I was posting recently about my Dad and the stories I sometimes steal off him. Here’s another one of those stories. This one concerns one of the most terrifying events of his younger life.
So be warned!
Many years ago, he was a keen fisherman - trout and salmon mainly. He and his friends used to travel quite a bit to compete in lake-fishing competitions around this time of year. That meant they would often be driving home along the strange dark Irish roads very late at night.
One such night, he and his friend happened upon a very recent car crash. The car had ploughed through the roadside hedges and fallen down quite a drop into the field beyond. In fact, the car was so far down they wouldn’t have even known it was there, if not for the skid marks and the freshly broken section of the hedge.
It was pitch dark down in the field where the car lay ticking away quietly. The headlights from up on the road could not reach down there, it was pitch dark. All that he and his friend could do was feel their way along the car to get their bearings.
The driver side door could not be opened but the passenger side obliged. No internal light came on, which was not surprising given the horrific state of the car. Gradually, their eyes were adjusting to the dark and they could now make out that there was indeed a body in the driver seat, crumpled and still. It was clear that there was nobody else inside.
The body made no movement when the men shouted in. It seemed likely this person had not survived the crash. Neither of the men knew any First Aid but he came up with the best suggestion he could. "You go and find a phone and I’ll wait here," he said.
His friend ran off to get help, leaving him alone with the motionless body in the car.
"Can you hear me? Hello?"
There was still no response, no movement. He threw the passenger door open as far as it would go and climbed into the passenger seat. Once inside, the car door slammed heavily shut. Some mechanism jammed as it did and he found that the door would not open again. Luckily all the windows had been shattered so the feeling of being locked in was somewhat lessened.
In among all the broken glass and sticky upholstery, he turned to the person in the driver seat and spoke to him.
"Don’t worry," he said, "the ambulance is coming… we’ll get you out… you’ll be all right…"
There was nothing else he could do.
He sat there, hand resting on the person’s shoulder, repeating his reassurances over and over again as the engine ticked slowly down, then stopped. And the darkness seemed only to get deeper and deeper and deeper.
Time passed. It was difficult to tell how much, there was nothing to gauge it by. There was only the darkness and the still motionless body by his side.
But, after a time, something did.
Without sound or warning a cold hand fell unerringly onto his hand and gripped it tightly. The hand did not belong to the body in the car – it had come from the other side. He was too terrified to move, too frozen to speak.
A low drone began. Perhaps due to the shock induced by this hand-from-nowhere, this drone was indecipherable at first, a hoarse throaty mumbling, tubercular and flat. Then it became recognisable, familiar.
"… kingdom come, ‘will be done ‘earth as t’is in heaven. ‘Give us this day…"
"Eh, Father," my Dad said, shakily, "It’s not me that needs you, it’s him over there."