When I was a boy, I attended a school that stood by a cemetery. Mine was the last desk, the one closest to the graveyard. I spent years with my back to the darkness of it. I can remember how, as autumn descended and winter gathered its strength, I would feel the wind blow through the window frame and think that the chill of it was like the breath of the dead upon my neck.
One day in the bleakness of a January afternoon, when the light was already fading as the clock struck four, I glanced over my shoulder and saw a man staring back at me. Nobody else noticed him, only I. His skin was the grey of old ash long from the fire, and his eyes were as black as the ink in my well. His gums had receded from his teeth, giving him a lean, hungry aspect. His face was a mask of longing.
I was not frightened. It seems strange to say that, but it is the truth. I knew that he was dead, and the dead have no hold over us beyond whatever we ourselves surrender to them. His fingers touched the glass but left no trace, and then he was gone.
Years passed, but I never forgot him. I fell in love, and married. I became a father. I buried my parents. I grew old, and the face of the man at the school window became more familiar to me, and it seemed that I glimpsed him in every glass. Finally, I slept. I slept, and I did not awaken.
There is a school that stands by a cemetery. In winter, under cover of fading light, I walk to its windows and put my fingers to the glass.
And sometimes, the boy looks.
The Wrath Of Angels by John Connolly is out now (Hodder & Stoughton)