The Night Watch
The night constable walked through the empty streets; his footfalls clacked on the cobble as he approached the cemetery. People said cemeteries were places of silence and tranquility, but he disagreed. The cemetery at night was as noisy as any city in the daytime. Owls hooted in the trees, crickets chirped and, if one paid attention, one could hear the soft scurrying sounds of rodents among the graves. To the constable, cemeteries were full of life; he often rested on the bench beside the wrought-iron gates flanked by stone angels.
People asked if it didn’t scare him, but, in his thirty years of treading the vicinity, he’d witnessed nothing odd. Nothing spooked him, not even the mist which sometimes hovered over the graves and cast an eerie atmosphere.
“What would the dead want with me?” He said, “Most people were good in life, why should they bother me?”
With a tired groan and a stiff back, the night constable sat on his bench, arms spread out along the backrest, and gazed skyward. The moon shone bright, and the stars twinkled. He even recognized a planet, though he was unsure which. He loved watching the stars from this spot and contemplated the Northern Cross bright above him. His mother used to tell him stories about the constellations as they sat out on the field by his childhood home.
A black mass passed across the moon, and, as it crept, blocked all light. One by one it blotted out the stars, as if someone had placed a cloak over the dome of the sky.
A dense silence settled over the cemetery; only the dim gaslight at the street corner provided an anchor of reality in this new thick darkness. All sound ceased. It oppressed and discomforted.
The constable’s heart beat and pumped loud in his ears. What’s happening? He thought, and tried to call out, but though his mouth moved, no sound emerged.
Out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed a light, and, thinking it might be a lantern, turned in the direction. He discerned a green orb, perhaps a comet, yet it hovered much too low on the horizon. It brought the silence with it, and the constable watched it approach.
The light entered the cemetery and, like a billiard ball, bounced from grave to grave. It then ascended to the sky and disappeared, taking the strange mantle with it, as if someone had pinched a handkerchief off a table and flung it into the air. The moon shone again and the stars, one by one, turned on and twinkled. The night sounds resumed, and the world plunged back into normality.
“Will-o’-the-wisps,” his wife shrugged when he explained.
He shook his head. That light came not from this world.