It has been almost 50 years, but Joseph still remembers his unexplained encounter.
Joseph was always a dedicated worker. He was never one to leave work unfinished and so it was not unusual for him to go into work on Sunday morning. It is such a quiet time, no people, no interruptions, no phone calls. He was looking forward to getting a lot of work done.
The office was in a big spacious building in Valletta, with a huge staircase winding up through the centre of it. He carefully shut and bolted the big door behind him and walked up to the top floor.
He settled down to his work, relishing the peace and quiet. Perhaps this is why he was so perturbed to hear footsteps.
The interruption was certainly not welcome. He idly wondered who it was and tried to concentrate on his work again but the sound of the footsteps going downstairs persisted in his subconscious.
With a little sigh, he stood up and went to the banisters to see who else had decided to put in a little overtime.
Below him, his habit swaying as he walked, was a Franciscan friar. Joseph watched him work his way to the ground floor, without too much alarm, thinking that he must have come in with another colleague. The friar turned out of sight and the echoing steps gradually gave way to silence.
But the thought nagged him that he had not heard the heavy front door open or close and if he had been let in by anyone else, there was certainly no trace of them.
Was the monk a ghostly visitor to the offices that they had all just assumed was a real person?
He decided to investigate, checking that all the offices were closed and empty. He worked his way down the building, until he finally had to admit to himself that there was no one there. The main door remained shut and bolted and yet, there was no trace of the priest whatsoever.
Joseph shrugged off the incident, returned to his work upstairs and forgot all about it.
Some time later, the company moved offices and he was chatting to his fiancée, who worked in the accounts department. They were talking about the move and one of the other girls in the office threw in a casual remark.
“At least we won’t get that priest coming in any more...”
Joseph’s ears pricked up.
“Oh, he was so rude. X’wiċċ tost! This Franciscan friar, he used to come through the office to go to the toilet, and you know, he never even asked. He just used to walk straight through the office and out again without ever saying a word.”
The other girls nodded in agreement.
Was it related? Was the monk a ghostly visitor to the offices that they had all just assumed was a real person?
The house was originally a private house, built at the end of the 17th century. It was eventually passed on from the Pitardi family that owned it and for some time was used as a hospital for incurable women. Over the years, the building changed hands many times and is now owned by a couple with a young son.
The woman was terribly sceptical about the story but she admits that she often wondered...When her son was just three years old, he came in screaming that he had seen a green-faced person. Her mother could not understand how she could possibly live there. Over the past years, she has stubbornly refused to sleep over, claiming that the house is full of strange, unexplained noises. The occupier is not convinced as she has never heard or seen anything.
Still, she was never been able to come up with an explanation for the things which keep disappearing from her son’s room and which never ever seem to turn up again.
This is the 14th in a series of short stories The Sunday Times of Malta is running every Sunday. It is taken from The Unexplained Plus (Allied Publications) by Vanessa Macdonald. The first edition was published in 2001 and reprinted twice. It was republished, with added stories, as The Unexplained Plus. The Maltese version of the book, Ta’ Barra Minn Hawn (Klabb Kotba Maltin), is available from all leading bookstores and stationers and from www.bdlbooks.com.
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