I'd forgotten it was Halloween, hence I had nothing in the house for potential Trick-or-Treaters, a minor disaster since I didn't want to wake in the morning to discover my doorknob covered in treacle. In my experience, these Trick-or-Treaters are only too happy to trick.
I got out the car and raced the ten miles to the nearest supermarket, where I had previously spied large bags of Halloween sweets, specially produced by a well-known confectionery firm. Made out of liquorice or fruit gum, the bag contained witches hats, broomsticks, snakes, black cats, cauldrons, and so on. You get the picture.
It was already late so I might have missed the Trick-or-Treaters already, but if so, I reckoned I could snuggle down in front of the television and happily eat the bagful of goodies myself.
On the way back I had to pass the churchyard, dark and forbidding on this night of all nights. I was about to accelerate past when I heard an ear-splitting screech. Until then, I'd never understood the expression about the hairs on the back of your neck standing up, but now I knew.
As the unearthly scream was repeated, against my better judgement I parked the car, forced myself to get out, and ventured cautiously through the lych gate into the churchyard. There being no lighting whatsoever, and this being the middle of the countryside, it was black as pitch. Needless to say, I had no torch with me, not even in the car. I shivered. Still, I couldn't stop now. It sounded like someone was being murdered. Either that, or the ghosts of long deceased parishioners really were abroad.
My heart was hammering in my chest and my mouth was dry as I edged forwards towards the cacophony, bruising my shins on gravestones and stumbling over stone monuments to the dead. I found myself clutching the small wooden cross I carry in my pocket, as if to ward off evil.
I moved as quietly as I could, but with no light it was impossible to be silent. For a moment the howls ceased, and I was even more terrified. Had some supernatural presence detected me? Were vampires or demons or spirits about to descend? I held my breath and remained perfectly still, but nothing happened except that the evil screeching started up again.
I followed the noise as best I could, but to my surprise it seemed to lead me out of the churchyard and into the vicarage garden next door. As softly as I could, I clicked open the gate and slipped through, closer now to that terrible sound.
At that very moment, a light came on in the upstairs bedroom of the vicarage, the window opened, and an angry voice yelled, “Stop that bloody noise!”
The next moment I was drenched in a bucket of cold water, and two tom cats fled.
I slunk home as quickly as I could, changed into dry gear and spent the rest of the evening snuggled in front of the television, grazing on Halloween goodies.
I didn't go to church next day.