was silence for another few seconds before he smoothly pushed up out of the chair and headed for the hallway.

“Rich, where you going?”

Richard grabbed his still dripping coat from the stand and slipped it on. “I need to stop off somewhere first,” he opened the front door and rushed out into the night.

“Hey!” Michael grabbed Richard’s car keys from the shelf, “you forgot your keys!”

“I’ll walk,” came a voice from Richard’s rapidly disappearing silhouette.

“But it’s still raining!”

There are not many people in this world who fully know what is going on, the purpose of life and other such related subjects. I never claimed to be one of them. I do take some pride in having a better idea than the majority of the populous; even if the idea is brought about by something I quiet often wished I didn’t have. I know there’s more than one plane of existence, far more. The living world, that of the dead and a lonely, desolate plane known only as the median world. Fringing on each side of the median world with the planes of the living and the dead are border worlds. Places where lost souls manifest themselves and can occasionally break through to appear as ghosts and poltergeists. Where most can only catch glimpses of these or witness their paranormal activities, I can see them as clear as day, as though they were actually there, even when they were not supposed to be. It’s considered by some that my duty, the duty of all Medians is to move them on to the next world, even if they do not desire to so. I’m just trying to keep a little sanity in the world.

By the time Richard had reached Gateshead Cemetery the rain had finally eased, but still lingered with a cold ominous presence. He stood at the chest high iron fence of the graveyard and gazed in, scanning the grounds as though he were expecting to find something. Eventually his eyes focused onto a point just off an old chestnut that’s branches swayed lethargically in the gentle breeze. As misty night air began to clear it became apparent that there was a figure of a man. He seemed to be casually raking leaves, without a shudder or care for the bitterly cold air.

Richard turned away from the fence and made his way to the rusty gate. As he gently pressed it open it moaned with the effort and finally screeched to a contented silence.  As he approached the figure it did not turn and didn’t even seem to realise his presence. “Albert.”

The figure continued to rake the apparently leafless soil for a few more seconds before it began to speak in a deep, empty tone that was almost lost to the open air. “Have you finally come to do it then, son?” his rake occasionally caught a drifting leaf which crackled loudly against the soothing breeze. “I suppose my time is somewhat…” he stood up straight and leaned on his rake. His face was old and as empty as his words dark and faded to an empty mist almost as if he belonged to the night, “overdue.”

“You know I’m not here for that,” he paused and tried to gain some idea of Albert’s expression, or whether he, indeed, even had one. “I’ve had quite a busy week. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you, now?”

He stood up straight and clasped the rake firmly in his hand. “One sees only what they wish to see…” casually he began to move towards Richard, in the process walking through an age old wheelbarrow that he had apparently been using at some point in time. “I wish only to see what it is my business to.”

“I don’t want to but I’ll do it if I have to.”

“Of course, what I wish and what I see are not always one in the same,” he turned away and headed back towards the large tree he was working under, this time having the forethought to walk around the wheelbarrow. “Souls are restless, they always are, especially now, you know why. But this is different…They’re scared, and not just of moving on. There’s something out there, something you don’t want coming here,” he placed the rake gently against the tree and turned back to Richard. “I’ve learnt a lot in my time here, most I didn’t think was possible. But I am too old to worry about such things, now. That is the job of the young, your job,” he took a step away from the rake and looked Richard straight in the eye. “Good luck Richard…And take care.” As his words drifted through the air his body began to fade into the night until all that was left was the eerie mist hovering above the graves.

Richard took a breath and looked down at the grave at his feet:

HERE LIES:

ALBERT WEIGNRIGHT

BELOVED HUSBAND AND FARTHER

1945-1988

WILL BE SORELY MISSED

“You too, dad.”