Wednesday, May 22Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

A Ghost Story

Niamh Smith

He had never seen such beauty; her raven tresses hanging down in thick strands, the intense pools  of blue that were her eyes, the porcelain skin of a china doll. He had been watching her for years and had never dared to show himself. I would scare her if she saw me, he thought, but still he followed  her to the empty study. She sat down at the archaic mahogany desk, but instead of writing a letter  (that was what he had done in his lifetime, he observed) or switching her computer on, she sat  there, alone in quiet thought. 

It was a perfect time for him to reveal himself. She had often remarked to her friends that the study  was haunted, and she had little idea how right she was. She did not expect, at that moment, to feel a  soft hand on her shoulder. 


The girl jumped back, almost falling out of the chair. ‘Who’s there?’ she stuttered, her heart  drumming, a tremble of fear in her voice. Her request was answered by a faint apparition of a boy,  not much older than her. His auburn hair was mostly covered by an ill-fitting Fedora. On his feet, he wore old-fashioned boots, brown and weather beaten. His white shirt, tucked into beige corduroys,  was too big for his skeletal frame. As his deep brown eyes looked at her intently, she felt unsettled.  It was as if he was staring into her soul. 

She had always believed in ghosts, and now here was the proof. His appearance had terrified her  and now his stare chilled her to the very core.  

‘Are you real?’  

The question escaped from her lips. She had been compelled to say something, anything, knowing  that years of regret would pass if she had bolted, terrified, from the room.  

‘Yes’, he said, as if he was stating the obvious. His voice was deep, but honeyed and clear.  

She smiled nervously, as he moved towards her. It was difficult to determine how she felt now – the  boy (or whatever he was) scared her, but, as the minutes passed, she was feeling increasingly safe in  his presence. There was now no doubt in her mind that he was a ghost. The encounter had given her  a certain feeling that she had never felt before – an ineffable sensation that made her view the  

world and her existence anew. 

She reached out towards him and touched him, curious to see whether her hand would disappear  right through him. To her surprise, her hand felt the soft cotton of his oversized shirt, before his  hand moved to clasp hers. He smiled at her, his skin less pale now, but still cold to the touch. The girl  was feeling more anxious by the second, as he moved closer to her. Suddenly, their lips met as he  kissed her. 

The ghostly apparition’s lips held tight around hers, a gently tickling sensation coming over her  mouth. She felt his lips solidify, as the boy became less transparent – now, he was no longer a ghost,  but a living, breathing person like her. 

She drew away sharply, terrified by the quick change in his appearance. She tried to abscond from  his embrace, but his hand seized her wrist desperately.

‘Please! Don’t let go!’ He cried in anguish. ‘I only stay like this if you touch me’.  

In her confusion, she stopped her struggle. His grip relaxed, as the explanation came tumbling out of  his mouth. 

‘I wanted someone to restore me to my rightful state. I’ve watched you for years’. He looked at her,  tormented and forlorn. ‘You were so beautiful… and kind… and caring’. He was really struggling now.  ‘I hoped that one day you would help me, when I finally found the courage to appear to you’. 

He looked at her, his eyes begging for her love, her approval. She felt sorry for him. Her fear had felt  like a rejection to him. But, however bad she felt, she knew that she couldn’t help him. She couldn’t  love him, hold onto him for the rest of her life.  

‘I’m sorry’, she replied tearfully.  

As she looked down at her arm to remove it from his grasp, she cried out in terror. She could make  out the wooden floorboards through her arm.  


She was standing in the empty study when he came in. He was a banker: combover, dark-rimmed  glasses, Jermyn Street suit. She had been watching him for years, ever since he had moved in, and  had never dared to show herself. He sat down at the archaic mahogany desk and switched his  computer on. Her computer had occupied the same space on the desk years (or was it decades?)  before. Before he had made her like this. 

It was a perfect time for her to reveal herself. She knew that the man did not believe in ghosts,  dismissed them as stories. Little did he know the stories were true. She reached out and placed her  hand softly on his shoulder.