You Don't Belong Here

April E Swan, Copyright November 2023
Submitted as an entry for 'Haunted Birmingham' a National Literacy Trust event held at Birmingham library on 9/12/2023.

You don’t belong here
By April E Swan

They say that spiritual people can see ghosts. I’ve never thought of myself as
spiritual. I’ve never believed in ghosts. Until recently.
I need this job. I can’t afford to quit, not until I’ve found something else, anyway. I
have to remind myself of this every time I step off the bus. As I walk past the huge,
proud bull in Birmingham’s bustling city centre, I remind myself why I am working –
Maisie and Archie, my reasons for living. They need their Mum, and I need to put
food in their tummies. The cold November night bites at my cheeks. I watch the
crowds gathering at the stalls in the Frankfurt market, eating hotdogs and churros,
and posing for photos with family and friends. How I wish I could afford to buy Maisie
one of the light up toys, and Archie a handmade wooly hat.
As I walk towards St Martin’s square, on my journey to the Old Crown in Digbeth, the
haunting voice from a female singer follows each step I take ‘Your head will collapse,
and there’s nothing in it, you’ll ask yourself, where is my mind? Where is my mind?’
Her voice is ethereal, and lingers for a while. Eventually she is gone, the crowds
disperse, and it is just me and the cold, dark night. I hurry along, praying that my shift
will be easy. Last night, I was ready to hand in my notice. A bottle of vodka
mysteriously flew off the shelf, smashed on the floor, and the banging noises
resumed. I’m worried I am having a nervous breakdown.
The first few hours of my shift are fine, they always are. I am always busy serving
pints of IPA, lager, and bitter to the regulars, enviously watching happy customers
talk excitedly about their plans for the weekend or where they are going on holiday.
As Birmingham’s oldest pub, the Old Crown always attracts a diverse crowd. I can’t
deny that the pub has character, you can feel its history oozing from every nook and
cranny. But the punters are blissfully unaware of what really happens here…
I glance at my watch, it is almost 10 PM. There is something downstairs, I know it,
I’ve felt its presence. I asked Eddie and Wendy, once, if they had ever noticed
anything odd before, and they both said no. An entity is hiding in that dark, musty
room, behind the shelves, watching as you work. My heart sinks. It is time to start
bottling up. My hands tremble as I open the cellar door. It creaks slowly, I step onto
the top step and it slams shut behind me. I pull the light cord, and the bulb flickers for
three seconds. Eventually it kicks into action, and I descend the dimly lit wooden
stairs. On the fifth step, I notice the change in temperature. The little hairs on my
arms stand on end. The knot in my stomach gets tighter and tighter. I start counting
out loud, it helps me cope with anxiety. One, two, three, four. I am by the wine rack
now, I take three bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, and three bottles of Malbec and place
them in the bottle carrier. Five, six, seven. I take five bottles of tonic water and place
them by my feet. As I am picking up bottles of Pepsi I hear her.

“Eight” she whispers.
I feel her ice cold breath on the back of my neck. I turn around slowly. I close my
eyes, when I open them again, she might be gone.
Only, she isn’t. She is right in front of me. She is wearing an ivory embroidered
blouse, buttoned up to her neck, and a flowing pale blue, knee length skirt. Her dark
brown hair is neatly secured in a high bun, her eyes are completely white. They stare
right through me.
“What do you want from me?” I whisper.
She points a long, pale finger at me.
“I don’t understand,” I say.
I rub my arms, trying my hardest to warm myself up. I see my breath in the air,
forming icy clouds. Then I feel it. I can’t control it. My mouth is being forced open,
against my will. A single tear rolls down my cheek. I am paralysed, frozen to the
spot. I watch in horror, as she evaporates into fuzzy white particles. I can’t swallow.
I’m not sure if I am even breathing. The particles rush into my open mouth, down my
throat, into my oesophagus. My mouth snaps shut, and I collapse to the floor.
A few minutes later, I get up and take the bottle carrier with me. I climb the stairs,
and return to the bar.
I stand for a few moments, looking at the wine fridge.
“You Okay Vicky? You’re as white as a sheet,” a tattooed, long haired man asks, as
he hands a pint of Guiness to a customer.
I stare at him. I don’t know his name. I’ve watched him, of course I have. I’ve
watched all of them, these intruders coming to my home. Only, none of them have
ever noticed me before, until her, the bar maid, who’s body I now occupy.
I am going to make sure every last one of these intruders disappears. I was born
here, and I died here, and I will be damned if I am going to share my home with
anyone else.


author-april-e-swan ©Copyright. All rights reserved.

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