What we fear most on a cold, dark night

It’s a dark, windy evening in late November. It’s getting cold and there’s a spit of rain in the air. I have driven through the Somerset countryside to a small village on an errand to pick up a collection box from a pub and replace it with an empty one for the charity with which I am involved.

Looking for somewhere to park, I turn off the main road though the village and pull in on the right hand side of the road next to the wall bounding the village church. The road is dark, except for a light over the entrance to the churchyard. I switch off the engine, put the car in first gear, turn off the lights and scrabble for the empty collecting box.

As I go to get out of the car I look up and see a grey-haired figure in a billowing white robe step up from the road and go into the churchyard. I freeze and wait. Nothing.

The pub is warm and the presence of others welcome. I linger as long as I can, but my business is soon transacted and within five minutes I find myself back outside by my car.

I walk up to the church gate, my heart poundingThe church is in darkness, the churchyard is empty. I wait a minute or two expecting the figure to re-appear. Nothing.

Back in the car, I lay the heavy collecting box on the passenger seat and again wait for a minute or two. Nothing.

On the way home I try to explain it away. Local vicar going in to his church? Member of the choir? Rehearsal for a play?

Several years later I read the available histories of this little medieval village searching for any references to apparitions. Nothing fits my experience.

I am convinced there is a rational explanation for what I saw. But there’s a little bit of me that hopes that it was what I feared most.