Pilgrim Fort. A week of school camp. Tents on concrete bases. Washrooms hollowed from the Downland chalk. (Something of an ice age look. Graffiti reinforcing it.) Napoleonic origins. A wooded moat. Squirrels stealing chocolate overnight. Dark trips to toilets through the dripping trees. Scary. (Though moonlight’s shades and shadows, scare them more.) Steep paths of chalk - murderous when wet. Wild garlic smells. A child with German measles. Suppertime and Steve (first time away from home) serves oxtail soup, completely fills Grant’s mug with tail. Vengeance for a day of torment. Whispers that the moat is haunted. Outward unconcern by day evaporates at dusk. A spectral-looking leader does his rounds: white sheet, flashlight flickering beneath the folds. The whisperers are petrified; the rest unsure - until the act descends to slapstick when he trips. Next thing the far tent in the line is breached, its tapes undone. A man, a stranger to the boys, asks: Who would like to come with me? A mad stampede; all fears of darkness, ghosts and shadows gone. Breathless when they get to us. The man has disappeared. Though sympathetic, the police refuse to come. We think we know him sir… but miles away by now… quite harmless though… should he return… might I suggest... perhaps… a citizen’s arrest! Three times more we find the tapes undone, twice see or think we see a shredded shape that might or might not be a man still ghosting through the trees. We do the rounds together now. My lamp is borrowed from the janitor: a monstrous box with arcane text around the lens: Spectral Luminous Efficiency… I read. The rest is indecipherable - and the beam reveals no ghosts, not that night or the next. D.K.
Last updated 14.8.2006